27 Dec, 2016
New Suzuki Swift

The new generation Suzuki Swift has been launched in Japan. Its exterior styling is obviously an evolution of the current model, which is again an evolution of the 2005 model., showing a consistent styling strategy rarely found in Japanese manufacturers. Compared with its predecessor, the nose looks sleeker and more pronounced, the fenders get more muscular, while the tail seems more protrudent. However, these are just the result of clever visual effect, since the car is virtually the same size as before - it is just 10mm longer and 10mm lower, while width is unchanged. Nevertheless, the wheelbase has been stretched by 20mm to 2450mm, so interior space and ride quality might be benefited a little. Apart from the more stylish new front grille, another noticeable styling change is the C-pillar, which is blackened at the upper part to deliver a sense of "floating roof". Besides, the rear door handles are also relocated to the C-pillars for hidden effect.

The new Swift is built on a new platform first employed by last year's Baleno. Its chief improvement is weight reduction. The base JDM car, equipped with 1.2-liter engine and 5-speed manual gearbox, weighs only 840 kg, an astonishing 120 kg lighter than the old car with the same powertrain combo! This means, although the 1.2 Dualjet engine with 91 hp and 87 lbft is carried over unchanged, the new car should be faster. Now the 1.2 engine can be paired with a mild hybrid system like that used in Wagon R. It utilizes an ISG (integrated starter generator) and a lithium-ion battery which is stored under the front passenger seat to provide an additional 3.1 hp and 37 lbft (up from 2.2 hp and 29 lbft in the case of Wagon R) to relieve the burden of engine, thus boosting fuel efficiency. The hybrid is mandatory with CVT, of course.

While the cheaper 1.2 engine will form the bulk of sales, the new Swift is also offered a more premium engine choice for the first time, i.e. the Baleno's 1.0 Boosterjet 3-cylinder DI turbo. However, it is detuned to produce 102 hp and 111 lbft of torque. It is exclusively mated with a 6-speed automatic gearbox as Suzuki's CVT is not strong enough to withstand its higher torque output.

Considering the current Swift is still a good driver's car with a sweet-revving engine and a sporty chassis tuning, the new car's evolutionary approach is unlikely to disappoint.

24 Dec, 2016
Volkswagen Golf R gains power

Volkswagen Golf R has received a facelift and a power boost. Outside, the changes seem to be limited to a restyled front bumper, headlights and silver-painted door mirrors. I am not sure whether it is really an improvement, but the engine definitely is. Now it pumps out 310 hp and 295 lbft of torque, 10 hp and 15 lbft more than before, and is exactly the same tune as the updated Audi S3. As a result, 0-60 mph sprint is shortened by 0.3 seconds to merely 4.4 ticks in the case of DSG. Inside, the key changes are the availability of 9.2-inch touchsreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument.

19 Dec, 2016
Lamborghini Aventador S

The standard Lambo Aventador has been replaced with Aventador S. As shown in this first batch of pictures, the car's aerodynamic design is heavily influenced by SV. Up front, it uses the same larger front splitter, which increases front downforce by 130%. The intake ducts at either sides of the front bumper are also revised (although less aggressive than those of SV) to improve air flow around the front wheels. At the back, the SV's fixed, more pronounced intake ducts are adopted at the C-pillars, replacing the sleek, retractable units of the old car (sadly, it was one of my favourite features). The diffuser also gets closer to the spec. of SV, including similar vertical fins. One thing is unique to the S though, i.e. a triple-pipe exhaust located centrally.

The 6.5-liter V12 remains mostly the same, still goes without direct injection. However, it is basically the same unit as the SV, although deliberately rated 10 hp lower at 740 hp. That is 40 hp up from the old car, thanks to modifications to VVT and variable intake manifold. Predictably, the max. output is released at 8400 rpm, cut-off is set at 8500 rpm and peak torque is 509 lbft released at 5500 rpm. In other words, all are the same as SV's. The V12 features cylinder deactivation, which is offered since the update in late 2012. The old-fashioned 7-speed ISG gearbox is kept unchanged. Strangely, despite the increased horsepower, Lamborghini claims unchanged performance figures, i.e. 217 mph top speed and 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds. Admittedly, it is already too fast!

More changes can be found in the chassis. The SV donates its magnetorheological adaptive dampers, while Centenario lends its active rear-wheel steering. To cope with these changes, the S needs to revise its suspension geometry, rear springs, stability control setting and even adopts a set of Pirelli P Zeros with new compounds. Surprisingly, it gains no extra kilograms, with dry weight standing at 1575 kg. How did it manage? Lambo didn't say much, only admitting the new exhaust is 20 percent lighter.

19 Dec, 2016
Industrial News

McLaren hits milestone

McLaren has built the 10,000th car since it restarted production in mid-2011. With the addition of the cheaper "Sport Series" (570S / 570GT / 540C), it is going to finish this year with a total output of around 3000 cars, a sharp increase from last year's 1654 cars.

14 Dec, 2016
Ferrari J50: 488-based limited edition

This surprising new Ferrari is J50, a limited edition built to celebrate Ferrari's 50th Anniversary entering the Japanese market. Only 10 units will be sold at an unspecified high price. The car is derived from the underpinnings of 488 Spider. Its 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 is tuned to produce 20 extra horsepower for a total of 690 hp. The body work is all new. It replaces the retractable hard top with a Targa arrangement. The 2-piece carbon-fiber roof panel can be detached and and stow manually behind the seats.

The styling is inspired by F40 and F50, the special editions that Japanese loved so much. Although it doesn't sport a huge rear spoiler, the black panel gaps splitting the upper and lower body sides are reminiscent of the F40 and F50.

The car is created by Ferrari's Special Projects department, which also built custom models such as SP12 EC and 458 MM Speciale.

14 Dec, 2016
Mercedes E-class Coupe

Mercedes has unveiled the new generation E-class Coupe. Unlike the last generation which was actually based on C-class underpinnings, the new E-class Coupe is really derived from the E-class. This means it has grown considerably in all dimensions - at 4826mm long, 1860mm wide and 1430mm tall, it is 123mm longer, 74mm wider and 33mm longer. Its wheelbase is stretched by 113mm to 2873mm, although that is still 66mm shorter than the E-class sedan's. Compared with the latter, its body is 94mm shorter, 7mm wider and 38mm lower. Mercedes has not released drag coefficient figure yet, but it is expected to match the excellent 0.23 of E-class sedan, if not better.

Design-wise, the coupe body doesn't depart from the formula established by C-class Coupe. It looks a bit fat, but is still a beautiful design. As before, all 4 windows of the E-class Coupe are frameless, and there are no B-pillars, so lateral visibility should be excellent. Its side view could have been even more uncluttered if not the small rear quarter windows. The C-class Coupe doesn't have those quarter windows because its rear windows are fixed. As the larger coupe takes rear seat accommodation more seriously, Mercedes thought it is worth to sacrifice a bit aesthetic for practicality.

Inside, the coupe shares the same dashboard with other E-class models. This means it can be optioned with the expansive, twin-12.3-inch TFT screens. The quality of materials and trims should be class-leading.

Compared with the old car, its cabin is considerably roomier. The front seats offer 18mm more headroom, 50mm more shoulder room and 38mm more elbow room. The rear seats provide 74mm more knee room, 15mm more headroom, 34mm more shoulder room and 13mm more elbow room. It is finally a proper 4-seater.

One reason for the lack of B-pillars is that the coupe will be used as the basis of E-class cabriolet.

At launch, there will be 3 petrol engines and 1 diesel engine on offer, all mirror the sedan:

- E220d: 2.0-liter turbo diesel, 195 hp.
- E200: 2.0-liter turbo petrol, 184 hp.
- E300: 2.0-liter turbo petrol, 245 hp.
- E400: 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 petrol, 333 hp. (4matic mandatory)

More interesting to me, there will be a new AMG E50 4matic Coupe to join later next year. This car will be powered by Mercedes' all-new 3-liter straight-6 (yes, straight-six returns!) with an exhaust gas turbo and an electric turbo, good for 408 hp. This is likely to be the top of the range. E63 Coupe is unlikely to happen, because the chassis might lack the necessary rigidity to cope with V8 power.

Predictably, all engines mate with the new 9G-Tronic automatic transmission. 4matic will be optional. It splits torque 45:55 normally.

Like the E-class sedan, the standard suspension will be passive, using steel springs and amplitude selective dampers, but the ride height is dropped by 15mm. Alternatively, you can choose electronic adaptive dampers or even 3-chamber air suspension (aka "Air Body Control").

14 Dec, 2016
Industrial News

JCOTY: Subaru Impreza

Subaru Impreza has won the 2016/17 Japanese Car of the Year award. It scored 420 points, beating Toyota Prius (371 points) and Audi A4 (149 points).

8 Dec, 2016
Holden Commodore: V6-powered Insignia

Holden Commodore is set to die late next year as GM is closing its Australian production plant. However, the nameplate will not disappear. In fact, it will live on in the form of Opel Insignia Grand Sport. As revealed in its first official press release yesterday, the new generation Commodore, codenamed NG (yes, it means New Generation), is to be built by Opel and imported from Germany. Most of it will be the same as the Opel version, but it will offer a 3.6-liter direct-injection V6, which is good for 308 hp and 273 lbft, easily overwhelming its Opel sister, if still not a replacement to the old good V8. The engine will be mated with a brand new 9-speed automatic built by GM itself (instead of the 8-speed Aisin unit), which has made debut on Chevrolet Malibu and guarantees better fuel economy. The GKN Twinster 4WD system will be mandatory with the V6, of course.

Lesser models will be powered by the 250hp 2.0T four-pot and driven by the front wheels. Performance-wise it might even beat the existing Commodore V6, because the car is at least 200 kg lighter. The 2.0 turbo diesel is likely to be offered, too.

Compared with the current Commodore VF, the NG is 74mm shorter and 36mm narrower. Its wheelbase is 86mm shorter, but the switch to FWD / tranverse engine architecture means the cabin length is almost the same. However, it offers 58mm less shoulder room, and the swoopy roofline cuts rear headroom by 13mm.

8 Dec, 2016
Industrial News

Golf GTI Clubsport S breaks Nurburgring record again

Cooler weather helps extracting performance. Back in summer, Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S set a front-wheel-drive Nurburgring lap record at 7min 49sec, which narrowly edged out Honda Civic Type R. Now in winter, at a favourable ambient temperature of 8 degC, the title holder raised the bar by another 2 seconds, so the new record is 7min 47sec.

7 Dec, 2016
Opel Insignia Grand Sport

Goodbye Insignia! Welcome Insignia Grand Sport! Opel/Vauxhall's mid-size car has been renamed to reflect its 4-door-coupe styling. The sleeker shape and lower roof line lower drag coefficient from 0.27 to a remarkable 0.26. My only complaint is the front end design, which lacks character.

As expected, the new generation model has grown in size to match rivals. It measures 4897mm long (+55mm) and 1863mm wide (+7mm), but its roof is significantly lowered to 1455mm (-29mm). Most important, its wheelbase has been stretched to 2829mm (+92mm). Opel said this gives its rear seat 25mm more legroom. The cabin seems to suffer no loss of headroom because the seats are mounted 30mm lower. The boot, however, shrinks by 40 liters to 490 liters.

Opel said the car is built on "new Epsilon 2" platform. Pardon? Wasn't the old car also on Epsilon 2? Forget the confusing name, we should refer it to GM's EXX platform, which also underpins Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse in the USA. Don't believe? Look at the 2829mm wheelbase, which is exactly the same as Malibu! Ditto the new 1.5 DI turbo engine with 165 hp / 184 lbft and 2.0 DI turbo with 250 hp / 258 lbft, or the Aisin-supplied 8-speed automatic gearbox (the Opel also offers a 6-speed manual). The Insignia Grand Sport is practically a Chevrolet Malibu in different packaging and tuning.

The new monocoque chassis is said to be 60 kg lighter than before, while the whole car is up to 175 kg lighter. I would say we should not read the latter too much, because it might compare apple with orange, such as a new 250 hp 2.0T versus the old 260 hp 2.8 V6 turbo.

As before, the car offers adaptive dampers as option or standard on higher spec. models. Now there is also a 4WD option which uses GKN Twinster clutch packs like Ford Focus RS to shift torque to individual rear wheels. In other words, it is capable of torque vectoring. The suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and multi-link axle at the rear (4WD models will have 5 links instead of 4 links). The more expensive HiPer strut front suspension is no longer available, as the new car does not offer V6 engine anymore, and the 4WD system is a preferred solution for torque steer.

Other engines include a 140 hp version of 1.5T petrol, 110 hp, 136 hp and 160 hp 1.6 turbo diesel or 170 hp 2.0 turbo diesel. OPC version? No news yet, but I suppose it could employ a high-output version of 2.0T.

6 Dec, 2016
Aston Martin AM-RB 001: more details

More details of the Aston Martin-Red Bull Racing supercar AM-RB 001 have been revealed by Aston Martin's designer Marek Reichman:
  • Top speed: 250 mph
  • Cornering grip: 4.5g !!
  • Engine: a wide-angle naturally aspirated V12 displacing 6.0-7.0 liters
  • Power: 1000 hp from the V12, plus 80 hp for short burst from KERS (motor + supercapacitor).
  • Gearbox: Xtrac sequential (single-clutch only)
  • Styling: 95% close to the concept revealed in July, but aero and cooling will be tweaked.
  • Name: it will have a proper name, not AM-RB 001, thankfully.
  • Delivery: late 2018

6 Dec, 2016
Industrial News

Chrysler 200: end of road

The last Chrysler 200 left the production line last Friday. Sadly, the car went on sale just 3 years ago, and itself was not bad either (it earned 3 stars in AutoZine rating). Unfortunately, sales remained disappointing, thus FCA decided to kill it early and convert the production line to build trucks. In addition to the loss of Dodge Dart in September and Viper early next year, the ex-Chrysler group leaves only LX large cars (300, Charger and Challenger), whereas all others are trucks and crossovers.

BMW M4 GTS: production run ended

BMW has finished the production run of the limited edition M4 GTS. A total of 803 customer cars have been built, 103 more than originally planned.

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