15 Sep, 2017
Hyundai Genesis G70: new 3-series rival

Hyundai has been building Genesis as a premium brand for a long time. Following G80 and G90, which target at 5-series and 7-series respectively, the brand has added a new 3-series rival, G70, to the range. Outside, the new car looks more like Infiniti Q50 instead of any of its European rivals. Measuring 4685mm in length and 2835mm in wheelbase, it is 50mm and 25mm respectively longer than BMW 3-Series. The car's proportion implies that it is built on the rear-wheel-drive platform of Kia Stinger, although the Kia is larger still. Like Stinger, it will be available with AWD option.

As in the case of Stinger, the G70 rides on MacPherson struts suspension up front and multi-link arrangement at the rear, supported with adaptive dampers. The electrical power steering has variable ratio. Hot-stamped ultra-high strength steel and structural adhesives lift the chassis rigidity for better handling and NVH suppression.

The engine compartment looks almost identical to the Stinger's, including the two diagonal braces reinforcing the strut towers. Like Stinger again, 3 longitudinally mounted engines are offered for selection: 2.0 GDI Turbo with 255hp / 260 lbft (252hp without sport exhaust), 3.3 GDI twin-turbo V6 with 370hp / 376 lbft and 2.2 turbo diesel with 202hp / 326 lbft. All drive through Hyundai's 8-speed automatic transmission. The V6 is good for 168 mph and 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, eclipsing BMW 340i. It is equipped with an LSD to help putting down the power effectively.

13 Sep, 2017
All electric: the concept cars in Frankfurt

Everybody knows the future lies on electric, so this year virtually all concept cars in Frankfurt are EVs.

Borgward Isabella

To me, the most impressive concept in this year's Frankfurt show is this one. Borgward is a German brand revived in 2008, but it is fully owned by China's BAIC, which takes care of its production as well. However, the brand hires European designers to style its cars. A year ago, ex-Mini Mk3 designer Anders Warming joins the company as its head of design. The first fruit of his work seems to be this Isabella concept.

This is a very beautifully proportioned fastback luxury saloon. It gets elegant details as well, most notably the clean nose, the chromed twisted waist line, the flying C-pillars and the wraparound rear screen. The concept is said to be an electric car, powered by one motor at each axle with a combined output of 300hp and 332 lbft, good for 0-60 in 4.3 seconds, 155 mph top speed and a range of 500km from its LG battery. Don't read too much into the technical spec, but its design theme is likely to influence the future Borgward models.

Kia Proceed

Kia Pro_Cee'd used to be a 3-door hatchback, but Kia is now looking for an alternative. The Proceed concept is a shooting brake with a proportion even more beautiful than Jaguar's. However, I suspect it could lose most of its aesthetic when the production car sacrifices the unrealistic broad shoulders, low roof line and the FR proportion. A beautiful concept undoubtedly, but not too relevant to production.

Renault Symbioz

Another interesting but unrealistic concept from the French manufacturer. Its cabin can be configured as a living room or mobile office, thanks to the long wheelbase and the flat-floor electrical platform.

Mercedes EQA

This one is more realistic, as it previews the forthcoming A-class-size electric car. However, isn't it a bit too conservative for an EV? The only innovative feature is the LED matrix front grille, which can be configured to display different graphics, so you no longer need to choose between the classical Mercedes radiator grille, the Mercedes coupe grille or even the Panamericana grille of AMG ! (Well, this is only my suggestion)

The car employs one electric motor at each axle, with a combined output of 272hp, 369 lbft of torque and a range of 400km from its modular battery.

Honda Urban EV

Mercedes is not the only one appreciating displayed grille. Honda's Urban EV concept also features a similar approach, as its Honda logo is backlit at the nose and tail. The front end and the car's overall shape look like a tribute to the original Volkswagen Golf - if the VW logo is displayed instead of H logo, I guess most people could be easily fooled by it!

Even though it looks as if purely concept, Honda said its production version will go on sale in Europe within 2 years. However, I suppose its rear-hinge doors, wood dashboard and huge touchscreen won't survive to the production. The car is only 3.85m long, 100mm shorter than a Jazz. No word about its electrical specifications though.

BMW i Vision Dynamics

While Mercedes and Honda plays with the idea of displayed grille, BMW i Vision Dynamics opts to omit the grille at all. This EV 4-door coupe is tipped to be the future i5, but its design is disappointing (which BMW concept cars aren't?), lacking aesthetic, elegance and character. In fact, you might confuse it with an anonymous Chinese concept car, especially without the double-kidney grile. It seems that brain drain to Korean and Chinese car makers hurts BMW design very much.

The concept is sized between the 3 and 5-Series. Its production version will go on sale in 2021, so there is plenty of time for BMW to improve its design and develop the next generation battery technology, which is said to be a big step forward from the current i3. It offers a range of 600km and 0-60 in just 3.9 seconds.

13 Sep, 2017
Suzuki Swift Sport

As expected, the hot version of Swift is powered by Vitara's 1.4 Boosterjet direct injection turbo engine, producing 140hp and 170 lbft of torque, up 6hp and 52 lbft from the old car's 1.6 engine. It employs a 6-speed manual gearbox. As expected, suspensions are stiffened and fitted with high-performance shock absorbers. The new car is 80kg lighter than before at only 970kg, so performance should be greatly improved. Expect 0-60 mph in the low to mid-7 seconds range.

12 Sep, 2017
Renault Megane RS

The most relevant stars of the Frankfurt motor show must be Renault Megane RS, because while Mercedes-AMG Project One is the most stunning, the Megane RS is what most driving enthusiasts could afford. Based on the Megane IV, the new RS is inevitably larger (with a 2670mm wheelbase) and available in 5-door form only. Its shape is also less radical than its predecessor's. However, it is still prettier than Honda Civic Type R or Ford Focus RS, and more interesting than the too civilized Golf R or 308GTi. The car's front and rear end design is particularly stylish, thanks in part to the new fog lamps, centrally mounted trapezoidal exhaust and diffusers.

Power comes from the downsized 1798c.c. 4-cylinder turbo engine like Alpine A110. However, while the Alpine is rated at 252 hp and 236 lbft, the Megane RS is much stronger at 280 hp and 288 lbft, produced at 6000 rpm and 2400-5000 rpm, respectively. Compared with the old 2.0-liter unit, its main advances include direct injection, a twin-scroll turbo and plasma spray coating on cylinder bore. This explains why it could squeeze out more power and torque from 200 less c.c. while torque curve is also improved. The low-friction coating allows the engine to rev to 7000 rpm, although there is no reward to do so. Certification is yet to be finalized, but Renaultsport guarantees sub-6 seconds 0-60 and a top speed exceeding 155 mph.

The standard transmission is the old car's 6-speed manual, carried over without changes. A new 6-speed EDC twin-clutch gearbox is added as option for the first time. Although the EDC trademark has been made notorious by Clio RS, this one is a completely different unit. Nor it is shared with the new Alpine. It is a heavy-duty wet clutch unit, versus the dry-clutch units of the smaller cars. It is capable of multiple downshifts as well. We shall see if it lives up to expectation.

The chassis gets adequate upgrade as well. The front and rear track are widened by 60mm and 45mm respectively from the lesser Meganes. The old car's PerfoHub strut front suspensions are carried over to tame torque steer. Besides, as in the lesser Megane GT, the electrically actuated 4Control rear-wheel steering is fitted as standard. It tightens the turning circle at low speed and improves stability at high speed. Thanks to the latter, Renaultsport team can make the steering ratio 20 percent faster to improve agility without worrying of nervous handling. The rear-wheel steering also helps cutting body roll by 10 percent without resorting to too stiff suspension setting. In addition to hydraulic bump stops, the Megane RS should ride more comfortable than before. The standard RS is fitted with 235/40R18 tires and huge, 355mm front brake discs with Brembo calipers.

As before, there is Cup chassis option for more committed drivers. Its suspension stiffness is dialed up by 10 percent, 19-inch wheels and 245/35 tires are fitted, and a Torsen LSD is added. Lighter aluminum-hub compound brake discs is a further option to the Cup chassis.

But the ultimate Megane RS has to be Trophy. It has the engine boosted to 300 hp and 295 lbft, while the chassis is equivalent to Cup, albeit with lighter wheels. It might still trail Civic Type R for straight line speed, but whether it can take back the Nurburgring front-drive crown remains to be seen.

12 Sep, 2017
Toyota Yaris GRMN

The production Yaris GRMN hot hatch has been unveiled at Frankfurt motor show. It is powered by a 1.8-liter Dual-VVT-i engine fitted with a supercharger, producing 212 hp / 6800 rpm and 184 lbft of torque at 5000 rpm. Gearbox is 6-speed manual. The 1135kg little car is good for 143 mph and 0-60 in 6 seconds flat. Among B-segment hot hatches, only Audi S1 and Mini JCW are faster.

GRMN stands for "Gazoo Racing tuned by the Meister of the Nürburgring". It is so named because the car's ride and handling is tuned by Toyota's technical center located near Nurburgring circuit. Its suspension is uprated with Zachs dampers, thicker anti-roll bars and stiffer springs which lower ride height by 24mm. The front suspension is reinforced by a tower bar. 17-inch BBS alloy wheels, 205/45R17 Bridgestone Potenza RE050 rubbers, larger brakes and a Torsen LSD complete the upgrade.

12 Sep, 2017
Audi RS4 Avant

The new RS4 Avant follows RS5 to adopt a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 that produces 450 hp and 442 lbft, the latter is a whooping 125 lbft more than its predecessor's 4.2-liter V8. Transmission is changed to 8-speed automatic. The Avant weighs 1715 kg DIN, 80 kg less than the old car but 60 kg more than RS5 Coupe. Compared with the 2-door, it takes two-tenths longer to do 0-60 mph at 4.0 seconds. Top speed is regulated at 174 mph if dynamic package is optioned.

12 Sep, 2017
Mercedes-AMG Project One

After countless of teasers, Mercedes-AMG finally shows its Project One supercar to the public in Frankfurt motor show. However, officially the car is still a "concept", as development will continue in the next 18 months. This means the production car won't be delivered to customers before Q2 2019. AMG confirms that 275 units will be built, each costing €2.3 million before tax, about the same as Bugatti Chiron.

The Project One - don't know if it will get a proper name like Cxxx - is going to be Stuttgart's first supercar since CLK-GTR. Many compares it with Porsche 918 Spyder, Ferrari LaFerrari and McLaren P1, especially the former, since it is also a new generation hybrid-powered supercar. However, unlike them, the AMG has a stronger link to Formula One technology, because its powertrain is largely adapted from what powering the current Mercedes F1 cars. We shall see that soon, but first let's look at its design...

Like an endurance prototype racer, the Project One is shaped largely by aerodynamics and the need of cooling. Is it beautiful? I don't think so, although it has some ressemblance to the mighty McLaren F1, most notably the flanks and the roof-mounted engine intake. Its body is long, low and wide but the cockpit section is rather narrow, obviously designed to minimize frontal area hence drag. The carbon-fiber door mirrors extend exaggeratedly to overcome its broad shoulders. The waist line is low and curvy, while a step at the side window avoids the visual mass of Pagani Huayra. Above the front fenders are some movable ventilation louvres, which open at speed to release the pressure built inside the wheel wells, contributing to downforce.

Like many supercars these days (the first one was McLaren F1), the AMG employs butterfly doors that open parts of the roof to ease access to the cockpit. The rear end of the car is unusually low and long, like Le Mans cars. This enables low drag and a huge diffuser to generate ground effect. The fastback features a vertical fin like Le Mans cars as well. The rear window is largely blocked by the fin, the roof-intake duct and ventilation openings, no wonder the car utilizes rear-camera instead of rear-view mirror.

Apart from diffuser, the tail is also equipped with active rear spoiler, which rises at speed and its center section can tilt to generate further downforce.

As expected, the car is constructed around a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis. It is still not known how the engine is mounted to the monocoque, but the rear suspensions are mounted directly to the engine/transmission in racing fashion.

The all-multi-link suspensions use racing-style pushrod-operating coil-over dampers, but disappointingly, the dampers are passive. Note that the coil-over dampers of both sides are interconnected in a special way. This saves the need for a tubular cross-member, while roll control is believed to be improved as well.

The car rides on Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubbers with bespoke compounds, sized 285/35ZR19 up front and 335/30ZR20 at the rear. The light forged alloy wheels are covered with semi-aero seals made of carbon-fiber. Brakes are carbon-ceramics, of course.

Now the most important part: powertrain. As mentioned before, the 1.6-liter DOHC direct-injection single-turbo V6 is derived from Mercedes' F1 engine, employing the same cylinder block and heads, including the F1-style pneumatic valve springs, although the internals, fuel injection, lubrication and cooling etc. are different. Predictably, the engine is built by the company's F1 engine center in UK instead of Affalterbach, so it won't come with the signature of an AMG technician. It keeps the oversquare combustion chambers of 80mm bore and 53mm stroke. In addition to the pneumatic valves, no wonder it can rev to a record-breaking 11000 rpm, some 1750 rpm higher than the current record holder, LaFerrari. On the downside, the V6 needs to be rebuilt every 50,000km (31,000 miles) to address its wear. Admittedly, most supercar owners don't drive too long.

Like the Mercedes F1 engine, its big single-turbo has its compressor turbine and exhaust turbine separated by a long shaft so that one located at one end of the engine and another located at the other end. This avoids the heat transmitting from the exhaust side to the cold air side, ensuring better volumetric efficiency. The big turbo is assisted by an electric motor, or MGU-H (H for Heat) in F1 language, so that it can bring up to full speed in a fraction of a second to cut turbo lag. When back off, the motor works as a generator to reduce turbine speed to match the engine rev, recapturing the exhaust heat energy that would be otherwise lost through the wastegate.

Another electric motor, or MGU-K (K for Kinetic) is mounted right behind the engine and works just like conventional hybrid, providing an additional 120kW / 163hp to the rear axle through a step-down gear. Engine power transmits to the rear axle via an Xtrac 8-speed (single-clutch) automated manual gearbox, chosen for lightness and availability instead of shift quality.

Mercedes has yet to reveal the output figures of the V6, but it said the combined rear-wheel output is more than 500kW / 680 hp. This implies the V6 alone is good for about 520 hp. Although that is remarkable for something displacing just 1.6 liters, for a supercar engine it is peanuts. BTW, LaFerrari's V12 produces 800hp.

Well, the AMG Project One is a lot more electrified than its rivals, Porsche 918 included. Apart from the rear motor, it has 2 more electric motors up front, driving each front wheel individually to provide traction and torque vectoring, or double as generators in braking. Both produce 120kW / 163hp as well, so the car has an electric output of 360kW / 490hp, versus 286hp on Porsche. Moreover, all 3 electric motors here are F1-spec, capable of spinning to 50,000 rpm instead of 20,000 rpm of its rivals. This means they can be used to propel the car at any speed (as long as battery level allows), no need to disengage at speed. As a result, combined output is just the summation of engine and 3 motors, or more than 1000 hp. Besides, Mercedes claims that this powertrain combo returns a thermal efficiency of over 40 percent, matching diesel and Atkinson-cycle engines.

The end result? No 0-60 mph figure is given, but 0-124 mph is claimed to take under 6 seconds. For comparison, Bugatti Chiron has just timed 6.1 seconds to do so, while LaFerrari and McLaren P1 took 6.9 and 6.8, respectively. Koenigsegg claimed 5.8 seconds for its One:1, but that is yet to be verified. Regarding top speed, the Project One claims more than 350km/h / 217 mph like its Ferrari and McLaren rivals.

We are still waiting for the kerb weight figure, but it seems that earlier rumors about sub-1000kg is wide of the mark, because the V6 and gearbox weigh about 200kg, the electric motors and power electronics etc. 320kg and the battery pack adds another 100kg. Expect more than 1200kg, I guess.

The F1-style battery operates at 800V, double that of production EVs, so to reduce current hence the size and weight of cables. Its capacity is 4 times larger than F1 car's, and it can be charged via plug-in, but still it offers an electric range of only 25 km or 15.5 miles, worse than 918 Spyder (30km).

The battery pack is located in the floorpan under the legs of driver and passenger, so seating comfort is likely to be affected. As in LaFerrari, the seats are integral with the monocoque's floor, but the backrests, steering wheel and pedals are adjustable. The cockpit seems narrow and cramped. It offers a pair of 10-inch LCD screens, one acting as instrument. The F1-style steering wheel is square and incorporates many controls, as well as an LED rev indicator at its top to help you judging shift time. Air-con, power windows and infotainment system are standard.

Undoubtedly, the Project One is the closest thing on the road to the current Formula One race cars. However, does that make it any better and more enjoyable to drive? If its single-exhaust sounds as ugly as F1, I really doubt. To me, a V12-powered LaFerrari or Aston Martin Valkyrie seem to be more fun.

12 Sep, 2017
911 GT3 Touring pack

The 911 R returns as a permanent production model ! No, this is actually a GT3 losing its racy rear wing and fitted with 6-speed manual as standard, but its concept is just the same as the 911 R, which is optimized for driving fun on the road. The Touring pack version offers better rearward visibility, but otherwise it is just the same as the GT3, without any more comfort features.

12 Sep, 2017

Don't be fooled by its name, the new R8 RWS does not have rear-wheel steering, but the term stands for Rear Wheel Series. This means it has ditched the Quattro for rear-drive, like what Lamborghini did for its Huracan LP580-2. Doing this saves the car 50kg and shifts its balance further rearward to 40.6:59.4 instead of the Quattro's 42:58. Unfortunately, the rear-drive fun is only available to the base R8 with 540hp engine. Losing all-wheel traction means 0-60 mph takes 0.2s longer.

12 Sep, 2017
Industrial News

Bugatti Chiron set new 0-400km/h-0 record

Tested by the factory and witnessed by inspection firm SGS-TUV Saar, Bugatti Chiron has set a new 0-400km/h-0 (0-249mph-0) record in 42 seconds. Perhaps more important to us is the first set of acceleration data:

0-100km/h (62mph): 2.4 sec
0-200km/h (124mph): 6.1 sec
0-300km/h (186mph): 13.1 sec

All slightly faster than previously claimed. For your record, the old Veyron SS did the same acceleration in 2.5 sec, 6.7 sec and 14.6 sec, respectively. However, Koenigsegg claimed it timed the One:1 to 300km/h in 11.9 sec. Any chance for Koenigsegg to do a 0-400-0 run?

10 Sep, 2017
TVR Griffith: more tech info revealed

A bit more technical info of the new TVR Griffith has been revealed today, including these 2 pictures. From the above picture, we can see its iStream chassis construction. Tubular steel spaceframe is reinforced with carbon-fiber panels at the sills, bulkhead and transmission tunnel. Just as I predicted, the front crash structure ahead of the engine cradle is made of extruded aluminum sections for their better crumpling properties.

Another picture shows the powertrain layout. The entire V8 engine is mounted behind the front axle line - not just behind, but by almost half a feet! This means the car doesn't need a rear-mounted transaxle to achieve 50:50 weight distribution. The picture also shows that the exhaust manifolds route up to what seems to be high-mounted catalytic converters/silencers, as the engine compartment has to house all these stuffs before the dirty gas exits at the side exhausts. No wonder a pair of ventilations are opened at the top of the front fenders, right above the cat/silencers.

TVR has also released 2 videos. The first one claims the V8 produces 480bhp, a bit less than the 500hp we anticipated. If so, the car needs to weigh 1200kg to keep the promise of 400hp/ton. The second video shows more its development and assembly, in which Gordon Murray said this is the first ever TVR that you can drive everyday! Let's hope so!

8 Sep, 2017
TVR reborn with 200mph+ Griffith !!

200mph is always an exciting figure, but even more so is the formal relaunch of TVR, the British sports car specialist that closed its door at Blackpool in late 2006 under the ownership of young Russian Nikolai Smolenski. In 2013, a boy in London's street accused Smolenski, "You killed TVR!". Soon afterwards, Smolenski sold all the rights of TVR to Les Edgar, a computer game entrepreneur and TVR lover who had approached the Russian for the purchase. Thanks that boy!

Les Edgar had no experience in car design and manufacturing, but he hired Gordon Murray's company to engineer the new TVR. Murray in turn asked freelance designer David Seesing to style the new car, which is finally unveiled to the public today. It gets a familiar name, Griffith. If you don't remember Griffith, read here and here.

The new Griffith has a nice proportion that appears a bit classical without feeling old-fashioned. Its long, flat bonnet implies the V8 engine to sit completely aft of the front axle line to achieve a true 50:50 weight distribution and low polar moment of inertia - and it doesn't need an expensive / bespoke transaxle to do so. The 2 occupants sit just ahead of the driven wheels. It is a classical FR 2-seater, just like most TVRs before. The design details might not be as radical as the last 10 years of Peter Wheeler, but it is fundamentally pleasing to eyes and good to aerodynamics. My only doubt is the build quality, as assembly gaps seem large and varying, something not unusual to low volume manufacturers like TVR but the last TVR cars managed to hide them very well.

As you might have already known, the new Griffith is made of Gordon Murray's patented iStream construction, and the production process is also called iStream, confusingly. Its main chassis is a tubular steel spaceframe (probably supplemented with aluminum crash structures), reinforced with bonded carbon-fiber inner panels. This concept was already previewed by the Yamaha Sports Ride concept (see News Oct 2015 at the LHS). It is guaranteed to be light yet stiff, better than an aluminum construction used by Lotus etc. Outside, the body work is made of mainly carbon-fiber composites, with a few aluminum panels. This is for the initial 500 cars of Launch Edition costing £90,000. Afterwards, TVR will produce cheaper versions using glass-fiber body panels and without carbon-fiber chassis parts.

The Griffith is very compact by class standards. It is just over 4.3m long, 1.85m wide and 1.24m tall, with a wheelbase of 2600mm. You can see how it compares with Porsche 911 and AMG GT etc. in the spec. table at the bottom. The compact size, the carbon-fiber materials and the simplicity of its mechanical design allows it to claim a dry weight of less than 1250 kg, making it lighter than all its rivals bar Lotus Evora, which is about the same.

Yes, simplicity is important to its lightweight. The Griffith rides on double-wishbone suspensions all round. It has adjustable coil-over dampers and concentric springs but no electronic adaptive dampers or even a rear anti-roll bar (like many Gordon Murray's designs). It has ABS and configurable TC but not an LSD, let alone active differential, stability control, torque vectoring etc. To call it placing weight saving to first priority is probably overstated, the real cause is limited resources. Anyway, the car is gifted with great inherent balance, and it is fitted with proper footwork (Avon ZZ5 tires, 235/35ZR19 front, 275/30ZR20 rear) and brakes (AP Racing floating ventilated discs, 370mm / 6-pot calipers front, 350mm / 4-pot rear).

The aerodynamics seems to be pretty advanced, too. It is said to be only the second front-engined produciton car to feature a fully flat underbody for ground effect. (This raises my interest which car is the first...) The car employs Viper-style side exhausts, so it has space for large rear diffusers to enhance downforce. The picture also shows a pop-up rear spoiler, something not many low-volume manufacturers willing to engineer.

What about the engine? As announced earlier, it is a 5.0-liter Ford Coyote V8 as used on Mustang GT, but modified by Cosworth. The biggest difference is converting it to dry-sump lubrication so that it could sit lower in the chassis. Its ECU is said to be remapped, of course, but no words about other modifications. It retains the Mustang's 11.0:1 compression and Ti-VCT DVVT system, but unlike the 2018 Mustang, it doesn't have the latest direct and port injection. TVR is yet to release its output figures, but it said the car is good for 400 horsepower per ton. If the car weighs less than 1250kg, the horsepower count should be close to 500, up from 435 hp on the outgoing Mustang. This gives the car a claimed 200mph+ top speed and 0-60 mph easily under 4 seconds. I wonder if the GT350's high-revving flat-crank unit could be adopted in the future, but it seems that TVR is more cost-concious under the leadership of Les Edgar, which is probably good to its survival.

In the cabin, the Griffith features some strange designs, like the mode buttons beside the instrument pod, but the fundamentals like visibility and space (especially foot well, unlike all previous TVRs) seem to be good. The instrument is a TFT screen, while the center console has a small portrait infotainment touchscreen in McLaren style. The steering wheel connects to an electric power steering system, surprisingly. The front of the transmission tunnel houses a Tremec 6-speed manual gearbox and a lightweight multi-plate clutch.

Despite the debut, the new Griffith still undergoes further development, testing and production prepration. Production will take place at Rassau Industrial Estate in Wales, hardly as graceful as Maranello, Sant'Agata or Hethel sound. First customer delivery is expected to take place in 2019 Q1. By the next year, TVR hopes to build 1000 cars annually and eventually grow to over 2000 cars with derivatives joined. I hope that London boy don't need to shout again.

TVR Griffith
911 GT3
Corvette Z06
Evora GT430S
Price (UK)
£90,000 £99,000 £111,000
£93,000 £105,000
4314 mm
4546 mm
4562 mm
4495 mm
4432 mm
1850 mm
1939 mm
1852 mm
1960 mm
1840 mm
Height 1239 mm
1289 mm
1271 mm
1235 mm
1229 mm
2600 mm
2630 mm
2457 mm
2710 mm
2575 mm
5.0 V8
4.0 V8 DI twin-turbo
4.0 F6 DI
6.2 ohv V8 DI supercharged
3.5 V6 supercharged
est 500 hp
476 hp
500 hp
650 hp
436 hp
Dry weight
<1250 kg
est 1440 kg
est 1340 kg
est 1502 kg
1248 kg
Kerb weight
est <1320 kg
1540 kg 1430 kg
1602 kg 1289 kg
Top speed
200 mph+
189 mph
198 mph
195 mph
196 mph
0-60 mph
<4.0 sec
3.9 sec
3.3 sec
3.3 sec
3.7 sec

7 Sep, 2017
Lotus Evora GT430 Sport

Just one and a half month ago Lotus introduced the go-faster Evora GT430, which is Hethel's fastest road car. However, now this title is shifted to Evora GT430 Sport, at least in terms of straight line speed. The Sport differs from the non-sport model only by stripping its aerodynamic kits, i.e. the front splitter and massive rear wing. This means it not only looks purer, but also returns a lower drag, lifting its top speed from 190 to 196 mph. Inevitably, downforce is reduced from 250 to 100 kg at top speed, thus the Sport will be slower on track. The reduction of aero kits also cuts its dry weight by 10kg to 1248kg, and drops its price slightly to £105K.

6 Sep, 2017
2nd generation Nissan Leaf

The second generation Nissan Leaf is better than its predecessor everyway, except perhaps look. Well, its new sheet metal is sleeker and more sculpted, but it is also more conventional looking, blame to the rather ordinary headlamps and fascia. In fact, the only way to spot it as an electric car is the lid above its nose which gives access to the charging plug. Otherwise, it looks just like a conventional family hatch. Some might even find a new Micra more futuristic.

The new car is built on a platform adapted from the original car. Its lithium-ion battery pack is again placed under the cabin, while the electric motor and power electronics are situated between the front wheels like a conventional 4-cylinder engine. The battery is physically the same size as before, but thanks to improved packaging of cells, new chemistry and new electrode materials, both power and energy density are increased, so is its capacity, which is increased from the outgoing car's 30kWh to 40kWh (note: the original car was 24kWh before battery upgrade). This extends its driving range massively, from 155 to 235 miles as measured by NEDC, or 107 to 150 miles by EPA or 280 to 400km by JIS standard. While Chevrolet Bolt has an even larger, 60kWh battery, the Nissan will offer an option of 60kWh as well from next year.

Meanwhile, the electric motor gets more powerful, too. It produces 150hp (110kW) instead of the outgoing 109hp (80kW), while maximum torque is lifted by 20 lbft to 236 lbft. Hopefully this will improve its 0-60 mph time from 11 seconds to about 8 seconds, although Bolt and the new i3s are still beyond its reach.

The rest of the car does not change as much as its powertrain though. It is only 35mm longer, 20mm wider and 10mm lower than before, while the 2700mm wheelbase is unchanged. Aerodynamic drag is lowered slightly from 0.29 to 0.28. Suspension is still space-saving struts up front and torsion beam at the rear.

Inside, the cabin looks too conventional. There is a TFT instrument and a 7-inch touchscreen at the center console. Cabin space should remain remarkable, whereas the boot is enlarged from 370 to 435 liters.

The new Leaf offers a semi-autonomous driving system called ProPilot. It is basically an adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping and auto braking function, but it works only on single-lane roads. Another new feature is e-Pedal, which is said to save the need of touching the brake pedal during 90 percent of drive in urban area. When you release the throttle pedal, it applies regenerative braking and then mechanical braking for a deceleration of up to 0.2g. For harder braking, however, you still need to use the brake pedal. I suspect the driver might fail to react quickly to emergency braking once they get used to the e-Pedal.

With a cumulative sales of 283,000 units, the first generation Leaf is the world's best selling EV for sure, although it didn't quite match Renault-Nissan's original projection. Last year, it still sold 47,000 units, thanks to the lack of competitors at its price level. With an entry price about the same as before, Nissan hopes to double or triple its sales.

5 Sep, 2017
Mercedes S-class Coupe/Cabriolet facelift

Following the S-class saloon, its coupe and cabriolet siblings also get a facelift and mechanical upgrade. The new AMG models get the AMG GT's "Panamericana" front grille with vertical elements, which make them angrier but less beautiful in my eyes. The regular Mercedes models keep the existing grille, just have their front bumpers reshaped, with larger intakes. At the rear, the design is largely unchanged, but you can find revised details like OLED tailights. Inside, the cabin gets updated infotainment system. Besides, the car received the same safety equipment upgrade already found on the saloon.

Predictably, changes to the engine bay mirror the saloon's as well. S560 now employs the downsized 4.0 V8 with 469hp (+14hp), but the American market-oriented 2-door is yet to get the new straight-six, so its base model settles with the existing 367hp 3.0 V6, at least for the while. AMG 63 uses 612hp version of the 4-liter V8, accompanied with 9-speed MCT gearbox and rear-biased 4matic+ system (right-hand drive model is mandatory with RWD, as the 4WD hardware occupies the space for the steering. S65 remains unchanged.

5 Sep, 2017
Seat Leon Cupra R

The last Leon Cupra R had 25hp more than the Cupra, while the first generation Cupra R even used a different engine. Comparatively, the new Cupra R is a bit disappointing, because it is only a slightly tuned version of the Cupra. Since earlier this year, the EA888 2.0TFSI engine on the Cupra is already improved to 300hp. The Cupra R lifts that figure to 310 (matching the latest Golf R), but that is available only to the car fitted with manual gearbox. If you opt for the DSG, it remains at 300hp. The chassis gets more negative camber up front and retuned adaptive dampers to improve cornering prowess. The rest of the modifications are cosmetic, i.e. different paint job, carbon finishing on aero kits and spiced up interior trims. Even Seat itself knows the limited appeal, so it is going to build only 799 units.

1 Sep, 2017
New WLTP and RDE emission test

Today is not only a big day to AutoZine but also an important day to EU car market, as the new WLTP and RDE emission tests come into force, replacing the outdated (and usually misused) NEDC test. New type approval has to use these tests with immediate effect, while those already type approved should apply the new test methods within 2 years, otherwise they cannot be sold anymore.

The current NEDC test method is widely criticized for unrealistic and offered too many loopholes for car makers to play tricks. For example, car makers can seal the body panels with tapes to reduce drag in the test, use higher tire pressure to reduce rolling resistance, or use a base vehicle without equipment to reduce weight. Moreover, the test is conducted in laboratory on rolling machine, and the test cycle pattern does not fully reflect the actual usage on road. As a result, the CO2 emission and pollutant emission figures are seriously underestimated. Most real-world tests found the fuel consumption far exceeded the published figures, while NOx emission of diesel cars is on average 7 times higher than the maximum limit allowed by the standard! These problems call for new test methods to address.

The new WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure) is still conducted in laboratory to make sure test results repeatable. However, its test conditions are much stricter and clearly defined. The test cycles consists of more acceleration and deceleration as in actual usage, and it runs the vehicle up to 131km/h (81mph) instead of the previous 121km/h (75mph). Both cars fitted with most and least equipment shall be tested. Car makers should use the recommended tire pressure, and no more modifications could be allowed. Besides, the test now runs 30min instead of 20min, increasing the difficulty for cheating software, which usually switches off the aftertreatment device just after the test duration.

The WLTP result will be used for the CO2 emission and fuel consumption figure. Initially, NEDC figures will be shown alongside during the transitional period of 2 years, after which only WLTP figures will be published. However, the corporate CO2 fleet average of 95g/km for each manufacturer or group will continue to be based on NEDC figures until 2021, because there is no way to pass the limit using the new test method.

Apart from WLTP, vehicles shall be subjected to real-world test as well. RDE (Real Driving Emission) test is conducted on a variety of real-world roads using portable measuring equipment fitted to the car, so that cheating by software is virtually impossible. It will measure only the harmful pollutants rather than CO2 or fuel consumption. Previously, NEDC allowed cars to switch off the aftertreatment device if there is risk of excessive soot accummulation. The RDE is no longer, because it measures the pollutant emissions over the entire test period. Predictably, results will be much higher than the current limits. Therefore the results of RDE are subjected to higher limits. For example, the current EU6 standard specifies 80mg/km limit for NOx emission of diesel cars. Under RDE, the limit is 168mg/km, but this will be tightened to 120g/km by Jan 2020 so to push manufacturers to improve. Cars already type approved will be subjected to the 168mg/km and 120mg/km limits by Sep 2019 and Jan 2021, respectively. EU hopes to tighten the limit further to 80mg/km by 2023, but it is subjected to further study.

Besides, RDE Act 3 expands the requirement to fine particulate matters, or PM 2.5. Even gasoline cars will be difficult to meet the requirement without resorting to particle filter. No wonder recently many car makers announced that their cars will be fitted with gasoline particle filters as standard.

1 Sep, 2017

This is ATS GT, a new 1 million dollar Italian supercar. ATS is an Italian sports car maker once existed in the 1960s. It was founded by ex-Ferrari men and built only 12 cars before collapsed. More people remember its participation in Formula One racing, but the adventure was equally unsuccessful.

We don't know whether the reborn company has any links with its original founders, or just taking its name to launch a new supercar. Anyway, the new GT has an adventurous look designed by ex-Bertone man Emanuele Bomboi. It has proper specifications as well: mid-engined, rear-drive, butterfly doors, carbon-fiber chassis, 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 with 700hp and a 7-speed twin-clutch gearbox. Aren't these familiar? Also its shape? If the car is not a revamped McLaren super series (MP4-12C or 650S etc.), I will eat my words...

Since ATS plans to build only 12 cars, it won't be difficult to find enough McLaren on the used market as basis. Problem is, it costs US$1.15 million each, 5 times the price of the latest McLaren 720S, which is actually faster.

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