Monday, June 25, 2007

All-New Nissan Serena Spotted in BKK!

By Peter Lee

With the flurry of launch activities by Edaran Tan Chong Motors (ETCM) for new Nissan models in Malaysia, we get to see something more refreshing than the garden-variety Latio, March and Teana here. Pictured above is the 3rd generation Serena MPV, spotted at a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand. It looked nice and very spacious. I found the interior classy and luxurious too.

Will we get to see it launched in Malaysia, locally assembled at Tan Chong Motor's Serendah automotive plant by 2008?

Friday, June 22, 2007

New Audi TT Coupe 2.0 TFSI S-Tronic

By Dr Long

The first generation Audi TT made its debut in 1998 and became an icon in automotive design soon after. Now nine years later, the all-new TT Coup� continues with a higher engine output and a leaner body offering pure sports performance. Euromobil, franchise holder and sole distributor of Audi in Malaysia, has officially launched the 2.0 TFSI S-Tronic model on 21st June 2007.

The new TT features Audi Space Frame (ASF) construction where 69% of the materials used are aluminium with most of it found at and over the front axle. This ensures a more balanced weight distribution for a FF (front engine, front wheel drive) vehicle like the new TT coupe, thereby enabling better on-road dynamism.

�Car enthusiasts would be pleased to note that Audi has lovingly retained and stylishly enhanced the genetic code that makes up the new TT.� said Datuk Syed Wazir Syed Wahid, chairman of Euromobil. �The design concept is compact and embodies the feeling of pure design, pure performance, confidence and strengths that are shared by its owner� he added. �The new TT is utterly uncompromising, and would appeal to a select breed of individuals who want to make a statement� as the Euromobil chairman pointed out the sporty niche of the new TT coupe.

The new TT will initially be available as a 2+2-seater coup� with the superb Audi S-Tronic (Direct Shift Gearbox). It is powered by Audi�s famed and award winning 2.0 Turbo FSI, capable of 200bhp at 5100-6000 rpm and 280Nm of torque from a low 1800rpm through to 5000 rpm. Performance figures are 6.4secs from standstill to 100km/h, on the way to a top speed of 240km/h. A hidden rear spoiler deploys automatically at speed above 120km/h to increase downforce.

Price of the fully-imported new Audi TT Coup� 2.0 TFSI S-Tronic is RM368,000 and is available for viewing and booking at Euromobil and its authorised dealers. All initial 20 units have been snapped up and the response has been encouraging, according to Euromobil Audi Head, Kula Kulendran.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Nissan Latio Prices Finalised

Edaran Tan Chong Motor (ETCM) has announced the prices of Nissan Latio Sedan and Latio Sport hatchback. These models will be available for public viewing and booking from this Friday (22nd June) onwards.

Prices (OTR without insurance):

Latio 1.6 ST (M) - RM79,900
Latio 1.6 ST (A) - RM85,300
Latio 1.6 ST-L (A) - RM90,300
Latio 1.8 Ti (A) - RM97,100
Latio Sport 1.6 ST-L (A) - RM92,900

You may want to check this out:

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Monday, June 18, 2007

1,000th Mercedes-Benz in 17 months!

For Cycle & Carriage Bintang, the main dealer of Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the country, it has taken only 17months period of �gestation� to �deliver� its 1,000th customer. She�s none other than Dr. Chua Hui Yen, who purchased a Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor EL recently from the Mercedes-Benz Autohaus showroom in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

To mark the occasion, C&C Bintang (CCB) presented Dr Chua with a one-night stay at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel together with a wine-and-dine voucher worth RM300 and a hotel spa package for two. In addition, she also received two VIP tickets to the internationally acclaimed stage production of The King and I performance at the Istana Budaya. �I have always been a loyal Mercedes-Benz fan and have eyed the C230 K for a while now. Thus, this is certainly a pleasant surprise to be appreciated in such a special way,� she said.

C&C Bintang's retail operations director, Matthew Stuart and Florian Mueller, Vice President of Sales & Marketing of DaimlerChrysler Malaysia, were on hand to present the prize. The company has sold 630 Mercedes-Benz models thus far in 2007, from its five branches located nationwide, which include the Autohaus showrooms in PJ and Mutiara Damansara.

As one of the latest promotion, CCB is offering its customers the opportunity to participate in the upcoming Mercedes-Benz Active Safety Experience 2007 - driver training programme - at Sepang from July 11th -14th, 2007. The one-day training session, valued at RM1,800 per person (existing M-B owner), will be complimentary to all customers who purchase a new Mercedes-Benz from any of its Autohaus showrooms in June.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

2007 VW Touareg 3.6 V6 Facelift

By Dr Long

Volkswagen Group Malaysia (VGM) has unveiled the facelifted Touareg, after the �predecessor� has logged over 300,000 units sold worldwide over the last five years. Updates include a new matt chrome grill extended to frame the lower bumper air vent (think: Audi Q7) and a pair of shapelier headlamps. Sportier and bolder alloy wheels complement the remodeled wing mirrors and also the more distinct rear spoiler.

The 2007 Touareg also feature ABSplus which is claimed to work better with 4WD. Also new is a set of new rollover sensors, called Active Rollover Protection (ARP). Conventional ABS brakes don't work well on loose surfaces of sand or gravel. With ABSplus, in soft and non-grippy surfaces, the system allows the front wheels to lock up briefly and clump pieces of the road surface material to produce a type of braking wedge. It is also claimed to reduce the braking distance on loose surfaces by up to 20%, thereby improving off-roading safety.

However, the drivetrain is pretty much carried cover from the last pre-facelifted unit tested by the writer. The larger displacement (from 3.4 to 3.6L) V6 FSI now churns out 280PS at 6200rpm and 360Nm of torque from 2500-5000rpm, still mated to a 6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. The interior is enhanced with redesigned features such as the cruise control interface, audio buttons on the steering wheel and an improved electronic compass display. Built quality is of course for a VW, as usual, near-vault solid.

While the new Touareg 3.6 V6 has undergone some 2,300 parts changed or updated, the price of RM437,283 (on the road, without insurance) remains untouched.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

New SsangYong Actyon Sports

By Dr Long

In a rather unexpected and surprising move recently, Competitive Supreme, official franchise holder and distributor for SsangYong vehicles in Malaysia, unveiled the sporty-lifestyle SUV Actyon in the form of a pick-up! The Actyon SUV (seen in the 3rd picture below) is actually a much better looking (read: less goofy and weird) replacement model for SsangYong�s �iconic� Musso SUV. I would think that the SsangYong Kyron is more deserving to have its wrinkly and somewhat-sagging �butt-and-pelvis� chopped off to make up for a Sports Utility Truck. SUT is SsangYong�s lingo for their pick-up.

Under its bulging hood, a Mercedes-Benz derived 3rd generation common-rail turbodiesel pumps out 141ps of power at 4000rpm and spins a torque of 320Nm from a low 1800rpm through to 2700rpm. The Acyton also features variable geometry turbocharging. Such output figures while not segment-leading (the Ranger TDCi � also with VGT - claims 143ps) but it is undeniably in a class of its own with the most powerful 2.0L oil burner.

To put things in perspective, it even betters the figures of the larger 2.5L powered Mitsubishi Triton (136ps), Toyota Hilux (102ps) Nissan Frontier (133ps) and even the 3.0L Isuzu D-Max (130ps). The gearbox is however, still a 4-speed unit and has a low range transfer case, switchable between high and low ranges via push switches. Apart from a lower annual roadtax, a smaller capacity engine usually translates to overall lower fuel consumption as well, but then again that�s pretty much dependent on style of driving, traffic conditions, tyre pressures et al.

The black leather interior looks like that of a passenger car with the dashboard taking styling cues and features from both the Kyron and Rexton II. Being a CKD model, prices are indicated to be just sub-RM90k. It is available for viewing and booking at all SsangYong showrooms nationwide.

BRABUS B63 S Tuning

Famous Mercedes-Benz tuner, BRABUS now offers even more power for all Mercedes 63 AMG models: its B63 S engine tuning, which boosts power output of the high-revving 6.2-liter V8 to 550 hp / 404 kW and peak torque to 650 Nm. With a sprint time from rest to 100 km/h in just 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 330 km/h, a CLS 63 AMG with B63 S tuning turns in performance worthy of a true super sports car.

The BRABUS power kit comprises newly programmed engine electronics with special mapping for injection and ignition. But that's not all: The intake side features a sport air filter for improved supply of combustion air. The exhaust side features high-performance metal catalysts with low back pressure that also ensure that the tuned V8 engine meets stringent EURO IV emission limits. In order to transfer the increased power to the road with minimum slip, BRABUS recommends the BRABUS locking differential for all Mercedes 63 models with rear wheel drive. The diff lock has a locking rate of up to 40%.

The BRABUS B63 S performance kit is available for all Mercedes 63 AMG models. With 550hp / 404 kW the ML 63 accelerates in 4.9 seconds from 0-100 km/h and reaches a top speed of 275 km/h in combination with the BRABUS Vmax unit.

This extraordinary performance represents a good argument for modifications to tyres, suspension and brakes. Depending on the Mercedes 63 AMG model in question BRABUS offers custom-tailored tyre/wheel combinations up to size 11Jx23 with tyres up to 315/25R 23. To further improve the already excellent handling characteristics BRABUS has developed a control module for the ABC suspensions that lowers the ride height by some 20 millimeters. BRABUS sport stabilizers reduce body roll and optimise turn-in.

The BRABUS high-performance brake system offers stopping power and endurance normally only found in pure-bred sports cars. It is available for all Mercedes 63 AMG models, upon customer request even in a special version with ceramic discs. The front axle features 380 x 36 millimeter rotors and 12-piston aluminum fixed calipers. The rear axle is fitted with six-piston fixed calipers and 355 x 28 mm brake rotors. The list of BRABUS exclusive interior accessories ranges from genuine carbon-fibre trim and scuff plates with illuminated BRABUS logo to ergonomically shaped sport steering wheels and a speedometer with 360 km/h dial.

BRABUS model range, from the entry level Premier Line to highest range of high performance vehicles imported from the Brabus factory in Germany and Mercedes-Benz individualization services are available at BRABUS Bangsar Centre, BRABUS Penang Centre and BRABUS PJ Centre in Malaysia.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Honda City Modulo Special Edition

Honda Malaysia has put up for sale only 120 units of the City Modulo Special Edition. This original body-kitted version of Honda Malaysia�s top-seller City, now sports a sharper-looking front grille, a front bumper lower apron and a rear bumper diffuser. The boot meanwhile gets a top �aero-foil� spoiler.

Side skirts are slapped on as well, wearing an all-telling Modulo emblem to make owners proud and feeling more exclusive. The City Modulo Special Edition is factory-fitted in Melaka and is available only as City VTEC. There are only two colour options - Alabaster Silver and Nighthawk Black.

The whole package of fully-imported Modulo accessories on the City Modulo SE is quoted at around RM7,000 on the open after-market. With this City Modulo Edition, motorist only have to top up RM4k to get the City Modulo Special Edition at RM88,800 OTR (inclusive of road tax and insurance).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

BRABUS SV12 S Biturbo Coupe with 730hp and 1320Nm!

With the SV12 S Biturbo Coupe, BRABUS presents the world's fastest and most powerful coupe. Its highlights are 730hp/537 kW of power, 1,320Nm of torque and a top speed of 340km/h!

At the heart of this exclusive automobile is the BRABUS SV12 S Biturbo engine. It is based on the turbocharged Mercedes-Benz CL 600's twelve-cylinder and represents the most powerful street-legal V12 motor in the world. Installing a special BRABUS crankshaft with longer stroke, combined with a bigger bore and correspondingly resized forged pistons, increases displacement from 5.5 to 6.3L. Further engine modifications also include precision machining the cylinder heads and fitting them with four special camshafts.

In addition, the engine peripherals are also modified extensively. The modifications include special exhaust manifolds, two larger turbochargers, a high-efficiency intercooler and a high performance exhaust system with metal catalysts plus low back pressure. Extensive bench tests determined the new programming for the engine electronics that not only maximizes horsepower but also ensures that the engine meets stringent Euro IV emission limits.

Performance figures of the BRABUS SV12 S Biturbo displacement engine speak volumes: A rated power output of 730 hp/537 kW at 5,100 rpm is just as extraordinary as a peak torque of 1,320 Nm at just 2,100 rpm! On the road, peak torque is limited electronically to 1,100 Nm. Power is transferred to the rear wheels via a modified five-speed automatic transmission. An optionally available BRABUS locking differential optimizes traction. All BRABUS drive train elements are operated with ARAL high-performance lubricants.

The BRABUS S V12 S Biturbo coupe is not just the most powerful; it is also the fastest street-legal of its kind. It rockets from standstill to 100km/h in 4.0 secs, reaches 200km/h after just 11.9seconds and continues to sprint to an electronically limited top speed of 340km/h.

The enormous performance of the BRABUS SV12 S Biturbo coupe places exceptionally high demands on the aerodynamic-enhancement parts, which thankfully were developed in a wind tunnel. The sophisticated shape of the BRABUS front apron reduces lift on the front axle and improves engine and front brake cooling due to its large air inlet. Integrated fog lamps and high beams lend the car a characteristic appearance and further improve active safety by optimizing illumination of the road.

The BRABUS rocker panels optimize the airflow along the sides and feature integrated entrance lights for safe entering and exiting of the vehicle in the dark. The BRABUS rear apron sports custom-tailored cut-outs for the BRABUS quad-sport exhaust. Three LED lights integrated into the apron are also activated via the keyless fob. An understated rear spoiler rounds out the sophisticated BRABUS aerodynamics concept, and reduces lift on the rearaxle for further improved directional stability at high speeds.

The enormous performance of the BRABUS SV12 S Biturbo coupe is kept safely in check at all times, thanks to custom-tailored solutions for tyres, suspension and brakes. Among them are BRABUS Monoblock light-alloy wheels with diameters of 18, 19, 20 or 21 inches. The largest tyre/wheel combination features BRABUS Monoblock VI and E wheels in sizes 9Jx21 in front and 10.5Jx21 on the rear axle. The largest corresponding tyres are size 265/30 ZR21 in front and size 295/30 ZR21 in the rear.

BRABUS recommends Pirelli and YOKOHAMA high-performance tyres. The BRABUS module for the standard ABC suspension is specifically calibrated to these high-performance tyres, and lowers the ride height by some 25 millimeters. For further optimized active safety the BRABUS SV12 S Biturbo coupe can be equipped with the BRABUS high-performance brake system. Maximum fade-free stopping power is provided on the front axle by 380 x 36 millimeter discs and 12-piston aluminium fixed calipers. The rear features 355 x 28 millimeter discs and 6-piston aluminum fixed calipers.

BRABUS also fulfills any requests imaginable when it comes to exclusive interior options. The list of products ranges from scuff plates with illuminated BRABUS logo or an ergonomically shaped sport steering wheel to an exclusive customized interior crafted from soft yet durable BRABUS Mastik leather and the finest Alcantara.

The BRABUS SV12 S Biturbo coupe can be ordered as a complete car or can be built based on a current CL600 model. The BRABUS model range, from the entry level Premier Line to highest range of high performance vehicles imported from the Brabus factory in Germany and Mercedes-Benz individualization services are available at BRABUS Bangsar KL Centre, BRABUS Penang Centre and BRABUS PJ Centre in Malaysia.

Drive Review: Mitsubishi Triton 2.5L DI-D

By Dr Long

Imposing, modern and trendy: that�s my first impression of the Red Metallic tester unit collected from Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia (MMM). Yes, I have never imagined describing a pick-up in such a manner, until the Triton came along, as replacement model for the Mitsubishi L200 aka Mitsubishi Storm.

You�d probably have heard this half a dozen times or more by now. Whether its Gundam, Star Wars� Storm Trooper or even Darth Vader�s helmet-inspired frontal stare is appropriate or tough-looking enough for a pick-up, the right hemisphere of my brain deciphers it as something very attractive and desirable. Based on Mitsubishi�s Racing Truck Concept, the Triton sports a colour-coded triangle smack in the middle of the grille, topped off with a distinct tri-diamond chrome emblem. The entire visage, with a pair of inverted slant headlamps, takes its DNA heritage from the Dakar-winning Pajero Evolution�s. Despite the best of intention, opinions has been split among truck enthusiasts and car owners alike, no doubt about that, since its launch more than 6 months ago. The fact that it created a long waiting list for deliveries speaks volume of its general popularity moments after its launch.

External styling is fluid and unconventional, while its non-boxy design infused fresh blood into the pulsing arteries of the truck segment. In practical terms, the shapely rear door aperture was very accommodating for easy ingress and egress. The helicopter cocoon-like upswing of its capacious cabin towards the posterior, serves up more space and legroom, apart from being more aesthetically refreshing and appealing � curvy rear quarter windows et al. All the smoothen edges, soft curves, clean lines and neat sheet-metal surfacing are rendered so well, that it looks rather futuristic and even classy to a certain extent. We happened to be at one hypermarket car-park when the wife of one gentleman who retrieved his Perdana V6 (facelift model) remarked: ��the colour of this car is very nice and attractive ��commented the missus much to the chagrin of the husband. To have a workhorse truck (in a brighter shade, of course) drawing such attention � more so not a truly recent newly launched model � is a pleasant compliment indeed.

Frontal cabin space is generous too, with a dashboard design and layout more akin to say, the 7th generation Accord (being lower-slung and in two-tone presentation), making it airy and inviting, unlike those found in utilitarian trucks of yesteryears. Front seats are however, a tad too flat for snug support and desired body hugging when driving around corners. The rear seat while being claimed to be more passenger car-like, still needs to be a little more laid-back, despite the nicely thought-out foldable centre armrest with cupholders. Materials on the dashboard and door trim are a little too �dry� and hard to touch but I suppose they were meant to weather a truck�s harsh daily routine, when called to duty. However, the gear knobs � for the A/T and the 2WD/4WD transfer case - are nicely leather stitched.

The 314Nm on tap from a low 2000rpm spinning from the 2.5L DI-D common-rail turbodiesel is truly palpable. I had the slightly unsettling experience of inducing power oversteer in the wet when I was powering the ladder-frame chassis on just rear-wheel-drive (2H) mode. In one other rainy episode, the front axle even broke traction a little when I was a wee bit too enthusiastic turning a right-hander crossing a traffic junction. Thankfully, I was alone in the Triton then and both were minor slides; with quick lifts of the throttle the lengthy vehicle corrected itself. For the rest of the test period, I had the gear transfer case in 4x4 mode for hard driving and in the rain. Somehow, these subsequent drives in 4H mode felt torqueier, had better road feel and tighter body control. Overall, the Triton�s Hyper Common Rail DOHC 16V Intercooler Turbodiesel was pretty smooth, adequately punchy while mated to an equally refined 4-speed automatic tranny.

Using the 4x4 over a weekend, my family and I swapped our regular sedan for this �bootless� truck. My wife was particularly worried by the absence of a normal boot for our belongings. Sure enough, after we picked up my mother-in-law from the airport, the sky opened up! Though it swallowed up all the luggages plus extra stuff with ease, we found our belongings to be rather exposed and truly at heaven�s mercy. Thank goodness we had plastic sheathed most of the major non-waterproof baggages and boxes. A rear gas-strut aftermarket flatbed cover is a must if I were to own this truck as a family vehicle, I thought to myself. My young kids got accustomed soon enough to the tall ride height which afforded a near tourist-bus-scenic-view of things. In testament to its pliant ride and non-bouncy nature, my rear passengers were pretty quiet during drives over varying road surfaces. At times, the Triton�s rear leaf-spring suspension can be caught a little hard and unyielding over bigger humps, but that�s about it. NVH refinements were good for a vehicle of this segment. Having heard from a close associate of mine that his previous Toyota Harrier 2.4 had irritating wind and road noises at motorway speed, I was especially on a look out for these little �gremlins�. No abnormal whistling wind noises were audible and road rumble at cruising speed was negligible. Even the idling diesel clatter was near absent once you shut the double-lined doors. Truly impressive.

Driving the Triton up hilly B-roads, it behaved more civilised than expected. The pick-up felt a little like a Toyota Innova (similarly ladder-frame truck but turned MPV) except that it has more torque and is 4x4 capable. Slotting the reduction gears to 4H (high range AWD, which can be shifted-on-the-fly at speeds up to 100kph) the car�oops! I meant truck, has lesser tendency to understeer around winding roads hereafter. Its double wishbone independent front suspension allows more faithful tracking into corners. However, the steering � though rack and pinion � had a very lazy demeanour to react to your input. A little slow-witted and dull to turn but the weighting is quite spot on, not overbearing or over-assisted for this two-tonne behemoth. On a minus side, I really disliked the vibrating and �oscillating� gear transfer stalk. Mitsubishi Motors could have used a rotary dial (think facelifted X-Trail or new Ranger A/T) as a 2WD high range(2H)/4WD high range(4H)/ 4WD low range(4L) selector and isolate the driver from such �lack of refinement�. It mars an otherwise saloon-like serene and relaxing cabin.

In the wet, with the Triton in 4H gearings, it was confident wafting over rain-drenched tarmac with ease and conviction. You can feel the improvement in grip at all four corners, more noticeable over the front axle. At night, the instruments panel is plain easy to read in one quick glance. The blue background meters contrasted excellently with its red gauge needles. The onboard computer is placed at the middle of the dash, displaying a digital clock, compass, barometer, average speed as well as fuel consumption and possible range in km for the remaining fuel. It relays these data in both graphic and numerical presentation. The fuel consumption computed for this automatic Triton ranges from best of 9L/100km to 12.5L/100km. While not exactly record-breaking figures for a turbodiesel, these are somewhat admirable and acceptable figures for such healthy power/torque output propelling significantly hefty kerb weight.

Taking the automatic Triton off�road, the dual purpose but road-biased Bridgestone Dueler H/T were up to grips over dirt and mud roads. Uneven, soft ground and rough ridges were ironed over with expected ease. The truck did not require gear reduction to 4L mode since no hardcore off-roading, mud-bath or river crossing were done. Back onto trunk roads, it was a joy to negotiate sweeping bends with body roll well controlled, at sane speeds of course. The rear Limited-Slip Differential (LSD) also contributed to stable composure around corners, especially in 4H drive mode.

Having driven the pick-up over a couple of days, I got acquainted with the tall ride, high vantage-point visibility, body rigidity and nice low-end torque on tap. In fact, the Triton felt like a decent and well-built SUV from Day2 of this test review. With 136bhp tops at 3500rpm, MMC claims a top speed of 175kph for this lifestyle truck. A feat probably not claimed by alternatives from the other camps, even though the Triton is no longer the horsepower king of pick-ups now. Curiosity got the better of me when I attempted 0 � 100kph sprint for this 1.9 tonne vehicle. The average timing acquired was around 15secs, not bad for a diesel double-cab with an auto �box, I reckoned.

Strangely, I was a little reluctant to return the Triton to MMM at the end of the loan period. I never thought that I would grow to like a pick-up this much. Swapping back to my regular executive sedan the same evening, I had found myself weirdly seated-low again and clamouring for the affable and addictive low-end torque of a turbodiesel. To be fair, I didn�t miss the labourious parallel parking of this 5.1 meter vehicle due to its enormous rear overhang! Nevertheless, I had suffered from withdrawal syndrome, needing a wash-out period, much like a subject in a cohort study of a pharmaceutical drug trial. Yet in the end, I can�t help feeling this notion of being able to be cool yet tough, and fashionable�in a Mitsubishi Triton!

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