Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mitsubishi Concept-cX

Building upon 70 years of four-wheel drive expertise, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) is pushing the benefits of this technology, in terms of on-road active safety and off-road ability, from Lancer Evolution to the Pajero. At the upcoming Frankfurt Motor Show 2007, MMC will unveil a new compact-'SUV' called Mitsubishi Concept-cX. Featuring the �Jet Fighter� grille already seen with Lancer Sports Sedan and using a soft-road application of the Outlander-derived electric control 4WD drivetrain, the 4.1m long Mitsubishi Concept-cX bridges the gap between Mitsubishi�s passenger cars and SUVs. Is this what car manufacturers coined as the �crossover� genre?

Sharp in design and in dynamics, the concept vehicle is based on the new Lancer�s global compact platform. In tune with the times, Mitsubishi Concept-cX will have low fuel consumption and ultra-low emission levels achieved by its next generation 1.8-litre Clean Diesel engine. The Euro 5 compliant oil burner comes standard with a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC), plus a diesel particulate filter (DPF) in the exhaust system. A preview of a family of powertrains to be launched in the course of 2009, it features a variable geometry diffuser turbocharger (VGT) which generate optimum boost pressure, even at low engine revs. The 4-cylinder turbodiesel is mated to Mitsubishi's new Twin Clutch SST (Sport Shift Transmission), an automated manual gearbox which will be making its world debut in the all-new Lancer Evolution X.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

All-New W204 C200 Kompressor spotted in Malaysia!

Dubbed a Werkswagen (not to be confused with a Vee-Dub), these pictures depict a sample unit of the new W204 C-Class spotted at the Mercedes-Benz assembly plant in Pekan. This maybe the earliest example to kick-start a CKD programme that could be well underway in Pahang, Malaysia. So, M-B fans can be expecting to see few CBU showroom units for a possible early launch in Sept/Oct 2007. Deliveries of CKD units, however, are only to be expected by Q1 2008.

Thanks to paultan.org automotive forum for the images. More posting details here: http://paultan.org/forum/index.php/topic,366.0.html

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Porsche 911 GT2 (997)

Porsche AG is finally unveiling the most powerful 911 so far homologated for road use: the new 911 GT2. The fastest-ever 911 will be available exclusively with rear-wheel drive (RWD) and a manual six-speed gearbox. (The 911 Turbo is AWD with a 6-speed Tiptronic S option).

Quicker than even the 911 Turbo, it rockets to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds and marches on to a top speed of 329km/h (204mph). What�s even more impressive is the average fuel consumption of just 12.5L/100km (22.6mpg)!

The rear-mounted powerplant of the new 911 GT2 is based on the six-cylinder boxer engine of the 911 Turbo, with forced induction by two exhaust gas turbochargers featuring variable turbine geometry (VTG). The 3.6L boxer engine achieves its maximum output of 530bhp (390 kW) at 6500rpm, with maximum torque of 680Nm maintained - consistently on tap - between 2200 and 4500 rpm.

Further increase in engine power by 50bhp over the �standard� power unit is achieved in the new 911 GT2 by two turbochargers with a larger compressor (turbine) wheel each side. A flow-optimised turbine housing further raises turbocharger pressure to an even higher level. Furthermore, Porsche engineers have for the first time, combined the turbocharged engine with an expansion-type intake manifold � an ingenious evolution on turbocharged motors. Such an expansion intake manifold keeps the temperature of the fuel/air mixture lower than in the 911 Turbo. This contributes to a significant increase in all-round efficiency, with fuel consumption down by up to 15% under full load despite the significant gain in engine output.

The 911 GT2 offers new achievements also in terms of emission management and control: This is the first Porsche homologated for the road to feature a rear silencer and tailpipes made of titanium as standard equipment. This expensive material reduces weight by approximately 50% versus a comparable component made of stainless steel. The whole rear exhaust set-up weighs just 9kg.

With standard PCCB brakes, featuring brake rotors made of a composite carbon fibre/ceramic compound, the GT2�s maximum stopping power is maintained with an extremely high level of consistency. A further advantage is that PCCB brakes reduce the weight of the unsprung masses versus comparable grey cast-iron discs by approximately 20kg.

Yet another feature fitted standard is the electronically controlled Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which enables superb handling yet appreciable ride comfort. The new 911 GT2 comes shod with 19� alloys with 235/35 ZR 19 sports tyres in front, and 325/30 ZR 19 rubbers at the rear.

The new Porsche 911 GT2 is expected to go on sale in Germany and Europe by November 2007. Expect it to be in the region of RM1.8million when it comes to Malaysia sometime next year, and likely available only on an indent basis.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Proton Gen.2 sedan = Proton Persona?

Struggling carmaker Proton will finally launch a new sedan or rather a new body variant based on its liftback model, the Gen.2 by mid-August. It will be powered by the familiar 1.6L Campro engine. In an apparent upgrade, the engine is expected to have a new variable intake system (ala last Ford Lynx 2.0 sedan) and possibly a remapped ECU, in order to improve the much-complained lack of low-end torque and high-ish fuel consumption. The missing cam-profiling system (CPS) that lives true to the CAM-PRO-filing moniker is likely to remain �well, absent.

This booted Gen.2 will come in three trim levels i.e. Base, Medium and High-Line � with the top-spec version being available only with an auto transmission.

Poised to replace the ageing Wira sedan range, prices are indicated to be:

1.6 BaseLine (N/M) MT - RM45,350
1.6 BaseLine (N/M) AT - RM48,350
1.6 BaseLine (M) MT - RM45,800
1.6 BaseLine (M) AT - RM48,800
1.6 MediumLine (M) MT - RM49,800
1.6 MediumLine (M) AT - RM52,800
1.6 HighLine (M) AT - RM55,800

For new Proton Gen.2 sedan spy-shots, go here:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New Mercedes-Benz 1.8L Petrol Engine with 238hp and 400Nm!

With moderate disappointment over the upcoming W204 C-Class range of engines, especially with regards to carrying over the M271 Kompressor powerplants largely unchanged, the DiesOtto engine developments will be much rejoiced by Mercedes-Benz fans the world over. After all, who doesn�t want power, economy and environmental friendliness all in one package? In Malaysia, an added bonus to this development is the annual road tax of a 1.8L engine!

Click on picture for more details

From the image, the DiesOtto engine still looks pretty much like the all-aluminium M271 in external architecture. What this means is that the motor could possibly be fitted easily to all Mercedes-Benz vehicles planted currently with an M271 engine. To sum it up, the DiesOtto is capable of 238hp and 400Nm while returning a respectable fuel consumption of just 6L/100km. How soon will this powerplant make it into the engine bays of W204 (perhaps the facelift model?) and/or the all-new W212 E-Class remains to be seen. Let�s just hope that this technological update announcement by Mercedes-Benz does not remain just a media release, like all its previously announced plans of full range GDI engines for the W211 E-Class and Turbocharging +GDI motors for the W204 C-Class. Only then can future M-B owners relish the powerplant technological advancements of their favourite rides, against the Munich or Ingolstadt counterparts.

Mercedes-Benz DiesOtto powerplant key technological features are as follows:

1) Downsizing with fewer cylinders and a smaller displacement
2) Turbocharging for superior performance
3) Direct gasoline injection as a further fuel economy measure
4) Controlled auto ignition, a combustion process similar to that of a diesel
5) Variable valve control
6) A variable compression ratio leading to even better fuel economy
7) A hybrid module with an integrated starter/generator, which makes the drive unit even more economical (optional)

Press release as below:

Mercedes-Benz DiesOtto � a further development of the spark-ignition engine

Mercedes-Benz has combined all the advantages of both engine types in its DiesOtto powertrain. The performance of a gasoline engine, the high torque and fuel economy of a state-of-the-art turbodiesel together with extremely clean emissions is now possible. The new technology package, which stands for the future of the petrol engine, includes features such as direct gasoline injection, turbocharging and a variable compression. At the core of this innovation lies the controlled auto ignition, a highly efficient combustion process similar to that of a diesel. By way of another advantage, and in contrast to comparable developments, the Mercedes system requires no synthetic fuels but can be operated using conventional petrol.

Optimising the internal combustion engine is one of the milestones on the Mercedes-Benz roadmap for sustainable mobility. BLUETEC has already made it possible for Mercedes engineers to make the powerful and economical diesel as clean as the gasoline engine. In the US, this technology has already been available in the E-Class since 2006, and it will also become available in Europe from the end of this year. The W211 E300 BLUETEC will be by far the cleanest diesel in its class, and will meet the requirements of the EU5 exhaust emission standards in full.

"Our next goal will now be to make the gasoline engine as economical as a diesel. All the preconditions for this are provided by our DiesOtto concept, which incorporates the foremost strengths of both the gasoline engine and diesel engine," says Prof. Dr. Herbert Kohler, Head of Group Research & Advanced Engineering Vehicle and Powertrain; Chief Environmental Officer of DaimlerChrysler.

The result of this �marriage" is a four-cylinder unit with a displacement of just 1.8 litres, which combines the strengths of the low-emission gasoline engine with the fuel economy of a diesel. Despite its considerably reduced displacement � downsizing is one of the major factors for achieving lower fuel consumption � this compact power unit delivers superior performance together with refinement at the level of the luxury class. An output of 175 kW/238 hp and a maximum torque of 400 newton metres are achieved together with the hybridisation a fuel consumption of less than 6L/100 kilometres! This fuel economy figure by no means relates to a small or compact car, but to a vehicle the size of the current S-Class, with the level of comfort and safety that is typical of a Mercedes-Benz.

�In line with the worldwide success of today's diesel engine, vehicles equipped with gasoline engines will continue to have a long-term attraction for many customers and in many markets. Accordingly we are giving our attention to both engine types � including a full hybrid option for diesel and gasoline vehicles, " says Prof. Kohler. Mercedes-Benz is working on its DiesOtto concept with corresponding emphasis.

When starting and under full load, the fuel/air mixture is ignited by a spark plug, as in a conventional spark-ignition engine (homogeneous combustion). The controlled auto ignition to which the DiesOtto automatically reverts within its working cycle occurs under partial load conditions, i.e. at low and medium engine speeds.

The result is the very low nitrogen oxide emissions of homogeneous combustion at reduced reaction temperatures. All further emissions control in the DiesOtto engine is by means of a standard three-way catalytic converter. A highly efficient engine management and control system has also been realised to combine the individual sub-systems into a drive concept.

The current prospects for the future of the internal combustion engine reveal its great potential, and show that the new drive concept is a feasible proposition in the mid-term. Some of the intermediate solutions incorporated, e.g. direct gasoline injection, are already in series production at Mercedes-Benz. Others will be gradually integrated into series-production engines until the overall solution has been realised.

Monday, July 23, 2007

New Honda Civic Type-R and Civic Hybrid Coming Soon!

Honda Malaysia has been busy training its dealers' sales advisors of late, for two new products to be launched in the near future. Details are sketchy and kind of 'classified' at this stage. But For Wheels do know that the new Civic Type-R slated for official introduction to the local market is the sedan version. Thank goodness it's not the odd-ball hatch shape!

Meanwhile, the new Civic Hybrid is also reportedly being planned for mainstream sales, unlike the last 7th gen Civic. It would be interesting to see how well the electric airconditioning works at traffic stops (when the petrol engine shuts down).

Honda's IMA electric motor together with its 1.3L 8-valve SOHC petrol engine produces 116bhp at 6000rpm and 170Nm of torque at a low 2500rpm. All these are transmitted to the front wheels via CVT. No 5-speed torque converter 'box here.

Update: Prices are guess-timates at this stage, with the Civic Type-R ranging from RM200k to RM210k. The greener Civic Hybrid is rumoured to be circa RM160k.

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Audi quattro: 27 years and counting...

By Dr Long

As the pioneer of four-wheel-drive technology, Audi set the transmission benchmark as early as 1980 with the launch of the Quattro coupe at the Geneva International Motor Show. Its enduring success on rally courses and racing circuits around the world proves that an innovation like the quattro is truly a practical technological application.

Prior to this, only a few exotic cars with a very small production volume and heavy off-road vehicles had permanent 4-wheel drive. By 1982, the Audi 80 quattro was the first volume production car to have permanent all-wheel drive (AWD). Audi celebrated the one millionth quattro car leaving its production line in 2001. And as they say, the rest is history. This figure is doubled by 2004 with quattro models having permanent all-wheel drive in conjunction with ESP (Electronic Stability Program), adaptive air suspension, Torsen centre differential, Haldex coupling, electro-hydraulic multi-plate clutch and aluminium chassis, among other things. Audi celebrated its 25 years of quattro in 2005 with its famous �gecko� motif plastered on its safety driving training cars.

On the permanent all-wheel drive quattro, power is distributed as needed to all four wheels. This system provides high levels of active safety, and dependable traction on virtually all surfaces as well as excellent road holding, even in cross-winds. It is superior to manual all-wheel-drive systems because of this �permanent safety advantage�. The Audi RS4 and S4 quattro drive, with asymmetric/dynamic distribution of torque, transfers up to 100 percent of available driving torque to the front or rear axle if required.

It�s easy to see why all-wheel drive has the �unfair� advantage over conventional driveline at only the front or rear axle. Normally, two-wheel driven cars, either FWD or RWD, have accelerative forces handled by just two wheels. Apart from this forward driving force, these pair of wheels also has to tackle cornering and braking forces. As such, we can foresee that eventually all these forces can easily overwhelm the pair of tyres� grip limit, especially at high speed around corners while accelerating away. All-wheel-drive system like Audi�s quattro system distributes the engine�s torque to all FOUR wheels, thereby apportioning the accelerative forces by 50% lesser on each tyre. As a result, each wheel gets a higher reserve for handling �extra� cornering forces before losing grip and breaking away, grappling for traction.

So how well does Audi quattro work in a country like Malaysia where we NEVER experience snow or blizzard? Well, the writer had a �revision� with an A4 2.0 TFSI quattro recently.

Audi TFSI-powered A4s have always been great on the straights, highways and even mildly curved trunk roads. The power of turbocharging plus direct injection is always welcomed - with a smirk or grin - for those quick sprints and fast (and safer) overtaking manoeuvres. However, the substantial 280Nm worth of torque powering just the front wheels can be caught a little too busy especially when you hit tighter corners.

So, the A4 quattro�s driveline must be the cure that will address such ailments, yes? To a certain extent, I do admit that all-wheel drive provided a nicer balance to the A4�s chassis � and possibly weight distribution as well. However, the engine�s power is much sapped off, especially when driven in regular �D� mode. More often than not, you get that bogged-down feeling, attributed to the AWD hardware�s extra weight and permanent-four wheels propulsion.

On the highways, I would have preferred the alive-n-kicking feeling of its front-wheel driven brethren. But that�s only half the story since the quattro-specced A4 is undeniably the one to have when the sky starts to pour. Having driven on the N-S highway one dark and wet evening, I found the quattro confidently tracking on the third lane, overtaking cars as if the tarmac was dry. No wicked or rage-fuelled driving here, I was just unknowingly piling on momentum as if nothing mattered! Honest.

On winding roads, the permanent-four driveline felt busier as you exit corners. This makes the quattro quite a handful to handle. (Two Mercedes-Benz ASE 2007 trainers mentioned something about AWD vehicle having a little less �safety reserve� in extreme handling situations even though they did admit it has better handling and of course, higher levels of grip. I wonder what the �safety reserve� was all about.) The handling difficulty is compounded by the fact that the A4 has an unpleasantly - and undesirably - light and almost lifeless steering. Traction was aplenty � as is torque in 'S' drive mode - around the regular hilly bends that I tackle almost every weekend. Admittedly, I do appreciate the extra road holding forte but the A4�s suspension was acting like it had a mind of its own. With repeatedly tight left-right-left-right handers thrown in succession, the dampers were loosening up a bit too much to rein in the associated suspension rebounds incisively. As a result, there were even a little twitch and pitch to things. The much wanted taut and composed body control were sadly, missing.

Notwithstanding the fact that I may not have the required advanced driving skills to take the quattro to the maximum around those hilly B-roads, I still find myself more aligned towards RWD dynamics. While I admit the A4 quattro did handled better than the regular FWD A4 TFSI multitronic, I reckoned most of us with regular/standard driving skills would do better in the other two junior executives from the alternative Teutonic brands. Well, maybe the upcoming 2008 all-new Audi (B8) A4 has other technical trickery up its sleeves?

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Friday, July 20, 2007

All-New Honda Jazz world debut soon?

Honda Motor Co.�s Takeo Fukui in his mid-year CEO speech updating the Japanese automotive company�s progress on its three-year strategic plan - that was first introduced in December 2006 - revealed that Honda will debut a successor to the Fit / Jazz sub-compact hatch this year. The all-new Fit will probably make its world premier in October at the Tokyo Motor Show 2007.

The European Jazz-equivalent will debut at the Geneva International Motor Show in March 2008. Over in the US, the new Honda Fit will make its first public appearance either at the Detroit Motor Show in January �08 or the New York Auto Show by March �08. Does this mean that Honda Malaysia will introduce the all-new Honda Jazz and City in 2008?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mercedes-Benz Active Safety Experience 2007 on Friday the 13th!

By Dr Long

Apparently, I had gotten rid of any superstitious bone in my body for having attended the Mercedes-Benz ASE 2007 on that glorious Friday, seeing that it was a practical day to take time off from my clinical practice.

Having been to the Audi Quattro Driving Experience in May 2005 (thanks to Chips Yap of MTM and Euromobil) and more recently, the Porsche World Roadshow in January 2007, I was skeptical of anything new to be learnt at this DaimlerChrysler Malaysia (DCM) sanctioned driving course. Nevertheless, it�s always inviting and valuable to have a refresher�s safety driving course every now and then, I psyched myself upon entering the Paddock area parking lot of the Sepang F1 Circuit.

After an opening speech by Florian Muller, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, DaimlerChrysler Malaysia Sdn. Bhd, we were introduced to our trainers by the chief instructor, Matthias Kleinmichel. The trainers for ASE 2007 were Violetta Weykopf (Mrs.), Wim Daems and Jochen Hees.

We were divided into three groups (naturally!) and mine was headed by Jochen, an experienced German race driver who spoke with quite a thick accent. Thank goodness driving skills and demonstration runs are a form of universal language because there are times when he found it hard to understand our English and vice versa. Mercedes-Benz�s LINGUATRONIC definitely didn�t help here!

The do�s and don�ts of seating position were taught as preliminary basics to all groups regardless of which first exercise we were to begin with. In short, 9-3 o�clock positions ALWAYS on the steering wheel � with both thumbs to be rested out of the steering rim, according to this Mercedes-Benz safety teaching. The usual bent at elbows and knees stuffs were obligatorily highlighted as well. Your left foot should be resting comfortably on the footrest � and left knee still bent � if you are seated correctly. Meanwhile, the upper border of your headrest should come in line with the top of your head, which should be a fist width or more away from the roof lining.

We started off with the emergency braking exercise. This was elementary and very comforting to those novice drivers since the starting attempts were done at 30kph! I reckoned the wet parking concrete enabled the ABS to work at such slow speed. We were all doing very well when we �graduated� to 70-75kph at the end of this exercise. Personally though, my first encounter with the W221 S300 L here was that of a very solid limo with truly excellent brakes! The 'new' C230 2.5 V6 was one smooth, refined and delightful drive. Above it all, the take-home message here is: KICK THAT BRAKE PEDAL REALLY HARD in an emergency stop! (in order to utilise ABS fully).

Next up was the slalom which was pretty boring because the cones were quite widely placed and it was a plain driving-up-and-back exercise. The aim of this was to impress upon us the importance of light, smooth and easy steering manoeuvres for our daily safe driving. My impression here again was that the extended wheelbase S300 L was surprisingly agile and easy to handle, despite its length and size! However, its weight when around those cones couldn�t contain itself since you still feel there is still substantial mass being flung about.

Our morning session ended with an exercise to counter understeer (the front wheels not going the way you intended) on the track. This was a pretty daunting task for most of us, since it required us to execute a sudden right turn at speeds of 80kph. Honestly, I didn�t find myself understeering much since ESP was on all the time, but the C200K and E280 we sampled did steer out of our intended line. We discovered the importance of a full-hard-kick emergency braking followed by a counter-steering manoeuvre then � in order not to veer off into grass (side of track) or even crash into Jochen! I have go to admit my body�s adrenaline rush hasn�t begun yet at this point�well, okay, maybe just a little bit during the few bouts of the front tyres wailing.

Lunch was short and sweet. Our group members got to know a little more about one another. During our little chat, it was incidentally found out that Cycle & Carriage Bintang (CCB) has sold quite a few Mercs recently, namely an E200K FL, an E280 AV and even two S300Ls to participants in our group.

I had gotten a little lazy after lunch break, infused with glycaemic (blood sugar) load from the nice meal. Things were about to get exhilarating after the basics in the morning, I was assured by Chris Loo, Marketing Manager, DCM Sdn Bhd. Sure enough, Jochen herded us together again to the earlier �emergency braking� parking lot and we were thrown onto a skid pad with running water. The S300 L impressed me (again!) with its rigid chassis and axles, being quite difficult to induce an oversteer (back sliding away). Nevertheless, in one last attempt I managed to spin the 2tonne plus luxury saloon 1.5 turns, having been late in executing counter-steering manoeuvre. Awesome! The B170s were quite difficult to execute oversteer at 75kph on the wet skid pad despite the �best� of intentions. Most of us found this surprisingly likeable hatch lacked power, though its interior is spacious, practical and more ergonomic than the C200K. It was truly a joy to execute this skid pad exercise in an E-Class, demonstrating the ability of ABS and occasionally ESP to rein you back to safety zone. Meanwhile, the other group seemed to have more fun next door parking lot, with lots of tyres screeching and wailing, I wondered what they were doing then�more on this at the end.

Almost all of us had to ease ourselves at the nearest washrooms after the skid pad driving experience. Guessed the epinephrine has started to work its way to our bodily systems after all! To calm things down a notch, we were taken out on to the F1 track in E280s and C200Ks. Jochen then guided us on imaginary racing lines, with apexes of corners and tracking lines dotted by cones at the track side. I found the exercise to be not much different from a related PWRS 2007 lesson. However, this time we had the whole length of the track to run, repeatedly and we were doing a convoy �race� in regular Merc saloons that we use daily! A good revision and reinforcement of knowledge I felt. The E280s were really good with nice pulling power as we exited corners. Conversely, the outgoing W203 C200K were starting to show its age in its handling dynamics while its Kompressor engine was somewhat a little hoarse and breathless when stretched towards the redline, traits not found in the similar engined (M271) E200K. Strange!

Last but not the least, the double-lane changing maneovre without braking was the most exhilarating of them all. This exercise demonstrates weight-shifting of the car in sudden avoidance of an obstacle right in front of you at speeds of 80-85kph. The hindrance may be in the form of a stalled/crashed lorry or a fallen tree trunk, Jochen had us imagined. I found the knack of doing rear side drifts repeatedly, enabling PRE-SAFE (opened windows did wound up automatically) and ESP to kick in, while catching the induced-oversteer at the steering, best in a W211 E200K. An emergency braking inducing ABS function was required at end of this exercise, after the vehicle has regained its directional composure. Other PRE-SAFE actions like the AC blower winding down momentarily and the seat belt pretensioners winding up tighter were truly eye-opening! Once again, the B170 was not cut out to easily execute sudden double lane changes manoeuvres due to lack of engine power and maybe, its light but less responsive EPS rack, I imagined to myself. We were too shy to confirm this fact with Jochen or Matthias.

At the end of the day, we were impressed with the PRO-SAFE concepts, PRE-SAFE features, ABS, BAS and ESP fitted standard on all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. A certificates handing-over ceremony was helmed by Elaine Hew, Senior Marketing Manager, DCM Sdn. Bhd. With the usual debriefing by our chief instructor, Matthias and a closing speech by Florian Muller, we bade our goodbyes, leaving the ASE 2007 driving course at Sepang F1 Circuit quite tired but satisfied, and glad that we were all safe � and the Mercs managed to stay on track - all through out that Friday the 13th!

DCM, bring on the AMG Advanced Driving Course�maybe next year?

Note: The writer expresses his sincere gratitude to CCB for having sponsored part of his participation fee for the Mercedes-Benz ASE 2007.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mercedes-Benz Active Safety Experience 2007

Better driving skills can make a world of difference for all road users even those with state-of-the-art active and passive safety systems in their vehicles. To communicate this philosophy, DaimlerChrysler Malaysia has organised the Mercedes-Benz Active Safety Experience 2007 � a driver training programme that makes this possible.

Owners' Mercs are just as varied as the ASE training cars!

Mercedes-Benz has offered its customers driving safety training courses for over three decades now as part of a wide-ranging commitment to improving road safety. The first such courses took place in 1972 and these courses are subject to a constant process of optimisation and are tailored to the needs and priorities of various different target groups.

Mercedes-Benz sees its customer driving training courses as an important part of its PRO-SAFE� integrated safety philosophy, a philosophy which is underpinned primarily by the aim of accident avoidance. The highly effective safety systems and technically flawless vehicles play its part in achieving this aim but well trained drivers are also an essential ingredient. The aim of Mercedes-Benz driving safety training is to teach drivers how to recognise critical situations in advance and respond to them as effectively as possible. The training also teaches drivers to understand and experience the state-of-the-art safety systems in Mercedes-Benz models.

Mercedes-Benz has always been at the head of the pack in terms of development of vehicle safety and with pioneering innovations such as airbags, ABS, Brake Assist (BAS), ESP� and PRE-SAFE�, the three-pointed star has built up a reputation for setting high standards. In addition to this successful technical commitment, the Stuttgart-based car maker has maintained an equally sharp focus on the human element in road safety. Participants in driving safety training courses held around the world have benefited from exploring the disciplines of driving dynamics and the laws of physics, thus learning how to control their vehicle with maximum safety.

The aim of this programme is based on four objectives:
1) Recognising potential danger
2) Avoiding danger
3) Handling critical situations
4) Understanding and experiencing Mercedes-Benz safety systems.

�The Active Safety Experience features a series of practical tests completed under the watchful eye of expert instructors and aims to give drivers a thorough understanding of the state-of-the-art safety technology at work in Mercedes passenger cars, so that these systems can be used as effectively as possible out on the road. The training programmes are tailored to a range of different target groups, with courses organised for everybody from professional drivers to novices at the wheel,� said Florian Mueller, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, DaimlerChrysler Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.

Mercedes-Benz and its integrated safety philosophy PRO-SAFE� offers this outstanding driving safety training to complement the exceptional engineering and technology of its vehicles. Therefore, all the exercises and programmes are designed and implemented to mirror real-life situations and experienced instructors, medical experts and sports teachers all lend their specialist input to the extremely demanding intensive driving safety training.

The practical section of the training programmes is made up of exercises which reconstruct typical situations in everyday driving � emergency braking, skids, evasive manoeuvres and high-speed lane changes. In this way, the participants on the course learn how to spot the signs of a potentially hazardous situation before it occurs and the right way for a driver to react to danger. The key aim of the driving safety training courses is to teach the participants to think ahead and drive in a way that will allow them to avoid accidents.

The Active Safety Experience reflects Mercedes-Benz' PRO-SAFE� philosophy of analysing every aspect of safety � from supporting the driver through electronic systems and adjusting occupant protection in response to the severity of the impact, to sending a warning to other drivers and getting assistance to people involved in an accident. PRO-SAFE� is underpinned by careful analysis of real-life traffic situations and accidents and is evidence of Mercedes-Benz�s long-standing and successful commitment to bringing about improvements in road safety.

�No other car manufacturer can claim as much expertise in the area of active and passive vehicle safety as Mercedes-Benz. The engineers in Stuttgart have thus left their mark on every area of automotive development. Mercedes-Benz sets the pace in terms of honing drivers' skill at the wheel. Indeed, the brand's integrated commitment to safety includes offering a driving safety training programme to its customers around the world and giving them the chance to refine their driving ability,� added Mueller.

For this event, Mercedes-Benz works in close cooperation with tyre manufacturer Michelin, who supplies tyres and a tyre support service for the training vehicles and teaches the participants how to look after their tyres correctly.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Isuzu D-Max Facelift 2.5 & 3.0

Due to the war heating up in the pick-up truck segment, Isuzu�s D-Max has undergone a facelift for 2007. The tough pick-up now sports a refreshed frontal visage plus some sheet metal changes. Interestingly, this is the third �nip-and-tuck� since its introduction in Malaysia.

Striking changes this time around are sharper looking headlamp which utilises an ellipsoidal projector lens (3.0L D-Max only) and bolder-flared wheel arches. The new headlamps is claimed to be 14% brighter than regular multi-reflector items. At the front, the grille cowling and bumper appears more unitary and integrated as a whole, rendering a cleaner, more aerodynamic frontal profile. The bottom smooth-surfaced steel sump acts as a wind deflector, while protecting the oil sump and other mechanical parts. The rear has a redesigned bumper as well as tail lights incorporating clear lenses now.

Apart from the projector headlamps, another first-in-class for the new D-Max is the electroluminescent (EL) meter panel (3.0L version only), which also provides trip information and outside temperature. Another first in the truck segment is its keyless-entry feature plus key-encoded immobiliser for additional security against vehicle theft.

The facelifted D-Max�s 3.0L engine now has what Isuzu called �i-TEQ Super Commonrail� fuel system. Coded 4JJ1-TC, this long-stroke engine replaces the previous 4JH1-TC unit. The new engine has an identical displacement of 2999cc but features a new DOHC 16-valve aluminium cylinder head for improved breathing and hence better combustion efficiency. The twin camshafts are chain and gear-driven for a lifetime of maintenance-free operation and the cams themselves drive roller rockers for quieter and smoother operations. Power of the engine is a respectable 100 kW/136ps at 3400rpm, 4.2% higher than the old engine. Torque figures remain the same with 280Nm for the manual versions and 294 Nm for the automatic but the manner in which the engine peaks is what makes the new engine stands apart. Maximum torque is available between 1200rpm and 3400 rpm for the manual version and 1400rpm and 3000rpm for the automatic version, so driveability is always good with appreciable low to mid-range torque always on tap. Despite this, the new 3.0L commonrail turbo diesel is claimed to be 19% more fuel efficient than the old powerplant.

The 2.5-litre 4JA1-L engine however, remains unchanged from before and is offered only as a 4x2 with manual transmission. This variant is targeted at outdoor entrepreneurs who want nothing more than a dependable, durable and low maintenance workhorse.

The 2007 D-Max also comes equipped with larger front disc brake calipers � 45.5mm now from 42.8mm before. Such upsizing of calipers enable shorter braking distances and also better pedal feel. The brake servo is also bigger now, at 9 inches in diameter to increase braking force. The 3.0L version is fitted with ABS and Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) for added braking stability, whatever the load. A limited-slip differential (LSD) is standard on all 4WD variants for greater stability and control in slippery conditions.

The facelifted 2007 D-Max is available in a choice of five colours: Starry Black Mica, Angelic White Solid, Mercury Silver, Eclipse Blue and Gamma Grey.

Prices of the new D-Max (OTR inclusive of insurance, for Peninsula Malaysia) are as follows:

2.5 Manual 4X2: RM71,475.30
3.0 Manual 4X4: RM89,776.30
3.0 Auto 4X4: RM96,758.30

Mitsubishi Evolution X's Twin-Clutch SST Gearbox

By Dr Long

Much has been said and anticipated about the all-new Lancer Evolution X�s 6-speed robotised manual gearbox. Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) has finally confirmed its application and named it Twin Clutch SST. For those of you familiar with VW Golf GTI's DSG gearbox or Audi's S-Tronic automated manual transmission, Mitsubishi�s version is not much different with twin clutches set in odd- and even-numbered gears i.e. 1,3,5 and 2,4,6 respectively. For those who are still confused, just think of an automated manual transmission that allows drivers to choose between fully automated and manual gear changes � but it�s neither a regular torque converter nor a CVT.

The beauty of it all is that dual-clutch gearboxes permit drivers of varied skills to shift rapidly through the gears (without the need to step on a clutch pedal) faster than any regular manual gearbox, and of course, faster than any semi-automatic torque converter �box as well. Mitsubishi�s SST lets the driver to switch between three shifting programs - Normal, Sport and S-Sport - covering the full range of driving situations, from town use to sporty motoring on open roads.

Other advantages include transmission efficiencies on par with a normal manual gearbox with the convenience of a fully automatic transmission, as desired in congested traffic conditions. In short, Twin Clutch SST delivers satisfyingly quick acceleration and driving convenience, yet returns superior mileage to the tankful, thanks to its high-efficiency power transmission mechanism.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

New 1-Series 3-door Hatchback and Facelift

The BMW 1-series has now undergone a facelift as well as power boost, underlining something called Efficient Dynamics which promise a better drive as well as comfort.

There is now a 120i Sports in 3-door hatchback form. This M-accesorised variant has a new 4-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection (High Precision Injection in BMW speak). Horsepower is now an improved 170bhp with a higher torque of 210Nm (upped from 150bhp and 200Nm respectively). The 120i Sports features the M-sports package consisting of the M bodykit, M light alloy wheels (double-spoke 207M) shod with runflats of different sizes (F-R), satin chrome window frames, M Sports Suspension, Anthracite headliner, Sports front seats, M-steering wheel, an M-badged door sill garnish as well as Bi-Xenon headlamps. Will this same 4-pot find its way into the soon-to-be-refreshed 320i as well?

Meanwhile, the entry-level BMW is the 116i, which now comes with automatic climate control and also automatic transmission as an option. Its 4-cylinder bi-VANOS petrol engine cranks out 115 bhp and 150Nm. One step up is the 118i, which has 136bhp and 190Nm on tap, thanks to Valvetronic plus Bi-VANOS, enabling continously variable camshaft lift and timing. At the top end is the 130i, in 5-door guise, powered by the familiar IL6 engine with bi-VANOS and Valvetronic capable of 265bhp and 315Nm.

As with most - if not all - BMWs promising an engaging drive, the 1-Series is no exception by virtue of its RWD dynamics (unique in this hatchback segment) and near perfect 50:50 weight distribution. In addition, aluminium suspension components up front and a retuned spring-damper�s settings optimizes on-road handling and agility. Despite these, the renewed 1-Series is claimed to have a more sorted ride than before.

Prices of the new 1-Series (on the road, without insurance, with BMW Service Inclusive + Repair) are:

BMW 116i � RM 179,800
BMW 118i � RM 199,800
BMW 120i Sports � RM 223,800
BMW 130i � RM 329,800

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Future BMW 3 Series - E98?

Click to see full image

The E90 BMW 3-series has been around since 2005 but news and details about the next-gen model are already circulating the internet. The next model will feature styling lifted from the Concept CS. The expected release timeline will be in 2012, the next BMW 3-series will be the first of a family of BMW cars with a more recognizable face derived from the original styling of the CS.

With the new 3-series, designers will attempt to address criticisms of the current car�s awkward slightly mundane styling. These renderings, compiled using information from sources close to the project show that the new car will have a pronounced kidney-grille with the air-intakes positioned on either side of the bumper just below the headlights.

Click to see full image

The bonnet will sit much higher than on the current model to improve pedestrian safety, while the sides will be marked with a prominent character line and high beltline. Proportions will remain much the same as the current model but weight will be reduced thanks to the increased use of aluminum in its construction.

New options for the 2012 3-series will include hybrid variants as well as the latest version of BMW�s Efficient Dynamics. The X-Drive AWD system is likely to gain favour thanks to a redesign of the system to reduce weight, which will only increase fuel consumption by 0.5L per 100km over RWD models. Other features that may make it to production include night-vision devices, a heads-up display and radar safety systems.

Source: BMW Club Malaysia & Motor Authority

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