Wednesday, October 31, 2007

2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

In conjunction with Tokyo Motor Show 2007, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI) - Subaru automobiles manufacturer - has announced the introduction of the all-new Subaru Impreza WRX STI in Japan. The third generation WRX STI is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged boxer engine that kicks out 304hp @ 6,400 rpm and wrenches a maximum torque of 422Nm @ 4,400 rpm.

Featuring Subaru�s Symmetrical AWD (All-Wheel Drive) and its trademark horizontally-opposed Boxer engine, the new WRX STI is now a five-door hatchback, in a clear departure from its 3-box saloon predecessors. Incidentally, this is the best-looking � and most dressed-up - effort for the quirky-looking 3rd generation Impreza from Subaru. The widened body flares gives better presence, integrating function and aggressive look, while the interior design stresses cabin convenience and a top-of-the-line image.

The first-generation WRX STI model was based on the first Impreza WRX and was developed by Subaru Tecnica International (STI), an FHI subsidiary specialising in motorsports activities. Since its introduction in 1994, the WRX STI has established a solid reputation as a high-performance sports model. In the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) that requires participants to compete with production-based models, Subaru WRX STI models have proven track record of bringing Subaru three consecutive Manufacturers� championship titles from 1995 to 1997. In this context, FHI plans to submit a Group N homologation application effective as of January 1, 2008 for the new WRX STI to FIA.

The introduction of the new WRX STI has completed the full lineup of the Impreza series in Japan. The Impreza 15S, 20S and S-GT models have been available since June 2007, each offering different levels of performance and comfort.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

CCB gives up Peugeot in Malaysia

Cycle & Carriage Automobiles Sdn. Bhd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cycle & Carriage Bintang (CCB) Bhd will cease operation as Peugeot franchise holder in Malaysia. CCB has recently notified Bursa Malaysia that it will not renew its franchise contract with Automobiles Peugeot of France when it expires by 31st December 2007.

CCB has also announced in its annual report that its Peugeot business arm had incurred net losses of RM250,000 in 2006 and RM1.77 million for the six months ended 30th June 2007. By giving up the Peugeot franchise, it is expected that �funds released from the discontinuation of the business will be used to optimise the Group�s working capital�. For the record, CCB has held the Peugeot brand for the past five years.

Market talk has it that local automotive conglomerate Naza will take over from CCB next year as Peugeot sole distributor, franchise holder and of course, importer for future CBU Peugeot automobiles in Malaysia.

Tokyo 2007: Nissan Intima

Click on images to enlarge Nissan�s concept showcase at the Tokyo Motor Show 2007 with the most likelihood to make it to production could be the Intima. The prototype on display takes Nissan's �Modern Living Concept� into a new dimension with an interior that extraordinarily blends artistic forms, materials and illumination together.

Its exterior styling matches the interior's upmarket image, with a design that combines sharp-edged lines and fluid panel surfaces. Rich elegance is conveyed though Intima's arching side character line, while its crystal-like headlights and tail lamps, grille and wheels project an image of quality and refinement.

The highlight and talking piece of the Intima concept must be the front passenger's seat that swivels approximately 80� outwards, making it more comfortably accessible. Apart from that, both rear doors are rear-hinged and open backwards, further aiding ease of ingress and egress for the rear occupants.

Perhaps this will be the all-new Nissan Teana in 2009, minus some fanciful (read: less cost-effective) gadgets?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lexus LF-Xh Concept

The Lexus LF-Xh Hybrid Concept on display at the 40th Tokyo Motor Show 2007 previews what the next generation Lexus RX- luxury SUV will probably look like.

Based on the Lexus' design philosophy of L-finesse and equipped with an advanced hybrid system dubbed "Lexus Hybrid Drive", the all-new RX of the future seeks to achieve outstanding driving performance, quiet operation, high fuel efficiency and low emissions. The powertrain is a combo of a large displacement V6 petrol engine coupled with a more efficient electric motor, driving all four wheels (4WD).

Riding on a wheelbase of 2850mm with a body measuring 4.8m in length, it is rumoured that the next generation RX will spawn a 7-seater version, much like the Mazda CX-9.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New Mazda CX-9 due in Q1 2008

According to a reliable source, franchise holder and sole distributor for Mazda vehicles in Malaysia, Cycle & Carriage Bintang (CCB) will launch the new CX-9 sometime Q1 2008. Rather surprisingly, this will take precedence over the smaller CX-7, which was actually planned for introduction this year.

Although similar in appearance to CX-7, the full-size 7-seater CX-9 hardly share much of the younger sibling�s platform components. For one, it will be powered by a 3.7L V6 capable of 273hp and 366Nm of torque. A 6-speed automatic transfers torque to all four wheels on demand (4WD). Even with the third-row of seats up, the boot space is still a generous 487 litre, a figure that belittle most MPVs out there.

To be fully-imported from (Hiroshima) Japan, the 2008 Mazda CX-9 will compete in the luxury SUV segment with the likes of Lexus RX350 and Volkswagen Touareg 3.6 V6. Expect competitive pricing, the insider added.

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Tokyo 2007: Audi A1 Metroproject Concept

These are images of the Audi A1 Metroproject Concept, making an appearance at the Tokyo International Motor Show 2007.

Rumour has it that the A1 Metroproject is front-wheel driven by VAG�s 1.4L TSI turbocharged petrol engine with 150hp. But that�s not all, an electric motor (pictured below) drives the rear axle - itself worth about 41hp - effectively making the A1 Metroproject Concept a quattro, albeit with two different underlying drivelines. Both drivetrains are united via VAG's superb S-Tronic dual-robotised clutch gearbox and it's a tech wizardry how Audi manages to do that.

With engine and electric motor operating simultaneously a maximum torque of 440Nm is churned out; with the 1.4TSI petrol engine contributing 240Nm while the electric motor spins 200Nm of torque. As such, 0 - 100km/h is a claimed 7.8 secs, with a top-end of 200km/h.

This prototype also previews Audi�s new A1 hatchback slated for 2009. Looking much like a cross between the Fiat 500 and Audi A3, the concept underlines Audi�s future plan for this supermini�s intention of being sporty and fun. However, an associate who is attending Tokyo 2007 now, as we speak, found it rather unattractive in the metal.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

2008 Honda Jazz/Fit goes on sale in Japan

Honda Motor Co. announced plans to begin sales in Japan of the all-new, completely redesigned Honda Fit on Friday, October 26, 2007. The Fit (Jazz in some export markets) has gained popularity as a small car that features outstanding packaging, excellent fuel economy and advanced styling.

Improved performance is made possible by a newly developed 1.3L i-VTEC engine that delivers maximum output of 100ps. Combined with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and newly developed torque converter, the engine provides enjoyable driving and class-leading 24km/l fuel economy. The body rigidity and crash safety performance were also enhanced while maintaining weight equivalent to the previous model. Moreover, the newly designed chassis also helps achieve superior comfort and steady handling.

The second-generation Fit was developed following the tradition of Honda�s �man maximum - machine minimum� concept with the goal of creating the ideal small car for a new age. To provide values which exceed customer expectations for a small car and to set a new benchmark in the highly competitive small car segment, packaging, utility and driving performance have been further advanced with the all-new Fit.

Packaging of the new Fit is based on Honda�s innovative centre fuel tank layout, with a longer wheelbase and wider track for enhanced interior space and practicality. The front pillar has been moved further forward to create a spacious interior, while the exterior boasts neater styling and an even shorter hood. An ingenious interior layout helped create a comfortable cabin with space equivalent to a mid-sized sedan. The new Jazz�s practicality has also been enhanced with four-mode �Ultra Seat� and three-mode �Ultra Luggage� storage spaces.

Newly added to the Fit line-up is a Road Sailing (RS) version which highlights a sportier and sophisticated character with a newly developed 1.5L i-VTEC engine, sports suspension, chrome-trim grille and bodykit.

Honda Fit/Jazz was first introduced in Japan in June 2001. It is now being produced in six factories in five countries and sold in approximately 115 countries around the world, with cumulative sales of more than two million units.

Successor to the current Jazz in Malaysia will likely be powered by Honda�s new 1.5L i-VTEC motor, which promises superior fuel economy combined with lively dynamic performance and plentiful torque throughout all speed ranges. Intake valve timing and clearance settings switch to match for both low- and high-speed driving. Optimised valve overlap in the low-, mid-, and high speed ranges enhances intake and exhaust efficiency for power output of 120ps and superior fuel economy of 19.6km/l.

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12minutes in a New Toyota Vios 1.5G!

By Dr Long

Click on images to enlarge

I am not going to pretend like this is a test review of the new Toyota Vios because it isn�t, for the 12 minutes spent on-the-road is very brief. After a really short round in the driver�s seat this is what I can say:

1) The engine is sprightly for a 1.5L N/A unit but still sounded coarse towards 4000-5000rpm (noisy air induction), something I hoped would've been dampened out with this new generation

2) Ride is pretty soft, smooth and comfortable

3) Interior is better looking than its predecessor, centre-position meters� housing being slimmer and wider now, hence less of an eye-sore. Two-tone interiors airy and classier to a certain extent

4) Steering, being an electric-powered unit is light

5) Front seats thigh support �lengthier� now

6) Rear cabin space is appreciably more generous as well

7) Chromed outer door handles are strangely missing on the 1.5G, even absent on the �top-spec� 1.5S!

8) The new Vios E's alloy rims are hideous half-baked items (vs the E-spec predecessor)

For those looking for a good, reputable, modern, no-frills and economical-to-run sedan now - or in 2008 - look no further if your budget is less than RM90k and you must have a brand-new unit. A word of advice though, you can skip the 1.5S, save that few grand by settling for 1.5G. It�s good enough for all practical reasons!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Parting Impression: Mercedes-Benz C200 Kompressor Celaeno Edition (W203)

By Dr Long

In less than two weeks from now � on 2nd November 2007 to be exact - DaimlerChrysler Malaysia (soon-to-be renamed Mercedes-Benz Malaysia) will officially launch the all-new W204 C-Class.

Nonetheless, I was glad to be briefly acquainted with this sample of W203 C200K Elegance, dubbed the Celeano Edition, from Cycle & Carriage Bintang (CCB). Almost packed to the brim with last batch goodies like 17� Designo alloys shod with Pirelli P-Zero Rosso 225/45/R17 tyres, lighted M-B lettered sill plate, bi-Xenons headlamps plus Avantgarde bumpers, chrome trims and side skirts.

The C200K drive was decent even though it was 7 years ago that the first W203 rolled off production line in Sindelfingen, Germany. Body roll was a tad more pronounced than my regular W211 E-Class but those Pirellis were grippy, silent and comfortably pliant. Turn-in was noticeably sharper while tracking of corners were tighter due to the C-Class inherent smaller dimensions e.g. wheelbase. Having said that, the trademark Merc smooth and gliding ride is still omnipresent, despite being a rather compact junior executive sedan. There�s room for improvement for braking power though, something hopefully more biting � as with the uprated engine performance � in the new C-Class.

While interior space isn�t class leading anymore, there are still decent legroom and shoulder room at the rear. Boot space is just adequate but anterior occupants� elbow room is definitely slacking.

For century sprint, a best timing of 9.75secs was squeezed from the supercharged all-aluminum M271 motor capable of 163bhp and 240Nm. In contrast, the new C200K will punch out a combo of 184bhp and 250Nm. Claimed 0-100km/h figure is 8.8secs.

With this, For Wheels bid a sweet farewell to the W203 in its final facelifted form of C200K where all bugbears by design, of cost-cutting and initial production hiccups were ironed out. Here�s looking forward to a new chapter in the evolution of Mercedes-Benz C-Class�bring on the new W204!!!

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