Monday, March 31, 2008

Mercedes-Benz A-Class facelifted for 2009

Mercedes-Benz has refreshed its A-Class compact hatch for 2009 model year. The front end of the 'new generation' A-Class is more youthful, yet retaining a classy aura. The sweeping lines of the new-look headlamps flow seamlessly along the front and into the flanks, which literally appear to have been moulded from a single piece.

The redesigned front bumper with its air intake at the bottom is noticeably larger, emphasising the width of the body. The radiator grille has also been redesigned to reinforce the progressive character of the A-Class.

Design elements at the front help differentiate the A-Class lines even more clearly than before. For instance, the AVANTGARDE line features a specially designed bumper that further emphasises the arrow shape of the front and symbolises even more agility. Individual wheel designs help differentiate the side view of the A-Class lines. While the entry-level model comes with 15-inch wheels with 7-spoke trim, the ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE lines sport individually styled 16-inch light-alloy wheels. The new, larger exterior mirror housings and the door handles are now painted in the vehicle colour on all model variants.

The rear of the A-Class is dominated by resculpted bumper and new-look tail lights that extend well into the flanks. Both features ensure that the body looks wider depicting a more powerful stance.

2008 Peugeot 407 with improved specs coming soon

Nasim Sdn Bhd (NSB), franchise holders of the Peugeot marque today announced that they have received almost 200 bookings for the soon to be launched Peugeot 407.

"We wish to thank the new Peugeot 407 owners for believing in the Peugeot and also Nasim Sdn Bhd as the custodian for the Peugeot brand" said SM Nasarudin SM Nasimudin, Director of Nasim Sdn Bhd (NSB).

The new 407 is expected to be launched in May 2008. One of the main differences of the 2008 version and the previous version is the addition of VTi (Variable Timing, Injection) and also a newly revised transmission. According to an NSB spokesperson, the horsepower and also torque delivery has improved with this new version. Aesthetically, the new car comes with new 17� sports wheels and also Xenon lights for better night driving. These he said, will definitely be strong selling points for potential customers as these items were not available in the previous model. The spokesperson adds that with the low booking fee of just RM1,000, it is best that those interested in the 407 place bookings early to avoid the queue. Customers may place their bookings at any Nasim or Naza Corp branch or authorised Peugeot dealer.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Peugeot Racing Party in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Nasim Sdn Bhd (NSB), franchise holders of the Peugeot marque in Malaysia, announced its latest marketing initiative Peugeot Privilege at an exclusive Peugeot Racing Party held recently at the newly refurbished Peugeot show room on Jalan Maarof, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

150 invited guests at the Peugeot Racing Party saw the Peugeot brand kicking off a dynamic year-long line-up of attractions and activity to signify its re-emergence in the Malaysian market. The party was NSB's gesture of appreciation to members of the media and also to mark its interest with the Malaysian motorsport community. On display were the stylish 207cc, the race ready spider 207 and also a cleverly mocked-up 206 to look like a WRC car, amidst an evening of racing face-offs, entertainment and butler-served canapes.

The highlight of the evening was the unveiling of the Peugeot Privilege Card by SM Nasarudin SM Nasimudin, Director of Nasim Sdn Bhd (NSB) and Mr Dominique Dourouze, Director-General ASEAN of Peugeot.

"We wish to thank Peugeot owners with this special privilege," said SM Nasarudin SM Nasimudin, Director of Nasim Sdn Bhd (NSB). "Add to Peugeot Privilege one of the industry's most exciting product line-ups, award-winning quality and performance leadership, and you have an unbeatable value and a great reason for Peugeot ownership."

The Peugeot Privilege is an owner loyalty programme that rewards current Peugeot owners with competitive packages and offers. Peugeot Privilege membership is complimentary to all current owners of any Peugeot vehicles, offering attractive services and programmes engineered to complete Peugeot owners' enjoyment of their vehicle. A Peugeot Privilege careline offers quick and easy services such as free towing services for breakdowns, as well as assistance in locating the nearest Peugeot Service Centres.

�Once a Peugeot owner joins the Peugeot Privilege fraternity he or she can be sure that he or she will enjoy privileges and offers that are commensurate with the Peugeot brand.� Says Nasarudin. Immediately, those with Peugeot Privilege will be entitled to a 10% discount from the retail prices of selected spare parts. This is the first step that NSB is taking to help Peugeot owners reduce ownership costs.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Video: Suzuki Kizashi 3 Concept

This is how a modern sports sedan should look like. Well done Suzuki!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Suzuki Kizashi 3 Concept

It looks like compact car maker Suzuki can teach a thing or two to some of the established Japanese auto manufacturers on how to make a sleek D-segment executive sedan. The sports sedan below is a prime example:

This is Suzuki Kizashi 3 Concept, a follow up to the Kizashi 1 of Frankfurt 2007 and version 2 at Tokyo 2007. With a wheelbase of 2800mm, it is venturing into the realm of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

The Kizashi 3 Concept is all wheel driven by a 3.6L V6 petrol capable of 300hp. Suzuki claims that the Kizashi 3's six plated-cylinders are both space- (V-configuration) and weight savings, with technologies that has evolved and applied from its motorcycle manufacturing and WRC racing experience. The Concept has six-speed automatic transmission with steering paddle (manual) shifters. Expect the Kizashi 3 to be in Suzuki showrooms by 2010, likely with a more universal and less tongue-twisting name.

Related posts:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Carlos Ghosn visits Tan Chong's new Nissan plant in Malaysia

The Malaysian media had a chance to get acquainted with Mr Carlos Ghosn, President and CEO of Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. recently at Tan Chong Motors Assemblies Plant in Serendah, Selangor. Built at a cost of RM230 million over a 47.3 acre site, it currently produces Nissan models like the Latio, new Grand Livina and the soon-to-be-launched Sylphy. The Serendah plant has been up and running in less than a year from end of construction. Plans are afoot for production to run a 2nd shift by September, thereby doubling up roll-off to 2,400 units a month.

The charismatic Carlos Ghosn was back in Malaysia after a period of seven years and was happy to note the progress of Nissan brand in our important market, in partnership with Tan Chong over the past 50 years, an alliance that dates back to the nation�s independence.

In January of this year, Nissan recorded the highest monthly sales in Malaysia since 1985, at 3093 units. To affirm this Carlos revealed, �And with over 10,000 bookings for our new Grand Livina, we can look forward for more growth to come�.

Ghosn in his speech thanked everyone involved with the Nissan brand in Malaysia, recognizing the achievements of all from the factory and offices through to sales and after-sales. The head of Nissan Motor Co. also reaffirmed Nissan�s commitment to Malaysia, of which there are four pillars:

1) Empathy to Malaysia as a nation since 1957, creation of strength from diversity.
2) Half-century of partnership with Tan Chong, from �Datsun� to Nissan through the generations.
3) Belief in the benefits of regional integration through initiatives such as ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA).
4) Commitment to Malaysian consumers. By offering the right product with the right design, high quality and value.

During the media Q&A session, Ghosn reiterated Nissan�s plan for ASEAN as an attractive and vibrant market place. Therefore, instead of a global one-for-all car, Nissan believes a common regional platform in tandem with fully localized production is more attuned to the automotive needs and desires of a certain locality. For example, Renault-Nissan will partner Bajaj in India to introduce a low-cost US$2,500 car by 2010.

In addition, Nissan also sees importance in the affordable and fuel efficient A- and B-segments of vehicles for ASEAN under AFTA. As always, Nissan has been and would still want to have a car in every class/segment, rather than cluster around just a few categories but its priorities are more on these two fast growing classes in emerging markets. A step further, emphasis will be more towards B-segment growth in markets like China, India, Middle East, Brazil and of course, ASEAN. Carlos has also cautioned that for the next fiscal year (April 2008 � April 2009), mature markets like the U.S., Europe and Japan will experience slower growth in view of the U.S. recession, economy contraction in Western Europe and slowdown in Japan. Last year, across the ASEAN region, Nissan saw growth of 25% in sales.

On plans for future sustainable mobility, Mr Ghosn has outlined the options of hybrid, electric, clean diesel and fuel cells vehicles in Nissan�s product range. He added it was premature and short-sighted to bank on any one of the above alternatives, given the different geopolitical and regulatory climate in every region, country or government. Carlos has pointed out for example, in Europe every one other vehicle sold is diesel powered while in both Japan and the U.S., oil burners hardly make up 1% of all passenger vehicles registered. Above it all, he is quite optimistic about electric cars, saying that its fully-electric vehicles will be sold in the U.S. by 2010, in Israel by 2011 and rest of the world by 2012.

To stay competitive and afloat in this age of ever-increasing costs, Nissan�s has always believe in the right product planning, strategy, technology and more importantly localization plan e.g. for ASEAN. This will also help hedge it against wide currency fluctuations as evident in the recent Japanese Yen strengthening versus U.S. greenback. Making this point, Mr Ghosn stressed �Localisation is the key to cost control, so as to be not so exposed to violent currencies fluctuations�.

On a related note, Mr Ghosn, Dato� Tan and Dato� Ang also revealed the new Nissan Sylphy to the media. During a media TV interview, I asked if the new R35 GT-R will be officially imported to Malaysia of which Dato� Ang gave examples of CBUs new Murano, Qashqai and the likes possibly from Tan Chong in 2009. He, however was neither confirmatory nor committing on the supercar availability in Malaysia (not at least officially) - with the much essential after-sales support from ETCM - in the near to medium term.

For Nissan�s current fiscal financial year, 3.7 million cars have been shipped and this is attributed to its 6% of overall global automotive market share. Malaysian sales of Nissan vehicles currently stakes at 5% and Mr Carlos Ghosn is confident of rationalizing this to international level in Malaysia. Lamenting this, Dato Dr Ang Boon Beng, Edaran Tan Chong Motor Executive Director, is bullish on increasing Nissan�s local market share to 6% or even 7% � with its vision of strategic planning in products, technology and localization as evident from a tour of assembly lines of Grand Livina and Sylphy with its auto parts� carts frame labeled �Return to Nissan Indonesia� and Return to Nissan Thailand�.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Road Test: Audi TT Coupe 2.0TFSI

Text by Dr Long
Pictures by Dr Long & Paul Tan

Click on all images to enlarge
This road test report was supposed to be up after the Audi Q7 SUV�s but somehow a close friend who happens to be a born again BMW fan said today he maybe considering the upcoming Audi TTS coupe � instead of the upcoming E92 M3 with DCT in 2009 � so here is the brought forward review of the two Audis tried and tested recently.

Over a period of three days of sampling the new TT Coupe 2.0TFSI I have been often asked: �Isn�t it better (and wiser) to get that Mk5 Golf GTI instead?� Truth be told, the new TT coupe is based on the MK5 Golf platform and in this turbocharged 4-pot guise, with the same powertrain as well.

But that�s pretty much where the similarities end. One�s a real looker of a Teutonic sport coupe with extensive aluminium use at front end while the other one is basically a mass-market hatchback with that iconic (and well deserved) GTI acronym. If you had been a follower of For Wheels blog, you would have read my first short-drive report of the TT Coupe 2.0 at the time of launch last year. Retrospectively, I was feeling the same as most of my friends and close associates - that the GTI was indeed a better choice � upon leaving Euromobil�s Glenmarie HQ then.

Fast forward to present day, a few days of borrowed/simulated �ownership� revealed an affable experience that�s quite moving. Awe-inspiring because those Alcantara-leather trimmed bucket seats cossets you a notch or two lower and more intimate than the GTI. And via the seat bottom, the chassis can tell your bum stories on road surface/gradient and cornering angle like no Vee-Dub with that GTI moniker can ever attempt to. While Audi-VW�s steering generally isn�t the last word on front-axle-to-driver communications and in the TT was still a tad feathery light, its sharpness and accuracy was much spot on for a sports coupe that wears a silhouette � roofline, rear screen and back three-quarter view - much like a Porsche Cayman.

Of course, being front-wheel driven, it demands more attention to its rack since front axle tramp (akin to missing a step or two) sometimes rear its ugly head should you get impatient with that ultra-responsive throttle during a quick lane-changing overtaking maneouvre. Yet the whole experience is intoxicating and fun should you learn how to work with its FWD dynamics and not wrestle it like you would a rear-wheel driven car. High speed stability was not a problem save for an occasion when the front end veered laterally having got caught in a crosswind. The boot lip spoiler without fail deploys at above 120km/h each time though I honestly couldn�t feel a difference in rear down force as I powered on. Brakes are as usual Audi-VW�s TFSI associated high performance grabby but it gets the job done, effectively.

Tracking around bends are much reassuring with the high levels of front end grip, possibly afforded by those sticky Potenzas RE050. Chassis balance is however a little edgier than the GTI � the Golf is more forgiving � so it takes a little more commitment and concentration to drive fast in this coupe. Do so and it rewards you with a silly grin each time you leave the rest behind in traffic. Admittedly, the new TT�s suspension can be caught a little busy on rough tarmacs, along with relatively �loose� body control if you�re used to the likes of Mercs and Beemers, but it�s not all pointing out like a sore thumb since road holding were still very much sure-footed. Ride comfort is also unbelievable compliant for a relatively short wheelbase sports coupe. The characteristic exhaust burble or bark on high-rev upshifts was unmistakable much like the GTI, perhaps just a little more refined, blending into the background of a more bassy (read: sportier) exhaust note.

Of course, the renamed 6-speed S-Tronic dual clutch gearbox (DSG) cannot be faulted in any way, as expected, now that even the benchmark-setting new Nissan R35 GT-R comes standard only with similar dual-clutch semi-auto tranny. Upshifts and downshifts via steering paddles are quick and of no fuss, with more urgency and higher revving noted in �S� mode. And that flat bottomed steering wheel trimmed in soft leather and polished aluminium is both a joy to hold and to stare at! Ditto to the inner door handles, gear knob, gear console, meter cowlings, glovebox, parking brake handle et al. Truly Audi�s magic at work for the TT Coupe�s interior.

I have never been able to get comfortable with VW-Audi group�s climate control A/C right from the days of the (C5) Audi A6 up till the pre-facelift VW Toaureg 3.6 FSI, VW Jetta 2.0FSI and even the Audi Q7 4.2 FSI sampled recently. The old A/C controls with bilateral digital temp display in red with corresponding set of �+/-�controls were fiddly to operate and more importantly, don�t work well in Malaysian tropics. Case in point�more often than not I have had to set it 16� Celsius or �LO� for constant, effective cabin cooling. In starking contrast, the simpler triple A/C dials in the new TT Coupe (similar items in Audi R8) for here works fine even when left in auto mode, with temp setting at say 20� or 22� Celsius. No suffocating sensation due to excessively low blower fan speed or incessantly off-cycle cooling just blowing humid air all of a sudden!

As expected of a sloping coupe like the new TT, its rear seats remain useless most of the time except for maybe carrying my 3 and 4 year old little princesses on short trips. Seatbelts are afterall being provided along with that little rear bucket seats, though legroom are strictly for little calves and feet. I must admit I have fallen head over heels all over again though this one is for something automotive that my wife would not get jealous or possessive over. Ah well (all dreamy-eyed and lusting)�the quad rectangle rear brake lamps lenses are oh-so- lovely at night, along with the flared rear flanks when viewed as the TT Coupe powers away into the horizon.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mercedes-Benz B-Class facelift for 2008/09

Mercedes-Benz has facelifted its �mini-MPV� (Compact Sports Tourer in Merc speak) with the introduction of its New Generation B-Class for 2009 model year. The 'new' B-Class now features a redesigned radiator grille with triple chromed-edged slats painted in metallic grey, a reshaped bonnet with a more pronounced crease and restyled bumpers, both fore and aft.

Tail lamps have also been refreshed but it will take more than a pair of keen eyes to notice that. Wing mirrors is now more squarish with a mounting pod � much like the new W204 C-Class, than that of the old one (W203).

The 4-cylinder engines of the refreshened B-Class now save up to 7% fuel than before. Petrol models like the B150, B170, B200 and B200 Turbo (193hp) now have fuel consumption figures ranging from 6.6L and 8.1L per 100 km.

By late 2008, Mercedes-Benz will also offer the B150 and B170 BlueEFFICIENCY range featuring the ECO start/stop function as an option. Mercedes-Benz claims further fuel savings of up to 9% can be achieved with this ECO-function, specifically when driving in congested city traffic: with frequent stops at traffic junctions/lights or when caught bumper-to-bumper traffic crawls.

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