Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Courtesy Drive: Mercedes-Benz C230 V6 (W203)

By Dr Long

With the new W204 C230 V6 nowhere to be seen yet (still rumoured to be due June/July 2008) in Malaysia, I reckon the courtesy car of a C230 2.5 V6 Avantgarde Sports - on loan by Cycle & Carriage Bintang (CCB) Berhad recently - did provide a nice glimpse of what to expect of the drivetrain of the new C230 successor from Mercedes-Benz.

Those of you who know me would have known that I am pretty much a fan of the 1.8L supercharged (Kompressor) M271 engine. Needless to say, I like this forced-induced 4-pot best in its C230 Kompresssor form good for 193bhp at 5800rpm with peak torque of 260Nm at 3500-4000rpm. Below is the M272 replacing the C230's heart circa 2005 (2006 locally), in the form of an all-aluminium V6 of 2.5L displacement.

The V6 is good for 204 bhp at 6100rpm and max torque 245 Nm at 2900-5500rpm; herein lies the difference between the old C230 Kompressor and the newer C230 V6. While the supercharged 4-pot is indeed more thrilling to drive with more urgent torque delivery, the normally aspirated V6 spells of finesse and refinement (NVH) in the way it gets up to speed. Added to this the 7G-Tronic tranny felt less busy and don't lurch as much as the 5-speeder mated to the 4-pot. No Kompressor whine, no buzz, no busy swing of revs associated with relatively frequent gears hunting. Just smooth sweep of climbing rev with the sweet point circa 4000rpm. Toyed with the paddle shifters I did and with the engine kept on boil above 3500rpm it was sheer pleasure taking this tester (oops! I mean courtesy unit) on winding trunk roads and some hilly stretches. All these while enconsced in Mercedes-Benz trademark smooth-gliding comfort - firm damping yet compliant ride. One thing I must mention here is that finally Mercedes-Benz has got their bi-xenon headlamp beams right - to shine bright and squarely on the road ahead, unlike the halogen-micmicking HID items with patchy illumination on the Avantgarde W211 E-Class (pre-facelift).

The chunky steering (pic below) was very nice to handle while weight and feedback doesn't quite match the E90 325i Sports, it is much more confidence-inspiring than even the new W204 C200K. Same goes for the Avantgarde Sports suspension vs the new C200K, Agility Control (standard as in new C200K) bollocks notwithstanding. It is interesting to note that 2007 C230 has its paddle shifter AMG-style i.e. '-' on the left for downshift and '+' on the right for upshifting. Prior to this I truly dislike the confusing and nonsensical bilateral rocker-switches (+/-) placed discreetly behind the steering wheel of the C230K of 2003-2005.

What you see above is some of the nicest aluminium trim in-cabin, the other one being found in the Audi A4 (B7) 2.0TFSI. I somehow wished the gear shifter knob can be transplanted to my w211 E200K! Side borders of the somewhat concave centre console are of soft-padded trim. Please knock on the corresponding items in the W204 if you get the chance!

The standard 17" French-made Pilot Primacy was grippy and silent, not bad in the wet too...for a Michelin Pilot range! Cross-drilled and ventilated front brake rotor looked the part (pic above) and fared very well scrubbing off velocity.

So in conclusion, the W203 C230 V6 still appeared quite classy (pic above) and relevant in the used car (junior-exec) market. More importantly, it still drives very well, with the V6 powerplant lending a more refined, classy and upmarket appeal to it as the last bastion of the top-end W203 in Malaysia. Chassis and steering dynamics are without a doubt - at least in this C230 AV Sports guise - better than the W204 C200K. It is with this that I am looking forward to sample the new (W204) C230 2.5 V6, bragging its much-touted Advanced Agility Control et al.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Naza Corp to increase Forza production in Malaysia

Following the successful launch of the Naza Forza into the Thai auto market recently, Naza Corporation Sdn Bhd has announced that the production of the Naza Forza cars will be increased to meet demand of the Thai market.

The 1.1L Naza Forza which recently made its debut into the highly competitive Thailand automotive market during the recent 10-day Thai Motor Show has managed to secure 524 orders. Yontrakit Motor Sales Co, the official importer of the Naza Forza into Thailand has urged Naza Corporation to increase productivity of the car to meet demand in the Thai market. At 349,000 Baht, the Naza Forza is currently the most affordable new car in the hotly contested Thai auto market.

At present, the Naza Forza is also exported to countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Singapore. Exports to Singapore which only began earlier this year are also said to be very encouraging with strong acceptance of supermini cars from Malaysia. Export sales amount to about 30% of total Naza Forza sales. Naza Corporation is also in talks to export the Forza to countries like Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Mauritius.

En SM Nasarudin Tan Sri Dato� Seri Utama SM Nasimuddin, CEO of Naza Corporation Sdn Bhd said that the company is indeed pleasantly surprised by the warm reception that the Forza has received in both Singapore and Thailand, markets that the Forza had only just entered in 2008. He adds that it is the company�s objective to offer the Naza Forza as an affordable mode of transport to ASEAN countries. Also of equal importance is the development of strong after sales back up, a factor which he said will add to the attraction of the Naza Forza.

In Malaysia, Naza Corporation Sdn Bhd has informed that sales of the Naza Forza and its Naza 206 Bestari cars have seen improved bookings due to their on-going Forza 199 and Bestari 399 promotions. The company maintains that even though the demand for the Forza is strong in both Thailand and Singapore, there will be enough cars to satisfy the local demand for the car.

To support local enquiries, Naza Corporation Sdn Bhd advises those who are interested in the Forza 199 promotion to call the Client Liaison Interaction Centre at its new toll free number 1-800-88-NAZA (6292) or log onto for more information.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Perodua Nautica 4WD to be Kembara's imported successor model?

Perodua has announced that its upcoming SUV will be named Nautica, with permanent 4WD. This new vehicle, based on the Daihatsu Terios (think: Toyota Rush with short wheelbase) is expected sometime May 2008. To be positioned as a somewhat premium compact SUV - first for a Perodua - the Nautica will have a 1.5L DVVT (VVTi) engine and standard 4-speed automatic transmission. Indicative price is circa RM90k - RM95k as a fully imported (CBU) model from Japan, wearing a Perodua badge! The Nautica will come in colour choices of either Medallion Grey or Majestic Black. Those interested can place advance bookings at Perodua showrooms nationwide, from May 10 onwards.

The Daihatsu Terios on which the Perodua Nautica will likely be based upon.

Monday, April 21, 2008

All-new 8th Generation Accord in Honda showrooms now!

By Dr Long

After having hired (as in hire-purchase) three previous generations of Accord i.e. the SM4, CF9 and the 7th generation Accord, naturally I was excited to see what Honda Malaysia has to offer with its locally built (assembled) 8th gen model.

Here is a pictorial summary of what I observed at a local Honda dealer just this morning:
(Note: there was no 3.5 V6 model on display at the showroom.)

Click on all images to enlargeModulo-kitted Accord 2.4 VTi-L as tester unit. Note grille is of cleaner design and likely more desirable to many.

Side profile more expansive than 7th gen predecessor. Lines fussier but lends more solidity to form.

Headlamps curvy and large, less traingular now. Best seen in 3-D to appreciate bulging lens cover. HID (Xenon) items only for 2.4 VTi-L and 3.5 V6.

Whoever says the 8th gen Civic has taken over the Accord in terms of size, presence and prestige?

16" alloys for the entry-level 2.0 i-VTEC Accord. Goodyear Excellence rubber replaces NCT5.

Larger alloys (17") look more convincing on the 2.4 model now, unlike before (similar sized 16" but more cluttered design for the previous 2.4).

2.4 DOHC i-VTEC (K24A) carried over from the 7th gen Accord. Power output hiked to 180ps @ 6500rpm and torque now boosted to 222Nm @ 4300rpm.

Looking messy here is the 'new' SOHC 2.0L i-VTEC engine from the new CR-V. Power output is acceptable on-paper with figures of 156ps@ 6300rpm while torque is 189Nm @ 4300rpm. Likely tuned for economy than outright sweetness on the rev, unlike the DOHC K20A it replaces.

Full grey trim for the interior of the Accord 2.4. Leather seats standard.

Dashboard double-tiered like the 8th gen Civic but gets regular instruments cluster with twin analog dials.

Leather-wrapped gear lever with faux-metal base and fake wood surround. 5 speed A/T carried over from 7th gen Accord, standard even on the 2.0 VTi. Still truimphs over Camry 2.0's 4-speeder!

Lots of switches to play with here. Honda reputed for its tactile switches, knobs and operating stalks. No GPS Sat-Nav yet even though centre LCD panel displays A/C and audio control parameters.

Ah! Finally rear A/C vents are here. After 7 generations of skipping the Accord genome!

Chunky outer door handle in chrome looks and feels the part of an executive saloon!
Entirely different story told by the inner door opening (painted-plastic) handles though.

Boot space pear-shaped at its base. Obstrusive rear wheels and suspension humps eats up usable luggage space.

Modulo grille a worth-paying option, can be purchased singly (list price: RM920).

Two-tone with beige cloth upholstery for the 2.0 Accord. Dash top appears deceptively soft touch. NOT SO! What's happening Honda? Going back to the days of the CF9 Accord? Door opening levers made of light-weight cheapo spray-painted plastic, much like Civic. A mismatch for a sedan of this class!

Steering design a bit too Volvo-ish to me. Has Honda cured the ills of idling steering vibrations of its 7th gen Accord (more so 2.0 and 2.4 models)?

8th gen Civic or 8th gen Accord? Take your pick...

Standard spec 2.0 VTi Accord. Single tail pipe look a little lonely with the lower apron sculpted for twin.

More presence from the 8th gen Accord from this

Confirmed prices for the all-new Accord (on-the-road with insurance) are:

2.0VTi RM141,800
2.4 VTi-L RM171,800
3.5 V6 RM249,800

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Nissan Impul Latio officially available in Malaysia now

Click on images to enlarge Edaran Tan Chong Motor Sdn Bhd (ETCM) has introduced the Nissan Latio Tuned By Impul.

�The Nissan Latio Tuned By Impul will be a limited production run and is targeted at customers who want their Latio to be more distinctive and at the same time take driving performance to a whole new level� said Dato� Dr Ang Bon Beng, Executive Director of Edaran Tan Chong Motor Sdn Bhd.

The Impul parts fitted onto this limited edition model are:

1. IMPUL Aerokit
The Impul aerokit exudes visual drama and dynamic presence. It comes as a set with a new front grille, front and rear bumper spoiler, side skirts and at the rear, Impul�s trademark wing spoiler.

2. IMPUL Sports Suspension System
A high performance suspension system consisting of absorbers and springs designed for a lowered vehicle ride height of 25 mm to provide a firm foundation and a flexible but comfortable ride at the same time. Repeated actual vehicle suspension testing was done to achieve the exhilarating sporty ride with increased lateral force support when cornering and enhance the neutral cornering characteristics of the Nissan Latio.

3. IMPUL Blast II Exhaust Muffler
A high quality stainless steel exhaust muffler in a polished finish and etched Impul logo tail pipe, not only provide sharper engine response with a sporty note but also complements the overall aesthetics of the exterior.

4. 17-inch Team IMPUL NS GTII Alloy Wheels with Dunlop Formula D 01 205/45 R17 Tyres
The Team Impul NS GTII Alloy Wheels are the most recognizable wheels from Impul and only weighs 6.48kg! They not only optimise the handling and enrich the steering feel but also provide a more poised stance on the road. Gold finished exclusively available only for the Limited Edition Nissan Latio Tuned By Impul.

The Nissan Latio Tuned By Impul version is only at a cost of RM10,500.00 (excluding insurance) above the standard Nissan Latio.

After-market purchase for IMPUL Performance Parts will also be available to existing Nissan LATIO owners. Prices are quoted as below and each item can be purchased individually:

- Impul Blast II exhaust muffler: RM2,000
- Team Impul light alloy wheels: RM4,800 for set of 4 (silver available)
- Dunlop D 01 205/45 R17: RM350 per tyre
- Impul Sports suspension: RM3,500
- Aerokit (excluding grille): RM3,000 inclusive of painting
- Aerokit grille: RM800

Nissan Latio Tuned By Impul are priced as follows (on-the-road with insurance):

1.6 ST (M) RM 94,386.00
1.6 ST (A) RM 98,705.50
1.6 ST-L (A) RM103,715.50
1.6 ST-L (A) RM105,587.50
1.8 Ti (A) RM107,744.30

The Nissan Latio Tuned By IMPUL can be exclusively viewed at selected Nissan showrooms nationwide and comes with a 3-year or 100,000 km (whichever comes first) warranty.

*Press release above courtesy of Paul Tan.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) optimistic of 510,000 units for 2008

At the recent 9th Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) Annual Dinner, its president Datuk Aishah Ahmad has optimistically revealed that, "Members of MMA forecast that this year's TIV (total indutrial volume) could reach 510,000 units, representing a 4.7% improvement over last year. Passenger vehicles are expected to reach 463,000 units while commercial vehicles are expected to increase by 6.1% to reach 47,000 units"

According to the MAA, the total Industry Volume (TIV) of motor vehicles sold in 2007 was 487,176 units, up 0.7% against the 2006 performance. The good performance was due to, among many reasons, the introduction of new models and the aggressive marketing strategies of MAA members. " This show how innovative and resilient Malaysian motor industry players are", Datuk Aishah added. For the first time, the MAA has provided some long term forecasts where the TIV increases by an average of 3.3% anually to reach 580,000 units by 2012.

On a related matter, the MAA president also confirmed that MAA Members and Associates will be busy this year planning for the KL International Motorshow 2009. The MAA Management Council has decided to organise the region's most exciting event again, with the dates and venue to be confirmed later.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Nissan Slyphy launch delayed to July 2008?

In a scoop by For Wheels at the recent Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) annual dinner 2008, it was learnt that the upcoming Nissan Sylphy apparently wouldn't make it to Edaran Tan Chong Motors (ETCM) showrooms this month of April. Instead it will only be available from June/July 2008 onwards. Indicative pricing for this 2.0L engined (MR20DE) C-segment sedan with CVT 'box is between RM110k - 115k.

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VW Jetta TSI and Golf GT coming soon to Malaysia: both twin charged?

A reliable VW point-of-sales source has revealed that the lacklustre selling VW Jetta range will receive a boost in the form of 1.4TSI engine (twin charge), expected to be in showroom next month at VW dealers nationwide. Price is estimated to be RM148,800(excluding insurance).
If truly twin charged, this Jetta TSI will have output figures of 170hp with a max torque of 240Nm! VW's famed - and much-copied - DSG tranny is reportedly standard with the Jetta TSI.
In this form, the Golf-based saloon can do the century sprint in 8.1secs, on the way to a top whack of 219km/h.

On a related note, the new Golf GT TSI (twin charged) is expected in showrooms sometime this October 2008.
Indicative pricing of the new Golf GT 1.4TSI is circa RM170k. It will be a 5-door hatchback Golf GT, unlike the pics (3-door hatch) you see below:

Monster lurking here despite its dimunitive cubic capacity.

Exciting times indeed from VW Group Malaysia (VGM) for 2008 with further plans to launch the Tiguan SUV as well as VW Passat 1.8 TFSI.

Note: VW Polo GTI was launched today to the Malaysian media. Priced at RM139,960 (without insurance) the turbocharged 1.8L (20V) Polo GTI has 150hp and 220Nm driving the front wheels via a 5-speed manual 'box. Claimed performance figures are 8.2secs from standstill to 100km/h while top speed is 215km/h.

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