Friday, November 30, 2007

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Honda FCX

More Pictures and Discuss at Singapore Drift Forum

The Honda FCX Concept is a very interesting car indeed, Honda’s second fuel cell vehicle concept after the original FCV Concept, and now it has been put into a limited run production and named the Honda FCX Clarity.

The limited run production is exclusively for southern California in the US. This is because there is already an existing hydrogen fueling station infrastructure there - 19 between Oxnard and San Diego with 3 more in the works. Even in northern California there are 6 hydrogen stations, with 6 more in the works.

Honda decided to add the Clarity name behind the FCX concept name to express the idea that the company is offering a clear solution to the challenges of the future in terms of sustainable mobility. Mechanically, it is pretty much similiar to the FCX Concept. There has been a minor increase in power if I am reading the spec tables right - the motor used to put out 95kW but now it is putting out 100kW, or 136 PS. The V Flow fuel cell stack works similiarly and puts out the same 100kW as before - so I am not sure why the extra 5kW was missing from the FCX Concept before.

For full technical details on how the Honda FCX Clarity works, read my previous article on my experience driving the Honda FCX Concept in the linked article below.

Toyota Corolla S3

Discuss At Singapore Drift Forum

Since the 2009 Toyota Corolla for the US domestic market was launched at the SEMA show, Toyota decided to follow the whole tuning convention theme and display a tuned up Toyota Corolla at the show called the Toyota Corolla S3. The Toyota Corolla S3 is fitted with a rather showy bodykit complete with a matching paint job. Underneath the hood, the 2.4 liter VVT-i engine that makes a paltry 158 horsepower in stock form is supercharged and intercooled, with the huge intercooler mounted at the front.

HFP Accord Coupe

Discuss at Singapore Drift Forum

While the earlier HFP Accord Coupe we saw was done up by American Honda, this Honda Accord Coupe HF-S Concept was done by Honda Access America Inc, Honda’s U.S. accessory development team. It conceptually includes both design and powertrain upgrades - which basically means while the prototype shown is a purely cosmetic do-up, Honda Access promises powertrain upgrade in the future. The Honda Accord HF-S Concept has a new front bumper design that incorporates LED driving lights. It is also shaped in order to create a vortex effect, enhancing high-speed aerodynamics and engine cooling. On the sides, specially shaped panels made of carbon fiber decrease negative speed force around the wheel arches.

The New Honda FCX Concept Driving Experience

Discuss At Singapore Drift Forum

During the Honda media trip to Japan for the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, we also got to visit Honda’s Tochigi R&D Center where we got to see all kinds of interesting and embargoed things, heheh. But one of the experiences we had at Tochigi that I am allowed to write about at this time is my driving experience with both the current generation 3-door Honda FCX and the new Honda FCX Concept.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Volvo goes big with the creations at SEMA


Five years, five cars - as a commemoration to Volvo's fifth straight year at the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) tradeshow, the Swedish manufacturer will show five highly modified versions of its vehicles.

The five vehicles are the XC70 Surf Rescue (SR), Heico Sportiv S80 T6 High Performance Concept, Heico Sportiv C30, Caresto C70 and Caresto Hot Rod.

The Volvo XC70, the S80 T6, the C70 Convertible and the C30 showcars are based on production versions, while the Hot Rod is a built-from-the-ground-up, totally custom vehicle using major Volvo components from the previous-generation S80.

Designed around the lifeguard vehicles seen on many California beaches, the 3.2l, 235bhp XC70 SR rides atop a 5-inch-lift suspension, oversized tires and heavily modified body panels. Inside is a full compliment of life-saving equipment and custom rescue surfboards. Similar to the XC70 SR, the Heico C30 is inspired by surfing; this time from the unique surf pattern inlay found on the C30's aluminium centre stack.

Aside from the striking orange designs on the outside, the 300bhp Heico C30 features a lowered stance, a fully custom body kit with integrated spoilers and larger air ducts while inside, bright orange, high-quality leather seats and interior trim make for one vibrant vehicle.

As for the S80 T6 HPC, the all-wheel-drive vehicle features a 350bhp E85 bioethanol T6 engine. Externally, there's a unique seven-layer "metal effect" paint scheme, while inside, a fully custom Mystic Blue leather interior with a sweeping aluminium centre stack arcs seamlessly from the top of the instrument panel to the rear bucket-style seats.

First shown at last year's SEMA show, the Caresto Hot Rod was so well received Volvo Cars brought it back for the 2007 show as a compliment to the Caresto C70 Convertible. Completely hand assembled from aluminium and carbon fibre, the Caresto Hot Rod features many Volvo parts, including the mid-engine, 311bhp V8 block.

Lastly, there's the Caresto C70, which has been built as a successor to the Caresto Hot Rod. This one has had its output ramped up to 278bhp, and the interior has been completely redone featuring hand-stitched chestnut leather. Body modifications include new front and rear clips with distinctive brushed aluminium inserts around the fog lights and custom exhaust ports.

Volvo worked with Heico Sportiv in Germany to build the S80 T6 HPC and C30, while Caresto was tapped to build the C70 and hot rod. The XC70 concept was conceived from the Volvo Cars design team and built by Aria, a concept car building firm located in Irvine, California.

Toyota Yaris already going the lithium-ion route


Global automakers are racing to develop the next generation of energy-saving lithium-ion batteries, but Toyota has already been quietly using the technology in one of its cars in Japan - although in small numbers.

Worries about the safety of the batteries, which have had problems overheating and even bursting into flames, have been a major obstacle to introducing them in cars.
Lithium-ion batteries, already widely used in laptops and other gadgets, are considered critical in developing future electric, hybrid and other ecological vehicles because they are smaller, yet more powerful than the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in hybrids like the Prius now. Since 2003, the lithium-ion battery has been part of an "intelligent package" for Toyota Motor Corp's Yaris subcompact - although the feature still isn't widespread among Japanese consumers. About 700 of the Yaris with the feature were sold this year.

Toyota executive vice-president Masatami Takimoto told The Associated Press recently the company hasn't marketed the feature aggressively because battery supplies are limited and the company can't respond to massive demand.

But the feature is available at dealers, and consumers can get them if they ask for it. "We don't tell everybody about it," Takimoto said.

"But we already have our own lithium-ion battery."

Testing technology on public roads - especially over a long period of time - is crucial for ensuring the safety of a technology as well as for working out details of performance that may become a problem when an experimental technology is turned into a commercial product.

The Yaris with the lithium-ion battery - which sits below the passenger seat and recharges during driving - delivers better mileage at about 25 kilometers a litre (60 miles a gallon) in Japanese testing, compared to about 22km a litre (53mpg) in the regular Vitz, according to Toyota. Now, you'll be wondering Vitz version it is the next time you see one .... Under the hood, the car also has a regular battery, which is used to start the car.

When the car goes into idling, as when the driver shifts to neutral or park at a stop light or congested traffic, the engine stops automatically without the driver having to turn it off with the ignition key as in a regular car.

That helps save on gas. The engine restarts - powered by the lithium-ion battery - when the driver's foot is lifted from the brake pedal.

But while the engine is off, the lithium-ion battery keeps providing electric power to the car's air conditioning, radio and other equipment.

A Yaris with the "intelligent" feature costs about 1.17mil yen (US$10,200; euro 7,000), about 100,000 yen (US$870; euro600) more than standard models.

Other automakers, including General Motors Corp and Japanese rival Nissan Motor Co, are all working on lithium-ion battery technology for green cars expected in the next decade or so.

Toyota has not given details about what's in store for the next-generation Prius.

Honda Accord Coupe HF-S Concept


While the earlier HFP Accord Coupe we saw was done up by American Honda, this Honda Accord Coupe HF-S Concept was done by Honda Access America Inc, Honda’s U.S. accessory development team. It conceptually includes both design and powertrain upgrades - which basically means while the prototype shown is a purely cosmetic do-up, Honda Access promises powertrain upgrade in the future.

The Honda Accord HF-S Concept has a new front bumper design that incorporates LED driving lights. It is also shaped in order to create a vortex effect, enhancing high-speed aerodynamics and engine cooling. On the sides, specially shaped panels made of carbon fiber decrease negative speed force around the wheel arches.

Kia Borrego


The Kia Borrego shown above will make its world debut at the 2008 Detroit Motor Show, and it will be Kia’ first mid-sized SUV, larger than the Kia Sorento currently on sale in our market as the Naza Sorento. Named after a breed of bighorn sheep native to California, It is based on the Kia Mesa concept shown back in 2005.

Like the Sorento, the Kia Borrego will use a body on frame construction. It will seat 7 with three rows of seats. There are still a few modern SUVs which use body on frame, like the Toyota Landcruiser and its Lexus LX counterpart. The Kia Borrego is aimed at US market needs and will feature V6 engines as well as Kia’s first V8 engine.

2009 Toyota Corolla for US market


We’re still waiting for the new Toyota Corolla Altis to be launched next year, while the Americans have just received theirs at the 2007 SEMA Auto Show a few weeks ago. The 2009 Toyota Corolla is set to come in 5 trim levels - Standard, LE, XLE, S and XRS

The first three trim levels is to be equipped with the new Dual VVT-i 1.8 liter engine putting out 132 horsepower and 174Nm of torque, while the S and the XRS receives a larger 2.4 liter VVT-i engine, putting out a rather uninspiring 158 horsepower despite a much larger displacement. In comparison, the US market Accord Sedan and Accord Coupe’s 2.4 liter engine puts out a nice 190 horsepower.

Have a look at photos of the new USDM Corolla after the jump. It’s not much different from the Corolla launched elsewhere, except the US market Corollas seems to be equipped with a very basic meter panel design that threatens to bore you to sleep while you are driving. Available elsewhere in the world is a very nice self-illuminating meter panel in a golden hue, similiar to the one in the Auris.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

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Tokyo Motor Show 2007

AS one of the key events in the annual motor show calendar, the Tokyo Motor Show (TMS) is for Asia what Frankfurt is for Europe and Detroit is to the North American markets. The biennial car extravaganza (odd years for passenger cars, alternating with commercial vehicles in the even years, though no show was held in 2006) provides a valuable insight into Japanese design trends and thinking of the near future.

No shortage of walking, for sure.Though the 40th edition felt somewhat subdued and less vibrant on the first press day than the 2005 show, there was enough to suggest that the event – which continues to be run at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba, where it has been located since 1989 – should happily serve its primary aim of satisfying the Japanese buying public. All the shapes, lines and curves you can think of. Here, Mazda's evolving take on that which was started with its Nagare concept (foreground). In line with current trends, this year’s show – which started yesterday and ends on Nov 11 – continues to promote green and greener.

Do you feel the excite?The theme for this year is “Catch The News, Touch The Future.” The intended expression is that this is the place to encounter the present and catch more than a glimpse of what’s ahead. Which it does, effectively.

In terms of size, this year’s show is larger by 11% than the 2005 version, offering 44,587 square metres of display space, with more than 240 companies from 11 countries taking part in the event. The event two years ago drew more than 1.5mil visitors, and the organisers, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), will surely be hoping to improve on those figures this year.

Primarily, it showcases passenger vehicles, both concept and new, soon-to-be on-the-road offerings, but there is much more to see than that. Besides motorcycles, which also forms a big draw at the TMS, ground events, from 4x4 adventure to safety test rides, and a host of other displays – from ancillary suppliers, publications and parts manufacturers – do their bit in providing a balanced feel to the event. Support services and ancillaries are well represented.Indeed, there’s something to be had for everyone at the show, as long as you’re interested in anything motoring-related. Children aren’t left out either, with art exhibits and a Kid’s Park where they can take in their share of cars, miniature and toys they may be.

Nowhere else in the world. Not Frankfurt, Geneva or the NAIAS.For those not interested in cars but still end up at the show somehow, there’s always the daring fashion on the ladies. And the ladies themselves, of course.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

2009 BMW 135iA

To put it plainly, the 2009 BMW 135i is more than merely good. It raises the standard of measure for small coupes to a whole new level of excellence.

It is one of the purest expressions of the BMW character since the 1971 BMW 2002 tii.This is not another space-efficient front-wheel-drive hatchback. Instead BMW's classic configuration of front-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive brings an emphasis on driving to the segment of premium small cars that includes the Volkswagen R32 and Volvo C30.Search if you will, but you can take it from us; there is simply no more accomplished car for $30,000 than the 2009 BMW 135i.The Numbers Tell the StoryThe numbers tell the story.

The 2009 BMW 135i coupe gets to 100 kph (62 mph) in just 5.3 seconds and the standing kilometer (fast becoming a standard performance benchmark among Europe's more sporting carmakers) in 24.6 seconds. To give this speed some perspective, the new 2008 BMW M3 is just 0.5 second and 1.3 seconds quicker to the same marks respectively. Even more important, this 135i coupe will rip from 50-75 mph in 4th gear in just 5.0 seconds — just 0.1 second slower than the latest M-car.

These figures are important, because there is little about the styling of the new 1 Series coupe to hint at such performance potency. Its compact dimensions, strongly creased character lines and taut surfacing can be jarring from some angles and certainly won't be to everyone's taste, but they do provide the new two-door with an alluringly muscular appearance that expresses its sporting aspirations.Right SizeDimensionally, the new car measures 171.7 inches in length, 76.1 inches in width and 56.0 inches in height, making it noticeably smaller than the 3 Series coupe, some 8.7 inches shorter in length, 2.0 inches narrower and 1.1 inch taller.

The coupe shares its front-end styling with the 1 Series hatchback that has been in production for the last three years, and indeed both cars will share BMW's assembly plant in Leipzig, Germany. For the coupe, the front bumper has been slightly reprofiled to direct additional cooling air into the engine bay. In addition, the coupe has frameless doors. Aft of the B-pillar, the coupe is unique, executing the traditional three-box silhouette.Inside, it is all pretty familiar to anyone who has spent any time in the 1 Series hatchback. The wide transmission tunnel restricts the rear seat to just two passengers, and rear-seat legroom is limited.

Trunk space is 13.0 cubic feet, only 2.1 cubic feet less than the 3 Series coupe.Front-engine, Rear-drive Though its front engine, rear-drive configuration is pretty unpopular in this size category because of its lack of space efficiency, BMW reckons its layout has unique appeal to people who care about driving, not passengers.After the failure of the BMW 318Ti hatchback in the U.S. in 1995-'98, the BMW marketing people have decided to offer the 1 Series with a choice of premium-class powertrains.

The naturally aspirated 3.0-liter inline-6 will develop 228 horsepower. But it is the top-of-the-line 135i and its sublime twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 to which we're drawn for this first drive of the new BMW in the Netherlands. With 306 hp available at 5,800 rpm, the aluminum-block six has the sort of power you might expect from a V8, giving the 1 Series coupe some genuine muscle car credentials.

You'd never know it lurks under the hood of this 1 Series unless you detect the oil temperature gauge beneath the tachometer, a feature previously reserved for BMW's high-performance M models. Thumb the starter button on the dashboard to the right of the steering wheel and you're presented with a delicious throaty resonance through the exhausts.

When you blip the throttle, you can feel the little coupe shimmy in excitement as the engine and drivetrain wind up.Effortless SpeedOnce underway the 135i delivers effortless acceleration; the crushing effect of 295 pound-feet of torque arriving at just 1,300 rpm makes this engine terrifically flexible all the way through the rpm range.

You can pull away in 1st gear and slot directly into 6th without any major objection from the drivetrain.To do so, however, is to deny yourself what is arguably this car's most appealing feature — its strapping midrange acceleration. There's no discernible turbo lag as you pile on the revs through the gears, just one fabulously linear flow of drive to the rear wheels.

Remain committed and you find that there's absolutely no let-up in the urgent rush until 7,000 rpm, when the electronic rev limiter softly retards the ignition.When you couple this with excellent straight-line stability and superb levels of mechanical refinement, you've got the makings of not just an impressively sporty coupe but also a supreme long-distance touring machine capable of 360 miles between fill-ups (if you can duplicate the 26 mpg that BMW says this car will achieve in European highway mode).

Turn the CornerThe 135i coupe inherits the same excellent rear-wheel-drive chassis as the 1 Series hatchback, so it doesn't come as too much of a surprise to discover it boasts excellent body control on challenging sections of blacktop. Few cars at any price manage to dish up such entertaining handling as this new BMW.Balanced weight distribution clearly plays a role in its willingness to change direction, as does an aluminum-trimmed suspension setup that is little changed from the 3 Series.As the premium model, the 135i has 18-inch wheels as standard equipment and features run-flat tires: 215/R4018s in front and 245/35R18s in the rear.

It hangs on extremely well in the corners, with an eventual tendency to understeer on the entry to decreasing-radius corners, yet there's enough torque to induce oversteer in the right conditions.Cost constraints have ruled out a mechanical limit-slip differential, but the 135i gets an automatic brake differential. The electronic stability control can be switched off, leading to engaging oversteer for those who seek it.Thanks to an added measure of structural rigidity from the coupe's body shell, the car has more forgiving rates for its springs and dampers than the hatchback, although for marketing purposes it is described as an M-sport arrangement.

The result is a more compliant ride, although the stiff sidewalls of the run-flat tires continue to generate an inordinate amount of noise on less-than-smooth road surfaces, notably at the front end.Its brakes, meanwhile, are tremendously robust. With 13.3-inch vented discs in the front and 12.8-inch vented discs in the rear, there's plenty of stopping power that doesn't fade even after repeated hammerings from high speed.BMW 2002 ReduxBMW's 1960s-era 2002 made famous all the attributes we associate with BMW today — its spare form, responsive handling and willing engine. As the 3 Series has evolved over time, it has left behind much of the 2002's iconic goodness as it became larger, heavier and more sophisticated.

The 2009 BMW 135i cuts right to the heart of what a BMW is meant to be about. You can argue about its appearance and complain about packaging, but in just about every other respect, it delivers a unique and exhilarating driving experience, which is what matters most.Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

2008 Honda CRV

The 2008 Honda CR-V is underpowered, sort of weird looking, doesn't have a third-row seat and no longer has a picnic table built into its cargo bay. These are all criticisms that can be lobbed at the CR-V, but none seem to matter much to American consumers. In 2007, Honda's fully redesigned compact SUV was the runaway best-selling sport-utility on the market, beating out nameplates like the RAV4, Escape and Tahoe by tens of thousands. While sales are often a poor meter of a vehicle's worth, in the CR-V's case, the American public has picked a winner. It's an extremely well-rounded machine that successfully manages to be just what its name suggests -- a Comfortable Runabout Vehicle.

With high gas prices and growing environmental concerns, Americans are turning to compact SUVs in record numbers for their ability to provide safe, family-friendly utility while getting better gas mileage than larger models. The CR-V is one of the best at accomplishing this mission. While lacking in power (particularly on the highway), the CR-V's 166-horsepower four-cylinder engine delivers very good fuel efficiency. This Honda is also quite safe, with top scores from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The CR-V's interior is its best attribute, offering an impressively large and versatile cargo hold that tops out at 73 cubic feet of space. Additionally, there are plenty of bins, cubbies and cupholders to stash things. The reclining rear seat is spacious and comfortable, and it slides fore and aft to maximize rear legroom or to get problematic kiddies closer to mom and dad. To more easily spot childhood calamities, Honda has thoughtfully provided a "conversation" mirror (spy mirror may be more appropriate) built into the overhead console's sunglasses holder.

The CR-V was a pioneer more than 10 years ago when it helped create the compact SUV segment. Today, this segment is one of the most competitive and popular, with at least 16 models competing for Americans' hearts, minds and checkbooks. The CR-V's competitors include impressive vehicles like the Nissan Rogue, Mitsubishi Outlander, Saturn Vue and Toyota RAV4, the latter of which won an comparison test of compact SUVs that included the CR-V. All are deserving of a good long look, but the 2008 Honda CR-V is an excellent choice that does a great many things very well. The American public has made a few iffy decisions in the past (Richard Nixon, Taylor Hicks), but picking the CR-V as their favorite SUV isn't one of them.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Honda CR-V is a compact SUV that seats five people. It's available in LX, EX and EX-L trim levels. The base-level LX comes with 17-inch steel wheels, cruise control, keyless entry, full power accessories, a tilt-telescoping steering column, a trip computer, a conversation mirror, a retractable front center tray table and a four-speaker stereo with a CD/MP3 player and an auxiliary audio jack. The EX comes with alloy wheels, a sunroof, rear tinted glass, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a removable trunk shelf and a six-speaker stereo that comes with an in-dash six-CD changer. The top-of-the-line CR-V EX-L adds leather upholstery, a power driver seat, front seat heaters, upgraded exterior trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a front center console (instead of the retractable tray), satellite radio and a premium sound system with seven speakers and a subwoofer.
The lone option is a touchscreen navigation system that includes a rearview camera and digital audio card reader. With the navigation system, the premium sound system's CD changer migrates to the center console and a single-CD player is added behind the retracting touchscreen.

Powertrains and Performance
The CR-V is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 166 hp and 161 pound-feet of torque. The engine comes paired to a five-speed automatic transmission, and buyers have a choice of front-wheel drive or an all-wheel-drive system that only apportions power to the rear wheels when front slippage occurs. In performance testing, an all-wheel-drive CR-V went from zero to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds, a slow time for this class of vehicle. What it lacks in quickness, it makes up for in fuel economy, however. For 2008, the front-wheel-drive CR-V achieves a 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway rating.

All major safety features are standard on the 2008 Honda CR-V, including antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. A backup camera is available only on EX-L models equipped with the navigation system, but Honda dealers can sell you parking sensors for lower-line models.
The CR-V performed extremely well in government crash tests, earning a perfect five stars across the board for front and side crash protection. The IIHS also gave the CR-V its best score of "Good" for frontal-offset and side-impact crash protection.

Interior Design and Special Features
Perhaps the best attribute of the CR-V is its attractive yet practical cabin design. Honda's designers sweated every detail. Not only are the controls and instrumentation ergonomically correct, but there are numerous parent-friendly conveniences as well. For starters, the wide-opening rear doors and lightweight rear liftgate make it simple to load infants and their strollers. We especially like the multiple detents on the rear doors, which keep them from swinging back in tight parking spaces.

The 60/40-split rear seat has reclining seatbacks and adjusts fore and aft. From the front seat, you can monitor toddlers via the conversation mirror built into the sunglasses holder, while the folding center tray in LX and EX models allows for hasty dashes to the backseat. Luggage capacity measures 35.7 cubic feet, and the cargo shelf in EX and EX-L models allows for two-tier loading. With the rear seats folded, the CR-V can hold 73 cubic feet of cargo.

Driving Impressions
The 2008 Honda CR-V has a level of agility that most other compact SUVs can't match. Like other Hondas, it feels light on its feet, with well-weighted steering that provides excellent feedback. Ride quality is composed and comfortable, and the cabin is well-insulated from the road noise that plagued past CR-Vs. The brakes are also an area worth commending, as pedal action is smooth and consistent. Of course, the CR-V Achilles' heel continues to be its overwhelmed four-cylinder engine. Highway passing can be an adventure, and the automatic transmission tends to do more hunting than Dick Cheney on vacation.

Monday, November 05, 2007

2008 Toyota Camry Hybrid

The 2008 Toyota Camry Hybrid is a dynamic duo, combining the superior fuel economy of a gasoline-electric powertrain with the mainstream attributes of America's favorite midsize family sedan.

Roomy cabin, efficient hybrid powertrain, stronger acceleration than many regular four-cylinder family sedans, excellent crash test scores.

Small trunk, some below-average interior materials.

What's New for 2008
The Camry Hybrid's base price has been lowered this year to bring it closer to otherwise similarly equipped Camry models. The Hybrid also gets revised options packages this year.


2007 Chevrolet Aveo Review

With gas prices holding steady at elevated levels, Americans have slowly been losing their appetite for gas-guzzling SUVs. Compact cars like the 2007 Chevrolet Aveo, meanwhile, have seen a surge in interest because of their affordability and their ability to deliver fuel economy in the 30-mpg range.

The Aveo is built in Korea by General Motors' Korean subsidiary, Daewoo. In terms of size, it's shorter in length but taller than Chevy's next biggest automotive offering, the Cobalt. This tall profile can come across as rather dorky-looking when viewed from the outside, but it certainly pays dividends in terms of interior passenger room. The Aveo also benefits from a QVC-like sticker price and generous collection of features. Fuel-economy ratings on the Chevy Aveo are fairly high as well, though its real-world numbers tend to be considerably lower, especially on manual-transmission models, which have overly wide gearing. The 2007 model looks to be the best Aveo yet thanks to an updated sedan that has all-new styling and improved interior design.

The Chevrolet Aveo is a worthy vehicle, but it's also going up against some new competition this year, including the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris, which offer more features and better economy. At the same time, entry-level models from Kia and Hyundai continue to offer longer warranties. Consumers interested in this type of vehicle will certainly want to do some research and test-drives before making a decision.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2007 Chevrolet Aveo is available as a subcompact sedan or four-door hatchback (Aveo5). On the Aveo5, there are two trim levels: Special Value and LS. Aveo sedans come in LS and LT trims. Special Value equates to not paying a lot but not getting a lot, either. Standard equipment includes 14-inch steel wheels, manual mirrors and windows, manual locks and a radio with four speakers. The LS adds air-conditioning and carpeted floor mats, as well as the availability of major options such as cruise control, a sunroof, power windows, keyless entry, CD/MP3 player and 15-inch alloy wheels. The Aveo LS sedan is similarly equipped. A top-line LT sedan comes standard with almost all of the LS model's optional features, while offering upgraded cloth seat fabric and the availability of options like leatherette upholstery and upgraded audio with an in-dash CD changer and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

Powertrains and Performance
The Chevy Aveo has a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that delivers 103 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, and there's also an optional four-speed automatic with an electronic "hold" feature for 2nd-gear starts when driving on slippery surfaces. Fuel mileage estimates are 27 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway with the manual gearbox and 26/34 with the automatic -- close to the Hyundai Accent's numbers but less efficient than either the Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris.

Three-point seatbelts for all five passengers are standard, with pre-tensioners in the front. Antilock brakes are optional on LS and LT models, and include electronic brakeforce distribution for shorter stopping distances. Side airbags are standard on all styles. In NHTSA crash tests, the Aveo earned a five-star rating (the best possible) for its protection of front occupants in frontal impacts and four stars for occupants in side impacts.

Interior Design and Special Features
The updated 2007 Chevy Aveo sedan benefits from a new interior design that features wood grain or metallic trim, a driver's armrest and additional storage capability. It builds on the Aveo's already easy-to-use controls and thoughtful convenience features. The hatchback has a folding 60/40-split rear seat that allows the vehicle to carry up to 42 cubic feet of cargo. The sedan's trunk has 12.4 cubic feet of volume, and longer items can be transported by fully reclining the front passenger seat and folding the rear seat.

Driving Impressions
Subcompact cars have a well-deserved reputation for poor handling and wobbly rides. While the Chevrolet Aveo is certainly no thrill ride, it provides respectable vehicle dynamics. The steering is direct, the suspension well tuned and the engine -- while loud and buzzy -- is adequate for day-to-day commuting. We normally recommend that buyers in this class opt for a manual transmission, but in the Aveo's case, the automatic is the better bet: The manual tranny's gear ratios are too wide, leaving the car underpowered on highway grades and ultimately compromising fuel economy.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

2008 Aston Martin DBS

Engine Data
Engine : 5935
Cylinders : 12
Transmission : Rear-mid mounted, six-speed manual gearbox
HorsePower @ RPM : 517@6500 hp@rpm
Brake horsepower (bhp) : 0 bhp
Power (kW) : 380 kW
Torque ft-lb (Nm) at RPM : 570@5750 ft-lb
Model :N/A

Exterior Dimensions & Weight
Length : 4721 mm (185.9 in)
Width : 1905 mm (75 in)
Height :1280 mm (1280 in)
Weight MT kg (lb) :1695 kg (3737 lb)
Wheelbase : 2740 mm (107.9 in)
Class :Two-door coupe
Fuel consumption, gas mileage & type :Fuel Economy l/100km (mpg)
l/100km ( mpg) (combined cycle)

Fuel Type : Unleaded Petrol

Built :England

2007 Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 Roadster

Engine Data
Engine : 6.5L V12
Cylinders : 12
Transmission : 6 Speed Manual
HorsePower @ RPM : 640@8000 hp@rpm
Brake horsepower (bhp) : 640 bhp
Power (kW) : 471 kW
Torque ft-lb (Nm) at RPM : 487@6000 ft-lb
Model : Murcielago

Exterior Dimensions & Weight
Length : 4610 mm (181.5 in)
Width : 2057 mm (81.0 in)
Height :1135 mm (1135 in)
Weight MT kg (lb) :1690 kg (3726 lb)
Wheelbase : 2664 mm (104.9 in)
Class: Two Seater

Fuel consumption, gas mileage & type
Fuel Economy l/100km (mpg) : 21.4 l/100km (11 mpg) (combined cycle)
Fuel Economy City / Highway : 26.1 / 16.8 l/100km (9 / 14 mpg)
Fuel Capacity : 99.9 litres (26.4 gallons)
Fuel Type : Gas Engine / Sequential Electronic Fuel Injected

Saturday, November 03, 2007

2009 Nissan GT-R Review

Three diagonal gray stripes in a circle granted me permission to click the 2009 Nissan GT-R's left paddle shifter twice in rapid succession and floor the throttle. No, it's not some kind of hallucination. This symbol, when posted on the shoulder of Germany's autobahn, represents the unrestricted portion where all speed limits are removed.

The speed starts piling on like a roller coaster that's been pointed down Niagara Falls. As the tach needle nearly impales itself on a big 7, I give the right paddle a flick and keep the throttle buried. The engine note is barely interrupted and the falling sensation begins anew, at a rate that seems impossible at velocities this high.

I'm driving a "PT2" iteration of the 2009 Nissan GT-R, a right-hand-drive preproduction car with black diapers masking the styling of the nose and tail. There's black tape covering the door handles, the headlights, even the GT-R badge on the steering wheel. No one in the world has driven a final production version, because at this point the final production version doesn't exist.
Despite the risk associated with letting such a rare breed run free, Nissan handed the GT-R's keys over to us with barely a shred of paperwork. The 'Ring was temporarily off-limits, so we did what you would do. We headed to the autobahn and then plied the web of sparsely traveled two-lane country roads in Nurburg's surrounding locale.

Few, Fast and Fuss-Free

There are just three PT2 GT-Rs in Nissan's stable, and all three cars are currently stationed in Nurburg, Germany, home of the famed Nürburgring racetrack. Two of the cars are devoted to track duty and the remaining one is used by the company for development on Germany's public roads, including the autobahn.

In the automotive equivalent of a peep show, a vinyl sheet with a little window for each switch and button has been fitted over the GT-R's entire dashboard and center console. I search for the red engine start button on the console and give it a poke. The VR38 engine starts with a muted, bassy thrum that sounds more special and guttural than Nissan's series-production VQ engine.
Maybe it's the divided intake that splits the flow paths for each cylinder bank, or the turbos that act as muffling devices, but I swear the GT-R speaks in a more cultured tongue than the last Infiniti G37 we tested. The GT-R sounds unstrained, as if it's never working hard.

Once underway, it is immediately apparent that no concessions to drivability have been made on the altar of high performance. Tilt the steering wheel to gain an unobstructed view of the center-mounted rev counter and the entire instrument cluster pivots with it. Visibility through the upright windshield is expansive despite a fairly tall cowl, and the GT-R's seats have more adjustment options than a Mr. Potato Head. From the steering to the brake pedal, all of the control efforts carry precision and appropriate heft over a vast range of speeds.

Twin-Turbo V6

Roll into the throttle at nearly any engine speed and the GT-R drenches you in thrust. Turbo lag from the VR38 3.8-liter V6 is essentially nonexistent, so the immense torque arrives immediately. Indeed, the engine's punch is strongest in the midrange, where the GT-R delivers 434 pound-feet of torque from 3,200 to 5,200 rpm.

Being turbocharged, the VR38 doesn't have to rely on insanely high revs to generate its goods. That's what boost is for, and the GT-R's twin IHI turbos generate between 10.1 and 11.6 psi (depending on ambient conditions) to deliver peak power of 473 horsepower at 6,400 rpm.
Yet this mill remains perfectly mannered whether it's being thrashed mercilessly or just lugged around town. If you left the transmission in automatic mode and only used one-quarter throttle, you'd never guess that this car could suck the doors off nearly anything on the road.
Holding a conversation with the Nissan engineer riding shotgun even during a 250-kph (155 mph) cruise barely requires raised voices, and the locked-down high-speed stability inspires me to pick up the pace. Alas, there are too many other cars on the autobahn to push much beyond this speed.

More Than Just an EngineAs heroic as the engine is, the six-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox is a key contributor to the GT-R's personality. The paddle-shifted gearbox, mounted between the rear wheels, changes gears seamlessly with astonishing speed. Shifts are claimed to take just 0.2 second from the time the lever is pulled until the clutch is fully engaged.
In full automatic mode, the transmission calls up 6th gear even at low speeds in order to maximize fuel economy, but will downshift without delay when the throttle's dipped.
The GT-R's stability and unrelenting acceleration even from autobahn velocities owe much to the car's aerodynamics. A slippery 0.27 drag coefficient allows the GT-R to use its engine's power to accelerate the car rather than just overcome speed-sucking drag. The GT-R's body develops significant downforce on both axles at speed.

Exiting an uphill right-hander in 3rd gear, the 1.5-way limited-slip differential (which locks aggressively on acceleration but less so on lift-throttle) is briefly overwhelmed by my heavy right foot. The momentary wheelspin can be felt in the steering wheel, yet the traction available in the all-wheel-drive GT-R is prodigious. It's easy to drive the GT-R fast. Dangerously easy, if you value maintaining a valid driver license.

Suspension damping can be adjusted among three positions by a rocker switch on the center console — Comfort, Sport (the default position) and R ("Race") modes. The difference between Comfort and Sport is subtle, though neither one could be considered plush.
There's nothing subtle at all about R mode, the damper setting that's best for balls-out driving on roads free of blemishes. During aggressive driving on smooth tarmac, R mode's body roll control rules with an iron fist.

High Density

We slow to a crawl as we enter a small hamlet. The GT-R feels at once substantial and confident, just as the jagged styling suggests. Its 3,836-pound curb weight is borderline obese for a performance car, though it carries its weight well, since most of the heavy bits like the engine don't hang near the extreme ends of the car.

Many weight-saving measures were taken. Aluminum was used in the doors, fenders, deck lid, suspension, front shock towers and front subframe, and carbon fiber is found in all six driveshafts and the bolt-on front crash structure.

Still, it's fundamentally a big, steel-chassis car packed with a lot of equipment including enormous 20-inch wheels, 255/40 front and 285/35 rear run-flat tires and the largest brakes this side of a Peterbilt. All that stuff adds up.

The first GT-R is a starting point. Even at this early point, future iterations promise further weight reduction and more power. Nissan is mum on the particulars but insiders have confirmed the existence of an even hotter GT-R, and it isn't far away.

Bright FutureEven in this preproduction state and among the nonstop hype, it's hard not to be impressed by the Nissan GT-R. The car's performance envelope is as broad as Texas, and it is as perfectly content creeping along in rain-drizzled traffic as it is smashing the Nürburgring lap times of some of the world's fastest sports cars. It demands little sacrifice from its owner, offering all-weather capability in a truly practical package.

And it's devastatingly fast.

Friday, November 02, 2007

2008 Honda Civic Review

In 1973, Honda introduced the Civic to American shores. Small, fuel-efficient and reliable, the Civic was an ideal small car solution to rising gas prices and increased environmental awareness. Now, 35 years later, Americans are faced with similar issues, and again the Civic stands at the ready.

Of course, history hasn't quite repeated itself. The 2008 Honda Civic is considerably heavier and more luxurious than its pint-sized forbear. It's not even the company's smallest car anymore -- that role is handled by the Fit. But for the average small car shopper, the Civic remains the quintessential choice. We're quite fond of the current-generation Civic -- it was last redesigned in 2006 -- and it's one of America's best-selling cars.

There are plenty of reasons to choose the Civic. First among them is the car's wide array of configurations. The Civic is one of the few small car offerings to be sold as a sedan and a sportier-looking coupe. A fixed, minimal-options trim level architecture, ranging from the budget-oriented DX to the top-level EX, makes picking a Civic a relatively straightforward affair.

There are also the specialized Civic Si, Hybrid and GX models. In Si trim, the Civic is one of the most sporting small cars available for the money, while the Hybrid, thanks to its gasoline/electric powertrain, can deliver 40-plus mpg in real-world driving. The Civic GX is truly an oddity -- it runs on natural gas and can be fueled at home via a special "Phill" hook-up. The GX is the most expensive Civic, but in return it's America's cleanest mass-production car in terms of tailpipe emissions.

No matter what the trim, the Civic's traditional strengths in comfort, interior design and safety are all still firmly intact. The Civic also holds its value better than many other small cars and has a reputation for above-average reliability. Though we suggest doing a bit of comparison shopping -- the sporty Mazda 3, affordable Hyundai Elantra and Volkswagen Rabbit/Jetta are also very good choices -- the 2008 Honda Civic remains an ideal pick for a small sedan or coupe.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Honda Civic is a small car available as a sedan or coupe. For both, there are five main trim levels: DX, LX, EX, EX-L and Si. On the Civic sedan, Honda also offers the Hybrid and the GX. The DX is meant for those on a tight budget and offers little more than power windows, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a height-adjustable driver seat. The more popular midgrade LX comes with 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control and a four-speaker CD/MP3 audio system with an auxiliary audio jack.

Going with a Civic EX gets you 16-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, six-speaker audio with steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a 60/40-split rear seatback with a rear armrest. This year's new Civic EX-L comes with leather upholstery and heated front seats. The Civic Si has most of the EX's features plus a high-output engine, sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, a premium audio system and special interior trim. High-performance summer tires are an option for the Si, and a navigation system is offered for the Si and EX/EX-L models. Hybrid models are equipped similarly to the EX and have automatic climate control and optional navigation. The GX has a feature list similar to the LX's.

Powertrains and Performance
Civic DX, LX and EX models are powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 140 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. That power is sent through the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission or an optional five-speed automatic. The GX also has a 1.8-liter engine, but it's fueled by clean-burning compressed natural gas and makes 113 hp. It only has a cruising range of 200 miles, but with Honda's Phill device, you can refuel from the comfort of your own garage. For the Civic Si, Honda installs a 197-hp 2.0-liter engine and an exclusive six-speed manual transmission with a performance-enhancing limited-slip front differential.

The gasoline-fueled 1.8-liter engine delivers above-average fuel economy for the small car class; 2008 EPA estimates are 24 mpg city and 36 mpg highway for an automatic-equipped Civic. The GX posts 24/36 numbers. The Hybrid, meanwhile, uses a gasoline/electric hybrid powertrain to maximize fuel economy. Its 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine is paired to the latest version of Honda's IMA technology and a continuously variable transmission to deliver 110 hp and 40/45 mpg ratings.

All Civics come with front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Antilock brakes are also standard; EX and Si models have four-wheel discs, while the rest have rear drums. Stability control is an exclusive standard feature on the Si trim only. In government crash testing, the 2008 Honda Civic earned a perfect five stars for its protection of occupants in frontal impacts. Side-impact tests resulted in a four-star rating for front passengers and five stars for rear passengers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Civic its top rating of "Good" for the car's performance in frontal-offset and side-impact tests.

Interior Design and Special Features
The Civic's dash features an unusual layout. An analog tachometer is in the traditional location but the digital speedometer and gas gauge are at the base of the windshield. Though some drivers find the two-tier display distracting, others say it makes quick visual checks of speed easier. Otherwise, the Honda Civic continues to be one of the best small cars in terms of room, interior storage and refinement. Its controls are easy to operate and materials are of high quality. Regular Civic sedans have 12 cubic feet of trunk space; this drops to about 10 for the Hybrid and 6 for the GX due to the space taken up by the hardware of their respective powertrains.

Driving Impressions
The 2008 Honda Civic's suspension, steering and brakes all work together seamlessly, and even the mainstream models can be described as being somewhat sporty to drive. The Civic Hybrid and natural-gas GX are unfortunately a bit slow, but neither model is meant for supreme acceleration anyway. That task is taken up by the Civic Si. Possessing nimble handling and a delightfully fizzy engine, the Si is one of the few cars available in any price range that makes you want to drive it just for the sake of driving.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

2008 Chevrolet Aveo Review

Chevrolet doesn't exactly have a glorious history in the subcompact car category. The mere mention of a Chevette is good for an easy laugh. Yet the Chevy lineup must have a low-priced little guy that does its job reliably day-in and day-out without much flash. The 2008 Chevrolet Aveo satisfies this need, but does so with a quality that distances it from the gold bowtie's sketchy subcompact past. The Aveo sedan in particular, which was significantly refreshed last year, gives budget buyers a fuel-efficient car with attractive styling, a nice interior, a useful features list and of course, a low price.

The Aveo is built in South Korea by General Motors' subsidiary Daewoo, the former independent company that disappeared from the United States in 2002 after a rather inauspicious run. As Kia and Hyundai have proven, though, Korean cars improve rapidly with every generation, and the 2008 Chevy Aveo is much better than Daewoo's previous econoboxes.
Of particular note is the sedan model's improved interior and more substantial-looking styling. The 2007-year update is made all the more evident by the fact that the Aveo5 hatchback model remains relatively unchanged from its 2004 debut form. Therefore, unless the hatchback's utility or rock-bottom base price (it's the lowest in America, in fact) are of paramount importance, we'd skip it in favor of the Aveo sedan or a superior subcompact hatchback from another manufacturer.

Obviously, fuel economy is of prime concern for buyers in this segment. The 2008 Chevrolet Aveo sips fuel at a sufficiently frugal rate, but not quite at the level of the Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris. These models also sport more refined, lively engines. Because of that, and in matters of price, the Aveo is more comparable with the Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent. Needless to say, customers interested in this class have a lot of research and test-drives to do to find the subcompact that best meets their needs. But unlike Chevy's past subcompacts, the 2008 Aveo is a vehicle worthy of consideration rather than jokes.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Chevrolet Aveo subcompact is available in sedan and four-door hatchback body styles. The latter is known as the Aveo5, which unlike the sedan, was not updated last year. Both Aveo body styles come with two trim levels: Special Value and LS on the Aveo5 hatchback, and LS and LT on the Aveo sedan.

Special Value equates to not paying a lot but not getting a lot, either. Standard equipment includes 14-inch steel wheels, manual mirrors and windows, manual locks and a simple AM/FM radio with four speakers. The Aveo5 LS adds the availability of major options such as 15-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, a sunroof, power windows, carpeted floor mats, keyless entry and a CD/MP3 player. The Aveo LS sedan is similarly equipped, but offers an upgraded interior with better materials and an auxiliary MP3 jack. The top-line LT sedan comes standard with almost all of the LS model's optional features, while offering upgraded seat cloth and the availability of options like leatherette upholstery and upgraded audio with an in-dash CD changer and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.

Powertrains and Performance
The Chevy Aveo has a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 103 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, and there's also an optional four-speed automatic with an electronic "hold" feature for 2nd-gear starts when driving on slippery surfaces. For 2008, fuel mileage estimates are 23 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway with the manual gearbox and 23/31 with the automatic -- close to the Hyundai Accent's numbers but less efficient than either the Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris.

Antilock brakes are optional on LS and LT models. Front-seat side airbags are standard on all trim levels, but side curtain airbags, a safety feature that is increasingly common on subcompacts, aren't available. In National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration crash tests, the 2008 Chevrolet Aveo earned a five-star rating (the best possible) for its protection of front occupants in frontal impacts and four stars for occupants in side impacts. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal offset crash tests, the Aveo received a score of "Average," or one spot from the top.

Interior Design and Special Features
The Aveo sedan and Aveo5 hatchback feature different interior designs, with the sedan benefiting from an overhaul last year. It sports better-quality materials, wood-grain or metallic trim, a driver's armrest, additional storage and other advantages over the older Aveo5, which has a very bargain-bin feel to it. On the upside, the hatchback does have a folding 60/40-split rear seat that allows it to carry up to 42 cubic feet of stuff. The sedan's trunk swallows a respectable 12.4 cubic feet of cargo, with a fold-down rear seat that allows for the transport of longer items.

Driving Impressions
While the 2008 Chevrolet Aveo is certainly no thrill ride, it provides respectable vehicle dynamics. The steering is direct and the suspension is well-tuned for day-to-day commuting. The 1.6-liter engine is adequate, but it's loud and buzzy when revved and not particularly powerful. We normally recommend that buyers in this class opt for a manual transmission, but in the Aveo's case, the automatic is the better bet: The manual tranny's gear ratios are too wide, leaving the car underpowered on highway grades and ultimately compromising fuel economy.