Wednesday, June 17, 2009

2010 Noble M600 Supercar Spied Testing In Europe

THE LAST TIME we reported on the Noble M600 was a little over a year ago, and it’s clear that in the time since, Noble has been working hard to get its latest supercar ready for the showroom and the roads beyond.

The proof is in the pudding photos, as these latest spy shots show. And while the official power target was around 450kW the last time Noble boss Peter Boutwood spoke about it, German rag Auto Motor und Sport is reporting that the bar has since moved higher, and a 485kW figure is now in sight.

That power will be delivered by a Yamaha-tuned Volvo V8, rumbling away in the M600’s (or M650?) carbon-fibre shell and sent to the wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.

The Noble M600 is expected to be capable of speeds up to and beyond 320km/h, and Noble promises that despite its more traditional supercar styling, the M600 will remain a true drivers car, with minimal gadgetry and modern driving aids.

On the styling front, the new M600 would seem to borrow some inspiration from Ferrari at the back end - and given the company’s goal of offering buyers a sensation similar to that offered by the classic Ferrari F40, that’s not surprising.

Only 50 units of the M600 will be built each year, but there’s no word yet on pricing.

2009 Volkswagen Golf 118 TSI Road Test Review


THE 2009 GOLF VI RANGE was let loose on the Australian market in February this year. It quickly stole its way into the limelight with a fresh new face and an almost all-new design on the not-so-new Golf V platform.

Don’t let that little fact deceive you though: it may not be all-new, but it’s damn well new enough.

Volkswagen isn’t pretending otherwise either. The German manufacturer would like us to look at the new Golf as a case of evolution rather than revolution, and it’s confident that a sit and a drive in its new hatch will do all the talking.

That’s all well and good, but what’s it like? How much better is it? And while it looks ‘tougher’, is it a sheep in wolf’s clothing? (Not on your life.)


While the Golf VI is built on the same platform as its predecessor (in a way, it’s almost more of a Golf 5.5), that’s a fact that must have meant nothing to designer Frank Brüse and his team when they were told to whip up a new Golf.

“It won’t be all-new,” the instruction from above may have said, “but impress us.”

With just about every panel and exterior component revised or refined (only the roof remains as it was before), it’s safe to say that Frank and his design department have outdone themselves.


The pedigreed Golf styling remains - especially in the case of that trademark roof-to-road C-pillar (although the tail light biting into its side is very ‘un-Golf-like’) - and the wide, slim black grille running across its face. In fact, while that C-pillar didn’t show up until the Golf II, that slim black grille is a design trait that goes right back to the great great great grandfather (that’s the Golf I, by the way) of the new Golf.

The new headlights in the new model are slimmer, with a more aggressive demeanour. A new, razor-sharp character line - really the standout feature to the new Golf’s profile - runs fore to aft, beginning above the front guards and terminating right up against the new, longer tail lights.


The real achievement in the design of the Golf VI, though, is in its lower and wider look. It simply looks faster. Tougher, even. This was no lucky accident; it’s courtesy of those wider tail-lights and the lower belt line. Combined, these elements give the new hatch a hunkered down, squat style.

In the case of the the Golf 118 TSI, stylish five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels sporting a polished split-spoke design prop up each corner, and a twin-tip exhaust lurking at the back adds an air of aggressiveness to the turbo- and super-charged Golf.


It’s the sort of small touch that can leave an impression (”that’s right, check out those pipes, pal”) when showing the heels in a blast away from the lights.

The Interior

The dash of the Golf 118 TSI has brought a major overhaul to that of the previous model Golf and, unexpectedly, it’s exactly the revitalising treatment you didn’t know it needed - until you spend some time in the new model.

The restyled tiller, with its chrome-edged steering-mounted controls, contoured centre and split bottom-spoke, is a big improvement over the old.

The centre stack has copped a re-imagining as well, with a more defined and sharply-bordered unit replacing the curved-over design of the previous model. And for a little extra pizazz, Volkswagen has borrowed the climate control module from the all-new Passat CC (keep an eye out for our review of that one, too).


One downside to the new dash however, is the loss of the storage compartment that sat atop the centre stack of the previous model.

The stylish navigation system, chrome-ringed vents and a black hazard light button add to the premium image that Australians have built around the Volkswagen brand, and in the Golf 118 TSI’s interior, it’s a well-deserved image.

While the regular Golf gets silver highlight panels along the dash and door trims, the TSI offers sporty, glossy black highlights with a triangular pattern running through each (presumably to evoke a carbon-fibre look).

2009_volkswagen_golf_TSI-118_59A Above photo courtesy Volkswagen

A revised instrument-cluster moves the temperature and fuel gauges to the restyled speedometer and tachometer, allowing for a larger multi-function display to dominate the centre of the cluster - bringing with it a slick blue-on-black display.

Overall space is little changed from the previous model in any practical sense, and the leather front seats are well bolstered and well-suited to a bit of spirited driving. The back seats - leather as well of course - are a little more bench-like than the cosy front seats would have you expect, but comfortable regardless.

Mechanical Package

The Golf 118 TSI is powered by a 1.4 litre inline four, and while that might sound like a piddly little engine, this one’s both turbocharged and supercharged.

Delivering 118kW (the name makes sense now, right?) at 5800rpm, the Golf also boasts 240Nm of torque coming online at a remarkably low 1750rpm. It’s worth mentioning here that those 118 kilowatts break down to 84.3kW per litre of displacement.

That low-end torque is thanks to the 118 TSI’s supercharger, which, mechanically belt-driven and geared to enable higher performance at low engine speeds, delivers torque lower in the rev range.


At higher engine speeds, the turbocharger kicks in, leading to the two systems working in tandem until 3500rpm, where the turbocharger takes over.

Volkswagen claims the Golf 118 TSI will return a fuel consumption figure of 6.2 l/100km in the manual version, and 6.5 l/100km in the seven-speed DSG-equipped model - which is the very model we tested.

The seven-speed DSG transmission at first seemed to verge on overkill, considering the torque spread. But the point here is to aid fuel economy at cruising speeds. With well-spaced ratios though, the DSG ensures power is never out of reach.

The Drive

Firstly, power. We took the Golf 118 TSI for a weekend jaunt out to the sleepy little gold mining town of Walhalla in Victoria’s eastern highlands, and it was clearly evident that this surprisingly hot hatch offered a phenomenal amount of performance for an engine of such minute displacement.

With the help of turbo and supercharger power, the 118 TSI - with or without the DSG - bolts to 100km/h in a considerably shiny 8.0 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 220km/h.


While the DSG in the Golf 118 TSI takes some getting used to - perhaps due to the absence of paddles behind the steering wheel and the hesitation off the line as the transmission figures out what you’re asking for - Sport mode improves the experience, keeping things high in the rev range and ready to turn on the power at command.

And we did command it.

Entering the twisty bits, the 118 TSI held its own thanks to the already excellent chassis carried over from the Golf V and the Michelin tyres wrapped around each of the 17s - a step up from the Hankooks on the 90 TSI.

Understeer occasionally lurked in the shadows, but attentive driving, a conscious effort to not overcook things too dramatically and the good tyre choice kept the car on track. It is a remarkably well-balanced steer and capable of very quick point-to-point driving.

We must note that our tester came fitted with the optional Sport Pack, which brings with it a quartet of sophisticated adaptive dampers as well as the aforementioned 17-inch wheels. Handling was appreciably taut as a result, but as we found out on the Golf VI press preview, the non-sport pack equipped model isn’t exactly a sloppy steerer either.


The traction control lit up a few times, but we’ll put that down to the roads being a little damp in places, with some light surface water in a couple of the corners.

Ride quality, to put it simply, is excellent. There are a few secondary road options for the trip to Walhalla, but if there’s a car I’d be happy to make the trip in again, it’s this one. The Golf VI eats bumps like they’re marshmallows, absorbing broken shoulders and potholes like they’re not there.

It’s quiet too. Volkswagen has thrown a lot of euros at improving the Golf’s NVH characteristics, and it shows. Gone are the squeaks and rattles that plagued the Golf V’s dashboard, and thanks to 10 percent thicker windows, more aerodynamic wing mirrors and a special sound-deadening layer on the windscreen, all traces of wind noise have gone with them.

Sadly, as beautifully quiet as it is inside, it’s just too damn quiet outside. Looking at it from the rear, you’d assume those twin exhaust tips were hinting at some noise, but, unlike the luscious burble of the GTi, the TSI is a tad flat. (Nothing much going on in the aural excitement department.)


But it should be remembered that the target market for this car, despite its turbo and supercharger assisted engine, is not the enthusiast sporting driver. No, the reality is that this car is aimed at ‘the masses’ - commuters, younger buyers, young families - and priced accordingly.

As such, perhaps it shouldn’t be looked at as anything more than a very, very nice way to get from A to B (with the occasional detour through C… and D; with this Golf, you go looking for the long way round).

With the Golf 118 TSI, Volkswagen has given us a non-GTI Golf that is fun to drive, has a hot-hatch turn of speed, offers sharp handling, and, thanks to that robust and efficient little engine, combines all three behind a miserly fuel economy.

It is also beautifully equipped and presented. With packages like this, ‘the masses’ are getting awfully spoiled.

Equipment and Features

Our test car was fitted with Volkswagen’s RNS510 satellite navigation and media control unit, which we found to be almost faultless. It seemed to wander off into the forest on the road to Walhalla, but we’ve yet to find a GPS system that didn’t manage that feat.

Volkswagen’s rear view camera was integrated with our test car, as well.

Also featured - and this was a favourite of ours - was Volkswagen’s “Park Assist” system, which flawlessly parallel parked our test car between two other vehicles. A hairy experience, to be sure, but you get used to trusting it. The robot revolution is on the way…

For safety, the new Golf features driver and front passenger airbags, driver’s knee airbag, driver and front passenger side airbags, as well as curtain airbags front and rear, across the entire range.

The 2009 Volkswagen Golf features ABS, Brake Assist, Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution and, with the DSG model, Hill Start Assist.

Traction control is standard on all models, with Anti-Slip Regulation, Electronic Differential Lock, and ESP.


It’s an early bet, and mine is just one voice, but if the new Golf 118 TSI doesn’t figure well in the 2009 TMR Best Value Best Drive Awards, I’ll… well, I’ll have to eat my hat.

Thanks to turbo and supercharger assistance, the 1.4 litre petrol engine has been turned into a micro-powerhouse. It’s no GTI, but until the hero Golf arrives later this year, the 118 TSI will hold the fort. For those that don’t need or can’t stretch the budget for the GTI, this is the mini-hot hatch for them.


  • Amazing power for a 1.4 litre
  • Stunning, upmarket interior redesign
  • Brilliant handling


  • Not a DSG convert just yet
  • Underwhelming, almost non-existent exhaust note

BMW X6 Outsells Porsche Cayenne; Niche-Splitting SUV Proves Popular In Australia


WHEN IT FIRST arrived on the scene ten months ago, you would have been hard pressed to find a car that polarised opinions quite as much as the BMW X6.

Many said it created a niche of its own and catered to a market that didn’t exist. Some said it would be a sales flop while others loved its unique styling and sheer ‘presence’.

BMW has now announced that it has been anything but a failure in the Australian market. A total of 545 X6s have been sold since it went on sale here in the middle of 2008, making the fastbacked crossover more popular than the Porsche Cayenne - it’s closest competitor.


It’s also proved succesful at enticing new customers into the BMW fold, with around 40 percent of X6 buyers being new to the brand. Overall, more than 35,000 X6s have been sold worldwide.

The twin-turbo diesel X6 XDrive35d was the most popular with 36 percent of all X6 customers opting for the fuel-efficient powertrain, while the twin-turbo V8 XDrive50i and twin-turbo petrol inline six XDrive 35i took 33 and 31 percent of sales respectively.

The local X6 range will be boosted later this year by the arrival of the X6 M, which is already generating significant interest.

GTbyCitroën Supercar Concept To Take To The Hills At Goodwood


FRENCH AUTOMAKER and prospective supercar manufacturer Citroën will be taking its stunning GTbyCitroën concept to the renowned Goodwood Festival Of Speed next month, the third public outing for the mid-engined concept that may yet make it to the production line.

The GTbyCitroën has already hit the track at the Nurburging 24-hour and the 24 hours of Le Mans, however its Goodwood appearance will be the first time the shapely supercar will be shown outside of continental Europe.


It’s likely it won’t be the last time we see it. Enthusiasm for a production version is high within Citroën, and a decision on whether to proceed with a limited production run is expected soon.

‘Limited’ is perhaps the best way to describe it too, with production expected to be restricted to around 20 examples.

It will be well out of reach of the common man, but if you’re keen to catch a glimpse of the hottest Citroën yet and will be in the UK between July 3-5, head on down to Goodwood to see it in action.

Jaguar Chief Engineer Confirms Hybrid Plans


WITH THE 2010 JAGUAR XJ just around the corner, the British luxury marque is looking to give its all-new flagship that little extra edge in the market, and the company believes hybrid technology is the key.

Courtesy of a £307 million ($636m) loan from the European Investment Bank, Jaguar and Land Rover are working on new hybrid systems for use in future models, including the XJ and the upcoming XE roadster.

Land Rover’s hybrid models are expected to use a more familiar petrol-engine hybrid, while Jaguar has opted to go the full nine yards, shooting for a Chevrolet Volt style hybrid.

Jaguar’s chief engineer Kevin Stride spoke recently with Fairfax news, confirming that the Tata-owned British marque is working on a plug-in hybrid system that will focus on an electric motor as its main source of power, with a small traditional petrol engine functioning as a backup.

Stride pointed to conventional hybrid systems as “inefficient”, describing the more familiar petrol-engine hybrids as “less efficient than an electric motor. You want your most efficient motor driving the wheels.”

Jaguar’s engineering boss said that conventional internal combustion engines are at their best when running at a constant RPM, and Jaguar would set its backup petrol engine for just that sort of use.

Jaguar is also planning to introduce stop-start and brake-energy recovery systems to its line-up, both proven technologies for reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

2012 Porsche Cayman Test Mule Spied

THE 2009 PORSCHE CAYMAN was unveilled alongside its Boxster sibling only last November, but already Stuttgart’s engineers are well into development of the next generation.

These new spy photos reveal a current model Cayman running as a test mule for the new platform, with bolt-on guard extensions pointing to a wider track than the 2010 car.

That wider track means the next-gen Cayman and Boxster models, expected to debut in late 2011 or early 2012, may be larger and carrying more performance.

Despite the apparent advanced stage of development this test car would indicate, it’s too early to know just what Porsche has in store for the engine and transmission.

Reports out of Europe have suggested that Porsche is considering a turbo-charged four-cylinder, which would help the car achieve the strict new emissions laws slated to come into effect in 2015. Emissions of the current Cayman and Boxster, the most efficient cars in the Porsche line-up, are around 222g/km - about 100g/km more than the new laws will allow.

The new Cayman and Boxster are expected to be built by Magna Steyr, with Porsche’s contract with Finland-based Valmet Automotive ending in 2011.

Volkswagen Golf: Number One In European Market That’s Down, But Recovering


IN A EUROPEAN MARKET showing the earliest signs of recovery, Volkswagen’s dominant Golf has held onto the number one sales position for May 2009, according to figures from automotive intelligence analysts, JATO Dynamics.

While the European new car market is down 13.1 percent year-to-date, May’s figures show a 2.4 percent improvement from the previous month’s figures.

In an astonishing performance, the Golf continued its domination of sales charts with sales up 32.1 percent on the same month last year.

It would appear that the ’scrappage schemes’ introduced into a number of European markets, are providing considerable sales traction, with the German market up 39.7 percent up on May 2008 – a 20.3 percent improvement over last month’s figures - and in France, new car registrations are up 11.8 percent on May 2008.

According to JATO Dynamics: “If Germany provides a template for the other markets where scrappage schemes have been introduced, we may be at the very beginning of a period of recovery in Europe,” David Di Girolamo, Head of JATO Consult, said.

Aside from the ‘gang-busting’ Golf, small cars generally are performing best in the tough economic conditions.

Ford’s Fiesta continues to bolt out of European showrooms with sales up 56.0 percent in May, while the Fiat Punto, Fiat Panda and Volkswagen Polo have all increased sales compared to the same month last year.

The Ten Ten models, as provided by JATO Dynamics, are:

top-10-models_may (Click to enlarge)

Of the top ten performing brands, Volkswagen is still top-dog, up 9.3 percent over May sales last year, but down 2.0 percent year-to-date.

Ford, performing strongly in the circumstances, is in second position, while Opel/Vauxhall have regained third position from Fiat (perhaps surprising considering the question marks over the immediate futures of GM’s Euro brands).

Peugeot, down 17.2 percent YTD, sits at number five.

top-10-brands_may(Click to enlarge)

The most encouraging news with the May sales data is that the European market would appear to be showing the ‘first green shoots’ of recovery.

Besides Germany’s strong performance, Poland is up both in May and year-to-date, up 4.5 percent and 2.1 percent respectively; Austria is up 4.8 percent compared to May 2008, France up 11.8 percent, Greece up 5.1 percent and Slovakia up 23.7 percent.

It is early days, sure, but perhaps the worst of the crisis is now in the rear-view mirror.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hyundai ‘Blue’ Range And Kia ‘Fuel-Economy Package’ For US, Not Likely For Aus


WHILE HYUNDAI AND KIA already boast a range of models with impressive fuel economy, the Korean manufacturers are not resting on their laurels in the pursuit of fuel economy gains.

The Hyundai Elantra and Accent, along with the Kia Cerato (badged as the Forte) are about to be tweaked in the US with a series of subtle revisions to eek out a few extra miles per gallon. The new models will be dubbed as the ‘Blue’ series for Hyundai, while Kia will offer a ‘fuel economy package’ on its options list.


To go on sale later this year, revisions will include lower rolling resistance tyres, electric power steering taking the place of the hydraulic setup, smart alternators to reduce drag on the engine and a five-speed auto in place of the four-speed unit.

On the outside, the aero package will be revised slightly to allow the cars to slice through the air more cleanly.

Kia claims fuel consumption will drop from 9.4 l/100km in the city and 6.9 l/100 km (25/34 mpg) to 9.1 l/100km on the city cycle and 6.5 l/100km (27/36 mpg) for the highway test. Hyundai hasn’t released any figures yet, but should return similar gains.


The two companies will also take a different approach to marketing their respective fuel misers. Hyundai will offer the Blue models as entry-level specification cars, which means some luxury items may get the flick in the interest of offering a low price point.

Kia, however, believes that buyers are prepared to pay for fuel economy gains, with the fuel economy package retailing for around US$600 (AU$740).

TMR spoke Hyundai and Kia to about these new features appearing on models in the Australian lineup for both companies.

“We’re always interested in any new means of improving the efficiency and appeal of our vehicles, and if these new features are made available for the ‘general’ market - which Australia is a part of - we would certainly be looking at offering them locally,” Kia National Public Relations Manager, Jonathan Fletcher, said.

Stephen Howard, National Media Manager for Hyundai, was less optimistic: “Not in the foreseeable future. Obviously every vehicle in the global Hyundai range is reviewed for its potential sale in Australia, but at this point it’s unlikely the Blue series will be offered.”

Hyundai showed its i10 Blue and i30 Blue models at the 2009 Melbourne Motor Show, and while it may have seemed that these models were shown as previews of what was to come for the Australian market, that no longer appears to be the case.

Audi Q5 Hybrid Tipped For 2011


PROVIDING GREEN POWERTRAIN options is fast becoming a key strategy for the world’s automakers. Not every solution fits every market though which is why Audi is preparing a petrol-electric hybrid version of its Q5 SUV, targeted principally at North American ‘green’ buyers.

Set to launch in 2011, the Q5 Hybrid is aimed squarely at markets that favour hybrid systems over the likes of clean diesels, the powertrain of choice in Europe.


For now, the specifics on which engine might be teamed with the hybrid system are being kept under wraps. With the Q5 sharing much of its mechanical package with the A4 and A5, it’s not too much of a stretch to envisage the hybrid system spreading into other Audi models with time.

Audi first hinted at the hybrid option at the Detroit Motor Show in January.

Wolfgang Hatz, head of powertrain development for Audi, although conceding the practical benefits and cost-effectiveness of clean diesel engines, said that due to differences in fuel prices and positioning between Europe and the US, a hybrid system would enjoy greater acceptance in North America and similar markets.

The investment in a petrol-electric system won’t just be for the benefit of the American market though, with the Q5 hybrid to be offered in various markets globally. Watch this space for news of an Australian release.

Chrysler Model-Makeover With Fiat And Alfa Platforms And Engines


WITH CHRYSLER US having now emerged from bankruptcy following US Federal Court approval of Fiat taking the reins, details are now surfacing as to the model plans for the merged, and now freshly-capitalised, corporate giant.

The viability plan presented by Chrysler to the US Administration in February outlined not only the company’s future plans for its operations, but also its model plans under the merged entity. Some of those models we will no doubt see here in the Australian market.

Very close to the US action is The Detroit Free Press who has, quite clearly, managed to cast more than an eye over the documents prepared by Chrysler in making its restructuring case and given details of the company’s future model plans.


What is clear is that the Chrysler of old will become a distant memory. It is to come in for the mother of all makeovers as Fiat and Alfa Romeo platforms and small car-technologies are incorporated into its model line-up.

That won’t mean the Dodge Ram will disappear, just that it will be crowded for elbow-room in Chrysler/Dodge showrooms by a brace of new fuel-efficient, and dynamically interesting, smaller cars.

Reportedly, the revitalised Chrysler brand will carry seven new Fiat and Alfa Romeo models including the up-coming replacements for the Alfa 147 and 159 models (which Alfa will reportedly be badging in Europe under the venerable names Giulia and Milano).

The platform under the 147 is shared by Fiat Grande Punto and Lancia Delta and will reportedly figure strongly in Chrysler’s new model plans.


The tiny Fiat 500 will be produced for the North American market in Chrysler’s Toluca plant in Mexico. The 500’s platform may also come in for duty under a unique Chrysler or Dodge-branded model.

Chrysler will also get a subcompact based on the underpinnings of the Alfa Mito. This will enable the company to go head-to-head with the likes of Yaris, Jazz (Fit in the US), and Ford’s rampant Fiesta. This car will likely also carry the Dodge and, possibly, Jeep brands.

Interestingly, Alfa Romeo is expected to get Chrysler’s next-gen 300C platform as the basis for a larger sporting Alfa for the Euro market. (For Alfa fans, the prospect of a return to a rear-drive model under an Alfa badge will have them misty-eyed with expectation.)

As for technologies, Chrylser will gain access to Fiat’s Multiair variable valve-timing system to boost fuel economy and performance of Chrysler engines, as well as Fiat’s new dual-clutch transmissions. Fiat, in return, will pick up Chrysler’s Pentastar V6.

It is also expected that Fiat four-cylinder engines will begin production at Chrysler’s Dundee engine plant in Michigan.

What this will mean for Australia and the model line-up in Chrysler/Jeep showrooms here, is uncertain.

Jerry Stamoulis Public Relations Manager for the Chrysler Group Australia is not yet able to shed any light on model changes we might expect to see here.

“It’s early days, we’re just waiting to see what may happen, but there is no information just yet,” Jerry told TMR.

F1: FIA To Announce 2010 Entry List Tonight


THE FORMULA ONE TEAMS ASSOCIATION has held last-ditch talks with FIA President Max Mosley in an attempt to reach a compromise agreement ahead of the 2010 entry list announcement tonight.

Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo, along with Toyota boss John Howett, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and Brawn GP owner Ross Brawn were reportedly engaged in talks with Mosley for over four hours, seeking to diffuse the situation which has left Formula 1 potentially at breaking point.

Mosley is believed to have warmed to the prospect of reaching a deal with FOTA which would see the teams operate under a £100 million cap next year before reaching £40 million in 2011.


However, the Briton isn’t prepared to finalise any arrangements unless the eight FOTA aligned teams submit unconditional entries.

The situation has been further muddied by the revelation Ferrari, Renault, BMW, Toyota and McLaren signed a contract compelling each other to remain united or face the prospect of a £50 million fine, although the FIA doubts the legitimacy of the agreement, claiming it isn’t valid under EU law.

Regardless, Formula 1 is set for potentially the most explosive day in its history, with teams still unclear on the FIA’s intentions until it releases the 2010 entry list at 8pm (Australian EST) tonight.

A potential scenario that has been bandied about within the F1 media would see the FIA name Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso along with unconditional entrants Williams, Force India and a further eight new entries.

The FIA believes Ferrari and the Red Bull duo are contractually obliged to compete next year after signing a contract in 2005 pledging their future to the sport. The Scuderia outfit meanwhile says that deal is no longer valid as the FIA altered the regulations without consulting the Maranello-based team.


If Mosley decides to take this route, it would likely accelerate preparations for a breakaway championship next season, featuring a FOTA-filled 24 car grid.

Ross Brawn believes the release of an entry list without FOTA teams could prove disastrous.

“If 10 (non-FOTA) teams are given an entry, there’s a major problem,” the former Ferrari Technical Director said. “So I hope, even if it’s a holding position until we can sort this out, that there’s a solution.”

Another scenario would see the FIA confirm the admittance of only five teams – Williams, Force India and an additional three new entries – while leaving eight spots empty pending the result of negotiations.

The ongoing saga however does seem to have claimed a casualty, with Renault Sport rumoured to have contacted suppliers advising of their intention to withdraw from Formula 1 pending the result of negotiations between FOTA and the FIA.

A letter sent to suppliers was obtained by, saying: “There is the possibility that we will no longer be in Formula 1 in 2010. The far-reaching changes to the technical and sporting regulations have the consequence that Renault Sport can no longer be certain of its future in Formula 1. It is possible that we will no longer participate in the Formula 1 World Championship in 2010.”

Nissan Renault Carlos Ghosn

Renault Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn has long been critical of governance in Formula 1, recently declaring that teams deserve a greater share of the financial rewards currently reaped by Bernie Ecclestone.

According to AFP, he told the French National Assembly: “We are the ones putting on the show, who bring in the technology, who bring in the engines, who hire the driver. Today we pay to be in Formula 1; that is not normal. Intermediaries have made enough money out of this. We want to take back control of Formula 1.”

Ecclestone however believes the teams would not be able to replicate the glamour and financial clout of the current Formula 1 series without his input.

He told the Daily Express; “It costs a lot of money to set up a series. Right now, we supply the venues at no cost to the teams, they roll up with all their sponsors’ names and money and race in front of a huge television audience which I supply through the contracts we win.

“That money flows back to the teams and they spend it. It would be different when they have to provide all the venues, hire their own race people, find their own television companies – and we have the best – and promote it.”

2010 Rolls Royce Ghost Takes Waftability To New Heights With Intelligent Suspension System


ROLLS ROYCE HAS high hopes for its soon-to-be-released ‘entry level’ model, the Ghost. Due to be unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September with sales commencing not long after, Rolls Royce is confident that the all-new model is capable of nearly doubling sales for the Goodwood-based manufacturer.

But while it may become the volume seller (albeit in small volumes), Rolls Royce isn’t skimping on the Ghost’s technological appointments.

The marque yesterday revealed details of the Ghost’s clever new chassis technology, which is designed to endow the Ghost with Rolls’ classic quality of “waftability” while still providing impressive handling dynamics.

“A Rolls-Royce should be effortless in every way: the way it accelerates, brakes and handles,” Rolls-Royce Engineering Director Helmut Riedl said.

“It should do all of these functions with apparent ease regardless of the complex mechanicals that are working out of sight of the driver and passengers. The driver simply has to point the car in the preferred direction of travel and press the accelerator.”


To accomplish this, Rolls Royce has fitted the Ghost with multi-link independent suspension both front and rear, with aluminium links reducing unsprung weight and improving suspension response.

Rather than conventional coiled steel springs, the Ghost rides atop four electronically-controlled airbags, with variable damping and adjustable ride height also thrown in.

The Ghost’s onboard sensors can detect the slightest change in weight distribution, and will adjust the car’s attitude and damping to suit. The system is so sensitive, in fact, that it can determine whether a passenger has moved from one side of the car to the other.


Ride height can also be raised or lowered by up to 25mm in order to aid entry or egress, or to prevent the Ghost’s expensive underbelly from getting scraped when travelling over rough ground.

Active Roll Stabilisation keeps the hefty limousine’s body in check through the corners, while the air suspension provides a soft, supple ride.

“The individual technologies determining handling and safety work together controlled by dual Integrated Chassis Management systems meaning that even under vigorous testing the Ghost remains perfectly poised,” Mr Riedl said.

“We are very proud of our engineering team’s achievements with [the] Ghost. The balance of refinement and dynamic ability is astonishing.”

BMW Confirms ‘Megacity’ Electric Models For 2015


BMW’S CHAIRMAN of the Board of Management, Dr. Norbert Reithofer, has confirmed the German marque is working on a line of new battery-powered electric vehicles, dubbed ‘Megacity’, to be launched by 2015.

Despite recent talks that BMW and Fiat would form a joint project to develop a range of electric vehicles, Reithofer said the company has no plans to work with another manufacturer on the project.

“Electric engines are a key part of our technology which we want to develop ourselves,” project leader Ulrich Kranz told German magazine Auto Motor und Sport.

A handful of details were revealed during the BMW Annual Accounts Press Conference in March, noting that the Megacity would be a part of BMW’s “i project” range of near-zero emission city cars.


The Megacity car would become the second from BMW’s “i project” program, with the MINI E having been the first.

BMW is expected to announce by the end of the year whether the Megacity range will feature among the existing BMW lineup, or whether the company will launch a new subsidiary to sit under the company umbrella with Rolls Royce and MINI.

Customers will have the choice between a fully electric powertrain or an ultra-high-efficiency combustion engine. However, BMW has aspirations for the Megacity that stretch beyond mere fuel efficiency.

“With the Megacity Vehicle, we are also pursuing a radical approach toward establishing a truly sustainable value chain, from development to production and sales,” Reithofer said.

2010 Mazda Axela With i-stop Launched In Japan


MAZDA HAS RELEASED its first start-stop equipped model in its Japanese home market, debuting its i-stop technology in the all-new 2010 Mazda Axela (or Mazda3, as it’s known in the rest of the world) today.

Start-stop systems such as Mazda’s i-stop conserve fuel by automatically shutting down the engine during times when it would normally be idling, like when standing still at traffic lights. Because the car doesn’t need to move, the engine doesn’t need to run, therefore significant savings in fuel economy can be made during urban driving.

Mazda reckons its i-stop system can reduce fuel consumption by up to 15 percent over the previous model, and says the i-stop equipped Axela sips just 6.09l/100km on the Japanese 10-15 mode combined cycle.


Many automakers are adopting the fuel-saving start-stop principle in their new products, with Lamborghini even considering such a system for its next-generation supercars.

But what marks Mazda’s i-stop system as being different from most others already on the market is in the way it re-starts the engine after shutting it down.

Rather than engaging the starter motor or using a belt-driven motor to get the engine spinning again, Mazda’s i-stop instead halts the engine so that one cylinder is primed with a full charge of air and fuel and the valves closed.

When the ECU detects that the engine needs to be started again the sparkplug fires, igniting the captive fuel-air mixture and thus re-starting the engine.


The genius of the i-stop system is that it inflicts no additional wear and tear on the flywheel’s ring gear, doesn’t require a beefed-up starter motor and weighs no more than the standard 2.0 litre direct-injected four-cylinder upon which its based. It’s also lightning-quick, restarting the engine in just 0.35 seconds.

So when will we see i-stop on locally-delivered Mazda3s? Unfortunately, cost is the one barrier to the technology being applied to Australian-spec 3s.

“It’s something we are looking at, but at the moment we just can’t get it to work in terms of a business case. It’s just too expensive for us to introduce here at this stage,” Mazda Australia spokesman Steve Maciver said to TMR.

“i-stop is something that we will continue to look at. Obviously with changes in exchange rates its going to be an on-going study for us, but at this stage it’s a ‘no’.”

Mercedes-Benz ESF 2009 Safety Prototype: Full Details Revealed


AFTER OFFERING A sneak peak earlier in the week, Mercedes-Benz has now revealed the full details of its ESF 2009 S400 Hybrid Experimental Safety Vehicle, due for unveiling late June.

Powered by the German prestige car manufacturer’s S400 Hybrid powertrain, the ESF 2009 is a safety tour de force, featuring thirteen of the manufacturer’s current and experimental safety technologies, including the company’s Pre-Safe crash-detection system and centre seat airbags, as well as airbag brakes and inflatable metal bracing structures.


The ESF 2009 Safety prototype’s under-car airbag braking system - which Mercedes-Benz has dubbed the Braking Bag - is every bit as odd as it sounds, with a high-pressure air system that inflates and presses the airbag brakes directly against the road, increasing surface friction area and enhancing the car’s braking ability in an emergency.

The Braking Bag is designed to deploy only once the car’s Pre-Safe system has determined that a collision is unavoidable.

The inflatable metal crash structures use a similar high-pressure air system, loading air into the area of the body about to impact, stiffening the area and minimising damage. This allows Mercedes to use lighter materials for efficiency and performance, without hindering the car’s ability to absorb an impact.


“Even in economically difficult times, we refuse to make any cuts where innovation is concerned, as shown by the highly complex ESF2009 project, where we have chosen this particular time to clearly demonstrate the innovative strength of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz.

Anybody examining the ESF2009 in detail will recognize that more safety and less fuel consumption are not necessarily a contradiction in terms. We want to make progress in both fields with new, trailblazing ideas,” said Daimler Chairman and Mercedes-Benz CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche.

Mercedes-Benz’ Pre-Safe Pulse technology works by gently pushing occupants toward the centre of the car, away from the crush zone in a side-impact collision.

The front airbags of the ESF 2009 also have the ability to detect the size, weight and seating position of the car’s occupants, allowing the bags to discharge at a volume optimised for those parameters.


Other technologies featured in the ESF 2009 include an advanced version of the company’s car-to-car communications system that keeps track of other vehicles around it, as well as adaptive always-on high beam headlights, which focuses light on specific areas or objects on the road the car’s computer identifies as hazardous.

The last time Mercedes-Benz offered an ESF (the German acronym for Experimental Safety Vehicle) was in 1974, and this new safety extravaganza will be unveiled later this month as part of the company’s Fascination of Technology exhibit at the Mercedes-Benz Museum.