Friday, May 22, 2009

Purchase protection on balance transfers

Dear To Her Credit,
I recently made a large purchase (my wedding dress) on a credit card. I am considering transferring the balance to another card with a better interest rate. However, I was wondering if my purchase will still be protected if I transfer the balance?

I noticed that sometimes credit cards give a time limit of 60 days for disputing a transaction, but I may not know if there are issues with my wedding dress order until after that.

Do you know if I would still be covered after the 60 days, and also if I transferred the balance? -- Jacque

Answer for the expert

Dear Jacque,
Your purchase is still covered even if you transferred the balance to another credit card, just like it would be if you had paid it off.

That's a good thing, because if you use your credit card for many purchases every month, it would be almost impossible to determine which purchases have been paid for already and which ones are still in your balance. (That's one of the problems with credit card balances -- we don't really know what they're all from!)

Besides, if purchases were only protected until they were paid off, cardholders might use that as a reason to put off paying their bills in full. They could rack up big interest bills for months just because they were waiting to see if their purchases worked out. Fortunately, that's not necessary.

When you buy something using your credit card, the bank charges the merchant a processing fee. Part of that fee is to cover the purchase protection provided by the credit card company. The bank may or may not also make money charging interest if you carry a balance, but that has nothing to do with your purchase protection.

The length of time you have to notify the credit card company depends on whether you have a transaction dispute or a dispute over the quality of goods or services. A transaction dispute occurs when you don't know who the biller is, they billed you twice or the dress never arrived. You have a dispute over quality, on the other hand, if the dress is poorly made or falls apart before you can get up and down the aisle.

You must notify the credit card company within a specified period of time, generally 60 days, about a transaction dispute. It's tempting, when the bill comes, to pay it now and look closely at each transaction later. However, it's easy to miss the deadline for catching billing errors and other problems that way. Make a habit of reading your whole statement as soon as you open it, and make sure you know what you're paying for.

If you have a dispute over the quality of goods or services, you have a more flexible time frame. Exactly how much time is not spelled out, but if you are ordering your wedding dress several months before the wedding, that should give you plenty of time to decide if the dress is made to your satisfaction.

If you do have problems with the dress, first try to work something out with the merchant. If you don't have any luck there, write to your credit card company and explain the problem. Include your name and account number, the dollar amount of the purchase, the problem you are having, and what you would like to do. (For example, return the dress and get your money back.)

Go ahead and transfer the balance to another lower interest credit card or pay it off. Paying less interest is good for your pocketbook, and it won't lessen your consumer protection through your credit card.

Take care of your credit!

Senate passes tough new credit card reform bill

Riding on a wave of anti-bank and pro-consumer sentiment sweeping the country, the U.S. Senate today voted 90-5 to pass unprecedented credit card industry reforms designed to help millions of families struggling to pay credit card debt.

Senate passes tough new credit card reform bill

Surprise interest rate hikes, shifting due dates and times for monthly payments, marketing credit cards to minors and college students, and excessive fees would be outlawed under the Senate's Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (or Credit CARD) Act. The bill passed with strong support from President Barack Obama, who held a town hall meeting on credit cards in New Mexico last week and brought card company executives to the White House in April with a stern warning that "any time any reason rate hikes and late fee traps" had to end.

"It is the first time ever that we've dealt with reforms in the credit card industry. It's a major step forward," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, the Connecticut lawmaker who sponsored the bill with Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee. The bill had solid GOP support with only four Republicans and one Democrat voting against the legislation. (See how they voted.)

"The credit card industry is finally being called to account," longtime Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said of the passage.

Banks warn of consequences
Reaction from the banking community echoed past warnings of reduced credit.

"This bill fundamentally changes the entire business model of credit cards by restricting the ability to price credit for risk," Edward Yingling, president and CEO of the American Bankers Association trade group said in a statement released after the vote. "What has been a short-term revolving unsecured loan will now become a medium-term unsecured loan, which is significantly more risky. It is a fundamental rule of lending that an increase in risk means that less credit will be available and that the credit that is available will often have a higher interest rate."

He added: "While the recent Federal Reserve rule also contained restrictions on pricing card credit for risk, this bill goes much further in this and other areas. We are concerned that the Senate bill will have a dramatic impact on the ability of consumers, students, and small businesses to obtain and use credit cards."

Consumer groups react
Consumer groups applauded the Senate vote.

"The dirty little secret in the credit card industry is that the 50 million Americans who pay their credit card off at the end of the month are bad for their bottom line. They would like these folks to join the 100 million Americans who carry balances and get hit with abusive fees," Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, the nonprofit group that owns Consumer Reports magazine, said in a statement. "The credit card industry would like nothing more than trap these customers in a similar cycle of debt. That is precisely what they have already been doing and will keep on doing until the government steps in and stops them."

Stronger consumer protections
The Senate bill provides more consumer protections than a version of credit card card reforms passed April 30 by the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate bill rewards cardholders for good behavior by decreasing their APRs if they've paid their bills on time for six months if their interest rate was raised for a previous late or missed payment. Retroactive interest rate increases are banned except when the cardholder is more than 60 days late paying a credit card bill. The credit card issuer must review the cardholders' account six months after increasing the interest rate and, if the review warrants it, return the APR to the previous, lower level. The Senate bill also allows fines up to $5,000 for individuals affiliated with a card issuer who violate the act.

Credit card reform and you

The House bill -- the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights -- sailed through in a 357-70 bipartisan vote. It allows retroactive interest rate hikes if an account holder is more than 30 days late paying a bill. Both bills also allow interest rate hikes when promotional or "teaser" rates expire, when the account has a variable interest rate and when the card user reneges on terms of a workout plan for debt repayment. Both bills also prohibit interest rate hikes during the first year of a new account.

Other provisions of the Senate bill include:

  • 45 days' advance notice of significant changes in credit card terms.
  • Banning universal default and double-cycle billing.
  • Prohibiting over-limit fees unless consumers agree to allow transactions that exceed their credit limits to go through rather than be denied.
  • Fees for late payments, over-limit charges or other penalty fees must be reasonable and related to the violation.
  • Extending the life of gift cards and gift certificates so that they cannot expire within five years of activation. Banning dormancy or inactivity fees on gift cards unless there has been no activity in a 12-month period.
  • Banning credit cards for people under the age of 21 unless they have adult co-signers or show proof that they have the means to repay the debts. College students must get permission from parents or guardians to increase credit limits on joint accounts they hold with those adults.
  • Requiring that card issuers disclose how long it would take to pay off credit card balances if cardholders make only minimum payments each month and how much users would have to pay each month if they want to pay off their balances in 12, 24 or 36 months.

What's the next step?
The House may vote as soon as Wednesday on the Senate version. Dodd indicated after the Senate vote that the House must pass the bill with no further amendments.

I'm certain with the help of Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Chairman [Barney] Frank we will be able to get this to the President's desk this week as he has asked.

-- Rep. Carolyn Maloney
Sponsor, Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights

"As passed by the Senate, the bill maintains the core provisions of my Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights, and I commend Sen. Dodd for his skill and fortitude on the Senate floor. I'm certain with the help of Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Chairman [Barney] Frank we will be able to get this to the President's desk this week as he has asked," said New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, sponsor of the House credit card bill. Obama had asked to sign credit card legislation into law by Memorial Day.

Although the House and Senate versions are similar in offering more consumer protections than those included in federal credit card rules scheduled to take effect July 1, 2010, the bills take different approaches to timing.

Effective date
The House bill would take effect 12 months after enactment or by June 30, 2010, whichever comes first. A provision to give consumers 45 days' advance notice of interest rate increases would take effect 90 days after enactment.

Most of the Senate bill provisions would take effect nine months after enactment -- except for the requirement to give 45 days' advance notice of major changes in terms (which takes effect 90 days after enactment) and reduction in interest rates after six months of good payments and gift card expiration (which take effect 15 months after enactment).

If signed into law by Memorial Day -- as Obama desires -- the bulk of the legislation would start by February 2010 with 45-day advance notice requirements beginning by the fall. The majority of consumer protections in the Senate bill would begin about four months sooner than the federal rules' July 1, 2010 start date.

Like the federal credit card rules, the House and Senate bills provide protections only for consumer credit card accounts. Business and corporate credit cards are not covered by the federal rules or the proposed law. A proposed amendment that would have extended consumer protections in the act to businesses with fewer than 50 employees died without going to a vote.

Not everything about the Senate credit card bill deals with credit cards. One provision -- added as an amendment by an Oklahoma Republican -- allows visitors to U.S. National Parks and refuges to carry legally licensed firearms. That measure passed 67-29.

What the new credit card law means for you

Now that lawmakers are close to finalizing federal laws to protect millions of consumers who rely on credit cards, it signals a new era of managing credit.What the new credit card law means for you

The new normal for credit cards may be more transparent and easier to understand for everyday Americans. Credit card issuers and credit industry analysts say the new law will make credit cards more costly for all users and unaccessible for low-income families. Look for the return of routine annual fees, fewer rewards cards and the possibility that credit card bills will be payable immediately rather than after a month-long grace period.

The new normal
With the passage of a bill Tuesday by the Senate and Wednesday by the House, it assures that a new law containing the most far-reaching changes to the credit card industry in decades will be enacted. President Barack Obama has indicated strong support for credit card reform. While the bills differ in many details, and will have to be reconciled before reaching the president's desk, they agree in their broad outlines.

What will the credit card law mean for cardholders? Millions of credit card users will avoid retroactive interest rate increases on existing card balances and have more time to pay their monthly bills, greater advance notice of changes in credit card terms and fewer penalty fees, late charges and interest payments. Once in effect, the law will also fundamentally change the way credit card issuers market, bill and advertise credit cards.

Here are the highlights of the proposed law:

Limited interest rate hikes Clearer due dates and times No double-cycle billing
No more universal default Highest interest paid first Making minimum payments
More time to pay bills Limits on over-the-limit fees Subprime card fee limits

Limited interest rate hikes: Interest rate hikes on existing balances would be allowed only under limited conditions, such as when a promotional rate ends, there is a variable rate or if the cardholder makes a late payment. Interest rates on new transactions can increase only after the first year. Significant changes in terms on accounts cannot occur without 45 days' advance notice of the change.

No more universal default: "Universal default," the practice of raising interest rates on customers based on their payment records with other unrelated credit issuers (such as utility companies and other creditors), would end.

At a glance: Proposed credit card law
  • What's happening: The U.S. Senate has approved the toughest credit card restrictions in its history. If signed by President Obama, portions of the law could take effect starting in the fall with most protections starting nine months after enactment.
  • Why it's important: A new federal credit card law will tilt the playing field toward consumers by removing some of the credit card industry's most profitable and punitive practices. Consumer advocates favor it. Card issuers warn it will drive up the price of and limit the availability of credit cards at a time when the country needs more spending to stimulate the economy.
  • What's next: The final version could be signed into law by President Obama by the end of May. See: How to cope with credit cards until the new rules take effect and Senate passes tough new credit card reform law

More time to pay monthly bills: Credit card issuers would have to give card account holders "a reasonable amount of time" to make payments on monthly bills. That means payments would be due at least 21 days after they are mailed or delivered. Consumers have complained about due dates that change without notice or are moved up, giving them less time to pay their bills and increasing the likelihood of late fees.

Clearer due dates and times: Credit card issuers would no longer be able to set early morning or other arbitrary deadlines for payments. Cut-off times set before 5 p.m. on the payment due dates would be illegal under the new law. Payments due at those times or on weekends, holidays or when the card issuer is closed for business will not be subject to late fees.

Highest interest balances paid first: When consumers have accounts that carry different interest rates for different types of purchases (i.e., cash advances, regular purchases, balance transfers or ATM withdrawals), payments in excess of the minimum amount due must go to balances with higher interest rates first. Current industry practice is to apply all amounts over the minimum monthly payments to the lowest-interest balances first -- thus extending the time it takes to pay off higher-interest rate balances.

Limits on over-limit fees: Consumers must "opt in" to over-limit fees. Those who opt out would have their transactions rejected if they exceed their credit limits, thus avoiding over-limit fees. Fees charged for going over the limit must be reasonable.

No more double-cycle billing: Finance charges on outstanding credit card balances would be computed based on purchases made in the current cycle rather than going back to the previous billing cycle to calculate interest charges. So-called two-cyle or double-cycle billing hurts consumers who pay off their balances, because they are hit with finance charges from the previous cycle even though they have paid the bill in full.

Subprime credit cards for people with bad credit: People who get subprime credit cards and are charged account-opening fees that eat up their available balances would get some relief under the new law. These upfront fees cannot exceed 25 percent of the available credit limit in the first year of the card.

Minimum payments: Credit card issuers must disclose to cardholders the consequences of making only minimum payments each month, namely how long it would take to pay off the entire balance if users only made the minimum monthly payment. Issuers must also provide information on how much users must pay each month if they want to pay off their balances with 12, 24 or 36 months, including the amount of interest.

How to cope until new credit card law takes effect

The toughest credit card rules in history were signed into law by President Barack Obama May 22, but that doesn't mean change will come overnight. The earliest that consumer protections will kick in is Aug. 20,, when mandatory 45 days' advance notice of significant credit card changes go into effect. The most significant consumer protections -- limiting interest rate hikes to only a few circumstances -- won't start until Feb. 22, 2010.How to cope until new credit card law takes effect

"The truth is that the changes aren't going to take effect anytime soon," says Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Consumer Credit (NFCC).

"The issuers have to make significant internal changes technically and to their business models, and that takes time. There are two schools of thought about whether or not the creditors will continue changing the terms," Cunningham adds. "Some feel that there's been so much bad press that it will stop. Others think that they will continue until they are forced to stop."

What should consumers do in the meantime? Credit experts say you should keep up with the basics of handling credit:

  • Watch those monthly statements.
  • Pay off as much credit card debt as possible.
  • Reduce spending to avoid relying on credit to meet basic living needs.
Credit card reform and you

In addition, "The savvy consumer might consider obtaining additional lines of credit while they can in case the bottom falls out with their existing creditor," advises Cunningham. "Many people have been blindsided by having their card limit lowered to very close to their existing balance, thus limiting additional access to credit. Others have had their cards closed. For years, I taught that a wallet full of credit cards doesn't impress anyone other than your brother-in-law, but in today's environment it's good advice to have a few. I'm not suggesting that people apply for many, just one or two additional cards. Charge a little each month to keep them active, and pay the bill in full when it arrives."

Until the new federal law kicks in (See What the new credit card rules mean to you), she recommends consumers carefully read all mail and correspondence from creditors.

"All those mail stuffers, start reading those," she says. Cardholders "need to really keep a close eye on that for any change in terms, such as the annual percentage rate and the credit limit. If they see any change in the terms, they need to contact their creditor immediately and find out why."

The savvy consumer might consider obtaining additional lines of credit while they can in case the bottom falls out with their existing creditor.

-- Gail Cunningham
National Foundation for Consumer Credit

Ask to speak to a supervisor and ask about opting out of the interest rate increase, she says.

When making credit card payments, pay early, don't miss any payments and pay at least the minimum (preferably more), Cunningham says, adding that bills may be delayed in the U.S. mail and cardholders may not have as much time as they think to get a payment in before the deadline.

"You better open that bill and pay it that day," Cunningham says. "We're seeing many 20-day grace periods. Why risk having a ding on your credit score?"

Another good rule: Don't max out your credit cards. Try to keep balances at 30 percent of the credit limit or lower. Not doing so, "puts you into the risk category in the creditors' eyes. What they really like to see is a credit utilization ratio of no more than 30 percent," Cunningham says. "If you exceed 30 percent, devote any extra money you have to paying that down to get it into the range of 30 percent or less."

2009 Golf GTI And Polo GTI Wörthersee 09 Versions


Yesterday we caught a look at the special Q5 Custom Concept that Audi took to this year’s GTI meeting at Wörthersee, in Germany.

Not to be outdone at the show devoted to its own performance works, Volkswagen has unveiled Wörthersee 09 editions of the all-new Golf GTI and Polo GTI models.

Finished in a glowing red ‘Firespark Metallic’ colour and rolling on high-gloss black 19-inch alloy rims on lowered suspension, the Golf GTI Wörthersee 09 concept also features smoked LED tail lights.


On the inside, the Golf GTI Wörthersee 09 is trimmed with brushed aluminium and glossy black painted frames around the air vents.

The seats get a black nappa trim for the outer surfaces, and red nappa for the side supports, bordered by ‘Berry White’ (no relation to Barry) leather piping.


Alas, the Wörthersee 09 edition of the Golf GTI is purely an exercise in aesthetics, with power sitting at the same 155kW from the 2.0 litre TSI engine. Still, with a 6.9 second run to 100km/h and a top speed of 238km/h, it’s far from disappointing.


The Polo Wörthersee 09 concept gets a similar going-over, but considering there’s no Polo GTI version as yet, it also offers a glimpse of what we might expect from Volkswagen’s smallest performer when it lands.

Wearing the same ‘Firespark Metallic’ paint, the Polo Wörthersee 09 also gets a pair of black rally stripes, extending front to back, and a set of polished 18-inch ‘Budapest’ rims sitting under the lowered chassis.


The inside sees a similar black interior, with the same gloss-black-framed air vents, and similarly styled seat trim in black and ‘Berry White’ nappa.

Like its bigger sibling, the Polo Wörthersee 09 is an aesthetic project only, and power for the Polo comes from the standard 1.4 litre petrol mill, developing 63kW.

F1: Court Rejects Ferrari FIA Challenge, Raikkonen And Alonso Consider Exit


Ferrari has threatened to take further legal action after a French court rejected its bid to overturn the FIA’s new budget cap regulations.

While the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris acknowledged Ferrari’s veto rights, the court ruled that they should have been exercised during April’s meeting of the World Motor Sport Council.

FIA President Max Mosley welcomed the court’s decision, reiterating his stance that the budget cap is crucial to the survival of Formula 1.

“No competitor should place their own interests above those of the sport in which they compete,” he said.

“The FIA, the teams and our commercial partners will now continue to work together to ensure the well being of the Formula 1 in 2010 and beyond.”

Ferrari, alongside Renault, Red Bull and Toyota has threatened to withdraw from Formula 1 unless the FIA significantly alters the regulations poised for introduction next year, and the latest development is a severe blow to their campaign.


In a statement released after the court’s decision, Ferrari said it will continue negotiations into finding an amicable solution, but remain committed to leaving Formula 1 unless it is satisfied with the 2010 regulations.

“If it is not possible for all parties to reach agreement, then in line with the decision of the Main Board, taken on 12th May, Ferrari will not enter its cars in a competition that, with the planned scenario in place, would see a watering down of the characteristics that have endowed Formula 1 with the status of the most important motor sport series and that have specifically led to the Maranello marque’s uninterrupted participation in the world championship since 1950,” the statement said.

“In this situation, Ferrari will continue to compete in races of a calibre worthy of the marque, matching its level of innovation and technological research.”

The 2010 Formula 1 regulations will provide greater technical freedoms to teams who abide by the voluntary budget cap, handing outfits a touted performance advantage of three seconds per lap.

This will effectively create a two-tier formula, as teams who choose to maintain unlimited budgets fall to the back of the field, although F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has hinted this system will be scrapped.

However, Ferrari remains concerned by other facets of the new rules including how the FIA plan to police the budget cap.

Ferrari also claims it will be nearly impossible for the team to reduce expenditure by the required 80-90 per cent over the next six months and offload workers at its Maranello factory.


News of the court’s decision quickly filtered down to Monaco, where teams are preparing for this weekend’s Grand Prix, and the general consensus among drivers was overwhelmingly negative.

Australian star and Grand Prix Drivers Association director Mark Webber warned the ongoing saga has the potential to severely damage the sport’s brand.

“Obviously it’s a shame,” he said. “(Ferrari) are F1. For me, the red car has to be on the Formula One grid. It just would not be the same without them.”


2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen said he is prepared to follow Ferrari and exit the sport, reaffirming his loyalty to the Prancing Horse.

“I work for Ferrari and we are one big family. It is my work and it is the place where I want to race. Whatever they do, I will do the same with them. We are one family and we do things together,” he said.

Sportscar racing and Le Mans in particular have been mentioned as potential alternatives for teams looking to end their association with Formula 1, but it appears the drivers too are looking at their options.

Renault’s Fernando Alonso said he is not prepared to race for one of the new, smaller entries, and will consider a move away from the sport if the manufacturers withdraw.

“I don’t know if this will be my last time in Monaco,” he told reporters. “If the big teams and the big manufacturers leave Formula 1 then I don’t want to race with small teams, because it is not any more F1 and there are many other categories.”

Forza Motorsport 3 Set For September Release? Forza-Specific Steering Wheel Coming


No, there hasn’t been an official announcement on the Forza 3’s release date yet, but the gig may be up nonetheless.

It seems the German arm of online retailer Amazon recently listed a September 30 date for the release of the official XBOX 360 Forza Motorsport 3 strategy guide, and as any gamer worth his silicon knows, strategy guides usually appear on the shelves just in time for the release of the game itself.


With that little tidbit, it’s probably safe to conclude that FM3 will hit shelves around September or very early October this year. We’ll know for sure next month when the E3 gaming expo hits.


Also dropping at E3 next month will be Fanatec’s Porsche 911 Turbo S styled steering wheel, approved by Porsche and made specifically for Forza (though it will apparently work fine with other games and even other systems).

The wheel will feature a 900° turning circle, and depending on which package you choose, will be accompanied by a 6+1 gear shifter and high-end aluminium pedals with a load pressure sensor for braking.

A Fanatec spokesperson has said that the wheel will also have support for a brand new feature in Forza Motorsport 3.

Greek Court Rules Against Daimler On Chinese Smart Fortwo Imitator


Some of the cars from China’s rapidly growing auto industry look like nothing else. Some, however, create a rather overwhelming feeling of… well… déjà vu. To say the least.

Daimler, parent company of Mercedes-Benz and Smart, had that funny feeling of familiarity when it laid its eyes on Shuanghuan Automobile’s Noble.

With the Noble going on sale in a number of European countries, Daimler decided to intervene, claiming that the Noble looked uncomfortably similar to the Smart Fortwo. Greek courts ruled against Daimler however, declaring that “an informed buyer would not confuse the Noble with the Smart Fortwo”.


According to the Greek courts, if a vehicle varies in its technical specification, then any external similarities are irrelevant. To that end, China Motors, the company which imports the Noble in Europe, claims that the front-engined, front-wheel-drive Noble with seating for four in no way imitates the rear engined, rear-wheel-drive, two-seater Fortwo.

When it comes to the rather blatant styling similarities between the two, the court put that down to the pair belonging to the same minicar class of vehicles. Apparently as a “result of their common nature” it is acceptable, even unavoidable, for a newcomer to be styled similar to an established model.


With Australia due to see its first Chinese cars lauched here later this year, we should see an intriguing mix of unique cars as well as those which look strangely reminiscent of other models. Lifan’s LF 320 should be the first look-alike seen here, bearing more than a passing resemblance to the current MINI range.

Already, Chinese auto makers have ‘borrowed’ inspiration from BMW’s X5, Daewoo’s Matiz and the Mercedes-Benz SLK. Various legal challenges have been mounted, some successfully and others less so.

So the question remains, are the Chinese clones good enough to fool your neighbours into thinking you’ve shelled out for a top-shelf European car, or will they always carry the ‘copy-cat’ stigma?

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X FQ-330 SST Let Loose On UK Market


The Poms might not have our pristine beaches, beaut weather and icy cold beer, but they have scored the latest Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X FQ-330 SST, with 25kW and 71Nm of torque more than our top-spec Evo MR. Oh, and the new Evo also comes with a neat array of kit.

The FQ-330 sports Mitsubishi’s 6-speed Twin-Clutch Sports Shift Transmission (SST) system and boasts 242kW and 437Nm of torque at a comfortable mid-range of 3,500rpm.

The Australian-delivered Lancer Evolution X

The Australian-delivered Lancer Evolution X

The Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) system ensures power is planted firmly on the tarmac.

To achieve this boost in power, the engineers used a breathing kit that includes an intercooler piping kit, a racing suction pipe, a high performance exhaust and downpipe as well as a remapping of the ECU (Engine Control Unit).

The £35,999 (AU$73,312) Mitsu now rockets from 0 – 100km/h in 4.4 seconds, and tops out at 249km/h. That’s Porsche 911 Carrera S acceleration territory, folks, but at seriously less dollars.

Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, Brembo brakes, adaptive xenon headlights, Recaro front seats, HDD satellite navigation system and a Rockford sound system with Bluetooth and iPod/MP3 auxiliary port. Buyers can choose from four exterior colour options.

Just to make you even greener with envy, the “land of hope and glory” has seven Evos in its range, with the range-topping FQ 360 SST grabbing 18kW more than the FQ 330 SST. That little beastie will set you back £39 999 ($81,429).

Of course, the big question is: will we see a similar update offered in the Australian-delivered Evo range? Unfortunately, according to Mitsubishi Motors Australia’s Head of Communications Lenore Fletcher, the answer for the foreseeable future is a resounding ‘no’.


Still, Aussie Evo enthusiasts need not fret, because factory-friendly aftermarket tuner Team Mitsubishi Ralliart offers a range of upgrades to suit the Evo X. Check out our test of TMR’s (we like their acronym, too) Evo X SST Club Spec for an idea of what can be done with your own Evo.

2012 Honda Civic Details Revealed? Everybody Loves A Rumour


The current eighth-generation Honda Civic has been kicking around since 2006, and should have another year or so in it before an all-new model rears its head.

According to Japanese automotive magazine Mag-X, Honda is finalising the design and details for the 2012 Civic, and if the magazine is to be believed, we’ll see different sedan, coupe and hatch versions for different markets, much the same as with the current model.

The highly speculative article goes on to say that a hybrid version will form part of the line-up (no big prediction there), as will as a 1.5 litre petrol mill.


Interestingly, Mag-X suggests the Civic will share its petrol engine with the upcoming CR-Z hybrid hatchback, which will offer a choice of either a six-speed manual or an automatic CVT transmission.

This is all, of course, nothing more than rumour and speculation, but who doesn’t enjoy taking a punt at what’s to come?

The 2009 Tokyo Motor Show in October is drawing nearer, and an almost production-ready version of the CR-Z is expected to debut. Perhaps we’ll see a concept of the new Civic as well…

2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe Gets 345kW From Brabus


High-performance German tuning house Brabus was always going to get stuck into the 2010 E-Class Coupe; it was just a question of when. Well, that day has come, and the boys from Bottrop sure know how to satisfy.

Encompassing updates of both the mechanical and aesthetic kind, the Brabus-tuned E-Class Coupe E500 develops 345kW and a neck-snapping 615Nm of torque.

To achieve those riotous results, Brabus increased the 5.5 litre V8’s capacity to 6.1 litres, leading to a 0-100km/h sprint of just 4.7 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 315km/h.


Brabus also offers a range of suspension upgrades for the E-Class Coupe, which you’ll probably want to include if you’re going to be screaming along at upwards of 300km/h. Options include a regular lowered setup, through to a height-adjustable coilover sports suspension package.

The famous tuning house can also set you up with a high-performance brake package, featuring six-piston aluminium fixed calipers and 360mm vented and cross-drilled discs up front, with four-piston examples out back.


Brabus has, this time around, kept the styling updates surprisingly subtle, making simple updates to the bumpers and side skirts.

At each corner sits a lightweight alloy wheel, available in sizes ranging from 17 to 20 inches.


Pulling all that extra power and style comes at a premium, though, with the upgrades coming in at about US$40,000 - not exactly pocket change, and in fact pretty close to what US buyers will pay for an entry-level E-Class Coupe.

2009 Audi S4 Unleashed In Australia


It sounded fantastic and it was certainly quick, but alas, Audi has finally buried its sonorous V8-powered S4 and replaced it with the newer, more eco-friendly V6-powered model.

The 2009 Audi S4 was launched in Australia today, and although it’s minus a couple of cylinders and has lost a bit of its bark, it’s still every bit the performance car of its predecessor.

A 3.0 litre supercharged V6 sits where the 4.2 litre V8 used to, and develops 245kW of power and 440Nm of torque. That’s 8kW less than the old V8, but the torque figure is 30Nm higher.


Even more telling is how that torque is produced: where the outgoing V8’s peak torque band began at 3500rpm, the new 3.0 TFSI V6 thumps out its maximum numbers at 2500rpm and maintains the full 440Nm until 4850rpm.

More low-down urge translates into snappier acceleration and faster response off the line, and in a lot of respects torque is more important than outright power. The S4’s 5.3 second 0-100km/h time makes that very apparent.

Part of the reason for the switch to forced induction was the need to make the S4 Euro V emissions compliant, and with the new motor consuming just 9.4l/100km and puffing out 219 grams of CO2 per kilometre, it’s certainly a lot greener than the V8.


So it’s got a better engine, but what about the rest of the S4 package? Purists may be disappointed to learn that a manual model won’t be available in Australia for the time being, but with Audi’s new seven-speed twin-clutch S tronic transmission being standard equipment, you’re probably better off for it.


Quattro, the mainstay of Audi’s performance hardware, is the drivetrain of choice for the S4. However this time it benefits from the addition of an active sports differential, which directs torque between the rear wheels according to which one has the most grip.

Double wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension are linked to a set of sports dampers and carry beefed-up wheel bearings, while dynamic steering and adaptive dampers are available as an option. Braking is handled by 345mm ventilated rotors up front and 330mm ventilated rotors out back, each clamped by floating calipers.


2009 Audi S3 Sportback Now Available With S tronic Transmission


Back in October of last year Audi released the S3 Sportback, which came packing enough power and torque to make your average hi-po V6 blush.

Sitting atop the A3 range, the S3 Sportback (already a competent performer), has just been further enhanced with the introduction of Audi’s quick-shifting S tronic gearbox.



Audi’s S tronic gearbox first debuted in the Audi TT 3.2 quattro back in 2003 and has been a popular choice since.

The multi-plate clutch can pre-select the next gear, thereby ensuring lightning fast shift times up or down the ratios.

If you think this sounds familiar then you’re right. The same technology is employed in a host of Volkswagen Group vehicles, with VW calling its version DSG.

When equipped with the S tronic gearbox, the Audi S3 shaves two tenths from its 0-100km/h time, which now comes in at 5.6 seconds.

Fuel economy and emissions are also improved, dropping to 8.4 litres/100km and 195 g/km respectively.

A cool AU$71,010 is required to get behind the wheel of the Audi S3 Sportback S tronic, making it the most expensive of the S3 offerings.


Engine and drive-trains are the same across all 3 models, with Audi’s 2.0 litre four cylinder TFSI engine providing 188kW and 330Nm of torque. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard, with the major differences between the three models coming down to body style and gearbox selection.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage And Rapide: Delivery Dates, Pricing Revealed For Australia


Australian pricing and delivery dates for the raucous V12 Vantage and super-suave Rapide have been let slip, with Aston Martin informing TMR that local deliveries of the V12 pocket rocket will commence in late October/early November this year, with the Rapide following a few months later in March 2010.

“We’ve only just in the last two weeks released pricing and opened up the ordering system for dealers to spec customer orders for the V12 Vantage,” said Marcel Fabris, Aston Martin’s regional sales manager for Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

“We’ve had quite a bit of interest in the last 12 months on the car, now it’s just a matter of translating that interest into real orders.”


And how much will one of these 380kW two-seaters cost you? A not-too-insubstantial $395,000 plus on-road costs will get you in the driver’s seat of a V12 Vantage, which is a pretty hefty sum for most of us.

But relatively speaking, it’s a bargain. It’s less expensive than a Mercedes SL600, just as powerful, much faster and, with just 1000 being made, a far rarer beast.

“We’re going to bring the car here over three years, and in total over that period of time we’ll build globally no more than 1000 cars,” Mr Fabris said.

“Approximately half of that volume we’re going to try and bring to market in the first twelve months of production, and we’re expecting to bring into Australia 20-25 cars over the next twelve months.”


As for the Rapide, Aston Martin’s first four-door since the Lagonda left the scene in 1989, that’s still a little too far off for an accurate idea of pricing to be given.

“We’ll be handing over customer cars around the back end of March next year,” Mr Fabris said.

“At this stage the most that we’re prepared to say is that the Rapid will sit between the DB9 and DBS in pricing, so that will see it in the low to mid $400,000’s.”

The order books for both cars are rapidly filling, if not already full. So, if you’ve got a big bag of money laying around and a penchant for fine British automobiles, you’d better give Aston Martin a call quicksmart.