Friday, May 29, 2009

2010 Audi R8 Convertible And Audi R8 e-Version Rumoured To Debut At Frankfurt Motor Show

ACCORDING TO GERMAN car mag Auto Motor und Sport and French auto mag L’Automobile, the hotly anticipated convertible version of the Audi R8 will debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, along with an ‘electric’ e-Version of the German prestige brand’s first supercar.

Details on the electric Audi R8 e-Version postulated by the brains at AMuS (rumour, gossip, scuttlebutt?) are in short supply. There is also no solid word (natch) as to whether it will run a hybrid powertrain or all-electric.


An electric Audi R8 however won’t be Ingolstadt’s first attempt at an environmentally-conscious version of its award-winning supercar, with the manufacturer experimenting with diesel power back in 2007.

L’Automobile reckons the R8 convertible will pack the same 314kW 4.2 litre V8 as its hardtop cousin, along with the decidedly more ballistic 390kW 5.2 litre V10.

“Bold New Lines” For Nissan EV: In Australia 2012

nissan_ev-02_01 Not this car and not this style: Nissan’s EV will be all-new.

NEWS FROM NISSAN Motor Co in Japan is that Nissan will be heading into new territory with the design of its upcoming electric vehicle. Instead of a slab-sided hybrid look, Nissan’s all-electric warrior will instead feature bold new “flowing” lines.

This suggests that earlier reports are incorrect that Nissan’s first all-electric vehicle would be based on its eponymous Cube – campaigned as the EV-02.

Nissan Australia Corporate Communications Manager Jeff Fisher confirmed to The Motor Report that the all-electric Nissan EV will be in Australia in 2012. “Yes, it’s part of our product plan. It will be available next year in the US and we expect it to have it here in 2012.”


“The first car will be a five-seater family hatch, with small crossovers and commercials to follow. A concept version will be unveiled in the US in August this year,” Mr Fisher said.

Nissan’s EV, like the EV-02 prototype, will use ‘laminated lithium ion’ battery technology, developed by Nissan in partnership with semiconductor manufacturer, NEC. While half the size and weight of a conventional lithium ion battery, Nissan claims it will produce twice the power and twice the driving range before recharging.

This will give the all-electric EV a range of around 160 kilometres between charges.

That news will be warmly greeted by Better Place (Australia), who is teaming up with AGL Energy and the Macquarie Capital Group to plan a network of ‘recharging stations’ in Australia for the electric-vehicle age approaching.


So, how different will Nissan’s new EV be? It will look nothing like a hybrid according to Nissan Design Chief Shiro Nakamura. “We need some kind of difference so that when people see our car, they will realize this is an EV, not a hybrid,” he told respected US industry publication, Automotive News.

According to Automotive News, the new car’s styling will have a low bonnet with no grille - none is needed with an all-electric drive-train - and a “profile that is flowing, instead of triangular”. (We’ve been scouring news sources in Japan and the US for images, but Nissan appears to be running a tight ship – nothing has escaped, yet.)

While Nissan also has plans for a ‘conventional’ hybrid – reportedly a ‘plug-in’ hybrid like GM’s Volt - it sees all-electric vehicles as the best way to achieve the tough emissions requirements to be placed on US automakers.


Things are moving apace there. The US city of Seattle is partnering with Nissan North America for the development of an electric vehicle charging network. In the past two months Nissan US has announced similar partnerships in Tennessee (where the vehicle will likely be manufactured), Oregon, San Diego in California, Arizona, and in North Carolina, to establish corridors of electric charging stations.

This is not dissimilar to Better Place’s infrastructure plans for Australia.

And now, in breaking news, Nissan has announced a unique alliance with car rental firm, Europcar, to market electric vehicles to rental consumers across Europe. This is expected to extend to the US and in time to Australia and New Zealand.

While too early to comment on the Europcar alliance, Nissan Australia had “begun infrastructure exploratory talks with the City of Sydney and with (NSW Premier) Nathan Rees on what a roll-out of infrastructure might look like,” Jeff Fisher told The Motor Report.

“We are also talking to the City of Melbourne. This needs to move relatively quickly; 2012 is not that far away.

Having the right infrastructure in place, as well as strong product offerings, will be a key confidence factor in winning consumers over to these vehicles,” Mr Fisher said.

This is a story that will be gaining pace in the next 12 months. We will keep you updated.

Holden To Export Alloytec V6s To Cadillac


HOLDEN MAY HAVE lost a lucrative market when the Commodore-based Pontiac G8 got canned (along with Pontiac itself) late last month, but the Australian branch of the General Motors empire is still doing it all it can to claw back some export revenue from its Stateside parent.

GM’s luxury arm Cadillac has placed an order with Holden for 2500 turbocharged 2.8 litre Alloytec V6s, which are destined for GM’s Ramos Arizpe plant in Mexico. The engines (internally known as the LP9) will power the 2010 Cadillac SRX crossover, and are similar to those used in the Saab 9-3 and Opel Insignia.


The motors will be built at Holden’s Fisherman’s Bend engine plant in Melbourne, however the Cadillac order is unlikely to be overly lucrative for the Australian automaker. According the Holden spokesman Scott Whiffin, the shipment of engines won’t, at this stage, develop into a long-term deal.

“It’s a one-off. Obviously we continue to look for opportunities, but there’s not any on-going supply arrangement there,” said Mr Whiffin.

It’s a tiny spark of hope, but a spark nonetheless. Come June 1 GM will announce its latest viability plan, and Holden may stand to gain a lot from its parent company’s new direction - particularly as an increased focus on foreign imports for the US market is rumoured to be on the cards. Stay tuned

Le Mans: Verstappen Crashes Aston Martin Challenger; Audi Confirm Driver Line-Up


ASTON MARTIN has suffered a blow to its Le Mans 24 Hours preparations after Dutchman Jos Verstappen destroyed one of its cars in testing at Monza.

The former Benetton F1 driver lost control of the car at Curva Parabolica, launching off the track and into the barriers at 15 G, writing off one of Aston Martin’s three LMP1 chassis.

After emerging from the car’s wreckage unharmed, Verstappen was unable to fathom how he lost control of the Le Mans challenger, expressing his frustration at crashing during his first test with the outfit.

“I was not even pushing for a quick lap time. I was 1.4s slower than my fastest time,” he said on his website.

“At the Parabolica I braked at exactly at the same point where I had on the previous laps. We can see from the data that there was less than a metre’s difference.

“But the moment I touched the brake pedal, the rear wheels locked and I spun the car. Then I hit the barriers at 308km/h and that was it.”


Meanwhile, Audi has announced the team of drivers it hopes will secure the manufacturer its eighth Le Mans 24 Hours victory in nine years.

Defending champions Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello will again join forces in a bid to repeat last year’s success, racing in the #1 R15 TDI.

Following their third place finish at Sebring, the German trio of Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Marco Werner will compete in Audi’s second entry while Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Alex Premat will form team #3.

Audi motorsport boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich is confident he has assembled a squad capable of earning the manufacturer a sixth successive victory at Le Mans.

“I’m convinced that we’ve filled the cockpits of all three R15 TDI cars at Le Mans with outstanding racers,” he said.

One For Gen X: Ferris Bueller Movie House For Sale


THIS ISN’T STRICTLY car news, but who among the Gen Xers can forget Matthew Broderick cruising around in a beautiful 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California, before an attempt to wind back the odometer saw it crash through the garage wall and into the gully below?

Of course, I’m talking about the 80s classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. If you remember the film, you’ll recall the stunning house owned by the father of Beuller’s best friend, Cameron.

Well, it’s still around, out here in reality, and now it’s for sale.


For a cool $2.9 million, this four bedroom, four bathroom home on 0.75 acres, with its famous glass-walled garage out back, could be all yours.

Someone get my banker on the phone, I’ve got a piece of my childhood to buy back.

Kia Soul, Audi Q5, Honda Jazz And Hyundai i20 Get 5-Star Euro NCAP Rating


JUST AS KIA Australia Public Relations Manager Jonathan Fletcher predicted at the Australian launch of the 2009 Kia Soul, the Korean manufacturer’s funky new small car has achieved top honours in its Euro NCAP safety testing.

According to Euro NCAP, the Soul achieved maximum points in the program’s new testing scheme for child and adult protection in the event of a frontal or side impact, with good protection offered against whiplash injuries.

Other Australian-delivered cars scoring the top 5-Star rating included the Audi Q5 SUV, the all-new Honda Jazz and the upcoming Hyundai i20 small car.


Testing showed that the 2009 Audi Q5 provides good (note that ‘good’ is the highest ranking in Euro NCAP) protection for all parts of the occupants’ bodies, however the steering column was determined to present a risk of injury to femurs.

The Q5 scored maximum points for side barrier impact for both adults and children, with forward movement from a front impact described as ‘not excessive.’


The 2009 Honda Jazz rated well overall, however chest protection was defined as poor in the event of a side impact, with rib deflections exceeding safe limits. According to the tests, however, protection against other body regions was rated as ‘good’.

Stiff structures in the dashboard were rated as a potential hazard to the femurs of the driver and front passenger.

Hyundai’s neat-looking upcoming i20 small car, already on sale in Europe, joined the group with maximum points in side barrier impact testing for both adults and children.


Like the Jazz, stiff structures in the dash of the i20 presented a hazard to the femurs of the front occupants.

Despite their dashes, both the Jazz and the i20 received top honours for pedestrian safety, providing good leg protection.

“We would like to commend the Honda Jazz and the Hyundai i20 for their impressive pedestrian scores that not only meet current requirements, but also meet Euro NCAP’s future requirements,” Euro NCAP said in a statement.

New 2009 Audi TT RS Official Images


AUDI DISHED UP all the details for the high performance version of the new TT, called the TT RS, back in early March. Now, the mad scientists at Ingolstadt have released a bevy of new images.

Powered by a turbo-charged five-cylinder developing 250kW and 450Nm of torque, the 1450kg TT RS Coupe sprints to 100km/h in just 4.6 seconds.

While the Roadster is a touch heavier at 1510kg, it reaches the tonne only a tenth of a second slower than its hardtop sibling.


Top speed? An electronically limited 250km/h. That ought to do.

All that power reaches the road via a new six-speed manual transmission and Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system.


2010 Citroen DS3 Interior And Video Presentation Revealed, Coming To Australia In Q4 2010


THE 2010 CITROEN DS3 hatch concept was initially unveilled back in February, and today a slew of images of the interior, along with a few more exterior shots and even a video, have been revealed.

Demonstrating the premium market intentions of the upcoming DS range, the interior of the DS3 features a black leather-wrapped dash with a cream trim, emblazoned with a diamond-like pattern made up of the ‘DS’ logo.

Piano-black buttons sit either side of a multi-function display, above a simple but stylish centre-stack finished in the same glossy piano-black.


Behind the chrome-trimmed steering wheel sits an instrument cluster made up of one large chrome-ringed speedometer in the centre, flanked on either side by elliptical rings featuring the usual displays.

That DS logo is also featured in the seat backrests, each in cream and black leather with a unique stitch pattern not dissimilar to a classic metal watch-band.


Outside, the design of the DS3 appears unchanged from the original concept revealed in February. If this is the production model we’re looking at, we might expect to see smaller wheels however – at least on the entry level model.

A new close-up view of the top of the DS3 reveals the unique and inventive continuation of the dash trim pattern onto the roof.


The Citroen DS3 is expected to make its European market debut early next year, which means we’ll very likely see a production version at the upcoming Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

TMR put in a call to Citroen Australia Public Relations Manager Edward Rowe, who confirmed that the DS3 will appear down under next year.

“We expect to offer the Citroen DS3 - along with the rest of the DS range - by the end of next year, following its European release earlier in the year.”


At this point, it’s tough to say whether we are in fact looking at the production version of the Citroen DS3. But for the ‘huge-ish’ wheels and unique roof pattern – the DS3 we see here looks ready to go.

One thing is for certain: if the final production DS3 looks anything like this concept, MINI is going to have a fight on its hands.

Ariel Atom 500 Details Revealed

Above: the original Ariel Atom.

WE FIRST HEARD about the Ariel Atom 500 back in March last year, and now the bonker Brits at Ariel have released details on its most powerful road-legal (in the UK, at least) weapon yet.

Powered by a supercharged V8 engine developing 373kW (500hp, hence its name) and weighing about 500kg, the Atom 500 offers a power-to-weight ratio of 1000hp per tonne - nearly twice that of the Bugatti Veyron’s 521hp/tonne.

The Atom 500 draws its power from a Russell Savory designed 3.0 litre all-alloy V8, which, should you desire it, will rev out to 10,000rpm.

Paired with the Sadev six-speed sequential transmission, the two components weigh in at just 100kg.

Thanks to the flatshift transmission - which allows the driver to change gears without lifting off the throttle - and the addition of launch and traction control, the Ariel Atom 500 will rocket to 100km/h in just 2.5 seconds.

Presumably a “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” sticker is included on the options list.

The big question, of course, is will we see it in Australia? Not likely. At least, not on public roads. While the Atom has achieved road-legal status in the UK, it has struggled to get ADR compliance down under.

Still, if you’ve got the dollars, there’s nothing stopping you importing one purely for track use.

Revenge of the Atom.

Revenge of the Atom.

2009 Audi Q5 Range Gets Two New Engines


AUDI AUSTRALIA HAS announced the addition of two new motors to the 2009 Q5 range, bringing the tally to two diesel and two petrol engines.

A 3.2 litre FSI petrol mill will sit just below the existing 3.0 TDI at the top of the Q5 tree, boasting 199kW and 330Nm from its direct-injected and naturally-aspirated six cylinders. The 0-100km/h sprint is taken care of in 6.9 seconds and the petrol V6 emits 221 grams of CO2 per kilometre traveled.


At the other end of the scale is the 2.0 litre TDI unit, which produces 125kW at 4200rpm and a sizable 350Nm of torque from just 1750rpm. It emits a low 179g/km of carbon dioxide and chews just 6.8l/100km of diesel on the combined cycle.


With the new engines neatly slotting between the existing 3.0 TDI and 2.0 TFSI engines, Audi’s Q5 range now boasts the ability to cater to a wide range of requirements. Need to tow? You’ll want the 3.0 TDI and its gargantuan 500Nm torque output. Prefer the sportier feel of a petrol engine? The 3.2 FSI is for you.


All engines come paired with Audi’s newly-developed longitudinally-mounted S tronic gearbox as standard, with the brand’s signature quattro AWD system splitting drive 40:60 between the front and rear axles.

Retail pricing for the Q5 range starts at $59,900 for the Q5 2.0 TFSI and Q5 2.0 TDI, with the Q5 3.2 FSI and Q5 3.0 TDI retailing for $69,900 and $71,900 respectively. The entire Q5 range is on sale nationally, with on-road pricing varying from state-to-state.

2009 Bentley Continental GTC Speed Lands In Australia


BENTLEY’S MOST POWERFUL convertible ever - the Continental GTC Speed - has arrived in Australian showrooms, bringing with it a thundering 448kW W12 engine and the ability to hit 312km/h… with the roof down.

It also carries a number of aesthetic revisions to mark it out as the company’s quickest drop-top. With its reshaped grille, headlamp bezels, recontoured front air dam and subtle rear bootlip spoiler, the GTC Speed carries a distinctive air of class about it.

Drop the hammer though, and class takes a back seat. Under the bonnet is the same 6.o litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine as the Continental GT Speed and Flying Spur Speed - the most powerful production car engine Bentley has ever built.


The 0-100km/h sprint takes just 4.5 seconds, 0-160km/h is demolished in 10.5 seconds and top speed is 322km/h with the roof up. For something that weighs more than most off-roaders, this is one seriously quick machine.

The ZF six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive system are carried over from the regular GTC, and drivers can elect to shift cogs using the steering column-mounted paddles, the gearlever or simply let it do its own thing in automatic mode.


A Torsen centre differential controls the amount of torque split between the front and rear wheels, and helps keep the GTC Speed’s voluminous power output reined in. An advanced stability control program also does its part to keep the big convertible out of the weeds.

Enormous 420mm carbon-ceramic brake rotors are a cost option, and haul up the GTC Speed with nary a hint of fade. Lower and stiffer suspension hardware also features on the Speed, and Pirelli PZero UHP tyres measuring a sizable 275mm across are the standard rubber.


On the inside, “Speed” emblazoned sill plates and drilled alloy pedals signify this as the sports model, while a three-spoke leather-bound steering wheel and diamond quilted leather seats cosset the driver.

A special car then? You bet. And considering it sits at the top of the Continental tree (at least until the Continental Supersports arrives on the scene), it’ll have a price tag that reflects that. Give your local Bentley dealer a call to find out how much.

2010 Lexus LF-A To Get 500-Car Run, Hi-Po Model Also Planned


WE’VE YET TO hear an official announcement from Lexus, but British car mag Auto Express is already claiming that it has the lowdown on the upcoming LF-A, and that it’s shaping up to be something very special indeed.

According to Auto Express, the LF-A will boast a 410kW (550hp) 4.8 litre V10 engine, a six-speed automated manual transaxle and a top speed just over 350km/h.

Front-end styling will also be markedly different from what we’ve already seen on previous prototypes and concepts, and a high-performance variant that uses the same aero package as the race-going prototypes that recently competed in the Nurburgring 24-hour will be on offer too.


Surprisingly, it appears that Lexus will only build 500 LF-As all up, and pricing will range between AU$284,000 and $385,000. That’s a lot of money for a Japanese car, but considering it’s faster than the only other Japanese supercar - the Nissan GT-R - and far more exclusive, Lexus shouldn’t have too much trouble shifting all 500.

The Lexus LF-A is widely believed to be locked in for a debut at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show this October, where it’ll likely share the spotlight with Toyota’s upcoming low-cost RWD coupe. Is Auto Express on the money with its latest claims? We’ll find out then.

Honda Jazz Hybrid To Hit The Road In 2010


THE TOYOTA PRIUS may be the iconic hybrid of the last decade, but Japan’s number two carmaker isn’t about to let that deter it.

With the 2010 Insight joining the Civic Hybrid in Honda’s global line-up (and expected here later next year), Honda is tackling Toyota’s head-start in the hybrid market front-on.

Now, Japan’s leading business paper Nikkei has reported that Honda is planning to launch a petrol-electric hybrid version of the popular Honda Jazz (sold as the Fit, internationally) by the end of 2010 – more than a year ahead of schedule.

With the Jazz already a frugal car, managing just 6.4 l/100km – excellent for a petrol-powered car – success will lie in the lower development and production cost of Honda’s hybrid systems compared to other manufacturers.

Honda Spokesperson Akemi Ando told Nikkei that the manufacturer does not yet have a specific launch date or price for the Jazz hybrid, but the newspaper estimates Honda’s diminutive hybrid will sell for around AU$20,000 in Japan.

With the production version of Honda’s CR-Z performance hybrid coupe expected to debut next year and, according to Nikkei, an all-new Civic hybrid due in 2012, the Jazz hybrid and the Insight will be in good company.

If Honda can ensure that its low-cost hybrid technology will keep the price down, and if its fuel economy offers a marked improvement on the regular petrol version, the Jazz hybrid could prove to be a real success in Australia’s small car segment.

GM Commences Pre-Production Of Chevrolet Volt


GENERAL MOTORS HAS begun pumping out the first batch of pre-production Chevy Volts, cars which will be used for a wide range of testing, troubleshooting and safety certification over the coming months.

To date, the only Chevrolet Volts we’ve seen have been hand-built prototypes based on the Cruze and Chevy Malibu, which are, of course, not representative of the car that Joe Consumer will eventually be able to buy. These new pre-production cars are much closer in their configuration and, pending the results of the crash testing program, should resemble what we’ll see in the showroom.

“The purpose for the integration vehicle builds is two-fold,” said GM spokesman Rob Peterson in an interview with Wired.

“First, they validate our production design, vehicle safety and performance capabilities.

“Just as important, the build activity provides valuable insight into the final vehicle assembly process to ensure a high-level of build quality and manufacturing efficiency when production begins in November 2010.”


The first few pre-production vehicles will be assembled by hand at GM’s technical centre just outside Detroit, with GM hoping to have 80 of the cars on the road by the fourth quarter of this year.

Several hundred more will then be built at the company’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant early next year, which give GM plenty of time to perfect the build process before series production commences in November 2010.


The Volt will be heading Australia’s way in 2012 badged as a Holden, however pricing and a solid sale date have yet to be announced.

Considering the Volt is shaping up to be a relatively expensive beast when it hits US showrooms late next year (a US$40,000 has been predicted - almost double that of the Prius), it may be a little pricey for Australian tastes. But with the promise of ultra-low running costs and the ability to run without touching a drop of petrol, it may pull in some substantial sales for Holden.

2009 MINI John Cooper Works World Championship 50 Launched At MINI United Festival


BESIDES LENDING his name to the hi-po variants of the current MINI range, John Cooper was known for two things: having a hand in the development of the original BMC Mini Cooper, and building indomitable Formula One cars in the late 1950s.

To celebrate the achievements of the late John Cooper, MINI unveiled its own rolling tribute to the man at the recent MINI United festival at Silverstone - the MINI John Cooper Works World Championship 50.


Built to commemorate Cooper’s first F1 World Championship victory in 1959, the special-edition MINI comes decked out with black 17-inch alloy wheels, a carbon-fibre bonnet scoop and an exclusive paint colour - John Cooper’s signature Connaught Green.

There’s also a few extra splashes of carbon-fibre on the tailgate, rear apron, mirrors and dash, while black leather seats with red piping spice up the interior.


Power is supplied by the same 157kW 1.6 litre turbocharged four-cylinder that powers the regular John Cooper Works MINI, but the JCW 50 special edition gets a load of extra goodies as standard equipment. Things like Sat-nav, a Harmon Kardon stereo system with USB input, Bluetooth, parking sensors, heated front seats and a multi-function steering wheel.

Only 250 will be built, and unfortunately it’s strictly a Europe-only model. Pricing and sale dates have yet to be released.

Volkswagen Working On Polo Coupe, New Beetle And Planning Polo-Based Mini MPV?


REPORTS OUT OF EUROPE this week tell us that Volkswagen is working on a very special two-door version of its all-new Polo, and it’s a whole other creature.

While the German giant did offer a three-door iteration of the Polo GTI in the previous generation, the design of the Polo V-based model is believed to be a huge leap from the current offering.

Unlike the previous three-door, and the 2009 Volkswagen Golf GTI - which is simply a shortened version of the regular hatch - this new Polo three-door will sport a fastback, coupe-like roofline. Think of the difference between the regular Holden Astra and the three-door Astra, and you’ll get the idea.

The previous generation Polo IV GTI three-door.

The previous generation Polo IV GTI three-door.

According to British auto rag AutoExpress, the Polo coupe will be powered by Volkswagen’s supercharged and turbo-charged 1.4 litre engine, and will produce power in the neighbourhood of 140kW – this same engine will appear in the upcoming Polo GTI, paired with Volkswagen’s new 7-speed DSG transmission.

Despite the obvious attraction to a small fastback hatch, the Polo coupe might seem like an odd addition to the line-up when you consider that the company is preparing a regular three-door Polo GTI. As an alternative to the more powerful but more expensive Scirocco however, it should prove a successful seller.

According to British magazine Autocar, Volkswagen is also working on a new Beetle and considering a Polo-based mini MPV.

An unnamed insider has told Autocar that the new Beetle will be “less effeminate, more assertive and masculine,” suggesting that women often like the same cars as men, but that it doesn’t work as often in reverse.


Meanwhile, Volkswagen Board member Hans Dieter Potsch has told Autocar that a mini MPV, based on the Polo platform, is on the cards.

“A mini-MPV is in an area we have under active consideration. In terms of downsizing, people will not stick to one type of small car or another,” Potsch told Autocar.

Potsch went on to say that rather than cut back its R&D projects, Volkswagen is pushing forward with new concepts that will ensure the manufacturer’s readiness when the global automotive market recovers.