Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mitsubishi i MiEV Launched In Japan To Corporate And Government Fleets


MITSUBISHI HAS LAUNCHED the all-electric i MiEV in Japan this week, with corporate and government fleet buyers the first customers. Private buyers will have to wait until April 2010 before they can snap one up for themselves.

Priced at just over 4,599,000 yen ($58,000) - $15,000 more than than the $43,000 starting price last reported - the i MiEV is a pricey prospect for Japanese buyers of the all-electric vehicle.


In the i MiEV’s favour however, is the fact that the Subaru Plug-In Stella - now also on sale in Japan - starts at just over $60,000.

The i MiEV utilises the platform of the existing Japan-only Mitsubishi i, but rather than a regular petrol engine and traditional transmission, is motivated by a 330 volt lithium-ion battery and electric motor.

The motor is good for 47kW and 180Nm of torque - available immediately, rather than at a particular point in the rev range, as with a regular combustion engine.

While the i MiEV is expected to debut in Europe and the US next year, Mitsubishi Australia is waiting on approval from the company’s Japan headquarters to offer the car in Australia.

With Australian Design Rules compliance achieved, however, Mitsubishi Australia is hopeful of a 2010 debut in Aussie showrooms.

2009 Maserati Granturismo S Automatic On Sale In Australia


MASERATI’S AUTOMATIC-EQUIPPED version of the stunning Granturismo S is now on sale in Australia, boasting eight cylinders, six speeds and a $328,500 pricetag (before on-roads, of course).

The new ZF-sourced automatic transmission may not sound as sophisticated as the MC Supershift automated sequential manual that it complements, but thanks to sportier shift-mapping and a harder lock-up torque converter, it’s not exactly your average slushbox either.


Top speed is still 295km/h, while the 0-100km/h sprint is just one hundreth of a second slower than the MC Supershift model at 5.0 seconds.

The automatic will also hold gears right up to 7200rpm if the driver wants to stretch things out, while remaining smooth and progressive at low speeds.

Weight distribution is affected by the new automatic transmission, however with the Granturismo S Automatic posessing a 49-51 front-rear balance, that’s actually a little more desirable than the MC Supershift’s 47-53 split.

The 2009 Maserati Granturismo S Automatic is available in Australia with the marque’s Skyhook adaptive damper system, two designs of 20-inch alloy, a Bose stereo system and a luxuriously appointed cabin.

It’s on sale nationwide, and for full drive-away pricing contact your nearest Maserati dealer.

Chinese Government May Scuttle Tengzhong’s Hummer Bid


HUMMER’S SALE to Sichuan Tengzhong is mere months away from being finalised, however it appears there’s now one heck of a hurdle for the two companies to overcome.

A Chinese state-controlled news outlet, Shanghai Securities News, is reporting that the central government is likely to scuttle Tengzhong’s plans for the acquisition, fearing it goes against the party’s direction for the Chinese car industry.

The Chinese government is keen to consolidate its domestic car makers (presumably to help it shed the shabbier ones) into a more manageable number of manufacturers producing higher-quality products, built to global standards and emissions-friendly.

Hummer might have the former covered, but with its reputation as the manufacturer of gas-guzzling behemoths, party officials are reportedly more than a little hesitant about the purchase.

We might wonder if that is really an issue for the Chinese Government to worry about. After all, Hummer intends to keep its headquarters and manufacturing in the United States for the time being, and Tengzhong has no immediate interest in building Hummers in China.

But things work differently in China’s rigidly controlled economy. These reports do not bode well for the sale and will presumably be creating a few nervous moments in GM US.


As for the green issue, Hummer’s CEO James Taylor recently said that the brand expects to have its first alt-fuel model on the market within five years, with more to follow. The company may not be eco-friendly in its present state, but it has at least demonstrated that it intends to change its fuel-chugging ways.

But Hummer’s image is only part of the problem.

Tengzhong plans to borrow money from China’s state-owned banks to complete the purchase and won’t succeed without the approval of the central government. It may now have its work cut out reassuring the ruling party that bagging Hummer is a wise move - and one that will pay off down the track.

With the world’s motorists slowly shunning big lumbering SUVs in favour of smaller more efficient vehicles, one can perhaps understand the Chinese Government’s reluctance.

2010 Volkswagen Golf GTD On Sale In Germany, Under Consideration For Australia


WHILE THE 2010 Volkswagen Golf GTI is still some time off, Volkswagen’s diesel performer, the 2009 Volkswagen Golf GTD, has landed in German showrooms today, making it the fourth offering in the Golf VI lineup.

The GTD blends the looks and chassis of the Golf GTI with the thirst of a Polo. Don’t let the fuel miser tag fool you though; with 125kW (170hp) and 352Nm (258lb-ft) under foot, the Golf GTD should be a proper pocket-rocket.


The Golf GTD is capable of dispatching the 0-100km/h sprint in 8.1 seconds and tops out at a respectable 222km/h, yet manages to consume just 5.3 litres of diesel per hundred kilometres when driven sedately.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard, with Volkswagen’s famous six-speed DSG available as an option. Sport suspension and 17-inch rims also come as standard.

Inside the cabin, top-spec sports seats, a three-spoke flat-bottomed leather steering wheel and leather accents throughout are just a few of the standard features.


Volkswagen Group Australia has confirmed to TMR that it is considering adding the GTD to its lineup, but it’s still too early to say which way the company will go.

Volkswagen has no plans to offer the car in the US, but with Australia’s growing acceptance of diesel fuel, the odds for the GTD down under would seem about even.

TomTom Brings Turn-By-Turn To The iPhone, Video Demonstration Unveilled


THE DECISION on which GPS mapping brand to go with may have just become a lot simpler, for a lot of people.

Well-known GPS mapping company TomTom has today unveilled its turn-by-turn navigation application for the iPhone. Unlike the current Google Maps app, the TomTom app will follow your progress along your chosen route, and advise you of each new direction as you near it.

Combined with a window-mounted iPhone holder and charger that also enhances the iPhone’s GPS reception, TomTom’s new navigation application promises to revolutionise the way iPhone owners use the device on the road.


The TomTom navigation app also offers clear voice instructions, hands-free calling, and an on-screen interface that features larger buttons and text to improve usability without distracting you from the road.

TomTom co-founder and CTO Peter-Frans Pauwels announced the kit at today’s Apple WWDC event. Pauwels confirmed that the navigation app itself will be available in the iTunes App Store shortly after the June 19 release of iPhone OS 3.0, while the in-car kit will be released around July.

NASCAR: Marcos Ambrose Sixth At Pocono 500

2009 NASCAR Dover

AUSTRALIAN MARCOS AMBROSE stormed through the field to secure a strong sixth place finish in the Pocono 500 round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Starting from 20th on the grid after qualifying was washed out, the 32-year old quickly adapted to the tri-cornered nature of the Pennsylvania-based circuit, keeping pace with the front runners despite his relative inexperience at the circuit.

Ambrose seemed headed for seventh place, but was able to sneak past reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson on the last lap.

2009 NASCAR Dover

The result marks Ambrose’s third top 10 finish of the season, and one of the best performances of his short Sprint Cup career, catapulting him into the top 20 in the driver standings.

The former V8 Supercar champion was thrilled to finish among NASCAR’s elite, saying the Pocono circuit proved a stern test of his ability.

“I was a little daunted coming here. I’m just pleased to leave here with a top 10 and we’ve helped ourselves in the points,” he said.

“It turned into a fuel mileage race in the end and that being said we had a good car all day anyway so we deserved our result today.

“I’m proud of my team and I’m really proud to get a result like that at a place like Pocono.”

Ambrose struggled in practice in the lead-up to the event, setting the 32nd and 36th fastest laps around the track, but he was able to bounce back on race day after his team adjusted the car’s set-up.

“I was actually really bad in practice and we did a lot of really hard work overnight to try and make the car better. It was just an experience fighting out there with everybody else racing side by side,” he said.

“I quickly learned where to put my car and what I should do. I’m just really proud that I adapted so fast and I’m pleased with my team. We’ve had a tough couple of weeks so it’s good to bounce back with another solid top 10 and get ourselves back in the points chase. I’m really excited about our future.”

Audi Focusing On Reduced Weight For Future Models


IN A MOVE THAT has seen a 400kg lighter and 75kW less-powerful four-cylinder prototype Audi S5 lap the Nurburgring eight seconds quicker than the regular 245kW V8 model, Audi has initiated a program that will see it focus on weight reduction for future models.

In a recent interview with British magazine Autocar, Audi’s Director of Technical Development, Michael Dick, confirmed that lightweight construction, along with hybrid and electric powertrains, will form the main focus for the company’s modular longitudinal platform.


Dick said that weight reduction will prove to be vital in future automotive design, with lightweight construction being “the basis for the electrification of the car”, as well as bringing improved handling and better fuel economy and performance.

The prototype S5 that delivered an eight second improvement over the regular S5’s Nurburgring lap time features a spaceframe hybrid steel-aluminium body, with Audi engineers striking a balance between weight-saving and cost effectiveness when it comes to the amount of aluminium used in the body.

Dick told Autocar that reducing the weight of the bodyshell is the most important factor, and that shaving even 150kg will offer greatly improved dynamics.

According to Dick, fuel economy has become paramount at Audi, with engineering developments now assessed on a “cost per gram of CO2 reduction” basis.

We’ve known for some time now that Audi would be switching its S4 and S5 models to four-cylinder turbo-charged engines, and with its enhanced focus on lightweight construction, Audi buyers can look forward to high performance motoring without the weekly assault on their wallets.

F1: Team Lotus Latest Name Set For Return


LOTUS IS THE LATEST famous name set to return to the Formula 1 scene after 2010 aspirants Litespeed gained permission to compete under the famous moniker.

Litespeed founders and former Lotus engineers, Nino Judge and Steve Kenchington, sought out Team Lotus rights-holder David Hunt to bolster its bid for a place on the F1 grid next season.

Despite the Formula Three team’s limited connection to the storied manufacturer, Hunt agreed to Litespeed’s request, making Team Lotus the third former outfit to be resurrected over the last fortnight – following the entries of March Racing Organisation and Brabham Grand Prix.

The team said in a statement: “Team Lotus is synonymous with great British engineering and F1 innovation, such as the Lotus 25 being the first monocoque chassis in F1 and the introduction of groundbreaking sponsorship, both of which easily demonstrate why ex-Lotus personnel would want to bring this championship-winning name back to the formula.

“Litespeed was born from a similar British background - a factor that was at the core of Colin Chapman’s beliefs and subsequent success.

“David Hunt has been the custodian of the name for so many years and we thank him for entrusting us not just with its safeguard but, more importantly, its development in the racing world of tomorrow.”


Litespeed/Lotus has submitted an application for 2010 as a cost-capped entry and will run Cosworth engines, while the team is set to be based out of its existing factory in Norfolk.

On the personnel side, former Toyota, Renault and Toyota technical director Mike Gasgoyne has been enlisted to design the team’s challenger and former Lotus F1 driver Johnny Herbert has also joined in a marketing capacity and as a driver manager.

Team Lotus unceremoniously bowed out of Formula One in 1994, marking the end of a steep decline which following the exit of the team’s last-ever race winner Ayrton Senna in 1987.

During the previous two decades, Lotus was the dominant force in F1, winning seven constructor’s championships and six driver titles.

Pontiac G8 GXP Sees An Early End, No Chance Of Reprieve


THE PONTIAC G8 GXP, described by Pontiac as “the ultimate expression of Pontiac style and performance”, will follow the red Pontiac arrowhead into retirement rather than live on under the umbrella of another GM brand, General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson confirmed this week.

The death notice came during one of Henderson’s weekly web chats, arranged to keep GM loyalists and buyers in the loop during these tumultuous times for the company.

When asked, “Any chance it [the G8 GXP] will live on as a Chevy, or maybe an entry-level Caddy?” Henderson replied, simply, “No.”


While the question focused specifically on the Holden VE Commodore SS-based high performance G8 GXP model, Henderson went into greater detail when addressing the concerns of a GM buyer who said that he is unlikely to buy another GM while the only RWD options are the US$37,000 Cadillac CTS (”not in my price range”) and the Camaro.

“Certainly, the G8 is going to be one of the Pontiacs we’ll miss. But, we haven’t closed the door on RWD now or in the future.

“You point out both the Camaro, which is definitely in the mainstream price range of today’s cars, and the CTS, which is an amazing value in the luxury sport segment.

“As we map out our future vehicle needs, if we can find the right opportunity and price point to do a world-class RWD car, you can bet we’ll consider it,” Henderson said.

On the bright side for G8 GXP owners, only 5000 more are to be built before the brand is put out to pasture. Given time, those buyers may just have a collector’s item on their hands.

Holden is currently examining its options for maintaining a steady export program for the Commodore, with the Pontiac G8 having been one of its key overseas export successes (the Chevy Lumina, sold in the Middle East, is another).

F1: Button Secures Commanding Turkish Victory, Webber Second


BRITISH STAR JENSON BUTTON has continued his march towards a maiden World Championship after securing a comfortable victory at the Turkish Grand Prix.

Button profited from a first lap error from challenger Sebastian Vettel to take command of the race to win a record-equalling sixth Grand Prix from seven starts this season.

The Brawn GP driver came under the pressure from Vettel during the middle stint of the race, when the lightly fuelled German, who was on a three-stop strategy, chased Button down.

But the two-time Grand Prix winner was unable to find a way past the dominant Brit, who masterfully defended his place at the head of the field, scuppering Vettel’s strategy and eventually consigning him to third place.

Australia’s Mark Webber continued his recent run of career-best form, capitalising on a long second stint to jump ahead of his team mate after the final round of stops to finish second, his third podium of the season.

During the closing stages of the race, Vettel closed in on Webber, threatening to turn the final few laps of the event into a thrilling battle for the second step on the podium only for the team to order him to back off and avoid a potential collision.


Vettel was disappointed with his performance, rueing the first lap mishap which may have ultimately cost him a chance of fighting for career win number three as well as the team’s decision not to swap him back to a two-stop strategy after he failed to establish a lead before the first round of stops.

“If you lose the lead already in the first lap it is not so good and you just see that someone has much quicker pace. It is not that nice to see and obviously then we lost because of the strategy the position to Mark, so in the end I was third,” he said.

“Of course, I wasn’t that happy with that and just kept pushing to the end.”

Webber, whose second place finish allows him to close the gap to his team mate to just 1.5 points, said Red Bull had little hope of matching the scorching pace set by Brawn, defying pre-race suggestions the Renault-powered car was better suited the Istanbul circuit.

“We are in position to challenge at most grands prix now and that is very rewarding for the whole team including Renault. Everyone is working incredibly hard. Obviously Brawn have had the jump from the off,” he said.

“There have been a few other venues where we have been a little bit closer here and there. We expected to be closer here but we weren’t and we need to work a lot harder now for Silverstone to try and make a little bit more pressure on them.”