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.