29 Sep, 2016
Nissan Micra Mk5

Surprise! The 5th generation Nissan Micra is very different from the outgoing car. Its "V-motion" corporate grille, wedge profile, sharp crease lines and hidden C-pillars make it one of the sportiest (and opinion-splitting) designs in the B-segment, a sharp contrast to the existing cute theme. Moreover, while the old car was considerably smaller than the norm of European B-segment (as it was designed for Asian market in the first place), the new car has grown significantly to 3995mm long (+215mm) and 1742mm wide (+77mm), while wheelbase is stretched by 75mm to 2525mm. This means it is finally well-sized to match the norm of the class. Meanwhile, the roof is lowered by a massive 63mm to 1452mm in order to enable the sportier styling. It also sports a class-leading aerodynamic drag coefficient of 0.29, despite of the seemingly edgy design. Brilliant!

As the car has grown so much and is now obviously designed for European taste, I suppose the Micra nameplate is going to be decoupled from its traditional twins sister, March. The latter is likely to remain smaller, cheaper and built in India to serve the Asian market. Nevertheless, production of the Micra will not return to the Sunderland plant in UK, as in the case of Mk2 and Mk3. Instead, it will be built at Renault's domestic plant in Flins, which is the home of Clio. The Micra is built on the new CMF-B platform of Renault-Nissan group. The current Clio sits on the older B-platform, but the next generation will switch to CMF-B as well, so it makes economic sense to produce both cars at the same plant.

The Micra is the first model to showcase the new CMF-B platform, but details of the latter are scarce. The main benefit of common module concept seems to be higher flexibility to produce different variants hence larger economy of scale and lower production costs. In terms of use of technology and materials, we don't see much advancement in the press release. The Micra is said to offer a couple of fancy technologies. Active Ride Control sounds like adaptive suspension but it is actually using soft braking to balance the car over bumps, similar to Mazda's G-Vectoring control. Meanwhile, Active Trace Control is only a brake-actuated torque vectoring.

There are only 3 engines to be offered. Both the 90hp 0.9-liter 3-cylinder turbo petrol and 90hp 1.5-liter turbo diesel come straight from the current Renault Clio. Later on, there will be a new 1.0-liter naturally aspirated version of the petrol 3-cylinder with 73hp. It is not Mitsubishi's product (as in the case of Renault Twingo) but a new development by Renault-Nissan group. Judging from this powertrain lineup, it seems that the Nissan will look sportier than it drive.

One of the best assets of the car should be its interior, which looks far more stylish and upmarket than any existing compact Nissans. It also offers many colors, trims and options for customization.

29 Sep, 2016
Audi RS3 sedan with 400hp

The RS3 is now available in sedan form as well. It gets not only a boot but also 33 extra horsepower and 11 pound-foot more torque, thanks to adopting the latest version of 2.5-liter turbo engine from TT RS. The new engine's aluminum block also saves a valuable 26kg from the front axle. Nevertheless, don't expect it to steal the crown from BMW M2!

27 Sep, 2016
Ford AU countdown: last engines produced

As pictured, Ford has produced the last engines in Australia yesterday. They include the 4.0-liter straight-six and a supercharged 5.0-liter V8. Regarding cars, the last Falcon will roll off the assembly line at Broadmeadows on October 7, ending a journey started in 1960.

23 Sep, 2016
Ferrari GTC4 Lusso T

In my last review of the GTC4 Lusso I said it is a joy that Ferrari keeps using the naturally aspirated V12 although it could have easily dropped the turbocharged V8 of California T or 488GTB into the car without losing performance. Unexpectedly, Ferrari has really done that! The GTC4 Lusso T pictured is to be sold alongside the V12-powered GTC4 Lusso. It might look exactly the same, but it is powered by a version of the California T's 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8. It pumps out 610 hp at 7500 rpm and 560 lbft at 3000-5250 rpm, which is 80 hp less but 46 lbft more than the V12. Besides, the car ditches the 4RM system and reverts to RWD, saving 50 kg of kerb weight. As a result, its performance is close to the V12 model. 0-60 mph takes 3.4 seconds, only a tenth slower. Top speed drops by 9 mph to 199 mph. Meanwhile, fuel consumption and emission are reduced by 24 percent, which should help Ferrari to pass the EU regulations. Moreover, the classic rear-wheel drive and the lighter nose (weight distribution changed from 47:53 to 46:54) could rectify understeer and improve steering. That said, I would probably still prefer the V12.

23 Sep, 2016
Smart Fortwo / Forfour Electric Drive

The Smart duo has added EV versions called Electric Drive. Both employ the same electric drive system and battery. The rear-mounted motor is produced by partner Renault and produces 81 hp / 118 lbft, while the 17.6kWh Li-ion battery is produced by Daimler itself. It provides a driving range of 100 miles on a single charge, pretty awful by today's standards but perhaps sufficient for their city car duties. The lighter Fortwo is good for 0-60 mph in 10.8 seconds, whereas Forfour takes about 12 seconds. Both have a top speed limited to 81 mph. I believe Renault Twingo will get the same electric conversion next year to replace the aging Zoe.

15 Sep, 2016
AMG GT Roadster

This is the roadster version of AMG GT. The white car pictured below is the cheaper, standard GT Roadster, while the titanium-colored one is the hotter GT C Roadster (Mercedes did not explain what "C" stands for). Surprisingly, they are not just the open-top version of the existing GT and GT S coupe. Outside, you can see it gets a new face inspired by the recent GT R, including a larger front grille with vertical elements and restyled lower intakes. Like the GT R, the lower intake has active louvers to open or close according to cooling demand.

The Roadster duo also gets power boost. The standard car has its output raised by 14hp to 476hp, while the GT C Roadster produces 557hp, slotting between the 510hp GT S and 585hp GT R. (See comparison table below) The GT C also sports many chassis enhancements from the GT R, such as 4-wheel steering and flared rear fenders which boosts its width by 57mm. They accommodate larger wheels and slightly wider tires than the standard roadster. Besides, the GT C also adds variable exhaust, active rear differential and adaptive dampers. As a result, it is 65 kg heavier than the standard roadster and 90 kg heavier than the GT S coupe.

To compensate the loss of roof, the Roadster duo gets some chassis reinforcement surrounding the cabin. The 3-layer fabric roof has frames made of aluminum, magnesium and steel. It can be opened or closed in 11 seconds at speeds up to 50 km/h. The seats have Mercedes' Airscarf feature to keep your neck warm in winter.

Overview of AMG GT family:

GT Roadster
GT C Roadster
462 hp
476 hp
510 hp
557 hp
585 hp
442 lbft
465 lbft
479 lbft
501 lbft
516 lbft
Rear tire
295/35ZR19 295/30ZR20 305/30ZR20 325/30ZR20
1540 kg
1595 kg
1570 kg
1660 kg
1555 kg
Top speed
189 mph
188 mph
193 mph
196 mph
198 mph
0-60 mph
3.9 sec
3.9 sec
3.7 sec
3.6 sec
3.5 sec

9 Sep, 2016
Hyundai i30 Mk2 to play Golf game

We like the last generation i30 for its sporty, tasteful yet original styling. However, it seems that Hyundai has changed its mind and decided to follow the footsteps of Peugeot 308 to replicate the conservative, quality-oriented theme of Volkswagen Golf, which is admittedly very successful. So the second generation i30 gets boxier, with a solid shoulder line and thick C-pillars reminiscent of Golf. Meanwhile, the Genesis-like prominent front grille looks rather odd. The car is once again designed at Hyundai's European styling center in Germany, engineered at Russelsheim and built at Czech Republic.

Despite of the boxier shape, its drag coefficient remains unchanged at 0.30, thanks in part to the active grille shutter which reduces intake area at higher speeds. The monocoque body is now constructed with high percentage (53%) of high-strength steel, including even stiffer hot-stamped steel at parts of crash structure. More use of structural adhesives also helps the monocoque to increase torsional rigidity by 22 percent, while its weight is reduced by 28 kg. Nevertheless, other enhancement means the whole car is slightly heavier than before.

The underpinning platform is an evolution from the last one, so it keeps the 2650 mm wheelbase and continues to feature suspensions consisting of MacPherson struts up front and multi-link arrangement at the rear. Its electric power steering is geared 10 percent quicker to improve agility.

Inside, the dashboard looks not quite as impressive as the Golf or 308, but build quality and materials are expected to be improved. Above the center console is either a standard 5-inch or optional 8-inch touchscreen, both running Tom Tom navigation system.

The new car offers quite a lot of engines for selection: 1.4 MPI 100hp, 1.0 T-GDI 3-cylinder 120hp, 1.4 T-GDI 140hp and a trio of 1.6 turbo diesel (95, 110 and 133 hp). Gearbox can be either 6-speed manual or 7-speed DCT. Later on, there will be a range-topping i30 N hot hatch, which is to be powered by a powerful 2.0 turbo engine.

9 Sep, 2016
Panamera 4 E-Hybrid

As implied by its name, the new Panamera 4 E-Hybrid has gained 4-wheel-drive as standard, like all other versions of Panamera. However, the most significant improvement is still the hybrid powertrain. The petrol engine is shared with Panamera 4S, i.e. a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6, but it is detuned to 330 hp and 332 lbft (vs 440 hp and 406 lbft) to emphasize fuel economy. That roughly equals to the old car's supercharged V6. Meanwhile, the electric motor, which is installed inside the housing of the 8-speed PDK gearbox, is significantly upgraded, producing 136 hp and 295 lbft, compared with the old car's 95 hp and 228 lbft. As a result, combined output is lifted to 462 hp and 516 lbft, while performance is improved to 173 mph and 4.4 seconds for 0-60 mph. Its EV range is extended from the previous 36 km to 50 km, thanks to increasing the battery capacity from 9.4 to 14.1 kWh.

9 Sep, 2016
Kia Rio

Kia said its new generation Rio is the joint effort of its design studios at California and Frankfurt. Even so, the new car is not particularly pretty. The car shares platform with Hyundai i20, which is also an updated version of the existing platform. It is only 15 mm longer, 5 mm wider, 5 mm lower and 10 mm longer in wheelbase. Unlike the Hyundai, it won't be available in 3-door form.

Engines are to mirror the i20, including 100 hp 1.4 MPi and 120 hp 1.0 T-GDi.

9 Sep, 2016
Audi A5 Sportback

The new A4/A5 range is once again available in sleek hatchback form, or Sportback. Its length and wheelbase are 4733 mm and 2824 mm respectively, longer than even the A4 sedan by a few millimeters. Exterior styling retains the flowing waist line of A5. It certainly looks prettier than direct rival BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe. Expect the rear seats to offer similar legroom to A4 but slightly less headroom. As expected, all the mechanicals are shared with the A4 range, so not much worth mentioning.

9 Sep, 2016
Citroen CXperience concept

The most impressive concept car to be shown in next month's Paris motor show could be Citroen CXperience. From its name you can see it is a new interpretation of Citroen CX. Like the latter, it is a sleek-looking 2-box large car. It is 4.85 meters long, of which as much as 3 meters is consumed by the wheelbase, so its proportion is very much like the CX. The sleek profile, the smooth nose and unconventional headlights arrangement make it unusually attractive. I would be very satisfied if the upcoming DS luxury flagship look half as good as this one!

The concept is said to be powered by a hybrid system offering up to 300 horsepower. The petrol engine, expected to be a version of 1.6 THP turbo, produces up to 200 hp, while an electric motor provides another 109 hp. However, how they are mated is confusing. On the one hand the press release said an 8-speed automatic transmission is mounted transversely between the engine and motor, on the other hand it said the electric power is delivered to the rear axle, so which axle is the motor located?

9 Sep, 2016
Bentley Flying Spur W12 S

Bentley has recalibrated the 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 engine on its Flying Spur to release 10 more horsepower and 15 lbft of torque for a total of 635 hp and 605 lbft. The resultant W12 S is therefore capable to reach 202 mph, up 2 mph. It sounds irrelevant to us though...

9 Sep, 2016
Industrial News

Alfa Giulia QF sets new Nurburgring record (again)

Earlier this year, Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio set a Nurburgring lap record for 4-door sedans at 7min 39sec. Later on it was toppled by the new Porsche Panamera Turbo with a margin of only 1 second. Now the Alfa has responded with an even faster time - 7min 32sec, and surprisingly, it is achieved on a QF fitted with 8-speed automatic gearbox, unlike last time with 6-speed manual. It proves that modern automatics are actually faster than manuals.

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