25 Feb, 2017
Ford Fiesta ST turns to 3-cylinder!

It doesn't sound good. The new generation Fiesta no longer offers any 4-cylinder petrol engines. Even the hot ST model, which used to be our favourite small hot hatch in the past 4 years, has switched to a 1.5-liter Ecoboost triple! The new engine is derived from the existing 1.0 Ecoboost. It has intake and exhaust continuous VVT as usual but the fuel injection system has been upgraded to dual injection (port+direct), and the turbocharger is larger, of course. It loses a cylinder and 100 c.c. from the old engine, but its output is exactly the same as the last ST200, i.e. 200 hp and 214 lbft, although in the old car you can have overboost. The new ST also matches the old ST200 in 0-60 mph acceleration, taking the same 6.4 seconds.

Enthusiasts must be disappointing to see its performance lacks improvement, but environmentalists and Ford engineers are happy to see its emission drops drastically from 140 to 114 g/km. This improvement is contributed by not only the loss of one cylinder but also the addition of cylinder deactivation technology, which was unveiled on the 100hp 1.0 Ecoboost engine a couple of months ago. At light load it turns off one cylinder to save fuel. As twin-cylinder engine has a rough exhaust note (see Fiat TwinAir), Ford equips the car with Electronic Sound Enhancement (ESE), or I would simply call it artificial noise synthesizer. Will the triple-cylinder engine compromise noise and smoothness? We shall see very soon.

As before, the Fiesta ST employs a 6-speed manual gearbox and drives the front wheels without limited slip differential. A torque vectoring by brake is added as a cost-effective solution. Its suspension does without adaptive dampers, but that is normal for the class. The control system now offers 3 driver-selectable modes - Normal, Sport and Track, which alter the settings of engine mapping, traction control, stability control, power steering, ESE and exhaust noise valve. You can turn off the TC and ESP completely. The car rides on larger, 18-inch wheels shod with 205/40ZR18 Michelin Pilot Sport tires, guaranteeing better roadholding.

25 Feb, 2017
Chevy Camaro ZL1 1LE

It seems that GM is not going to build a new Camaro Z/28, so the new ZL1 with 1LE package is as close as you get for a track-oriented Camaro. The gigantic, 650hp and 650lbft 6.2-liter supercharged V8 is retained without changes - it doesn't need to, but the car is available with only manual gearbox. The 1LE package works mainly on the aero, suspension, wheels and tires. That carbon-fiber rear spoiler and additional winglets and front splitters produce 300 pounds (136 kg) of downforce at top speed. The tires get 20mm wider both front and rear to 305 and 325mm, and they are track-biased Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3R, good for 1.1g lateral acceleration. In order to save unsprung weight, the wheels are an inch smaller at 19-inch, and made of forged alloy. The suspension is overhauled with DSSV (Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve) dampers (supplied by Multimatic). This allows the front ride height to be manually adjustable. Likewise, the front camber and rear anti-roll bar are also adjustable. The whole car is 27kg lighter than the standard ZL1, thanks in part to thinner rear glass and a fixed-back rear seat. Still, at about 1734 kg it is a heavyweight hitter on the track.

25 Feb, 2017
Industrial News

Roger Becker died

Long-time Lotus test engineer Roger Becker has passed away at the age of 71. Working for Lotus from 1966 to 2009, he was responsible for the ride and handling tuning of most great Lotus models we know, including Esprit, Excel, Elan M100, Elise, Exige and finally Evora. Without his skill, I think Lotus would not have been famous for ride and handling until today. His son Matt Becker is now playing the same role at Aston Martin.

Aston Martin sales result

Aston Martin sold 3687 cars last year, just 72 cars more than 2015. The arrival of DB11 at the last quarter adds some hope, but the British maker should feel the pressure of stiffer competition, thanks to the addition of McLaren, AMG GT and upgraded efforts of Porsche and Bentley. Its loss widened to £163 million. More worrying, the company has not turned a profit for 6 consecutive years.

24 Feb, 2017
Porsche Panamera Turbo S goes hybrid

The last generation Panamera Turbo S was just a more powerful version of Panamera Turbo. Surprisingly, the new Turbo S becomes a hybrid. It mates the regular Turbo's 550hp V8 with the E-Hybrid's 136hp electric motor, which is incorporated into the PDK gearbox thus is easily compatible with any engines. As a result, combined output is a staggering 680hp and 627 lbft of torque. Even though the electric motor, inverter and battery add 315 kg to the kerb weight, the Turbo S E-Hybrid is still good for 0-60 mph in 3.3 seconds, two-tenths faster than the Turbo. Its top speed is lifted slightly to 193 mph.

Like the V6-powered E-Hybrid, its 14.1kWh lithium battery gives an EV range of 50km. Using 230V/32A fast charger, it takes 2.4 hours to charge up.

The rest of the car is virtually unchanged from the Turbo.

24 Feb, 2017
Italdesign V10 supercar

As you might remember, 7 years ago Giorgetto Giugiaro sold 90 percent stakes of his company Italdesign to Volkswagen group. He completely withdrew in 2015, so Italdesign is now wholly owned by Volkswagen group via Audi / Lamborghini. Currently, the company's revenue comes from engineering consultancy services (60%), prototype building (24%) and design (16%), and 90% of which comes from Volkswagen group. As the group is cutting R&D expenses due to dieselgate crisis, Italdesign needs to diverse its business portfolio and seek more revenue from outside the group. That is why it has established a new division, Italdesign Automobili Speciali, to build custom supercars for the very riches. The first act is this mid-engined supercar, whose name is yet to be revealed.

The car is built around the chassis and powertrain of Audi R8, using the same 5.2-liter V10 and 4WD system. Likewise, its chassis is constructed from aluminum spaceframe and carbon-fiber, but the custom bodywork is fully carbon-fiber. Unsurprisingly, it quotes the same 205 mph top speed and 0-60 mph time of 3.1 seconds as the top R8.

While the mechanicals are virtually the same as R8 and Lamborghini Huracan, its styling is very different from both siblings, but probably too complicated for my taste. Moreover, you can see some hints of Nissan GT-R from front quarter angle. It is designed under the direction of Filippo Perini, who oversees the design departments of both Lamborghini and Italdesign.

As the car sells for exclusivity, Italdesign will build only 5 cars by hands, each for an eye-popping €1.5 million plus tax. This is only the beginning. The company plans to introduce a new exclusive model like this every 1.5 to 2 years.

24 Feb, 2017
Industrial News

Proton sales hit new low

Proton sold only 72,290 cars in Malaysia last year, or a sharp 29% decrease from a year ago. Its market share dropped to only 12.5%, handing its number 2 position to Honda for the first time. Both numbers are new lows. Currently PSA and Geely are bidding to buy Proton, so hopefully DRB-Hicom will forget its pain soon.

17 Feb, 2017
Hyundai Accent

The new generation Hyundai Accent is built on the platform of i20 and Kia Rio. As before, it will be available in 5-door hatchback or, as pictured here, 4-door sedan form. As before, the car will be sold in the global market except Europe, which is taken care by i20.

Compared with the old car, the new car car shows subtle changes. It is just barely longer, wider and runs a 10mm longer wheelbase at 2580mm. Like Sonata, it wears a formal hexagonal grille but overall the appearance is a little conservative and predictable. Its body-in-white is made of 54.5% of advanced high-strength steel (AHSS), up from 41.5% of the old car. In addition to the use of more structural adhesives, these lift its torsional rigidity by 32 percent.

In USA, the Accent is served with only the carried-over 1.6 GDI engine. It is detuned to 132 hp and 119 lbft, but gains a little bit more low-end torque and 7 percent improvement of fuel economy. The engine mates with either 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic gearbox. In Korea, the 1.6 GDI engine is likely to be joined with the company's 100hp 1.4-liter petrol and 136hp 1.6CRDi diesel, just like the outgoing generation. Nothing catches the attention of car lovers.

16 Feb, 2017
Ferrari 812 Superfast replaces F12

Ferrari is replacing its flagship model F12 Berlinetta with a modified version, but instead of F12M, this car is called 812 Superfast. The Superfast name was used on the 1964 500 Superfast, Ferrari's best luxurious grand tourer in the 1960s. However, the 812 Superfast is a very different car. Like F12, it is a front-mid-engined 2-seat super sports car. Highlight is the new V12, enlarged by 234 c.c. to 6496 c.c., matching Lamborghini Aventador. It is also added with Ferrari's F1-derived variable intake trumpet system (taken from F12tdf) and a higher-pressure, 350-bar direct injection. Its output is lifted to a full 800 horsepower at 8500 rpm, 60hp more than both its predecessor and the new Aventador S, and 20hp more than even the TDF. Apart from the LaFerrari's unit, this is the most powerful V12 ever built in Maranello. Maximum torque is improved  by 20 lbft to 529 lbft at 7000 rpm, which seems peaky, but at least 80 percent of that amount is available from 3500 rpm. The V12 is linked to a 7-speed twin-clutch gearbox with revised ratios and updated software for even faster shifts.

The car's 1525 kg dry weight, or 1630 kg kerb weight, is unchanged from the existing F12 Berlinetta but 110 kg heavier than the stripped-out F12tdf. However, it is lighter than Aventador by 50kg. The new engine seems to be slightly heavier, as front-to-rear weight distribution is changed slightly from 46:54 to 47:53, still a remarkable figure. As for performance, Ferrari doesn't change the top speed claims of "more than 211 mph", while 0-60 mph is said to be improved by 0.2s to 2.8 seconds, or the same as the TDF.

Also like the TDF, it is equipped with active rear-wheel steering to improve handling. The SSC side slip control system is updated to the 5th generation. However, the most shocking is perhaps the switch from hydraulic to electric power steering, which is integrated with many other electronic systems. Will it worsen the communication between driver and machine? We shall see.

Outside, the 812 Superfast's body work has received many changes, although they are not necessarily better looking. Ferrari doesn't talk much about aerodynamics, so it is unlikely to see big improvement. For a mid-life refresh, the more powerful engine, EPS and 4WS are already comprehensive enough.

15 Feb, 2017
Pagani Huayra Roadster

Normally, we are not too interested in an open-top version of supercar, because the conversion must sacrifice some lightness, rigidity hence performance. However, the same cannot be said to the Pagani Huayra Roadster. Weighing 1280 kg dry, the Roadster is 70 kg lighter than the Coupe (Pagani claims 80 kg, but in our record the Coupe weighs 1350 kg). How is this achievable? The car's chassis and body are now made of not only carbon-titanium but also carbon-Triax HP52, which is said to be even more advanced than those adopted on F1 cars. Besides, its suspension control arms are taken straight from last year's track-oriented Huayra BC, which are made of HiForg instead of Avional thus are 25 percent lighter.

Meanwhile, the AMG 6-liter twin-turbo V12 has been boosted from 730 hp to 764 hp, now released at a healthier 6200 rpm (up from 5800 rpm). Maximum torque remains at 738 lbft (1000 Nm), whose appearance is lifted slightly from 2250 rpm to 2400 rpm. The Xtrac 7-speed automated manual gearbox remains, but like Huayra BC, it gets redesigned electro-hydraulic actuation system and new carbon synchronizers. Pagani has yet to provide performance figures, but judging from the 10 percent higher power-to-weight ratio, the Roadster is easily faster than the Coupe. Moreover, the new chassis materials guarantees increased torsional rigidity, thus handling should be improved as well. Both front and rear wheels grow an inch larger (to 20 and 20-inch respectively), and they wear new Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tires.

While the Coupe's look doesn't gel with me, the Roadster seems more charming after losing the roof. Its flying buttresses incorporate some stylish louvers. The fabric soft roof (with carbon cover) can be attached and detached manually and stored inside the car. Alternatively, you can install a rigid, carbon-frame glass roof so that it looks and works just like the Coupe.

The Roadster is priced at €2.28M plus tax. Pagani will build 100 cars, and all of them have been sold already. This will keep the small Italian factory busy for the next two years.

15 Feb, 2017
Industrial News

GM may sell Opel/Vauxhall to PSA

Shocking news: GM and PSA confirmed that they are in discussion of a possible sale of Opel/Vauxhall to the French group. It comes as a surprise as the operating results of Opel/Vauxhall has been improving a lot, even though it still made a loss of $257M last year due to weak pound. Both companies have their business concentrated in Europe, as are their manufacturing plants and workforces, so I doubt the synergy of the merger. If it comes true, Opel/Vauxhall could suffer from a lot of redundancies.

Jaguar introduces Ingenium petrol engines

Until now, Jaguar's Ingenium engine family is limited to a 2-liter turbo diesel with either 163 or 180hp. Now the Ingenium family is expanding to petrol. The 2-liter turbo petrol offers either 200hp or 250hp - the latter is comparable to BMW, Mercedes and Audi's 2-liter engines, if not as good as Alfa Romeo Giulia (280hp). Maximum torque is 236 lbft and 269 lbft respectively. Both engines feature a twin-scroll turbo and, most importantly, a Continuously Variable Valve Lift system (like Valvetronic?). Meanwhile, the 2.0 diesel is added with a new 240hp / 369 lbft version.

2 Feb, 2017
HSV GTSR W1: the ultimate Australian sports sedan

As you know, production of Holden Commodore will come to the end in October this year. A couple of weeks ago Holden introduced its last version, Commodore Motorsport edition. That's only the last "regular" Commodore though. The ultimate Commodore has to be an HSV, of course, and there are two. The headline car is this GTSR W1. It employs the 6.2-liter LS9 supercharged V8 from the last generation Corvette ZR1, whose goodies include dry-sump lubrication, titanium con-rods and intake valves and a 4-lobe Eaton supercharger. Although not as advanced as the LT4 unit on the new Corvette Z06 (e.g. no direct injection, VVT and cylinder deactivation), it is not short of power and torque: 636 hp and 600 lbft. This necessitates new gear ratios and a heavy-duty input shaft for the Tremec 6-speed manual gearbox to handle. It should be the most powerful and the ultimate Australian performance sedan!

To fit into the engine bay, the LS9 is given a new carbon-fiber airbox. Since the engine ran out of production long ago, HSV could source only 300 units from the stock of GM, which is also the number of GTSR W1 will be built. Priced at A$170,000, the car is more expensive than even Mercedes-AMG C63 S in Australia.

If that is too expensive to you, you may opt for the A$110,000 GTSR. This car is not quite as special. In fact, it is not a big departure from the existing Gen-F GTS, using the same LSA supercharged V8 (from old Camaro ZL1) to produce 585 hp and 546 lbft of torque. It also employs the same Magnetic adaptive dampers. Surprisingly, W1 has these advanced dampers replaced with track-oriented "Supashock" fixed rate dampers. Both cars feature the same AP brakes. Up front, 6-piston monobloc calipers serve 410mm discs (up from 390mm of the GTS). The GTSR employs 255/35ZR20 and 275/35ZR20 tires, while W1 has them upgraded to 265/35ZR20 and 295/30ZR20 Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R, which is obviously designed for track abuse.

1 Feb, 2017
New Seat Ibiza

Is this Leon Junior? The new generation Seat Ibiza has a styling almost the same as its bigger brother, just made in a smaller scale. Compared with the outgoing car, it keeps the same length and height but its width and wheelbase gain 87mm and 95mm respectively. The latter has been stretched to 2564mm, allowing rear passengers to enjoy 35mm more legroom. Front and rear headroom gain 24mm and 17mm respectively. Predictably, the new car is built on the new MQB A0 platform, which will form the basis of next VW Polo and Skoda Fabia. Its chassis is 30 percent stiffer in torsional rigidity, also lighter thanks to the use of more high and ultra-high strength steel.

The engine range consists of:

- 1.0 TSI 3-cylinder DI turbo, 95hp or 115hp;
- 1.5 TSI EA211 Evo with virtually everything (DI, VTG turbo, ACT, Miller cycle), 150hp;
- 1.6 TDI turbo diesel, 80hp, 95hp or 115hp.

Gearboxes include 5 or 6-speed manual and 7-speed DSG.

1 Feb, 2017
Industrial News

Rolls-Royce Phantom VII production ended

Rolls-Royce has ended production of Phantom, its flagship limousine. The Phantom (now known as Phantom VII) was born 13 years ago when BMW took over the brand from Volkswagen group, so it has well passed its best time. In particular, its naturally aspirated V12 was short of power compared with the turbocharged unit of its smaller sister, Ghost. The next generation Phantom, or Phantom VIII, will arrive next year.

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