29 December 2012

Volvo XC60 Facelift Spied Uncamouflaged

Volvo's popular XC60 SUV will be facelifted to keep it fresh after being in the market since 2008. The facelift mainly consist of the nose job, where the front end design is updated to bring it in-line with the looks of the recently introduced Volvo, the V40. The small inset headlight unit is now gone, and re-placed at the outer, lower bumper, which itself is a totally new design. The radiator grille has been lightly retouched too.

At the back, there rear light does not seem to differs. The main shape of the rear bumper remains too, albeit the lower part with the reflector unit has been revised with a more slender unit. The tailgate panel looks carry-over too, but the appearance has been updated with the chrome strip.

Inside, the main switchgear has been updated. This mainly consist of the new steering wheel and the new meter binnacle. This sightings was in China, so it remains to be seen when the updated XC60 will be seen at other market around the globe. Some more photos can be found after the jump.

25 December 2012

7th Chevrolet Corvette - revealed in CAD

Chevrolet Corvette is an American sportscar, spawned six generation since 1953 and has been powered by the oh so American "small block" engine. The seventh generation, the C7 is due to be introduced on January 13th of 2013. Thanks to Jalopnik, we've got to see how the 7th generation will look like.

The 2013 car is set to ditch some of its forebear design cues, for example the wrap-around rear screen for a more modern layout. Overall, the new car is edgier than its predecessor with prominent body surfacing that is crisper at the intersection and at each edge. The rear end too has taken some leaf out from the Camaro front-engined car, with squared-off quad rear light setup.

Chevrolet Corvette C7 will be powered by the enhanced version of todays LT1 6.2L V8 engine, although there is a talk of offering an entry level version 3.6L V6 to satisfy the demand for emission and consumption legislation imposed by CAFE law in the US. The more powerful ZR1 will be introduced a bit later as a 2014 model so the enthusiastic for scorching Corvette needs to wait a little longer. Some more photos after the jump.

All-New Toyota Crown Royal & Athlete Launched

Toyota has launched an all-new Crown series, consist of both Crown Royal and Crown Athlete. Both version are empowered by Toyota proud new full-height grille, and they are even more imposing that the Lexus spindle opening design. Both cars are also offered in hybrid version on top of the regular gasoline-powered model.

Toyota Crown series is rear wheel drive saloon and is a flagship series for the the Toyota saloon and often offered a Lexus-level of opulence and luxurious trimmings, albeit in a more traditional Japanese way. For this generation, Toyota has lengthened the overall length by 25mm to 4,895mm while width is up by 5mm to 1,800mm. Height is 1,460mm for the Crown Royal while Crown Athlete is 10mm lower.

Both Crown Royal and Crown Athlete range start with the 4GR-FSE 2.5L V6 engine producing 203PS@6,400rpm and 243Nm@4,800rpm. This engine can be paired with either front or an all-wheel drive option, both via 6 speed automatic version. The hybrid version is powered by 2AR-FSE 2.5L gasoline in in-line four configuration. This petrol lump is paired with the electric motor, and drive is channelled to the rear wheel via a CVT. This configuration pumps out 178PS and 221Nm for the petrol while the electric motor is capable of churning 143PS and 300Nm. Crown Athlete model gets an additional engine choice in the form of 2GR-FSE 3.5L V6 producing 315PS@6,400rpm and 377Nm@4,800rpm and this flagship version drives via 8 speed automatic gearbox.

The gallery of Toyota Crown Royal and Toyota Crown Athlete can be found below, with the real-life photo courtesy of autoc-one.

Toyota Crown Athlete

Galleries continue after the jump.

Proton P3-22A (Preve hatchback) starts road testing

It is well-known fact way before the Proton Preve was launched that the hatchback version is being developed as well, and it is not too far behind the sedan in its timeline. Now the P3-22A starts making its inroad into the real life testing program, and immediately spied by the usual publisher. Spied here by Paultan and Funtasticko, we can see that the basic front architecture is similar to the sedan version all the way to the B-pillar. The rear end can now be seen as a "conventional" hatchback, instead of the swoopy type like the Gen2. The rear screen is quite upright, similar in trend with the likes of Mazda3.

While Proton Preve is a bit flawed in its rear aesthetic, the hatchback version gets the new light assembly. The inners of the rear light is different from the LED-encrusted Preve's top part, but more like the glowing bars not unlike those found on the newer BMW cars, or Proton Lekiu concept car if we are to be patriotic.

Prior to the launch of Proton Preve, there was a rumour about the sportier positioning of this P3-22A, and will be available with the combination of the CFE engine with a manual gearbox, 6 speed in this case. However, after the successful DRB bid, there was a whisper of the drop of the CFE version for this car. Expect the truth to surface out nearer to the production. Don't rule out the integration of the PETRONAS engine too, although it is still an early days to know whether the PETRONAS NE01 can be packaged into the engine compartment of the Preve. However, since the previously national oil and gas engine-owned engine has found its way into the Exora MPV, itself is a host to Proton's CFE engine, vehicle integration could be just as ABC.

One more photo after the jump.

Mercedes-Benz CLA revealed

If you are dreaming about Mercedes-Benz CLS saloon-coupe but can't quite make it yours, Mercedes-Benz has created a cheaper alternative, the CLA, revealed here ahead of its Detroit unveiling next month. This is MB smallest 4 door coupe and it is based on the A-Class supermini platform. This means a front drive setup and a host of smaller capacity engine, as well as lower pricetag compared to the breathtaking pseudo-coupe flagship. This is the first set of actual photo, and it is quite stylish, albeit in typical MB way.
Mercedes has previously previewed this forthcoming CLA via the Concept Style Coupe showcar, but the silhouette and detailing has been dramatically toned-down for the production version. The front end bears a very strong family resemblance with the more mundane A-Class hatchback in its headlight, although it is more shapelier in the overall housing shape. 
The side panel is deeply sculpted with really strong surface interplay, narrowing towards the back of the car. The rear end follows the CLS theme, with its elegant sagging concept. Drivetrain is expected to mirror those of the hatchback donor, meaning that there will be CLA180 and CLA200 at the lowest rung powered by the turbocharged 1.6L gasoline, followed by the turbocharged 2.0L in CLA250 guise. Range-topper is expected to be powered by the highly-strung 2.0L turbo churning 245kW and 400Nm chanelling the drive via 4MATIC all-wheel-drive configuration through the 7 speed dual clutch transmission. It will be called CLA45 AMG.
The dashboard will be mostly carried over from the A Class hatchback, with the new trim parts from the door and the rest of the cabin reflecting the change in bodystyles. More photos of the Mercedes-Benz CLA can be found after the jump.

24 December 2012

Mazda i-ELOOP : innovative energy storage solution

The new Mazda6 is coming to our shore early next year, contrary to the optimistic news that we got last year when it was rumoured that the car could be previewed here as early as November 2011. The new Mazda6 is, like the CX-5, is the full-blown product of the Mazda Skyactiv technology, which encompasses the optimized body structure design to weight optimization, redesigned powertrain unit for class-leading power output and emission level as well as the engine start/stop system termed i-Stop. Mazda is bringing the next level of fuel optimization technology to the new 6, called i-ELOOP.
i-ELOOP is Mazda’s innovation on the brake energy regeneration: capturing kinetic energy (the energy generated by a vehicle when it moves) that would otherwise be lost when slowing down. This energy is used to recharge batteries in electric and hybrid cars, for example, or to power the on-board electrical network and save engine power and therefore save fuel. The innovation lies in the energy storing device, a capacitor instead of battery.
A typical vehicle deceleration phase lasts only about 10 seconds.  Realising that the effectiveness of regenerative braking systems to date has been limited by the charging and storage drawbacks of conventional lead-acid starter batteries, Mazda engineers adopted an electric double-layer capacitor (EDLC), which recharges fully in only a few seconds.  An efficient 12V-25V variable voltage alternator generates the electricity and charges the EDLC; a DC/DC converter then steps down the voltage to power electrical components such as the climate control air-conditioning and audio systems, with any surplus going to the starter battery.
A full capacitor charge is enough to run the vehicle’s electrical systems including air-conditioning for a minute or so.  This makes i-ELOOP the perfect companion for i-stop – the latter launched as standard on the Mazda CX-5 and the all-new Mazda6 – as there is no need to revert to battery power even when Mazda’s idle-stop system has shut the car off.  During stop-and-go city driving, charging often resumes before the capacitor is fully discharged.  i-ELOOP can therefore produce most if not all of a vehicle’s electricity needs, whereas normally some of the engine’s output is required just to drive the alternator.  By freeing up this engine capacity, i-ELOOP increases fuel economy under everyday driving conditions.


16 December 2012

Mercedes E-Class facelift - updated style & equipment

Mercedes-Benz has updated the E-Class model with a series of significant exterior modification, enhanced interior appointments that is more plush and modern as well as the integration of more safety and environment friendly technology. The current generation E-Class (W212) was launched in 2009.

The 2013 upgrades include a totally redesign front end, where the quad headlamp setup has been ditched. Despite maintaining the outer edge outlines where the headlight resides in the fender, the innerside has been made more contemporary, mirroring the silhouette of the smaller facelifted C-Class with its curvier and inward tapering head set. The quad light image is however retained in the headlight internal structure, which is among the most intricate seen on Mercedes-Benz yet. The hood has been revised too in line with the softer curve at its leading edge mating point with the rounder radiator grille. Taking the leaf also from its smaller sibling, the radiator grille of an E-Class is available in two design for the first time. The Base and Elegance grades utilize the conventional louvred grille 3-pointed star stands proud above it, while the Avantgarde comes with the sportier thicker two slats with huge 3-point star emblem smacked in the middle. The newly designed front bumper is common between the two, saved for the trimmings of the air intake, which is meshed in the Avantgarde and louvred in the other two.

The rear end revision is subtler. The rear light retains it housing, but the inner graphic is more more LED-laden and the lightings are arranged in horizontal manner to emphasize the sense of width, together with the carried-over trunk lid chrome garnish. The rear bumper is lightly restyled, particularly at the lower section. Another styling change is the deletion of pontoon hunch on the rear door, which is replaced by a smoother sheet metal.

The interior architecture is largely carried over, but there are many changes to the switchgear and small component that adds up to a whole new ambiance which is more modern and plush. The steering wheel is new, both for Avantgarde and Elegance which differs between themselves. The meter binnacle is new too together with its cowl design. The central airvent is revised, instead of embedded in its own panel, it is now resides within the new central horizontal garnish that can be had in either wood or aluminium, irrespective of  the trim. Between the air vents, an analogue clock makes an appearance. The audio and climate control switchgear is new, and featured more silver and chrome finish for an added touch of opulence. The gear level, which is previously available in selected model, has been entirely deleted and its function has been taken over by the DIRECT SELECT lever and paddle shift incorporated within the steering wheel stalks, except, of course, for the manual version which is available in 6 speed manual gearbox. The automatic gearbox is 7G-Tronic Plus unit.

Both the Mercedes E-Class Saloon and Estate are available with a particularly broad range of powerful and efficient petrol and diesel engines. All are fitted with ECO start/stop system and are highly efficient.

A new element is the expansion of the BlueDIRECT petrol engine family with the addition of a four-cylinder petrol engine with spray-guided direct injection, based on the same trend-setting technology used in the latest generation of six and eight-cylinder engines from Mercedes-Benz. Its technology package includes fast-acting piezo injectors for multiple injection, quick multi-spark ignition, turbocharging, fully variable camshaft adjustment on the inlet and exhaust side, as well as a controlled oil pump.

New developments for the four-cylinder engine include the first dynamic balancer with full anti-friction bearings to be used in a petrol engine as well as a switchable water pump.

The engine also sees the world's first use of the stratified lean burn process in combination with exhaust-gas turbocharging and external high-pressure exhaust gas recirculation. As a result the E-Class achieves a combined optimum consumption figure of 5.8 litres per 100 km (corresponding to 135 g/km CO2), and is therefore the only vehicle in this class to achieve efficiency class A. In addition, the new BlueDIRECT four-cylinder petrol engines already meet the EU6 standard which will apply from 2015.

Also making up the BlueDIRECT petrol engine range are the familiar V6 and V8 engines. A new addition is the six-cylinder engine, which is being offered for the first time as the E 400 with biturbo drive. With its performance potential and enormously high levels of torque at low engine speeds, this engine sets new standards in the six-cylinder sector and also meets the EU6 emissions level.

All BlueDIRECT petrol engines of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class combine a spontaneous response and exemplary power delivery with the highest levels of efficiency and best-in-class emissions performance.

Some of the diesel models of the E-Class are available as BlueTEC models fitted with the established SCR (selective catalytic reduction) technology and as such meet the EU6 emissions standard. The comprehensive engine range is supplemented with the E 300 BlueTEC HYBRID. It combines the four-cylinder diesel engine with an electric motor, thereby producing a system output of 170 kW (231 hp) and 750 Nm of torque. The E 300 BlueTEC HYBRID consumes 4.1 l/100 km and produces CO2 emissions of 107 g/km. As such it occupies the leading position among the most economical models in the upper medium-size category.

In terms of safety, the enhanced E-Class is fitted with the new Collision Prevention Assist, which is a radar-based collision avoidance system which can act on the braking system of the car. Other features are improved from the current E-Class includes Distronic Plus with steering assitance, Brake Assist Plus which comes with Junction Assist.

More photos of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class facelift can be found after the jump.

11 December 2012

Proton officially acquires Petronas engine technologies

It has been so long and after so many false start, and finally it happens. According to Business Times Proton Holdings has acquired all seven engine technologies and 117 engine technology patent owned by Petronas. The acquisition was performed from Petronas Technology Ventures Sdn Bhd, a technology commercialization arm of Petronas for a sum of RM63 million. The acquisition was completed today, witnessed by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

According to Datuk Seri Khamil Jamil, Proton will have immediate access to the Petronas engine family including the 2.0L and 2.2L in-line 4 engine, which is design-protected for both naturally aspirated and turbocharged application. It is unclear whether the patent and technology acquired  covers the other engine as well, as Petronas engine ranges from the small capacity for bike and snowmobile application right up to the 2.2L turbocharged unit which is the flagship unit.

Petronas engine journey started way back in 1996 with its technology partner Sauber Petronas Engineering AG. In 1998, the giant oil and gas company revealed its E01 engine, a high spesific output 2.0L engine with racing technology. Little the public knew that the engine has evolved into several variant, and grown into the fuel efficient commercial engine with reasonable power output.The 4 cylinder mill, codenamed NE01, was designed to have several engine displacement and can support both high pressure boost as well as naturally aspirated cylinder pressure option. It has variable valve timing and all-aluminium in its construction. By holding to all Petronas IP's too, Proton will now have direct access to the derivatives spawned from NE01 including the diesel version as well as the gasoline direct injection (source).

The engine is already well under testing under the hood of Proton Exora and Preve and set to be mass produced from 3rd quarter of 2013 onwards. The engine will find its way into Proton and Lotus cars, as well as other car as Proton is open for collaboration with other OEM as Petronas has previously has some agreement with the manufacturing parties in China to manufacture NE01 (source).

The journey that started in 1996, and grew to cover many engine type and sizes was halted in 2010. That was when Petronas called it a day as far as non-core bussiness is concern. Now that the engine is out in the public, and no longer shroud in secrecy, I am glad that engine now can see the day light and will start powering cars on our road. My stint there as a simulation engineer performing structural and CFD for intake manifold, exhaust manifold, cylinder block, cylinder head, water jacket, conrod and crankshaft will remain as one of those nice memories in life, a chapter which I have nicely close but vividly remembered.

For those technical geeks, and which to read more about Petronas engine technologies and know-how, you can view some on SAE pages linked here : http://www.sae.org/search?searchfield=petronas&typ=paper. You can also look around at simulation software conference proceeding, just so you know that these project was massively beneficial in developing the national engineering talents, and their fruitful knowledge is there for the whole world to see, and appreciated.


10 December 2012

Mitsubishi Mirage - Design & Drive Impression

Mitsubishi Mirage is the latest newcomer in the small car segment crowded with many brands offering product that is designed as exquisite as the palm tree with frill-free design element in the interest of cost. Mitsubishi is set to challenge that with a small car offering big car design and features at a price that will shaken the national boys. Mirage also is classified as an eco-car, and capable of sipping fuel at a really slow rate to post a 21km/L figure, something that the local/Korean boys can't quite deliver.

Model-wise, to recap, Mitsubishi Mirage came in 2 specs, the low-spec GL and the loaded GS. The GL can be had with either 5 speed manual or CVT, while the GS is CVT only. Standard equipment across the board include dual SRS, ABS, all-around power window, immobilizer, chromed door inside handle, 3 cupholders in the floor console and a 2 DIN audio system. Opting for GS trim will unlock a host of convenience features that is big-car like including fog lamp, rear spoiler, digital automatic air conditioning, starter button , keyless entry, tonneau cover and leather upholstery for the gear knob and steering. All these accessories weight up to the RM63,375 for the full-fat version while the leaner GL version is pitched at RM55,583 and RM60,453 for the manual and CVT respectively. The price put Mirage right at the competition with the top-range Myvis, comprises of the 1.5L Myvi SE and Extreme.

Where the Lancer (and Inspira), ASX and the never-been-to-Malaysia Outlander and Colt wears the distinctive shark-like nose conforming to the then-up-to-date Mitsubishi design language, Mitsubishi Mirage wears the newer theme, consistent with the new Outlander. Aesthetic is always subjective, so verdict is an open ended question. Anyhow, the styling of Mirage is clean-looking with triangulated headlamp, slim grille opening and the lower intake adopts a soft radius but strengthened by the protruding lower lip. The rear end meanwhile is vertical with the rear light follow the same design shape as the front item. There is no fancy LED here, just a good old bulb. Overall, Mitsubishi Mirage looks quite sleek unlike the tall-boy appearance of the two-generation of Myvi, courtesy of its lower stance at 1,500mm. Total length is 3,710mm, width is 1,665mm and wheelbase is 2,450mm.

It is the interior design that sets Mirage apart from all its rival, relatively speaking of course. Where Perodua Myvi interior is dominated with the flattened plastic panel with reduced curvature to minimise the material usage and tooling cost, Mirage triumphs with the stylish centre console wrapped by the glossy black finish. The audio is high mounted and beneath it is the air cond control. For the GL version, the manual control comprises of two rotary dials and two sliding bar. Storage space is provided by the cubby at the top of the glovebox. The gear knob is of the gated type, sits behind the two cupholders. The remaining one cupholder is behind the handbrake lever, closer to the rear passenger.

The front seat is comfortable and you are cocooned quite well in the car. The feeling of well-contained is accentuated further by the dark cabin color which prevent it from becoming any airier. Space for front passenger is great and the width of the cabin is generous. Moving to the back of the cabin, the leg and head room is sufficient although it is a bit less than Perodua Myvi. Due to the width, 3 abreast will a bit tight, but so do the oppositions. Disappointingly, not unlike many car priced under RM100k, the rear passenger comfort is treated as fourth class citizen. While nicely padded, the rear bench is flatter than your neighbour garden bench. You can slide around uninterruptedly under the cornering force. The boot capacity is 245L, and can be made more practical thanks to the split-fold mechanism of the rear seat.

In terms of engineering, Mitsubishi Mirage is clearly designed with the strict cost control in mind. For example, while the interior design is quite modern in the look department, Mitsubishi has cut the corner where it can. The door trim for example make do without the fabric insert. It is just plastic, albeit it is textured. Another cost saving measures visible is the lack of body paint in the engine bay. The engine bay is left with the base coat. Quite clever and I think it should be adopt by other OEM too. The car is lightweight at 825kg, and certainly the weight saving can be seen in the engine bay. Take a look below, the side beam just stop in front of the wheel and mounted pretty low to join the rest of the load bearing element underneath. There's also massive space between the inner structure to the fender outer panel, it should be good not only for the weight reduction, but also for the pedestrian impact rating.

Driving experience and satisfaction varies depending on the expectation. The 78PS and 100Nm of power and torque offered by the 1,193cc engine is sufficient to propel the car along in a leisurely manner. If you are the eco-person, and need the system intervention to prevent your right foot from damaging the environment (and your fuel comsumption), then this car is for you. The CVT and engine management is clearly tuned for fuel economy and together they resist the request for hard acceleration. Stand on the gas at low speed, the CVT drone, the engine groan, and you'll be moving forward with slightly added dose of acceleration.

On the move, the cabin is fairly quiet. There's little road roar, much better than the local product. The steering is light and offer not much feeling, but it is ok for city car like this. I can recall the new Myvi has a  meatier steering feel despite being the EPS type. The suspension is a bit on the soft side, so handling is, well, lets just say it is biased towards ride comfort. It is just OK, and will make the cut desired by everyone with nothing outstanding in particular.

How does Mitsubishi Mirage fares? Well, it is as competent as Perodua Myvi, with no serious advantages or disadvantages. While it is smaller on the cabin, it gains hefty advantage in the boot volume. While the cabin is a little less airier, the overall design has more flair to it and it lack the feeling of so-2005 to it. The glossy centre console in particular, with well-curvaceous panel is more commendable than the local product can ever manage to become. The overall driving experience however is a little mixed. Although it has a thoroughly modern drivetrain, the drive itself does not feel that sophisticated, just on par with the car in the segment. All in all, Mitsubishi Mirage is a safe option for those would like to try something non-nationals.

More photos of Mitsubishi Mirage can be found after the jump.

07 December 2012

3.9s to 100km/h,1680L luggage space - Audi RS6 Avant

Fast big Audi estate has returned in the form of the all-new Audi RS6 Avant. Thanks to its twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 TFSI, kicking out a phenomenal  560PS of power between 5,700 and 6,700 rpm, with a constant 700 Nm of torque available between 1,750 and 5,500 rpm engine. The results? Well, a 3.9s century sprint and 305km/h of top speed.  The latest super Avant will firmly cement its RS credentials by outrunning its mighty V10-powered predecessor with a smaller displacement and greater fuel efficiency, thanks to numerous engine technology as well as some 100kg weight reduction.
Aesthetically, numerous RS-specific design details underscore the distinctive appearance of the high-performance Avant. Most noticeable are the matte aluminium applications on the body, the matte black honeycomb radiator grille at the front of the car, the bumpers, the wings, the sill flares and the large roof spoiler. At the rear of the car, the diffuser and the two large, elliptical exhaust tailpipes make a bold statement.

Two optional exterior design packages – Matte Aluminium or Carbon – are also available to further customise the look. With the Carbon appearance package, the front splitter and the diffuser are even more boldly styled. The new Audi RS 6 Avant is available in eight exterior colours, including the exclusive shade Daytona Grey matte. Additional options from the Audi exclusive range offer numerous opportunities for customisation.

The standard rim is the high-gloss, 20-inch, forged wheels in a seven twin-spoke designwhile three 21-inch cast wheels with either high-gloss silver, polished black or polished titanium-look finish will be available at extra cost.
 The elegantly trimmed but highly focused cockpit of the new Audi RS 6 Avant is singularly tailored to the driver. The dial instruments feature black faces, white dials and red needles. The key, the flat-bottomed three-spoke multifunction steering wheel, the illuminated entry sills, the rev counter and the displays for the MMI and the Driver’s Information System (DIS) incorporate RS logos.

The masterpiece is the engine. The two large twin-scroll turbochargers enable the RS 6 Avant to gather momentum with remarkable intensity. They are mounted together with the intercooler in the inside V of the cylinder banks. The exhaust side of the cylinder heads is also on the inside, while the intake side is on the outside. This concept allows for a compact design and short gas paths with minimal flow losses.

The RS-specific engine management and unthrottled intake system also contribute to the eight-cylinder engine’s dramatic response, which is delivered to the tune of a classic V8 soundtrack. Switchable flaps in the exhaust system will make the sound even fuller at the touch of a button, and a sports exhaust system will be available as an option to provide even greater amplification if required.

The 4.0-litre TFSI is paired with an eight-speed tiptronic transmission featuring shortened shift times and offering ‘Sport’ and ‘Manual’ modes in addition to the standard ‘Drive’ setting. To shift for themselves drivers can use the shift paddles on the steering wheel or the selector lever, which is of a unique RS design. The lower gears of the tiptronic are tightly spaced for optimum performance, while a tall eighth gear reduces fuel consumption.

At the heart of the quattro permanent all-wheel drive system with torque vectoring is a self-locking centre differential with an elevated locking value. A sport differential is also active on the rear axle to distribute power steplessly between the rear wheels for even greater agility and stability.

Audi RS6 Avant will enter European market early next week. Some more photos of the fast estate can be found after the jump.

06 December 2012

Chevrolet Sonic launched in Malaysia - RM76,888

There is a new kid on the block, ready to mix with the class stalwart Toyota Vios, and will mess with the rest of the B Segment entries in Malaysian market namely Honda City and the recently launched Nissan Almera. This is the latest Chevrolet foray in the crowded but lucrative B Segment, and they have just launched a two-pronged attact with both sedan and hatchback bodystyles.

Compared to the mundane styling of its Japanese rivals, Sonic is best described as unconventional and definitely not the "pakcik" type. The front end is snout-like, with upright blunt grille flanks by the similarly upright, swept back headlight with its protruding lenses. While the side profile in unadventurous, the 5 door hatchback does get an Alfa-styled hidden rear door outside handle. The rear fascia is adorned by the intricately-styled rear light too.

In terms of size, Chevrolet Sonic sits on a class competitive 2,525mm wheelbase. The sedan measures 4,399mm in length right in the smack of City/Vios but dwarfed by the gigantic Almera, while the hatchback is shorter at 4,039mm. Width and height are1,735mm and 1,517mm respectively, identical for both variant. Though the interior space is identical, the sedan version can swallow 466L worth of luggage, while the hatchback measures 253L.

As for the interior design, Chevrolet Sonic dashboard carries the same theme as the one on the Cruze, albeit with the fabric insert removed. The centre cluster houses the integrated audio system with nice high-black screen while the manual aircon is operated via three rotary dials mounted on the lower, silvered panel. The motorcycle-inspired meter binnacle is also youthful in appearance.

Mechanically, there's only single engine variant, namely the 1,398cc ECOTEC engine, producing a reasonable 99hp@6,000rpm and 130Nm@4,000rpm of power and torque respectively. While its peers is marching ahead with their 4 speed automatic transmission (or 5 speed in case of Honda City), Sonic gets 6, good for on-paper marketing USP. Chassis setting is a class norm, consists of McPhersons strut and Torsion Beam setup. Tyre and rim sizes are 205/55 R16. Fuel tank capacity is 46L, while the official mixed cycle fuel consumption is 8.12L/100km. Performance-wise, Chevrolet Sonic can reach 100km/h in 12.9s, and will run out of puff at 175km/h.

Chevrolet Sonic is indeed very well-priced especially considering that it is CBU unit. Price starts at RM76,888 for the sedan while the hatchback is RM2,000 more. Another trump card that it can hold against its rival is the service internal, which is set at 15,000km or 9 month interval. Combined with the warranty period of 5 years or 200,000km, the ownership prospect looks very assuring indeed.


05 December 2012

BMW 4 Series Coupe Concept revealed

BMW has been contemplating about renaming the 3 Series coupe to a 4 Series since quite a while, and only now it will materialize. Although officially labelled as a concept, this is the 2 door version of the F30 3 Series, set to be unveiled at the North American International Motor Show in January. Codenamed F32, the concept is named 4 Series Coupe Concept and apart from the glitzy bumper fascias, fancy interior trimmings and gigantic wheels, this is a thinly disguised BMW 4 Series.

The front end carries the same design philosophy as the F30 with the drooping nose and headlight "pan handle" intersecting the grille housing. The headlight itself is more delicately styled as compared to the F30. The bumper on the concept car has a gaping lower air intake, garnished with the parallel inner fins to complete the chiselled frontal fascia.

The side profile is classic BMW coupe sillhouette with sloping C-pillar and lengthy front door. In the concept, and billed to reach production, there is a lower fender gills. The rear end bears a strong family resemblance with the new 6 Series with overall outlines of the proportion. The cohesiveness between the trunk lid, C-pillar kick and the rear light shape is just astonishingly pretty. The same can't be said with the rear bumper decoration, which follow the same concept as the front ones, but looks quite overdone. This probably will be one of the extravaganza detailing of the show car. However, overall, the 4 Series Coupe Concept is stunningly elegant just like any of the BMW coupe.

The cabin will be a familiar environment to the current 3 Series owner, and the dashboard and gear console are practically carried over wholesomely. The showcar comes with leather upholstered dashboard upper section with contrasting stitching, unique veneer for the panelling and the prominently-stitched and ribbed brown cow-hides on the dashboard lower panel and on the seats. Expect the cabin to be identical to the current trim lines as of the F30 once it reaches production.

With the new segment numbering signified by the 4 Series, the F32 Coupe is larger than the 3 Series sedan that underpinned it. Length is slightly up at 4,641mm, wider at 1,826mm but lower at 1,362mm. It sits on a similar 2,810mm wheelbase. The powertrain unit is set to mirror those on the sedan with their downsized displacement boosted with TwinPower turbo technology. More photos of the BMW 4 Series Coupe Concept can be viewed after the jump.

04 December 2012

Another Patented Ford Innovation - Unobstructed Door

Ford innovators at the company’s UK research and development centre originated the new Ford B-MAX’s ingenious door system. In studying ways to ease access in and out of a future small car, team members working on the Ford B-MAX project wanted completely unobstructed entry and exit.  The Dunton Innovation Group came up with the idea of hinged front doors, sliding rear doors and integrating the central body pillars to create a 1.5-metre-wide opening.

Customer research had established that loading and unloading cars, especially from the side, needed to be as simple and easy as possible.  This was not only said by parents and others ferrying children in their cars, but also by adults transporting older parents.

Prototype demonstrators pioneering the Easy Access Door System, which now features on the production Ford B-MAX, went to customer clinics in the UK and on the continent.  Public reaction confirmed Ford’s plans to progress the innovation:  “Wow, it’s like opening a flat or an apartment,” said one customer.

The Ford B-MAX programme transferred from embryonic development at Dunton to engineers at the company’s sister technical centre in Cologne for full engineering and testing.

“We delivered B-MAX with an innovative door system while retaining the stylish sweeping roofline which is contributing to its appeal today – so job done by the Dunton Innovation Group,” said Richard Brown.

Other innovations hatched by the Dunton team include the Ford Focus’ award-winning Door Edge Protector covered HERE . A mere £50 option, the protectors wrap round the side of the doors when open and fold away discreetly as they are shut.


01 December 2012

2013 American Honda Civic - the detail differences

Honda has debuted its heavily facelifted North American Civic at the Los Angeles Motor Show. The updated model received a total aesthetic makeover on the outside and inside, and the chassis setting has been recalibated, both intending to rectify the cheap-car feeling of the 2012 model and set to deliver a more satisfying driving experience.

From the outset, it is clear that the 2012 Honda Civic is the car for recession time. In order to fulfill the targeted projected area in side, front, rear and top elevation with minimum material achievable, all the surfaces has been flattened. Why? The curvier metal and plastic panels consume more raw material for a given projection area and the heavier the curve, the deeper the tooling (stamping or moulding) has to be. Hence, a flatter surface not only uses less material, but the tooling can be made smaller and cheaper too. So, there goes the wrap-around fender and sculpted dashboard of the Civic FD generation. While they were at that, all the expensive garnishing like the interior bezel has been taken away too.

This time around, Honda America has re-sculpted the entire front end by giving is a new hood, bumper and grille. The plain looking front end has been beefed up with more substantial bumper featuring the thick chrome bar too. The grille outline has been thickened, and chromed too ala the new Accord. The hood panel has been reprofiled and this lend a more voluptuous look.

The weedy rear end design has been totally ditched. From both photos above (credited to Autoblog), the entire trunk lid is an newly designed item and it features an embedded tail light too. Mind you, it is not the half-hearted reflector insert like the Asian model, but a totally new jewel-like light assembly. Together with the chunkier rear bumper particularly at the lower portion, the rear end now has a more planted stance.

The upscaling move continues with the cabin design. The drab cabin of the 2012 car made way for the redesigned dashboard, floor console and door trim. For the centre console, the audio and aircond control panel has been re-specified with more premium design. The airvents has been resized and garnished with chrome surround. Similar treatment are given to the gear console where the gear base is trimmed in metal-look, and the gear slot is chrome-lined. Similar chrome line is inserted to the cup holder too, although it still lacks the sliding cover of the Asian car. The door trim has been revised, whereby the top portion has been totally redesigned, and now moulded with padded material like the Asian car. Subtle silver insert is there too to punch additional elegant touch. Both the dashboard and door trim top panel comes with leather-like stitching for an added opulence. Tricot headliner complete the interior makeover.

The improvement does not stop there. Honda has taken the opportunity to quicken the steering ratio, stiffen the anti roll bar and front spring while the front disc brake has been enlarged by 20mm to 282mm. All these measures to a better handling and braking performance.

Safety has been enhanced too. Debuting on 2013 Honda Civic are the SmartVent which is a device to minimise the excessive side airbag deployment force, curtain airbags and new alert system in the form of Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Warning systems.

Also making an inroad into the 2013 Civic is a host of multimedia experience found on the recently introduced Honda Accord. Among them are the Bluetooth Hands Free Link, rear view camera, colored i-MID, Pandora Interface and SMS functionality.

Lets get into the detail of the changed item and how does it fare with the outgoing 2012 car, and to certain extend we would like to draw some comparison with the Asian car. The new fascia really added the much needed premium touch to the Civic. The original American Civic bumper is a tad drab compared to the Asian version, which subtly comes with chunkier lower edge and hence looks sportier. Meshed grille insert also has replaced the previous horizontal bars item. 
Majority of the change happen at the back. It is clear cut here that the more jewel-like rear light and tastefully applied chrome does bring the Civic outlook to a more premium level. The lower valence too lends some air of solidity to the rear end of the Civic, which can look under-substance on both outgoing American and current Asian car.
For the interior, apart from the redesign centre cluster, the re-defined gear console has certainly hit the mark. The current gear console, on any continent, can be best described as cheap looking. The black gear surround really belongs to the Honda City class instead of the Civic class. Honda has ditched the previous console, and income a wider gear base that is finished in the metal look (like Civic FD) and the gear gate has been chrome-lined. Honda Malaysia, can you find a way to incorporate this minor enhancement somehow in our Civic? 
The Asian Honda Civic has been blessed with the soft touch material on the upper door trim section, while the 2012 American Civic did not come with this. For the 2013 enhancement, Honda did not simply take the Asian design and applied to the American Civic, it has gone the long route by redesigning the upper section. The padded upper section also come with the stitch-like finishing and the silver accent is a nice addition. The silver trim looks really integrated, unlike the after-though look like the Asian Civic.

The audio system also has not been spared in this round of extensive update. The jumbo-sized audio button with its plain design has been updated. The panel is now more contoured and glossy in finishing and there is also some chrome insert included too.
In North America, the new 2013 Honda Civic continues to come in the sedan and coupe guise. While the sedan has received all the detail update, the coupe make do with the new wheel design. Trim wise, the entry level DX trim has been dropped, thus now comprises of LX, EX, EX-L and Si. The first 3 trims are powered by the familiar 1.8L mill paired to either 5 speed manual or automatic transmission. The range-topper Si is powered by the 2.4L engine and paired only to the 6 speed manual gearbox. In between, there is also a natural gas version with 1.8L engine (110hp) while the Civic Hybrid is powered by the 1.5L gasoline hooked to the IMA system.

For all the improvement, the Civic range starts from $18,615 for the Sedan LX and stops at $26,465 for the Civic Natural Gas. Compared to the 2012 price, the price increase is mere $160.

What do you think about the enhanced Honda Civic? Are there any update you would like to have in the Malaysian version? More photos of the 2013 Honda Civic can be found after the jump.

Proton Satria Neo R3 launched

Proton has launched the Satria Neo R3 yesterday as a sportier and more dynamic extension to the Satria Neo CPS model range. Not to be confused with the R3 Satria Neo (which retailed at RM79,797 and punched 145hp at a screaming 7,000rpm), this is essentially the Satria Neo CPS that is decked out the with the R3 parts.

Compared to its look-alike high performance cousin, Satria Neo R3 is powered by the 1.6L CPS which produced 125hp@6,500rpm and 150Nm@4,500rpm. Paired to either 4 speed automatic or 5 speed manual, Satria Neo R3 can sprint to 100km/h in 10.5s and 190km/h of top speed (make that 12.5s and 185km/h for the automatic version). The manual version is priced at RM61,250 while the automatic version retailed at RM64,250.

Compared to the outgoing Satria Neo CPS, the R3 version is kitted with front splitter, rear spoiler, 16 inch alloy wheels and side protector moulding in Titanium finish. The interior has been upgraded too with the double DIN audio system with touch screen panel and leather upholstery. Unlike the exterior makeover which gets most of the R3 Satria Neo outlook, the interior enhancement stop at those two, so there's no red trimmings (except stitching) and push-start button. The exterior shade has been extended to 4 options namely Fire Red, GTi Silver, Tranquility Black and Canary Yellow which is the famous color of the S2000 Satria Neo. The R3 body decals are included in the styling package for any purchase before 31st December 2012.

As usual with R3 component inventory, a range of upgrades are available. The buyer can buy ECU upgrade, high-performance exhaust system, lowered spring set and lightened engine pulleys. For the price, please consult your nearest Proton dealer.

Proton Satria Neo has made its mark in the motorsport arena lately. The involvement started to pay dividend in 2011 when Proton emerged as the APRC champion. Although it has been aged and seasoned accordingly since its 2006 introduction, and despite the oldies design from previous era of Proton design, Satria Neo is quite wonderful to drive. Lets not talk about the cabin ergonomics or the weak door stopper, and slight inconvenient clutch and gear slotting, it is about the way the steering interact with the body dynamics that shine. With proper power and handling upgrade, Satria Neo potentially can become one of the better-handling affordable car in the market. 

More studio snapshots of Proton Satria Neo R3 can be found after the jump.

30 November 2012

New CAR Magazine in the market

There's a new car magazine at your nearest news agent, and it is called CAR. The latest publication from Astro Publication is the fruit of the licensing agreement with Bauer Consumer Media Limited in the UK. In UK market, CAR is the premium motoring magazine with 50 years of history and CAR Malaysian edition is the 10th licensed edition of the CAR Magazine in many continents round the globe.

CAR Malaysia is headed by Ahmad Zulizwan and Donald Cheah. If their names sound familiar, this is because they have led other UK-based magazine before, and this is not the first licensed automotive magazine from Astro Publication.

The new magazine will rival the likes of Autocar, Top Gear and Evo, which are the high-ranking UK-licensed magazine. CAR content will mix the selection of local and European news, with the first-grade photography.

The magazine has hit the news agent from 28 November and retailed at competitive RM10. The first Malaysian edition will feature the drive impression of the new Volkswagen Golf, Aston Martin Vanquish, Ford Focus sedan as well the finest superhatch in the Britain's market.

Malaysia Motoring News would like to welcome the latest edition of the magazine to the Malaysian shore. Truthfully, our market is really starving for the healthy dose of automotive magazine. My student time in the UK was certainly a heaven in this aspect, and my trips to Japan has shown the same heaven too. So lets hope these heavenly scenario is not that far off from Malaysian automotive magazine market.

27 November 2012

First real life photo of updated American Honda Civic exterior

We've seen the first shot of the updated interior of the American Honda Civic, now the exterior photos have surfaced out, thanks to the source. These shots were taken at the dealership and it shows clearly the renewed rear end is far more substantial looking than the weedy looking current American Civic.
This is not the best angle to determine the overall outlook of the rear. While it looks more "complete" with larger tail lights with properly sectioned internals and the chromed garnish that make the rear fascia more upmarket looking together with chunkier lower edge of the bumper, from some internet photos, MMN has a suspicion that the rear fascia is a bit angled rear-wards, i.e slightly sagging, which is accentuated further by the contour of the rear bumper upper section. It doesn't have the pert look like the sportier-looking Civic FD. To see side by side how the current Civic differs from the older Civic FD, refer to MMN previous article HERE.

The front end is wholly new, as the changed item covers new bumper and grille assembly and the hood outer panel. Much like the revised dashboard, chrome inserts are featured heavily, prominently inserted around the radiator grille and lies across the car along the lower intake. I however feel that the Asian Civic, especially on its optional Modulo grille looks way better.

It remains to be seen how the rest of the Civic range will look with different trim. MMN is quite keen to see the gear console which we think is a bit understyled compared to the outgoing Civic. We think they won't be any changes there or else this guy would have snap it.

The rest of the photos from the earlier post can be be found after the jump.

First sight on the interior of the updated American Honda Civic

As expected, the refresh that Honda will make for the North American Civic will be extensive, covering both interior and exterior to reflect the critics it received from the press and consumer at that side of the world. We've been officially served with glimpse of the exterior update (HERE). 

For the interior, Honda has retained the main build of the dashboard, but has added the new centre module as well as padding up the area at the front of the passenger. The shape of the air-vent has been changed to almost rectangular and they are trimmed on their surround. The area in front of the front passenger LOOKS padded, but a true judgement still awaits. The previously matte-looking centre console has been taken out and replaced by the glossy panel, with a chromed-laden panel. Air vents and audio buttons are inserted with chromed bits, and the there is also chrome bars running lower down the panel. The climate control panel is now more CRV-look instead of a throwback to the outgoing generation. 
The updated Civic will be reveal during the Los Angeles Motorshow. In addition to the styling enhancement, Honda is expected to increase the equipment level too. 

For the uninformed, North American Honda Civic is an entirely different model to our Asian car. Despite the similar underpinnings, and most of the exterior and interior panel, the specific details are tailored exclusively for each region. For example, the FD generation Civic sports an entirely different front end rear end between Asian and American. Only in certain exception that this fact varies. For example, the FD Civic was rebadged as Acura CSX in Canada where it is truthly just a LHD version of the Asian car. The current model is less so, but with the revised styling, the outlook of the American and Asian cars are now set further apart. With the new rear end that is distinctively American, we won't be hoping that our next update for the Civic will follow the same route. For those who missed the previous update, head down after the jump for the updated exterior photos.