New R series AMG Mercedes

Mercedes-AMG unveiled the new R 63 AMG at the Chicago Auto Show this month. Following the usual AMG interpretation of
bigger, better and more powerful, this R 63 AMG is powered by the new AMG 6.3 litre V8-engine. With an output of 375 kW (510 hp), and 630 Newton metres of torque and permanent four wheel drive, this Grand Sports Tourer offers a combination of sportiness, spaciousness and top-class comfort for up to six passengers. This car follows on from the unveiling of the Vision R 63 AMG at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt/Main in September 2005, and the positive response to this show car has resulted in it going into production and it will be available later this year. Provided you have very deep products.

Having driven a couple of AMG’s recently, including one with the 6.3 liter engine, let me assure you that there is more than enough power available to propel this new vehicle at several times the legal limit!

The 2006 F1 calendar changes!

The F1 calendar has been changed, before the season even starts, with the news coming through that the Belgian GP at Spa has been cancelled. There had been rumors that the promoters were in the red, then declared bankrupt. However, there was also talk that Bernie Ecclestone, the world’s most popular used car salesman, had stepped in and he would promote it. However, the situation right now is that Bernie has said he will run the 2007 and 2008 Spa GPs, but there is work to be done before this will happen and yes, the 2006 event is cancelled.

To further muddy the waters, Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor, Cesar Maia has stepped up to say that they are ready to host this GP, with their track having been the official F1 circuit for Brazil from 1981 to 1990. “We know that Belgium has cancelled its meeting and we want to put ourselves at the service of the sport to organize our own,” said Maia.

Now while this may sound far-fetched, the date would be September 17, a month before the official Brazilian GP on October 22, with China and Japan in between. If this were to happen, it would be better to schedule the two Brazilian events one after the other, therefore putting China and Japan (the Asian leg) at the end of the calendar. This is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

Here is the (subject to change) 2006 F1 calendar:
Mar 12 Bahrain
Mar 19 Malaysia
Apr 02 Australia
Apr 23 San Marino
May 07 Europe
May 14 Spain
May 28 Monaco
June 1 Great Britain
June 25 Canada
July 02 United States
July 16 France
July 30 Germany
Aug 06 Hungary
Aug 27 Turkey
Sep 10 Italy
Sep 17 Belgium (cancelled)
Oct 01 China
Oct 08 Japan
Oct 22 Brazil

With the new teams of Midland F1, Super Aguri and Squadro Tosso Rora (sorry, Squadro Toro Rosso) and new V8’s all round, then it might even be an interesting year.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what was the engine in the Hurrycane coupe? The Hurrycane (not Hurricane) was built by the Custoca company in Austria and had a 1600 cc VW engine in the rear. The ES version was quite a pretty little coupe for 1977.

So to this week. There was a vehicle built in the USA which you could buy with amphibious drive gear as an optional extra. What was its name?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] Good luck!

GM will stop you getting lost

While GM might be having problems finding its way through the financial mess it is in, their position finding service does seem to be on the right track.

AP Auto Writer, Dee-Ann Durbin reports from the Chicago Auto Show that ten years after it first introduced the OnStar safety and navigation system, General Motors Corp. is making a significant upgrade that will allow customers to get real-time directions as they’re driving.

GM announced the new option called Turn-by-Turn Navigation that will debut on the Buick Lucerne and the Cadillac DTS in March and will gradually be added to other GM vehicles. GM says it will be available on approximately 1 million cars and trucks by the 2007 model year.

Around 4 million drivers now have OnStar, a service unique to GM. That will increase exponentially in the next few years, since GM plans to make OnStar standard on all vehicles by 2007.

OnStar has always been able to give directions, track a stolen car, unlock a car when the keys are left inside or summon an ambulance after an accident. Gradually, other features have been added, such as the ability to make handsfree calls and send monthly vehicle diagnostic reports.

Right now, OnStar owners can press a button to dial an operator and get audio directions based on their location, which is pinpointed by satellite. The directions are read off immediately. The system lets customers tape the directions and play them back as they drive, but it doesn’t keep track of the vehicle’s progress as it follows the route.

With the new system, drivers will call an operator and ask for audio directions, which are downloaded by the operator. A computerized voice will come on and talk the driver through each step of the route as they’re driving. If the driver leaves the route, the system will alert the driver and recalculate the directions based on the new location.

OnStar President Chet Huber said the new system is easy to use and safer than screen-based navigation because drivers never have to take their eyes off the road. It also will be less expensive than installing a navigation screen, which can cost between USD 1,500 and USD 3,000. Directions are available in English, Spanish or French.

“It will demystify the user interface with navigation,” Huber told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “It will be easy to use. Normal people will be able to get value out of it.”

Huber wouldn’t give the exact cost of the Turn-by-Turn Navigation option, but he said it will be less than USD 34.95 per month, which is what customers currently pay to access directions from OnStar. Customers pay USD 16.95 per month for OnStar safety features, such as an automatic call when the air bag deploys.

Eighty-five percent of OnStar customers currently get only the safety package, while 15 percent get the directions package, Huber said.

Huber said Turn-by-Turn Navigation is less labor-intensive than the current system, which depends heavily on live operators.

OnStar had trouble catching on since drivers didn’t immediately understand the system or its benefits. But Huber said that’s changing. OnStar subscriptions were up 30 percent between 2004 and 2005, and more than 60 percent of customers who get the system for free in the first year of ownership are now renewing their subscriptions, he said.

Huber said competitors have been slow to match OnStar because the technology is complex and needs constant updates. GM has licensed the technology to a few competitors, but only Isuzu Motors Ltd. and Honda Motor Co.’s Acura brand have some OnStar features in 2006 models. But Huber thinks the pressure will be on as OnStar moves into every GM vehicle.

“We know that the other vehicle manufacturers are seeing the same things we see, and that is that ultimately, these kinds of services are going to be expected as the minimum price of entry to be seriously considered in a wide range of vehicle categories,” Huber said.

(Being someone who refuses to drive to Bangkok, because I get lost every time, without fail, this system could change that. Will GM here be offering the OnStar option? I will enquire at the Bangkok International Motor Show at the end of March. Dr. Iain.)

McLaren comes out with new V8 and ‘chrome’ paint

At the end of last week, McLaren showed their new F1 livery, “chrome” paint. According to McLaren, this is in keeping with McLaren’s high tech brand values, and the new paint has an innovative surface coating, which achieves a high level of reflectivity and makes the largely composite machine appear chromed. The technology used was perfected by McLaren during the past six months and is completely new to Formula One.

“A lot of research and months of work have gone into creating this unique chrome finish,” explained McLaren Marketing Managing Director Ekrem Sami. “We are always looking at innovative ways to allow our sponsor partners to differentiate their brands from the competition through their partnership with the team and this unique livery is designed to be extremely photogenic. “When we created our previous livery in the mid nineties we established what we believed then was an innovative and groundbreaking new identity for McLaren Mercedes,” continued Sami. “What we have launched today is as revolutionary and we hope it will be the foundation of the team’s livery for many years to come.”

However, the very British team probably is probably unaware of the American drag racer’s creed, which went “If it don’t go, chrome it!” Let us hope that is not the case.

The engine for the new car is the 2.4 liter Mercedes V8 and weighs just 95 kg and puts out around 700 bhp at 19,000 rpm. The engine appears to have a fair bit of chrome too!

The always smiling and loquacious Kimi Raikkonen is reported by McLaren as giving the thumbs up for the new-look car. “I have only seen illustrations of the new livery until now but they do it no justice,” said Kimi. “It looks fantastic and should create a bit of a stir when we drive it on tracks around the world. If we can make the car as fast as it looks then we will be in good shape.” And if you believe that quote from the McLaren press release came out of Raikkonen’s mouth, then you also believe that the moon is made of cheese.