Vol. VI No. 44 - Tuesday
December 25, - December 31, 2007



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Ssanyong Kyron

After the Bangkok International Motor Show this year I wrote “Ssanyong sshould sshoot its sstylists!” Their entire range was so ugly, I felt the only use for one was as a hearse, and I would still say, “I wouldn’t be seen dead in one!”

Ssanyong Kyron

Unable to pass the local showroom without puking, I wondered just how this marque was doing globally and was answered partly by a review in Australia’s GoAuto, where some journalist had drawn the short straw in the office and spent a week in one (probably wearing a paper bag on his head, so he couldn’t be recognized).
His report was as follows: The Kyron has been on sale for just 18 months and Ssangyong has given an implicit acknowledgement that its medium SUV was not a pretty sight. Kyron engines needed fettling to pass Euro IV emissions, so Ssangyong grabbed the opportunity to give its much criticized styling a pull-through.
Whittling down to the detail, changes have been made to the bonnet, front guards, grille, bumper and lights. At the rear, the tailgate is new, as are rear quarter panels, bumpers and lights. The 18 inch wheels are also a far more simple, elegant design.
So the Kyron has been made cleaner and cheaper and is certainly much better to look at. But is it any good?

Kyron rear view

Slide into the cabin and the black chequered seat trim looks better than the unimpressive grey material used before and the general impression is of a clear, very conventional well laid-out dash. The only odd detail is the digital clock, which has the hours displayed above the minutes in a vertical stack.
Look closely and you’ll notice that you don’t get a luxury SUV for the price of an entry-level model. Some of the interior is a little rough around the edges (the new illuminated vanity mirrors, for example don’t quite have the expensive look of some of the other parts of the dash), and the sword-shape handbrake lever is set over to the left on the center console - not an ideal position for the driver in right-hand drive cars. The cargo cover on the M270 XDi looks cheap, too.
The Kyron’s seats are not remarkable in the class but are comfortable nonetheless, seeming to be able to provide adequate support for most shapes and sizes (no easy feat), and offers a sound driving position aided by the height-adjustable steering wheel (there’s no reach adjustment) and height-adjustable seat base.
There is no driver’s left footrest, even though there is the room to fit one. Ssangyong in Australia says it would like to fit one here, but faces problems with crash worthiness if it does so. (And that is as difficult to believe as Santa Claus too.)
Rear seat comfort is quite good, with lap-sash belts for all occupants, while cargo space is easy to access with the lift-up tailgate that presents a tall and wide if not particularly deep load space.
The view out of the Kyron is clear until you scan behind you, where the thick D-pillars and small rear window (even though it’s supposed to be larger) make seeing much harder. At least the Kyron has rear-parking sensors to take some of the guesswork out of reverse-parking maneuvers.
Both the 2.0 liter and 2.7 liter turbo-diesels are relatively quiet, smooth performers but the muted rattle seeping into the cabin leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that they are diesels. The better performer is clearly the 2.7 liter, which lacks the low rpm tardiness that the 2.0 liter suffers from.
Neither engine feels all that punchy compared to the better turbo-diesel efforts in the medium SUV sector, but there is enough torque there once you look for it.
The automatic transmission, a Mercedes-Benz five speed unit, has nicely spaced ratios and serves up a smooth gearshift. The new gearshift buttons on the wheel are an easy, welcoming entrée to self-shifting, quickly becoming second nature unlike other more awkward set-ups.
The Kyron is a relatively old school SUV in its suspension and chassis, with an independent coil spring front suspension and five-link coil spring live axle at the rear. The separate chassis and neatly tucked-up or bashplated underpinnings generally augur well for the inevitable off-road biffs.
This design may promise a polished off-road performance but unfortunately the Kyron borders on truculent when pushed on the road.
It’s worth briefly revisiting the last Kyron’s suspension to understand the new one. The superceded Kyron appeared as if Ssangyong’s engineers set very narrow targets with ride, NVH levels with the previous Kyron. Get it out on a relatively smooth highway, and it was quieter and smoother than many competitors. But as soon as sharp potholes or ripples became part of the equation though, the Kyron’s soft springs and dampers left it thumping and bouncing about.
The fix with Euro IV Kyron has been to install stiffer dampers, which in tandem with fairly grippy tyres works well enough on smooth roads, allowing the Kyron to be driven enthusiastically in twisty sections of ripple-free road, even if the way it tracks and steers doesn’t exactly have the driver begging for more.
On rough roads, it is a very different story. While the prior model would absorb the initial bump shock and take a while to recover from it, the new dampers don’t entertain such road shocks at all well.
The initial damping seems too firm and once it actually gets past this initial stiff compression point, the springs seem too soft. The net result is that the suspension feels uncomfortably firm and causes the vehicle to feel unstable as it skitters over bumps.
The Kyron is a worthy alternative to the Japanese mainstream with its blend of packaging and performance and, now it can be said, its innocuous styling.
But its suspension is its downfall.
While a good aftermarket set-up would probably sort it out, other Koreans with similar chassis and suspension design such as the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Terracan show that it can be done better than this, straight out of the box.
Likes: Flexible, smooth 2.7 liter engine, smooth transmission, comfortable seats, good value for money.
Dislikes: Ride quality, lack of suspension control, lack of low rpm response in 2.0 liter model, no driver’s footrest, no trip computer, poor rear vision.
(Reading that, means that Ssanyong sstill has a long way to go.)

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that a transverse engine and front wheel drive immediately brings Sir Alex Issigonis’ Mini to mind. This came out in 1959 and stunned the world. But he was not the first with this concept. I asked in what and when did this first appear? The answer was the twin cylinder DKWs of 1931.
So to this week. Which racing car was the first Lotus rear-engined single seater?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!

 


The Jetsons becoming reality?
Flying personal transport has been the norm in cartoons for years, but the reality seems to be lagging far behind. There have been attempts over the years, with a spectacular propeller-driven device with detachable wings being touted as the next wave. Where you actually stored the wings was not given much thought, or the fact that the propeller would mow down anything in its path, but it certainly would stop motorcycles wending their tortuous way through the stopped traffic in Bangkok!
However, there are people out there with the concept and wrestling with it, such as Dr. Paul Moller who continues development of the M400 Skycar. Another of them is Italian Gino d’Ignazio Gizio, a helicopter pilot and designer whose Cell Craft designs are reminiscent of the Skycar with a few touches of his own.
The evolving stable of Cell Craft designs - including the G416ef designed specifically for civilian commuter use, the G420 “flying-sportscar” and the Search and Rescue focussed G500e - have culminated in the G440 - a new design which aims to become the key concept design to showcase the technology and function as the primary example of what a CellCraft represents.
The G440 design uses a seven seat format (including the pilot) and is based on the quad-turbine Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) design shown in the G416ef. The turbines force air through and push it out the back, either straight through for horizontal flight, or at a directed downward angle (to allow vertical takeoff, landing and hovering) through a tilting exhaust tube at the rear of each turbine.
Gizio’s intention with the Cell Craft series is to capitalize on the easy access, take-off, landing and hovering abilities of a helicopter, and combine them with the high speed potential, relative safety and stability of regular airplane designs. It also has to be easy and intuitive enough for the average car driver to operate. Mind you, I’ve seen some apparently brain-dead helicopter pilots too!
The control system features twin joysticks mounted to the armrests of the sportscar-like pilot’s seat. The left joystick handles power level control and the right handles tilt and direction. Press it forward, and the Cell Craft tilts forward from a stable hover and begins moving forward, gradually tilting the thrust tubes until the vehicle is moving forward at a rapid rate. Similarly, it is possible to tilt the vehicle sideways for lateral movement from a hover, or to steer while in horizontal flight.
A trigger-style lever on the left control allows the pilot to rotate the Cell Craft from a stable hover, in much the same way as a helicopter pilot’s foot pedals allow rotation around the central axis - except with this vehicle the rotation is attained by slight adjustments of the directional thrust tubes.
The history of the different Gizio G series designs can be viewed at his personal website, which also details his exploits in music, photography and next-generation cell phone design. He’s yet to make the prototype, needing significant investment of non-flying cash, but he is ready to drop what he’s doing at a moment’s notice to bring his Cell Craft dream to reality.
So bad luck, it’s only an artist’s rendering, but it certainly looks good!

Beware of propeller!

Flying car


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