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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

Supercar for anyone?

Supercar.

The lid has certainly come off the supercar pot, with news of thousands of exotics being examined to see if they have compliance plates, and do the modification shops actually screw cars together from spares?
The government records are actually very good, with my mate Ken Gibson being asked for the papers for his Maserati. A Maserati that is 20 years old.
I also wonder how many of the ‘hot’ supercars have ended up in the Thailand Supersports Series? A perfect place to hide a supercar.
I am told that there are queues of supercars heading to Thailand’s borders, looking for a quick ‘export’. No questions asked!


New BMW X5 to be released in Frankfurt

New BMW X5.

The third-generation BMW X5 will be sold with 2.0 liter four cylinder diesel engine and optional rear-wheel-drive which results in an SUV with claimed combined cycle fuel consumption of just 5.6 liters per 100 km. BMW also quote the emissions, but to be honest I have never met anybody who gives a damn (but if you do, it’s 149 g/km).
The decision to expand the choice of engines with the new BMW luxury SUV to include a four-cylinder engine is similar to Mercedes-Benz which has done the same with its latest ML Class.
The new X5 is a typical BMW evolutionary approach that sees it retain its upright profile and traditional features such as its two piece tailgate.
Distinguishing touches include a bolder front end with a more prominent kidney grille, LED imbued headlamps that butt up against the chrome surround of the grille and a more heavily contoured bumper with so-called air curtain ducts on the lower outer edges that help to channel air more efficiency through the front wheel houses to a vertical duct sited behind the front wheel arches called the air blade, as seen on the recently introduced 3-Series GT. Whether or not these actually work at built up road speeds is a moot question, but I am sure they do on the unrestricted autobahns.
Prominent tall windows remain a key design feature - following on from the original model (codename E53) launched in 1999 and second-generation model (E70) in 2008.
This new X5 is fairly large, at 4886 mm in length, 1938 mm in width and 1762 mm in height, and is 32 mm longer, 5 mm wider and 14 mm taller than the current X5. It shares its 2933mm wheelbase with the current X5 but the front and rear tracks have been shortened by 4mm both front and rear to 1640mm and 1646mm, endowing it with a slightly smaller footprint.
Inside, the new X5 has a more luxurious interior with the option of two rear seat configurations: a fixed 40:20:40 bench arrangement and a newly developed bench configured in a 70:30 arrangement that adjusts lengthwise to free up leg space for an optional third row of seats that now come with a so-called comfort seat option.
Boot capacity for the new X5 is up by 30 liters at 650 liters, rising to 1870 liters when the second and third seat rows are folded away.
This coming X5 comes with a long list of advanced optional extras. Included is a head-up display, night vision with human and animal detection and a spot light function, lane departure warning, lane change warning, road sign recognition, a 360 degree surround view parking assistant with longitudinal and lateral guidance and collision warning and pedestrian warning with an automatic braking function.
Infotainment features includes full internet access, in-car use of Facebook, Twitter and other on-line services as well as a dictation function with speech recognition for e-mails, SMS text messages.
For a standard xDrive30d guise, BMW claims a kerb weight of 2070 kg - 80 kg less than the outgoing model despite the slight increase in external dimensions and more flexible interior appointments.
Buyers will be able to choose between four different suspension tunes: a basic steel sprung set-up and three optional suspension set-ups with air springs - comfort, dynamic and professional. The latter two come with adaptive damping and also receive BMW’s Dynamic Performance Control system, as seen on the X6, with a mechanically operated torque vectoring system on the rear axle for added agility.
The new X5 will be sold with the choice of three engines. All will come mated to an updated version of BMW’s eight speed automatic gearbox with new stop/start and coasting functions, bringing about improved performance credentials and reduced combined cycle fuel consumption that sees them meet the upcoming tough new EU6 emission regulations due to come into force in September 2014. All diesel units receive urea injection for reduced nitrous oxide (NOX) emissions. Four-wheel-drive will remain standard on all but two models.
The engine range includes a turbocharged 4.4 liter V8 petrol unit that produces 330 kW in the xDrive50i, a turbocharged 3.0 liter in-line six cylinder common rail diesel with 190 kW in the xDrive30d and BMW’s triple turbocharged 3.0 liter in-line six cylinder common rail diesel producing 280 kW in the performance orientated xDrive M50d, which is claimed to hit 100 km/h from standstill in 5.3 seconds, reach a top speed limited to 250 km/h while returning 6.7 L/100 km.
Other engines available includes the turbocharged 2.0 liter diesel producing 160 kW. This new base engine will be available in both the four-wheel-drive xDrive25d and, in a first for the X5, rear-wheel-drive sDrive25d.
Also planned is a powered up version of the turbocharged 3.0 liter in-line six cylinder common rail diesel with 230 kW in the xDrive40d and a turbocharged 3.0 liter in-line six cylinder petrol engine with 225 kW in the Xdrive35i.


Another stunner from Maserati

Maserati Ghibli

The Maserati Ghibli name has returned and in a stylish four door guise, very reminiscent of the Quattroporte.
YouTube user TheMAXIMUMCARS also happened to film the car and we are fortunate enough to watch.
It gives us the chance to see the Ghibli in motion, with its daytime running lights and brake lights on. We also get to hear the growl of the car’s twin-turbocharged 3.0 liter V6.
The number plate indicates that this is the more potent Ghibli S, which develops 410 BHP and can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 5.0 seconds. The “410” in the number plate represents the car’s 410 horsepower rating.
The Ghibli will also be offered with a 242 kilowatt version of the turbo V-6 engine and overseas buyers will also have the option of a 202 kilowatt V-6 turbo diesel. All of the Ghibli's engines are built by Ferrari and all of them come matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
When will we see one in Thailand? Depends on who wants to pay import duty, I suppose!


Alternatives

Alternative fuels are today’s buzzwords. In the past 12 months we have seen the price of crude per barrel go over $100, literally doubling. What about next year? We must find an alternative, and soon.
The impetus propelling us towards alternative fuels is then price. As cost of gasoline goes up we look to see what else we can use. Gasohol is one of these, but it is not a new form of fuel. In 1985, its use was put forward in Thailand, so gasohol is about 30 years old. Wrong! I date gasohol back to 1960.
Gasoline was still very cheap, so why would anyone look to inventing the gasoline/alcohol mixture, which would become known as ‘gasohol’? Surprise, surprise, the impetus was still cost, despite the cheapness and availability of gasoline. There were those who could not afford it. I was one.
In 1960, I was the proverbial starving medical student. I had an 11 year old car (an Austin A40) and lived in a cheap flat. My car represented two years of celibacy as women cost money (they did then as they still do now). Money supply was minute.
I was forced to attend biochemistry classes once a week, and it was in the bichem laboratory that I saw these huge carboys filled with crude petroleum and crude alcohol. In my impecunious state, I suddenly saw salvation. It was one of those ‘Eureka!’ moments, that would later change the entire history of the world. If I could get my car to run on a mixture of crude petroleum and crude alcohol, I had a free source of ‘petrol’ every Thursday.
The plan was hatched. Every Thursday I would park as close to the front door of the biochemistry lab as I could, and would remember my white lab coat. The pockets were large enough to carry one 500 ml flask in each, and it was a simple trip down the stairs and empty the flasks into the waiting car.
Now those with a modicum of biochemical knowledge will know there is a problem with water being released when you mix the two and you have to have a drying tower. I did not have access to dehydration drying columns, but I did have access to 100 percent ether, which I knew could absorb the water. The final mixture that was laboriously dispensed and poured into my fuel tank had a 50:50 mixture of petroleum and alcohol with one liter of ether in every five liters of mixture. Thursday afternoons were very busy, filling 500 ml flasks, trotting down the stairs and keeping a record of how many flasks of each I had appropriated. My car ran, it could go one complete week on the biochem lab mixture, and I had, without knowing it at the time, invented ‘Gasohol 50’.


Attrage - an outrageous name?

Outtrage

Another silly name from a Japanese manufacturer, with the Mirage eco-car getting a boot and a new name. Attrage!
Now “Attrage” does very little for me, but Mitsubishi say it is the amalgamation of “attractive” and “Mirage”.
However, the Mitsubishi assembly plant at Laem Chabang will see Attrage being built alongside the Mirage hatch, and due for public release June/July. This release date is a world first, with export markets looking at receiving Attrages at the end of the year or even Q1 2014.
The engine is the same 1.2 liter MIVEC engine as found in the Mirage with a choice of five-speed manual gearbox or CVT and fuel consumption in the range of 4.5 liters per 100 kilometers.
While obviously derived from the Mirage, the Attrage has a redesigned nose with a larger grille, bigger head-lights and restyled front bumper.
Mitsubishi said in a statement that the Attrage features a class-leading turning circle of 4.8 meters and “sleek aerodynamics, with a dynamic character line which kicks up towards the rear.” (Well, that is a matter of personal opinion!)
It won’t be the first time a car-maker changes the name of the sedan version of a popular hatch in the sub-compact class, with Honda naming its Jazz-based sedan the City and Nissan going with Almera for its Micra-based offering.
Projected price? Honda’s City VTi is priced above its Jazz donor car, and Nissan’s Almera ST is dearer than the Micra ST on which it is based. However, not all manufacturers charge more for a boot in this class with Ford’s Fiesta LX hatch and sedan costing exactly the same price in Australia.


Have electric cars blown their fuses?

Nissan Leaf

Far from electric cars taking over from the internal combustion engine, comes the news that Better Place, the battery swap specialists, has filed for bankruptcy.
Better Place and Renault became partners, which looked to be a mutually rewarding deal. Renault was making all electric cars (the Leaf and the Fluence) and was sure they would sell over 100,000 cars in Israel and Denmark by 2016. Unfortunately, the public did not embrace the electric concept and only 1,000 cars have been sold so far. This was not enough to keep the battery exchange company going, and now Better Place is not in a better place!
With no signs of the world’s oil reserves running out, despite all the scare mongering of a few years ago, motorists do not see the pressing need to buy a non-polluting motor vehicle. CO2 emissions mean nothing to the average joe either. Electric cars are not yet dead in the water, but until there is a shortage of fuel, the electric cars will remain the province of the dyed in the wool conservationists, and there are not that many prepared to pay extra for an electric car.
The study ‘Drive Green 2020: More Hope than Reality’ concluded global hybrid and EV demand is likely to account for only a small proportion of total vehicle sales over the next decade, despite multi-billion-dollar investments and fast-paced development in the car industry, according to global marketing information company JD Power and Associates who commissioned the research.
JD Power’s research postulates that hybrids and EVs combined will account for just 7.3 percent - or 5.2 million units - of the 70.9 million passenger vehicles forecast to be sold in 2020. In other words, 92 percent of new vehicles at the end of the next decade will still be gasoline/diesel powered. So much for the oil supply dwindling. JD Power’s study obviously does not feel we will be forced into driving EVs.
Dealing in ‘futures’ is at best a risky business, and some automakers who have placed their bets on the end of oil as we know it, have commenced development of EVs. Nissan-Renault, for example, is expecting EVs alone to account for around 10 percent of total vehicle sales by the end of the decade - while JD Power estimate only 1.8 percent. But even if we accept Nissan-Renault’s figures, that still leaves 90 percent conventional gasoline/diesel power.
JD Power is not the only voice calling for caution. The consulting firm Deloitte, estimated in August this year that the EV sales in the US in 2020 would account for just 3.1 percent (465,000 units) of total automotive sales in that market. These two studies definitely point towards difficulties in convincing the public to switch from conventionally powered passenger vehicles to either hybrids or EVs over this coming decade. They also show confidence that the oil supply will still be plentiful in 2020, but there is no real forecast figure as to how much a barrel of crude might cost.
With EV sales expected to be very small, the vast majority of the green sales will be hybrids, mostly from Toyota (64 percent) and Honda (25 percent) and with sales concentrated Japan (446,000 units) and the US (328,000).
Of the 5.2 million hybrids and EVs expected to be sold by 2020, almost 75 percent of the total are expected to be hybrids - and 75 percent of these are forecast to be produced by Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Volkswagen and General Motors.
The leading markets for the hybrids by 2020 are expected to be the US (1.7 million units), Europe (977,000) and Japan (875,000).
So where is China in all these scenarios? JD Power suggests China is expected to sell fewer than 100,000 hybrids in 2020. It is, however, expected to account for 332,000 of the 1.3 million EV sales forecast in 2020, which is behind Europe (on 742,000, a figure that makes the German government’s plan look optimistic) but ahead of both the US and Japan (both on around 100,000 units).
In the meantime, the financial boffins now have to work out what to do with the 38 Better Place exchange depots in Israel and the 17 in Denmark.


Vettel totally dominant in Canada

The Canadian Grand Prix was well hyped up before the GP on the Sunday. Close racing was predicted, lots of passing with two DRS zones, long straights, it was to be a highlight of the race year. Unfortunately, the soothsayers did not do too well and it was a processional race, completely dominated by (The Finger) Vettel, who was in a class of his own. Now leading the championship by 36 points, he looks to be uncatchable. Vettel (Red Bull) finished 14 seconds in front of Alonso (Ferrari) and was doing it at a canter. His dominance was such that he lapped the entire field up to fifth finisher.
Interest in the race was sparked by the Finn Valtteri Bottas qualifying his Williams in third to claim his best ever start in F1. However, it did not require much imagination to understand that Bottas’ time was set on a greasy track (the great leveler) and that in a dry race he would become a mobile chicane. Which is exactly what he did!
After Vettel, the drive of the day was Paul Di Resta (Team Vindaloo) who quietly went about his business as a race driver going from 17th grid position, making his first set of tyres last until 10 laps to go, one stop for soft tyres and then finished 7th. By comparison, his team mate Adrian Sutil seemed to be perpetually bouncing off somebody, or some thing.
Fernando Alonso has certainly matured as a driver and his was a well thought out drive from 6th to 2nd. No dramas or risky overtaking moves. For me, now that he has given up the sulks, Alonso is the complete race driver.
Third was Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) who appears more interested in his public image than being a race driver. Has an enormous ego (which all race drivers need), but his results are not commensurate with his opinion of himself! And lose the dog.
Fourth seems to be as good as Mark Webber (Red Bull) gets, and he is embroiled in too many collisions these days. You are witnessing the slow demise of the Australian charger. He has one good season left in him, but expect more fourths. This time he was 25 seconds behind Vettel.
Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) came home in fifth, the last runner not to be lapped by Vettel, but he was never in the hunt for a podium position. So much for the win at Monaco which was assisted by the fact that it is almost impossible to pass another competitor at that circuit.
First of the lapped cars was Jean Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) who was delighted with his sixth place, handsomely out-doing his team mate Ricciardo. There is intense rivalry between these two drivers, one of whom may inherit Webber’s seat.
Eighth was as high as Massa (Ferrari) could do after crashing (yet again) in Qualifying. Unless Massa finds his form again, he will be clearing out his locker at Modena and Jules Bianchi will be given the drive. 2013 would be a good time for the little Brazilian to retire.
The Hero to Zero award was easily won by Valtteri Bottas. Starting third on the grid, with huge expectations from the Williams team, to finally finish 14th.
The next GP is the British one at Silverstone on the 30th June. The current standings in the driver’s championship is:
S Vettel (Red Bull) 132
F Alonso (Ferrari) 96
K Raikkonen (Lotus) 88
L Hamilton (Mercedes) 77
M Webber (Red Bull) 69
N Rosberg (Mercedes) 57
F Massa (Ferrari) 49
P Di Resta (Force India) 34


The future’s an SUV?

Ford EcoSport

Americans for decades have been fans of sport utility vehicles. According to the world-wide statistics, SUV sales are on the way up everywhere.
Ford Motor Co. is one automaker looking to capitalize on the trend. The BRICS market (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will see Ford offer a mix of small and medium-size SUVs for consumers there.
Jim Farley, Ford’s executive vice president of global marketing, sales, service and Lincoln indicated that where American car buyers in the past preferred large SUVs with off-roading capability and room for an entire family, global vehicle shoppers are thinking less about sport and more about utility.
“The opportunity is not the image of barreling off-road,” Farley said at Ford’s World Headquarters in Dearborn. “It’s the idea of a utility vehicle in an urban setting.”
The growth rate has been phenomenal, with global sales of utilities - crossovers and SUVs - growing 35 percent since 2005, according to data from IHS Automotive, which is backed up by the Tier 1 manufacturer Continental Automotive. Even in Europe, where economic woes have depressed the auto industry, the utility vehicles segment is one area in which sales have grown during the past two years.
Most of the growth in utility vehicles across the world since 2005 is from subcompact and compact crossovers like Ford’s EcoSport and Escape, Toyota’s RAV4 and the Honda’s CR-V, with sales of subcompact and compact crossovers more than doubling. Sales of midsize SUVs and crossovers are up 56 percent since 2005, while sales in the full-size segment are down 22 percent. The message was there for all the automakers to see.
Sales of all sizes of utility vehicles will reach nearly 14 million this year, up from about 8 million in 2009. By 2017, subcompact and compact utility vehicle sales are expected to reach 11 million annually.
In China, the world’s fastest-growing auto market, sales of subcompact and compact utilities have grown from 120,000 in 2005 to 1.4 million last year.
So what is your next vehicle? Thailand still has the love affair with the pick-ups, but the SUV’s are rapidly catching up.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Supercar for anyone?

New BMW X5 to be released in Frankfurt

Another stunner from Maserati

Alternatives

Attrage - an outrageous name?

Have electric cars blown their fuses?

Vettel totally dominant in Canada

The future’s an SUV?