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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

Volvo with chopsticks in 2014

Volvo has announced that China is poised to replace the US as Volvo Car Group’s (Volvo Cars) largest market in 2014 with sales of at least 80,000 cars, up from 61,146 in 2013, highlighting the company’s growing presence in the world’s fastest growing automobile market. Sales in the US in 2014 are also expected to increase.
The emergence of China as Volvo Cars’ leading market represents an important step towards the company’s long term goal of selling 800,000 cars a year and promises to break a 20 year cycle during which it has consistently sold around 400,000 cars a year. For a company that looked ready for extinction a few years ago, this is an amazing fight back.
“Growing demand for first-class safety and environmental performance makes Volvo an ever more attractive brand in the Chinese marketplace,” said Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO. “As a company at the forefront of technological and environmental developments, Volvo Cars is well placed to enhance its reputation as a premium brand and further strengthen its position in China.”
The premium segment of the car market in China is forecast to grow by 20 percent this year. Volvo Cars expects to outpace this growth, indicating it is gaining market share from its competitors. Volvo Cars’ confidence is borne out by first quarter sales figures for the China market, which reveal sales rose to 17,286 cars, a 25.4 percent increase compared to the first quarter of 2013.


Debut Lexus NX Crossover at Beijing

Lexus NX.

The world debut of the new Lexus NX was held at the Beijing motor show and is the first Lexus to enter the fast-growing premium compact crossover segment
The initial showing of the all-new NX at the Beijing motor show marks the company’s entry into the fast-growing premium compact crossover market.
The NX will be available with three powertrains, which are designated in the model name: a highly efficient hybrid in the NX 300h; a new, Lexus-developed 2.0-liter petrol turbo unit in the NX 200t; and naturally aspirated 2.0 liter petrol engine in the NX 200. Front and all-wheel drive versions will be available, together with Lexus’ start-stop system. Depending upon the model, the NX comes with 17" or 18" wheels.
The NX also offers Lexus’ first wireless charging tray for easy charging of mobile phones and other devices and the first application of a new Lexus Remote Touch Interface with a touchpad control. Further features include a new Panoramic View Monitor, a comprehensive multi-information display (incorporating for the first time a G-sensor and boost meter), head-up display, blind spot monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
As per the beautiful LFA, the range will include a distinctive F Sport version, with sportier design and dedicated styling elements, including cosmetic changes at the front (but they have kept the dreadful ‘spindle’ grille), sports seats and bespoke interior trims.
The NX 300h uses a sophisticated hybrid system control specially developed for the model, using the proven Lexus 2.5 liter Atkinson cycle engine, generator, motor and battery. Total system output is 195 bhp/145 kW.
Features specific to the hybrid NX include sprung-weight damping control to increase ride comfort and handling stability by reducing pitching when driving on uneven surfaces.
NX 200t uses the new Lexus 2.0 liter petrol turbo engine, engineered for excellent fuel economy matched to a six-speed automatic transmission that has been specially tuned for the NX. Maximum power is 235 bhp/175 kW between 4,800 and 5,600 rpm and maximum torque is 350 Nm, available from 1,650 to 4,000 rpm.
Lexus claims the engine underwent more than one million kilometers of testing over different road conditions and in harsh driving environments. Its design features a world-first combination of water-cooled cylinder head, integrated exhaust manifold and twin-scroll turbocharger.
The automatic transmission uses a new torque-demand control logic, calculating and maximizing the required engine torque to deliver quick response to throttle inputs and high fuel efficiency.
The NX 200 has a naturally aspirated 2.0 liter petrol engine with Lexus’ Valvematic technology to achieve high torque through a wider valve opening angle and an extended variable valve timing operating range.
The unit runs with a high compression ratio and uses diagonal fuel injectors, optimizing the fuel mixture to produce strong power output across the full rev range. The engine works with a newly developed, electronically controlled S-CVT/Multidrive sequential shift transmission.
Safety - the comprehensive safety package includes a new, full-range Panoramic View Monitor uses the highest resolution camera yet to be fitted to a Lexus, all-speed Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. New cornering headlamps and a head-up display are also featured in the range.
The dimensions are:
Overall length 4,630 mm
Overall width: 1,845 mm
Overall height: 1,645 mm (with shark’s fin antenna)
Wheelbase: 2,660 mm
Front track: 1,580 mm (225 mm tyre), 1,570 mm (235 tyre)
Rear track: 1,580 mm (225 mm tyre), 1,570 mm (235 tyre)


Volvo use China Motor Show to unveil S60L Petrol Plug-in Hybrid

Volvo S60L PHEV.

Volvo Car Group (Volvo Cars) revealed the Volvo S60L PPHEV (Petrol Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) Concept Car at the 2014 Beijing International Auto Show. The ingenious petrol plug-in hybrid - an electric car, hybrid car and high-performance car all rolled into one - offers the driver an outstanding combination of dynamic driving pleasure and superb fuel economy.
The production version of the S60L Petrol Plug-in Hybrid, with an exceptionally CO2-efficient 238 horsepower Drive-E petrol turbo and plug-in hybrid technology, will be launched in China early 2015 and will be produced at the Chengdu plant. As such, the car forms part of Volvo Cars’ plan to contribute to the development and spread of new automotive technologies in China.
“The creation of a powertrain with 238+68 hp and 350+200 Nm of torque by combining a petrol turbo from our new four-cylinder Drive-E engine family and an electric motor proves that the most efficient car can also be the most fun to drive. This is our most technologically advanced powertrain ever. It brings us closer to our vision to offer zero-emission motoring in the future,” says Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President, Research and Development at Volvo Cars.
The S60L PPHEV (Petrol Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) Concept Car features the same electrification technology as the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid, the world’s first diesel plug-in hybrid, which has been a groundbreaking success on the European markets.
In the S60L, however, the diesel engine of the V60 has been replaced with a new, two-liter, four-cylinder petrol turbo from Volvo Cars’ new Drive-E engine family. It boasts 238 hp and 350 Nm of torque. Other key components in the super-efficient powertrain is a crankshaft-driven ISG (Integrated Starter Generator) between the engine and the 8-speed automatic gearbox and a 68 hp electric motor powered by a 11.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack installed under the floor of the load compartment.


GM makes major China investment

General Motors has indicated that the company and local partners are boosting production capacity for GM-brand vehicles in China to 5 million units. This is all part of a USD 12 billion investment program through 2017.
Matt Tsien, president of GM China, said that includes three factories due to open this year and two more next year. He said “I think the addition of the several new plants currently under construction will help us reach the capacity of 5 million units by the end of 2015.”
GM and Germany’s Volkswagen AG are level pegging to be China’s most popular vehicle brand. GM said earlier that its 2013 sales rose 11.4 percent to 3.1 million vehicles.
Forecasters expect the overall market in China to expand by 8 to 10 percent. That could raise GM sales to 3.4 million.
The company plans to increase production capacity in China by 65 percent by 2020, Tsien said.
In China, GM manufactures sedans, minivans and pickup trucks in joint ventures with state-owned SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industries Co.) and Liuzhou Wuling Motors Co. The three companies also launched a separate low-cost brand, Baojun, the company that Warren Buffet also bought into.


My first race car

MGA 1965.

My first race car was a 10 year old MGA 1500. Remember them? A nice slippery shape, basic ladder frame chassis, complete with wooden floorboards, four wheel drum brakes and a four cylinder engine.
When I say it was my first race car, that’s not quite correct. It was also my road car and was under an HP contract, which stated that it could not be raced, so I had to enter under an assumed name, and so it was an “Ian Gordon” who started his racing career in March 1965 at the Lowood circuit in Queensland, Australia.
MGA had a Derrington X-Flow cylinder head and was flying. By the second lap of practice I knew it was much faster than before. 119 miles per hour down the long Lowood straight was the best that the MGA had ever done.
So on the third lap, I shuffled as low as I could in the car out of the wind, and willed the needle to get to 120 mph. As it finally hit the magic 120, I popped my head up into the airstream and saw the marshals at the hairpin that was coming up all jumping up and down. I was still basking in the 120 mph. “I know it’s quick, but I didn’t know it was that obvious,” I thought.
Then the car began to misfire and I saw the MGA had flames pouring out from under the bonnet!
I headed for the marshal’s post, leaping out and opening the bonnet expecting him to extinguish the flames but he directed the nozzle towards me, as I hadn’t realized that my long socks were also on fire, as those were the days before fireproof suits!
The oil-soaked wooden floorboards were also alight. This was starting to look serious. “Ian Gordon” might have some serious explaining to do to an unsuspecting HP company.
The marshals did manage to extinguish everything, and examination of the engine showed that the banjo fitting into the carburetor had come loose, pumping petrol all over the generator which provided the spark to ignite the lot.
The Saturday evening was taken up with cutting new floorboards, tightening the banjo housing and fitting lockwires and MGA was as good as new. The socks were consigned to the bin. And so “Ian Gordon” lived to compete again.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Volvo with chopsticks in 2014

Debut Lexus NX Crossover at Beijing

Volvo use China Motor Show to unveil S60L Petrol Plug-in Hybrid

GM makes major China investment

My first race car