Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

The Advan advantage

Spent an interesting afternoon at the local Bira circuit with the friendly folk from Yokohama. They were presenting the latest tyre technology with their Yokohama Advan dB tyres.
Now dB stands for decibel, the unit of sound pressure levels, and the slogan for these latest tyres was “The Power of Silence”, so taking them to a racing circuit was certainly a brave move for Yokohama.

The afternoon was split into four sections, with the first being a demonstration of rolling resistance, whereby a Lexus IS 250 on the new Yokohama Advan dB rolled further than it did when fitted with other tyres, all other factors being equal, such as tyre pressures. With less rolling resistance, the ordinary driver could expect to go further on a tank full, than otherwise.

The next section explored Noise Vibration Harmonics (NVH) and cornering grip. This time we had identical Toyota Camry’s, with one on the new tyre and the other on the old tyre. Quite frankly, when driving over rumble strips placed on the track, I found no difference between the two. Both went thump-thump-thump. However, there were a couple of slalom courses marked out with witches hats and the new tyre was certainly superior, requiring less steering input to whistle down the slaloms. That section definitely went to the new Advan dB.

I also went trackside to listen to the Camry’s being put through the slalom, and there was no squeal at all. You could hear the tyres gripping, but not protesting.

The third section was a direct comparison between two identical Camry’s braking on wet bitumen, with a part of the straight continuously watered. One car on the old rubber and the second car on the new. The wet braking area was entered at 80 kph and when at the marker, the brakes were fully applied. The Camry’s both had ABS, which worked well both times, but the car with the new compound braked consistently in 15 percent shorter distance. That could mean the difference between a close shave and an expensive insurance claim. This was the most impressive result for me, as it was easy to show the reduced braking distance.

Wet braking test

The final part of the afternoon was a ‘leisurely’ trip from the Bira Circuit to the Silverlake Vineyard and return, escorted and led by the flashing lights and sirens of the Tourist Police. Now I know what it is like to drive in a royal cavalcade.

For me, this did not really demonstrate anything about the new tyres, but rather it showed what a quiet and comfortable vehicle is the new Camry. Unfortunately the two liter engine certainly does not make this model Camry a sports saloon. I’m afraid I would have to say the small engined Camry was rather dull.

Asymmetric tread pattern

But back to the tyres. The already quiet dB pattern tread has been improved by moving to an asymmetrical pattern especially for the Advan dB. With tread blocks very close to each other, this minimizes tread movement, which can be the reason for noisy tyres. It was also interesting to note there were no large side sipes to clear water, and the tyre also featured round shoulders, meaning the sidewalls could do some work, adding to good response to steering input. The longitudinal grooves were quite deep and designed the allow the tyre to slice through the water and not aquaplane. The braking results showed that this concept really did work. Design technology fostered during many years of developing high-performance Advan tyres has been fully utilized to provide the running safety, control and comfortable ride required for high-performance and prestige automobiles. Advan are the tyres used in the World Touring Car championships, for example.

I know that tyre performance can often be very subjective, but there were a couple of very objective tests which showed a superiority of the new Yokohama Advan dB. You will go further on a tank full and under brakes will pull up earlier, hopefully avoiding a nose to tail.
My thanks go to Yokohama’s managing director, Yasushi Iida for the opportunity to evaluate his latest tyre, which, by the way, is a Japanese import, the local Yokohama works in Rayong being for light truck tyres only.

The 1 Series BMW M Coupe - performance but still fugly

BMW 1 Series M Coupe

BMW has released full details of the smallest ever model to emerge from its high-performance M GmbH division. This is the new 1 Series M Coupe.

To make this version suitable as an “M” car, the 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged direct-injection ‘N54’ straight six engine already used in a Z4 model, which is the first time a standard production powerplant has been seen in the bona fide M collection.

Producing 250 kW at 5900 rpm and 450 Nm of torque from 1500-4500 rpm (with an over boost function increasing torque to 500 Nm for short bursts under full acceleration), the engine drives the rear wheels through a newly developed six speed manual gearbox resulting in a 0-100 km/h in a claimed 4.9 seconds. This is just one tenth of a second slower than the M3 sedan, but it is still fugly.

BMW’s EfficientDynamics program, where accessories are governed by a ‘needs’ at the time basis, have taken the consumption below 10 L/100 km for the first time, with the 1 M Coupe’s official combined fuel consumption rated at 9.6 L/100 km. CO2 emissions come in 224 g/km, but quite frankly, I have yet to meet anyone who cares about carbon foot prints - or even understands it.

The M version retains the 1 Series’ double-pivot spring-strut front and five-link rear suspension design, although the aluminium content has increased significantly, unique axle supports are included, the electronic differential lock is now M-specific, the electronic stability control includes an intervention threshold-raising M Dynamic Mode (MDM), the rack-and-pinion steering is fitted with the Servotronic hydraulic system, and the brakes are upgraded to M3 level, with inner-vented and perforated M-specific discs with a 360/350mm front/rear diameter, each with a single piston floating calliper.

The wheel and tyre combinations are now 19 inch M light alloy rims in a Y-spoke design, with 245/35 tyres at the front and 265/35at the rear.

The usual alphabet of electronic whizz-bangery with ABS brakes, an anti-slip control function (ASC), dynamic brake control (DBC), cornering brake control (CBC), a so-called ‘drive-off assistant’, and anti-fade and dry brake functions designed to further improve stopping performance.

It still retains the punched in front appearance of the 1 Series, and exaggerated by the huge air intakes either side, and throw in flares to cover the wider front and rear tracks

According to BMW, “The letter M now comes to the segment of the BMW 1 Series to symbolize outstanding power delivery and the highly dynamic driving properties of a high-performance sports car. The technology of a high-performance car is combined with the agility and lightness of a compact model to create a whole new dimension of sports-style driving pleasure. With this two-door model, BMW M GmbH is now realizing for the first time in this vehicle class its concept of racing-oriented performance characteristics in a car developed for everyday use.”

So, BMW have managed to produce a hot rod from its parts bin, which I am sure drives very well. It is a shame that it is still fugly. Very fugly.

Keep your roof on!

Do you have a Webasto glass paneled sunroof fitted to your car? If so, it might be a good idea to check it. Reports have come from all over the world that sunroofs with glass panels have been flying off because of a problem with the glue fixing the glass to the frame.

The roofs in trouble were made by Webasto, the world’s biggest sunroof and folding roof manufacturer, and marketed as Hollandia. Webasto have been replacing the glass panels, and using a different glue.

Rather than waiting for lift-off, many motorists have been alerted by wind and water leaks or rust as the bonding gradually fails. Check yours today!

Most of the aftermarket sunroofs that are subject to the recall are the Hollandia 700 model, made in Europe. A small proportion are the American-made Hollandia 900 series twin-panel unit.

Motorists with aftermarket Hollandia 700 or 900 sunroofs should go to Webasto’s special website ( for more information about the recall.

Recall notices have been posted in North America, Europe, South Africa, South America and China by Webasto.

Bangkok International Motor Show changes venue

Grand Prix International, through its chairman, Dr. Prachin Eamlumnow, has announced it will hold the 32nd Bangkok International Motor Show for 14 days from March 23 (Wednesday) to April 6 (Wednesday), 2011. Public days will be from Saturday, March 26 until April 6, and this year the Motor Show will be held at Challenger Hall (Impact Muang Thong Thani), Bangkok.

The Bangkok International Motor Show was held at the BITEC venue for 12 years from the 19th show through the 31st show in 2010. Welcoming a total of 1.6 million visitors during the time and enhancing its position as an international motor show. Now for its next leap forward, the venue will be transferred to Challenger Hall, Impact Muang Thong Thani to mark its new start as “Discovering” a new Bangkok International Motor Show.

This 32nd Bangkok International Motor Show will be a comprehensive one that includes passenger cars, commercial vehicles, motorcycles, vehicle bodies, parts, machinery and tools. This international motor show will serve as a hub to send out information about the latest next-generation safety and environment technologies from the automobile industry. At the same time, it will offer visitors the opportunity to rediscover the appeal, joy, and fun of cars and motorcycles by viewing, touching, and riding the actual latest models.

The theme for this year show is “Discovering new innovations”. Since the first step of the journey until the present, we have never stopped our forward motion and development. We know that it is the experiences that makes our journey colorful. At the Bangkok International Motor Show, the most innovative automotive technology will be seen working for mankind.

Pencil in the dates, and I will keep you informed about the various displays and concept cars leading up to the opening.

Falken chooses Porsche 911 GT3 R

Falken Porsche 911 GT3 R

Long time participant in the Nürburgring 24 Hour race, Falken Motorsport Team has signaled its intent for this year’s event (June 25th-26th) with the decision to run a highly competitive GT3 R specification Porsche 911.

The high performance tyre manufacturer’s decision to switch to the competitive Porsche follows a successful history of campaigning Japanese sports cars in the ADAC Zurich 24 Hour Race and ties in with increasing activity of the brand in the region. “With Falken High Performance Tyres and Porsche, two premium motorsport brands are coming together. This comes at a time when we are increasing our commitment in Europe, with an intention to expand further,” says Falken’s marketing director, Satoru Ushida.

Drivers for the 2011 assault, a race that will be used to develop the next generation of Falken tyres, are still to be announced but in line with the team’s preparations, the selection is likely to focus on those with extensive Nürburgring experience. “It is our aim to improve our race results from the past. Last year we achieved 12th place overall and 3rd place in the SP7 class and put our performance to the test at the highest level,” adds Ushida.

The 2011 race will take place on the unique Nordschleife on June 25th-26th. With 33 left-hand and 40 right-hand curves, the famous strip of asphalt snakes through the hilly Eifel landscape. In the 2010 Long-Distance Championship (VLN) held at the track, nine out of the ten races were won by the Porsche 911 GT3 R.

I have actually driven the Nordschleif and it is just an amazing circuit. Corners come up with little or no warning, and you have to be wary of other drivers all the time. That drive in Germany remains one of the highlights of my motor racing life.

The 911 GT3 R is powered by six-cylinder, naturally-aspirated boxer engine with four liters of displacement, which generates 480 horsepower (353 kW) at 7,250 rotations per minute. Through a six-speed sequential dog-type gearbox, the power is transmitted to the rear transaxle. Traction control, electronically controlled double de-clutching function and a specially tuned racing ABS make the 911 GT3 R a highly competitive vehicle. Wheels: Front axle: One-piece, forged, lightweight alloy wheels (11J x 18 ET 35) and 290/660R18 tyres. Rear axle: One-piece, forged, lightweight alloy wheels (13J x 18 ET 12.5) and 330/710R18 tyres.

The Falken High Performance Tyres and their extraordinary driving characteristics have formed motorsport for many years. FALKEN racing tyres have proved their quality and performance in the most challenging race series in the world. These include the Super Taikyu Series, the American Le Mans and the Nurburgring event.

The ADAC Zurich 24 Hour Race at the Nürburgring has been held on the approximately 25 km long combination of the Nordschleife and Grand-Prix track since 1970. The long lap length makes a field of more than two hundred vehicles possible, which are driven by up to approximately 700 drivers. Due to the large starting field and more than 200,000 fans that line the track, the race is regarded by some as the largest motorsports event in the world. In 2011, it will be held from the 23rd to 26th June.

Focus III for Thailand and from Thailand

It is no secret that Ford Motor Company is building a new plant on the Eastern Seaboard, and it will be the production base for the C-platform vehicles, of which the new Focus III will be the king pin. Currently produced in Germany, the SE Asian production is slotted for 2012.

Focus III for 2012

Focus III will come in both five door hatchback and four door sedan body styles, and rides on an all-new platform that, instead of being shared with Mazda’s 3, will underpin 10 new small Ford global models with 80 percent parts commonality. Ford estimates it will produce two million C-platform vehicles a year by 2012 - double the number in 2008.

This globalization by FoMoCo will see the vehicles being built in North America as well as Germany and soon Russia and China, followed by Thailand.

Claims for Focus III include a bodyshell that is 30 percent more rigid than before, due to the fact more than half of it (55 percent) will be made from high-strength steel. As well, 26 percent of the vehicle is made from ultra-high-strength steel, including Boron - more than any other Ford model.
The result is vastly improved noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels - including interior wind noise that Ford claims is much lower than in rivals such as the Mazda3.

The fully independent Control Blade multi-link rear suspension assembly famously pioneered by the original Focus back in 1998 is now attached to the chassis by a separate sub-frame, also reducing road noise.

The latest interpretation of Ford’s ‘kinetic’ design language not only makes both the lower, longer and wider hatch and sedan models look more up market than before, but results in an aerodynamic drag coefficient of as low as 0.297Cd for the sedan, which according to Ford makes it more slippery than the Chevrolet Cruze.

Also contributing to an alleged seven percent improvement in aero efficiency are under-body panels and a new BMW-style active grille shutter system, which blocks cooling airflow when not required to improve aerodynamics at higher speeds and reduce engine temperatures at low speeds.

Engines will include two direct-injection 2.0 liter four cylinder engines - a Duratorq turbo-diesel and a Ti-VCT petrol - matched with both five-speed manual and six-speed dual-clutch Powershift automatic transmissions.

Ford says the 2012 Focus’ chassis and suspension tune - including the new Porsche-style Active Torque Vectoring system that brakes individual driven wheels to improve traction and provide a form of electronic limited-slip differential - will be almost identical across all markets.

If there is a downside to the Focus’ new-found panache, however, it is steering. Few cars have made the transition from conventional hydraulic to electric power steering and it seems the Focus - a nameplate that has the enviable reputation of being one of the sharpest steering small cars ever - is no exception.

Overseas testers who have driven Focus III describe it as a brilliantly resolved ride/handling compromise and the super-stiff bodyshell combine to make the Focus as agile as ever and its vice-free chassis will appeal to a much broader audience than ever before.

Ford describes its first global model as the most hi-tech Ford ever and says the 2012 Focus offers more affordable technologies than the Corolla and Honda’s Civic, as well as larger models like the Camry and Accord.

Some of the technologies that will be available will include voice-activated audio, climate and navigation control to a new level in a small car - and also features a rear-view camera, Wi-Fi and text-to-voice capability, Bluetooth connectivity, two five-way steering wheel controls and an HD radio with iTunes tagging.

Focus interior

All variants offer a luxuriously soft animal skin-like dash surface, highly supportive sports seats with driver’s adjustment, and a high-end TFT info screen between the instrument dials.
The new model improves on Focus II in many respects and now offers first-class ride, refinement and technology.
Add to that an otherwise superb ride/handling package, impeccable design and build quality, class-leading petrol engine efficiency and handsome new exteriors and Ford’s newest small car is certain to attract new customers in the global marketplace.

Hypermiling - a new sport?


A dictionary entry for Hypermiling states that it is the act of driving using techniques that maximize fuel economy. Those who practice these techniques are referred to as “hypermilers.”

Hypermiling is defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary as the attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s vehicle and one’s driving techniques. In fact, in 2008, the word Hypermiling was selected as the best new word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary.

Hypermiling, which can be practiced in any vehicle regardless of its fuel economy, has gained in popularity as a result of the rise in gasoline prices during the 2000s. While common techniques can be carried out by average motorists making minor changes in their driving habits, many Hypermilers use more advanced techniques, some of which are illegal in most if not all jurisdictions.

Hypermiling has come under fire from several quarters due to claims of dangerous or unlawful behavior by some Hypermilers. As a result, the Hypermiling Safety Foundation was formed in August 2008 to promote a safety and public awareness program, advocating legal fuel-saving techniques.

In some places, Hypermiling contests have been held to see who can get the highest mpg on a selected course.

The recent Maximum Fuel Economy contest was held in Elkhart, Indiana, where “world records” for the Honda Insight (213 miles per US gallon (1.10 L/100 km; 256 mpg-imp) round trip), Toyota Prius (136 miles per US gallon (1.73 L/100 km; 163 mpg-imp) round trip) and the Ford Escape Hybrid (76 miles per US gallon (3.1 L/100 km; 91 mpg-imp) mpg round trip) were achieved, albeit having been achieved while rolling through all stop signs and having the vehicle tires inflated well beyond recommended specifications! The record for the most miles achieved out of a single tank of gas, with 2,254 miles (3,627 km) from the 13.7 US gallons (52 l; 11.4 imp gal) tank of a 2006 Honda Insight, represents an average of 164.53 miles per US gallon (1.4296 L/100 km; 197.59 mpg-imp) for the entire distance.

Now all that sounds terribly new and “green” and is the sort of fodder that the global warming people love to seize upon, to show their commitment to saving the planet. I am afraid I am with GM’s Bob Lutz who stated that “Global warming is a crock of sh*t.” And to show my true callous nature, if Bob and I are wrong we’ll both be dead long before Bangkok disappears beneath the rising seas, so it isn’t our problem!