Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Porsche: the new Picasso?

Porsche: the new Picasso?Wealthy Britons who are wary of the stock market are investing in prestige cars instead. The number of people with four or more top-end models such as Porsche and Bentley is on the increase, according to insurance company Aviva. And some even have as many as 30 prestige cars, owning the likes of Aston Martin, Ferrari, Jaguar and Rolls-Royce, the company added.

Aviva said that, on average, owners of these types of expensive car only do about 8000 km a year - about two-thirds of the national average. The average value of the prestige car collections insured with Aviva is £350,000 ($538,378).

Almost two-thirds of these cars are less than two years old, with 50 per cent having personalised number plates and 85 per cent of the owners being male. The most popular of the prestige cars is Porsche, followed by Bentley, Aston Martin and Ferrari.

Scott Leonard, high net worth underwriting manager at Aviva, said: "The popularity of owning a collection of high-value cars is growing among the wealthy of the population generally. It is not simply the preserve of A-list footballers and pop stars.

"It seems that people with money to spend and invest are now as likely to add a new prestige car to their possessions as a work of art, so perhaps Porsches are the new Picassos."
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ferrari tops list of most expensive car auction buys in 2010

The most coveted vintage cars sold at auction in 2010 didn’t command the sky-high, record-setting prices of last year. But there were still collectors’ stunning rare purchases this year Aston Martin to Talbot, BMW to Mercerdes Benz.

Six of the most expensive cars sold at auction during 2010 occurred during Monterey Auto Week, the now nearly two-week festival of new and vintage cars scattered throughout the Monterey Peninsula. The most expensive auctioned car in 2010 was a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione. It sold for $7.26 million at the Gooding & Co. auction at Pebble Beach in August.

Here’s the list of the top-10 most expensive cars sold at auction in 2010:

1. 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione (#1603GT) – Price: $7.26 million (Gooding & Co – Pebble Beach – August 14-15)

2. 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza Brianza Spider (#2311218) – Price: $6.71 million (Gooding & Co – Pebble Beach, August 14-15)

3. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta SEFAC Hot Rod (#2845) – Price: $6.11 million (Gooding & Co – Pebble Beach, August 14-15)

4. 1937 BMW 328 MM ‘Buegelfalte’ (#85032) – Price: $5.84 million (RM Auctions – Sporting Classics of Monaco, May 1)

5. 1938 Talbot-Lago T150 Competition Lago Speciale Teardrop Coupe (#90034) – Price $4.62 million (RM Auctions, Sport & Classics of Monterey – August 14)

6. 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Berlinetta (#0416AM) – Price $4.62 (RM Auctions – Sport & Classics of Monterey, August 14)

7. 1964 Aston Martin DB5 (#FMP 7B) – Price £2.91 million / $4.1 million (RM Auctions – Automobiles of London, October 27)

8. 1956 Jaguar D-Type Sports Racer (#XKD528) – Price: $3.74 million (Gooding & Company – Scottsdale Auctions, January 22-23)

9. 1927 Mercedes-Benz S Boattail Speedster (#26/180) – Price: $3.74 million (Gooding & Company – Pebble Beach, August 14-15)

10. 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica Cabriolet Pininfarina SWB (#3309 SA) – Price: €2.8 million / $3.7 million (RM Auctions, Sporting Classics of Monaco – May 1)
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Toyota redefines the people's sedan

Toyota redefines the people's sedanIs there a concept called the Made-for-India car? Apart from the ultra low-cost car segment, aren't buyers in India becoming homogenous with their global counterparts? Apparently not! And, most definitely not in all the segments.

After being amongst the first few companies to enter the Indian automotive space, Toyota has been the last to enter the mass market segment here. Toyota frustrated many of its constituents along the way, because it seemed to be delaying its foray into the small car segment, despite having a considerably large share of mass market cars to dip into in its portfolio worldwide.

But, that exactly would have been the reason why it would have been a half measure to just pick out one of its existing cars, like the Yaris, for launch in India. Coming from Toyota, the much-delayed mass market car just couldn't have been one of those because it would have neither fit the price segment nor would the car have truly satisfied the needs and expectations of buyers here.

So, Toyota engineers designed and developed the Etios sedan from scratch, meticulously building into it all the major expectations of the Indian entry sedan buyer, as a prelude to which Yoshinori Noritake, the chief engineer of Toyota's Etios project, is said to have personally interviewed potential buyers to understand their needs. The result is the Etios, a sedan that many are going to drub as being drab, of being too Indian, but will still end up considering because it is a Toyota and because of its overall practicality. So, what is the ‘Indianness' that the Etios comes with apart from the ‘Teekha' in its logo?

“I want design which is smart, but is not intimidating”

Toyota's designs are inherently simple. There are rarely, if ever, vehicle designs that can be considered aggressive or over the board. It just gets protracted in the Etios because of the perceived conservatism amongst Indian buyers. And so, for example, while its design rather simplistically attempts to give the Etios an appealing front, with a smiling bonnet grille design, it also focuses substantially on practicality.

Large headlamps capable of lighting up the road ahead and large tail-lamps to ensure good visibility for vehicles at the rear, a simple, straight shoulder line design that ensures large glass area and better natural illumination inside the passenger cabin, and to improve the overall look of strength Toyota engineers have also added a large airdam at the front and well-defined, muscular wheel arches.

Yes, there has been and is bound to be more feedback about the Etios looking very similar, especially from the rear, to a competing car in the market. But, evidently that has not been a deterrent to the huge number of initial customers that have booked the car. One of the lessons that Toyota must have learnt from the Qualis experience is that there is a general distrust for high-brow design amongst entry-level sedan buyers and amongst institutional (read taxi) buyers. The perception that still seems to exist is that a design excess potentially leads to expensive maintenance.

The Etios strikes a balance that is unique and will keep the buyer happy, though it may not help him get an above average share of stares.

“I want a car with small a foot print, but with lots of space”

Liberating extra space inside a car, within the confines of its exterior dimensions is a science that few have mastered. The Etios is a pretty good example of this kind of leverage. Though its wheelbase is almost identical to that of competing cars such as the Volkswagen Vento, and is a little lesser than the Fiat Linea, there is a feeling of more space inside the cabin of the Etios.

Toyota engineers have integrated a few features that further liberate space inside the sedan. The first of these is designing almost straight door panels that enable them to keep the door trim intrusion into the cabin to the minimum. This then ensures that there is more shoulder room for passengers. The other feature that liberates more space is the elimination of the central drivetrain tunnel that has enabled them to offer a flat floor at the rear. A very practical feature in the Indian context where often saree-clad passengers are trying to get off the car from one side only since the car is parked too close to a wall or another car.

The seats in the Etios sedan also feature a thin construction, providing more legroom for rear passengers. Yes, this also means that the seat squabs are thinner and together with the cloth upholstery don't offer the kind of support that you get in the premium sedan segment.

The rear passenger bench in the Etios sedan is also positioned to perfectly merge with the edge of the rear door, making entry and exit easy. Toyota designers also seemed to have worked on ensuring that there is ample luggage room inside the boot of the sedan – a whole 595 litres of it.

“I want the interiors to be novel, but more importantly they should be practical”

Practical interiors in the Indian context means that the air-conditioner should perform excellently even during peak summer, there should be lots of storage space and there should be convenience features for the rear passenger, who is often the owner.

The Etios' interior features a simple, centre console heavy dashboard layout. The central air-con vents are stacked one on top of the other to possibly ensure better cold airflow to the rear. The vent fins are a simple slatted ball and socket design that is easy to adjust. Controls are all within easy reach for the driver and feel sturdy to hold and adjust.

There a huge amount of storage available – a 13-litre cooled glovebox and seven one-litre bottle holders all around the interior. A novel feature, which Toyota says is also more safe and practical, is the centrally positioned instrument console. Behind the steering wheel there are just acres of plastic to stare at. The analog instrument cluster looks cooler at night when it is backlit. Also on offer in the top-end V and VX variants is a 2-DIN music system with a remote control for use by rear passengers. A thoughtful addition is the clean-air filter for the air-con system. The top variant also gets steering mounted audio controls.

The other novelty is the steering wheel itself which features a racing car style flat or cut-away bottom. But, I wonder if the feature was also thought of to help Indians with an expansive waistline to get in and out of the car with greater ease.

Despite some of the variants getting fabric door trim and inserts to break the monotony, the interior of the Etios does feature a lot of plastic. The fit and finish quality is very good, though there is a general feel of it being an entry-sedan in terms of overall build.

“I want a car that can handle the rough and tumble of Indian roads”

One of the biggest concerns for sedan buyers is ground clearance. The Etios has enough of that at 170mm to handle the most monstrous speed breakers you'll come across. There are other difficult Indian conditions that Toyota's engineers have provided for, including the addition of anti-corrosion steel sheets at areas in the car that are prone to rusting and stone hits. There is also underbody protection to prevent damage to fuel and brake lines and also interestingly, a new type of chip resistant paint has been used on the rocker mould and fender to prevent the need for frequent touch up and repaint visits to the workshop.

Toyota engineers have also chosen large knobs or switches for two keys functions that are often overlooked by Indian car users – the use of a large oval hazard or parking light switch and the headlamp levelling knob (instead of the scrolling wheel). Hopefully these two simple safety features will be used more by Etios users.

“I want a peppy engine, but show me the money first”

The Indian car buyer is extremely value conscious and Toyota wants to show that it is acutely aware of this fact with the Etios. The integration of frugality, without compromising on its trademark quality standards, starts with the very conception of the Etios' EFC platform, which will be shared with other vehicles and will be used over a longer generation cycle. There are other features like the single windscreen wiper blade, which might have helped Toyota save costs, but as long as the buyer benefits too, he not going to be too bothered.

But, the one feature that will satisfy the Etios buyer most will be the choice of the powertrain. The brand new 2NR-FE, four-cylinder petrol engine was developed specifically for the Etios and it sure seems capable of delivering on its promise of being a frugal mill. Toyota claims that the engine will offer a ARAI rated 17.6 kmpl of mileage. After my test drive of over 400 kms with a mix of city roads, the highway and hilly terrain, I got about 15 kmpl.

The 1,496cc engine has fairly meaty performance numbers, with peak power being 90 PS at 5,600 rpm and peak torque being 132 Nm at 3,000 rpm. The key figure there is of course, the torque, which also rises up to the peak with a pretty flat curve. How does it help? There is ample torque available in every gear from very low rpm levels. It translates into fewer gear shifts, lower fuel consumption and lesser engine damage due to knocking.

For example, while on third gear, I could go down all the way to about 18 kmph and also all the way upto about 100 kmph. The engine is fairly refined too keeping down noise levels during idling and initial acceleration. The five-speed manual gearbox mated to the engine is also a good choice. Shift quality is very good, though there is a bit of play when the stick shift is in gear. The clutch feels progressive and will be both a bit accommodating of the average Indian driving style and also won't lead to driver fatigue.

Bottomline

After driving the Etios in Chennai, I head out on National Highway 46 towards Bangalore. The Etios' straight line stability is quite impressive. But for a mildly bouncy ride at high speeds, the car keeps its cool even at speeds of about 140kmph. Engine noise starts becoming intrusive after I cross speeds of about 125 kmph. Another feature that was helpful on the highway was the large amount of low-end torque that was available, enabling easy overtaking without the need to shift down to a lower gear slot.

To experience the Etios in a more demanding driving situation, I turn off from the Chennai-Bengaluru highway and drive towards Yelagiri. The 23 kms drive uphill has a mix of tight hair-pins and swooping hill-side turns to reach the top of this small hill town. Yelagiri looks like it has dropped out of the heavens to land in the middle of verdant fields. The Etios tackles the inviting 30-degree incline of the road with gusto and here again the torque and range available on each gear is a great help in pushing it into every corner and turn, and then pulling off quickly after that, without shifting down.

The steering is light and easy to use and though it could have been more precise, doesn't take away from its drivability overall. The suspension set up is more tuned towards offering the passengers a pliant ride. That has also meant that there is a bit of body roll, which I observed more on the hills than while driving the Etios sedan in city roads or the highway.

The Etios is being offered with four variants, which range in price from Rs 4.9 lakh to Rs 6.8 lakh. Apart from the very affordable pricing coming from Toyota, there is a lot going for this sedan. The competition is faced with a very difficult task of taking on the might of the Etios.
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Friday, December 24, 2010

Just about right

Just about rightWhen it comes to sheer luxury, nothing beats the flagship saloons from Britain's two exotic nameplates: Bentley and Rolls-Royce.Even Daimler's stab into the ultra-luxury car segment with the Maybach hasn't really upstaged those two famous marques, which are so rich in heritage despite being owned by the Germans now (Volkswagen and BMW respectively).

So it's business as usual again for the Crewe boys, as it has developed the all-new Mulsanne to become the effective replacement for the Arnage. There was supposed to be an official launch of the Mulsanne in Thailand earlier this year at the British Embassy, but the street protests last April and May forced the Thai authorised agent to cancel the event.

So, for those who need to know, the Mulsanne has prices starting from B33m, which isn't that bad if you consider the fact that potential rivals like the Maybach and Rolls-Royce Phantom will ask for B40m and beyond depending on how you would spec the cars.

Despite its similar proportions and certain design cues, the Mulsanne is an all-new Arnage. The most significant difference in the skin is the new face which - for the better or worse - can be a good point of debate.

Wherever you drive on the Mulsanne on Thai roads, people just keep on looking. You start to wonder whether onlookers are taking a keen interest because it's a Mulsanne or "what on earth is that barge" and "it must be bloody expensive".

But as you drive and ride in it, the Mulsanne feels like a proper modern-day Bentley. Whether you're inside or outside the car, it feels superbly solid, from the way the body parts are put together all the way down to the smallest detail in the opulent cabin.

It feels remarkably luxurious - just like in any other Bentley - and the slabs of genuine wood really add up to the effect. In fact, it feels more expensive than both the Maybach and RR, unless you start counting the number of switches and features.

Behold, though, the Mulsanne is comprehensively equipped. The only personalised schemes left for potential buyers to choose are body and interior colours. You obviously won't need more than a 60GB hard drive or a 2,200W sound system from Naim, as such.

And even though the Mulsanne comes with a shorter wheelbase than its intended rivals, there's so much legroom for rear passengers, which also allowed Bentley engineers to fit chairs that can slide and recline.

You really won't be craving for more cabin room, despite the fact that there are long wheelbase variants of its competitors in the guise of Maybach 62 and Phantom Long Wheelbase. It appears that stretched barges in this segment have been done for the sake of image rather than plugging a deficiency in space terms.

It's a nice car to be chauffeur-driven in, and the Mulsanne's rear ambience isn't too gadget-laden as in the Maybach nor is it just plainly aristocratic as in a Phantom; it's just about right in terms of function and luxury.

True, most buyers will be sitting in the rear, but the Mulsanne is also a great place to take the helm. As said earlier, the driving environment feels peerlessly made and oozes top quality. The steering wheel also looks good and feels great to hold onto.

But the amount of switches on the console can look busy, and some time is needed in getting acquainted with them. And under glaring sunlight, it's hard to see the operation of some functions like those pertaining to the air-con system.

We (understandably) haven't had the chance to take the Mulsanne overnight, but we heard from the Bentley boys that the cabin looks very classy at night. We obviously think so, judging from the way it already appears during the day.

Crank the 6.75-litre (six and three-quarter in Bentley speak) V8 to life and note its gentle hum. Mind you, this is not the VW-developed W12 used in the Continental range, but Bentley's fabled eight-pot used for decades albeit tweaked to meet current emission standards and performance requirements.

If you really hadn't noticed, the motor feels like any other proper modern-day V8. Under a light throttle, the engine yields gentle performance which could be attributed to the fact that Bentley has added cylinder deactivation (from eight to four) when not all 512 horses are required.

Add more pressure and the engine still yields effortless performance from low down. Aiding out on such a high level of flexibility are two turbochargers.

In fact, this is what cars in this league are all about: wafting. The idea is to get moving around without having to use kickdown. Good proof of this engine concept is the diesel-like 4,500rpm redline and both of its rivals using bi-turbo V12 engines.

Sure, you can get some serious performance by stomping that gas pedal or engaging the eight-speed automatic into sport or manual mode. But the 1,000Nm-plus of torque is really meant for smooth driving and to overcome the car's heavy body.

You can feel the Mulsanne's sheer size and weight at low speeds, but the steering is usefully light around town even though that long bonnet in front of you reminds that this is no Bimmer or Merc.

The ride is obviously on the plush side, even if you're not in comfort mode of the three-step suspension mode. So for a nice, brisk drive at high speeds, it's best to choose at least the intermediate setting for a flatter ride.

The way the Mulsanne builds up speed is simply impressive. Performance just keeps on coming collectively, while body control and external noise suppression don't seem to be affected by speed. To put it precisely, the car has great cruising ability.

Probably the only downside about the car is tyre noise, although Bentley insists that our test car had been put to hard work in driving clinics held around the Southeast Asian region so as to explain the run-down contact patches of the 20-inch rubbers.

Does the Mulsanne handle as neatly as in an S-class or 7-series? Probably not, due to the weight that can be felt in corners. But that's not the point in the Mulsanne. And if you take the Maybach or Phantom into perspective, the Mulsanne has markedly better driving characteristics.

So where does that bring us with the Mulsanne in the end? First, it's a deservedly proper flagship for the brand, as well as an effective replacement for the Arnage. Despite some familiar credentials of yore, it feels modern in its own right.

As Autocar once nicely put it, people who can't decide between a Mulsanne and Phantom should simply buy both of them.

But in our eyes and brand image aside, the Mulsanne tends to mix the attributes of both the Maybach and Phantom by being not to extreme in either direction of its two rivals.

The Mulsanne doesn't look as Korean as the Maybach or as controversial as the bizarre-faced Phantom.

And while you sit more stately, but more uprightly, in the Phantom, you could almost sleep first class-style in the Maybach. But since snoozing off is never going to be on your agenda, the Mulsanne's has a good balance between seat comfort and convenience items.

In fact, that is what the Mulsanne is all about: a very fine balance between real-world function and sheer extravagance, be at the wheel or behind the front seats.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Maruti Suzuki in top gear ahead of launching maiden luxury car

According to reports, the luxury car Kizashi is Japanese parent Suzuki's flagship model internationally and is also the most expensive Suzuki product worldwide. The Kizashi will carry the distinction of being the most expensive Suzuki product in India as well. Kizashi will be reportedly priced at around Rs 18-20 lakh. Kizashi will come in both manual & automatic versions. The luxury car from Maruti Suzuki will compete with Skoda Superb and Honda Accord. The company has completed the dealership training of technical staff in India, reports added.

Meanwhile, the BSE Sensex was up 186.71 points, or 0.94%, to 20,075.59. On BSE, 34,000 shares were traded in the counter as against an average daily volume of 54,536 shares in the past one quarter. The stock hit a high of Rs 1454.90 and a low of Rs 1420 so far during the day. The stock had hit a 52-week high of Rs 1599.90 on 1 November 10 and a 52-week low of Rs 1171 on 21 May 2010.
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Abu Dhabi car owners buy expensive number plates

Abu Dhabi car owners buy expensive number platesCar owners from the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi seem to have a special interest in expensive number plates with a list compiled by an independent dealer showing they account for 37 of the top 50 dearest plates ever sold.

According to Regtransfers website, the UK's independent dealer in personalised number plates, Abu Dhabi dominates a global list of the most expensive car number plates ever sold.

The 37 Abu Dhabi buyers listed in the rankings collectively spent $60.6 million (222.9 million dirhams), or an average of $1.6 million (6 million dirhams) for their car plates, the website said.

On top of the countdown to the top 20 plates ever sold was plate number 24, which was sold to an Abu Dhabi buyer at a cost of $871,174 million (3.2 million dirhams).

Plate 33, which attracted a buyer from Hong Kong, cost $900,977 (7 million Hong Kong dollars) while Plate 19, again bought by Abu Dhabi, cost $912,010 (3.35 million dirhams).
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Want a fancy car? All you need is $4,500

Want a fancy car? All you need is $4,500THE next time you spot a $1.5 million Lamborghini Murcielago on the road, don't assume that the driver is a millionaire. Or the son of one. The super car could be a rented one. But renting one isn't cheap - expect to pay around $4,500 for a day's spin. This makes it the most expensive car for rent here.

The Lamborghini Murcielago is only being offered by 6Speed, a car rental company. It launched its business with a party at Timbre The Arts House two weeks ago. Exotic car rental is a niche business here due to the high up-front costs involved in purchasing these cars.

Then there are maintenance and insurance costs too. The annual insurance for such cars is about $20,000 a year, compared to about $1,000 for a family sedan. Replacing a clutch in a Murcielago can set you back $25,000. This is why only two companies here, 6Speed and Luxe Car Rental, offer rentals of high-performance marques such as Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Both companies said the growing affluence of Singaporeans and the influx of foreigners working here have fuelled the demand for such cars.

6Speed director Denny Koh (right) said they have about 120 members who have paid between $10,000 and $50,000 for packages to gain access to their 15 cars, including a BMW 320i convertible, a Porsche 911 C4S and the top-of-the-range Lamborghini Murcielago.

About half his fleet is rented out every weekend. The cheapest luxury car to rent would be the BMW at $450 a day. And even if you have the deep pockets required for the Murcielago, the company does not rent the car to first-timers or to non-members, Mr Koh said.

The interested hirer has to rent the company's less expensive super cars first, such as the Lamborghini Gallardo or Ferrari F430. This is so Mr Koh can assess if the person is capable of handling the Murcielago.

He said: "When he rents our other cars, we can monitor (through an in-built computer in the car) if he is changing gears at the right time or if he's a dangerous driver who goes over the speed limits frequently on our roads. From there, we'll do a risk assessment and decide if we'll rent him the (Murcielago)."

He said they won't turn down the customer directly, but will tell him the car is unavailable if he asks for it. Mr Koh, formerly from Luxe Car Rental, said that thanks to the booming economy, Singaporeans are growing more affluent with a taste for luxury products.

After all, Singapore has the highest concentration of US dollar millionaires in the world, according to the Boston Consulting Group's latest Global Wealth report released in June. Such millionaire households jumped 35 per cent last year, reported The Straits Times in September.

About 80 per cent of Mr Koh's clients are locals and the rest are foreigners. Mr Koh noted that some of his foreign hirers even rent their cars just as a show of wealth - never mind if they don't necessarily drive them. He said one wealthy Chinese national paid over $40,000 to rent the Ferrari F430 to park outside his Sentosa Cove bungalow in August - just to show off to his neighbour, who owns the older Ferrari F360.

Said Mr Koh: "I knew he didn't drive it much because when we collected the car, the odometer showed only 40km on it. I was wondering if it (the odometer) was broken or whether there was something wrong with my eyes. We went back to the office and double- checked the odometer, and it was working. "The super rich can be very strange sometimes."
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

First Nissan Leaf to be delivered

Nissan says the time has come. The first of its Leaf electric cars will be handed over to a new owner Saturday. Leaf starts at $33,600, but is eligible for a federal tax credit up to $7,500, making the net price $26,100. But, add $940 for the SL model, which has the stuff you want (rearview camera, solar panel on the spoiler to run some accessories, auto headlights, etc.). And the charger has to be taken into account, as noted later in this post.

Here's the company's announcement (leaving intact Nissan's quirky insistence on capitalizing all letters in the car's name, even though the name isn't an acronym) : "On Saturday, Dec. 11, the owner of the first Nissan LEAF gets the keys to the world's first mass-produced electric vehicle. The first Nissan LEAF owner will be revealed when he receives the car from Carlos Tavares, Chairman, Nissan Americas.

"The duo will lead a caravan of Nissan LEAFs across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco's City Hall, where the car owner will charge his car for the first time at a City Hall charging station.

"The Nissan LEAF creates no tailpipe emissions (it has no tailpipe), is made from recycled and recyclable materials, and can travel 100 miles on a single charge."

But you have to have a charger, of course: $2,000, or so unless you can a free one via a government program. And that might be unlikely. Here's a section from Hybrid Owners of America's newsletter:

"If you ordered a Nissan Leaf but are not in one of the initial roll-out markets such as California, and the installation of your charging station has been delayed, what happens if you try and get one of the federal government grants that will supply 15,000 free electric-car chargers? That question has come up because the grant program expires on December 31, 2010.

"We contacted Nissan to ask how we could take advantage of the government grant program. (This is after we had originally been told -- incorrectly -- that a Nissan vendor would work with us over the last summer to install a charging station.) It looks like, unless we can purchase and take delivery of a charging dock from a Nissan-approved third party manufacturer, have a private electrician install it, and successfully submit a federal grant application by December 31, we are out of luck on the 'free' charging station.

"Nissan says it may be a few months before we can get our charging station installed with them, although we are still slated to place our full Leaf order this month. At least we'll still be able to get the $7500 tax credit."

Here's what Nissan's expert sends Drive On: Government "programs offering 'free' home chargers have not expired but are limited to the geographies listed (Puget Sound, Oregon, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, TN). You have to apply, meet the research requirements, agree to have your charging habits monitored for 2 years then you receive a home charger."
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hyundai Elantra Gets Hybrid-Like 40 mpg

Hyundai Elantra Gets Hybrid-Like 40 mpgThe just-released 2011 Hyundai Elantra gets 40 mpg highway without resorting to the complexity and cost of a hybrid drivetrain. It's roomy, looks great, costs as little as $15,500, and is likely to spell trouble for the compact car segment-leaders Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Along with heavy doses of tech, there's luxury. Name one other car in the compact segment that offers heated rear seats.

The 2011 Elantra uses the same "fluidic sculpture" design as the new 2011 Hyundai Sonata (see review), which arrived early in 2010, and the upmarket Sonata hybrid (review) and Sonata 2.0T turbo (review) models shipped this fall. The superimposed image shows that they look remarkably alike, the difference being the Elantra at 178 inches is a foot shorter and $4,500 cheaper. The Elantra's roomy back seat is a match for most midsize sedans and so is the trunk. In fact, there's enough interior room that the EPA classifies the Elantra as a midsize car.

Elantra May Be Big Enough for Some Sonata Shoppers
I could see customers coming to look at the Sonata and deciding the Elantra is big enough for their needs. Other automakers have lookalike cars, such as the BMW 7 Series and BMW 5 Series. In that case, if the customer decides to go with the smaller model, the dealer is looking at a bill of sale that's $25,000 less. The confusion between the two models may be annoying to 7 Series owners because their neighbors aren't sure at a glance whether he's driving the really expensive car or just the expensive car. In Hyundai's case with its less-established brand and a name that sounds a lot like "Honda," having more cars that clearly look like Hyundais is good for the brand.

The Elantra comes standard with an iPod/MP3 player adapter, satellite radio, six airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, and standard four-wheel disc brakes. Hyundai took a step backward by not making Bluetooth standard on the Elantra as it did on the new Sonata, but Hyundai promises a January announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show that may resolve the issue.

Navigation is optional, with a 7-inch touchscreen that is as big as comes in the compact car segment. If you don't get navi, there's a smaller monochromatic display at the top of the center stack. It's the same navigation as the new Sonata, running off a 16-GB memory chip, and the screen is good on cloudy days, not so good in the sun, and if you're wearing sunglasses, better turn up the volume on spoken directions. Navigation includes a backup camera.

Keyless entry with pushbutton start is also available. There's a second 12-volt socket on the passenger side of the center console. Hyundai doesn't deserve too much credit for offering two power sockets as most everyone else should be dinged for offering just one even in compact cars.

Hyundai's array of safety technology does not include blind spot detection, which some midsize cars have, or lane departure warning. Nor is there parking sonar. A backup camera (available) is good; camera and sonar are better. All are safety features you might expect as technology costs come down. The government last week said it wants backup cameras installed on all cars by 2014.

The 2011 Elantra is rated at 29 mpg city, 40 mpg with the either the six-speed manual transmission or the Hyundai-engineered six-speed automatic. There's a completely new Nu (Hyundai's internal name) 1.8-liter, 148-hp, four-cylinder engine that is 74 pounds lighter than the predecessor Beta engine (2.0 liters, 121 hp, 34 mpg highway). That's 17.7% better highway mileage.

Hyundai offered this breakdown of how the new Elantra got its 17.7% incease. The engine efficiency accounts for almost half the savings, 7.4 percentage points of the 17.6% increase, or 2.5 mpg. Here's Hyundai's breakdown:

Nu 1.8-liter engine vs. Beta 2.0-liter engine -- +7.4 percentage points (2.5 mpg)
6-speed automatic transmission vs. 4-speed AT -- +4.1 points (1.4 mpg)
Smart Alternator -- +2.5 points (0.9 mpg)
Low rolling resistance silica tires -- +1.4 points (0.5 mpg)
Weight savings -- +1.8 points (0.6 mpg)
0.28 coefficient of drag -- +0.5 points (0.2 mpg)
Total Fuel Savings -- +17.7% vs. 2010 Elantra

Note the while the engine has variable valve timing, it does not have gasoline direct injection (GDI) where high-pressure fuel is sprayed directly into the combustion chambers. That's good for several mpg on its own and suggests Hyundai could, with GDI and a couple other tweaks, produce a 45 mpg and possibly 50 mpg Elantra running on regular gasoline - no electric motors and hybrid battery pack, no diesel fuel.

Were Hyundai to offer a hybrid version, it might within a couple years have an Elantra able to meet the EPA's fuel economy goal of 47 to 62 mpg by 2025, the higher mpg number targeting automakers such as Hyundai with smaller-size vehicles.

Here's my impression after a day-long, 200-mile road trip. The car is fine for driving around town or on the highway. Four people and their luggage - lots of luggage - will ride comfortably. As with a lot of Hyundais, it's a rider's car more than a driver's car. In other words, in a world of Lexuses and Audis, this feels more like a baby Lexus. Other notes:

* Cockpit fit and finish are first-rate.
* The steering wheel has nice thumb cutouts and the stitching (leather on the Limited moels) doesn't dig into your fingers. The steering itself is okay but not with a lot of feeling.
* The center stack controls are adequate. HVAC controls aren't immediately obvious. I found them a bit dark and the lettering too small when wearing sunglasses. No problem for the core buyer, young adults looking for a great value, not so good for older buyers.
* The steering buttons are complete but small, which is typical. If you want big, readable steering wheel buttons, buy a Cayenne.
Elantra_Small_LCD_45.jpg* The iPod interface worked well, as did music on a USB key. Working an iPod was harder with the smaller, non-navi LCD display (photo right).
* Bluetooth worked well and it can stream audio.
* A compact car should not, by rights, have this much back seat room (which may be why it's classified as a midsize car). There are no air vents in back (not common on compact cars, but understand this is why cars such as the Elantra are so affordable).
* The folding rear seat is a 60-40 split not one-piece, meaning you can carry three people and something from Home Depot.
* The trunk is cavernous.

Hyundai vs. the Competition
Hyundai sees its competition as the best-selling compacts, Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, along with the Mazda3. Because of its interior volume, it's also able to take on the Chevrolet Cruze, Nissan Sentra, and Ford Focus, all EPA-rated as mid-size cars. Against the competition, the Elantra has more power (Mazda3 matches it), more transmission gears (Cruze matches, Sentra has a CVT), the most trunk room, and only the Sentra has more passenger volume.

The comparison against the Corolla and Civic are a bit unfair because both designs date to 2006 (so does the outgoing Elantra's) and both should have new cars in 2011 as 2012 models. Hyundai was quicker with its model change: four years, four months from launch to launch.

Limited Configurations Benefit Hyundai - But What About the Buyer?
The 2011 Elantra comes in just seven buildable configurations (also eight paint colors and three seat colors). Hyundai says it's to reduce confusion when configuring online and to increase the odds a dealer has in-stock the options the buyer wants. That's certainly good for the dealer. But it also means if you want one option, such as the 360-watt premium audio, you've also got to take the navigation system and backup camera.

If Hyundai were shipping Elantras all the way from the Ulsan, Korea factory -a couple weeks at sea - the limited configs would make sense. But they're coming from Alabama and what it also means is that Hyundai so far isn't interested in letting a buyer have too many choices. Compare that with BMW's SUV plant in South Carolina; BMW encourages custom orders and builds, ships and delivers in less than a month.

Should You Buy (or Lease)?
Unless you're looking for a driver-oriented car such as the Volkswagen Golf or Mazda3, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra is the leader of the pack among compacts and is more than competitive among midsize cars. Every Elantra model gets 40 mpg highway (some competitor cars have one or two 40 mpg special models). Because residual values will be much better for the 2011 Elantra (63% after three years instead of 48%, says Auto Lease Guide), leasing could be a good deal. Hyundai is promoting a three-year, $169 lease ($1,700 down) on the automatic transmission (and air-conditioned) GLS model.

The lower-level GLS trim line will be the volume Elantra, starting at $15,500 (with freight) in a barebones configuration with steel wheels, a manual transmission, and air conditioning if you roll down the windows. The most popular model will be the automatic transmission GLS at $17,800 or the GLS Preferred $18,350 (Bluetooth, alloy wheels, steering wheel buttons). The navigation package version ($20,100, an extra $1,750) adds navigation, premium audio, and the backup camera. The base Limited ($20,700) goes beyond the top GLS with leather seating and steering wheel, power sunroof, and those front-rear heated seats. The Premium Package Limited ($22,700) has the navigation-audio-camera items plus the proximity key and pushbutton start.

The Elantra, now No. 3 in compact car sales, may well outsell No. 1 Toyota Corolla and No. 2 Honda Civic in the next year until those two get their new, 2012 models to market.
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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Lexus GS F to get 5.0L V8, Lexus LS F-Sport in the works

Lexus GS F to get 5.0L V8, Lexus LS F-Sport in the worksLexus is doing all it can to expand its new ‘F’ lineup, which competes with the likes of BMW’s M and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG. Currently, Lexus only offers the IS F but the GS F has been long waiting in the product lineup.

Recent reports suggest that development on the Lexus GS F is well underway. Sources say that power for the GS F will come from a 5.0L V8 engine making around 465-hp. That will allow it to run from 0-60 mph in less than 4.5 seconds, making it a serious contender in the fight against the BMW M5 and the Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG.

However, instead of focusing just on engine power, engineers at Toyota are trying to keep the weight of the GS F sedan around 3,700 lbs. with aluminum and carbon fiber parts. The GS F is expected to hit markets as early as 2012 as a 2013 model year. Prices should come in between $90,000 to $100,000.
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jaguar’s Unique Supercar Concept

Jaguar’s Unique Supercar ConceptInside Jay Leno’s expansive warehouse of vintage automobiles sat a vision of the future, Jaguar style. The low, lusciously sculpted form of the silver C-X75 supercar concept was enough to thrill the most jaded of auto journalists gathered in Leno’s collector-car assemblage near Burbank, where Jaguar presented the car before its U.S. debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The beauty of C-X75 is so much more than skin deep, though, with power provided by a most exotic array of sustainable performance components that can propel the gleaming missile to 62 miles per hour in just 3.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 205 mph.

C-X75 is technically an extended-range plug-in hybrid car, but how it performs its task is far ahead of the plug-ins being readied today for consumers. The drive system is comprised of four electric motors, one for each wheel, while two tiny gas-turbine engines provide recharging for the lithium-ion batteries.

“This entire car is an elegant solution, not just its physical beauty but its mechanical beauty,” said Jaguar design director Ian Callum as he introduced the car. “This is as close to a pure art form as a car can get.”

The micro gas turbines, which sit under the rear glass behind the driver and passenger, are key to the design. Replacing any sort of bulky piston engine, each turbine is small enough and light enough to hold in your hands, yet it produces 94 horsepower at a constant 80,000 rpm.

Designed by Jaguar in partnership with Bladon Jets, the groundbreaking micro gas turbines are similar to the giant jet engines on the passenger jets that brought the auto writers to Los Angeles. But instead of providing thrust, they provide the power to spin the generating system for the battery pack.

Jaguar says the C-X75 can run for 68 miles on electric power alone from a six-hour plug-in charge of household current. The gas turbines cut in when needed to supply electrical power to run the four traction motors and recharge the batteries. On a full tank of kerosene or similar fuel, the car has an estimated range of 560 miles before refueling.

“You can happily cruise this car all day at 100 mph,” said Nigel Taylor, project manager for C-X75. At that speed, he explained, one of the turbines is busy feeding electricity to the motors while the other is recharging the batteries. Both turbines are at work at top speeds feeding the motors, and work together at lower speeds for recharging.

The turbine engines are still in prototype form, said Phillip Lelliott, director of Bladon Jets, but they could be mass produced at a reasonable cost. A working example of the turbine was mounted on a small stand, and Lelliot easily lifted it to show the journalists. The four electric motors provide startling power: a combined 780 horsepower and whopping 1,180 pound-feet of torque.
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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cygnet is swan hell of a city car

Cygnet is swan hell of a city carThat's affordable by Aston standards, because the Cygnet's starting price of £30,000 is what people usually pay for an executive car. But then only Aston could take a Toyota model and transform it into the world's most luxurious and expensive city car. Their designers have done a clever makeover job on Toyota's quirky IQ model to turn it into a baby Aston Martin.

Although the mechanicals and the basis of the car remain the IQ, every exterior panel apart from the roof has been changed. The transformation is most noticeable at the front where the Cygnet gets the classic Aston chrome grille, plus new headlights. The reshaped bonnet gets Aston air vents that hint at performance that sadly is not under the bonnet.

What is under the bonnet is the 1.3litre Toyota engine, perfectly adequate for a city runabout, but 0-60mph in 11.8 seconds and a top speed of 98mph is hardly Astonesque. On the positive side, no Aston owner will ever have got 58mpg before or C02 emissions of just 197g/km. And that's a key part of what the Cygnet is all about, because if Aston sell the 1,500 a year they expect to, it will dramatically reduce their overall C02 footprint.

But it's on the inside where the designers have really done a brilliant cosmetic job on turning the Cygnet into a true Aston. All the materials and trim are what you find in a "proper" Aston. The leather, aluminium, carbon fibre and wood are all what you would expect to get in a DB9. The Cygnet can transport three adults and a bit of luggage in luxury never seen before in a small car.

The first Cygnets will be handed over to owners next May and Aston already have more than 200 orders, including a couple of people who have also ordered a One-77. The little car will also help to guarantee production jobs at Aston's Gaydon HQ and hopefully create new jobs next year. It will be the perfect city Aston for nipping in and out of traffic, leaving the big models for the weekend runs to the country.Oh to be rich.
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Spyker Cars to make India debut

Spyker Cars to make India debutThe Netherlands-based Spyker Cars has already shortlisted potential partners to import its vehicles and two dealerships are expected to come in the National Capital and Mumbai. "Spyker is always looking for the right partners in viable markets for the brand and we are discussing with a number of potential partners in many new markets, India included," the Sales Department of the luxury sports car maker told media in an e-mailed response.

The company has conducted a market study and held talks with possible partners in the National Capital and Mumbai, although nothing has been finalised yet, it added. "Spyker has shortlisted the potential partners and we will announce the new retail partner when the arrangements are finalised. It is our intention to launch the Spyker product in 2011," the company said.

Even though the company did not share possible price tags of the models, the marques with hand-crafted body panels will go up to several crores. For instance the C8 Spyder Aileron is tagged at 2,20,000 pounds (about Rs 1.6 crore) in London.

Globally, Spyker sells models like iconic C8 series, one of which was driven by Sharon Stone in the 'Basic Instinct 2'. Other models include LM85, C12 Zagato and D8 Peking-to-Paris.

The company may not have opened retail sales in India yet, but Spyker Cars is not new to India. In 2007, UB Group promoter Vijay Mallya and Dutch entrepreneur Jan & Michiel Mol had jointly acquired the Spyker Formula One team, which was later renamed as Force India. Recently the Indian luxury car market has attracted many global firms into the country with their latest products.

Last month, Volkswagen Group company Bugatti Automobiles launched its super premium sports car 'Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport' with price starting at Rs 16 crore, the most expensive car to hit the Indian roads so far.

UK-based luxury carmaker Aston Martin was also understood to be gearing up to launch its cars in India and tied up with Infinity Cars to open the first showroom in Mumbai. The cars are likely to cost up to Rs 3 crore.
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Drive away from expensive car breakdowns this winter

According to research a third (33 per cent) of serious or fatal motor accidents occur in the dark, and almost 4,500 accidents happened in snowy and icy conditions1, so Britain's number one comparison site reminds drivers to be prepared before they hit the roads to drive in potentially hazardous winter weather. moneysupermarket[dot]com found UK breakdown cover is available from as little as £29.50 a year with RescueMyCar[dot]com and £29.70 a year with The Green Insurance Company2. These policies include features such as roadside repair and recovery to the nearest garage or any UK destination, alternative travel and accommodation costs.

Steve Sweeney, head of car insurance at moneysupermarket[dot]com said: "Last winter the 'Big Freeze' really took us all by surprise. We don't realise how much we depend on our cars until a problem or breakdown strikes. With the colder winter months already upon us comprehensive motor breakdown cover is a must for motorists to avoid being stuck in the cold and dark. With the range of policies on offer at competitive prices , there really is no excuse for motorists to run the risk of being stranded. Breakdown cover really is worth paying for if you want the peace of mind that you will be rescued if your car does grind to a halt.

"With out doubt prevention is better than the cure so it's necessary to stress the importance of regular checks to your vehicle to avoid breaking down while on the road. Taking regular precautionary measures such as checking the oil level, anti-freeze, hazard lights, and tyres for tread depth and pressure, and stowing a spare tyre in the boot of your car are a good idea. I would also advise you store a torch, reflective triangle sign, high-visibility jacket, first aid kit and jump leads in your car to help aid you should you find yourself stuck on the side of the road."
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

AUTOS: Jaguar’s Unique Supercar Concept

AUTOS: Jaguar’s Unique Supercar ConceptInside Jay Leno’s expansive warehouse of vintage automobiles sat a vision of the future, Jaguar style. The low, lusciously sculpted form of the silver C-X75 supercar concept was enough to thrill the most jaded of auto journalists gathered in Leno’s collector-car assemblage near Burbank, where Jaguar presented the car before its U.S. debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The beauty of C-X75 is so much more than skin deep, though, with power provided by a most exotic array of sustainable performance components that can propel the gleaming missile to 62 miles per hour in just 3.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 205 mph. C-X75 is technically an extended-range plug-in hybrid car, but how it performs its task is far ahead of the plug-ins being readied today for consumers. The drive system is comprised of four electric motors, one for each wheel, while two tiny gas-turbine engines provide recharging for the lithium-ion batteries.

“This entire car is an elegant solution, not just its physical beauty but its mechanical beauty,” said Jaguar design director Ian Callum as he introduced the car. “This is as close to a pure art form as a car can get.”

The micro gas turbines, which sit under the rear glass behind the driver and passenger, are key to the design. Replacing any sort of bulky piston engine, each turbine is small enough and light enough to hold in your hands, yet it produces 94 horsepower at a constant 80,000 rpm.

Designed by Jaguar in partnership with Bladon Jets, the groundbreaking micro gas turbines are similar to the giant jet engines on the passenger jets that brought the auto writers to Los Angeles. But instead of providing thrust, they provide the power to spin the generating system for the battery pack. Jaguar says the C-X75 can run for 68 miles on electric power alone from a six-hour plug-in charge of household current. The gas turbines cut in when needed to supply electrical power to run the four traction motors and recharge the batteries. On a full tank of kerosene or similar fuel, the car has an estimated range of 560 miles before refueling.

“You can happily cruise this car all day at 100 mph,” said Nigel Taylor, project manager for C-X75. At that speed, he explained, one of the turbines is busy feeding electricity to the motors while the other is recharging the batteries. Both turbines are at work at top speeds feeding the motors, and work together at lower speeds for recharging.

The turbine engines are still in prototype form, said Phillip Lelliott, director of Bladon Jets, but they could be mass produced at a reasonable cost. A working example of the turbine was mounted on a small stand, and Lelliot easily lifted it to show the journalists. The four electric motors provide startling power: a combined 780 horsepower and whopping 1,180 pound-feet of torque.
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Friday, November 12, 2010

Bugatti unveils the most expensive car ever wrapped at SEMA

Bugatti unveils the most expensive car ever wrapped at SEMABugatti Veryon the most expensive car to be wrapped was unveiled at Speciality Equipment Market Association event. The car that is priced at $1.7 million has shattered all previous records. The wrap of the car is designed by SkinzWraps and Epson Printer has used to take the print out of the wrap.

For those who don’t know about Bugatti Veryon, it is the fastest and the most expensive sports car of the world. Some analysts hail it as the greatest automobile to be driven on earth. Bugatti Veryon is a 2-seater that comes with 16-cylinder 1001Hp engine. It can hit the top speed of 253 miles in a few seconds which is unthinkable in other sports cars that are available in the market. Today, most car makers are coming out with expensive cars to cater to the requirements of the elite class. These cars are a status symbol for the people who love driving fast cars.
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

2011 Honda Civic Coupe Review

2011 Honda Civic Coupe ReviewThe Japanese concern has been peddling Civics since 1972 and a two-door version with a proper trunk since 1992. And since inception, the car has sold rather well. Since its last substantial makeover, for the 2006 model year, the coupe, which forms part of Honda’s eighth generation Civic, continues to find a sizeable number of buyers; people who seem to be looking for a set of wheels that’s dependable, decently put together and can deliver a dash of sportiness without breaking the bank.

After a mild update for 2009, which saw the edition of a new front fascia, more aggressive grille with a honeycomb texture, plus mild rear end tweaks and updated interior features (including a USB interface in the console), predictably, Honda’s junior coupe is little changed for 2011. Trim levels comprise base DX, LX, EX, EX-L, and Si, with prices ranging from a MSRP of $15,605 for the entry level DX, to $21,955 for an EX-L automatic, up to $24,205 for the sporty Si, completed with satellite navigation and performance rubber.

LEFT OF THE MIDDLE

Compared to the seventh generation Civic, which was conventional in every sense of the word, the current car has a few more sci-fi touches – the styling for one. There’s definitely a bit of a spaceship look to it, especially from the front and credit to Honda for giving the car significantly different sheetmetal than the sedan, with unique fenders, doors and roofline. Fit and finish are quite decent in the segment, with Toyota’s Corolla starting to show its age while the new Scion tC as well as the Mazda3 prove worthy rivals.

The Civic coupe’s aura of low drag sportiness continues on the inside. The fairly expansive and aggressively sloped windshield gives the car a somewhat cab-forward look. It can be a little intimidating to some when they first get behind the wheel, but after a few minutes, the expansive dash becomes barely noticeable, especially once you’re under way. Like the exterior, the cabin is quite well put together. Acres of plastic abound, but there’s a feeling of integrity not found in many small cars and the controls have a feel of precision.Perhaps what surprises most is standard digital instrumentation (save for the analog tachometer). Although it can often be a love it or hate it proposition for many drivers, Honda’s seems to work better than most. The speed and fuel displays prove easy to read at all times and again, like the somewhat futuristic dash, it is easy to adjust to them.

Hondas, especially Civics, are generally known for their low to the ground stance and when you sit in the current Civic coupe, the feeling is much the same, though the driver’s chair is height adjustable and the tilt and telescoping steering column makes it fairly easy for most drivers to get comfortable. In our LX, the cloth seats, although plain in appearance, offered a surprising amount of support in a car of this price range. Thigh support and lumbar are also particularly good, plus unlike the chairs found in some other recent Hondas (namely the Accord), they prove comfortable over longer journeys.

In back, most people will find it a bit of a squeeze. The coupe’s doors are fairly short, which means, even with the front seat backs moved forward it’s a bit tight to get in. Also, the fairly small rear quarter windows give the back a bit of a cave-like feel. It’s fine for short distances, but nobody deserves to spend any length of time there.

The trunk is actually quite spacious for a car like this, able to swallow 11.5 cubic feet and the rear seat also folds, for those slightly bigger objects, lending a surprising practicality.

Civic coupes are fairly well equipped, with standard power windows and mirrors, A/C and an AM/FM CD stereo. LX and up models get speed sensitive volume control and that USB interface, plus cruise control, power locks, 16-inch wheels and a few other small items. Sadly Sirius/XM satellite radio is not a standard feature and in order to get it you need to opt for the navigation system, that’s only available on EX-L and Si models, a bit awkward considering many cars now offer it as standard, even on the lower trim levels.

We also have to take issue with the excessive number of trim levels with a total of nine packages, plus sub-packages like the LX-S that add alloy wheels, upgraded interior fabric, a leather steering wheel and some nice outside features like a rear spoiler and chrome exhaust tip.

SMALL ENGINE STILL A WINNER

In terms of the mechanicals, Civic coupes come with a standard 1.8-liter single overhead cam, four-cylinder engine, teamed with either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. The little engine cranks out 140 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 128 ft-lbs of torque at 4800 revs. In operation, the engine is fairly smooth, but like past Honda fours (and sixes come to think of it), it somewhat lacks throttle response at low rpm. And precisely for that reason, it works best with the slick shifting five-speed manual gearbox – the ability to hold the car in every gear allowing you to extract the most from its fairly peaky powerband. The auto, while fairly seamless in operation, seems to hold the engine back under acceleration, though at cruising velocity, as four-cylinder powertrains go, the little engine is actually quite hard to fault.

While the Civic Sedan is just starting to lag in the fuel economy wars with new 40-mpg entries from Chevy and Ford, in the less-competitive coupe segment the Civic still comes out on top. With a rating of 25/36-mpg (city/highway) for the automatic or 26/34-mpg for the manual, both come out to a 29-mpg average and are well ahead of the Forte Koup. And with the Scion tC boasting significantly more power, a fuel economy comparison would hardly be fair.

Si models do come equipped with a larger 2.0-liter dual overhead cam four cylinder, pushing out 197 hp at a very peaky 7900 revs and mandatory six-speed manual, but given the differences in character that engine brings, the Si deserves its own, separate entry.

GOOD REFLEXES

Another thing that has characterized recent Civics is a fairly firm, go-kart like ride and the 2010 coupe is no exception. The current car uses MacPherson strut front suspension with a fully independent multi-link rear. Combined with the standard (on LX) 205/65/16 tires, it can be a bit jarring, particularly on rough Michigan roads, which we experienced during our test. It can get a little tiring over longer distances, as can the fairly noticeable wind noise, but with seat comfort a step above most small cars, the annoyance factor is somewhat reduced.

One area where the Civic coupe can’t be faulted concerns the car’s driving dynamics. The power assisted rack and pinion steering is razor precise for a small car and the Civic feels, taut and nimble, particularly in city driving. Cornering is also exceptionally good – very neutral for a front-driver, with little body roll and good controllability. Even on slippery surfaces, where most FWD cars tend to run wide, the Civic demonstrates fairly sharp turn in and good feedback.

DX and LX models feature standard front disc and rear drum brakes, with ABS. The rear units are small and stopping ability is about average for the class. Four-wheel discs are fitted to EX-L models, but why Honda chose to fit drum brakes to the rear of DX and LX models in this day and age is just an offensive level of cost cutting.

Also only available on top-level EX models are traction and stability control.

THE VERDICT

Although the Civic has remained a perennial bestseller for decades and continues to draw a loyal audience, the small car segment is now more competitive than ever. With the ninth generation Civic due out soon, it will be interesting to see how Honda plans to stay on top.

In the meantime, the current car, while lacking slightly in design and with competitors starting to catch up in the fuel economy race, represents a serious rival to even the more potent Forte Koup SX and Scion tC by nature of its fun-to-drive dynamics.
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Friday, November 5, 2010

BlackRock says gold not pricey given fundamentals

BlackRock says gold not pricey given fundamentalsEvy Hambro, who manages the 2.8 billion pound ($4.5 billion) Gold & General Fund for the world's largest asset manager, said gold production has largely been flat over the past decade, while the costs of bringing a new mine on stream have risen.

"That supports the price on its own, and then you have to say the inflation-adjusted price for gold to have kept pace with purchasing power is over $2,000 an ounce. So those are your reference points around the gold market right now, and gold is within that range and I don't think it's gone too far at all," he said, although he could not comment on a price target.

The gold price, which is within a few dollars of a recent record high at $1,387.10 an ounce, has gained 1.5 percent this week. The U.S. Federal Reserve said on Wednesday it would spend $600 billion on buying government bonds as a means of injecting cash into a struggling economy. The dollar has fallen by nearly 10 percent against a basket of major currencies in the past two months as investors increasingly prepare for a long period of low U.S. interest rates.

The gold price has gained 11 percent in the same period as it has become less expensive to non-U.S. investors, many of whom have ditched the greenback in favour of higher-yielding currencies such as the Australian dollar. "Gold is not a paper currency, it is nobody else's liability, it is not a promise to pay by a bank and it's something you can't print, whereas dollar bills and other paper currencies you just turn the printing press on," Hambro said.

"What we're seeing now is a general shift in people's attitude towards things that are going to preserve their purchasing power over time, and gold is a natural beneficiary of this kind of activity in the market."Investor flows into precious metals have risen this year, as reflected by increases in holdings of metal in exchange-traded funds and in open interest in New York precious metals futures.

Part of the attraction of gold is its property as a hedge against inflationary pressures as, unlike returns from stocks or bonds which are eroded by inflation, it increases in value along with consumer prices. Investors see the potential for a pick-up in inflation as the money supply increases when the Fed resumes its programme of purchasing short- to medium-dated Treasuries and returning cash to the financial system.

"The central banks would like to see some growth and inflation coming back, and the activities they're undertaking are designed to engineer this," Hambro said. "Whether (inflation) it is far out, or medium term, or near term, I think that is what they're trying to engineer, and the precious metals, and gold in particular, and the other industrial metals are responding to it."
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

World's Most Expensive Barbie Sells for $300,000

World's Most Expensive Barbie Sells for $300,000Did the anonymous bidder that snapped up the diamond-choker wearing Barbie spend the money in the name of breast cancer research or to make all of his or her other Barbies back home realllllly jealous?

The pricey Barbie, created by Australian fine jewelry designer Stefano Canturi, wears a black strapless evening dress and a bejeweled choker, complete with a one-carat square-cut pink diamond.

She was sold at an auction at Christie's in New York City to an anonymous bidder for $302,500. The one-of-a-kind Barbie was estimated to be worth between $300,000 and $500,000. Even though the bid came in at the low end of that range, she is still the most expensive Barbie ever sold.

The previous world auction record for a Barbie was $17,091, set in 2006, according to the BBC. All proceeds from the sale will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, in conjunction with breast cancer awareness month.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

007 Aston Martin for sale in London

Arguably the world's most famous car, James Bond's original Aston Martin DB5 is to go on auction in London on Wednesday. The British vintage, which debuted in the 1960s film Goldfinger, is expected to fetch more than $5 million. The silver car is one of two DB5s that appeared on screen with Sean Connery, and has rarely been seen in public.

Car specialist Don Rose says the Aston is the ultimate icon of the James Bond legend. 'I think it captured the imagination of boys, old and young, when the car was introduced in "Goldfinger" in the mid 60s,' he said.

'It was the height of power and elegance in the resurgent UK after the war years.' The Aston comes complete with an array of gadgets that any wannabe spy could ask for, including machine guns, a bullet-proof shield, tracking device, rotating number plates and nail spreader.

Rose was hesitant to estimate how much the car might sell for. 'Will fame equal fortune is the big question for tomorrow,' he said. 'The most expensive car ever sold at auction was at an RM Auction of Ferraris at the factory last year a racing car went for US$12.4 million.'
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Monday, October 25, 2010

The most expensive car wash in the world (Video)

Car fanatic Gurcharn Sahota, 30, started washing neighbors’ cars for FREE when he was a teenager. Today he is cleaning some of the fastest and most exclusive cars in the world, charging his customers up to £7,000 (8,300 euros) a-time for a very special car wash.

For his work he uses a computerised microscope – to examine the body work for the tiniest scratch not visible to the eye. Just the wax he uses costs £8,200 a tub and it can take up to 250 hours to finish one car.

He has washed hundreds of exotics including a Ferrari Enzo, and a very rare McLaren F1 GTR. In the video below he works on a white Lamborghini Gallardo.


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Saturday, October 23, 2010

2011 Hyundai Equus Priced at $58,900

2011 Hyundai Equus Priced at $58,900Hyundai’s dive into the luxury sedan market moved a step closer to the showroom this week with the automaker announcing a base price of $58,900 for the 2011 Equus, its new flagship. Two flavors of Equus arrive at dealers in December: the basic Signature model and the $65,400 Equus Ultimate. Both prices include the $900 freight charge — and the much-discussed bundled Apple iPad that serves as the car’s “interactive owner’s manual.” No more fat books to clutter up the glovebox.

The differences between the Signature and Ultimate models are mainly interior luxury features like cooled rear seats, a fridge box in the center console, power trunk lid and a rear-seat entertainment system with an eight-inch monitor.

As it reaches out to attract Audi, BMW, and Lexus buyers, Hyundai is emphasizing service and customer attentiveness with the Equus line. There’s a maintenance program that runs for five years or 60,000 miles, loaner vehicles while the car is in the shop and a Customer Connect Center hotline. “Pampered” is a key Equus concept.

“We’re confident that smart luxury buyers will discover that Equus competes well with similar flagship products” from the German and Japanese brands, said John Krafcik, president of Hyundai Motor America, in a statement.

The Equus is powered by a 4.6-liter V-8 that delivers 385 horsepower, backed by a 6-speed automatic. It’s dressed up with 19-inch chrome rims, adjustable damping air suspension, H.I.D. headlamps, a driver’s seat massage function, sunroof and illuminated scuff plates. There are accessories available from dealers, but no options to order.

Is Hyundai overreaching here for a market slice already spoken for, or is the Equus a viable (and, to some, a money-saving) alternative to the established luxury players?
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Gold May Be Breaking All-Time Records, But Other Less Glittery Commodities Are Doing Much Better

Gold May Be Breaking All-Time Records, But Other Less Glittery Commodities Are Doing Much BetterWe all know how well gold has been doing lately, hitting all-time records although today gold futures were slightly lower because of slight rise in the value of the dollar. You can't turn on CNBC or Bloomberg without someone talking about how 10% of their portfolio is in gold.

Would you be surprised to learn that even though gold has been hitting record prices lately, at least five other commodities have performed even better, as have Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) that are tied to their performance? According to TheStreet.com, corn, cotton, copper, coffee and silver have been beating gold. Now keep in mind the volatility of these markets. No sooner had I started writing this article than word came that corn was down as well because of the rising value of the dollar. It doesn't take much to trigger a rise or fall in commodities. The weather is a major influence, as are currency shifts, population trends and politics.

That's why most individual investors shy away from straight commodity plays. They are just too risky. But a number of ETFs tied to one or a basket of commodities helps lower some of that risk by diversifying among a number of different metals or agriculture products.

There are more opportunities than ever to take advantage of the recent gains in these other commodities. For example, there is the Teurcrium Corn ETF which was up 45% since June, versus a mere 11% rise in the SPDR Gold ETF during that same period.

Then there's silver. The iShares Silver Trust was up 37.4% year-to-date, while the SPDR Gold ETF was up 22.7% for the year. You probably don't know this but when gold prices rise, silver tends to rise faster because it's far more versatile and cheaper than gold and unlike gold it's actually used in industry.

Getting back to those agricultural commodities like corn, coffee and wheat, the Powershares DB Agriculture Fund ETF provides exposure to all three and analysts say these commodities are in high demand due to worldwide population growth coupled with higher standards of living.

One way to take advantage of the rise in copper prices is through iShares MSCI Chile. Copper prices have soared to 27-month highs on hopes of another Fed stimulus package and expectation that global growth would continue to boost commodity demand. Tom Lydon, editor of ETF Trends says modern buildings can't go without copper because it is used in pipes and wiring and Chile is the world's largest copper producer.

Base metals don't get nearly the attention that precious metals like gold do. Gold is pretty. Gold is exciting. Even medieval scientists wanted change things like lead into gold. Still some other base metals have also far exceeded gold's returns. Tin prices, for instance, are up nearly 60% year to date. Nickel has seen a 30% jump in value, while copper prices are up close to 15% for the year.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Luxury Car Sales Race Goes Down To The Wire

Luxury Car Sales Race Goes Down To The WireThere's a real dogfight shaping up among the top three luxury car makers in the final three months of 2010. Lexus, which has traditionally been the best-selling luxury brand in the U.S., is trying hard to hold off a resurgent Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

The companies are currently neck-and-neck in sales through September, with Mercedes leading at 165,363 vehicles, compared to 163,184 for Lexus and 157,464 for BMW.

“These next three months, including the luxury holiday sales campaign, are crucial for Lexus if they want to continue to lead the market as they have for over a decade,” said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends and insight at TrueCar.

Lexus’ lost momentum can be traced to some of the same quality issues that have hurt its sister brand, Toyota, and to the fact that it hasn’t had much in the way of new models to lure shoppers to showrooms. The GX460, a relatively low-volume SUV, debuted in early 2010. The next new model is the CT200h, a dedicated hybrid, which is coming to market around the first of the year.

Smelling blood, Mercedes has been offering aggressive lease deals on its vehicles. It has also benefited from new products, like the GLK, a small SUV, and a new generation E-class sedan. After a slow year in 2009, BMW is also beginning to pick up steam with a redesigned 5-series sedan. Next year it hopes to build on that momentum with the introduction of the X1 small SUV and a redesigned X3 SUV.

Lexus will have to work hard to hold off its German rivals.

Meanwhile, if you’re in the market for a luxury car, you should take a look at the Most Expensive Luxury Cars To Own, which compares the total cost of ownership for luxury vehicles in 10 market segments. The less expensive car might actually cost you more over time.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

$2.3 million for a 2011 Bugatti Veyron reasonable?

Most Expensive CarThe fastest car in world enters production in Germany. Although the price will start at 2.3 million dollars, since only 40 cars will be made of the 2011 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport with 1200 hp, demand is believed to exceed supply. The 2011 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport is the fastest car in world as certified by Guinness World Records in July; it reached 268 mph (431kIs $2.3 million for a 2011 Bugatti Veyron reasonable?m/h). It will be sole fastest car in the world to enter production, however in a limited edition!

Although it uses the same engine as the original Veyron that debuted in 2005, this car hides underneath a beast that turns out an unbelievable 1200 horsepower that make this Super Car reach 100km/h (62 mph) in only 2.5 seconds.

This beast took the production of sports car to a completely new level. It’s not only very good looking, but also extremely fast, it can reach the top speed of 258 mph (415 km/h), electronically limited for the tires.

The seven-speed Super Sport beauty adds 200 horsepower to the 8.0-liter W16 engine of the original Veyron, and has every major mechanical system enhanced, while for more aerodynamic efficiency the bodywork was modified. The limited edition will consist of 40 units, 22 of which (including the five special-edition cars with exact configuration as the world breaking record car) have already been booked.

Seeing the innovation in design and execution that leads to perfection, combined with the satisfaction a person feels when driving such a beauty, will definitely make the 2.3 million dollars seem almost reasonable!!!
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Most Expensive Jewelry in the World

Here’s the most expensive jewelry in the world. As We all know, jewelry is a women thing. By wearing any jewelry beautiful women looks more beautiful. But wearing these jewelry is different case. These jewelry is a symbol of wealthy and success. Let’s take a look at these most expensive jewelry in the world.

Most Expensive Jewelry in the World

5. Flawless Blue Diamond, Sold in Sotheby’s : $ 7.98 Millions

This Sotheby’s blue diamond has 6.04 carats and it is mounted in a superb rings that was sold in a Hong Kong exhibition at the amazing price of $7.98 million.

Most Expensive Jewelry in the World

4. Diamond Drop Earrings by House Of Harry Winston: $8.5 millions

These Diamond drop earrings are the creation of Harry Winston. The 60 carat diamonds are mounted in platinum. The drop shaped earrings are suitable for any outfit.

Most Expensive Jewelry in the World

3. Heart-shaped Burma Ruby Necklace: $14 millions

The romantic shaped ruby necklace that has as a centerpiece a 40.63 carat Burma ruby belongs to an English jeweler. It is mounted also with 155 carat worth of diamonds.

Most Expensive Jewelry in the World

2. White Diamond by Sotheby’s: $23 millions

The white diamond belonged to the Sotheby’s auction house and had 100.1 carat. It was initially sold for $16 million but the current value reaches $23million.

Most Expensive Jewelry in the World

1. Diamond Bikini by Susan Rosen And Steinmetz: $30 million

The diamond bikini is created by Susan Rosen with Steinmetz Diamonds and has more then 150 carats of D Flawless diamonds. The item is at the same time the most expensive diamond jewelry and the most expensive bathing suit.
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

2010 OC Auto Show's most expensive car

most expensive car
The Lamborghini Murcielago LP 670-4 Superveloce is the most expensive car at the OC Auto Show. The one on display is priced at $485,545. Jonny Lieberman of Motortrend gives a tour of one of the most powerful cars in the world.A 2011 Lamborghini LP 570-4 Superleggera is one of the highly-anticipated cars on display at the OC Auto Show.

The popular exotic, which debuted at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, has a lot of carbon fiber and more horsepower for a higher top speed -- 202 mph. In comparison with the standard model, it is 154 pounds lighter and has an extra 10 horsepower to play around with.

Check out the Video below


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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

World's Most Expensive Phone: Goldstriker iPhone 3G Supreme

World's Most Expensive Phone: Goldstriker iPhone 3G SupremeThe revamped iPhone 3GS is studded with approximately 271 grams of 22 carat gold and an estimated 136 diamonds worth 68 carat. The iPhone 3GS is embellished with diamonds on the front bezel.The front bezel has 136 diamonds, while the Apple logo is made from 53 of the same jewels. The front button is embellished with a rare diamond, weighing 7.1 carat.

The rear logo in solid gold has 53 flawless diamonds amounting to 1ct and the front navigation button is home to a single cut very rare diamond at 7.1 cts. The chest which houses this unique handset is made from a single block of Granite , in Kashmir gold with the inner lined with Nubuck top grain leather , which weight is a massive 7kg.
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Jewelry Celtic

Jewelry Celtic
Jewelry Celtic or Celtic jewelry is a perfect example of timeless classic and where ancient history meets the magic of art and craftsmanship. Ancient art of making Celtic jewelry is becoming more and more famous in the modern world. Most of the present day Celtic jewelries are made by smiths from Ireland and Scotland. In Ireland, there is a national museum where majority of the Celtic art and Celtic jewelries are displayed.

Original Celtic jewelries are rarely available; however, if you are looking out for Celtic silver jewelries, you can buy them both online and offline through several wholesale jewelry stores and through couple of jewelry suppliers. Celtic jewelries are well known all over the world for its exotic art, swirls, spirals and knots. You can also buy unique and handcrafted, classic and contemporary Celtic rings, Celtic crosses, Celtic wedding rings and many other exquisitely designed Celtic jewelries made from sterling silver. Traditional Celtic jewelry designed and handmade by Irish artists are prized and coveted by men and women alike.
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Friday, October 8, 2010

BMW motorcycles nearly here

BMW motorcycles nearly here
After capturing a fourth of the domestic luxury car market, German automobile maker BMW says it is in the final stages of deciding on launching its premium motorcycle range in the country.The company has been doing a study, checking market response to possible launch of its bikes, if priced on par with the current range of Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Harley Davidson and Ducati premium bikes.

“It’s pretty evident the company is interested in getting the bikes here. We are actively looking into it. We will be able to take a decision on the same before the end of the year, may be in a few weeks,” said BMW India’s president, Andreas Schaaf.

If it decides to go ahead, it will be a re-entry for the brand in India after more than 15 years. BMW had then tied up with the Delhi-based Hero Group (which has Hero Honda under its fold) to sell the F650 in the country. However, the arrangement was short-lived after the bike received timid response from the market, as it was tagged ‘too expensive’. BMW had to shut imports, with some units selling for about half the original selling price.

If launched, BMW will bring its bikes, which could be priced upwards of Rs 9 lakh each, in fully built forms, imported directly from Germany. The company may review its strategy later and could switch to local assembly if the demand supports its supply.

The Indian premium (fully imported bikes) two-wheeler market is relatively small in size when compared to some developed countries. However, companies use such premium bikes to push or support their other group brands.

BMW India, which had to hastily increase production capacity at its Chennai factory by 80 per cent to support demand for its cars, says the presence of BMW-branded bikes would bolster the group’s brand.

“There is no risk exposure as such (whether the bikes would succeed or not). It would be done with a long-term perspective. The launch will certainly help the reputation of the BMW brand,” added Schaaf.

The India premium bike market is a little more than 500 units yearly, with the presence of a number of international players. India Yamaha Motor, subsidiary of the Japanese two-wheeler giant, says the segment in growing in the high double-digits.

While Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Harley Davidson and Ducati are importing their bikes into the country, KTM and Kawasaki have local assembly plans, with the infrastructural support provided by partner Bajaj Auto.
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Monday, October 4, 2010

World's Most Expensive Watches

1. Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon Ref. 5002 P

World's Most Expensive Watches

Price: $1.49 million (1,06 million EUR)

The most expensive modern wristwatch Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon Ref. 5002 PA platinum Patek

Philippe tourbillon watch became the most expensive modern wristwatch to be sold at auction when it fetched HK$11.75 million ($1.49 million) in Hong Kong on April 10, 2008.

The “Ref. 5002 P Sky Moon Tourbillon” wristwatch with a double dial is considered the most complicated wristwatch ever produced by the renowned Swiss watchmaker. Only two such watches are made every year, one in platinum and one in rose gold. The watch, made in 2003, was bought by an Asian private buyer at the Sotheby’s auction.

The previous auction record for a modern wristwatch was a Vacheron Constantin Tour de l’Ile, ranked 2nd on this list, which was sold by the auction house Antiquorum for $1.4 million in Geneva in 2005.

The Sky Moon Tourbillon Ref. 5002 is the most complicated wristwatch ever produced by Patek Philippe and also the workshop’s first double-face wristwatch. Its movement consists of 686 parts, some of which are microscopically small. This rare and exceptional timepiece features mechanical movement that must be manually wound, a minute repeater with tourbillon escapement, chime with two “cathedral” gongs activated by a slide piece in the case, perpetual calendar with retrograde date hand, hours and minutes of mean solar time, day, month, leap year by hands and moon age. The platinum case measures 42.8 mm.

2. Vacheron Constantin Tour de l’Ile

World's Most Expensive Watches

Price: $1.4 million (994,000 EUR)

World’s most complex watch ever made

Vacheron Constantin Tour de l’IleOf all the wristwatches imagined and produced by Vacheron Constantin to celebrate its 250th anniversary, the Tour de l’Ile is a study in superlatives. Calling this a “Grande Complication” model is a dramatic understatement: it is, in fact, the world’s most complex watch ever made, with its original combination of 16 complications that can be read off on a double-face display. Its design-engineers have developed a calibre smoothly integrating a series of grand horological complications and astronomical indications in order to make it a genuine wristwatch that is perfectly suited to and comfortable on the wrist.

It took the Vacheron Constantin design-engineers and the watchmakers over 10,000 hours of research and development to create this sheer masterpiece of horological technique, named in reference to one of the historical sites of the venerable firm, located next to the current Maison Vacheron Constantin on the Quai de l’Ile. An additional statistic provides an instant glimpse of the density of this exceptional calibre: no less than 834 parts are housed within a case measuring 47 mm in diameter.

The gold case with its hand-soldered lugs, which maintains beautiful and harmonious proportions despite its substantial content, is now distinguished by a symmetrical double protuberance on either side of the bezel. This miniature horological marvel, which will go down in the history of the wristwatch and of watchmaking in general, is produced in a strictly limited edition of just 7.

3. Hublot One Million $ Black Caviar Bang

World's Most Expensive Watches

Price: $1 million (727,000 EUR)

The quintessence of “invisible visibility” in a uniform range of black tones

Hublot One Million $ Black Caviar BangSwiss manufacturer of luxury watches Hublot has recently introduced one million dollar watch Black Caviar Bang. This watch’s setting is very complex. The difficulty resides in the unusual lines of the Big Bang case – round but with sharp angles. The white gold, one-piece construction of the case does not reveal one grain of gold, and the diamonds, cut in mysterious ways, seem to hold together as if by magic. The only visible feature is the black and deep tones of the diamonds, shining in their harmonious alignment.

This unique piece, which houses a Tourbillon, symbolises the fusion between watchmaking and jewellery, tradition and technology, glittering and invisibility. The vibration which emanates from it gives rise to an emotion tinged with fascination.

Creating this exceptional watch demanded over 2000 hours of meticulous work, from design to final adjustment, without forgetting the research and development, programming of the machines, choice of tools, diamond cutting, optical checking of each part, and setting and casing.

The case, in 18kt white gold, is covered with 322 black diamonds (25 carats). The crystal is an AR-coated sapphire, as is the display back. The bezel, done in 18kt white gold, is covered with 179 black diamonds (6 carats). Movement is the Hublot caliber HUB Solo T, a 1 minute Tourbillon Volant, manual-wind with special black finishing. The watch has 24 jewels, beats at 21,600 bph and has a power reserve of 120 hours. The bracelet is rubber with an 18kt white gold closure covered with 30 black diamonds (3.5 carats). The watch is manufactured in limited edition of just one piece.

4. Louis Moinet Magistralis

World's Most Expensive Watches

Price: $868,000 (631,000 EUR) One of a kind watch with real pieces of the Moon

Louis Moinet MagistralisSwiss watchmaker Louis Moinet has recently presented a watch with real pieces of the Moon! These pieces are from a lunar meteorite that was ejected from the Moon 2,000 years ago. The meteorite has been authenticated by the University of California. Moonstone is an extremely rare material that is even more expensive than gold and platinum combined.

The movement of Magistralis was created a hundred years ago. Designed in the Vallee de Joux, it was made in Geneva and bears the Poin?on de Geneve quality hallmark. It beats at 18,000 vibrations per hour and features a (double-bladed) self-compensating balance and a flame-blued Breguet balance spring.

The case is made of 5N and 3N 18-carat rose gold. Its brand-signature design stands out especially for its crown guard (patent pending) and its chronograph button guard at 12 o’clock. The perpetual calendar function displays the day, date and month over four years.

Magistralis is an extraordinary watch representing the expert craftsmanship of the time-honoured art of Haute Horlogerie. It is one of a kind, unlike any other, and will never be repeated.

5. Blancpain 1735, Grande Complication

World's Most Expensive Watches

Price: $800,000 (582,000 EUR) Six masterpieces merged in a single construction

Blancpain Grande Complication 1735Blancpain’s expert watchmakers devised a daunting challenge: merging their six earlier masterpieces into a single construction. For no other reason than the secret pleasure of outdoing themselves. Despite countless doubts and dead ends, talent and preservance ultimately got them there. After six years, against all odds, fulfillment was at finally hand. In homage to the year of foundation of the House of Blancpain, they called the new watch 1735. Almost magical in its intricacy, its movement’s original design comprises an impressive 740 parts and components.

A truly inspired achievement, the Blancpain 1735′s horological wizardry provides a rare and altogether convincing demonstration that, at least for the best watchmakers, impossibility is only relative.

The 1735 is the fruit of a year of loving labor by a single watchmaker. With its 740 individual hand-finished components, the 1735 remains the world’s most complicated automatic winding wristwatch produced in a series. The platinum case measures 42 mm, the strap is croco leather. Movement is the automatic Caliber 1735, with 950 platinum rotor and a power reserve of 80 hours.

6. Breguet pocket watch 1907BA/12

World's Most Expensive Watches

Price: $734,000 (540,000 EUR) The most expensive pocket watch

Breguet 1907BA/12Breguet is one of the oldest and most respected names in the watchmaking industry, the company being around for more than 225 years and being credited for the invention of one of the most famous watch complication, the tourbillon.

Although it’s now a part of the Swatch group of companies, the Swiss watchmaker keeps coming up with all sorts of extremely special timepieces, some of them instantly becoming a collector’s item, due both to their high (sometimes enormous) price tags, as well as their one-of-a-kind features.

Breguet Classique “Grande Complication” pocket-watch in 18-carat yellow gold features grand strike and tourbillon, hand-engraved and hand-wound movement with 2-way rotating crown, off-centred chapter ring, centre minute hand, silvered gold dial, hand-engraved on a rose-engine and sapphire caseback.

Breguet’s Grand Complications pay tribute to the two-century-old equivalence between Breguet watchmaking and advanced mechanical science. Building a grand complication confronts watchmakers with a maze of technical difficulties that challenge not only their skills but also their powers of invention. Thinking and working in four dimensions, generations of Breguet watchmakers have demonstrated the summit of their art in repeaters, perpetual calendars and tourbillon watches. Breguet protects its latest developments in perpetual calendars with two patents.

7. Audemars Piguet Grande Complication

World's Most Expensive Watches

Price: $526,000 (395,000 EUR)

Audemars Piguet most expensive timepiece

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Grande ComplicationAudemars Piguet is another manufacturer of expensive Swiss watches. Tradition, excellence, daring: it is based on these three fundamental values that Manufacture Audemars Piguet perpetuates the art of Haute Horlogerie. At each stage of its history, it has proved capable of adopting the latest avant-garde technologies and of placing them in the service of hand craftsmanship, thereby creating exceptional timepieces.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Grande Complication is a selfwinding watch that features perpetual calendar indicationg the day, the week, the moon phases, the month and the leap years.

It also features minute repeater, split-seconds chronograph and small seconds at 9 o’clock. 18-carat white gold case and bracelet, transparent sapphire caseback. Water-resistant to 20 metres. Limited production.

Reference No: 25865BC.0.1105BC.01

8. Ulysse Nardin Genghis Khan

World's Most Expensive Watches

Price: $490,000 (351,000 EUR)

World’s first wristwatch featuring a Westminster chime

Ulysse Nardin Genghis KhanIn 2002 Ulysse Nardin proudly presented a watch beyond all considerations of practicability, a piece of art more than a mere timepiece; the Genghis Khan, world’s first wristwatch featuring a Westminster chime with minute repeater, automatons and tourbillon.

A dial made of massive onyx features four figures, meticulously chased from gold. The figures show Mongolian warriors, thus explaining the watch’s strange name, which remembers the founder of the largest empire in humankind’s history, Genghis Khan (born 1155, or 1162, or 1167; died 1227). Each time the Westminster chimes or the repeater is engaged, the figures are fighting with their characteristically curved swords or trying to catch a small ring with a spear, while riding a impressively crafted horse.

The visible one minute Tourbillon is integrated into the aventurine dial. Opaque or translucent, containing crystals that were engendered by fire in molten glass, aventurine scintillates, subtyl flecked with all possible shades of red, yellow and grey. Forged by human hands, often compared to the philoshopher’s stone, aventurine contains the secrets of the master jeweler’s aclhemy.

All this is encased in 18k gold of 42 mm diameter, and in spite of its repeater activation slider it is watertight down to 30 meters.
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