Tuesday, September 6, 2011

2012 BMW Z4 On Sale In Australia From November, Adds Turbo Four-cylinder

2012 BMW Z4 On Sale In Australia From November, Adds Turbo Four-cylinderThe second-generation BMW Z4 has come in for a 2012 model-year update. While little has changed on the outside, it's a whole new story under the skin - and on the price list.

The entry-level Z4 sDrive23i has been dropped for 2012, its 150kW six-cylinder engine ousted by the new N20 turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and a sharp new entry price.

Producing 135kW and 270Nm (power down, torque up), the turbo four-pot propels the new entry-level Z4 sDrive20i to 100km/h in 6.9 seconds - short of its predecessor's time by just three hundredths of a second.

Mated to a six-speed manual transmission, the sDrive20i lists fuel consumption figures of 6.7 l/100km - shaving 1.8 l/100km off the previous model. A new eight-speed Sport Automatic transmission is also available.

Priced at $76,900, nearly $10,000 less than the outgoing sDrive23i, the sDrive20i slips in beneath the fuel-efficient Luxury Car Tax threshold.

The new price point means the slightly less powerful and barely less punctual sDrive20i is unlikely to present many downsides for new Z4 buyers.

Entering the 2012 model year at a sub-$80k price also makes the sDrive20i more affordable than the equivalent 135kW Mercedes-Benz SLK 200

A more powerful version of the N20 engine is also on offer, with the 190kW/310Nm 3.0 litre six-cylinder engine replaced with a more highly-tuned version of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

Power for the top-shelf four-cylinder engine is rated at 180kW and 350Nm (again; power down, torque up), giving the new Z4 sDrive28i a 0-100km/h time of 5.7 seconds - one hundredth of a second quicker than the ougoing sDrive30i.

Fuel consumption is listed at 6.7 l/100km - equal to the less powerful sDrive20i - when mated with the standard six-speed manual. The eight-speed Sport Automatic is also available.

As with the entry-level model, the sDrive28i swoops in under the fuel-efficient luxury car tax threshold and is priced at $89,400 - compared to $98,100 for its predecessor.

In order to harmonise prices across the range, BMW has also cut prices for the unchanged Z4 sDrive35i ($107,500, down from $116,898) and the flagship Z4 sDrive35is ($120,500, down from $129,900).

The new pricing means that the 225kW sDrive30i again undercuts the nearest Mercedes-Benz offering, with the new 225kW SLK 350 priced at $118,900.
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Most Americans not open to buying cars from India, China

A wave of new Indian and Chinese automobiles are poised to make their debut in the US market in coming months, but a new study has found that most Americans are not open to the idea of buying a car from companies like Tata , Mahindra and BYD.

Market research firm GfK Automotive's Barometer of Automotive Awareness and Imagery Study found that Chinese and Indian auto-makers could face a similar purchase consideration curve to Korean vehicles when they launched in the US.

In that case, it took more than 15 years for consumers to significantly increase their consideration to purchase Korean vehicles.

The majority of American consumers are not open to buying a car from a Chinese or Indian manufacturer. Such auto-makers looking to break into the US market face challenges in brand awareness and acceptance, said the study.

The Barometer of Automotive Awareness and Imagery Study found that only 38% of the respondents would consider buying a Chinese car and 30% an Indian vehicle. In contrast, 95% are open to buying from an American company, 76% from a German manufacturer, 75% a Japanese vehicle and 49% a Korean model.
Gen Y consumers were the most open to buying Chinese or Indian vehicles, with 52% saying they'd consider a car from China and 41% open to a car from India.

Predictably, Baby Boomers were the least interested. Supporting its report, GfK cited the challenge Hyundai initially had gaining market acceptance in America, stating that "Chinese and Indian automakers could face a similar purchase consideration curve".

"However, we would add that the quality, performance, safety and reliability of the models make all the difference. And Hyundai initially trailed in all those regards. Perception took years to change, because the company itself took over 15 years to offer competitive products," it said.

Companies such as BYD (China), Chery (China) and Mahindra (India) have in recent years declared their intent to launch products in the United States, only to repeatedly delay their introduction. "Clearly, the time will come when cars arrive on our shores directly from such manufacturers. For some, arguably, the time is now, as the current parent company for Land Rover and Jaguar, Tata, is an India-based corporation. And Volvo is owned by China-based Geely," GfK Automotive said in its report.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Here comes the sun-powered car

Here comes the sun-powered carA roof-mounted solar panel announced by Ford in the US this week could help to drive electric versions of its Focus small car up to 1600 kilometres a month for free. The panel, developed in co-operation with solar panel provider SunPower, can generate up to 3000 kilowatt hours of power each year and would supplement - or completely replace - plug-in electricity as the vehicle's power source. The US-based program is an intriguing premise considering Australia's high levels of sun exposure. It could become a key development in making electric vehicles more sustainable to drive in Australia.

The only mass-produced electric vehicle on sale in Australia, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and several more due to arrive here next year derive their energy chiefly from coal-fired electricity, which is considered among the dirtiest and least-sustainable forms of power generation. Ford is not the first brand to use rooftop-mounted solar panels. The Toyota Prius brought solar panels into the mainstream in 2009 with a rooftop-mounted system. However, it only powers the car's ancillaries rather than the electric motor.

A pioneer in the field is considered to have been the Mazda 929 from the early 1990s, which used solar cells embedded in the sunroof to power the car's ventilation system. Fast-forward to 2011 and the futuristic Fisker Karma sports car is one of the first production cars to integrate a rooftop solar panel into the production process. Like the plug-in Focus, the Karma's solar panel will feed electric energy directly into the car's motor or its battery pack for storage.

Ford and SunPower will charge customers about $US10,000 ($9500) after US government tax credits are applied. It would cost the owner of a petrol-powered Focus about $148 to drive 1600 kilometres, based on a petrol price of $1.40. As part of the package, US-based owners of the Focus Electric will be able to monitor the solar charging process in their car remotely, from either a website or a mobile phone application.

Ford will also offer the Drive Green For Life solar panel program on the C-Max Energi, a five-seater people-mover it will release early next year in the US. Ford Australia launched the new-generation Focus this week with petrol and diesel engines but has no current plans to import the plug-in electric version, nor any variant of the C-Max people-mover. The Detroit-based brand plans to spin a total of 10 new models off the Focus platform by the end of next year, including five plug-in electric vehicles.

Ford Australia spokeswoman Sinead Phipps says the local operation is unlikely to consider the roof-mounted solar panels for its locally made Falcon or Territory models. ''I would say probably not,'' she says. ''From what I have seen I'm not sure of its applicability. It definitely wouldn't be in our immediate planning scope.''However, the Focus Electric remains a car of interest to Ford Australia. ''We're interested but it's not something we'd do by ourselves,'' Phipps says.
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'It would have to be an Asia-Pacific roll-out of the Focus Electric. ''We also remain to be convinced that there's enough electric vehicle infrastructure in Australia for it to be viable. ''We think electric vehicles are a key element of the way to move forward but we also think there needs to be broader discussion about infrastructure. Holden says it is ''considering a range of alternative technologies" but would not comment directly on whether parent company GM is investigating solar panels for its cars.
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Maruti Suzuki launches new Swift

Maruti Suzuki launches new SwiftFurther intensifying the price-war in the premium hatchback segment, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. (MSIL) on Wednesday launched the new version of Swift, priced between Rs.4.22 lakh and Rs.5.53 lakh for the petrol versions and Rs.5.17 lakh and Rs.6.38-lakh for the diesel variants. Built on an entirely new platform, MSIL's popular hatchback offers improved fuel efficiency and over 140 new features, many for the first time ever in an entry-level variant, claims the company.

MSIL, which sold over six lakh units of Swift since it was launched in 2005, has invested over Rs.550 crore in the project. Interestingly, new weight reduction techniques have helped MSIL engineers offers more mileage — 6 per cent more in diesel (22.9 km a litre) and 4 per cent more in the petrol version (18.6 km a litre). The carmaker has also introduced the VVT engine technology in all petrol variants that gives 87 PS of power, while the DDiS diesel engine delivers 75 PS of power.

“We have launched the new Swift at a time when there was significant demand for the outgoing model. In keeping with the Swift's iconic status, we had to ensure that the brand continues to offer the latest and the best in terms of features, design, performance and aspiration,” MSIL Managing Director and CEO Shinzo Nakanishi told journalists here. MSIL already has 50,000 bookings of the new Swift. “We are increasing the production of the car to about 17,000 units in the next few months from 12,000 units at present. Our second production unit in Manesar (Haryana), scheduled to be operational from next month, will start with rolling out of Swift that will help bring down the waiting period from 3-4 months to 2-3 months,” Mr. Nakanishi said. Asked when the company would introduce the sedan version of the new Swift, Mr. Nakanishi said: “We should have a new sedan type of vehicle of this car…no timeline has been fixed yet.”
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Cadillac hybrid sports car confirmed

Cadillac hybrid sports car confirmedCadillac hybrid sports car confirmedThe Cadillac Converj coupé concept, first shown at the 2009 Detroit motor show (and it must be said, the subject of constant speculation since then) is finally going into production - and that's official.

General motors has confirmed that Cadillac's first electric car will be called the ELR, apparently the closest they could get to “electric” using the brand's three-letter model naming convention.

It will use a more powerful version of the Chevrolet Volt system with a 181kg, T-shaped lithium-ion battery, an electric motor driving the front wheels and a four-cylinder petrol engine driving a generator.

Like the Volt, it will use the battery as its primary power source around town and plug into a mains outlet to recharge between commutes. When the battery runs low (after about 40-80km, depending on speeds), it'll switch to extended-range mode, using the generator to power the electric drive-train for as long as there's petrol in the tank.

Development of the ELR coupé has only just started, say GM bosses, so they don't have details such as performance, price and timing yet, but they're waxing lyrical about “a combination of electric drive with striking design and the fun of luxury driving.”Apparently the ELR is due for production late in 2013 as a 2014 model, so they'd better get their skates on.

Mind you, Cadillac's engineers certainly haven't been sitting on their hands since GM bounced back from bankruptcy; the company has recently announced two new models for 2012 - the XTS limousine and the ATS, a new compact (by US standards anyway) luxury sedan - and it also reveal another new concept car on Thursday (August 18) at a media event ahead of the annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in California.
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More power to you

More power to youThe spirits of an Indian petrol-head have been inversely proportional to the prices of petrol, and diesel aficionados have been having quite the laugh with the market players obliging them with a flurry of diesel-powered cars in the last few months. But all it takes to put a childish grin on a petrol-head's face is something such as the Audi A6 3.0T. With its 295bhp engine, this one's definitely putting the grin back where it belongs.

But first, there are a few things you need to know about this car's powertrain. It's supercharged, with direct-injection and unlike the old A6 3.0T, which had a six-speed auto box, the latest model comes with a seven-speed twin-clutch transmission that incorporates a launch control function. This translates to 0-100kph in six seconds, 0-200kph in 24.32 seconds and a top speed limited to 250kph — reasons to opt for the petrol over the diesel. Compare spec sheets and the petrol has 50bhp more than the diesel, makes 6kgm torque less and is exactly 0.3sec faster to 100kph Now, this may not look like a whole lot more than the 3.0 diesel A6 and the truth is that in the real world, the diesel would gamely keep up but the 3-litre petrol in its latest iteration is just so much more thrilling.

For starters, it revs quite freely for a forced induction engine and the way you can wind it to its redline of 6500rpm (versus the diesel's 4500rpm) thrills you like no diesel can. This engine snarls like you're trying to steal its food and pulls like a runaway train all the way from 2000rpm to the rev limiter.

Displacing all of 2995cc from its six cylinders set in a 90deg vee, this engine's belt-driven supercharger which makes up to 0.8 bar of boost, sits between the two cylinder banks and is driven off the crankshaft. Compressed air passes through two intercoolers before entering the combustion chamber, and because the supercharger is located between the cylinders, the compressed air doesn't have to travel far, which helps engine response.

And boy, is it responsive. Thanks to the wide power band, the engine responds anywhere and everywhere in the rev range. Taps on the throttle are rewarded with instant forward motion and strong pulling power — the engine makes 44.8kgm of torque. The biggest difference though is with the gearbox. The old A6's torque converter was jerky in its gearshifts, but this twin-clutch unit is a lot smoother. Gearshifts are lightning-quick and the new A6, unlike the old one, gets paddle-shifters, which makes it all the more fun to run up and down the gearbox. It has no qualms about spinning the engine upto the redline on downshifts either, so on the right road it's huge fun to squeeze the most out of the engine. That it remains extremely smooth even at the edge of its rev counter only encourages you to do so.

Of course, a strong petrol engine is heavy on the wallet. The ‘Efficiency' mode in Audi's MMI system does help in disengaging the flywheel when the car is coasting, but in our back-to-back highway runs (once in ‘Efficiency' mode and again in ‘Comfort' mode) didn't change any numbers. We're sure that there'll be some savings in the city cycle which gave us an average of 7kpl, which isn't too bad. The car comes with start/stop system too.

The Quattro system with its new centre differential gives the A6 loads of grip and the car displays good poise around corners. However, the A6's handling isn't very involving and the inherent understeer (you have to push hard to find the limit) and benign steering doesn't make it engaging to drive.

There's also the mushy brakes — the pedal action is not very linear with almost nothing initially and strong bite later. Ride quality however is exemplary. Audi's adaptive damper system is standard on the car and offers a smooth ride in ‘Comfort' and controls body movements brilliantly in ‘Dynamic'. What helps the ride are tyres that are slightly taller than before but we wished, for the sake of aesthetics, Audi would offer slightly wider tyres than the standard 225/55-R17 rubber. In fact, the previous A6 had chunkier 255/50-R17 tyres and the downsizing on the new model is probably to reduce rolling resistance and hence fuel consumption.

The interiors are a familiar story — richly equipped, well designed and superbly built. The front seats are properly supportive and the cabin feels rightly sporty, yet luxurious. Like the diesel, the rear seats have good space but not enough thigh support.

The A6 3.0T will cost Rs. 56 lakh (estimated), and apart from the rather shocking omission of powered steering adjust, our test car came well-equipped. It has powered seats with memory, four-zone climate control, adaptive suspension, Bluetooth connectivity, reverse camera and keyless and go.

For performance and refinement, the A6 3.0T writes its rival's epitaph. It is easily the quickest car in its class and the strong engine makes it amazing to drive. The purist in you probably won't like its aloof handling and road manners, while the chauffeur-driven passenger will find the rear seats a tad low. In terms of value, like any other petrol luxury car, it's not great. However, this is a car that'll get the petrol-head grinning every single time.
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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2011 Hyundai Genesis: Value priced rear-wheel drive luxury sedan

2011 Hyundai Genesis: Value priced rear-wheel drive luxury sedanYears ago, Hyundai was the new car of last resort — the cheapest new car you could buy. Hyundai has come a very long way since then, and the Genesis sedan is proof. It’s a high value, rear-wheel drive luxury sedan offering a choice of V6 or V8 power.

The Genesis seats five in a well-appointed cabin, featuring wood and aluminum trim, chrome accents, soft-touch materials and state-of-the-art technology. For example, while an iPod interface is standard, the voice-activated navigation system includes a multimedia interface that’s easier to use than what’s offered in most luxury cars, and there’s an optional 17-speaker audio system with 7.1 Surround Sound.
I originally drove this car when it was first introduced as a 2009 model, and was impressed then. This go around, driving the V8 version, impressed me even more. Model Lineup: The 2011 Hyundai Genesis sedan is offered in two models — the Genesis 3.8 and 4.6. Both are named after the size of their powerplant.

The Genesis 3.8 stickers at $33,000 and comes standard with leather upholstery; leather-wrapped tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls; dual-zone automatic climate control; cruise control; heated front seats; eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment; four-way power-adjustable passenger seat; heated power mirrors; power windows and door locks; remote keyless entry and starting; seven-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo; iPod interface; XM Satellite Radio; auxiliary audio input jack; Bluetooth cell phone link; auto-dimming rearview mirror; compass; universal garage door opener; automatic headlights; theft-deterrent system; fog lights; and P225/55R17 tires on alloy wheels.
Options include a $2,500 Premium Package that adds premium leather upholstery; leather-wrapped dash and door trim; power tilt/telescoping steering wheel; memory for the driver’s seat, a sunroof; Lexicon 14-speaker audio system; six-disc CD changer; automatic windshield defogger; rain-sensing wipers; and a power rear sunshade.

The Premium Navigation Package ($2,000) adds P235/50R18 tires on alloy wheels with chrome inserts, 40-gigabyte hard drive navigation system, XM NavTraffic with a 90-day subscription, and rearview camera. The $5,500 Technology Package also comes with the larger wheels and tires; and includes front and rear park assist; Ultimate Navigation with hard drive; heated/cooled driver’s seat; 17-speaker Lexicon audio system with 7.1 Surround Sound, HD radio, rearview camera; smart cruise control; electronic parking brake, and adaptive, auto-leveling xenon headlights.

The Genesis 4.6 (our test vehicle) stickers at $43,000. There are no options. The 4.6 as it comes standard with all the standard and optional equipment from the 3.8, plus electro-hydraulic power steering, chrome bodyside moldings, illuminated door sill plates, woodgrain trim on the steering wheel, and auto-dimming outside mirrors.

Safety features on both include dual front airbags, front and rear side airbags, curtain side airbags, tire-pressure monitor, electronic active front head restraints, antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, traction control, and electronic stability control.

Walkaround: The Hyundai Genesis looks like someone sat down at the computer mixing and matching design elements from the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-Series. Styling isn’t really aggressive, but more pleasingly athletic. Except for a semi-discreet badge on the trunk, you wouldn’t know this was a Hyundai, and numerous people mistook it for a Mercedes. The trapezoidal grille boasts a touch of Mercedes, flanked by modern eye-slit headlights. Fog lights are standard on the lower fascia, which also features a large lower air intake. Overall, the car resembles the more angular shape of the BMW as opposed to the softer, rounder Mercedes design. The roofline mirrors the 5-Series, right down to the dogleg rear pillars.

The Genesis features a high trunk line and a lower fascia adorned with dual exhaust tips hinting at its sporty character. Interior: The Genesis boasts a luxurious cabin, with soft-touch materials everywhere, including a leather-wrapped dash — something usually reserved for much more expensive vehicles — and chrome accents. The easy to read electroluminescent instrumentation features white numbers on a black background with blue accents.

The center stack includes a small screen at the top that displays radio and climate information, with radio controls at the bottom, and 10 buttons devoted to climate control. The CD slot sits below the center stack and below is a small cubby for CDs. The front seats are comfortable and sit up high. Front and rear head and legroom are plentiful. The trunk is deep, with 16.0 cubic feet of cargo room.

Under The Hood: The standard 290-horse, 3.8-liter V6 puts out 264 pound-feet of torque. The Genesis 4.6 features Hyundai’s 4.6-liter Tau V8, which puts 385 ponies on the pavement (with premium gasoline; 378 with regular) and 333 pound-feet of torque (324 lb-ft with regular gas). Both engines are mated to 6-speed automatics with a manual shiftgate. Behind The Wheel: Our test V8 delivered plenty of smooth power and offered pretty decent mileage (17/City—25/Highway) — especially for this performance level.

The Genesis benefits from rear-wheel drive architecture, a rigid structure, and advanced five-link front and rear suspensions — all hallmarks of great sports sedans. Although not quite as agile as some of its competitors, the Genesis is a legitimate sports sedan. On winding roads it handles well, with a generally nimble feel through corners. The V8 benefits from electrohydraulic steering that provides sure steering in the tightest corners.

The Genesis rides well, smoothing out most bumps, but can get bouncy over ruts and humps at highway speeds. Whines: Tall rear passengers may have a complaint with headroom. While there’s a pass-through from the trunk, the rear seats don’t fold down.

Bottom Line: As luxury sports sedans go, the Hyundai Genesis is the real deal, and its price point makes it a very attractive alternative to the BMW 5-Series, Lexus GS, Mercedes E-Class, and Infiniti M. Both the V6 and V8 models deliver fine handling, a smooth ride, and more than adequate power. Although not an even-up match for the very best in its class, the Genesis is equally luxurious, surprisingly capable, and costs significantly less.
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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why some Pearl Jewelry is more Expensive than others

For ages now pearls have been revered as a sign of status. Pearl jewellery can, however, be quite the expensive addition to your collection. Pearls are rated much like gems, and each different type of pearl will have a different value. Natural pearls are extremely rare and make the most expensive jewellery. These pearls are naturally created by hard-shelled mollusks in the wild. Matching strands of naturally occurring pearls is almost unheard of. Almost, if not all, naturally occurring pearls are purchased and sold by serious collectors because of their rarity.

There is an option, however, for jewellery lovers that don't have the bank account of a collector: cultured pearls. Essentially cultured-pearls are grown by adding a bead and a piece of tissue into a shelled mollusk, or by grafting a piece of tissue from one mussel to another. In enabling the growth of the pearls for mass production, the rarity of the gem has been toned down for cultured pearls. They are still quite breathtaking, retaining the beauty and elegance you would expect from jewellery, yet at a significantly more affordable price. There are many types of cultured pearls, each one having a different value, and thus each one used creates pearl jewellery of different value. If you are a pearl lover it would be wise to get to know the different types of cultured-pearls.

The most expensive cultured-pearl jewellery would be made using the South Sea pearl. They have an insurmountable color of white, cream, and gold. South Sea pearls can grow to be quite large. The Tahitian pearls would be next in line for expensive pearl jewellery. These are sometimes referred to as Black South Sea-pearls. Next are the Akoya-pearls. The most inexpensive pearl jewellery is made using the freshwater pearl. Freshwater pearls have been cultured since the late 20's, making it a fine-tuned art. All levels of cultured pearl jewellery have their own unique identifying features; just because the cost is less doesn't necessarily mean the aesthetic value is affected. In addition to personal preference each type of pearl has a different look and feel, transferring this uniqueness to the jewellery it is used to create.

Pearls have a variety of colors and sizes. Luxurious, mirror-reflective, pink Akoya pearl jewellery would make an amazing addition to the jewellery box. If you are going with one color spectrum though, don't forget to include some dazzling black Tahitian as well.

Pearls will continue to be synonymous with elegance and class. They will always be a dazzling sign of status; however that status no longer has to be defined by income.
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Monday, June 27, 2011

Chang-an’s mid size sedan spotted out testing

Chang-an’s mid size sedan spotted out testingThe problem with self developed mid size sedans from Chinese auto makers is that they lack the branding ability and marketing ability to push their vehicles from being economy boxes into mid size sedan fighters. Only Brilliance and Roewe appear to have the ability to make a mid size that sells but they started in a different way as they started by making expensive cars and then made economy cars, its easier to go from high end to low end than it is from low end to high end. Chang’an have so far been focused on building small economy cars that sell in the thousands each month but they have not yet made a mid size fighter to rival Chery’s Riich G5 or Geely’s Emgrand EC7/8 series.

The below Chang’an sedan is based on the CD101 concept sedan that we have seen before at the Shanghai and Beijing Auto Shows, the sedan is likely to launch in early 2012 and will be powered by a 1.8L, 2.0L and also a self developed 1.8T engine. As with all Chinese mid size sedans they will launch first with a manual gearbox and then launch an automatic later, note that most mid size car manufacturers usually launch with an automatic only and then only offer manuals on the low end models. Are Chinese companies failing to understand their target consumers, or are we?
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Monday, June 20, 2011

Luxury car sales lift as economy recovers

Luxury car sales lift as economy recoversLuxury car sales increased five per cent in the five months to May–almost matching the 6.5 per cent growth for the new vehicles industry in the period, reflecting renewed consumer confidence in tandem with expectations of economic growth.

The performance of the luxury segment, which sold 83 units up from 79 units a year earlier according to data from the Kenya Motor Industry, was driven by increased demand from private enterprises and wealthy individuals.

Players attributed the increased demand to the strong economic recovery that started last year, a move they say could cushion the industry from major cutbacks in government spending on luxury car brands like Mercedes, Range Rover, and BMW.

“There is increased demand from high net worth individuals and the private sector where directors and senior managers are buying more luxury cars,” said Roy Kyalo, a sales manager at Bavaria Auto Kenya, a fully-owned subsidiary of Simba Colt Motors.

The economy grew by 5.6 per cent last year, double the 2.6 per cent recorded in 2009. High fuel and commodity prices have however cast a dark cloud on growth this year, with Treasury downgrading growth forecast to between 3.5 and 4.5 per cent.

Government cut: The government has since 2009 stopped buying luxury cars that consume more fuel and are more expensive to maintain in a bid to cut its transport spend.

That decision saw sales of new luxury cars drop within its first year of implementation, forcing dealers to launch aggressive marketing targeting the private sector and wealthy individuals.

Last year, 204 units of luxury cars were sold, down from 218 units the year before. “Sales of new luxury cars slowed down due to lack of orders from the Government,” said Sanjiv Shah, the general manager of Mercedes saloon cars at DT Dobie said in an earlier interview.

He said government orders accounted for about 30 per cent of Mercedes sales in recent years—a percentage that analysts says resonated across other luxury brands. CMC Motors has been the biggest loser in the move by the government.

CMC, which sells Jaguar, Land Rover and Range Rover luxury car brands, sold 13 units in the five months to May, down from 33 units a year earlier. This reduced its marketshare to 20 per cent from 43 per cent. It however sold four Jaguar cars in the five months to May, signalling diversification of market.

Market leader DT Dobie that sells Mercedes cars grew its market share to 57 per cent from 40 per cent, entrenching its dominance in the segment. Bavaria Auto Kenya, the local franchise dealer of BMW brands, also expanded its marketshare to 23 per cent from 17 per cent.

General Motors East Africa (GMEA) which introduced the rugged Hummer luxury brand in Kenya a few years back has exited the segment after selling the last four units of the vehicle last year. Second hand car dealers however said concerns about high fuel prices have weighed down demand for luxury cars from their clients

“People are worried about buying the fuel guzzlers at a time when fuel prices are high,” said Ms Angela Mecha, a used-car marketer at Kenya Bazaar.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2011 Porsche Panamera

2011 Porsche PanameraPorsche’s king of the four-passenger sedans is a pretty impressive combination of the German automaker’s design skills and engineering, and I liked the big car in previous trims I have used (the S and Turbo) for its roominess and trappings of luxury. My current test model is the 2011 Panamera 4, which brings all-wheel drive and a smaller engine (3.6 litre V6) to the platform. At its core, my tester is very much the same car as the ones propelled by the larger powerplant (4.8 litre V8), give or take some options and a few thousand dollars in starting price.

Its strengths are all intact; the extra passenger capacity and luggage space of a touring car is a nice feature to have in your luxury car (without having to water the Porsche experience down by opting for the Cayenne SUV) and, of course, a premium quality interior.

My Panamera tester boasts very good fit and finish throughout; all the surfaces feel and look good and have been applied well. This one has a few blanks left in the button-covered center console, for the options that weren’t included in this particular specimen, but for those who like a lot of switchgear it will still offer a lot of high-tech fiddling.

A fun inclusion on the tester is the adaptive air suspension (a $4,550 option) that I am using more to delight curious passengers than I am to balance the ride and driving modes. The dash is capped with Porsche’s sport chrono package (which adds another $1,690 to the bill ... you see how this works) and the entire control layout at least puts everything within easy reach and view; though not everything is necessarily easy to use.

However, while all the toys and tools on the Panamera 4 are what one should expect, the vehicle doesn’t include everything I expect to find in a car of this rarefied class. Keyless start, for example, or proximity keys that unlock the car when the driver approaches. Seems a little behind the times to leave those out.
I know I always complain about that when using a Porsche, just like I always complain about the placement of the cupholders (and then people write in to complain “du-uh who cares about cupholders; it’s a Porsche!” like that should somehow excuse poorly executed design), but consider this: In addition to the spring-out ‘holders inset over the glove compartment that hold your drink right over top of those expensive electronics, the one in the center console sits right where you rest your elbow while having a leisurely highway drive.

So imagine you have a cup of, say, grape juice and mustard and a special chemical that instantly bonds to leather in that cupholder, and just happen to smoosh your elbow into it; the results would be… unpleasant.

That aside, the driving experience in the Panamera 4 is much the same as in its siblings - very good. The V6, though not as enthusiastic as the eight-cylinder engine, still delivers good acceleration; and increases in responsiveness when operated in Sport or Sport Plus mode. One thing I am noticing, though, is that the six isn’t getting better mileage than the last V8 I drove. Odd.

The suspension, regardless of setting, skews toward a stiff feel that allows the road surface to be felt (this is not an advantage when cruising over rough roads, however) and gives the car the flat-cornering sensation that has made Porsche’s straight-up sports cars so desirable. Top the whole thing off with a smooth seven-speed PDK, the only transmission for Panameras of any trim, and the car remains a Porsche for all seasons that imparts prestige, at a price. My tester and its kin start at $92,700 for the all-wheel drive trim, but the options added to make it a near-complete package take that to a staggering $108,150.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Favorite Expensive Cars of 2011

My Favorite Expensive Cars of 2011Let’s have some fun in this edition of Cars Coming Soon, whaddaya say? We all need to take some time to dream once in a while, and lucky for us, plenty of automakers give us seriously dream-worthy automobiles.

We’ll start with Jaguar, which is about to release its fastest XK-Series ever. The XKR Special Edition coupe will debut at the Geneva Motor Show and have an electronically limited top speed of 174 mph, along with styling features that Autoweek calls “sinister.” Cool.

Power comes from a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 that makes 510 horsepower and can hit 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. I’ve always been a fan of Jaguar design and believe Jags capture a British elegance better than any other automaker… and that includes Bentley. It’s no secret that Bentley design doesn’t exactly do it for me, but I reserve my judgment on the 2011 Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible. Holy smokes, that car is hot. Here’s what MotorAuthority says:

Next up is the 2011 Porsche Cayenne, an SUV I fell in love with after a single test drive. Now an image has leaked that shows a much more Porsche-esque design for the 2011 version. Again, the official debut will happen in Geneva, but from the looks of it, a lot of Cayenne doubters should stop their quibbling after seeing this bad boy.

Lotus fans get to celebrate an update to the much-beloved Elise, with the 2011 model set to arrive in the States this year. A new entry-level model will be offered, with a 1.6-liter engine pushing out 134 horsepower. Not stellar numbers, but remember the Elise is super lightweight, contributing to its top speed of 124 mph and 0-60 time of about 6 seconds. Step up to the Elise R and 0-60 drops to 5.4 and top speed jumps to 138. What’s not to love about the Elise? Hot, sexy, small, and fast. I’m in!
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Monday, June 6, 2011

5 Great Gift Ideas for Dad this Year

5 Great Gift Ideas for Dad this Year5 Great Gift Ideas For Dad This Year : Find Great Gifts For Dad At Any Price Point
Father's Day 2011 has rules -- OK, only one rule: don't buy Dad a tie for Father's Day. Need a little help? Look no further.

Take a look at these tips and you'll navigate your way through another gift holiday with no problem.Let's focus on getting Dad something he'll really dig, something to show how much you appreciate him -- at any price point you may be at currently.From accessories for that most forbidden of gifts to gadgets, hobbies, food and something really touching and uniquely you, you'll find a variety of ideas. Be inspired, call other family members for tips and ideas and find the perfect gift for that Dad or Dads on your list.It is possible to get something for the guy who has everything.

Father's Day Gift Idea No. 5 : Get Dad Some Bling

Getting Dad a tie for Father's Day started out as a great tradition, but if your dad doesn't have a need for too many ties or now has closet overflowing with the fashion pieces, let's help him use what he's already got.Tie accessories are a great gift and can dress up what Dad is already wearing. Find a great tie tack at your local jewelry store or online. While this mind sound a bit basic, know that you can personalize tie tacks and also, you can find tie tacks from organizations such as fraternal groups and sports teams.

Tie clips can also help sharpen up a tie. They range from simple, classy looks, to clips with logos and personalization.Try a tie rack for his current collection, or keep clicking and find an option that really speaks to you.

Father's Day Gift Idea No. 4 : Dad Needs A Gadget

Whether your dad is really into technology, or just dabbles, there's something out there that he can really use. Technology moves so quickly now, that you can use Father's Day as a great time to help Dad update what he currently has. Do some research and see where he needs an upgrade. If he's really picky about his purchases, you may need to be sneaky and ask him questions yourself.

If it's in your budget, help Dad update his cell phone. Get something that you know he will love and that he'll use. Consider how he'll use a new phone before buying one with all the bells and whistles.Help him catalog his old CDs with a new mp3 player. Buy him that digital camera he's had his eye on, or a Kindle or Nook. Or buy great accessories for the technology that he already uses.

Father's Day Gift Idea No. 3 : Zero In On What Dad Loves

Buying items for a hobbyist can have its challenges, but have faith that you can find something within the realm of Dad's interests. Target his hobby. Does he grill? Have a personal home library? Does he jump on his motorcycle to relax?

If you feel confident buying him a grilling tool, a specific book or a new helmet for his motorcycle, go for it. But this is where it can be tricky and he might want to help pick out some of these things for himself.A gift card might not seem like a very personalized gift, but it can be. Buy him a gift card to his favorite bookseller and write a personalized message about how he can use the credit.No matter what, a gift that shows Dad that you pay attention to who he is and what's important to him will go a long way.

Father's Day Gift Idea No. 2 : Take Aim At Dad's Tastes

Remember how they used to say that the stomach was the way to a man's heart? That is still true and it also applies to dads. Does your dad have a sweet tooth? What's his favorite restaurant? What's his favorite homemade meal?

This is another great way to personalize your dad's special day. Buy those red velvet cupcakes that he loves so much and present them in a special way. Offer to cook his favorite meal as a gift to him or take him out to his favorite restaurant to celebrate him.

If you don't live near your dad, find alternatives to these things. Have his favorite sweets shipped to him, buy a gift card to his favorite restaurant and request pictures of the meal or gift him a homemade gift certificate for his favorite meal to be cashed in at a later time.He'll appreciate you thinking of him.

Father's Day Gift Idea No. 1 : Give Of Yourself

The last idea is the gift of "you." Commit to spend an afternoon with dear old Dad. Take him to a baseball game, out for ice cream or for a walk. No matter what, he'll appreciate you setting aside time to spend with him.Another way to personalize this day is in writing. How does your dad best communicate? How do you best communicate the way you feel? If writing sounds like good option, find a nice card -- or better yet, make one -- and fill it with memories of him, a top 10 list of why you love him or thank him for specific things he's done for you.

Remember, the more specific the better. It may be difficult for you, but this will mean the world to him and it's better than any tangible thing he could have received.Make it the best Father's Day ever.
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Luxury car theft ring busted in NYC

Authorities say more than a dozen men arrested in overnight raids are part of a ring suspected of stealing 291 expensive cars in New York City worth more than $10 million. High end luxury cars - Lexus, big Toyota SUVs - all stolen police say in what's described as "operation made to order."Police say the men used information obtained by car dealership employees to make counterfeit keys.

"The ring was doing swift business at blue book value of nearly 10-million dollars," NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. Kelly says the 21-member ring was reselling Lexus and Toyota vehicles in the U.S. and overseas.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says 16 of the people indicted face felony enterprise corruption charges. William Cruz, the alleged operation boss, was able to run the operation for a time while in custody on Rykers Island on an unrelated charge.

"This was a multi level sophisticated operation. Even with the boss in jail they were able to carry on," Schneiderman said. To retain a car's high value, investigators say, a so-called "steal crew" would go out and target the wanted vehicles, taking down their vehicle identification number.

Police then accuse two brothers, Joey and Eddie Aviles (who they say worked at Plaza Toyota in Brooklyn), with searching data bases to find key codes for those cars . The owner of big daddy hardware, Vincent Abreu, and another man would then use the key codes to manufacturer counterfeit keys for the crew members to use going back out and grabbing the car.

"No matter how sophisticated your scheme, no matter how many insiders you think you have or how clever you are, you will be apprehended," Schneiderman said. Investigators say the entire process for one stolen car would take about two days at most, and would generate a handsome profit.

"When all was said and done, cars that retail for 30-thousand dollars were being sold for as little as three to five thousand dollars," Kelly said. According to authorities, they expected to arrest all but two ring-members Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Europeans see U.S. market for new small luxury cars

As head of Mercedes-Benz USA in the late 1990s, Mike Jackson was determined to keep the ungainly, expensive A-class small car out of the United States.

"The original A class, you would say, 'Oh, my God. I will never be able to sell that to anybody. What can I do to keep it out of the U.S. so I don't have to deal with it?'" Jackson recalls. Americans were unwilling to pay premium prices for small cars then, even if the cars wore luxury nameplates. And sales of such cars remain low. But European luxury brands aim to change that dramatically in the next few years. Eager to increase sales and meet strict government fuel economy standards, they plan to roll out new small cars with premium prices and luxury content.

Now Jackson's on board. Mercedes-Benz unveiled a concept version of the redesigned A-class coupe in April at the New York auto show. Jackson, on the other side of the fence as CEO of AutoNation, the country's biggest automotive retailer, calls it "absolutely beautiful.""That's the car I want tomorrow," Jackson says.

Although other luxury brands, such as Lexus and Cadillac, are making similar moves, Europeans are leading the charge. The A class, expected in 2013 in the United States, is the first of a new generation of sub-$30,000 small cars that European automakers are convinced will sell in the United States.
Today, three European small luxury cars are on the market: the Audi A3 hatchback, the BMW 1-series coupe/convertible, and the Volvo C30 three-door hatchback. They're low-volume vehicles, with combined U.S. sales of 23,596 units last year.

A conservative tally of carmaker estimates shows U.S. sales of small European luxury cars at least doubling in the next few years. But some observers question whether the segment will ever be strong here.

"Even at 50,000 units, it is an insignificant number," says Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends at TrueCar.com. "The potential growth for compact crossovers is much greater because of their utility."
Mercedes-Benz and BMW will lead the effort to expand the segment. The route to success will be keeping the vehicles premium in content and performance, brand executives say.

The new cars are different from the halfhearted attempts in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At that time, BMW offered the 318ti--a 3 series with a lopped-off rear end--and Mercedes-Benz in 2002-05 sold its odd-looking C230 and C320 hatchbacks. Those cars failed after a short run. Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates, says the recession and fuel prices have changed what buyers consider important. "They tend to look at it as 'What do I need versus what am I trying to show here?'" Schuster says. "Do I need a larger vehicle, or can I get away with a smaller vehicle and still have that content and desire?" Michael Cantanucci, whose New Country Motor Car Group owns three Mercedes-Benz, two BMW, and Audi and Mini stores in New York, Connecticut, and Florida, has seen prototypes of many of the new smaller vehicles.

Cantanucci says he doesn't believe they will dilute luxury brands' images: "They have the DNA in terms of product quality, styling, features and technology."That won't be a problem with the four new small luxury vehicles coming to Mercedes-Benz in the next three to four years, says Ernst Lieb, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA. Safety features such as adaptive cruise control and traction control will come standard.

Mercedes: A, B, CLC, GLC: In addition to the A-class coupe, Mercedes-Benz plans to import the B-class small van, probably with an electric powertrain, a small sedan it will call the CLC, and a small crossover that will be called the GLC. Mercedes-Benz decided only recently to bring the smaller A class to the United States. Initially, executives wanted only the larger B class. But that decision was reversed several months ago after Steve Cannon, vice president of marketing, and a product committee including dealers, saw early versions of the new small vehicles, Lieb says. The car wowed them, as it has other dealers who saw the range last month during a trip to Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Lieb says Mercedes needs to use these cars in part to protect its E class and S class: "From a strategic point, if we leave that segment for our competitors, they become stronger and branch out and give us resistance in those segments. The time is overdue."

BMW plans are not as solid: Insiders say BMW's development of smaller front-wheel-drive cars isn't as far along as Mercedes'. Jim O'Donnell, CEO of BMW of North America, says a family of new small cars will go on sale in 2014, but the company hasn't decided which body styles to sell in the United States. Last month, Ian Robertson, BMW AG board member for sales and marketing, said BMW and Mini will expand their lineups and the two brands combined will have six to nine new small cars. He did not give details on body styles.

The new BMW cars will be similar in size to Mini vehicles, O'Donnell says. Mini will be the first to use the new small platform known as UKL--an abbreviation for German for compact class cars--with its new generation Cooper hardtop due in late 2013 or early 2014. O'Donnell says BMW is confident about small cars because of the success of Mini. BMW expected Mini sales to peak at 20,000 cars in the United States, he says. "We will do nearly 60,000 this year--Americans are ready for small cars," O'Donnell says.

The United States could take a small sedan from Germany but probably not a hatchback because there's still doubt that the body style will sell in this market, O'Donnell says. He doesn't expect big sales from these small cars. "They will be nichey, under 10,000 units," he says. BMW is attacking the small car market on another front with its i sub-brand electric vehicles. First out will be the i3 electric in 2013, designed for urban drivers.
Audi: No smaller for now

Audi's A3 is as small as the brand will go in the United States for the next several years. Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen says Audi first needs to increase volume in the luxury high-end segments.
Once Audi has achieved that goal, it can turn its attention to the less-profitable smaller cars, de Nysschen says.

For now, Audi's only offering is the A3 hatchback. Audi showed a concept A3 sedan in March at the Geneva auto show. The sedan was designed with an eye to the United States and likely will be sold here in 2013.

Audi USA may import the A2, a car smaller than the A3, if the brand decides to bring back that model. The A2 was discontinued in 2005. Audi won't bring the current generation of the A1 small car to the United States, de Nysschen says, and "that is the final decision."

Volvo has other worries: With annual U.S. sales teetering at just more than 50,000 vehicles, Volvo Cars of North America is focusing on its larger, more profitable vehicles, CEO Doug Speck says. Volvo sells the C30 in the United States, but the C30 was always meant to be a niche car, Speck says. Volvo expects to sell only 4,000 to 5,000 C30s this year because the three-door hatchback has "limited appeal" in the United States and the car is pricey, Speck says. The C30 has a base price of $25,575, including destination.

Speck acknowledges that Mercedes-Benz and BMW will heat up interest in small luxury cars and says, "We need to have a plan to compete in that segment."He says he can't talk more about Volvo's product strategy, which has been fine-tuned since the brand's acquisition last August by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.

Matching Ford, Chevy: Speck believes growth in small car sales and transaction prices for U.S. volume brands will drive more luxury brands into the segment. "People are out there spending $23,000 and $24,000 for a Focus because they want all the bells and whistles," Speck says.

"People do not want to sacrifice. They may say 'I can deal with a smaller space but I still want navigation, Sirius satellite radio and leather."Jackson agrees, saying there is a "risk for the luxury manufacturers if they simply benchmark against themselves.""The content certainly needs to match what you can get in a Ford or a Chevy with reasonable up-charges," Jackson says. "There is a revolution going on in the volume segment as far as content and innovation and the consumer's willingness to pay for that content and innovation."

Tom Libby, an automotive analyst with R.L. Polk and Co., says pricing small luxury cars is tricky -- if the cars are priced too close to their larger siblings, luxury buyers are unlikely to downsize. But Libby expects the Europeans to have at least a $10,000 price premium over cars such as the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Fiesta: "I do not think Mercedes-Benz and BMW will want to go into the market with a car that is $19,000. They will start at the upper end."
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Coming to America: European Gas Sippers

Coming to America: European Gas SippersEuropean luxury-car makers are going to give U.S. consumers some tastes of the forbidden fruit they have been keeping to themselves. The goodies in question are some of the more fuel-efficient variations of popular models sold in the U.S., and perhaps some of the small cars and crossover wagons that have until now been offered only in Europe and other markets where fuel prices are high. Mercedes Benz, Audi and BMW all are planning to launch in the U.S. new cars—or new engines for existing models—that offer more advanced fuel-saving technology.

Travelers to Europe know that the big German luxury brands have been holding out on the U.S. for years. Consider BMW AG. The most efficient 3 Series model in the U.S. is the BMW 335D, a diesel model rated at 27 miles per gallon. BMW only started offering a 3 Series diesel in the U.S. about three years ago.

But the one Americans get isn't the best BMW can do when it comes to fuel-saving technology on the 3 Series line. For that, you still need to go to Europe, where BMW offers a model called the 320d Efficient Dynamics sedan (or saloon, in Euro-terms). This comes with a variety of petrol-saving features, such as an automatic start-stop function that shuts off the engine at stop lights, low-friction tires, and a system that uses braking energy to recharge the battery. These allow it to put out just 109 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer under Europe's mileage-measuring system, which translates to roughly 57 miles per U.S. gallon. The European 335D, roughly comparable to the U.S. model, is rated at about 35 miles per gallon.

It's easy to hop on the Internet and find mileage ratings for cars sold in Europe. But comparing European and U.S. mileage and carbon-dioxide ratings is a difficult, apples-to-oranges problem, industry and government officials say.

Europe uses a different—some industry officials say overly optimistic—set of calculations to estimate fuel efficiency (usually expressed as liters per 100 kilometers or grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer, instead of miles per gallon). European regulators also give more mileage credit for technology such as stop-start systems than the U.S. does. Counting grams of carbon dioxide emitted per kilometer is a different way of measuring gasoline consumption since the more gasoline or diesel fuel a vehicle consumes, the more carbon dioxide it will emit. U.S. regulators are starting to compare vehicles based on carbon-dioxide emissions.

Europe uses different testing methods to estimate fuel consumption in city and highway driving. And U.S. regulators adjust mileage test results down in an effort to match the values advertised to consumers more closely to the likely mileage they'll get in real-world driving.

Still, it's still clear that U.S. consumers haven't gotten the most advanced fuel-efficiency technology the luxury-auto industry could offer. Among the reasons: U.S. clean-air regulations require expensive exhaust-scrubbing technology on diesel engines, and most U.S. luxury-car buyers measure prestige in terms of horsepower and performance, not fuel efficiency. Car makers worried customers wouldn't pay up for expensive technology designed to cut fuel consumption. Even now, fuel costs aren't a real financial challenge for wealthy households.

But who feels smart spending $60 or $70 filling up on premium gasoline? Moreover, U.S. regulators have signaled they plan to demand big, additional gains in fuel economy when new federal mileage targets are issued this fall for the 2017-2025 period.

Facing these pressures, European luxury-car brands are moving to offer U.S. consumers more of the high-mileage models and engines once kept back in their home markets. This will delight some Americans who have lusted after high-performance diesels and nimble four-cylinder models they once had to fly across the ocean to drive. Others will take a more practical view: Fewer top-of-the-line Mercedes models will come with a gas-guzzler tax added to the price.

Leading the parade of more Europeanized European cars is the 2012 Mercedes S Class diesel—the first diesel S Class the brand has offered in the U.S. since 1996. The all-wheel-drive, 3.0 liter, V6, S Class diesel is expected to average 20 miles to the gallon in the city, and 31 on the highway—a substantial improvement from the current S550 4Matic, which is rated at 14 city, 21 highway. The S-diesel's fuel efficiency is also better than the current S Class hybrid.

Mercedes is going for better mileage across its lineup. The brand already had added stop-start systems to its ultra-high-performance S63 and CL63 AMG models, and substituted a smaller V8 engine that uses direct fuel injection and turbo charging to boost power. The result: 563 horsepower and an Environmental Protection Agency mileage rating of 15 city, 22 highway—and no guzzler tax.

Mercedes also plans to start offering a four-cylinder version of the C Class for 2012, and replace its current 5.5-liter V8 in many models with a smaller, more efficient, 4.6-liter eight-cylinder engine.

Audi, the luxury unit of Volkswagen AG, has been relatively cautious about bringing its European diesel engines to the U.S. But for 2012, the brand plans to expand its Euro-diesel offerings in the U.S. to the top of the line A8 sedan, the A6 and the Q5 crossover. The company's best-selling model in the U.S., the A4, might be offered with a diesel at some point, but Audi isn't saying yet.

Audi is still withholding some of its most fuel-efficient vehicles, including the subcompact A1. And the company is being coy about when it will launch a U.S. version of its compact Q3 crossover, officially unveiled at the Shanghai Motor Show last month. That vehicle saves fuel with a stop-start system, but an Audi spokesman says the company isn't convinced U.S. customers will embrace the feature. "Americans think something's wrong with the car," he said.

Other car makers are starting to offer vehicles with this technology. General Motors Co.'s Buick brand plans to offer a stop-start system branded eAssist on its 2012 LaCrosse and Regal models. As for BMW, the company is making plans to offer at some point a U.S. version of its compact X1 crossover—a vehicle that is a size down from the X3 model that is currently the most-efficient crossover BMW sells in the U.S.

Whether there's a mass market in the U.S. for a BMW crossover that is roughly three inches shorter than a Ford Focus sedan is no sure thing, even if it does average about 45 miles per U.S. gallon in the European mileage tests. A BMW spokesman says the American debut of the X1 has been delayed "due to demand in other parts of the world."
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Monday, April 11, 2011

Bentley unveils Continental GT sedan

Bentley unveils Continental GT sedanSuper luxury carmaker Bentley on Thursday unveiled Continental GT sedan in India. Priced at Rs.1.90 crore, the two-door, four-seat coupe comes with touch-screen controls and is equipped with 12-cylinder engine and new six-speed ‘Quickshift' transmission, delivering 575 PS power. It achieves 60 miles an hour in just 4.6 seconds and reaches a top speed of 197 mph (318 kmph).

“India is aggressively growing in the luxury automobile space. We understand the growing needs of the market and hence we bring the new Continental GT to India. India being a key market for Bentley, we would see more key model launches in the coming two years,” Bentley Regional Director (India, Middle East and Africa) Chris Buxton told journalists here.

“We hope to achieve a sales of 100 units here from our entire range by next year. The Indian super luxury car market is estimated to be around 600-700 units this year and it is growing at around 30 per cent every year. Our sales in India are growing at around 45 per cent every year,” Mr. Buxton added.

The Volkswagen Group company has an exclusive tie-up with Exclusive Motors Pvt. Ltd. for selling Bentley cars in India that has showrooms in Delhi and Mumbai.
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Thursday, April 7, 2011

And the most stolen car of 2010 was...

And the most stolen car of 2010 was...BMW X5s and Range Rovers are the most desirable cars for thieves, new figures suggest. Together with the BMW M3 and Audi RS4 taking third and fourth places, these cars all hold the dubious "top positions" in the "top ten most frequently stolen and recovered vehicles of 2010", according to Tracker stolen vehicle recovery systems, which says that 65 per cent of the vehicles it recovered last year were worth an average of £25,000.

"Once again our top ten list shows the thieves' favourites, with the Mercedes SLK and CLK also remaining at the top of the league," said Stephen Doran, managing director of Tracker.

"The VW Golf is an interesting new entry at number nine, proving that it's not just owners of prestige vehicles who need to take note. In fact, 65 per cent of the vehicles we recovered in 2010 were worth £25,000 or less with just six per cent being worth £50,000 to £100,000."

The lowest value vehicles stolen and recovered were a Peugeot 406 and a Ford Sierra at £1,000. The highest value cars stolen and recovered were a Mercedes Benz CL63 AMG at £120,000 and a Bentley GTC at £130,000.

"With 84 per cent of all the cars we recovered last year being stolen using the keys, we remind every car owner to keep their keys safe at all times," added Doran, who said that Tracker worked like an electronic homing device, combining GSM, GPS and VHF technology to track down stolen vehicles.
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Friday, April 1, 2011

What Are The Most Expensive Cars To Insure?

What Are The Most Expensive Cars To Insure?Most people would say that owning a car is not cheap. It comes with many high costs and one of those cost is insurance. Insurance is a must-have and most people try to get the lowest cost possible. If that is the case, one has to make sure that he or she does not own one of the cars that is the most expensive to ensure.

Some of the vehicles that have been chosen by forbes as one of the most expensive cars are: The Porsche 911, the Lexus LF, and the Hummer H2. Those are all very nice vehicles, but they will cost an arm and a leg to ensure.
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Thursday, March 31, 2011

InterGlobe introduces Koenigsegg's Rs12-cr car

InterGlobe introduces Koenigsegg's Rs12-cr carAdding to the list of ultra-luxury cars now available to India's uber-rich, Sweden's Koenigsegg, which specialises in top-range sports cars made to order, on Tuesday introduced its latest model Agera to the market.Priced at Rs12.5 crore, the Agera will be the second-most expensive car in the Indian market local market after the Rs16.2-crore Bugatti that made its debut in November last year. Powered by a five-litre bi-turbo V8 engine that delivers a staggering 1,115 of horsepower, the Agera boasts a pick-up of 100 kph in just 2.9 seconds, and a top speed of over 400 kph.

It goes without saying that the car's performance can never be fully experienced on any Indian road; but InterGlobe Enterprises, which is selling the car locally, obviously knows that some of India's growing list of super-millionaires will buy it as a status symbol.

Koenigsegg is the producer of the CCR model, which broke the nine-year-old world record of the McLaren-Bugatti in 2005. The company produces a limited set of around 16-18 cars every year out of its single manufacturing facility in Sweden. It tunes every car specifically keeping in view the quality of fuel available in a country.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Psychologist Matches Luxury Car Models to Personalities

Personality profiling and monetary spending pattern specialist, Dr. Hugh M. Ongusbeek, released a series of luxury car purchase findings today at the London Annual Psychoanalysis Conference, more affectionately labeled by insiders as the "Head Banger's Ball".

Ongusbeek claims to have successfully matched quirks in personality to the type of luxury vehicle most desired by a person, to a degree of accuracy +/- 3%. To illustrate, Dr. Ongusbeek offered four automobile examples where the owner of that vehicle would match the forecasted personality profile about 73% of the time. "Yes, there are exceptions of course. A person might simply like the look of a particular car, but there are usually some overriding personal quirks that lead a person to selecting a particular vehicle".

"Let's take a full sized Range Rover for example", says Ongusbeek. "Male purchasers typically suffer from a Napoleon complex, short and ridiculed all their lives. This vehicle says, I drive a big expensive 4 wheel drive gas guzzler. Get the funk out of my way".

Ongusbeek adds, "Of course the same applies to women drivers, except the famously off road vehicle never leaves the city streets".

Next on Ongusbeek's study was the Mercedes convertible AMG.

"Fast, expensive, exclusive. It is designed to make people think you bought it for the German engineering, but it really compensates for a round belly, a bald head, and a lack of ability to maintain a relationship with anything other than a mechanical device. Which probably explains the lifelike vibrating doll hiding in the owner's closet."

With the Jaguar XF, a purchaser gets both luxury and some exclusivity though Ongusbeek feels there is more to the story. "Yes, well at around 32,000 pounds it can be affordable luxury, but you're fooling yourself into thinking it is British engineering. The purchase really says that I'm in denial over the fact that Jaguar is an India owned company, and if India were still part of the empire, it would still be, technically, a British engineered car. But, it still is a very fine automobile, and I say that with some feeling of guilt over our country's history with India".

Ongusbeek admitted later to owning a XF, and followed with a comment made with hand covering mouth, "Damn Gandhi". The Cadillac CTS rose to some recent acclaim, setting the Nurburgring lap record for a 4 door sedan, though Ongusbeek sees flaws in the personalities of these owners as well.

"It says that this is the best you can buy from US engineering, if you like big thirsty engines, plastic, blinky lights and chrome. Owners aren't smart enough to look beyond the US border for better options, and they are typically overcompensating for a lack of length and girth packed in their shorts."

Finally Ongusbeek featured any Lexus vehicle as "Luxury for the stupid". Citing examples of their top line automobiles looking exactly like a Camry in every body detail, Ongusbeek says, "Why bother. It's a family sedan with better tires and some simulated woodgrain on the console. It says, I believed the salesman when he told me there was nothing better on the market. These are mid level managers who work in customer service somewhere and botch the answers to your questions."

When asked if there was any make of luxury car that Ongusbeek approved of, he replied, "Ferarri. If you can really afford one, you already know you're a pretentious prick so there is really no personality conflict. You have F.U. money and can leverage it whenever you need to. It doesn't really matter what other people think at that point".
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Porsche hybrid sports car an expensive ride

Porsche SE, the German automaker merging with Volkswagen AG, will sell the 918 Spyder hybrid sports car, its most expensive model ever, for $845,000 in North America and limit production to 918 vehicles.

The first cars, available for order today, will be delivered to buyers beginning in November 2013, the Stuttgart, Germany-based company said in a statement. The Porsche plug-in hybrid is part of a wave green supercars as luxury-car makers try to make fuel efficiency palatable for their customers.

Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) AG, the luxury-car leader, is developing the i8, a hybrid sports-car that will have carbon-dioxide emissions similar to a compact vehicle. Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz will roll out a battery-powered version of the gull-wing SLS supercar in 2013.

"Performance green cars are a very necessary statement for the premium brands about what this technology means to them," said Christoph Stuermer, a Frankfurt-based analyst with IHS Automotive. While mass-market carmakers are concerned about the costs of owning electric cars, "the premium brands seem more worried about the fun part."

The two-seater Porsche hybrid will accelerate to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds and soar to a top speed of 320 km/h, relying on a 500-horsepower V8 engine and 218-horsepower electric drive system that allow the vehicle to run more than 25 kilometres on electric power. The car's lithiumion battery can be recharged from a conventional power outlet in Germany in three hours.

Porsche is adding models to meet a goal of doubling the company's annual sales to as many as 150,000 vehicles over the medium-term and benefit from savings from the planned combination with Volkswagen.

The Spyder hybrid is based on the Carrera GT supercar as well as the 917 and RS Spyder. The car will have a safety frame reinforced with carbon fibre.
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Monday, March 21, 2011

Lexus hatches a 'baby' hybrid

The latest Lexus offering in the premium compact market is a hybrid and one that costs just a few grand more than the Prius. So now those after-dinner greenies can not only brag about their cars' efficiency and lack of emissions, as they did insufferably with the Prius, they can have some fun driving their cars as well.

The CT200h's styling polarises opinions. Lexus says it "marries refined elegance with sporting dynamism", with "a distinctive, sharp-edged and resolute appearance". Personally, I liked the wedgy look which looks side on as if it was the progeny of an elicit liaison between the Toyota iQ and the Mazda3. It works, and is all brought together with a frontal treatment that links it with the previous entry-point Lexus, the iS250.

The CT200h combines a front-drive 73kW/142Nm 1.8 litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine with a high-output 42kW/40Nm electric motor for its drive system. A compact underfloor battery and a sophisticated energy management system make sure there is power from the hybrid set-up and its regenerative braking system.

The Lexus Hybrid Drive system's petrol engine and electric motor are contrived to generate a total system output of 100kW - about the same as Toyota's New Zealand market Corolla hatch - but the CT200h has a combined fuel consumption of 4.1L/100km, with a carbon footprint of just 94g of CO2 per kilometre. The new "baby" Lexus will be available with three equipment levels. There's the CT200h at $51,500, the CT200h Limited for $67,600 and CT200h F Sport, $69,000.

Standard equipment in all models includes climate-controlled air conditioning; reversing camera; cruise control; a leather steering wheel with audio controls; chrome and leather gear lever; multi-information display with comprehensive hybrid system information; engine immobiliser; auto dimming inside rear view mirror; a six-speaker audio system with CD player, audio input jack, USB jack and digital audio player holder; and power windows with auto up/down. The Limited and F Sport models boast fitted dedicated sat-nav screens, working through a pop-up Electro Multi-Vision (EMV) screen, while the base car gets a plug-in Tom Tom's system.

There are 16 inch alloy wheels on the base car, as well as LED daytime running lights, emergency brake lights and front and rear parking sensors, while the Limited and F Sport versions each have their own special 17 inch rims.

All models offer driver and passenger dual stage front, front seat side, driver and passenger knee and front/rear curtain shield airbags. Anti-lock braking with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist are standard, along with vehicle stability control, traction control and Hill-start Assist.

Toyota makes much of the car's driving position, and the front seats have been specially designed to improve lateral holding performance while the front edge of the base cushion has been shaped for a large contact area. The sporty, wide-grip steering wheel has a low, 21 degree steering angle, while accelerator and brake pedal angles have been optimised to suit the low hip point.

Seats in the entry level CT200h are covered in a smooth, finely woven fabric with a printed and embossed pattern. All other models have leather seats, perforated for the CT200h F Sport. As always with Lexus, the CT200h's choice of materials is excellent, and I doubt there's a better- finished and executed interior in the premium small car segment.

I found the cabin surprisingly roomy in the back, but couldn't quite get enough legroom up front to get comfortable, and thought the seat base just a little too firm. The car's chassis, apart from the firm ride of the Limited and F Sport models which have 17 inch alloy rims, is exemplary.

The CT200h is a good move by Lexus New Zealand. The entry-point car really lacks only leather and a built-in sat-nav system compared with the Limited and F Sport and I'd rather have a Tom Tom unit I can change from car to car anyway. For a few thousand dollars more than a basic Prius you get an awful lot more car that's actually quite a lot of fun to drive.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lexus CT 200h

Lexus CT 200hImagine, if necessary, that you're a young, well-to-do 20- or 30-something looking for a compact luxury car. Conventional logic dictates you should buy an Audi A3 or BMW 1-series, but those wishing to depart from the norm may want to consider the Japanese-built Lexus CT 200h luxury hybrid.

Not only does this car have a badge that will make onlookers solemnly nod in respect, plus an options list that could make a BMW blush, it also offers something its rivals can only dream of -- hybrid propulsion that delivers low-emission, high-economy driving. But is this car any good? We hopped in the £25,200 mid-range CT 200h SE-L to find out. The range starts at £23,485.

Halfway house: The 200h makes a good first impression, for the most part. Its front end has a keen, purposeful appearance, like it's angry with the road ahead. The 'hybrid' badges on the left and right sides spoil any illusion that the 200h is a mental tarmac shredder, but the prominent 'L' emblem on the front and rear will remind onlookers that you're driving something slightly more special than the average Prius.

The back half of the 200h looks pretty decent too, but only if considered in isolation. Call us crazy, but the rear somehow clashes with the front. It's almost as if each end was designed by a separate Lexus team before being welded together.

Although the appeal of the car's exterior is debatable, we were very impressed by its cabin. It has a reassuringly expensive appearance and feel, and is littered with buttons, lights and enough gizmos to keep most tech heads entertained for hours.

Lex me entertain you: The 200h's interface is divided into two areas -- a display zone and a control zone. Taking pride of place in the display zone, which sits on the upper half of the dashboard, is a large, motorised, angle-adjustable, 8-inch TFT display.

The screen can't be controlled by touch, but that's not a huge issue, as it's positioned out of reach anyway. Interacting with the display is only possible by prodding buttons in the control zone, which sits on the lower half of the dashboard and on the centre console.

This main point of interest in the control zone is the Lexus Remote Touch interface, which works exactly like a joystick or mouse. Move the stick left, right, up or down, and a cursor on the display reacts accordingly. The cursor snaps reassuringly onto icons as it passes over them, while a brief vibration is sent through the joystick to affirm you've selected something that can be interacted with.

The system is extremely easy to use while you're stationary or while the vehicle is in motion -- even more so, perhaps, than an ordinary touchscreen, since there's no need to exert yourself by physically holding your arm in the air.

Power cut: Despite its relatively exotic styling, the 200h is powered by the same components as the common, or garden, third-generation Toyota Prius. It uses a 98bhp 1.8-litre engine that ticks over using the Atkinson cycle -- a combustion process optimised for economy rather than performance. This is paired with an 81bhp electric motor that helps provide a combined power output of 134bhp.

That's not a terribly impressive power figure, and it shows. Twist the car's driving-mode knob into the sport setting and the 200h gently eases itself from a standstill to 62mph in 10.3 seconds -- just a hundredth of a second quicker than the Prius. It continues at a relatively pedestrian pace until it reaches the same 112mph maximum speed as its rival.

The car has enough grunt to keep up with the flow of fast-moving motorway traffic, but doesn't really offer enough power to pass Sunday drivers, unless you're driving on a long stretch of road with plenty of room to overtake.

Bend it like Beckham: The 200h isn't particularly quick in a straight line, but Lexus has done its utmost to make the car handle effectively, through clever weight distribution. The car's hybrid-propulsion components are mounted as close to the floor of the vehicle as possible, helping it to maintain a low centre of gravity, and components located furthest away from the centre of gravity have been given the Weight Watchers treatment. The bonnet, tailgate and bumper reinforcements are all made from lightweight aluminium.

Many diesel cars usually mount their 100kg or so engines directly over the front axle, causing handling imbalances. The 200h, on the other hand, has a 50kg engine mounted at the front, and the weight of that engine is offset by a 55kg electric motor over the rear.

The 200h's suspension helps its handling, too. Whereas the Prius uses comparatively decrepit torsion-beam rear-suspension technology, this car uses the slightly fancier double-wishbone variety, which, although heavier by nature, is widely used in sports cars, as it offers better stability when you're driving like a hoodlum.

Emissions statement: The 200h's hybrid gubbins means it's affordable to run -- even with petrol prices higher than a pre-rehab Charlie Sheen. The car achieves an impressive 68.9mpg on the combined cycle, which is considerably more than the 60.1mpg achieved by the diesel-powered BMW 118d, but slightly below the 74.3mpg you'd get with an, albeit slightly less nippy, Audi A3 1.6 TDI 105PS.

The 200h trumps both its rivals in terms of low emissions. The car emits carbon dioxide at a rate of just 94g/km. That's 5g/km less than the Audi A3 and a whopping 29g/km less than the BMW. It's an even rosier picture as far as nitrous oxide emissions are concerned. The 200h spits out just 3.3mg/km of the stuff, compared to the hundreds of mg/km spewed out by its rivals' diesel engines.

If you're an uber hippie, you may want to take advantage of the car's electric-only driving mode, which disables the engine temporarily to power the car on electric power alone. This can drive the 200h at speeds of up to 27mph, but, with a total range of just 2 miles, it's hardly worth the bother.

Conclusion: We really like the Lexus CT 200h. Its straight-line performance isn't great, but it corners superbly, has a comfortable, luxurious air and is cheap to run. The Prius is less expensive and offers slightly better economy, but the 200h is a far more desirable package.
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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Uber, A More Expensive Car Service For iPhone, Headed to NYC

Uber, the San Francisco-based car service start-up, is expanding from California to New York City beginning "in a few short weeks," TechCrunch reports today. Do we need more cars? Do we need to pay more money for more cars? Maybe in the outer boroughs! But what if it will run you as much as three times more than a standard cab or livery service?

The perks are that you can line-up an Uber car from your iPhone (or Android!) and then watch an on-screen map, which shows your ride getting closer. Rich people will love this, maybe, if they're really good at their iPhones, because it is super convenient and reliable and there's no yelling on the phone with a dispatcher. ("Five minutes? Yes, the corner of... no, not 'street,' ... 'avenue,' yes, okay, okay, wait, what?") Or do rich people still have drivers of their own.

TechCrunch explains that Uber's email today to New York-based subscribers "includes a link to a survey which asks what people dislike the most about New York City cabs and livery cars, what they would value most about an Uber experience, and where in the city is service most needed. It also tries to gauge how much more people would be willing to pay for Uber than for a taxi (the choices are from 1X to 3X a taxi fare)."

The company has had success in cities with no reliable rides, like San Fran and Palo Alto, and recently raised $11 million, but New York will be their first foray into actual competition, meaning those in the know could possibly hit on some deals as the service works to gain East Coast visibility. So if you're the type to call a car, sign up here. And let us know how much it ends up costing.
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Monday, March 7, 2011

India: selling cars gets more expensive

It’s never been easy to sell luxury cars in India. The duties on fully assembled imported cars is 60 per cent (which effectively becomes 110 after VAT and local taxes), while the tax on locally-made cars with imported engines is 10 per cent.

So many nervous car makers will have poured over India’s most recent budget announcement on Monday for changes to import taxes. To their dismay they will have found a recent change that could mean cars built in India using imported engines will be treated as fully imported. The change is expected to add over Rs 800,000 ($4500) to the price of entry-level cars of companies like BMW, Audi and Mercedes. It will also affect local companies which import engines like Tata and Mahindra.

For German luxury carmakers this comes as a rude shock, in particular because the luxury car prices were expected to fall after the enactment of the proposed India-EU free trade agreement in April.

But it also comes as a shock to a handful of local Indian companies.

Luckily for Tata Motors, it has already announced plans to manufacture engines for its Freelander model entirely in India.

But for other companies it isn’t as easy as relocating factories to India. Suhas Kadlaskar, director and board member of Mercedes-Benz India, told beyondbrics that the company doesn’t have the option to move production to India because of tough union rules in the company’s home market in Germany. He said: “There is no question of relocation even if there is a cost impact.”

So what is the real motivation behind the proposed new tax?

According to analysts the change in the budget is directed at the Skoda Fabias and the Volkswagen Golfs rather Rolls-Royces and Bentleys.

“The idea is to get mass market manufacturers such as Skoda and Volkswagen to produce their engines in India to form the basis of an auto industry,” said Mohan Guruswamy of the Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Industry officials insist this is a double-whammy victory as it allows the government to increase the share of manufacturing to a desired 25 per cent of GDP from the current 16 per cent over the next 10 years, at the same time increasing levels of localization.

Meanwhile, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) has come to the rescue of worried luxury carmakers promising to mediate and address this issue with the finance ministry.
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Friday, February 25, 2011

Rolls-Royce develops electric car

Rolls-Royce used to boast that at 60mph in one of their cars, the loudest sound was the ticking of the clock. Now the world's best known luxury car is about to become even quieter, with the launch of the first fully electric model to bear the famous Spirit of Ecstasy mascot.

The one-off Phantom is being built to gather research data that could eventually lead to customers ordering their own all-electric Rolls-Royce. The firm, based at Goodwood in West Sussex, says that project 102EX is crucial to informing future decisions on alternative "drivetrains" – or propulsion systems – for Rolls-Royce cars.

Engineers will use the Phantom, which normally costs from £285,000, to establish whether they can develop a commercial model which can run long enough to be of use and can operate in extreme weather conditions, which are known to effect battery performance.

Despite its enormous price tag, such a commercial model would be exempt from road tax, London's congestion charge and would even qualify for free parking in some areas.

Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Rolls-Royce's executive, said: "We have engineered the world's first battery electric vehicle for the ultra-luxury segment.

"With this vehicle, we begin an exploration into alternative drivetrains, seeking clarity on which alternative technologies may be suitable to drive Rolls-Royce motor cars of the future."

A spokesman for the firm, which posted record sales last month, said that 102EX – also known as the Phantom Experimental Electric (EE) – said that the car company would "carefully test the opinions and reactions to alternative drivetrain options of a range of stakeholders including owners, enthusiasts, members of the public and the media".

The electric Rolls-Royce will be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show on March 1. It will then be taken on a tour of Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America. Selected Rolls-Royce owners will be asked to test drive the electric vehicle and provide feedback on their views.

Rolls-Royce says there are 'no plans to develop a production version'. But, added Mr Müller-Ötvös: "I must be convinced that any alternative drivetrain we choose for the future delivers an authentic Rolls-Royce experience.

"It must be a technology that is right for our customers, our brand and which sets us on a sound footing for a sustainable future.
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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lexus Builds Insanely Expensive Car

Lexus Builds Insanely Expensive CarIt’ll be business as usual for this LFA, which starts at $375,000 before tacking on another $70,000 for the Nürburgring package, bringing the total to $445,000. With just 50 racing-inspired packages to be created, it’d better be special, so Lexus adds new wheels, a carbon-fiber body kit, and an extra 10 horsepower for the 4.8-liter V-10 (re-rated for 562 horsepower). The six-speed sequential transmission changes gear even faster, needing just 0.15 second as the LFA rockets past the competition. It looks more aggressive with the rear wing and reworked body parts, but it’ll still go from 0-62 mph in 3.7 seconds and retain a manufacturer-stated top speed of 202 mph.

The Lexus LFA Nürburgring package is a massively expensive and insanely fast V10 powered monster that is at home, eating up other cars on the world famous German circuit for which it’s named. Lexus announced that they would only be creating 50 examples of this limited edition LFA and they have confirmed that it would be shown at the Geneva Motor Show next week. As if the standard Lexus LFA is weak or doft, the Nurburgring Pack will make it harder and more track-focused. It features additional aerodynamic elements, lowered suspension and engine revisions. Mind you, that engine revision is not very deep and results in just a mere 10 bhp increase in power from V10 engine to 562bhp, thus enabling the car for a 0 to 62 mph sprint of 3.7 seconds. In terms of handling modifications, the package features suspension tuning and a 10mm reduction in the ride height. Exclusive mesh-type wheels are introduced, fitted with dedicated high-grip tyres.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lexus LFA Supercar Gets More Expensive with Nurburgring Edition

Lexus LFA Supercar Gets More Expensive with Nurburgring EditionAt $375,000, the Lexus LFA supercar was a sight to behold. Considering that it costs about four times as much as the competiting Nissan GT-R, you have to wonder why someone would want the most expensive road car that Toyota has ever produced. And now you wonder even more with an even more expensive version.

Upping the ante is the new Lexus LFA Nurburgring Package. While only 500 of the regular LFA supercars are being produced, a mere 50 of these upgraded Japanese supercars are going to be made available. With the bump in price to $445,000, the LFA Nurburgring is the most expensive road car ever made by a Japanese manufacturer.

So, what does all that extra cash buy you? Power output is only marginally increased from 552bhp to 562bhp, but they’ve worked on several aerodynamic improvements that allow the monster to race around the legendary Nurburgring track in under 7:20. That’s bloody fast, in case you’re wondering. They’ve also improved the sequential gearbox to switch between gears in 0.15 seconds, compared to the 0.2 on the regular LFA.

In addition to the little changes here and there, buyers of the LFA Nurburgring also get a special jacket commemorating the purchase, a night’s stay at Nurburgring, and a one-year pass to the circuit to rip around the track. The white, orange, and black models are selling at the aforementioned $445k, but matte black comes in at a $20,000 premium.
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