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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