October 07, 2005

Baby you can park my car

Nissan has developed an egg-shaped car for drivers who find backing out of tight parking spots a hassle.

The car's body pivots 360 degrees so that its rear end becomes the front.

The Pivo, shown on Friday at a Tokyo Nissan showroom, is still an experimental model and probably will not go on sale publicly for several years. It is a three-seater electric car that looks like a big egg on wheels. Its body revolves in a complete circle while its wheels stay put.

Such moves are possible because Pivo's steering, wheels and other parts are controlled electronically by wireless, or electronic signals, not mechanical links between the cabin and the vehicle's chassis.

"This is a cute car for people who have problems parking," said Nissan Motor Co. chief designer Masato Inoue.

Pivo, also planned for display at the Tokyo auto show opening next month, highlights other technologies, including a system that allows the driver to control devices inside the car simply by raising his or her fingers off the steering wheel.

Finger pointing

That is done through a camera embedded in the steering wheel that senses heat. Lifting one finger might turn on the radio. Two fingers might set car navigation equipment.

The technology works much like voice-recognition capabilities already available in some advanced cars, but Tokyo-based Nissan says some people prefer finger-pointing than talking.

Pivo also allows the driver to see blind spots via cameras attached to the outside of the car.

Inoue says it is possible to design a gasoline-engine vehicles that spins in the same way if electronic controls are approved for traffic safety. But they are unlikely to have the round look of Pivo because a conventional engine requires more room than an electric motor.

06:00 AM in Nissan | Permalink

October 05, 2005

Clever car can improve your mood

Having a bad day? Your car could help put you in a better mood.

Japanese car maker Toyota is working with Stanford University in the U.S. and Edinburgh-based company Affective Media to create the car that can read your feelings.

Toyota has already unveiled a prototype of its Pod concept car, which has headlights that fade from bright to dull and change color to indicate happy, sad or angry moods, depending on how the driver inside is feeling.

The Pod was pitched as a way for drivers to communicate with each other, in an effort to prevent road rage. Lack of communication between drivers on roads is commonly believed to be a cause of road rage.

06:00 AM in Toyota | Permalink

October 04, 2005

City Cars - Smart Fortwo

Why buy one?
The ultimate town centre assault vehicle. It's amusing to drive and look at, while the cabin is cleverly thought out with a good view out. The only big downsides are the bouncy ride and jerky gearbox. Otherwise, the Fortwo is now getting cheap and the cheapest - early left-hand-drive models - will allow you to park and step onto the pavement.

What to look for
Nothing too major, although some engines replaced under warranty on early cars. Gearbox seems to give the most problems so make sure it works smoothly. Steering joints another area where the Smart seems to wear out a bit too early. Right-hand drive from November 2001.

Where to buy
Private owners are dedicated Smarties and have looked after them fanatically. Look to get a better warranty at a Smart Centre, but increasing numbers of independent specialists have good expertise and good-value models.

06:05 AM in Smart Fortwo | Permalink

October 03, 2005

Mazda to make all cars nearly free of harmful metals in 2006

Mazda plans to virtually eradicate four heavy metals deemed harmful to the environment from all of its domestic and foreign car models by the end of the year, according to Asia Pulse.

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) has set voluntary goals for eliminating the use of the four hazardous materials - lead, hexavalent chromium, cadmium and mercury- but Mazda's own targets beat the industry's by a few years.

Mazda also intends to eliminate the materials from existing models, while JAMA's goals only apply to new cars.

By the end of the year, Mazda plans to stop using cadmium, which is mainly incorporated to prevent electrical parts from wearing, by switching to alternative materials.

06:13 AM in Mazda | Permalink

September 30, 2005

Aston Martin Vantage (DB5)

This is Aston's 911 rival: the Vantage or 'baby' Aston, and a model which is expected to account for 40-50 percent of Aston sales in 2005, when it goes into production at the former Rover factory at Gaydon. Revealed as the AMV8 Vantage concept at the Detroit Motor Show in January 2003, the Vantage is, like the new DB9, built on the 'VH' advanced aluminium platform, with modularity that allows engineers and designers to develop multiple power and drivetrain configurations without long development times and huge cost impacts. Composed of a mix of pressed, cast and extruded alloy components bonded together, it has a structure even stiffer than that of the latest Jaguar XJ. Aston boss Ulrich Bez told 4car in Detroit that "this is a dedicated and flexible production system that only Aston will have. This new platform is simpler than that used in the Vanquish - we have learned from that - and this simplicity means we can look at V8 and V12 engines, as well as hard- and soft-top options." This underscores the fact that the so-called AM305 project has diverged from the stalled Jaguar F-Type programme, although originally, the two models were intended to share much of their underpinnings.


06:11 AM in Aston Martin | Permalink

September 29, 2005

Alfa Romeo 159

Since the V6 is clearly the engine that is U.S.-bound, we'll concentrate on that. It is a brand-new unit of 3.2 liters and 260 hp, and features advanced direct gasoline injection. It sounds as sonorous as an Italian baritone, revs to heaven, and gives the 159 real vivace (0-60 in 6.8 seconds, top speed 150 mph). Six-speed manual, automatic and Selespeed sequential gearboxes are all offered.

06:09 AM in Alfa Romeo Brera | Permalink

September 28, 2005

2007 Acura RDX

Acura is keeping the SUV's engine a secret for now, but it did say the RD-X will have over 200 hp, the high-tech SH-AWD system from the company's RL flagship sedan and four-wheel independent suspension. Sadly, its huge Brembo disc brakes and 19-inch wheels and tires will not.

06:07 AM in Acura | Permalink

September 15, 2005

2006 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 & 4S

Ask Walter Röhrl to describe the driving dynamics of the new Carrera 4, and he'll tell you, "It's like a train," cornering as if on rails. For sure, Röhrl knows a bit about handling. A two-time World Rally champion and four-time Monte Carlo Rally winner, Röhrl is also a proponent of all-wheel drive, making him the perfect spokesman for the new Porsche Carrera 4, which was introduced to the automotive press in Monaco, just a few switchbacks away from the infamous Col de Turini (Stage 12 of the Monte Carlo Rally), where we got to evaluate the new models.


06:27 AM in Porsche | Permalink

September 14, 2005

How Much Insurance Do You Really Need?

Poring over the minutiae of a car insurance policy is about as appealing as preparing a tax return. But you know you need to do it, even if it is tedious and sometimes financially painful. Most people never bother to scrutinize their policies before whipping out the checkbook at renewal time each year. Consequently, some could end up paying for coverage they may not actually need, while others go with the cheapest coverage possible, perhaps leaving themselves financially exposed if the worst happens.

By better understanding the various components of auto insurance policies—and, more importantly, how they relate to your own financial situation—you can save money while getting the protection you need.


06:15 AM in Insurance | Permalink

September 13, 2005

Word for the week: hybrid

The word for this week seems to be hybrid. I can think of several hybrid news items off the top of my head: (1) BMW going in with DaimlerChrysler and GM; (2) Suzuki looking at selling a hybrid version of the Grand Vitara in the US; and (3) Volkswagen saying that it won't tie-up with anyone in Europe on hybrid technology, but is happy to work with SAIC on a hybrid vehicles for China.

One thing that is a little puzzling re Volkswagen is that it seemed to be on course to work with Porsche on hybrids - something which would also make sense if the idea is to perhaps utilise the technology on Touareg/Cayenne. Maybe the VW-Porsche discussions are still going on and the two companies cooperate so closely (they always have done) that working with Porsche still constitutes 'go-it-alone'. Or has Porsche simply decided not to bother with hybrids? Or even, whisper it, cut to the quick and work with hybrid market-leading Toyota?

Anyway, that's me done for the week. Beer o'clock and we're still enjoying a very pleasant 'Indian summer' in England, so I'm outta here for some fresh early evening air. I'll be at The Oval in London tomorrow (with some old friends, not a corporate do) to watch the rather big cricket match that is on here (football? what's that?). Should be good.

GERMANY: Volkswagen and Porsche to team up on hybrids - reports

06:13 AM in Hybrid | Permalink

September 02, 2005

Peugeot’s 3-wheel 20Cup concept

Expressing Peugeot’s new alignment with sport, the 20Cup is an innovative concept, both « fun » and dynamic: suggesting an elegant synthesis between two worlds – that of the motor car by its front aspect and that of the motorcycle by its single rear wheel. This sporty, three-wheel roadster, shown in two examples, differentiated only by colour, promises real driving pleasure through the strong sensations it evokes. Confirming its presence in high-level motor sport, Peugeot recently announced its new commitment to competition via the LMES Championship.


06:06 AM in Peugeot | Permalink

September 01, 2005

Jaguar Takes the Cover off the 2007 XK

Ever since the debut of the Jaguar Advanced Lightweight Coupe (ALC) concept at the 2005 Detroit auto show in January, we’ve been eagerly awaiting its production version, the new XK to appear. During the past months, we’ve seen various spyshots and now, finally, Jaguar has announced the arrival of its most stunning car in recent memory. Designed by Ian Callum, who also worked on the gorgeous Aston Martin DB9 and Vanquish, the new XK bares a striking resemblance to its Aston cousins. The all-aluminum 2007 XK is stiffer and lighter than its predecessor and is powered by a 4.2L V8 that produces 300 bhp. 0-60 comes just under 6 seconds and top speed is limited to 155mph. The new XK will hit showrooms next spring, with plans for the convertible to be announced later this year.

06:03 AM in Jaguar | Permalink

August 31, 2005

2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Spy Photos

Seen here testing somewhere in the Californian desert with massive cladding is the new 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Expect official unveiling at Geneva 2007 with sales starting shortly after. Also expect the wagon to arrive 6 months later in the autumn or fall. Our sources state a cabriolet soft-top and coupe are also planned which we can only interpret as being the new CLK-Class which is also based on the same platform. Air suspension or active body control have been ruled out due to cost restraints. Base engine will be a direct injection 4-cylinder 1.8 liter with varying horsepower from 150 to 190. Horsepower for the 2.5 liter V6 and 3.5 liter V6 will be 210 to 270 respectively. AMG's 5.4-litre will be revised with new horsepower rating up from today's 360 to 400-410hp to compete with the Audi RS4 and future BMW M3. Also a 3.0 liter diesel is planned as well as the new iDrive-like operating concept found in the new S-Class. 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system will also remain available as well.


06:00 AM in Mercedes-Benz | Permalink

August 30, 2005

200 hp Blitzen-Benz

1909 was a special year in the history of Benz & Cie, crowned by the achievements of a record-breaking car which has sealed its place in automotive folklore as one of the most inspirational models ever made. Powered by a quite awe-inspiring 21.5-liter 200-horsepower engine, the “Blitzen-Benz” reduced the then mythical 200 km/h landmark to a footnote in history. No other road-going vehicle could compete, whilst the world’s fastest trains and even the aircraft of the time were left gasping in its wake. A land-speed record which remained intact for eight years represents a suitable legacy for this era-defining vehicle. Of the six Blitzen-Benz ever made, two survive – Mercedes-Benz owns one, the other is the muse of a US collector. However, now another American enthusiast has found a way to gain entry into this exclusive club, working closely with Mercedes-Benz Classic to create a reproduction of the Blitzen-Benz containing a number of genuine parts.


06:00 AM in Mercedes-Benz | Permalink