Latest Stories

  • Alfa Romeo teases new model for Geneva Motor Show

    A momentous comeback is about occur at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show, with Alfa Romeo teasing a new model that will make its debut at the event. In short video posted on the Italian carmaker’s official Facebook page, we get to hear the engine powering the mysterious model for the first time.

    Aside from a meaty engine note, there’s no further details about what it will power. However, several reports have put forth a few suggestions as to what it could be, with some claiming it could be a hotter of the existing Giulia Quadrifoglio that will bring back the iconic GTA badge. The proposed model is said to boast 620 hp and will be a much lighter car thanks to several weight-saving initiatives.

    The GTA nameplate, also known as Gran Turismo Alleggerita (alleggerita means lightweight in Italian), was first seen in 1965 with the Giulia Sprint GTA that was built in limited numbers (just 500 units) for homologation and racing purposes.

    Another possibility, albeit a very far-fetched one, is the introduction of the new GTV and 8C sports cars that were listed in the company’s road map in 2018. Unfortunately, with the merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and the PSA Group, those plans appear to be shelved indefinitely. With nothing certain for now, we’ll have to wait to see what Alfa Romeo has in store in March.

     
  • Volkswagen ID.R electric sports car in the works?

    Volkswagen’s last attempt at building a sports car was the diesel-powered Concept BlueSport Roadster

    Volkswagen’s ID. lineup of electric vehicles is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years, if Wolfsburg has its way – and rumour has it that the company intends to add one more model to the collection. Happily for us enthusiasts, it looks like it’s going to be a sports car.

    The latest news comes from Autocar, which quotes sources claiming that Volkswagen is planning to build a sports coupé and roadster called the ID.R, named after the fearsome hillclimb racer. Set to go into production in the middle of the decade, it is expected to sire various performance-oriented, R-branded ID. products.

    According to the publication, the car is being built to go head-to-head with the forthcoming Tesla Roadster, citing an internal strategy paper. It should be based on Volkswagen’s modular skateboard-style MEB platform, which also underpins the ID.3 hatch.

    The architecture is said to be highly versatile and compatible with both front- and rear-mounted motors, giving the company the flexibility to build cars with either front-, rear- and all-wheel drive. This means that in range-topping form, the ID.R could be powered by a two-motor AWD setup from the ID.4 SUV.

    As such, the possibilities are endless. A high-powered all-wheel drive model will not only provide Volkswagen with an all-electric performance flagship, it also opens the door to an electric replacement for the Audi TT. It could also form a basis for an electric Porsche Boxster, which is currently tipped to be built on either the Taycan’s PPE architecture or a version of the current model’s platform.

    The car will likely use battery technology from the ID.R hillclimb racer

    Various design study models already exist at VW’s headquarters, said Autocar, and the car will mark the first use of what the company’s motorsports director Sven Smeets calls a “performance-based battery.” The latter, which is being developed in-house for future R-badged ID. cars, will use patented cell technology from the ID.R racer, which secured a number of lap and hillclimb records over the past few years.

    “We are beginning to work on the first batteries for the performance road cars, using the dedicated team from the ID.R, so there will be a direct link between them,” said Smeets. “The batteries start in the same area. At the moment we’re finalising the performance parameters of the batteries.”

    And while the technology remains a secret, this battery is said to use a different chemical process compared to the ID.3’s battery, along with a new cell-to-pack architecture for greater efficiency and improved packaging. Volkswagen R boss Jost Capito said incorporating race car technology to the road will require the company to adapt it to the differing needs of consumers.

    “We have different cells and ways of building and all the technical learnings from motorsport. There are different demands on a performance car than a road car, and we’re looking at all aspects to see what we can do with the tech. We’ve seen how it works in the ID.R and now we want to see how it looks in a road car.”

    Volkswagen is clearly serious about building a performance electric brand. Having terminated all motorsports activities powered by internal combustion engines, the company then showcased an all-wheel drive Golf eR1 prototype at this year’s GP Ice Race, expected to preview the hardware for R-badged EVs. The cars that will wear the R moniker will slot above the already hot GTX variants, much like the GTIs you see today.

     
  • China-made Tesla Model 3 may get cobalt-free LFP battery – cheaper to manufacture, but lasts longer

    Tesla is reportedly in advanced stages of discussion to use batteries from Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL), a company it had recently signed a deal with for battery supplies. The move will see the automaker use a new lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries which contains no cobalt, a metal that is considered to be one of the most expensive material in electric vehicle batteries.

    The adoption of LFP will be a first for Tesla, with Reuters stating that the move is part of Tesla’s efforts to drive down production costs for cars – particularly the Model 3 – made at its China plant. This is to curb slumping EV sales in the region that’s currently crippled by the Covid-19 novel coronavirus outbreak.

    Apparently, Tesla has been talking to CATL for over a year to supply LFP batteries. Cost-wise, LFP batteries is cheaper to manufacture than existing batteries by a ‘double-digit percent’, a source claims. Tesla currently uses nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCA) cylindrical batteries for its China-made Model 3, which is higher in density and offers more driving range.

    One downside of LFP cells is its lower energy density, but to combat this, CATL is developing its cell-to-pack technology, which allows the cells to be directly integrated into packs without using modules. This saves space, meaning the volumetric density of the battery pack can be increased to fit the same footprint, leaving operating range unaffected.

    LFP cells are also said to last longer due to its chemical composition, but it’s unclear what the weight difference is between prismatic LFP packs and cylindrical NCA packs. According to reports, it’s possible for the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus to get the same 50 kWh rating via the prismatic LFP pack.

    Meanwhile, a source also told Reuters that Tesla has no plans to stop using NCA batteries for the time being. The move to use LFP batteries appears to be limited to Model 3s made in its China plant, and Tesla is currently seeking regulatory approval to make longer-range Model 3 cars at the plant.

    The use of LFP batteries will also help Elon Musk meet a promise he made in 2018, one which will see Tesla cut the use of cobalt to zero. At press time, cobalt costs around US$33,500 (RM142k) a tonne.

     
  • Volkswagen Touareg R revealed with 3.0L turbo V6 plug-in hybrid powertrain – 462 PS and 700 Nm

    Ahead of this year’s Geneva Motor Show in March, Volkswagen has unveiled the new Touareg R, which is the high-performance version of the third-generation SUV. Featuring a powerful plug-in hybrid powertrain, the hot SUV is the third PHEV in the carmaker’s European line-up after the Golf and Passat, and is the first all-wheel drive model in its PHEV range.

    Said powertrain is essentially the same one used in the Porsche Cayenne and Panamera, and consists of a 3.0 litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine with 340 PS as well as a 136 PS electric motor that sits between the eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission.

    The electric motor draws power from a lithium-ion battery placed under the luggage compartment, which has an energy capacity of 14.1 kWh. For now, the carmaker has yet to reveal the vehicle’s efficiency figures, maximum possible range when running in EV mode, or even charging details – for the aforementioned Porsche models – both use a 14.1-kWh battery – the charging time is between 2.3 to 3.6 hours.

    Another aspect of the drivetrain is Volkswagen’s 4Motion permanent all-wheel drive system that includes a centre differential lock to enable asymmetric dynamic torque distribution. The system allows for a maximum of 70% of the drive force to reach the front axle and up to 80% to the rear.

    All elements combined, the drive system provides 462 PS and a maximum torque of 700 Nm, beating out the V8 TDI-powered version of the Touareg (421 PS and 900 Nm) in terms of horsepower but not torque. In any case, the Touareg R is good for an electronically-limited top speed of 250 km/h, and should you choose to run in E-Mode – the Touareg R’s fully-electric driving mode – the top speed is capped at 140 km/h.

    You can also set your preferred state of charge (SoC) in Hybrid mode, and if route guidance is active, the system will ensure the desired battery level is available when you reach your destination. Beyond the E-Mode and Hybrid options within the 4Motion Active Control interface, there are also several driving profiles available, including Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport, Individual, Offroad and Snow, all of which are selectable via a dedicated dial in the centre console. With the optional off-road package, two additional profiles – Gravel and Sand – are added to the mix.

    In terms of styling, the Touareg R sports body-coloured R-style bumpers, wheel housing extensions and lower door sections, as well as louvres on the air intakes, window line trim, lower apron trim and mirror caps that are all finished in black. Darkened lighting clusters, several R logos, black 20-inch Braga alloy wheels and trapezoidal-shaped tailpipes complete the exterior look.

    Moving inside, Silver Wave aluminium trim is applied on the dash panel and door inserts, while the centre console trim is in High Gloss Black and Silver Look. More R branding is seen on the Vienna leather comfort seats, stainless steel sill plates and steering wheel.

    Other standard features include the Innovision Cockpit that includes the Digital Cockpit (12-inch digital instrument cluster display) and the Discover Premium Infotainment system (15-inch centre touchscreen). There’s also IQ.Light LED matrix headlamps, a panoramic sunroof, Air Care Climatronic four-zone climate control.

    For even more items, the vast list of options includes Trailer Assist and Travel Assist, the latter providing assisted driving at speeds of up to 250 km/h and relies on systems like Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Assist to do so.

    Volkswagen also offers a 780-watt Dynaudio sound system, Night Vision, Front Cross Traffic Assist and exclusive R options. On the last bit, there’s a Lapiz Blue Metallic exterior finish, 21-inch Suzuka and 22-inch Estoril wheels, as well as a Puglia leather package with Sepang Blue piping.

     
  • DS9 flagship sedan revealed – global plug-in hybrid

    DS Automobiles has revealed its new flagship model, the DS9. A large executive sedan, the DS9 conveys a perfect blend of heritage, remarkable savoir-faire and cutting-edge technology; and it aims to be the benchmark in terms of elegance and sophistication, its maker says, adding that this is a car for global markets.

    The DS9 sits on a new version of the PSA Group’s EMP2 (Efficient Modular Platform) architecture. The sweeping lines are of a body that’s 4.93 metres long and 1.85 metres wide. That’s around the size of the current W213 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which is 4,923 mm long and 1,852 mm wide.

    One chooses a DS for design flair and the DS9 is very flamboyant for its kind. This sedan has a steeply raked rear window, fastback style, and the French brand describes the face as “expressive”, which we agree. The fascia features the DS wings and a parametric design grille with a 3D diamond effect. There’s a Clous de Paris sabre on the bonnet, the first time this DS interior signature has been used outside the cockpit.

    There’s also a nod to the iconic 1955 DS in the form of cone shapes at the outside edges of the roof. Here, the cones are lights, a quirky and cool touch. Speaking of lights, the rear ones have the effect of 3D scales, and the slim third brake light at the base of the rear window is almost full width. Another nice cue is the flush fitting door handles.

    The launch powertrain is a new E-Tense plug-in hybrid comprising a PureTech turbocharged petrol engine, an electric motor and an 11.9 kWh battery. Combined, there’s 225 hp and zero emissions electric range of between 40 and 50 km in the WLTP cycle.

    The e-motor, through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, can deploy 110 hp and 320 Nm of torque. It’s active when driving off from a standstill, boosting acceleration at any speed and for driving in zero emissions mode up to 135 km/h. Electric mode is the default on start-up, while the Hybrid mode leaves the e-motor-ICE balance for the car to figure out.

    An E-Tense Sport mode combines the effort of both the motor and engine. It also adjusts the mapping of the accelerator pedal, gearbox, steering and active suspension. This mode “intensifies driver enjoyment and dynamics all with complete peace of mind,” DS says.

    Back to the PHEV part. There’s a Braking function that enhances energy recovery and an E-Save function that guarantees selected levels of battery-stored energy to do chosen parts of the journey in EV mode – say, when the driver knows he’ll be heading into the city centre or designated low-emissions areas. The 7.4 kW on-board charger does its job in 1.5 hours.

    DS says that the DS9 range will soon be topped by two more E-Tense PHEVs – the first with 250 hp and increased range, and the second with 360 hp and AWD. In China, the 250 hp E-Tense version will be offered from launch. A 225 hp regular PureTech engine model without the PHEV bits will also be available. All variants come with an eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox.

    The DS Active Scan suspension employs a camera that scans the road, level sensors, accelerometers and drivetrain sensors to record movement and prepare the damping of each wheel for road imperfections. The French used to be suspension masters, and DS says that this “21st century DS suspension” combines the hushed comfort of a prestigious saloon with the dynamics of a grand touring coupe. Ride comfort without equal is the promise.

    The French brand is highlighting the DS Lounge interior of the DS9, which boasts plenty of leather in various forms. The dashboard is fully covered in Nappa leather, the roof lining and sun visors are in Alcantara, and the door handles are hand-wrapped in leather. Other interesting cues are the watch bracelet design of the seats and crystal-shaped touch-sensitive buttons.

    The sedan’s 2.90 metre wheelbase carves out decent rear room. The seats are heated, cooled and massaging, a first in the class. The rear central armrest has leather, storage areas with built-in USB ports, controls for the massaging seats and multi-coloured welcome lighting. In the sound department, there’s a 14-speaker Focal Electra sound system specially developed for the DS9.

    There are a couple of DS Inspirations interior themes to choose from. Named after famous quarters in Paris, each has its own character with seats in leather or Alcantara. You get grained leather seats in “Bastille” or “Rivoli”, the Performance Line comes in black Alcantara, while the Art Rubis Nappa leather of the “Opera” comes in a watch strap design.

    The latter is the range-topping spec and it also comes with adjustable multi-coloured ambient lighting and a steering wheel in Art Rubis leather.

    The controls on the centre console are finished with the Clous de Paris guillochage, the signature of fine French watchmaking, reiterated by the 180 degree rotating B.R.M clock on the dashboard. It’s nice to see something different in one of the more formal car segments – what do you think of the DS9’s flair and fashion?

     
  • 2021 Subaru WRX STI to get new 2.4L Boxer, 400 hp?

    With the 2019 Subaru WRX STI EJ20 Final Edition out of the way, comes time for a worthy successor. According to a Forbes report, the Japanese automaker will be rolling out the next-generation flagship performance sedan in 2021, complete with a brand new 2.4 litre flat-four turbo, dubbed the FA24.

    Output is said to be no less than 400 hp and a stonking 490 Nm of torque, which is significantly more than the EJ20’s 308 PS and 422 Nm mark. It’s also more potent than the South African Diamond Edition model that’s powered by the EJ25 2.5 litre turbocharged Boxer four-pot, making 348 hp and 464 Nm of torque.

    The report cites a source which said the EJ25 engine will continue serving propulsion duties until the next-generation WRX series is introduced, that is until sometime in 2021. After that, the cleaner, more efficient FA24 will take its place.

    The brand new engine has already been put to work, powering the new eight-seater Ascent SUV in the US. There, the 2.4 litre Boxer produces 260 hp at 5,600 rpm and 375 Nm from 2,000 to 4,800 rpm, with drive sent to all four wheels via a Lineartronic CVT with eight-speed manual mode function and paddle shifters.

    For the new WRX STI, however, the FA24 will receive significant hardware upgrades to attain 400 hp. Sources say it will get reinforced crankshaft and pistons, optimised timing balance, revised valves and intake ports, higher boost pressure, and better braking performance, among others. Apparently, Subaru engineers benchmarked the FA24 against Mercedes-AMG’s world-famous M139 2.0 litre four-pot that powers cars like the A 45 and CLA 45, which makes a heady 421 hp and 500 Nm of torque.

    In terms of styling, expect the new sedan to look similar to the Viziv Performance STI Concept. For pricing, reports suggest that the new WRX STI will be priced under US$50,000 (RM211k), but only time will tell. How do you like the sound of it so far? Let us know, below.

    GALLERY: Subaru Viziv Performance STI Concept


    GALLERY: Subaru Viziv Performance Concept

     
  • Honda ends production operations in the Philippines

    Honda has announced that it will stop production in the Philippines, ending its manufacturing operations at its plant in Santa Rosa next month. The facility, located in the Laguna Province, began operations in 1992 and currently produces BR-V and City models. It has a workforce of around 650 personnel.

    In a statement, the automaker said that after consideration of optimisation efforts in production operations in the Asia and Oceania region, the decision to end production in the country was made. Despite the closure of the plant, the company says it will continue its automobile sales and after-sales service operation in the Philippines, through the utilisation of its Asia and Oceania regional network.

    According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a local Honda spokesperson said that the decision to end production in the country was due to the low production volume and the automaker wanting to make better use of its resources.

    “Honda needs to close down the Philippine factory because of its low production volume. It’s not because of an issue on politics, or an issue on government policy, or on labour union. It’s none of that. That’s the direction of Honda Motor so it could have an efficient utilisation of its resources,” Louie Soriano, spokesperson of Honda Cars Philippines, told the publication.

    It was not mentioned what Honda planned to do with the factory, but the report added that the government says that there are auto companies that are interested in taking over. This has happened in the past – in 2014, Mitsubishi Motors acquired Ford’s Santa Rosa assembly plant, which the US automaker had shuttered at the end of 2012.

     
  • Polestar Precept concept teased before official debut

    Volvo’s sub-brand Polestar has announced it will unveil the Precept concept on February 25, and has released teasers of the mysterious show car. The carmaker currently has two cars in its line-up, including the Polestar 1 and Polestar 2.

    For now, details about the Precept are incredibly scarce, as we only have two images to work with. In both, we see the company’s signature lighting design, with the headlamps appearing to feature the “Thor’s hammer” LED daytime running lights, while the taillights have a thin light strip between the clusters.

    It’s hard to tell what form the Precept will take, but it could serve as a preview for the Polestar 3 SUV. The copy on an official page doesn’t assist in this regard, as it merely reads, “Precept: a rule intended to inform behaviour or thought. In other words, a way of declaring how you mean to proceed. Starting as you mean to go on. Stating your intentions up top. A manifesto. It’s also the name for something that takes all of our ambitions and combines them.”

    However, it will likely feature an all-electric powertrain as well as a next-generation, Android-powered vehicle infotainment system – the latter is also set to debut on the same date. The dedicated page also points toward the use of sustainable materials, with recycled plastics from PET bottles and discarded finish nets being used to create woven fabrics for the interior.

    Also used is cork reclaimed from the wine industry and cork manufacturing process, which form part of the PVC components in the concept. Polestar also partnered with Bcomp, a Swiss-based company, to use natural fibre composites for the rear seat panels. We’ll only know more when Polestar reveals the Precept in a few hours’ time.

     
  • SPYSHOTS: BMW iX3 to debut at Geneva Motor Show?

    The forthcoming BMW iX3 fully electric SUV has been spotted again, this time with one of the development vehicles seen wearing what appears to be a production set of wheels, which our spy photographer sources say indicate that the iX3 is nearing its debut.

    Here, we can see that the development vehicles wear the redesigned grille and front and rear bumpers of the concept model, and while the units here appear not too far removed from earlier test mules, those appeared rather close to production readiness to begin with, and our sources say that the iX3 could be set for a debut at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, next month.

    So far, we know that the iX3 will be the first BMW to get the automaker’s fifth-generation eDrive electric powertrain technology. This will produce maximum outputs of 210 kW (286 hp) and 400 Nm of torque. Like all electric motors, the unit in the iX3 delivers maximum torque instantly, though the German SUV’s can sustain acceleration at higher speeds due to exclusive design measures, it said.

    The motor used in the iX3 also does not use rare-earth materials, and it can be programmed to ‘deliver the traditional BMW rear-wheel-drive experience’, the automaker said. This fifth-generation eDrive unit packages a drive motor, system electronics as well as transmission into a single housing, making it more compact as well as improving the motor’s ratio of output to drive system weight by 30% compared to an outgoing system.

    Thus equipped, the iX3 – in concept guise at least – is rated for a range of more than 440 km based on the WLTP test cycle from its 74 kW battery pack that is mounted flat in the vehicle as to not affect passenger or luggage space. Meanwhile, a new battery charging control unit allows fast charging of up to 150 kW which equates to a full charge in 30 minutes from selected DC charging stations.

    At launch, the BMW iX3 joins the X3 line-up for the 2020 model year, making this SUV the German brand’s first to be available with petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and fully electric powertrains. The iX3 will be manufactured for the global market at the joint venture BMW Brilliance Automotive facility in Shenyang, China.

     
  • Aston Martin DBX customised by Q – menacing look

    The highly-awaited Aston Martin DBX has yet to enter production – it’s slated to do so in May – and already Gaydon is drumming up interest for its first ever SUV. Its latest effort involves its personalisation arm, Q by Aston Martin, which has worked its magic on the car.

    Despite the insane range of colour and customisation options that buyers can choose from, the resulting car is pretty subdued in its appearance, the outfit preferring to focus its attention on the details. The curvaceous body is painted in Satin Xenon Grey matte paint, accented with gloss black 22-inch alloy wheels and carbon fibre on the lower body trim, door mirrors, bonnet and fender vent fins and even the winged badge.

    Meanwhile, the sombre atmosphere of the brogued Obsidian Black leather interior is lifted by contrasting stitching and diamond-patterned decorative trim machined out of solid aluminium. The most eye-catching part of the entire car is the unique trim found on the floating centre console and the doors.

    Machined from a solid block containing 280 hand-laid layers of carbon fibre, the pieces were then put through a 12-hour curing process and 90 hours of five-axis milling to get to their final forms. Carbon fibre can also be found on the boot floor in a gorgeous herringbone pattern.

    Customers can opt for a more affordable (the term being relative here) version of this menacing look by opting for the ‘Q by Aston Martin – Collection’, which consists of the paint, the carbon fibre lower exterior trim and black anodised tread and sill plaques. The package is available to order now.

    “Of course, the example shown today is just one sphere of inspiration that can be explored, but with DBX providing the ultimate canvas to bring a vision to life, I fully expect to see a wide and broad variety of creations over the coming months,” said Aston Martin executive vice president and chief executive officer Marek Reichman.

     
 

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