Thursday, June 08, 2006

Murano GT-C Concept, 350Z GT-S Concept to Highlight Nissan Booth At Goodwood

Nissan Murano GT-C Concept

Nissan is planning to make a big splash at next month's Goodwood Festival of Speed, with two new attention-grabbing concepts and two factory racecars making the charge up the Goodwood circuit.

The Murano GT-C concept will be of great interest to everyone at the event. Black paint, blacked-out trim, 22" five-spoke wheels and a rooftop spoiler highlight the exterior mods. Inside, the car's cabin has been restyled to be what the automaker calls "classic with a modern slant." Of most interest to the enthusiasts at Goodwood, however, will be the changes made under the hood.

Turbocharging boosts the Murano's outpoot to 350 horsepower. The factory CVT and 4-wheel-drive systems remain in place, and the suspension has been retuned to have sportier edge.

Joining the Murano GT-C will be the 350Z GT-S Concept. Modified by Nissan's Cranfield Technical Centre, the GT-S gets a 380-horse supercharged V6, new bodywork and wheels, and upgraded brakes and suspension. The interior will also be modded, but details have not yet been released on those changes. The 350Z GT-S won't just sit in the Supercar Paddock and look pretty, either: it is going to make the hill climb along with the rest of the assembled supercars, classics, and racers.

Nissan GB will gauge reaction to the two concepts to see if there are markets for production versions.

2004 Nissan 350Z Super GT Car

Finally, Nissan will run two of its well-known racers up the Goodwood hill: the 2004 350Z from Japan's Super GT series and the 1999 Primera BTCC touring car.

Source: Nissan Great Britain

It's Not Windy, That's Just the 582 Horsepower: Mercedes CLK DTM AMG Cabrio

The 2007 Mercedes CLK DTM AMG Cabriolet

DaimlerChrysler has officially staked claim to having the world's fastest four-seat convertible, and it's not the Chrysler Sebring. rather, it's the race-bred CLK DTM AMG Cabriolet from Mercedes Benz.

Limited to 100 examples, the CLK DTM AMG Cabriolet emulates the CLK DTM race cars that are a fixture on German racetracks each weekend and adds a convertible top for good measure. Power is from an AMG-spec 5.5 liter supercharged V8 that dishes out 582 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. The bodywork is heavily modified, and many panels have been replaced by carbon-fiber units. The large, unpainted rear wing is also made of the stiff, lightweight composite.

The rear wing and most of the bodywork is made of carbon fiber.

As you would expect from a Mercedes supercar, the driver and passengers are treated with respect. The cabin also gets the once-over, with carbon fiber replacing many surface materials. The seats are finished in leather and alacantra, and overall, the interior shows that it means business without losing its sense of luxury.

Full luxury appointments await the fortunate few who will grace the car's four seats.

On the technical side, a six-speed AMG SPEEDSHIFT automatic swaps gears, while new AMG brakes (6-piston in front, 4-piston in the rear) slow things down in a hurry. A new adjustable suspension helps drivers keep things under control.

The price? 277,000 Euros ($350,000+ USD). Get 'em while they're hot, because the 100 cars are a lock to sell out.

Photo Gallery (29 shots!)
Press Release

Source, Photos: DaimlerChrysler

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Lighten Up, Man: Caterham CSR260 Ultralight

The Caterham CSR260 Superlight

Because the top-of-the-line Caterham CSR260 is apparently not extreme enough, the company has one-upped itself and unveiled the CSR260 Superlight. Mechanically, the car is generally the same as its heavier sibling, save for one significant difference we'll get to shortly. Power still comes from a 2.3 liter Ford Duratec engine that pumps out 260 horsepower - enough to send the 1300 lb. rocket from 0 to 60 mph in a mind-numbing 3.1 seconds. Top speed is 155 mph, and considering how low and small the little open-topper is, it probably feels like double that from the seats.

The CSR260 Superlights goes from zero (above) to 60 mph in a paltry 3.1 seconds.

The Superlight has identical performance numbers, but is different in that it sheds 55 pounds of its total weight. To that end, the windshield, carpeting, heater and weather equipment (wipers, etc.) all get tossed. Sitting in the area vacated by the windshield is a carbon fiber wind deflector. The lightweight material is also used for the dash and wings. The cockpit gets a powder-coat treatment, and most of the exposed aluminum gets blacked out (Caterham calls that the "black pack"). The Superlight also gets faster steering, a new limited slip differential, and new "Dynamic Suspensions" dampers developed by Multimatic. Cementing the racecar feel is a removable MOMO steering wheel.

New dampers are dialed in by Multimatic.

Finished cars start at £37,995 (around $70,000 USD), and can be ordered now. Deliveries to customers begin in August.

Source: Caterham Cars Ltd.
Press Release

Renault Scénic Dynamique S Introduced in UK

Renault Scénic Dynamique S Special Edition

On the heels of the one millionth Renault Scénic II's rollout in late May, the automaker is offering a new special edition of the popular car in the UK. Dubbed the Scénic Dynamique S, the special-edition baby MPV adds the following options to the pre-existing "Dynamique" trim level:
  • 16" ‘Louxor’ alloy wheels
  • Automatic climate control
  • Cruise control with speed limiter
  • Dark grey leather-trimmed upholstery
  • Sliding centre storage unit (which features integrated armrests, courtesy lights, accessory power point and cupholders)
Pricing begins at £16,620, but customers who get their orders in before June 30th are eligible for £1,200 cash-back. The "S" package is available on both the Scénic and its big brother, the Grand Scenic. A wide variety of available engine and transmission combos, combined with the two body styles, makes for thirteen possible Dynamique S models and possible migrane for the poor soul trying to decide which one to buy.

Thankfully, a list of each potential equipment combination and the associated pricing can be found in Renault's press release. And if a buyer still gets a dizzying headache from crunching those numbers and engine/tranny choices, that 1,200 quid rebate can buy a lot of aspirin.

Source: Renault UK

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Tesla Motors To Unveil EV Sports Car in July

Tesla Motors is set to unveil its Tesla Roadster electrical vehicle on July 16 in Santa Monica.

No hybrid powertrain. No gas tank. No emissions.

You simply plug it into the wall overnight and the next day you've got a range of 250 miles.

Oh, did I mention that it'll make the run from 0-60 in 4 seconds? Talk about a departure from the EV norm.

Instead of settling for a weird-looking little tool that simply gets drivers from point A to point B, Tesla's engineers have decided to take all the "green" benefits of an EV and package it in a true driver's car. Unfortunately, while pricing hasn't been discussed yet, Tesla did tell CNET that the car won't be cheap.

No images of or technical information about the Roadster have been released to date, but the 0-60 time is a good tease that's going to leave enthusiasts wanting for more. If the car looks good and is a true performer, the conventional wisdom regarding the appeal and capabilities of EVs is going to start changing for the better.

Stay tuned.

Source: CNET

Monday, June 05, 2006

Ferrari 612 Scaglietti - Cornes 30th Anniversary Edition


The Cornes 30th Anniversary Edition Ferrari 612 Scaglietti

Cornes & Co. have been importing Ferraris to Japan since 1976. In celebration of their 30th Anniversary, the Italian automaker has created an ultra-limited run of twenty 612 Scagliettis. To be sold in Japan only, the cars are all painted an exclusive color called Blu Cornes. This deep blue finish also decorates the brake calipers and center caps on the 19" polished wheels. (The flashy rims are part of the factory's HGTC package, which is featured on all 20 cars.) Rounding out the exterior mods are mesh grille inserts that grace the front and rear fascias and a carbon fiber fuel-filler cap.

Note the blue gauge faces on the tach and speedometer.

Inside, on surfaces not made of carbon fiber, the blue theme continues. Blu Cornes finds its way onto tach and speedo faces. The leather adorning the dashboard, steering wheel, and parking brake is tinted to match. The rest of the interior, including the seats, is finished in a two tone scheme that compliments the exclusive blue with a rich tan color. Surfaces are either leather or alacantra depending on where you look. White stitching adds additional contrast. The result is one of the most opulent cabins you'll see in any Ferrari.


The Cornes 612's interior is awash in rich colors and textures.

Exclusive badging on the dashboard and between the rear seats announce that the car is a 30th CORNES model. Finally, the kick plates in each doorframe are fitted with plaques bearing the signature of Ferrari chariman Luca di Montezemolo.

Delivery begins in November 2006.

The price? 33,980,000 Yen, which translates to around $304,000 USD. Exclusivity never comes cheap.

A Flickr slideshow of the car's unveiling at Cornes in Japan can be found here.
Japanese webzine Carview has an excellent gallery of shots taken at Cornes & Co. here.

Source: Cornes & Co.

Photos on this page courtesy of Ferrari.
Slideshow photos courtesy of Cornes & Co. and Autobytel Japan.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Nevada Photog Discovers Baddest '86 Daytona Ever

Photo: Ballen Photo

Bruce is a Las Vegas-based photographer who regularly posts at the forums under the handle "Ballen Photo." A car enthusiast, he attended a show in his area last week and came upon the remarkable whip pictured above. Once upon a time, it was a garden-variety 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo. All that's over now, though.

You see, the car's owner, Dave, is a master craftsman and fabricator, and he obviously decided that the factory setup simply wouldn't do. So he redid the whole car.


In his garage.

Long gone is the factory powertrain. A look under the forward-tilting hood reveals a 440 Six-Pack with dual quads (another upgrade by the owner). I have to imagine that mashing the loud pedal in this puppy is akin to making the jump to Hyperspace. Fittingly, entry to the driver's seat looks like it can be gained via a funny-car style tilting body. Unlike a funny car, however, this Daytona is street legal. I'm sure many a Civic Si driver with delusions of grandeur has been left questioning his self-worth after tangling with the superpowered Dodge.

The quality of workmanship really has to be seen to be believed. Head over to Bruce's thread at to see photos of the engine, interior and detail shots of the heavily modified architecture. You won't be disappointed.

Special thanks to Bruce for allowing the use of his photo.

Source: Thread - Did you say a 1986 "Tiltona"?

PSA Peugeot Citroën & Partners Build 62mpg Efficient-C

Back in 2004, partners Ricardo, PSA Peugeot Citroën, and QinetiQ set to work on the British Department of Transport's Ultra-Low Carbon Car Challenge project. The goal was to create a C-Class 5-door passenger car with ultra-low CO2 emissions.

It wasn't left at just that, however. The project organizers also wanted to see improved range and useful performance statistics, all while using a readily-available fuel source (Diesel, Gasoline, or LPG) and maintaining the vehicle's comfort and utility. Finally, the components used had to be mass-produceable and affordable for volume production.

The result is the Efficient-C diesel full-hybrid. The Citroën Berlingo Multispace donor vehicle was equipped with a new electric motor, Lithium-Ion battery pack, and a new automated manual transmission. In addition, mechanically-driven systems (such as power steering) were replaced by electrically-driven versions, allowing for their operation regardless of whether the car had the engine running or was in electric-only mode.

The project was a complete success. Every target goal was met or exceeded. The Efficient-C is a clean-burning small utility that gets 62mpg in combined use. On top of that, its acceleration numbers are better than a diesel-only Berlingo, thanks to the added assistance of the electric motors.

The only thing I could see needing to be moved for production purposes is the battery. On the project car, it is mounted in a vented metal case to the rear underbody (see the picture at the end of the post). Something tells me it wouldn't take kindly to water, snow, dust, etc., but I'm sure it could be moved to an interior location without compromising utility.

Think about it: The practicality of a 5-door wagon/ute with reasonable performance and 62mpg? If it can be done at a reasonable price, sign me up.

More Photos:

New electronics join the 1.6 HDi underhood.

All that tech, and it still seats five.

Cargo space is not reduced whatsoever

The exposed battery is the one thing that would probably have to be relocated for production.

It wouldn't be a hybrid without the techno-geek screen...

Auto tranny always chooses the best ratio

The Efficient-C in detail

Source: Ricardo, PSA Peugeot Citroën, and QinetiQ

Better Looks, More Power: Gallardo GTV by IMSA

The regular Lamborghini Gallardo is boring.

I see I have your attention now.

Yes, you read that right. What else is one supposed to think after seeing the Lamborghini Gallardo GTV as prepared by IMSA GmbH. IMSA is a new firm created by Kleeman's German affiliate. The tuners created a new, aggressive body kit that gives the Gallardo a wider and much meaner stance. When viewed on an angle from the front or rear quarter, the differences becomes apparent. The GTV is a serious player.

Under the engine cover, the IMSA folks couldn't be expected keep things stock, so they tweaked the V10 to bring it closer to 600 horsepower. Stopping all that pent-up energy comes about thanks to big brakes resting behind even bigger custom wheels.

The Lamborghini Gallardo GTV by IMSA is one of the best-executed tuner cars to hit the market in a while. yes, yoiu want one. You want one very, very badly.

Source, Photo: Lamborghini Cars
Image Gallery 1, Image Gallery 2

Additional Resources:
IMSA corporate site

Friday, June 02, 2006

Peugeot Offering Factory Pimpage For Your 206

Ok, ok. The headlights are a bit much...

My European friends, if you have a Peugeot 206, you now have an opportunity to make it tres pimp. The automaker has released a full suite of appearance mods to help give the 600,000 206s on the road a custom look. Whether it's a new fuel filler cap or a set of new 17" rims, Peugeot has you covered no matter which 206 variant you drive. Parts can be purchased a la carte or as preset Sport Packs. They're only available from Peugeot dealers.

Here are the individual item prices that have been published for the UK:
  • Twin Headlight Conversion: £55
  • Sports Grilles: From £60
  • Alloy Gear Knob: £47
  • Bonnet Top Grille: £85
  • Sports Rear Lights: £259
  • Rear Spoiler: £249
  • Sports LED Rear Lights: £269
  • Wheel Arch Extensions: £179
  • 17” “Chrome Shadow” Alloy Wheels: £675
  • 17” Alloy Wheels: £699
  • Chrome Headrest Hoops (CC models): £259
  • Sports Filler Cap: £45
There's something to fit every budget.

Your machine wants a makeover, and those LED taillights are badass...

Source: Peugeot UK Press Office

San Fran Gets Diesel-Electric Hybrid Bus

New School/Old School: Diesel-Electric meets All-Electric on the streets of San Francisco (Photo: DaimlerChrysler)

The city of San Francisco took delivery of its first Orion diesel-electric hybrid bus from DaimlerChrysler yesterday. One of 56 ordered, Frisco mayor Gavin Newsom says that once all of them are in circulation, the buses will represent a huge step towards the city's goal of an emissions-free municipal fleet by 2020. Hybrid powertrains are well-suited to buses because their stop-and-go nature makes optimal use of their regenerative braking capabilities, and the fact that they often crawl along at low speed maximizes use of the electric motors. This also makes them quieter than their conventionally-powered counterparts.

While technically impressive, the Orions headed to San Fran are not perfect. Passenger capacity is lower than that of a similar vehicle without the gee-whiz powertrain. And while they are 30% more efficient than diesel-only buses, that still amounts to just 4.5 mpg. The CNET article notes, however, that over the next 12 years, that amounts to fuel savings equivalent to 13,000 barrels of oil, and adds that that NYC (who also has Orions in service) sees signs that point towards lower maintenance costs.

Which brings us, ultimately, to the matter of dollars and cents. And here's where it gets a little hairy.

The hybrid buses cost $480,000 a pop (whoa!). Non-hybrid versions sell for around $280,000. Multiply the difference by 56, and that is an extra $11.2 million shelled out by the taxpayers. I know that you pay a premium when you choose a hybrid, but this seems a bit extreme.

By comparison, the 13,000 barrels of oil supposedly saved add up to only $936,000 if you use today's price of $72/barrel. And even if maintenance costs are reduced, I can't see that savings covering the remaining $10,000,000 gap. Yes, environmentalists would likely argue that the improved air quality resulting from the use of a zero-emissions fleet over time would yield incalculable healthcare savings, but putting a numerical value on that is still speculation.

If the goal is cleaner air, why not just buy a straight diesel fleet that's optimized for low-sulfur diesel fuel (which went on the market yesterday)? Presumably, it'd still be cheaper than the hybrid fleet while still reducing emissions significantly. In fact, you could buy more buses for the same money. Could a larger bus fleet running on clean diesel help pull more cars off the road? Would that then offset the additional emissions benefits lost by not buying hybrid buses?

The "Zero Emissions by 2020" goal strikes me as being as much (if not more) about image as it is about real, tangible results. It makes for neat soundbytes and gets media attention, but in the end one wonders if it's worth it financially. Lowered emissions are an admirable goal for any municipality, but care should be taken to not fleece the residents who are footing the bill. In the case of San Francisco, those people are on the hook for $11,000,000 extra dollars whose recoverability is, at this point, still suspect.

Unlike a consumer who walks into a showroom and willingly chooses to purchase a more expensive hybrid car, the taxpayers subsidizing a fleet purchase such as this have to pay that premium whether they want to or not. To that end, the program should not just be environmentally responsible, but fiscally prudent as well. Only time will tell how the numbers pan out for San Franciscans, but on the surface, the enviro-fiscal disconnect seems pretty substantial.

UPDATE 6/4/06: A Significant Correction Reveals A Smaller Gap

Fair is fair, and I have to address a flaw in my reasoning.

My calculation where I arrived at the $10,000,000 gap stems from this passage in the CNET article:
In other words, the Orions represent about a 35 percent improvement in fuel economy. Over a 12-year period, these buses will use 1.2 million fewer gallons of diesel than a standard bus, Renschler said. That's about 13,000 U.S. barrels of oils.
I used the 13,000 barrels of oil as the basis for my calculation. That was not smart, because unrefined crude prices, while high today, are not what we pay at the pump. The $936,000 number I use is too low.

I should have used the 1.2 million gallons of diesel saved. If you multiply that by $3.00 (which is in the ballpark for what diesel costs in California today), that $980,000 I cite jumps up to $3.2 million saved. That's almost 4 times the original, inaccurate amount I used. As a result, the $10 million gap drops to around $6.8 million. That's still a lot of money, but it is significantly lower than what I incorrectly reported in the original post.

My most sincere apologies for the mistake.

Sources: CNET and DaimlerChrysler

Additional resources:
Orion Bus Press Release
CNET Video
CNET Photo Gallery
DCX: Benefits of Diesel-Electric Hybrid Buses

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Euro Focus ST Spied In Mexico. Is It On The Way?

Leftlane News has two photos taken by an intrepid poster at the Mopar Extreme forums. The one at right (click to enlarge) clearly shows the car to be a Focus ST. Sure the badging is all covered with duct tape, but the wheels, body kit, and dual exhaust eliminate any doubt that the car pictured is one of the hot Euro-Foci. Compare the spy shot to the publicity photo below.

Now, As Leftlane points out, this doesn't necessarily mean anything. The automakers do sometimes test non-US market cars in North America. I remember one afternoon a few years ago when one of my day-job colleagues based in Arizona IM'd me with, "I just saw a Nissan Primera at lunch. Are we getting that?"

As everyone is now aware, the answer to that question was, "No." And so it may be the case with the European Focus.

But there is reason to harbor a flicker of hope. Yesterday, the Oval sent out a press release informing the world that the Focus is in the midst of a sales boom (my emphasis):

Focus sales have increased steadily in 2006, from 13,638 units in February, to 16,171 in March to 17,917 in April. As a result, the company has improved its inventory of Focus vehicles to only 60 days in stock. The industry norm is 80-90 days in stock.

"May could be the best sales month for the Focus since last summer's Ford Family Plan incentives," says George Pipas, manager, Sales Analysis. "The sale of small cars across the entire industry has been gaining momentum."

While fuel prices may be the main reason for the increase, small cars are also becoming trendy, says Robert Parker, Ford Marketing manager.

Very intriguing. Think about it: if people are buying up the lame US-market Focus at a brisk clip right now, consider the kinds of numbers they'd be pulling if the far more interesting Euro-style Focus was in stores this side of the Atlantic.

It's the "trendy" comment that makes me really think there's reason to be cautiously enthused about this sighting. If Ford plans to capitalize on American consumers' newfound desire for stylish, small, and economical automobiles, releasing the European Focus here is a no-brainer. Where the current model is merely serviceable, the Euro model is cool.

Cool sells. Ford should know.

Maserati To See Red At Nürburgring

There's a winning history behind this paint scheme.

When Maserati takes on the Nürburgring in this month's 24-hour race, the GranSport Trofeo piloted by James Laffite (pictured above), Gianni Giudici,Patrick Hong and Richard Meaden will wear the same red livery that identified cars driven by legends like Fangio and Moss. The company hopes that the modern car, with its classic Italian red bodywork and heritage-rich yellow piping around the grille, will be as sucessful as the cars it pays homage to when it takes to the 'Ring. That measure of success?

A win.

The red car will be joined on the circuit by the Maserati R&D Factory Team's ride, which will wear the more modern Vitaphone colors and serve as a test platform for innovations, such as a carbon-fiber driveshaft and new sequential gearbox, which may see use on future Maserati street and racing vehicles.

The 24 Hours of Nürburgring will be run June 17-18.

Source: Maserati Corse