Alfa Romeo 159 TI

Posted in Alfa Romeo

A legend is back at Alfa Romeo.

The TI badge now appears on the 159 saloon. Short for Turismo Inter­nazio­nale, the discreet two-letter label is reserved for only the most sporty and luxurious models in the range.

To mark the occasion, the Italian manufacturer has fitted the newcomer with an upgraded version of its 2.4-litre JTD diesel engine. It now produces 210bhp – up 10bhp on the old unit. Sports suspension has also been added, alongside cosmetic up­-grades inside and out.

However, the Alfa faces stiff competition from prestige challengers such as the accomplished BMW 3-Series and new Audi A4. So are the revisions enough to allow the 159 to take on these premium class leaders?

If the answer was based on looks alone, the Italian should have its rivals well and truly beaten. At the front is the traditional heart-shaped grille, flanked by six circular headlamps sitting beneath a menacing brow. Move around the car and you’ll be struck by the neat design details – such as the alloy door handles – and elegant proportions. To these, the TI adds 10-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels and subtle side skirts, along with silver-finish door mirrors.

The cabin is equally stylish. Its aluminium-trimmed facia, angled towards the driver, features beautiful cowled dials, while the comfortable leather seats wear a special stitched Alfa logo. It’s a pity, then, that space is at a premium for all occupants, and the quality of plastics still lags behind the best in the sector.

Matters aren’t helped by quirky features such as the boot release button being located in the roof­lining, just ahead of the rear view mirror. For many Italian motors, though, the engine is the heart around which everything revolves – and the 159 maintains that tradition.

The five-cylinder turbodiesel unit is smooth and punchy, providing the Alfa with plenty of mid-range torque and the sort of tuneful exhaust note you would more commonly expect to hear from a petrol motor. Refine­ment is excellent and only on start-up is there any hint of diesel clatter.

A highly capable chassis backs up the TI’s spirited straight-line performance. It’s stiffened and lowered by 20mm, so the Alfa dives into corners with minimum body roll, although the ride can get unsettled on poor surfaces. The steering is well weighted and direct, while the six-speed manual gearbox has a light and accurate action. It isn’t quite as sharp as that of a 3-Series, but the Alfa is certainly plenty of fun to drive.

Costing £25,400, the 159 TI represents good value when compared with the pricier, slower and less well equipped German competition. There’s also a practical Sport­wagon estate, and even a charismatic 3.2-litre V6 petrol-engined version on offer. Further options include a six-speed Q-Tronic semi-automatic gearbox and grippy Q4 all-wheel drive.

However, with Alfa Romeo finishing a lowly 30th out of 32 in the 2007 Auto Express Driver Power survey, question marks remain over the brand’s build quality and reliability. If it can overcome these, the 159 TI deserves all the attention it will get.

Rival: BMW 320d M Sport
The oil-burning 3-Series has a great chassis, a prestigious badge and the sort of build quality Alfa can’t currently hope to match. But while the 320d provides excellent fuel returns and low CO2 emissions, it’s pricier and has less standard equipment than the 159.

Price: £25,500

Engine: 2.4-litre 5cyl, 210bhp

Top speed: 140mph

0-60mph: 8.4 seconds

Econ./ CO2: 41.5mpg/179g/km

Standard equipment: Sports suspension, 19-inch alloys, Brembo brakes, electronic stability control, climate control, powered and heated leather seats, aluminium pedals, Bluetooth connectivity

New Mazda Taiki Concept Car – video

Posted in Mazda

Mazda unveiled its Taiki concept car during the 40th Tokyo Motor Show, being held Oct. 24 – Nov. 11. This sports car is the fourth concept vehicle in Mazda’s Nagare series. The Taiki features a next-generation rotary engine and is touted as being environmentally-friendly. Mazda’s theme during this year’s show is “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom.”

Ferrari FXX Evoluzione – The Latest Masterpiece

Posted in Ferrari

FXX programme extended for further two years thanks to new evolution kit developed with assistance of Client Test-Drivers

Maranello 28th October 2007 – The innovative FXX programme, based on the eponymous prototype car and launched by Ferrari in June 2005, is being extended to 2008/2009. The FXX, which is the most advanced GT ever created at Maranello, has been updated with an evolution package aimed at further improving its handling and performance. The package was developed as a result of Ferrari’s collaboration with its Client Test Drivers and with the invaluable support of Michael Schumacher. The FXXs equipped with this package will also sport a new livery in addition to new rear wing profiles.

The FXX is not homologated for road use and there are no plans to compete with it either. In fact, the FXX prototype is designed exclusively for track driving as part of a specific R&D programme agreed with a selected group of just over 20 clients involving 14 group test sessions and 14 private ones in the last two years. Thanks to readings taken over the 16,500 kilometres of tests carried out in 2006 and the 18,500 kilometres covered in 2007, the modifications made to the car have focused on honing its aerodynamics, running gear and electronics. Seven-times Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher also joined the ranks of the client test drivers and gave the programme the benefit of his vast experience on several occasions.

Maranello’s engineers studied the wealth of information gained to develop a kit which will cut the FXX’s Fiorano lap time to under 1’16” (previously it was 1’18”). The FXX’s 6262 cc V12 engine can now punch out a massive 860 hp at 9500 rpm. Gearshifting takes just 60 ms, a drop of 20 ms on the previous time, and the gear ratios have been adapted to make use of the extra 1000 rpm now delivered by the engine.

The car’s new traction control system, developed in close collaboration with the GES Racing Division engineers, gives the driver a choice of no less than nine different settings (plus the off position) which are selected using a switch on the central tunnel. This means that the driver really can modify the car’s behaviour on the track from corner to corner, just as the Formula 1 drivers do to maximise performance and reduce tyre wear. The FXX’s traction control is also now less invasive and more flexible, adapting more efficiently to the individual driving style of each driver – a requirement pinpointed when this very extreme car was being driven on the track by non-professional drivers.

The FXX’s special 19″ Bridgestone tyres now last longer too thanks to a new car setup and new front suspension geometry, while the Brembo brakes, which boast large Composite Ceramic Material (CCM) discs, are more efficient with the result that the brake pads last twice as long. Thanks to the drivers’ feedback the Ferrari engineers have also developed new aerodynamic solutions aimed at increasing downforce over the rear axle. The FXX now sports a new rear diffuser, nolder and rear flaps which have combined to increase aerodynamic efficiency by 25% overall. The active front spoiler control system settings have been adjusted to take these modifications into account too. New telemetry monitoring of the steering angle and brake pump pressure will further boost the interaction between Client test drivers and the company’s engineers also. From next year onwards, it will be possible for drivers to have two extra video cameras mounted on their car in addition the existing rear-facing one. This will, of course, give the drivers excellent rear visibility without having to impinge in any way on the car’s aerodynamics.

The FXX evolution package includes participation in a series of track events that Ferrari is organising at international circuits for 2008/2009. Six events are planned for each year (two in North America, two in Europe and two in Asia). In addition to these, the FXXs will also be participating, as per tradition, in the prestigious end-of-season Ferrari World Finals.

As happened in 2006/2007, the cars will be backed up at each event by a 15-member official team made up of engineers, electronics experts and mechanics capable of providing complete assistance to clients. Needless to say, the latter will still be able to organise their own private individual track sessions in their car as well.

Rare Alfa Romeo at Tokyo Motor Show

Posted in Alfa Romeo

You just never know what you’re going to find in the back halls or outdoor pavilions of a major international auto show.

Case in point; while taking a stroll outdoors at the Tokyo Motor Show, we wandered into the back lot’s series of commercial equipment displays. Among the collection of Japanese cherry pickers, tiny dump trucks, and rescue equipment, we happened upon one very fine example of a very rare Alfa Romeo.

Of a total production run of less than 1,000 cars, at least one of these rare Alfa Romeo SZ coupes made its way to Japan. More specifically, an example of the Zagato bodied Alfa made its way to the display stand of Japanese heavy equipment manufacturer Kyokuto.

While we were unable to find out any of the specifics related to the owner or purpose (other than eye candy) of the SZ on display, we were able to take some photos so all could enjoy one more mystery of Tokyo.

Future Alfa Romeos to get RWD

Posted in Alfa Romeo

If Alfa Romeo is serious about competing with Germany’s premium labels it will eventually have to drop its FWD only lineup. Latest reports claim that is exactly what’s going to happen over the next couple of years as Alfa updates its lineup and prepares for its re-launch in North America.

The news comes from an Alfa factory manager who told the guys at AutoWeek that Alfa’s future lineup would include more RWD cars. Next year will see the launch of the first RWD Alfa since the early 1990s’ 75 sedan and Spider in the form of the all-new 8C Competizione sports coupe.

The 8C is only the start of a new era for Alfa, revealed marketing manager Renzo Barbirato. The 169 flagship sedan that’s expected to bow in towards the end of 2009 will also be RWD as will Alfa’s other models. The only car that won’t be RWD is the entry-level Junior hatch, which will remain FWD because of cost limitation, explained Barbirato.

Another avenue Alfa is exploring is the introduction of high-performance AWD models. The first of these will likely be the new GTA 159 sedan, which has recently been spotted circling the Nurburgring.

New award for Fiat 500 – EuroCarBody 2007

Posted in Fiat

The new FIAT 500 has won the EuroCarBody 2007 award, the world’s most prestigious prize for car bodies.

The ninth edition of the Forum organised by Automotive Circle International was held in Bad Nauheim/Frankfurt from October 16 to 18, attended by about 600 experts in the development of the design, materials, processes and manufacture of car bodies.

The 600 specialists, from 15 international carmakers, gave the award to the Fiat 500, assigning it 38.33 points out of a possible 50. This enabled the “small” Fiat – the only segment A model present – to defeat the other 11 candidates from Japan, the United States, Europe and Russia.

The experts particularly appreciated the contribution made by the innovative bodyshell to the car’s NCAP 5-star rating (with a total score of 35 points), and class 11 “Insurer Impact” assessment: this is a record that puts the Fiat 500 at the top of its class in the safety field, and is even more extraordinary if we remember that it has been achieved by a car that is only 3.5 metres long.

The Fiat 500 is a car designed to reach the highest quality and safety standards, as the EuroCarBody 2007 award underlines; it is an important award that highlights the mixture of “creativity and skill” that is necessary to develop an innovative, winning bodyshell. Nor must we forget that the final competition is part of a vaster programme, that sees Automotive Circle International organising numerous congresses every year for the exchange of information and experience in the field of automotive manufacturing processes.

BMW Concept 1-Series tii

Posted in BMW

Press days at the Tokyo Motor Show have already started (it’s the 24th there right now) and already Tokyo news has started rolling. First is this little surprise from BMW; the BMW Concept 1-Series tii. Based on the new 1-Series Coupe, the BMW Concept 1-Series tii is basically a 1-Series that received some ‘M’ treatment. BMW says that the car has an ‘uncompromising focus on motorsport.’ Instead of badging it an ‘M,’ BMW brings back the tii logo last seen in 2002.

The BMW Concept 1-Series tii, with its aerodynamically optimized body, is modified with extensive use of carbon fiber on the engine lid, mirror caps, and the inlays for the front air intakes at the side. Special gurney flaps generate additional downforce on the rear axle.

The BMW Concept 1-Series tii has an attractive color scheme on the exterior and interior. The exterior wears Alpine White combined with the very dark carbon structure of the CFP elements, with further highlights added in blue.

No word on whether this baby will see production, but we don’t doubt it for a second. The only thing is BMW has a thing for keeping things like these away from the U.S.  

Diesel Alfa Spider stretches the mpg point

Posted in Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo has recently put its thoroughbred diesel powerplant – the 2.4 JTDM 20V unit that develops 200bhp – in its award-winning Alfa Spider. The result is sports car looks, performance and handling with city car fuel consumption.

Mated to a six speed ’box, this Alfa Spider guarantees an entertaining and engaging drive with maximum torque available from as little as 2000rpm. Charging to a top speed of 141mph, the Alfa Spider 2.4 JTDM covers the 0-60mph sprint in a very respectable 8.4 seconds.

Around town the diesel Alfa Spider consumes 30.7mpg. On long legged journeys, it will stretch a gallon of diesel for 52.3 miles and in the combined cycle it will return a wallet-stretching 41.5mpg.

The Alfa Spider’s new five cylinder MultiJet engine complies with Euro 4 emissions limits and incorporates a DPF (diesel particulate trap) that eliminates fine dust, already meeting the limits currently envisaged for future Euro 5 legislation. Significantly this feature is a ‘for life’ system that does not need to be regenerated with additives, and will be eligible for tax incentives.