BMW 730d

Posted in BMW

BMW 730d
It’s six years since the current 7-Series kicked off BMW’s controversial ‘flame surfacing’ styling. With its avant-garde lines, typified by an abstract, jutting boot lid, the model divided opinion – especially in the traditionally conservative executive saloon class.

But this brand new 7-Series is set to change all that – and Auto Express was first to get behind the wheel! BMW has taken the opposite tack with the styling this time around, crafting a more conventional shape that looks much better than its predecessor’s in the metal, with cleaner lines and none of the awkwardness of the current 7’s shape.

We took pre-production cars powered by each of the three launch engines on a handling circuit, and initial impressions were overwhelmingly positive.

Drive Dynamic Control comes as standard across the range. It lets the driver quickly select from four modes: Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+. Each changes the steering, damping, throttle response and gearbox settings to alter dynamics – and the differences are tangible. In Comfort it’s as cosseting as any model in the class, but in Sport it dances from point to point like a much smaller car, feeling impressively agile.

Optional rear-wheel steering is well judged, too, improving turning response at low speeds and increasing stability when the pace is upped. Double-wishbone suspension keeps the saloon composed, aided by an active anti-roll bar which tightens up depending on the roll angle of the car.

Each of the three launch engines is an improvement over its predecessor in every area, too. The 730d – set to account for 85 per cent of UK sales – is powered by a brand new 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel, and has more torque, lower emissions and better economy than the outgoing powerplant.

Equally, thanks to the maker’s eco-friendly Efficient Dynamics package, the two petrol engines – a 3.0-litre V6 in the 740i and a 4.4 twin-turbo V8 in the flagship 750i – also trump their predecessors.

As you’d expect, standard kit is generous. Even ‘basic’ cars get the latest second-generation iDrive, which banishes all memories of the fiddly original version and features full Internet access – an in-car first. Other standard equipment includes dual-zone automatic climate control and a ‘soft skin’ dash material, which emulates leather. Plus, there’s an 8GB hard drive for music, and a pre-installed copy of the owner’s manual, searchable via iDrive. The HD screen is huge, too, while the car even has its own dedicated call centre.

If you raid the options list, some pretty fancy kit can be added. This ranges from a heating and ventilation system that can be adjusted via mobile phone to a four-zone climate control system. There’s a full complement of massaging chairs and a side-view camera for parking and at tricky turns.

Also available is a lane departure warning system, plus heat-sensing night vision and a camera that reads speed limit signs and displays them on the dash. All indicative of a car at the top of the technological tree.

2009 Subaru Impreza WRX

Posted in Subaru

It’s official folks. Those of you that picked up a 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX have been had. The road-going rally rocket gets an update for 2009 and with it comes a retuned 2.5-liter boxer four-pot producing 265 hp and 244 lb.-ft. of torque – a 41 hp and 18 lb.-ft. increase over the outgoing model. Power will be sent to all four wheels through a five-speed manual – the only transmission available — with low-profile 225/45R17 summer tires replacing the 205/50R17 rubber of the 2008 model.

The suspension has been revised to include stiffer springs, uprated dampers, upper strut mounts cribbed from the STI and larger anti-roll bars fore and aft. The Aero package is no longer an option – it’s standard – and includes an STI-inspired grille on both the sedan and hatch, while the five-door receives the STI’s rear spoiler and underbody diffuser.

Impreza obsessives that ran out to buy a 2008 model might be miffed, but Subaru had to make adjustments to keep the WRX competitive, particularly with the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart becoming a serious contender in the turbo’d sedan segment.

2008 Porsche Cayenne by JE Design

Posted in Porsche
JE DESIGN, previously well known for its modifications of models from the VW Group, is now including another brand in its tuning range. THE sports car brand of all time: Porsche. Thanks to its experience with upmarket SUVs such as the VW Touareg and the Audi Q7, it was an easy step for JE DESIGN to provide the Porsche Cayenne with a new outfit and give it a more original appearance.

Muscular, sporty styling kit

The JE DESIGN styling program for the Porsche Cayenne (957 model) comprises at the front end a spoiler that gives the SUV a significantly more muscular look, with a centre segment that is particularly effective when its bottom section is painted in a different color. The JE DESIGN component is a perfect fit, and integrates ideally into the rest of the design. It also includes LED daytime running lights, which not only enhance the looks of the vehicle but also crucially improve safety. Because “seeing and being seen” prevents accidents. Headlight masks ensure that the headlights no longer stand out with such dominance above the cooling air inlets. By means of this relatively minor design strategy, JE DESIGN manages to bring additional sporty flair to the front aspect, since the front end also now seems lower.

Once you start a job, you have to finish it. Essential features for the harmonious look include the side sills, conveying an impression of “more meat on the ribs” and giving more character to the Cayenne’s profile.

And of course a facelifted Porsche Cayenne also needs a suitably elegant conclusion. This is provided by JE DESIGN in the form of an extended rear apron with diffuser styling, so that the individualized appearance of the Cayenne’s rear is also more appealing. As in the case of the original apron, the JE DESIGN component also has room on the left and right for the exhaust tailpipes. As a replacement for these, JE DESIGN also offers its own dual oval tailpipes made of stainless steel, which fit perfectly into the apertures.

JE DESIGN offers the parts as complete styling kit (tailpipes separately). In a second step, JE DESIGN offers the kit including LED entry lights, each with five LED light units fitted in the right and left-hand door sills, plus a six-light LED unit mounted on the extended rear apron.

As for other models, JE DESIGN also offers the “Shark Attack” roof fin to finish off the look.

Magnificent 22-inch “SUV”-Select wheels

The muscular appearance of the Cayenne as styled by JE DESIGN is emphasized even further by JE DESIGN SUV-Select wheels. This wheel, especially developed for motoring heavyweights, sports a sturdy, timeless, five-spoke design. JE DESIGN offers it for the Porsche Cayenne in the magnificent size of 10×22? ET 55 (5×130 hole pattern). The one-piece cast wheel is available from JE DESIGN in the “shadow silver / polished face” version or alternatively in “matt black / matt silver face”. Naturally JE DESIGN also supplies sets of complete wheels, in which the SUV-Select wheel is equipped with 295/30 R22 XL tires.

Lowered for better agility

JE DESIGN does not just stop at external cosmetics. In order to make the heavyweight more agile, the tuning specialists have lowered the body and thus the Porsche Cayenne’s center of gravity by about 35 mm, with the aid of an electronic lowering module. JE DESIGN also has the answer for vehicles with conventional suspension. In this case, stainless steel coilover suspension with adjustable compression and rebound mode delivers 30- to 70-mm lowering and decidedly sporty handling to match the car’s exterior. Alternatively, JE DESIGN offers a set of lowering springs for this

In preparation: Interior with a carbon touch

To give the Porsche Cayenne a sportier makeover inside as well, JE DESIGN is currently preparing various visual carbon treatments for the interior components of the upmarket SUV.

What’s next from Alfa Romeo and Abarth

Posted in Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Fiat

Several high-ranking executives from Alfa Romeo were keen to see how the launch of the new MiTo materialized. While they were there, we had the chance to talk with one of Alfa’s top marketing officers over dinner and discuss the latest news churned out of the rumormill concerning upcoming products from Alfa and its sister-brand Abarth.

logo_alfaromeo.jpgFor starters, we discussed the next model coming down the pipeline for Alfa Romeo. The MiTo, which we were driving the following day, replaces the three-door version of the ageing 147 hatchback, with a larger 149 slotting in above the MiTo with five doors. While previous reports had concluded that the 149 would share its platform with the Fiat Bravo, our hosts confirmed the later reports that the 149 would sit on its own unique platform.

Although Alfa is considering a new, small convertible model, it would not come as a MiTo spider, instead it will get its own designation and coachwork that’s distinctly different from existing models.

Following the release of the 149, which we could see as early as October at the Paris show, Alfa is working on a new flagship sedan to replace the discontinued 166. While previous reports tipped a variety of sources for the 169′s anticipated rear-drive platform – from Maserati to Jaguar – our hosts couldn’t verify where the 169 would borrow its underpinnings. However, we did discuss the prospect of a crossover for Alfa Romeo, suggesting that the Italian automaker is still considering the idea originally previewed by the 2003 Kamal concept. Potential competitors included the BMW X6 and Infiniti FX, suggesting that Alfa would take a decidedly different route than Porsche did with the Cayenne. However, the company’s marketing department realizes that, with Italian automakers known more for sportscars and sub-compacts than for sport-utes, the vehicle would have to espouse a uniquely Italian character and tight proportions to distinguish itself in the marketplace. The confirmation we were waiting for, however, concerned the future of the 8C Competizione: our hosts confirmed that a run of 100 lightweight GTAs are being prepared for the company’s centenary, while the notion of a Ferrari California-based successor was chalked up to pure speculation.

Abarth LogoWith Abarth under the common direction of Alfa CEO Luca de Meo, we also had a chance to discuss the future of the new Fiat performance marque. Rumors have continued to escalate over a unique model for Abarth – tipped to be a small, lightweight roadster – to distinguish itself from its parent company. However, despite previous confirmation from Abarth spokespersons, we were told that Abarth would remain a two-model (500 and Grande Punto) brand for the next few years at least

Hyundai Qarmaq

Posted in Mazda
Building eco-friendly models is at the top of most car makers’ hit lists these days. But Hyundai is working on combining fuel saving with technology to help reduce injuries to pedestrians in collisions.

And the first product of its research is the QarmaQ, a sporty 4×4 it says is a Crossover Utility Vehicle. But this concept car isn’t just special because of the technology it harbours. This is also the first time the firm has let a journalist behind the wheel of one of its experimental vehicles. The theory behind the QarmaQ is to reduce fuel consumption by saving weight. It uses plastic for the body panels and polycarbonate instead of glass, and tips the scales at 1,700kg, some 100kg lighter than the similarly sized Santa Fe.

One knock-on effect is that the hi-tech materials are easy to mould. This means engineers have been able to incorporate what they call the world’s first Elastic Front safety system. This sees three energy-absorbing structures inserted in front of the deformable bonnet.

What’s more, they’re fully recyclable, as they’re made from reclaimed drinks bottles. The plastic body panels have given designers a degree of freedom, too. Their aim wasn’t just to create a sporty shape; they wanted one that looked less aggressive than regular SUVs. As a result, the stylists have included distinctive C-shaped side windows. The lightweight polycarbonate has also allowed them to create a see-through bubble roof.

Access to the front seats is via wide-opening doors, while Mazda RX-8 style rear-hinged items ease entry to the back. Inside it feels spacious, thanks to the large glass area. The materials used around the cabin feature silicone and leather, which gives a wonderfully tactile feel. It makes for a calming environment with excellent visibility all round. The same goes for rear seat passengers, who have plenty of legroom and really benefit from the clear roof.

Thankfully, the panoramic glass and other transparent areas have been coated in an infra-red wash which reflects the heat. The effect of this is that owners shouldn’t have to rely so heavily on the air-con, again saving fuel. And the system works – at least part of it does! The day of our drive was hot and sunny, and although the air-con wasn’t operating, the interior remained at a bearable temperature.

A by-product of the weight-saving programme is that a 2.0-litre diesel engine is more than adequate to power the QarmaQ. Select Drive and it moves off with none of the sluggish behaviour usually associated with concept cars.

The engine, while noisy, is powerful enough for everyday driving, and actually gives quite a turn of speed. So does this point to a slightly smaller BMW X6 rival from Hyundai? Well, the firm certainly believes there’s a market for it. And while the looks of the QarmaQ might be too futuristic for Hyundai in the short term, it’s planning to incorporate the technologies of the design study into production models starting from next year.

2009 BMW X6 – AC Schnitzer Aero Package

Posted in BMW, Hyundai
An eyecatcher at first glance – this calls for a closer look AC Schnitzer presents the new styling and performance package for the BMW X6 The new BMW X6 exerts a particular form of magnetism: not only does its chassis sit perfectly on the road, it also magically attracts attention. Now it appears there is only one place where the fascination, dynamism and presence of the first Sports Activity Coupé (SAC) can be enhanced: in the workshops of AC Schnitzer in Aachen. The result is a visual and technical masterpiece which further magnifies the core qualities of the X6.

2009 Porsche 911 Targa to Have Electric Glass Roof and AWD

Posted in Nissan, Porsche
Next generation Porsche 911 Targa combines an electric glass roof with electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system

With the introduction of the new 911 Targa this autumn, Porsche is completing the fastest ever generation change in the 911 model series. Two new power units with Direct Fuel Injection (DFI) improve both the performance and economy of the car, the fast-shifting Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) – or double-clutch gearbox – replaces the optional Tiptronic S automatic transmission, and electronically-controlled Porsche Traction Management (PTM) takes the place of the former viscous-coupling all-wheel drive system.

The latest addition to the new generation 911 line-up comes as before in two variants; 911 Targa 4 and 911 Targa 4S. The Targa 4 version is powered by a 3.6-litre flat-six engine developing maximum output of 345 bhp (254 kW) and giving the car a top speed of 176 mph. The power unit featured in the Targa 4S displaces 3.8-litres, developing maximum output of 385 bhp (283 kW), and accelerates this outstanding sports car to a top speed of 185 mph.

Innovative glass sliding roof
The visual highlight of the 911 Targa remains the distinctive 1.54-square metre glass roof made up of two segments; the elegant sliding roof above the occupants and the versatile top-hinged tailgate. When opened completely, the roof slides beneath the tailgate within seven seconds to offer an open space above the passenger compartment of 0.45 square metres. The sliding roof comes as standard with a new electrically-controlled sun-blind, which offers increased shading than that fitted previously. When closed, this spans the entire area of the sliding roof, and can be opened and closed independently of the roof itself. The glass roof and the tailgate are manufactured from specially-treated glass designed to deflect the sun’s glare, thereby protecting the occupants even in bright sunshine from UV radiation and excessive heat.

Porsche Traction Management (PTM)
As their designation implies, the 911 Targa 4 and Targa 4S remain exclusively available with four-wheel drive. For the new generation models, the all-wheel drive is now provided via electronically-controlled Porsche Traction Management (PTM), which replaces the viscous multiple-plate clutch arrangement fitted previously. The superior PTM system was first developed for the 911 Turbo and has been modified for the Targa models. The transmission delivers an even higher level of driving stability, traction and agility, further enhanced by the mechanical limited slip differential also now fitted as standard to the rear axle.

PTM feeds exactly the right amount of engine torque in each situation through an electronically-controlled multiple-plate clutch to the front wheels, supplementing the flow of power to the rear wheels. Combined with the highly dynamic PTM control system, this clutch precisely delivers a distribution of power and torque to the front and rear axles as road and driving conditions change. With the previous viscous clutch, up to 40 per cent of torque could be directed to the front axle. In contrast, the new electronically-controlled PTM system delivers an infinitely variable torque split, and is able to distribute up to 100 per cent of traction to the front or rear wheels.

PTM provides a faster and more precise transmission of power in all driving situations, and this offers not only excellent stability at high speeds, but also increases further the level of responsiveness of the car to the driver.

New engines with Direct Fuel Injection (DFI)
The 911 Targa 4 models share their all-new flat-six engines with Direct Fuel Injection (DFI) with the sister models in the next generation 911 line-up. With the launch of the new 911 Carrera model series, Porsche is introducing direct fuel injection in the company’s range of sports cars. The advantages are an increase in engine power by up to 8.5 per cent, a reduction in fuel consumption by 11.2 per cent, and a decrease in CO2 emissions by 13.6 per cent, depending on the respective model and its features. Specifically, output of the 3.6-litre power unit is up by 20bhp to 345 bhp (254 kW). The improvements on the 911 Targa 4S with its 3.8-litre power unit are equally significant, with maximum output up by 30bhp to 385 bhp (283 kW).

The driver benefits from a further advantage of direct injection every time he touches the throttle pedal: with fuel being injected fractions of a second prior to combustion, the engines respond more directly and spontaneously to even the slightest movement of the driver’s right foot. This is not only the case when accelerating, but also when lifting off the throttle, for engine speed drops more quickly and smoothly since there is no residual fuel left in the intake manifold which might otherwise prolong the combustion process.

Depending on engine load and speed, fuel is injected into the combustion chamber at a pressure of 120 bar. The big advantage is that unlike conventional intake manifold injection, direct fuel injection serves to form the fuel/air mixture directly in the combustion chamber. This better mixes the air and fuel in the cylinder, establishing an important prerequisite for clean and complete combustion. This ensures the ‘homogeneous’ operation of the power unit with a consistent balance of the fuel/air mixture in the combustion chamber at all times and under all running conditions. Such smooth operation guarantees optimum combustion and maintains low emissions, across a range of fuel qualities.

Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK)
The new generation 911 Targa 4 and 4S are available for the first time with the new Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK), literally Porsche double-clutch gearbox. Offering no less than seven forward gears, the new gearbox combines the driving comfort of a torque converter-equipped automatic transmission with the dynamic manual gearshift functionality of a sequential racing gearbox. PDK also boasts an entirely automatic gearshift function, and replaces the Porsche Tiptronic S automatic transmission offered previously. Through its optimised and adaptive gearshift programmes, PDK further improves the acceleration of the 911 and reduces fuel consumption to an even lower level.

In principle, the PDK consists of a conventional manual gearbox and a hydraulic control system divided into two separate transmission units. Two wet clutches in radial arrangement, controlled hydraulically, and using oil for both cooling and lubrication, form the heart of the transmission. One clutch is for the first transmission unit with the uneven gear ratios (1,3,5,7) and reverse, and the other clutch is for the second transmission unit with the even gears (2,4,6). Via a number of pressure valves, the hydraulic control unit masterminds both the wet clutches and the shift cylinders activating the transmission ratio required.

The gearshift perceived by the driver comes not from the gears actually changing, but from the change of positive clutch engagement. In this case, the clutch on one transmission opens or disengages while the clutch on the other transmission closes or engages in a simultaneous process. The big advantage is an even faster gearshift than with a conventional manual gearbox or torque converter automatic transmission. The gears are already ‘in mesh’ when shifting and the power of the engine need not be interrupted in the process.

PDK also reduces to a minimum transmission power loss courtesy of the high standard of mechanical efficiency in the double-clutch, and this manifests itself in fuel economy improvements of approximately 13 per cent compared with a conventional Tiptronic S transmission. PDK also offers an advantage in terms of weight – despite two additional gears, it weighs 10kg less than Tiptronic S.

To use the various functions of the double-clutch transmission, the driver can either shift gears by means of sliding toggles on the spokes of the new steering wheel, or via the new gear selector lever. The driver can press forwards to shift the gears up, and press them from behind to shift downwards. Alternatively, pushing the gear selector lever forwards shifts up a gear, and pulling it back shifts down. The option of PDK costs £2,338.

This PDK gearshift principle was first developed by Porsche for motor sport 25 years ago. Porsche works drivers benefiting from this technology were able to accelerate faster than their competitors and keep both hands on the steering wheel while changing gears, thus avoiding even the slightest distraction while shifting.

The seven-speed PDK shifts gears up to 60 per cent faster than a conventional automatic transmission, and naturally, gives the new 911 Targa models even better performance.

For example, with the manual six-speed gearbox, the 911 Targa 4 accelerates to 62mph (100km/h) in 5.2 secs and the even more powerful S-model completes the same exercise in 4.9 secs. The optional Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe shifts gears even faster to set an even higher standard, the 3.6-litre Targa 4 with PDK accelerating to 62mph in exactly 5.0 secs, the Targa 4S offering an even faster and more dynamic 4.7 secs.

And those in search of optimum driving dynamics have the option to combine PDK with Sport Chrono Package Plus, now featuring Launch Control.

Evolutionary Styling
As with the second generation 911 models series overall, these latest 911 Targa models are distinguished by the discreet modification of the nose and tail and the use of new lighting technology. All 911 Carrera models feature, as standard, bi-xenon headlights and new LED daytime driving lights. Dynamic Cornering Lights are available as an option.

Like the 911 Carrera 4 and 4S models, the Targa 4 and 4S is 44mm, or 1.73”, wider across the rear wheel arches than the two-wheel drive 911. Further definition and character is added courtesy of a new reflective trim that spans the width between the LED rear lights.

Porsche Communication Management (PCM)
Inside the 911, the new Porsche Communication Management (PCM) centre console with its larger, touch-sensitive screen improves operation of the audio system and optional satellite navigation to an even higher standard. And a further important point is that PCM is now compatible with Bluetooth, USB and iPod requirements.

The second generation Porsche 911 Targa 4 models go on sale in Great Britain and Ireland on October 25. The Targa 4 Coupe 3.6-litre is priced from £72,980, and the Targa 4S Coupe 3.8-litre is priced from £80,270.

Fitted to every 911 is a Porsche Vehicle Tracking System (VTS), a sophisticated vehicle security package approved to Thatcham Category 5 standard, and customers will also be able to explore the potential of their new car on a Porsche Driving Experience course.

BMW M1 Hommage Concept: new official photo gallery

Posted in BMW

At the most recent Concorso d’Eleganza at the Villa d’Este on Lake Como, BMW showed off its splendid M1 Hommage Concept for the first time. The future is still uncertain for this prototype, which was created to give tribute to the 30 year anniversary of the 1978 sports car.

Directly from Munich these new shots have arrived, that still demonstrate the perfect combination of style with some vintage touch. Enjoy.