The year's coming to an end and it caps off a great 10 plus months for me in driving the newest cars injected into the market in 2009.
But looking back, it just makes me realise how somewhat 'traditional' the local market is, that brands like Skoda and Renault have been given the coldest of shoulders when buying a car. And it's even more troubling that apart from the usual suspects of impression makers like Audi and Volkswagen, Skoda was actually the other brand that stood out from the rest.
Yes yes I know they're owned by VW and nearly the whole car besides the glued badge at the front and rear are from it's German parents, but if that's the case, why is it that Skoda isn't doing better or as good as Vee-dub? In a recent article in the Straits Times, a compiled list showed that VW posted a 99.5% increase in their sales figures from a year ago, while Skoda didn't make the list.
I did ask a couple of friends and the words that came up the most in their responses were Russian, plastics are cheap and they might break down more often than most other cars. What they forgot to mention though were the issues with selling a Skoda on the second-hand car market, a genuine concern when buying a less popular brand.
No doubt it's a huge market, but no one is really looking for a Skoda are they. And even if they were, the owner would be hard-pressed to sell their car at a price much lower than he/she would have liked. A recent visit down to the (empty) Skoda Showroom scattered with salesmen yielded no solution to my resale woes when posed with the very question of "How ah? This one can resell easy anot?".
When I took the Skoda VRS Combi out for a spin a couple of months back, it felt like a GTI in a slightly larger body. Not a bad thing considering the punchy and raucous engine felt more than sufficient moving the added weight of the combi around corners and on straights. The chassis was amazing, built on the GTI itself and paired up to the DSG box, made for 5 hours of driving fun that I haven't had in a while.
For Renault...how many people actually know the French car-maker is tied up so close to Nissan, they more or less own each other.
So is there a prevalent sentiment within our car buying culture that instantly rules certain brands out without much care for consideration? But what's your say? Why do you think its such?
This is Audi's idea of a teaser shot of their upcoming subcompact A1. While most automakers like to shroud the car in a sea of black with just the headlights on, or drape a cloth over the entire body to reveal just the grille, Audi have decided to vandalise walls.
The teaser shot doesn't say very much; the signature Audi front grille seems very much unchanged except at the edges, a prominent front end and Audi's bold design is nothing new. To me its like they were more interested in seeing the graffiti artist paint the thing rather than actually show the world what their new A1 could look like. Theres even a video!
Nonetheless, this Audi is set "to repeat the success that we have enjoyed with the A3 in the compact segment. With the A1, we
The king of compact luxury sedan is set to be reborn in about 2 years' time. Expect exceptional aerodynamics with a Cd figure of around 0.24. Turbocharged units will be in full circulation at BMW by the time the new 3 Series hits the streets. We may see a 1.5L three-cylinder petrol turbo engine delivering about 150hp (112kW) while their diesel counterparts are likely to offer around 300Nm of torque. The 8-speed automatic gearbox that makes its debut in the 7 Series will find its way into the upcoming 3 series.
My personal opinion is that BMW is making a wise move to downsize the engine capacity and employing turbocharging technology to compensate for lower capacity. This is going to be an industrial trend. Just look at the success story of VW's 1.4 TSI units that have won numerous awards over the past couple of years. Ford has just introduced their 1.6L Ecoboost turbo powerplants and Hyundai group is set to release their 1.6L Turbo engines in 2010 too.
Such a move by automakers benefit a market like Singapore whereby road tax are tied to engine size. In addition, a lower capacity engine usually implies better fuel efficiency.
From the video, the outline of the new 3 series appeared rather conservative. I hope that it will not end up looking like a baby 5 series and has it's unique styling clues. This is vital in order to take on it's good looking competitors such as the Alfa 159, Audi A4 and Lexus IS250.
If you haven't been keeping up with the news lately, Malaysia just started a new rule for foreign registered cars. From today onwards, foreign registered cars will not be allowed to pump more than 20 litres of petrol within 50 kilometres of border areas. Put a cap on those tear ducts because it's not all that bad.
Unless the Malaysian authorities have found a way to measure the amount of petrol you've pumped, you can just easily pump 20 litres at this petrol station then go on to the rest to top off your tank. Assuming you're that determined. True that it's an inconvenience but only a minor one for those looking for half-priced petrol. Be warned though. If you're caught flouting this rule, there'll be a heavy price to pay. Literally, in the region of RM$100,000. I'm sure corrupt Malaysian officials will be having a field day with this one for a while to come.
Personally though, I think the Malaysian government (as usual) are implementing a rule that's going to end up shooting themselves in the foot. Considering that border towns like Johore are going to feel a steep drop in revenue with Singaporeans finding less reasons to drive up North. It's not unlikely that the Malaysian government won't reverse this rule if they suddenly find it unpopular with the locals and (most definitely) foreigners.
Unfortunately, there is some confusion regarding this new rule. Some are misinterpreting it and assume that the Malaysian government expects Singaporean cars to leave JB with only 20 litres of petrol in their tanks. Does it mean the excess fuel has to be siphoned out of the tank and burned? The more prudent motorists out there would understand that this rule only limits the amount of petrol you can buy before re-entering Singapore.
Nevertheless this is a dark day for those who frequent the North for a quick pitstop. It's just a shame my little Swift never got a chance to sip half-priced petrol. Sigh...
For those who are considering the latest Toyota Wish that was recently launched from Borneo Motors, there might be some things you should take note before you sign on that cheque book.
Although the Borneo Motors (BM) Wish does come with seemingly better interior equipment, when you go chassis deep, it might be a different story.
The BM Wish might come with higher quality leather and a high-end audio system but transmission wise, it is equipped with a 4-speed automatic while the Toyota Wish 1.8X from the Parallel Importers (PI) is equipped with a silky smooth 7-speed CVT gearbox.
The engine in the BM Wish might have a higher capacity but it produces less horsepower than the PI Wish. The torque figures are a little higher though not significantly so. The 200cc difference in capacity has a great impact on the Wish
Here's a first look at the revised Nissan Qashqai, launched about 3 years ago. Most of the cosmetic changes concern the front end. Such as the hood, bumper, fenders, grille and headlights to give it a more aggressive look.
There are also two new exterior colors, revised tail lights with LED technology, and newly designed 17-inch alloy wheels. Better quality materials can be expected with improved NVH levels. The engine lineup remains unchanged.
I took a look at the Qashqai when it was officially launched by Tan Chong Motors. There was a lack of steering mounted controls back then, which seems abit strange since this feature can be found in much cheaper Korean models. In addition, an extra pair of side airbags wouldn't hurt either. I hope that these points will be addressed when the revised Qashqai makes it's debut in the Lion city.
Bridgestone just launched their new flagship touring tyre, the Turanza GR-90, in Bangkok. The GR-90 is the successor to the critically acclaimed GR-80. Touring tyres are essentially comfort biased.
The GR-90 has Intelligently designed rounded corners, combined with ideal construction rigidity to provide superior handling over a wide range of roads. The tread design features rows of low and high-angle winding grooves and flexible construction to deliver outstanding traveling dynamics and better water dispersion. This leads to a higher level of safety and comfort.
The GR-90 proved to be incredibly silent on rough road conditions as compared to the GR-80 at the media launch.
My Civic 2.0 used to run on a set of GR-80 some 3.5 years ago. The tyres are decent with acceptable grip and good comfort level. My only complaint about the GR-80 is the soft sidewall, making the front tyres appear under inflated even though I pumped up to 250 kPa. I hope that the GR-90 will come with a stiffer sidewall.
This will probably be the coolest looking 'environmentally friendly' Lamborghini the world has ever seen. Its a concept of the new Lamborghini Madura which is scheduled to be Lamborghini's first ever supercar attempt to please tree-huggers. Its downsized, sophisticated aerodynamic slimmer body means that the Madura is slated to be more environmentally friendly than its other fuel guzzling counterparts.
Known as the Lamborghini Ankonian concept, this mid-engine supercar features special OLEDs which have been flushed between the bodywork to act as headlamps, And this Lamborghini, as with all Lambos, is as bold and aggressive as ever. Even the name Ankonian, orginates from a bull famous for black hair.
The man who designed it, Slavche Tanevsky, clearly had his eye on creating the next Batmobile.. This revolutionary design looks to bring Lamborghini's styling department up to a whole new level, making this one even more radical than the Reventon.
Hopefully this car will be released as shown by 2016 because I must say, this car looks absolutely stunning..
There was always a group of people who thought the Audi R8 looked a little odd, disproportionate, and boring when put side by side with its cousin the Lamborghini Gallardo. It drives brilliantly, has a Lamborghini engine but those blokes still thought, nah.. its still just an Audi.
I think Audi has silenced those critics with this one.
The Audi R8 Spyder is simply gorgeous with a much better looking side profile without those 'awful' carbon fibre blades. Instead, they have been replaced by sharp slabs which cut into the Spyder's side with the air vents exposed, slightly reminiscent of the Lamborghini Gallardo.
Another problem with the R8 hardtop is that the engine's a little quiet when you are embraced by Audi's excellent insulation materials. Now though, you can fully enjoy the soundtrack of the Lamborghini-sourced 525bhp 5.2 litre V10. The soft top takes just 19 seconds to transform the Audi into a raging animal and even though the Spyder is 476 pounds heavier than the coupe, it still manages to hit 100km/h in 4 seconds. This car is mental!
And it's not just all show on the exterior and no go when it comes to the interior. Audi say that the leather for the seats are coloured with pigments that reflect the infra-red components of sunlight which makes the seats 20 degrees Celsius cooler...
With that kind of attention to detail, it can only be German.
Mercedes-Benz is completing the E-Class family with the introduction of a convertible model that will replace the outgoing CLK drop top. It will compete head on with the BMW 3-Series and Audi A5 cabriolets.
Unique to the 2010 E-Class Convertible is a retractable wind spoiler located on top of the front windshield. Called an 'Aircap', the system works in conjunction with a rear deflector to help to direct wind over the passenger compartment. The convertible also gets an electrically operated fabric roof instead of a retractable hardtop.
The entry level petrol lineup is the 184HP E200 CGI found in the latest E-Class Sedan. Other powerplants include the 204HP E250 CGI, the 292HP E350 CGI and the top-of-the line E 500 with a 388HP V8 engine.
Cabriolet lovers in Singapore, get your cheque books ready!
If the success of the latest Kia Cerato Forte has caught the attention of the Japanese, they better be well prepared for the next assault in the form of the all new 2011 Hyundai Elantra (or Avante in our Singapore Market).
The coupe-like roofline of the new Elantra echoes the design philosophy of the new Sonata. Expect the new Elantra to be powered by a new 1.6-litre gasoline direct injection engine, mated to the group's latest six-speed automatic transmission.
Certain Japanese 1.6-litre (or even 2.0-litre) models still employ a four-speed automatic gearbox. I hope that the rise of the Koreans will give them a wake up call.
Here's the official brochure of the new Honda CR-Z, hailed as the successor to the CRX of the late 1980s.
The brochure confirms that the CR-Z's hybrid drivetrain will comprise of a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol unit and an electric motor, with power being transferred to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. The petrol engine delivers an output of 113bhp at 6,000rpm and a peak torque of 145Nm at 4,800 rpm. The electric motor, on the other hand, delivers 13.4bhp at 1,500rpm and 78Nm at 1,000rpm.
As a result, the CR-Z performs the century sprint in a rather relaxed timing of 9.7 seconds. The published fuel consumption is 25.0km/L. Those who are expecting the CR-Z to be a CRX replacement would be disappointed with the performance of the car. Nonetheless, this is the most stylish hybrid car to date.
Alfa's car christening department has gone a little mad.
First, with their MiTo, now the Giulietta. Bringing back the illustrious and beautiful name from the 70s.
I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I think the name is brilliant! It's just a feeling that they were trying a little too hard with the Mito. But the Guilietta.. that sounds fantastico!
The 147's replacement will be showcased at the 2010 Geneva Motor show and this will only be available with 5 doors. So obviously it's meant for people like me who like hot hatches. This is definitely one. Just look at it! Its trademark Alfa triangular grille and those headlamps which are slightly reminiscent of the Alfa Romeo 8C (like the Mito), only better looking.
And those gorgeous rims... a la Mercedes SLR. This car in white is the current hatchback killer. Boring Golf step aside...
It's going to be available with 4 turbo engines, most notably the 170bhp 1.4l Multi-Air petrol engine. The car will also come with lots of electronic gadgetry: Electronic stability control, Dynamic steering torque and the new DNA selector from the Mito.
So that's quite a lot of kit for a car this size with a 5 star NCAP safety rating.
Can't wait for it.
Prepare some tissue paper. Just in case you start drooling..
This one is definitely a looker.
Normally you'd see a middle aged man who suddenly realises that he has a wad of cash in his back pocket and doesn't know what to spend it on. Strangely, a Maserati would appear in his garage the next day. Maseratis are the relatively cheaper alternatives to the Ferraris and the Lambos. The problem is, while people in their 20s and 30s buy the Horses and the Bulls, the Trident badge is neglected! I don't really know why. Maybe its because they have the 4 door Quatroportte in their line-up which sort of gives Maserati the 'family-super-car' image. This however, casts that stereotype away. Far far away...
This is the GranCabrio. And as you can see, its based on the Gran Turismo. That's a good thing. Its powered by a 4.7l V8 which has 434 horses at the touch of your right toes. 0-100km/h in 5.4s, not bad. Could be better but who cares! Just look at it.. I have a niggling feeling that the engineers must have calculated that if the GranCabrio accelerated any faster, men toupes would struggle driving this car with its top down.. if you know what i mean.
It seats 4 human beings as well. So they claim. I never like to believe. You'd need to have children with legs the width of chopsticks and the length of pig's trotters to ever fit in cars like these. But no matter. This seats 4.
Hope your saliva didn't spoil your keyboard.
This is what happens to a car when its owner has too much money and hails from the land of Ricola sweets.
The Mclaren SLR alone costs a bomb, US$495,000 to be exact. This incredibly garish, pimped out SLR on the other hand costs US$4.5 million on top of the base price because of its 24 carat gold accents. It is all thanks to Swiss designer Ueli Anliker. The Mclaren now looks more like a Pussycat Doll's handbag than a car..
Check out the plush gold seats and trim.. This car has more bling than Snoop Dog and Jay Z combined. Its just hideous! The potential best-Mercedes-of-all-time SLR has been catastrophically transformed into an orgy of red and gold, I cringe at the sight of it.
From Classic Silver...
to Ridiculous Red.
And when you look at the man behind the 'Mclaren SLR 999', you'd understand why its all red and gold.. He probably just wanted to match his red jeans and his gal's gold outfit.
No wonder the Swiss haven't invented a car.
VW has announced today that they've bought a 19.9% stake in Japanese carmaker Suzuki.
I think it's brilliant. Suzuki, as of recently, has been churning out cars that have actually been worth the mention like the Swift which have a few awards in it's pockets and even the SX4 which handles like a dream. Both companies will be sharing their tech knowledge and working together on things like fuel-efficient and low-emission vehicle technologies. I'm quite excited with this prospect...with such a relation, I'm sure Suzuki is going to find a way in improving their cars build and fittings quality, getting them one-up on the competitors in Japan like Honda and Toyota and also in overseas market.
This is a continuing expansion for VW, after having rode the turbulent waves of the economical instability better than it's major competitors, even taking over Toyota as the largest auto maker some months back.
A little trivia I stumbled upon: Did you know Suzuki held the number 1 spot in the local (Japan) mini car segment for more than 30 years! Daihatsu snatched that away 2 years ago though.
Spyshots of the 2010 BMW M3 facelift were posted onto the web last week. If you were expecting those aggressive looking contour lines that appeared on the hood of the 2009 BMW 3 series sedans, you can forget it. The Bavarian manufacturer didn't bother with those. The flagship M3 only received minor changes to its front bumper and a new LED tail-light arrangement. Most changes were made on the inside with better trim, improved iDrive system and better interior lighting.
BMW designers seem to be picking up a thing or two from the people at Porsche...haha
It's only been a couple a months since Chris Bangle, infamous for designing what everyone dubbed "bangle butt" on the BMW series of vehicles, left the famed German company. Since then Adrian van Hooydonk has been hard at work slimming the profiles and softening up the lines on their cars.
A beautiful example of their hard work is in their new 5 Series. The team has kept the looks of the car in-line with their current 3 Series, but predictably stretched, certainly staying true to how they used to be designed back in the days.
Check out this photo! Tell me that doesn
If you've kept up with the papers recently, you would've probably read about the flash floods that've occurred in the Bukit Timah prime district area. Flood waters reached knee-level and some cars were even fully submerged beneath the murky waters.
It's hardly surprising but nevertheless traumatic to hear some exotic cars falling victim to the flood. A barely month-old Ferrari F430 was reported to have been completely submerged in the Tessarina condominium carpark.
This comes only weeks after watching a video of a Bugatti Veyron plunging into a lake somewhere in the States. It