Who says performance cars need to come with a sporty ride? Last week we tested the BMW Alpina B5 to see if Alpina's take on the performance saloon is a viable alternative to the BMW M5.
So what sets this Alpina apart?
Firstly, the interior has received a host of luxurious touches to set it apart from the regular 5-series: The digital dashboard in the B5 has its own Alpina-specific design and colour scheme, for example, while the handcrafted Alpina steering wheel is made of Lavalina leather (the same leather used in Rolls-Royce cars), and features blue/green stitching.
But what truly sets this car apart from the rest of the performance saloon pack is what is underneath you: With a suspension designed to deliver comfort and refinement in spades, the Alpina is not just comfortable, but sublimely comfortable.
Adding to the comfortable cruise is the fact that the B5 is joyously easy-going to drive, with the lightest of pressure on the accelerator sending the car wafting rapidly down the road.
With the abundance of humps and rumble strips on our local roads, would Alpina's take on the performance saloon, with its effortless and classy character, be a better suit for your everyday commute? Read our full review here!
After its world premiere in India last year, the 2014 Honda City made its Asian debut in Thailand recently. They will receive a total of six different variants starting from 550,000baht(S$21,000) for the base model which is fitted with a five-speed manual transmission. For those who want some convenience, they can opt for the new seven-speed CVT transmission which is said to improve efficiency and effectively replaces the old five-speed automatic.
The new City gets a mildly improved 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine which churns out 120bhp and 145Nm of torque. Changes to the engine include a tweaked i-VTEC system, friction reduction (low tension oil seal, zigzag piston pattern coating) and weight reduction via an integrated resin intake manifold.
Like its rival, the Vios, the 2014 Honda City also grew in terms of wheelbase length to improve its interior space. An increase of 50mm allows it to match the Nissan Almera’s wheelbase while overall length is just 25mm longer than the previous model.
The Thailand-market City gets a seven-inch multimedia system which supports Bluetooth and other media connectivity features. An interesting feature for the 2014 Honda City is its touch-enabled automatic climate control system which is quite similar to Lexus’s IS saloon. It now also gets rear air-con vents which will prove useful in our country.
Other niceties include keyless entry, push-start ignition and multi-function steering wheel with paddles shifters. Some of the cars with higher specifications will feature six airbags, VSA stability control, Hill Start Assist and a multi-angle rear view camera that allows you to adjust up to three different levels.
To those who are keen on the car, expect the 2014 Honda City to reach our shores in the second quarter of this year.
Conventional wisdom tells us that public transport is more efficient than private transport. Transport executives and urban planners will rattle off data in support of this, citing, for instance, that it would take around 30 cars – with an average of two occupants per vehicle – to equal the capacity of a single-deck bus. And of course, the road space taken up by those 30 cars is much more compared to one bus. Common sense also tells us that the argument holds true.
If you do a search on the Net, you will also find many counter-arguments, with most of them citing the low occupancy rate of public buses. But these arguments hinge on national figures in fairly large countries, with a mix of rural and urban bus operations.
And averages often tell a strange tale. For instance, the average occupancy of public buses in the UK in 2005 was nine. Obviously, a full-sized bus with the capacity for 60 to 70 passengers isn’t going to be very efficient with only nine aboard. It is worse if you factor in the fuel consumption of a full-sized city bus (2.5km to 3km per litre). Against these numbers, the car makes a lot more sense.
How will the argument pan out in a highly built-up city state such as Singapore, though? If we go by persistent complaints of crowdedness by commuters, it would seem the asset utilisation of bus fleets here is much higher. Therefore, we can infer that public transport is more efficient than private cars on this sunny island.
But is it true? Based on our calculations, it is only the case during peak hours, when buses are generally operating close to full capacity. In off-peak periods, buses have an occupancy level of as low as 20 per cent.
Let us look at averages, then. According to the Land Transport Authority, the average bus trip is 4.5km (2011 data). The average number of trips a leading bus company here caters to is 2.6 million a day. Over a year, it caters to 949 million trips, and it uses 130 million to 140 million litres of diesel.
To work out the average fuel efficiency of each trip, multiply the annual trips by average trip distance (4.5km) and you will get 4.27 billion km. Divide that by 135 million litres and you will get 31.6km/L. That is efficient, if compared to the average fuel efficiency of an average car with a single occupant (10km/L, according to LTA data).
But what if you have two or more occupants per car? The equation becomes vastly different, even if you factor in an average three per cent increase in fuel consumption per additional occupant. If you have four occupants, the car effectively becomes more fuel-efficient than the bus.
If you drive a thrifty petrol-electric hybrid like the Toyota Prius, you will need only two occupants in the car to match the fuel efficiency of a bus.
But the truth is that not every car here is a Prius, and quite often, it has only one or two occupants. So, the answer to improving the fuel efficiency of driving is to either car-pool or choose a fuel-efficient model like the Prius. What about road space? Even with four people per car, we would need 17 cars to match the capacity of a single-deck bus, or around 30 cars to match the ferrying capacity of a double-decker or bendy bus.
Well, cars do not have to travel a fixed route or stick to a fixed schedule like buses, although the state of peak-hour traffic seems to suggest that they do. They can spread out over space and time. And if they do, they will contribute far less to congestion.
For cars to be able to spread out over space and time more effectively, we’d essentially require two things: flexible working hours and decentralised urban planning. Singapore currently has neither. It would take years to change the culture to facilitate the former, and decades of innovative town planning to make the latter happen.
One last thought: Can Singapore’s population of about 610,000 cars cater to the total 3.4 million bus trips that commuters make a day? With technology and a willingness to share, yes. Singapore’s car population clocks a cumulative 12.2 billion km a year – more than double the total mileage clocked by bus commuters.
It is conceivable that half of this 12.2 billion km is travelled in cars occupied by only one or two persons. With a system similar to car-sharing schemes such as Car2go, Zipcar and DriveMyCar, it is possible to match the underutilised car capacity with demand from bus commuters. But until then, buses will continue to fulfil a vital role in our land transport landscape.
This article was written by Christopher Tan, consulting editor for Torque.