Next Volkswagen Polo could get the Scirocco treatment



As reported previously, Volkswagen is about to undergo a design renaissance that puts a premium on simplicity, style and, apparently, more Scirocco design cues. According to AutoExpress, the first model to benefit from Walter Da'Silva's new dictum is the 5th generation Polo, which is expected to go on sale sometime next year sporting a new front end inspired by the recently released Scirocco.

The new model is based off the PQ25 small car platform that currently underpins the SEAT Ibiza. As such, the dimensions will remain, but the interior will be larger and will include upmarket materials, soft-touch surfaces, a Scirocco-inspired dash, MP3 inputs, Bluetooth connectivity and the possibility of a sat-nav docking station that allows portable units to be removed on the go.

A range of gasoline and diesel mills, including 1.4- and 1.6-liter FSI fours, a supercharged, 138 hp 1.4-liter and a 168 hp GTI version, will provide motivation and all models will have the option of being fitted with VW's new seven-speed DSG. Expect three- and five-door models to be released at launch and then joined by a coupe-cabrio version sometime in 2010.

Dacia unveils the New Logan




Hot on the heels of the new Sandero five-door hatch, Dacia has unveiled a redesign of the cheap, little car that started it all for the offshoot of Renault, the Logan. Now dubbed the New Logan, Dacia's inexpensive four-door economy car gets spruced up on the outside with a new front fascia inspired by the Sandero, as well as additional chrome brightwork on some models. While just an evolutionary upgrade of the Logan's original four-year-old design, the mid-cycle refresh is well timed as the Logan line has now grown to include a pickup and now a hatchback. The interior has also been upgraded to include the new dash introduced in the Sandero, and we expect the new looks inside and out to make their way to the Logan Pickup, as well. There aren't really any mechanical upgrades of note, except the inclusion of the Sandero's new Emergency Brake Assist function, but what do you expect for a base price of €7,400?

Artega GT priced at €75k



As production ramps up on the impossibly gorgeous Artega GT, parent company Paragon has announced that the compact sportscar will sell for €74,983 across the pond. The pricing makes it compelling competition for a well-equipped (and similarly proportioned) Porsche Cayman S. As we previously reported, final assembly is scheduled to begin this summer at a rate of two per day, ramping up to 20 per week for a total production run of just 500 vehicles.

Among those will be a right-hand-drive model for the UK market, as Artega establishes a British dealer base. The vehicle initially unveiled as a concept in Geneva 2007 and in production form a year later is powered by a mid-mounted, Volkswagen-sourced 3.6-liter V6 coupled to a DSG transmission. 300 horsepower driving the rear wheels is all that's needed to propel the Fisker-designed (think BMW Z8 and a handful of Aston Martins along with his own line of coach-built SLs and M6s and the Karma hybrid super-sedan) to 100 km/h (62 mph) in less than five seconds.

We're still waiting to see if Artega will go through the pains of homologating the GT for the U.S. market, but a convertible version is said to be in the works. Until then, we invite you to feast your eyes on the images in the galleries below.

Alfa Romeo wants 2nd-gen 8C based on Ferrari California by 2010



When Alfa Romeo announced it was actually building the 8C Competizione, we had but to applaud. The automaker slashed its own marketing budget to finance the car's manufacturing, justifying that the halo supercar would do more for the brand's image than any television ad ever could. (Then they did it again with the Spider version.) Right they were, and we wish more automakers would think that way. The latest reports indicate that Alfa Romeo is following its own example, so while CEO Luca de Meo campaigns within the Fiat hierarchy for an even more hard-core version to wear the vaunted GTA badge, some of his subordinates are thinking a step ahead towards the 8C's successor.

The current 8C is based on an aging Maserati platform – not unlike the resuscitating Aston Martin DB7 that was based on old Jaguar underpinnings. However, strategists within Alfa Romeo want to see its successor based on the new Ferrari California, trading in the input of one sister company for another. While they realize it will be an uphill battle – one which could come down to Fiat chairman and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemelo's decision – to get Ferrari to agree to the proposal, Alfa Romeo is reportedly keen to get the project off the ground and get the second-generation sportscar ready within the next two years to celebrate Alfa's centennial in 2010.

Gas prices rise along with interest in motorcycles




As you may have noticed, we've been featuring more two-wheeled content lately as interest in motorcycles and scooters has risen rather dramatically along with the increase in fuel prices. While we can appreciate the reduced cost of operation that sometimes goes along with choosing a motorcycle over four-wheeled transport, the enjoyment some of us get from bikes easily eclipses our desire to save at the pump. After all, this particular blogger has been riding since the days of buck-a-gallon gas. Still, the growing trend of drivers dropping half their wheels in the name of gas conservation deserves close examination and has even caught the attention of Consumer Reports. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the group has found that a staggering 26-percent of respondents have considered downsizing from four wheels to two. According to CR, their team is intently studying this two-wheeled phenomenon in an effort to become acquainted with the products on the market, how often they are ridden and the newly-found fuel savings of their riders.

Cars.com releases revised American-made index



Cars.com has updated its American Made Index, and the list has flip-flopped some models right off, while others have hopped onto the top ten. Cars.com uses the parts origin information from the window sticker, along with the location the vehicle is manufacture at and sales numbers to determine which vehicles have the most US-based content. Ford's F150 and Explorer are the chocolate wafer to the rest of the list's cream filling, sandwiching everyone else between their respective #1 and #10 rankings. General Motors has the most vehicles in the top ten list, with the quartet of Cobalt, Malibu, G6, and Silverado 1500. Not surprisingly, Toyota's Tundra, built in Indiana and Texas, makes the grade at #5. Chrysler's Sebring is that company's only placing on the list, though even the same generation of a particular model can place high one year and fall off the next as automakers juggle OEMs and running changes. If sales of light trucks continue their precipitous fall, the AMI may look radically different the next time around. Four of the ten are body-on-frame trucks, and there's also a pair of minivans, all set to suffer in sales as buyers start to move en masse to more efficient vehicles.

Will green-car buyers bite at Porsche’s high-speed hybrids?



CayenneHybrid.jpg

Among the rush of green car announcements at this week’s Detroit auto show, Porsche unveiled two new entries in the green car race. First, the German supercar maker announced a hybrid version of its Cayenne SUV, due in 2010 (photo above). Porsche also said that after its all-new Panamera ( a grand touring, 4-door sedan) debuts next year, a hybrid version will follow sometime after (see diagram below). There’s no price information as yet, but these models are likely to cost three, four or more times the cost of a Prius hybrid.

This news is likely to cause head scratching among both Porsche purists and green-car zealots. Few brands are more tightly married to the high-adrenaline, big-horsepower thrills of super-powerful gas engines than Porsche. So it’s fair to ask if the brand’s acolytes will be turned on by fast, gas-electric versions of the Cayenne or Panamera. On the opposite side of the green-car debate, critics argue that “greening” fundamentally low-mileage vehicles such as SUVs and sports cars is like dressing up a pig: they might look a bit better, but they’re still gas hogs.

Porsche’s product developers are no fools, of course, and are likely aiming for a sweet spot somewhere between these two perspectives. Porsche surprised market watchers with the success of its Cayenne SUV line, initially dismissed by loyalists. At the time, a heavy, SUV with a high center of gravity seemed like an odd addition to Porsche’s sports-car focused family. Yet the move proved genius, luring a generation of soccer-moms and -dads into a pricey vehicle that offered speed and styling edge unequaled in bland SUV-land. Sure it’s not a 911, but it’s way faster and more aggressive than the armadas of boxy SUVs plying America’s parking lots.

With its recent hybrid announcements, Porsche is headed into a trickier marketing minefield of hybrids. The mind of the hybrid buyer remains a mysterious set of overlapping, sometimes contradictory, preferences. Some green buyers are clearly motivated by gas savings, yet have been willing to pay more the virtue than the value of the gas it saves. This suggests green minded buyers will pay a premium for positive perception. It’s not far to scoff at this sort of prefence, as many skeptics of hybrids tend to do. Willingness to pay more for a brand image, no matter what you think, sits at foundation of capitalism. It’s no different than the way branded or luxury goods buyers are happy to pay more for a good with the same utility as a lower priced alternative. Sure, you can scoff at folks willing to pay $5 for toothpaste, $400 for jeans, $3,000 for shoes, or $50,000 for a watch when equally functional alternatives exist. But the brands behind these products are often lucrative, long lived, and understand sales psychology.

In this sense, Porsche may be starting from an advantaged position. The good news is that the Cayenne demographic -- rich folks who will pay a premium for the perception and possibility of speed, even if they seldom use it -- overlaps with buyers who have shown a proclivity to pay a premium for green cars. As evidence, consider strong sales of early generation hybrids such as the Prius. Even though the life-time cost of these vehicles was higher than gas models, the order backlogs kept growing. The bad news for Porsche is that early efforts at high-end hybrids -- which so far have offered only so-so efficiency gains – have delivered so-so sales, or worse. At $43,000 Lexus’ RX450h has done reasonably well. But at more than $100,000 --in a range where Porsche’s hybrids are likely to prowl -- Lexus’ LSh has been a disappointment.

Finding the just the right blend of mileage, speed and luxury is Porsche’s challenge. If the company can tweak its parallel-hybrid drive train to deliver the punchy acceleration Porsche buyers crave, while delivering in high mileage in normal driving mode, the company could have a real winner. Early technical details show that Porsche has developed a parallel hybrid, closer to GM’s design than to the serial approach pursued by Toyota. The technology is nicely written up over at Autocar.co.uk, have a look there for deeper details on the configuration.

If Porsche can deliver the 34 mpg it's aiming for in the Cayenne, I say more power 'em. This may not be a 45 mpg Prius, but if a fast hybrid lures more buyers to go green than would have have otherwise, it's a move in the right direction.

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Lotus Elise


Thanks to the addition of a supercharger, Lotus have produced the fastest most powerful Elise yet!

Lotus Elise Front


The entry-level Elise is no slouch, but that hasn’t stopped Lotus engineers from giving it a healthy dollop of extra performance, creating an all-new SC-badged edition.

Thanks to the addition of a supercharger, this is the fastest and most powerful Elise yet. However, the little Lotus has always been about fun rather than outright pace – so does the extra kick represent an improvement over lesser variants?

Priced £32,550, the SC is £4,000 more expensive than the 189bhp R, although the visual differences are only minor. Unique alloy wheels, a bespoke rear spoiler and large centre-mounted oval exhaust tailpipe help to distinguish the latest model.

There are even fewer extra frills inside, because the latest dashboard design, starter button and revamped instrument dials fitted to our SC are now stan­dard across the Elise line-up. Features include progressive change-up lights, which help the driver time gearshifts to perfection.

While changes to the appearance are limited, alterations to the perfor­mance are undeniably impressive. The sprint from 0-60mph has been reduced from 4.9 seconds in the R to only 4.4 seconds in the SC, and Lotus claims the newcomer covers 0-100mph in 10.7 seconds. The high-revving Toyota-sourced engine pulls strongly above 4,000rpm, and the only disappointment is the uninspiring exhaust note.

On the road, the handling is as entertaining as we’ve come to expect from the Elise, with lots of grip and bags of agility. The steering is excellent as well, while a set of slightly wider rear tyres help to deploy the additional power on tap. The supercharger improves the engine’s respon­ses low down in the rev range, making the SC more relaxing to drive.

For 2008, Lotus has simplified the options list for the Elise, as a result of which there are now only two packs on offer – the £2,000 Super Touring and the £1,500 Super Sport.

The former, which was fitted to the car we drove, brings luxuries such as leather upholstery, full carpeting and improved noise insulation. The Super Sport kit focuses more on boosting performance, so it includes sports sus­pension and traction control.

However, air-conditioning is still an expensive £1,000 extra, and Lotus will charge you the same again if you want the optional hard-top as well.



Increased power and torque have transformed the Elise into a faster and much more civilised machine. But the SC doesn’t come cheap – especially when you consider the talents of its less powerful stablemates.

Rival: Porsche Boxster


Few cars can match the SC’s price and performance, but when it comes to driving enjoyment, the first-rate Porsche Boxster is hard to fault. As well as being fast, fun and exquisitely built, the soft-top from Stuttgart is very refined.

KTM X-Bow


Radical sports car aims straight for the heart of the track day market with hi-tech design and extreme looks.

KTM X-Bow



Meet the outrageous sports car that’s taking aim at Lotus! This is the X-Bow, the first four-wheeled model from famed Austrian bike maker KTM.

Designed to face up to Brit favourites the Lotus 2-Eleven and Ariel Atom in the growing market for track day machines, the X-Bow – pronounced crossbow – is road legal and unlike anything else in the class.

The exposed frame shows that the KTM takes its styling inspiration from motorbikes, but serious car knowledge has been employed, too. The firm recruited the world’s biggest racing car maker – Italian firm Dallara – to develop the chassis, while the engine and gearbox come from Audi.

The result is a wonderfully simple and beautifully built product, at the heart of which lies a unique carbon fibre chassis. Using the same technology as found in racing cars, the composite tub forms a hugely stiff and rigid platform to which the suspension, rear sub-frame – including the engine and gearbox – and a front crash box are mounted.

This simple assembly means the X-Bow requires no welding or painting – and while you might not think it is attractive, the raw engineering is great to behold. The cockpit is roomy, and the fixed upright seating position fully adjustable thanks to an ingenious sliding pedal box and a steering wheel that adjusts for rake and reach. With all the controls on the steering wheel, plus an easy-to-read digital display, the cabin is spartan but functional.

Crucially, everything feels thoroughly well engineered and the controls are light and user-friendly. But don’t be fooled – this is a serious enthusiasts’ car that shuns modern intervention systems such as ABS, power-steering and traction control in the name of driving purity.

The version we drove had fully adjustable suspension to allow fine-tuning at the track. It was set up softly, and on the road the ride had a surprising amount of compliancy, while the carbon chassis cushioned the driver from vibration.

But it’s at the circuit that the X-Bow can be fully explored. Weighing only 790kg, the car’s 238bhp 2.0-litre T-FSI engine gives excellent straight-line performance, although the turbo unit is very quiet and somewhat lacking in character. In the corners the steering is light, communicative and direct. The handling is docile and forgiving, and thanks to plentiful grip you can really feel the G-forces through fast bends. KTM says that tightening the damper set-up increases composure even more, plus improves agility in the tighter bends.

With the optional limited-slip differential fitted traction is impressive, while the six-speed manual gearbox has a lovely accurate action, and the pedals are perfectly weighted.

Crucially in this market, the X-Bow is communicative and rewarding. Put simply, the more skilfully you drive it, the more it comes alive. And it’s this sense of undiluted fun that customers will love. Performance cars are getting heavier, more powerful, less fuel efficient and ever more remote, but the lightweight KTM is a toy which those lucky enough to have the time and money to drive will certainly enjoy.

Lotus Elise


Supercar thrills at supermini prices? That's what a surprisingly economical used Lotus Elise promises

Rear view of Lotus Elis

September 2005

Believe it or not, you can now buy a Lotus Elise for less than ΂£10,000! For that, you could have one of the best-handling cars ever on your driveway. Better still, surprising economy and reasonable running costs mean it shouldn't break the bank.

Using an advanced aluminium bonded chassis to save weight, the car is agile and follows company founder Colin Chapman's famous maxim of "Just add lightness" to the letter. Here we look at the original model, which featured an array of special editions during its four-year production span. Whichever you choose, they're all great to drive - and as capable on the track as on the road.

Checklist

  • Steering: typically, Elise steering racks wear out within 35,000 miles. Therefore it is vital to check for play in the system before you buy, to see if a new one is needed. If this is the case, it is a useful haggling point when buying second-hand.
  • Ball joints: the ball joints in the Lotus's front suspension usually wear out after only 35,000 miles, while dampers can last a mere 20,000 miles. Once these need replacing, the car's dynamics suffer badly, so get them checked.
  • Wheels: make sure that the alloy wheels haven't been damaged, as replacements are no longer available for the Series 1. Used or aftermarket items can be tracked down, though, and they look better than non-standard rims.
  • Brakes: discs wear surprisingly quickly if the car is driven hard. On the other hand, they rust if the vehicle isn't used very frequently. Either way, check the condition of these, as it is possible they will need renewing.
  • Coolant: keep an eye on the coolant level, as Elise radiators are prone to holing. The car's heater matrix also has a tendency to spring leaks, so you should look out for coolant spills in the footwell - they will be easy to spot.

Prices

Early Elises start at ΂£8,500 privately, while traders ask up to ΂£15,000 for a mint final Series 1. Pay ΂£13,000 for a 30,000-mile T-plate Elise 1.8 - add another ΂£1,000 for an equivalent 111S.

Other specials are harder to price, but Sport 135s, Sport 160s and the like should be ΂£12,000-΂£14,000 with 40,000-60,000 miles on the clock.

What to look for

Generally, the Elise isn't afflicted with blown head gaskets, which are common to most other 1.8 K Series-engined cars. Do get an HPI check, though. Tricky on-the-limit handling often means crashed cars; chassis repair is a specialist task.

Recalls

Jun 1998: Rear suspension toe link bolt may loosen. Affects cars built from June 1996 onwards.
Sep 1999: Possibility of fuel leakage on models made from July 1999 on.
Mar 2000: Electromagnetic interference may cause misfire on cars built from February 2000 to March 2000.
Feb 2001: Misfire and fire risk on 111S from September 1999 to August 2001.
Feb 2001: Fuel may leak on cars from October 1999 to end of January 2001.
Jun 2001: Steering rack wear risk on cars from Sept 1998 to January 1999.

Owner comment

Ian Watson from Poole in Dorset has owned his 2001 Elise from new. He has nothing but praise for the car - but not always for the dealer network, which sometimes delivers patchy service.

"I've had a few minor niggles, all fixed under warranty but not without inconvenience," says Ian. "Shop around to save money on servicing, while sympathetic upgrades such as Series 2 suspension and Yokohama Advan tyres are worthwhile. As long as you go into Elise ownership with your eyes open, you won't be disappointed."

2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Toyota FJ Cruiser 2007


If you are of a certain age, you'll recognize the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser as the rebirth of an icon, the Toyota FJ 40, better known in North America as the original Land Cruiser. It was a rugged, go-anywhere vehicle, a sport utility vehicle decades before the genre had a name.

You also may remember that the old Land Cruiser was the vehicle that kept Toyota viable in the North American automotive marketplace until the Japanese automaker finally figured out how to build passenger cars that Americans wanted. We don't need to tell you Toyota certainly figured out how to build vehicles Americans wanted, such as the Camry, Corolla, Tacoma, and luxurious Lexus models.

On the other hand, if you are of a significantly younger age than graybeards nostalgic for manually locking hubs, you'll see the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser as something new and different and even unique on the road.

Or, more properly, we should say on and off the road, because while this newest Toyota was designed to appeal to a youthful and especially male audience, it also was designed to be the most capable of all Toyotas when the pavement gives way to gravel, sand, rocks and other assorted obstacles not normally found in shopping mall parking lots or between the shoulders of Interstate highways. And that's saying something, given the capability of the 4Runner and Tacoma.

The FJ Cruiser seats five. The front doors are standard, front-hinged doors. Rear-hinged access doors ease egress to the back seat and cargo area. Rear access to the cargo area is through a door hinged on the driver's side of the vehicle instead of a typical roof-hinged hatch-style closure.

We found the FJ Cruiser superb in rugged terrain but comfortable on the road. Its V6 engine is more powerful than those used in the Hummer H3 and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.

New BMW M-Zero - Conceptual Design Excercise ?!


BMW M-Zero is a concept inspired by car from BMW M Series, which is also believed, Mercedes-Benz (as backlighting) and Aston Martin DB9 (the overall silhouette is inspired by the DB9). MaĆ«l Oberkampf, the designer of M-Zero tent indeed, a model that could be considered the equivalent of the Audi R8. And the result is M-Zero, a car, the concept of “synthesis” between the actual design of BMW and a great power of a car, which could become the most powerful model of the BMW heritage. The exterior is good, very style BMW, but we hope to find in interior architecture, we bet, it is futuristic.


$2500 OR RS.100000 TATA NANO - THE PEOPLE’S CAR REVEALED AT AUTO EXPO


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Launch after in 2008

Mr Ratan Tata’s individualized hunt has condemned a Brobdingnagian travel nervy today at the New metropolis Auto Expo in Bharat with the unveiling of the Tata Nano, otherwise famous as the people’s automobile or Rs 1-Lakh car. Later this assemblage the Tata Nano module be acquirable in Amerindic showrooms for purchase, pricing is aimed at 1 Lakh (1 lakh is 100,000 rupees; Euro 1,740; USD 2,550)

Mr Tata said at the show: “I observed families sport on two-wheelers – the ascendant dynamical the scooter, his teen banter stagnant in face of him, his spouse sitting behindhand him retentive a lowercase baby. It led me to astonishment whether digit could conceptualise of a safe, affordable, all-weather modify of instrumentation for much a family. We are bright to inform the People’s Car to Bharat and we wish it brings the joy, feel and programme of owning a automobile to some families who requirement individualized mobility.”

The Tata Nano measures 3.1 meters in length, 1.5 meters panoramic and 1.6 meters high, has plentitude of connector clearance and is a lowercase large than a sharp car. The US is not probable to ever wager the Tata Nano on the roads, nor is Western Europe, instead the people’s automobile is most probable to be marketed in bottom-of-the-pyramid countries, ie Africa, South East Asia, Eastern aggregation and dweller America.

The Tata Nano is supercharged by a two-cylinder, all-aluminium 623cc multi-point shot engine producing 33 hp and runs on gasoline. The automobile is rear-engined and has rear-wheel-drive and module be acquirable as either a accepted or wealth help with plentitude accessories and embody colouration options.

The Tata Nano was fashioned by Italy’s Institute of Development in Automotive Engineering but Mr Ratan Tata, a drilled creator with a liking for artful consumer goods, stayed in the wrap during the process.http://www.autocarsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/tata-nano5.jpghttp://www.autocarsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/tata-nano2.jpghttp://www.autocarsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/tata-nano1.jpghttp://www.autocarsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/tata-nano6.jpg