Page 1

No 107 July 2010

Oman’s Best Automotive Resource

OMR 0.500 AED 5.00 QR 5.00

EvocativE! All-new 2010 Lotus Evora promises to rewrite the segment. The good news is: it’s here in Oman

Also inside our 10th anniversary bumper first drive issue: Maserati GranCabrio | Kia Sportage | Hyundai Tucson | Renault Koleos Also driven: Lexus RX350 Ferrari celebrates 800 GP | WRC Turkey & Finland

Visit us online at www.automanweb.com


Korean Dream Run

editor-in-chief Mohammad Al taie

As the eyes of millions of viewers are tuned to the successes and failures of the teams participating in Football world cup being held in South Africa, not many of them will notice that among the 32 teams that qualified, both the Koreas were part of it. At

AL roYA PreSS & PUBLiShinG Po Box: 343, Postal code 118 Al harthy complex Sultanate of oman

the time of going to press, the minnows DPR Koreawere out, while South Korea were into the second round.Perhaps it is mildly prophetic, but we should look out for some surprises from the folks from the land of the morning calm. Because in automotive terms,they are anything but calm. Korea’s manufacturers have seen their share of ups

email: automan@alroya.net Website: www.automanweb.com

and downs, with corruption scandals, takeovers and even sporadic industrial unrest and

editorial office: tel: +968 24479888 extn 300, fax: +968 24479889 circulation office: tel: +968 2456 2138, fax: +968 2456 2194

well as signs of a coming of age.

a bankruptcy or two. What this helps underline is the open nature of the economy as

This month’s triple test of the just launched KIA Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and Renault Koleos gives you an indication of where the Korean-made product is going. Some years

PUBLiSher hatim Al taie

hatim@alroya.net

editor & GM raj Warrior

raj@alroya.net

become the world’s fifth largest manufacturer. While you can’t give the conglomerate credit for the problems that hit the reigning big car companies post 2008 and into the

execUtive editor chandan B Mallik chandan@alroya.net co-ordinAtor Pratibha n Kadam

ago, the Hyundai KIA partnership was formed and one of the declared goals was to

current day, you can certainly praise the single-minded focus that has brought them on target, well before time. Perhaps the key to this was the self-stated goal, publicly declared and repeatedly avowed. Or what could be more pertinent is the foresight that saw huge investments in leap-frogging technology. Hyundai used to depend on

pratibha@alroya.net

Mitsubishi years ago for engines and geartrains. No longer – Hyundai supply these to the world.

deSiGn Sawsan Al Muharbi

sawsan@alroya.info

heAd of MArKetinG Maged Aziz maged@alroya.net MArKetinG Shruti Mehta Supreme Philips

Current models from the partnership are spot on in terms of what the customer wants and reinforce the importance of product in a brand’s arsenal. While reams could be written about the Hyundai-KIA duopoly one shouldn’t forget the important strides being made by other companies. GM-DAT has a great line-up of cars, including the smash hit

shruti@alroya.net philips@alroya.net

circULAtion books@alroya.net finAnce & AdMin Abraham daniel daniel@alroya.net

Cruze. The Nissan-Renault alliance has, on its part, done exceedingly well in getting the Samsung car operations on board and internationalising the products from there. And even Ssangyong is finally going to get a better future. Known for years as the maker of the Korando, its current generation Rexton and various spin-offs were marginally successful, albeit due in part to a rapidly aging reliance on Mercedes-Benz powertrains. Hopefully, its current catharsis will see it get a new owner who knows what to do with

Printer ruwi Modern Printers LLc tel: +968 2479 4167, 2479 8157 fax: +968 2470 0545

the brand.More than anything the current day is in Korea’s favour for more than one reason. The fabled Japan- manufactured product is facing the twin shocks of a strong currency making exports costlier and a crisis of consumer confidence in the muchtouted reliability. Korea, despite the larger fluctuations in its currency peg still offers

© 2010 All editorial content of Automan in the magazine and its website is copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the management of AL roYA PreSS & PUBLiShinG

value for money to the international market. And because its car makers have seen the world as their market, their products now meet global needs and more importantly, global desires.Korea as an industrial power has not peaked yet.Only new growth economies are doing better, like China and India, but they still have some way to go to catch up with the tiger economy.

Automan accepts unsolicited exclusive editorial material, but reserves the right to publish any such material. once published, the copyright for any such material will vest with AL roYA PreSS & PUBLiShinG


in this issue {First drive

{First drive}

A

Italian carmaker Maserati chose Rome to launch its latest droptop model, the 2010 GranCabrio. | Author: Chandan B Mallik

lthough Maserati could be considered as a conservative car maker, it has in the past experimented with different forms of cars with outside help. Not many people will recall that the car maker did have three four-seater convertible models in its line-up, but that was a long time ago. The reason why are we raising this fact now is because we need to know how has the thinking changed at Maserati over the years. While, the three models referred above were built by specialist coach-builder Castagna on a Maserati chassis, one can safely argue that the 2010 all-new GranCabrio is 100 per cent Maserati and represents the very essence of Maserati in terms of open-top cars. It is a Maserati in the truest sense thanks to its unmistakable design and engineering. It was the famous ‘26M’ chassis back in 1932 which spurred those evocative models and coming back to current times, the all-new the GranCabrio owes its development to the highly successful GranTurismo architecture. Globally, the GranCabrio competes with BMW 6 Series, Jaguar XKR and Aston DB9 Volante mainly, although the fact it has four usable seats, it actually pitches more closely to the Bentley GTC. Now that it’s no secret that the proven fundamentals of the GranTourismo deeply inspired and helped engineers, and it didn’t take long for Maserati to realize the potential to create a stylish drop top as an addition to the existing line-up. Although, dimensions and proportions make the Pininfarina designed car look familiar, and that’s quite natural as the GranCabrio uses the same wheelbase. In the flesh, I must admit that there exists, perhaps only a handful number of cars that can turn heads like the GranCabrio The car’s elegant body lines are among the

most sensual and flowing in the automotive world. Perhaps, there’s only one contemporary car that can rival its beauty, that being Alfa Romeo’s 8C Competizione. Despite the obvious similarities with the GranTourismo, an expert eye, however, can empathise how the engineering under the sheet metal has influenced the imposing and dynamic front end design and execution. At the same time, the feline and wider rear end speaks a hightech language with a wide aerodynamic diffuser, signed off by large twin chrome tailpipes. Meanwhile, befitting the nature of this car, it has been infused with extensive structural modifications to its basic platform to cope with the top spec powertrain and safety requirements. Other structural changes that are visible but not so obtrusive are the bigger sills, modifications on the door structure and the enclosed compartment that hosts the folding roof. While the rear will accommodate two adults comfortably, there’s an out of sight structural ‘torsion wall’ behind the rear seats. Up front, under the longish bonnet are two reinforcing rods across the engine bay that help maintain torsional rigidity of the chassis by countering any attempt to flex. Maserati says measurable torsional and bending stiffness are just 1.82Hz below that of the coupe. However, the extra bracing and roof mechanism have added almost 100kg of weight to the car, when compared with the GranTourismo. The GranCabrio’s stance has also been modified to suit the dynamics of the model. The centre of gravity is 12 to 14mm lower and the best part is that weight distribution over the axles is near perfect with a 48:52 front-to-rear bias with the roof down, and 49:51 with roof up. Despite the fluid and sculptured body lines and similar design flow of the GranTurismo, at

a 0.35Cd, the roof up drag coefficient is not as refined as the GranTurismo’s 0.33Cd. With the roof down the drag coefficient is Cd 0.39. The three-layered retractable soft roof is electrically operated and weighs only 65 kg. Maserati offers a choice of six colours and it takes 28secs to raise or lower it and it also works when the car is moving up to speeds of 30km/h. The cabin is typical Maserati which means in true Italian flair there’s colour, contrast, style, vivid use of leather and bespoke trim material. This car also benefits from the same craftsmanship and gorgeous materials as the GranTurismo. I particularly liked the Carbalho wood trimmed car. This Brazilian wood is unique with each part of it having a different weave pattern, a sort of fingerprint that guarantees that each car is truly unique. Meanwhile, the Poltrona Frau leather which adorns the seats has been designed to offer supple comfort and cushioning. Maserati surely knows how to pamper its clientele with a wide range of colour and trim options. Even as a sports car, the GranCabrio gets a lot of bells and whistles. A state-of-the-art navigation system is one of many information systems that the GranCabrio offers with the package including a seven inch high-resolution TFT display located in the centre of the dashboard which shows the functions of the CD player, navigation system, radio and on-board computer providing constant information on the journey and car performance. As a 2+2 sports car, real accommodation for rear passengers is always debatable, but not in this Maserati. However, the comfort levels vary depending on the occupants’ height and whether the car is being driven top up or down. With top down, head room is tight but Maserati have ensured that rear occupants

26 {Road Test}

20

I

n other pages in this month’s magazine, we look at the range of SUVs that a certain luxury car marque offers. While the attempt by the brand there was to bring out the hardy, terrain-busting characteristics of even their entry level SUV, the understanding always remained that all the performance in the world had to come with a clutch of core values to make sense for a luxury segment buyer. Hence just as much importance would be given to things like air-conditioned seats, leather and DVD players and driver related goodies couched as necessity in terms of safety or performance. Like adaptive cruise control, reversing cameras or even the power adjustable seats with memory functions. At a certain level the customer is accustomed to a

feature set that gives him this package. Lexus has grown as a brand over the years, precisely for its ability to identify the need and the aspiration level of customers. The RX350 evolved as a slightly precocious kid in the block of ‘soft’ SUVs. At a time when most brands were still getting models to the concept stage, the RX served as the Japanese luxury brand’s very own urban-centred runabout. Lexus inaugurated the luxury crossover category with the original RX 300 model in 1998. More than one million Lexus RX models have been sold worldwide, making it the most successful luxury utility vehicle. The car in its current generation has a look that has been consciously made more muscular than before. This was partly to add the promise of the car’s ability to handle the

rough with the smooth. Of course, you know that the car will do the school run more often and with a better sense of purpose than the sand climb, but it can still do both and that’s more than you can say of a sedan. The stance of the car is one of power and muscle. While the very visible signature design cues of the front fascia and the region aft of the C-pillar define the car’s presence, short overhangs, good ground clearance and the presence of a powerful engine tell one of its ability. The car teams a 3.5-litre V6 engine with a six-speed multi-mode auto box. Better designed intake and exhaust manifolds improve engine aspiration for performance and economy. There are 275 horses available in the power band at a sprightly 6200rpm and

The old M-class spawned variants of the ML and GL are the mainstream SUVs sold in the region. The GLK has managed to create an entirely new market segment, though lately cars like the Audi Q5 and the upcoming BMW X1 are set to challenge the segment. The event itself followed the format of most Safari-like jamborees, with experienced guides leading the participants through a trail that had been scouted out to offer a challenging drive, yet one that wouldn’t upset the weakest link, which in this case could equally be either a poor driver or the GLK, the smallest of the brand’s 4WDs. Our group of participants were the second wave and the organisers had seen how well the first wave had handled the challenges. Day one of our drive saw the author start the day in an ML350 along with a relative novice codriver from a mainstream newspaper in Dubai. The drive out from the hotel to the first offroad section wasn’t too far and we hardly had any time to notice its on-road form before the winding climb section up the side of a hill took our mind off the quiet journey. It was time to engage the whole set of off-road driving tools that the M offers. At the bottom of the centre console, the switches for engaging offroad mode, low gear, differential lock (either only centre or both centre and rear) when needed and down-hill assist are partnered with ride height control. Now, while the M is principally used to get around town, the offroad package makes for an interesting addition to its arsenal. It wasn’t as if we thought that the whole gamut would be required but like the instructors were bandying about on the walkie-talkies, “if you have the tools in the toolbox, it’s better to use them”. Going from a few hundred metres below sea level to some hundreds above along the side of hills was bad enough. Some of the roads we traversed were literally non-existent and the path was strewn with rocks and shards of rocks from landslides. Now the trick was to not just the cars over the obstacles, but to do so without exposing the relatively weaker surface of the tyre sidewalls to the chances of getting sliced or pinched. Of course, the art of fourwheel driving through the ages has largely

21

{Preview}

{Preview}

Hybrid madness The much anticipated Porsche 918 Spyder, is not production-ready or on the market yet, but a $50,000 non-refundable deposit will guarantee you one if it gets the green light for production. We look at Porsche’s plans for this car

58

52

56

ost of us would agree that the images that the brand Mercedes-Benz conjure up are of luxury cars like the S-class, CLS or an SL parked outside a top casino in Monaco or cruising down the boulevards and corniches of the Côte d’Azur or perhaps of a heavily armoured Pullman version carrying a tycoon to an important meeting. Somewhere in that land of the quick recall, we forget that the brand is a lot more and makes many more cars. Right from the E-class that greets you in its role as Taxi outside Frankfurt airport, to the C-class and the smaller B- and A-class that serve as commuter cars for the urban European aspirational type. The range is vast and serves to highlight Mercedes-Benz’ ability to produce just the right model for a segment. At the press briefing that served to kickoff the Dead Sea Trek in Jordan, Frank Bernthaler,the brand’s sales director for the Middle East region brought out this point when he explained the reason for the holding of the brand’s first SUV specific event. Somewhere along the line, the SUV range of the brand seems to have been overshadowed by all the other model lines it makes. So the Dead Sea Trek was devised as a means to highlight the four-wheel range consisting of the drop dead serious Gelandewagen (G-class), the top-ofthe-line seven seater SUV GL-class, the smaller 5-seat M-class and the segment defining GLKclass. Some time ago, this author participated in and wrote about the unique experience of driving the GLK through a rather unexpectedly tough route through Salalah’s backyard. That experience led us to view the entire event in a serious light since there was an implicit promise that the two days of driving laid out would exceed that event in its choice of terrain and itinerary. Of course there was a small presentation that took us through the history of the brand’s association with off-road driving, including multi-axle touring cars designed by and for colonial representatives, second-world war staff cars and then the twin appeal of the Unimog and the Gelandewagen. Bringing us to the present day of course; Mercedes-Benz’ focus on luxurious SUVs is apparent with the three newer additions.

20

{Road Test}

| Author: Raj warrior | Photography: Shakeel Al Balushi |

M

| Author: Raj Warrior | Photography: Jorge Ferrari |

27

Consider it a luxury car with a difference. In a market that is getting increasingly comfort biased, the Lexus RX350 has been a pioneer. Automan tests the car

{Road Test}

Four by 4x4

To a brand that is known more for its luxury cars than off-road treks, Mercedes-Benz could not have chosen a better locale or a better way than the Jordan Dead Sea Trek to show off its SUV range

26

Still flying high

{Road Test}

57

<< The two-seater Porsche 918 Spyder mid-engined highperformance sports car with plug-in hybrid technology clearly demonstrates a benchmark in new drive technology, but also the innovative power of Porsche as a pioneer in hybrid drive for sports cars >> 51

{cover story}

| Author: Raj warrior | Photography: Shakeel Al Balushi

{Road Test}

of them. Lotus has had its share of ups and downs as well. Being a low volume manufacturer has its limitations in being able to invest in R&D, quality and product development. But new ownership and investment has allowed the company to change essentially. And the Evora is the first new product to hit the roads as part of the new age of Lotus. The Evora is targeted to be different from the existing line-up like the back to basics Elise or the track-focussed Exige. The need to move towards moderate volumes and a profitable future means the company needs a mainstream car that appeals to a broader {{Road Test} audience. Styling remains one of the key features of the car. It carries the Lotus look while exploring the larger dimensions of a car meant for the mass market. At the outset, there are significant variations in terms of design. The need to accommodate a 3.5-litre V6 in a transverse layout means that the car has the width across the rear to justify a growing outwards. The profile is conspicuous in some ways with its long front overhang, long wheelbase and short and almost chopped off rear overhang. However, despite all the work on the front fascia, it is the work done by the designers to the rear of the door that makes for interesting reading. The bodywork had to integrate a certain degree of aerodynamic

Automan discovers the all-new 2010 Tucson as one successful new chapter in transformation of Hyundai from a maker of cheap econoboxes to a bonafide manufacturer of first-class quality global cars

42

12

special report

20

first drive

26

face to face

34

Lotus Evora - could this be 007’s next car?

Checking out the MercedesBenz 4x4 range in Jordan

With Frank Bernthaler of Daimler Middle East

first drive f

lauNch report

50

preview

52

obituary

57

also driveN

58

motorsports

62

chicaNe

72

Honda Crosstour and bikes

K

12

12

Poised with confidence

cover story

Renault Koleos - French with Korean twist 46

Kia Motors has just wheeled in the third generation successor of its highly successful Sportage compact SUV for the region. Automan finds the new arrival not just a befitting replacement, but also as a signature of transformation within SUV and crossover line-up for the marque

{Road Test}

From across the region and around the world

Hyundai Tucson - amazing confidence 42

What would Colin Chapman have made of the new Evora? It keeps its roots firmly with the heritage of Lotus while trying to appeal to a whole new audience. Automan tests the car.

triple test 36 B

poster

{Road Road Test} Test

I

13

Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid concept ready for production Hiromu Naruse Lexus RX350

{Road Test}

French twist

46

4

Kia Sportage - rewriting the rules 36

Adding A premium to hAndling

ritish engineering has been having quite a tough time over the years. From being a very industrial revolution based land of factories and mills, much of the manufacture of goods has been moving to cheaper and more prolific countries. Even if we were to limit ourselves to the automotive vertical, the country has barely managed to keep its industry viable. On the other hand, if you were to think of the application end of automobiles, motorsports is still very much a UK speciality. Formula One teams call the country home, tracks like Silverstone and Donnington are known worldwide and the quintessential small volume British sportscar still survives. There was a time when buying a sportscar meant that you invariably looked for a British car. Signature characteristics of lightweight body, small, yet powerful engine and a singleminded focus on handling meant that the genre of cars that were made in old Blighty set themselves apart from the cars that were made anywhere else. That is until Japanese manufacturers got into the act and began making sportscars that had most of British sportscars’ plus points with a lot more – like driver comfort, reliability and cheaper costs. What we have now, after decades of competition and mismanagement are just a couple of sportscar makers in Britain that can produce a world-class sportscar. Lotus is one

News

Maserati Grancabrio - open top heritage continues

50

{cover story}

B

107 10

k

{Road Road Test}

F1 & WRC

Designed by Renault, engineered by Nissan and built in South Korea, the all-new Koleos is the French marque’s first ever 4x4 lifestyle crossover SUV. Question is: can it cut in the fiercely competitive market? We find ou

107 | July 2010

T sPyder Porsche 918

concePt

Taking a second look at Jordan


{news} third GeNeratioN Kia sportaGe lauNches iN omaN

K

ia Motors third generation all-new 2011 Sportage SUV was formally launched in Oman in the presence of senior Kia officials and VIPs. “Kia Motors has moved into overdrive with the launch of many new and interesting products. In 2009, we introduced the all new Cerato, the Soul — our first CUV and the all new Sorento. Earlier this year we introduced the luxury Cadenza saloon car and all these models have done exceedingly well, won positive recognitions for design, quality and customer satisfaction across the globe. And there are more new products to come this year,” said YK Park, President, Kia Motors

4

Corporation, Middle East and Africa. Meanwhile, complementing the efforts of Kia’s retail partners, “Our distributor in Oman, Reliable International Automotive, under the dynamic leadership of Sheikh Mohammed Saud Bahwan, chairman, Saud Bahwan Group, is making large investments and putting in tremendous efforts to ensure a world-class experience for the customers in Oman. Recently, we have honoured their efforts with the ‘Kia Award for Excellence and Outstanding Performance’, amongst Kia Distributors Worldwide,” added Park. Designed under the direction of Kia’s Chief

Design Officer Peter Schreyer, the Kia design teams have created a third-generation Sportage incorporating Kia’s new design DNA and many features from the 2007 Kia Kue concept car, to be immediately identifiable as a Kia and stand out from potential rivals in an increasingly crowded segment. The car is being offered with two powertrains and several trim levels with prices beginning at RO 7,525 for the 2.0-litre LX and topping out at RO 8,525 for the 2.4-litre EX. [see first drive report on page 36].


{news} Gull-wiNG sls lauNches iN omaN with Glitz aNd Glamour

Z

awawi Trading launched the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG in the Sultanate at the Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa. The new supersports car is the first Mercedes-Benz with an aluminium body and chassis and is also the first vehicle independently developed by AMG featuring Gullwing doors. An AMG 6.3-litre V8 front-mid-engine offers 571hp peak output and 650Nm of torque. The car has dry sump lubrication, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission in a transaxle configuration, and a sports suspension system with aluminium double wishbones. “The car was designed from scratch, which means the SLS AMG is not based on any other Mercedes-Benz vehicle platform. And, anyone who truly wants to understand AMG and what lies at the heart of our performance brand has to drive the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG” said Frank Bernthaler, director, sales a marketing MercedesBenz Cars, Daimler Middle East.

NissaN tiida Gets biGGer eNGiNe for 2011

N

issan’s Tiida, now in its fourth year of production enters the 2011 model year with a host of enhancements and an attractive new pricing structure which sees it go on sale with a bigger 1.8-litre engine but at the price of the previous 1.6-litre models. With over one million global sales to date in 165 countries, Tiida

is Nissan’s best selling model and also one of its most awarded, too. As before, model will be available in five-door hatchback and fourdoor saloon body styles. Besides the engine, there are some cosmetic changes also. The front grille and large taillights have been redesigned. Nissan is equipping all Tiida models as

standard with the 127hp 1.8-litre DOHC 16v four-cylinder engine with two transmission options – a six-speed manual or an electronically controlled four-speed automatic with overdrive. The USP of the car is more power with outstanding fuel economy of approximately 13.5km/l for the automatic versions.

reNault boosts reGioNal raNGe with saNdero

A

mong the first of a slew of launches planned for 2010, Renault has rolled out the Sandero hatchback in the UAE. The Sandero was originally developed for the Brazilian market in 2007 uses the Logan platform and is now also built in Romania, where Renault manufactures and sells cars under the Dacia brand name. The five-door compact hatchback is targeted at young and budgetconscious buyers. The Sandero is powered by

a 1.6-litre engine mated to either a manual or automatic transmission and comes equipped with ABS. Renault claims that the car has been extensively tested in the region and adapted to local driving conditions. To boost customer confidence Renault is offering a standard three-year/100,000km warranty on the Sandero and it is now available across Renault dealerships in the UAE. The car is priced from Dh39,500 onwards.

5


{news} 2011 porsche cayeNNe steps out amid a spectacular laser show performaNce iN abu dhabi

P

orsche Centre Abu Dhabi, part of the Ali & Sons Motor Division, launched the brand new Porsche Cayenne range at a spectacular event at the Emirates Palace Hotel. The new generation Porsche Cayenne made its debut in the UAE’s capital on Monday night amid an impressive laser show and applause. Based on the manufacturer’s principle of “Porsche Intelligent Performance,” all Cayenne vehicles of offer more power on less fuel, greater efficiency and lower CO2 emissions. Strutting its stuff is the ever-powerful Porsche Cayenne Turbo, with its 500 bhp 4.8-litre, V8 bi-turbo. The latest model boasts

a reduction in fuel consumption of 23 percent. Wissam Khalil, Brand Manager of Porsche Centre Abu Dhabi, said at the launch that the latest Cayenne models represent the perfect balance between elegant design, powerful driving dynamics and a high level of comfort. As a premiere for the Porsche brand this model is offered as a hybrid version, the Cayenne S Hybrid. A highly sophisticated parallel full hybrid drive ensures fuel consumption of just 8.2 litres/100 kilometres with CO2 emissions of just 193 g/km. The Cayenne S Hybrid combines the performance of an eight-cylinder with the economy of a six-cylinder running on

much less fuel. “The new Cayenne features a completely new exterior and newly defined luxury interior. Yet in today’s world, it’s clearly not enough to pour on more power; there must be a clear, simultaneous improvement in fuel consumption. We have optimized this objective to a maximum by reducing CO2 emissions of up to 26% and a reduction in fuel consumption of up to 23% less. This car clearly brings a new dimension to the SUV market”, said Deesch Papke, managing director of Porsche Middle East and Africa.

New bmw X5 powers iN the middle east

M

ore dynamic, efficient and luxurious than ever, the new BMW X5 continues to strengthen its leading position in the premium four-wheel drive segment. For 2011, the X5 incorporates several new innovative design elements and powertrains. The extensive reworked car is a result of over 4,000 new parts being incorporated into the vehicle. Besides cosmetic modifications to the front and rear of the vehicle, all versions of the X5 are now equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission as standard. Two new powertrains have also been introduced to the BMW X5’s portfolio; the BMW X5 xDrive50i and the X5 xDrive35i. Thanks to the application of BMW Efficient-

6

Dynamics, all versions of the car achieve the optimum ratio between performance and fuel consumption in each of their engine classes. The new top-of-the-range model, the BMW X5 xDrive50i, V8 power unit, features a BMW TwinPower Turbo and direct petrol injection, has an output 407bhp and accelerates from 0-100km/h in just 5.5 secs. The new BMW X5 xDrive35i is powered by 306bhp, straight sixcylinder engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo, High Precision Injection and VALVETRONIC technology and accelerates from 0-100km/h in 8.1 secs. Phil Horton, Managing Director of BMW Group Middle East said: “Since the BMW X5 was launched over ten years ago it has

achieved enormous success on a global and regional level with almost 22,000 units sold in the Middle East to date. The X5 is one of our top three selling vehicles in the Middle East so we are extremely pleased to now offer an updated model.”


{news} SUMMER SIZZLERS SUMMER SIZZLERS SUMMER SIZZLERS

moosa abdul Rahman Hassan and Company is now offering a special, limited time promotion on its range of GMC Yukons with top-of-the-range standard options like DVD Entertainment system and leather seats now starting from OMR 15,795. The Yukon is available in the leather SLT appointment, as well as higher trims with standard features including a DVD entertainment system, rear park assist system, Bose premium nine-speaker system and remote vehicle starter system, in a choice of 2WD and 4WD configurations. “At Moosa

Abdul Rahman & Co., we always provide the best cars and SUVs available in the market. Now with this special offer on our line of GMC Yukons, we would like to put these quality vehicles within the reach of even more people,” said Viren Agarwal, CEO. The Yukon is based on GM’s acclaimed full-size SUV platform and features distinctive styling, spacious and refined interiors, exceptional driving characteristics and segment-leading safety features, including standard head-curtain side air bags for all seating rows on all models.

Zubair automotive are offering a great summer deal on the Dodge Caliber SRT4. For a limited period the stylish hatchback that comes with high performance with a 285bhp engine, six-speed manual transmission and optional electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system with variable torque at speeds of 40 to 105 km/h for optimal handling will be offered from only OMR 9,999 from the dealership. “The Dodge Caliber SRT4 is set to raise the benchmark in terms of both performance, specification and looks, all being attributes that will set this car in a league of its own on the Sultanate’s roads. This is a car that exudes confidence, impressive power and comes with its many exclusive features. To experience the driving POWER ELITE R.O. 9,999 dynamics of the striking Dodge Caliber, visit the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge showroom at any Zubair Automotive Showroom across the Sultan-ate or call 24584500 to book a test drive,” says Mark Tomlinson, General Manager for Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge in Oman. JOIN THE

FROM

DODGE CALIBER

SRT4: 285 hp,

2.4-Liter DOHC

Turbo World Engine,

6-Speed Manual

Transmission

rivaled confidence is all its own. Its ific f-my-way attitude (ABS) and SRT-spec with a get-out-o brake system onto the scene SRT4 charges SRT-tuned antilock features like The Dodge Caliber e power, and With impressiv with. only by its style. a force to reckon Program, it is Electronic Stability ive one now. Floor it...test-dr Dodge is a registered

trademark of

Chrysler Group

LLC.

es shown in Accessories/featur

the visual may

not be part of

the standard

model.

odge.com

www.mideast.d

While the US debates on Chevy or Chevrolet, Camaro fans across the Middle East can look forward to seeing their favourite sports car in an all-new limited edition, in the form of the head-turning 2010 Chevrolet Camaro Synergy. The car is based on a Camaro 1LT, with a 3.6-litre direct injection V6, paired with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission with 304 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque. The strikingly coloured Synergy Edition is sure to make other road-goers green with envy. Buyers looking for exclusivity had better move the headline act of the 2010 Suzuki SX4 range is that it has received a host of upgrades including improved performance, fuelefficiency, safety and convenience. Now this experience moves into Oman in the regular saloons and a special all-wheel drive version that uses Suzuki’s latest intelligent (i-4WD) systems. The SX4 saloon comes with the option of two power trains, 1.6- and 2.0-litre offering 111hp and 160hp respectively. The bigger engine variant is now being offered from

fast though, as only 28 vehicles are destined for the Middle East.

RO4,995 and the price includes alloy wheels and fog lamps. Meanwhile, the AWD versions benefit from a 2.0-litre VVT (Variable Valve Timing) engine generating 165hp. The i-AWD system offers 4WD-Auto, 4WD-Lock and 2WD modes which can be accessed with a flick of switch according to the driving conditions. All three driving modes provide excellent traction and safe drive on all terrains. The prices of the AWD versions begin at RO5,995. All the models are

available from Moosa Abdul Rahman Hassan & Co LLC, the exclusive distributors for Suzuki vehicles in Oman.

SUMMER SIZZLERS SUMMER SIZZLERS SUMMER SIZZLERS 7


{news} chiNese car quality improves leaps aNd bouNds Chinese car quality has improved dramatically in the past 10 years, according to data released by the world’s leading vehicle quality authority, J.D. Power and Associates

A

nnual surveys of Chinese car owners show that Chinese car factories are fast catching on to the quality levels required to start exporting cars to western car markets in earnest. The data considers two levels of quality based on the unique nature of the Chinese market. In one category are cars made by domestic Chinese brands such as Chery, BYD and Great Wall and the other group takes into account cars made in China by Japanese, European, Korean and US car companies as joint venture partnerships with domestic players. It’s no surprise that in terms of faults per 100 cars, Chinese domestic car-makers still lag well behind the quality of cars made with foreign collaboration. This also means that foreign car makers are bringing with them valuable vehicle production knowledge and transfer of technology. But the quality gap between the domestic brands and the foreign brands is beginning to narrow. It’s not that the domestic players are chasing a mandatory target as the data shows that the foreign car-makers are also squeezing increased quality out of their car factories as well. In 2000, the Chinese domestic brands had 834 quality faults per 100 cars – a pathetic figure for the industry. In no way could these cars be exported or for that matter accepted in the quality and safety conscious western car markets. At the same time

the Chinese JV brands had around 438 faults per 100 cars. Although, 50 per cent better, but still short of western acceptance standards. A simple deduction meant that the gap between the domestic and foreign brands was a massive 396 faults per 100 cars and many industry watchers felt that it would take the Chinese a long time before their produce would be any serious threat in Western markets. But, the analysts have underestimated the will power of the Chinese. In barely two years, the Chinese domestic brands had more than halved their faults to 399 per 100 cars and had caught up to where the foreign brands had been just two years before. Meanwhile, the foreign brands have also improved to 246 faults per 100 cars. This means in those two [2000-2002] years, the gap between the Chinese domestics and the foreign brands had been closed from 396 faults per 100 cars to 153 faults per 100 cars. In the latest 2009 survey, domestic Chinese car-makers were hovering at 258 faults per 100 cars and the foreign brand car makers were at 142 faults. The gap between the two sides has impressively narrowed down to 116 faults per 100 cars. By comparing this data with J.D. Power surveys

of US car buyers who bought US brands made in American car factories, the faults of the Chinese domestic brands in 2009 may appear quite a way off, but the faults reported in the foreign brands made in China are roughly the equivalent to the faults reported by American car buyers in their domestic cars in 2002. This could be interpreted that in 2009 the foreign brands made in China are about eight years behind the quality standards of the US carmakers in America. But significant improvements since then show the gap by 2009 between the foreign cars made in China and US cars made in the US was just 30 faults per 100 cars or less than one fault per car difference. Conclusion: On quality front, it seems that for now the cars made in China as JVs could just about be ready to hold their own in the US market and other markets. In another key indicator that the Chinese car-makers are on a roll on car quality, J.D. Power reported that the number of Chinese car owners “experiencing problems with their vehicle since owning it” has dropped from almost 60 per cent in 2004 to 28 per cent in 2009.

int viewpo n A m o Aut At this rate of improvement and confidence, the world’s other car makers shouldn’t underestimate the technological prowess of the upcoming Chinese players, who once were at the receiving end.

8


{news} raNGe rover turNs 40

O

n 17 June, Land Rover’s iconic Range Rover celebrated its 40th birthday as one of the most significant vehicles in the history of motoring. The Range Rover was the world’s first vehicle as good on-road as off-road. It was the first fully capable luxury 4x4 and was a milestone in the development of the SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle). In the four decade timeline, there have been three generations of Range Rovers beginning with the original (Classic) in 1970, second-generation (P38a) in 1994 and third-generation (L322) in 2001. The model is still going strong and the third model line will be revealed at the forthcoming Paris Motor Show.

“Range Rover is by far our best selling model in this region – our flagship Range Rover Vogue and Range Rover Sport account for around 80% of our volume and are very popular with ex-pats and local buyers alike. When the Range Rover arrived in the region it was the world’s first luxury utility vehicle, and its arrival coincided with the regions first major oil boom, which meant people had the disposable income to purchase a vehicle that was luxurious but could handle the arduous conditions of the Middle East. This established a special relationship between Range Rover and the Middle East and it’s a relationship that endures to this day,” says Robin Colgan, managing director Land Rover MENA.

audi product plaN for 2014

A

udi is set to bombard the market with more new products than ever before and the carmaker has every segment under the microscope for scrutiny. Their product plan shows at least three all-new ranges plus a number of upgrades and additional derivatives. Starting with the A1 sub-compact premium car, Audi is positioning itself to become the dominant automaker in its competitive segment. The A1 has already been unveiled and unlike the the A1 e-Tron concept, it will not have an electric motor, but an A1 as a hybrid with a start-stop system and brake energy regeneration is a possibility. A performance S1 worth is also on the cards and so are cabriolet and sportback versions.

Meanwhile, the A2 makes a return to slot between the A1 and A3. In format, it will be a supermini with a high roof for extra space and sport an all-electric powertrain. The fiveseater city car is expected to lead the way in hi-tech construction solutions and internal comfort features. Automotive electrification seems inevitable and Audi has showed an etron based on the R8. The original e-tron goes on sale in 2012. In the sports car segment, the venerable TT has moved upmarket and become quite costly. In fact, reports suggest a smaller sports car called the R4 is under development for a possible 2013 launch. Finally the all-new TT appears on the scene in 2014.

ford leads iNdustry crash ratiNGs

F

ive more 2010 Ford Motor Company vehicles – Ford Flex, Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ, Lincoln MKT and Mercury Milan – have earned Top Safety Picks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The rating also applies to the Fusion Hybrid and Milan Hybrid. Ford has 11 IIHS Top Safety Pick ratings for 2010 model vehicles – the most of any automaker – as well as the leading number of fivestar safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Flex, Fusion, MKZ, MKT and Milan previously earned top possible scores for occupant protection in IIHS’s front, side and rear tests, but had to pass IIHS’s new roof strength test to maintain the rating. Vehicles also must offer electronic stability control to be eligible for a Top Safety Pick.

has toyota trademarKed the fr-s badGe for ft-86? In few weeks ago Toyota Motor Corporation has reportedly applied in both Canada and the US to trademark the name “FR-S”. Naturally, many are speculating that it will be the badge for the production model of the Toyota FT-86 concept. Some believe the term stands for “front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car.” The Toyota FT-86 is expected to be released in Japan early in 2011, before a European release.

9


{news}

Goodwood boNaNza There’s a whole host of reasons to visit the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year. Despite the economic downturn, participating car brands hope to make motorsport’s most prestigious annual event even more glamorous than ever

A

s always, the mid-year Goodwood Festival of Speed is one prestigious platform that attracts motoring aficionados and merchandise from the past, present and future. A bumper crop of new cars debuted as in the inaugural Moving Motor Show and popular Festival of Speed events. Goodwood is an exceptional crowd puller and over 175,000 visitors are expected over four days. A full list of new cars due to make their UK public debut at Goodwood follows and we detail some of the key highlights. Porsche In keeping with the Festival’s chosen Viva Veloce theme, the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart brought in some of the victorious sports cars from the Targa Florio road race in Sicily, as well as the Porsche 917 to celebrate a significant Porsche motorsport anniversary - 40 years since the 1970 win at Le Mans. The rare 804 Grand Prix car from 1962 was also demonstrated, as part of commemorations of 60 years of the F1 World Championship. Jaguar, which celebrates its 75th anniversary, will do it in style with a special edition

10

of XKR. In fact, Jaguar Land Rover’s new CEO, Dr Ralf Speth, initiated the challenge to the Jaguar engineering team to construct an XKR to commemorate the anniversary which would deliver a combination of enhanced performance, superb chassis and steering control and grip levels to inspire the driving enthusiast. Jaguar engineers came up with a solution by increasing the power and torque of the 5.0-litre supercharged engine to 530PS and 655Nm respectively for the XKR 75. While the limited edition model’s top speed is electronically limited to 280km/h, the car’s 0-100km/h acceleration time is reduced from 4.6 to 4.4 secs. Chevrolet The American brand which has begun selling cars in Europe wants to reconnect with the masses with some high voltage stuff. Both of its US-built supercars, the Corvette ZR1 and Camaro were seen running in the event’s Moving Motorshow and also in the supercar run up Goodwood’s famous hillclimb circuit. The presence of the ZR-1 marks an emotional return for the long established Corvette name to

the Chevrolet stable, as from this year onward it will be distributed in Europe and sold once again as the Chevrolet Corvette, rather than a standalone brand. Honda Two Honda cars: the CR-Z, Honda’s new sporty hybrid and the Civic Type R MUGEN – one of only 20 being made demonstrated the use its 240PS high-revving engine over the renowned Hillclimb route. The Sunday Times Supercar Run proved a perfect environment for new models to be showcased for the first time. The first public world debut of the much-anticipated McLaren MP4-12C took place and other supercars which made their UK debuts included Zagato’s striking Alfa Romeo TZ3 Corsa, the Ferrari 458 Italia, Spyker C-8 Aileron and Veritas RS III. Away from the Supercar Run, the FoS-TECH technology pavilion showcased a variety of exciting future-focused automotive technologies. Rarely-seen concepts displayed in this year’s FoS-TECH included the Audi e-Tron, Citroen ReVolte, Rinspeed UC, Lexus CT200h and Vauxhall Ampera.


new original fragrance for men

Hollywood

Vegas

MiaMi

Malibu distributed by Muscat Pharmacy & store llC available at all leading outlets in oman ŠPlayboy. PLAYBOY and RABBIT HEAD DESIGN are trademarks of Playboy and used under license by Coty.


{cover story}

Adding A premium to hAndling what would colin chapman have made of the new evora? it keeps its roots firmly with the heritage of lotus while trying to appeal to a whole new audience. automan tests the car. | Author: Raj warrior | Photography: Shakeel Al Balushi

B

ritish engineering has been having quite a tough time over the years. From being a very industrial revolution based land of factories and mills, much of the manufacture of goods has been moving to cheaper and more prolific countries. Even if we were to limit ourselves to the automotive vertical, the country has barely managed to keep its industry viable. On the other hand, if you were to think of the application end of automobiles, motorsports is still very much a UK speciality. Formula One teams call the country home, tracks like Silverstone and Donnington are known worldwide and the quintessential small volume British sportscar still survives. There was a time when buying a sportscar meant that you invariably looked for a British car. Signature characteristics of lightweight body, small, yet powerful engine and a singleminded focus on handling meant that the genre of cars that were made in old Blighty set themselves apart from the cars that were made anywhere else. That is until Japanese manufacturers got into the act and began making sportscars that had most of British sportscarsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; plus points with a lot more â&#x20AC;&#x201C; like driver comfort, reliability and cheaper costs. What we have now, after decades of competition and mismanagement are just a couple of sportscar makers in Britain that can produce a world-class sportscar. Lotus is one

12

of them. Lotus has had its share of ups and downs as well. Being a low volume manufacturer has its limitations in being able to invest in R&D, quality and product development. But new ownership and investment has allowed the company to change essentially. And the Evora is the first new product to hit the roads as part of the new age of Lotus. The Evora is targeted to be different from the existing line-up like the back to basics Elise or the track-focussed Exige. The need to move towards moderate volumes and a profitable future means the company needs a mainstream car that appeals to a broader audience. Styling remains one of the key features of the car. It carries the Lotus look while exploring the larger dimensions of a car meant for the mass market. At the outset, there are significant variations in terms of design. The need to accommodate a 3.5-litre V6 in a transverse layout means that the car has the width across the rear to justify a growing outwards. The profile is conspicuous in some ways with its long front overhang, long wheelbase and short and almost chopped off rear overhang. However, despite all the work on the front fascia, it is the work done by the designers to the rear of the door that makes for interesting reading. The bodywork had to integrate a certain degree of aerodynamic


{cover story}

13


{cover story}

<< lotus has painstakingly developed its own t6e engine management software for toyotaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all-alloy 2Gr-fe 3.5-litre v6 dohc, with dual vvt-i engine to optimise its compatibility with the unique requirements of the evora to give a peak power output of 280 ps at 6,400 rpm, while boosting its maximum torque to 342 Nm at 4,700 rpm >>

14


{cover story} modelling along with the need for structural strength on a bonded and riveted frame. Russell Carr, Head of Lotus Design, led the Evora’s design team with Steven Crijns, Design Manager responsible for the exterior and Anthony Bushell, Senior Designer, responsible for the interior. “A cornerstone of the design’s success was working closely with the technical team and board to develop a package that allowed us to get the proportions correct,” says Head of Design Russell Carr, “The asymmetric wheel sizes, the short rear overhang, long front overhang and cab forward visor screen all contribute to giving the car visual movement and an agile stance. This is incredibly important to us because we want the car’s aesthetics to communicate its driving characteristics” This focus on getting the practicality of the car to partner with styling led to the car getting easier ingress due to the doorsill being cut away and lowered. Now larger frames can not just enter the car and exit it easily, the company claims that two full-size Americans of 6’-5” height can sit comfortably in the front, while the rear seats are good for children or small adults, complete with provision for ISOFIX fasteners for child seats. We had team members sit in the rear and yes, small size adults do fit in there. The problem that they faced was that we were testing the car during the peak

of summer and the noon day sun shines directly on the rear seat through the sharply raked rear windshield. As for the rest of the interiors, the move upwards and ahead for Lotus has been quite pronounced. However, don’t expect the perfection of the Porsche interior here. There are still some areas that don’t quite feel right and some where the fit and finish leaves a bit to be desired. Quality has gone up by leaps and bounds and the leather surfaces come across as reasonably put together. The styling itself is good, everything falls to hand quickly and the short-shift gear knob is just right. One bit of advice, take your time in reaching for it after leaving the car standing in the sun for long, it can get quite hot! The fixation with targeting the American customer is rightly carried to further parts of the car. The car we tested had remote garage door openers, cruise control and an unlocking mode that went one click driver door, two clicks passenger door. All needed for the US market. You may well ask, what is a cruise control doing on a manual transmission car? Of course it will disengage if you load up the engine or drop to a low speed. The engine and gearbox continues the long tradition that Lotus have of using Toyotasourced powertrains which then undergo modification to the ECU and also to the gear ratios. What this has done in the spooled up performances of the 2.0-litres available on the two-seaters is well known. The larger 3.5 V6 is meant for the US

15


{cover story} the chassis: productioN low volume versatile vehicle architecture

T

he Evoraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s chassis is a low investment cost evolution of the Versatile Vehicle Architecture (VVA) from the Lotus APX concept vehicle previously showcased at the Geneva Motorshow, and allows for the development of a range of vehicles up to a gross vehicle weight of 1,900 kg. This architecture has been designed to be more applicable to mid-volume applications by utilising our low capital investment manufacturing processes. The Evora structure progresses the Lotus â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;bonded and rivetedâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; technology used in the Elise family of vehicles with new and unique extrusions and folded panels, whilst providing production build modularity and lower cost repairs. The low volume VVA chassis has been designed for scalability so that it can be extended in width, length and height. The strength and stiffness of the low volume VVA chassis can be modified cost effectively by varying the wall thickness of the extrusions,

16

without altering the exterior dimensions. The ability to lengthen or shorten extrusions with the option to tailor the chassis stiffness, vastly increases the number of vehicles that can be developed from this vehicle architecture. Front and mid engine installations have been considered, as well as hybrid and Electric Vehicle (EV) applications. The Lotus Evora employs a composite roof as a stressed structural member to give an exceptional vehicle stiffness of 26,000 Nm per degree. This impressive stiffness is also thanks in part to the seatbelt anchorage frame, and partly because the high-tech composite body panels are stressed items. However, despite this high stiffness, the complete chassis or tub and front and rear modules weight just 200 kg, helping to keep the weight of the whole car to just 1350 kg. To deliver this high performance structure, bonded and riveted high grade aluminium extrusions and simple and elegant folded

sheet elements are used in the lower structure, building upon award winning Lotus research projects in this field. Lotus pioneered the technology of bonded aluminium extrusions for use in road vehicles and has successfully developed high performance cars for other car companies around the world using these techniques. The central tub is attached to an extruded aluminium subframe at the front and a lightweight welded steel subframe at the rear. These subframe modules also offer advantages in terms of convenience and low cost of repair, and during manufacturing can be brought to the production line fully assembled, ready to be attached thereby improving the overall efficiency of space and time of assembly. The high technology Lotus Evora chassis is manufactured at the new Lotus Lightweight Structures Limited (LLS) facility in Worcester, United Kingdom.


{cover story} audience too, in that the driver is used to the torque and power curve of a V6. The midengine layout results in a kick in the back when you put the car in first and accelerate on the quarter mile. The car we were testing had been through a lot of punishment as part of the launch event at OAA’s go-kart track. The heavy clutch is welcome but was a little sticky and found the going tough a couple of times through the 1st and 2nd gears. As the engine opens up though and you move upwards, the movement smooths out, largely because of the reduced load. Quick shifts are possible and the claimed 5 seconds plus that the car can do is achievable. Even without trying hard, we were in the six second barrier most of the time. What is a bit of a letdown though is the fact that the NVH has been so thoroughly worked out that the driver hardly gets a chance to hear the engine. The roar does increase but with none of the rawness that is communicated to the bystander. However starts from signals are spectacular and it is almost a blessing that the

car looks so good from the rear with its large taillights and wing like elements. Most road users are liable to get their only good view of the car from behind. The mid-range of the engine matches the versatility of the gearbox. Passing acceleration is good. You can do a passing manoeuvre even in 4th gear by flooring the accelerator and if you need to do something crazy the gearbox happily responds to a two cog downshift. The engine is as sweet as can be, revving freely upwards and doling out the best performance in the 5 to 6,000 rev band. On the other hand, if all you want is a sort of quasi-automatic mode, leave the gearbox in 4th and purr along at 2,000 on plains or if there are some dips and climbs or light traffic, just leave the gearbox in third. Any Lotus is designed to outperform other cars in handling and the Evora does not lack in this department too. The Evora suspension wishbones are forged from aluminium to reduce the unsprung mass. These are similar in weight to the steel items found on the

much smaller Elise, Exige and Europa vehicles, but are stiffer and have a much increased vehicle weight capacity. They are attached to the front and rear modules via Lotus designed bushes. The Evora uses Bilstein high performance dampers and Eibach springs with unique dual path top mounts for optimised vehicle refinement. Hydraulically assisted power steering is provided by a Lotus tuned TRW steering rack to give steering feel and precision to place the Evora exactly where you want it to be when cornering. You can of course get all the wheelspin you want by switching off the Traction Control but with it on, you notice the engine revs drop off in hard cornering. If it is a track car you want, stick to the Exige or the Elise for that matter. They are far more tuned to that genre of driving. The stiff body and the hard suspension nonetheless do give you a bit of the go-kart feel that Lotus is famous for. The car will be quite a hit in the region – no doubt about that. In most aspects it is tailored for the region’s customer. For the

17


{cover story} << while the evora is undeniably more ‘lifestyle’ in respect of its everyday practicality, once you’re seated behind its semi flatbottomed steering wheel, it feels every bit as exotic and sporting as you would expect a lotus to be >>

lotus tractioN coNtrol

T

he Switchable Lotus Traction Control (LTC) system has been developed simultaneously with the ABS and works through the engine management system to reduce power to the rear wheels when required to maintain traction. To maintain front end traction or to reduce understeer, the LTC will gently reduce engine torque to stabilise the Evora bringing the front wheels back into line – known as “Understeer Recognition”. Unlike many traction control systems, LTC has been tuned to complement the skills of the driver without taking over. The Lotus LTC is active above 5 mph (8 km/h) and operates much more quickly than many brake based systems. The system can be deactivated completely, giving no traction control intervention.

18


{cover story} very first time a Lotus has features like an efficient air-conditioner, top grade sound system, reversing cameras, tyre-pressure monitors and cruise control. What it still lacks is an automatic transmission. We have seen the trend in sportscars from around the world in the region. In every case, while the purist is ready to buy the manual transmission, practicality and the realities of usage dictate that most of the volume comes from the sale of the auto transmission. We understand that this shortcoming is being addressed as well, with the auto box likely to be offered by the end of the year.

Verdict Interestingly, the British made sportscar has wowed our testers. It may not be the most practical car to drive in traffic in Muscat even now and definitely needs the parking sensors to help it park, but the price is just right for a car of this grade and we just know that with its current feature set it will appeal to potential buyers. It still needs to improve in the quality department in order to match 2+2â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s from Porsche, but the current car is a huge leap ahead for Lotus. It is practical, with good air-conditioning, decent storage compartment and the ability to cruise around town in mid-range. Buyers looking to differentiate themselves could do well to check out the Evora.

<< because one of the roles of the evora is to attract new lifestyle customers, as well as performance aficionadoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s to the lotus brand, the evora offers a more refined ownership experience than lotusâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; existing smaller four cylinder models >>

19


{Road Test}

Four by 4x4

to a brand that is known more for its luxury cars than off-road treks, mercedes-benz could not have chosen a better locale or a better way than the Jordan dead sea trek to show off its suv range | Author: Raj Warrior | Photography: Jorge Ferrari |

20


{Road Test}

M

ost of us would agree that the images that the brand Mercedes-Benz conjure up are of luxury cars like the S-class, CLS or an SL parked outside a top casino in Monaco or cruising down the boulevards and corniches of the Côte d’Azur or perhaps of a heavily armoured Pullman version carrying a tycoon to an important meeting. Somewhere in that land of the quick recall, we forget that the brand is a lot more and makes many more cars. Right from the E-class that greets you in its role as Taxi outside Frankfurt airport, to the C-class and the smaller B- and A-class that serve as commuter cars for the urban European aspirational type. The range is vast and serves to highlight Mercedes-Benz’ ability to produce just the right model for a segment. At the press briefing that served to kickoff the Dead Sea Trek in Jordan, Frank Bernthaler,the brand’s sales director for the Middle East region brought out this point when he explained the reason for the holding of the brand’s first SUV specific event. Somewhere along the line, the SUV range of the brand seems to have been overshadowed by all the other model lines it makes. So the Dead Sea Trek was devised as a means to highlight the four-wheel range consisting of the drop dead serious Gelandewagen (G-class), the top-ofthe-line seven seater SUV GL-class, the smaller 5-seat M-class and the segment defining GLKclass. Some time ago, this author participated in and wrote about the unique experience of driving the GLK through a rather unexpectedly tough route through Salalah’s backyard. That experience led us to view the entire event in a serious light since there was an implicit promise that the two days of driving laid out would exceed that event in its choice of terrain and itinerary. Of course there was a small presentation that took us through the history of the brand’s association with off-road driving, including multi-axle touring cars designed by and for colonial representatives, second-world war staff cars and then the twin appeal of the Unimog and the Gelandewagen. Bringing us to the present day of course; Mercedes-Benz’ focus on luxurious SUVs is apparent with the three newer additions.

The old M-class spawned variants of the ML and GL are the mainstream SUVs sold in the region. The GLK has managed to create an entirely new market segment, though lately cars like the Audi Q5 and the upcoming BMW X1 are set to challenge the segment. The event itself followed the format of most Safari-like jamborees, with experienced guides leading the participants through a trail that had been scouted out to offer a challenging drive, yet one that wouldn’t upset the weakest link, which in this case could equally be either a poor driver or the GLK, the smallest of the brand’s 4WDs. Our group of participants were the second wave and the organisers had seen how well the first wave had handled the challenges. Day one of our drive saw the author start the day in an ML350 along with a relative novice codriver from a mainstream newspaper in Dubai. The drive out from the hotel to the first offroad section wasn’t too far and we hardly had any time to notice its on-road form before the winding climb section up the side of a hill took our mind off the quiet journey. It was time to engage the whole set of off-road driving tools that the M offers. At the bottom of the centre console, the switches for engaging offroad mode, low gear, differential lock (either only centre or both centre and rear) when needed and down-hill assist are partnered with ride height control. Now, while the M is principally used to get around town, the offroad package makes for an interesting addition to its arsenal. It wasn’t as if we thought that the whole gamut would be required but like the instructors were bandying about on the walkie-talkies, “if you have the tools in the toolbox, it’s better to use them”. Going from a few hundred metres below sea level to some hundreds above along the side of hills was bad enough. Some of the roads we traversed were literally non-existent and the path was strewn with rocks and shards of rocks from landslides. Now the trick was to not just the cars over the obstacles, but to do so without exposing the relatively weaker surface of the tyre sidewalls to the chances of getting sliced or pinched. Of course, the art of fourwheel driving through the ages has largely

21


{Road Test} GLK280

I

t is not just the distinctive all-rounder’s practical and appealingly compact body form that sets it apart from the competition. It also brings together what were previously seen as entirely contradictory attributes, with driving dynamics and safety going hand in hand with exceptional ride comfort courtesy of the AGILITY CONTROL suspension. Meanwhile the variable 4MATIC all-wheel drive system joins forces with the latest electronic control systems to deliver on-road performance and superb off-road proficiency. This lends the GLK immense appeal and warrants the inclusion in the model name of the “G”, an allusion to the archetypal Mercedes off-roader. All GLK models come as standard with mixed-sized tyres, together with the AGILITY CONTROL suspension and asymmetric power distribution between the front and rear axle. The basic 45:55 split of drive torque between the front and rear wheels combines with the ESP®, ASR and 4ETS dynamic handling control systems to produce assured and predictable performance. When tuning the control systems, the engineers at the MercedesBenz Technology Center (MTC) made a defined level of understeer a priority. The newly developed multiple-disc clutch in the centre differential comes to the system’s aid when friction between the tyres and ground is particularly low, for example when driving over snow or ice. A basic interaxle lock of 50 Newton metres gives a major boost to traction. On models with the off-road engineering package, the automatic transmission features a Manual drive mode (M) in addition to the Comfort (C) and Sport (S) modes, which enables the individual gears to be selected with shift paddles on the multifunction steering wheel. This operating mode promises maximum fun at the wheel when venturing off-road. A further switch activates the Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) system, which automatically maintains a pre-programmed speed between 4 and 18 km/h on steep downhill inclines.

22

ML350

M

ercedes-Benz has meticulously revamped the successful M Class. The new generation of the dynamic, stylish SUV now has even more distinctive characteristics, and looks even sportier and more powerful. The front end of this off-roader is now defined by a redesigned bumper, recontoured headlamps and a larger, even more dominant radiator. The rear view also sports a new-look bumper with integrated reflector strips, emphasising the vehicle’s width, as well as tails lights with a smoked-glass look. The M-Class standard specification has also been significantly upgraded. It now includes the unique anticipatory occupant protection system PRE-SAFE® and NECK-PRO head restraints as well as an all-new, high-performance telematics system developed by Mercedes-Benz, which is much easier to use thanks to a host of new functions. The AIRMATIC package provides an air suspension configured for on-road operation which automatically lowers the suspension by 15 millimetres at higher speeds. For off-road driving this system enables the ground clearance to be increased by 80 millimetres at the touch of a button. The second AIRMATIC variant, which is part of the Off-Road Pro engineering package, enables the vehicle level to be raised in three stages by operating a button: by 30, 80 and 110 millimetres. This gives the new M-Class its maximum ground clearance of 291 millimetres. It is possible to raise or lower the suspension both when idling or on the move. If the M-Class is moving, the system operates on a speed-dependent basis and automatically lowers the suspension by 15 millimetres at both axles when 140 km/h is reached, in order to reduce the wind resistance and improve handling stability. When the speed falls below 40 km/h the suspension is raised to its normal level again.


{Road Test} GL450

G500

T

T

he seven-seater premium off-roader offers excellent handling both on and off-road and pampers occupants with its extremely spacious accommodation and the comfort of a luxury saloon. The GL-Class sets another milestone with the PRE-SAFE® safety system, a first in this market segment. With its poised, assured presence, the GL-Class leaves one in no doubt about its aspirations to conquer this market segment. The distinctive design idiom exudes power and exclusivity.The spacious body (length 5088 mm, width 1920 mm, height 1840 mm) is beautifully proportioned. Together with the standard-fit AIRMATIC air suspension, the precise speed-sensitive power steering and the ADS Adaptive Damper System also fitted as standard, the imposing GL-Class (wheelbase 3075 mm) handles impressively. Handling, when pulling a trailer is no less impressive thanks to ESP® Trailer Stabilisation. It defuses critical driving situations involving a trailer before they become dangerous by precisely applying the brakes, while AIRMATIC provides fully automatic level adjustment. Special off-road features such as Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR), hill-start as-sist and off-road ABS assist the GL-Class driver off road. The Off-Road Pro engineering package, standard on all ECE models, means the GL-Class can also handle the most extreme off-road terrain. This includes a two-speed transfer case with a low range ratio and 100 percent differential locks for the transfer case and the rear axle. The modified AIRMATIC air suspension, designed specifically for the more demanding conditions, increases the ground clearance to a maximum of 307 millimetres where required, and raises the fording depth to 600 millimetres. In the GL 450 the 4.6-litre engine develops 250 kW/340 hp.

he model family currently has three body variants (short-wheelbase Station Wagon, long-wheelbase Station Wagon, Convertible), which can be combined with either an economical V6 CDI engine developing 165 kW/224 hp and 540 newton metres, or a powerful 5.5-litre V8 petrol engine with 285 kW/388 hp and 530 newton metres. The flagship G 55 AMG available only as a four-door, long-wheelbase Station Wagon is powered by a supercharged V8-engine developing 373 kW/507 hp. In the very recent past Mercedes-Benz has completed an intensive model facelift, ensuring that the G-Class always reflects the technological state of the art and is correspondingly equipped. Since September 2001 the G-Class has also featured trailblazing handling stability, traction and braking control systems. The all-wheel drive system of the G-Class was perfected by the introduction of the electronically controlled traction system as standard. 4ETS improves traction when moving off and accelerating on slippery, i.e. wet or icy surfaces: if the wheel speed sensors detect that one or more wheels have lost their grip, they are automatically braked. This increases the power at the wheels with better traction. 4ETS also briefly reduces the engine torque. The Electronic Stability Program ESP® and Brake Assist (BAS) were also included in the standard equipment of the G-Class from autumn 2001. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class offers a globally unique combination of high-performance driving dynamics and four-wheel drive systems in the form of 4ETS, ESP®, differential locks and the Low Range off-road ratio. The automatically-functioning ESP® and 4ETS systems thus ensure maximum traction and handling stability both on the road and in extremely difficult terrain, whilst the selectable 100-percent locks and off-road ratio prove their worth in extremely severe conditions off the beaten track.

23


{Road Test}

remained unchanged. You have to look ahead for the obstacles, anticipate the uneven turn arcs that are cut by the inner and outer set of wheels and ensure that the inner side of the car doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get too close to protrusions, while the outer wheels stay on the trail. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s simple to outline, difficult to follow, what with the two drivers having different impressions of what will or wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t work. The new generation of Mercedes-Benz SUVs all have highly sophisticated traction-control systems partnered with stability-control and the programming of the drivetrain is such that there is optimum assignment of torque to the wheel or wheels that have traction. This has changed, to a certain degree, the way in which the driver would attack various obstacles. Where the traditionalist would be wont to charge up and over some types of bad terrain, these new cars allow the driver to cover the same ground at a slower pace. The idea being put forth for these cars is to regulate an even delivery of torque, with the engines usually being pushed at only around 2000rpm, if not slower. The low gearing, intelligent delivery of power and torque based on demand to individual wheels and the stiff rebound of the charged up suspension allow the cars to cross boulders and rocks and climb sandy slopes as well. On more than one occasion during the day, we were straddled over obstacles with opposite wheels in the air and even when one of the wheels on the ground started spinning, we could see the car take a micro-second to assess the situation and then dole out the

24


{Road Test}

power to the other wheel. Interestingly at one stage in the climb, we were sure that the GL450 into which we had transferred post lunch, would hit its exhaust tips on the rocks as we crossed over, but that wasn’t to happen. It happened to another team the next day on a run where the car had to go into a ditch and come out. The GLK continued its story of surprising drivers with its ability to take on the rough. Just about the only distinguishing characteristic that could keep the GLK out of contention would be its fixed ride height and hence we saw that for the second day’s drive, which included water fording down a wadi and a particularly hair-raising trip down a path that would have torn the bottom out of a lesser car, the GLK was given a rest. The G class of course continues to prove its worth. It is hardly worth noting that most of its 4WD features are mostly unused in these parts. Despite having a crew get it stuck in rocks on a uphill climb because they hadn’t engaged the rear differential, the car served not just as a reminder of the best in class, but also as the emergency vehicle that rushed to the aid of guys who got stuck in soft sand with the M. The G-class is the sort of off-roader that the author is used to – unapologetic in its rough-hewn nature, with excellent field of view, huge torque and power, no need of ride height control and the ability to lock both axles and the centre differential. By the end of the second day of driving, Mercedes-Benz had proven that its confidence about the SUV range was well placed. Now it is only a matter of getting customers who normally buy Mercedes-Benz cars to consider buying in the same marque instead of looking at the Land Cruisers and Patrols of the world. Interestingly, the more serious offroad competition is doing exactly the same – targeting well-heeled luxury car buyers with their offerings. Perhaps, at heart, what Mercedes-Benz wants to tell us is that it has a more comprehensive range than German rivals BMW and Audi and that’s true. Either way, if you haven’t had a chance to to push one of the Mercedes-Benz SUV range in demanding terrain till date, try to do it now. They have a lot to teach.

25


{First drive}

Open-top Pleasure italian carmaker maserati chose rome to launch its latest droptop model, the 2010 Grancabrio. | Author: Chandan B Mallik

26


{First drive}

A

lthough Maserati could be considered as a conservative car maker, it has in the past experimented with different forms of cars with outside help. Not many people will recall that the car maker did have three four-seater convertible models in its line-up, but that was a long time ago. The reason why are we raising this fact now is because we need to know how has the thinking changed at Maserati over the years. While, the three models referred above were built by specialist coach-builder Castagna on a Maserati chassis, one can safely argue that the 2010 all-new GranCabrio is 100 per cent Maserati and represents the very essence of Maserati in terms of open-top cars. It is a Maserati in the truest sense thanks to its unmistakable design and engineering. It was the famous ‘26M’ chassis back in 1932 which spurred those evocative models and coming back to current times, the all-new the GranCabrio owes its development to the highly successful GranTurismo architecture. Globally, the GranCabrio competes with BMW 6 Series, Jaguar XKR and Aston DB9 Volante mainly, although the fact it has four usable seats, it actually pitches more closely to the Bentley GTC. Now that it’s no secret that the proven fundamentals of the GranTourismo deeply inspired and helped engineers, and it didn’t take long for Maserati to realize the potential to create a stylish drop top as an addition to the existing line-up. Although, dimensions and proportions make the Pininfarina designed car look familiar, and that’s quite natural as the GranCabrio uses the same wheelbase. In the flesh, I must admit that there exists, perhaps only a handful number of cars that can turn heads like the GranCabrio The car’s elegant body lines are among the

most sensual and flowing in the automotive world. Perhaps, there’s only one contemporary car that can rival its beauty, that being Alfa Romeo’s 8C Competizione. Despite the obvious similarities with the GranTourismo, an expert eye, however, can empathise how the engineering under the sheet metal has influenced the imposing and dynamic front end design and execution. At the same time, the feline and wider rear end speaks a hightech language with a wide aerodynamic diffuser, signed off by large twin chrome tailpipes. Meanwhile, befitting the nature of this car, it has been infused with extensive structural modifications to its basic platform to cope with the top spec powertrain and safety requirements. Other structural changes that are visible but not so obtrusive are the bigger sills, modifications on the door structure and the enclosed compartment that hosts the folding roof. While the rear will accommodate two adults comfortably, there’s an out of sight structural ‘torsion wall’ behind the rear seats. Up front, under the longish bonnet are two reinforcing rods across the engine bay that help maintain torsional rigidity of the chassis by countering any attempt to flex. Maserati says measurable torsional and bending stiffness are just 1.82Hz below that of the coupe. However, the extra bracing and roof mechanism have added almost 100kg of weight to the car, when compared with the GranTourismo. The GranCabrio’s stance has also been modified to suit the dynamics of the model. The centre of gravity is 12 to 14mm lower and the best part is that weight distribution over the axles is near perfect with a 48:52 front-to-rear bias with the roof down, and 49:51 with roof up. Despite the fluid and sculptured body lines and similar design flow of the GranTurismo, at

a 0.35Cd, the roof up drag coefficient is not as refined as the GranTurismo’s 0.33Cd. With the roof down the drag coefficient is Cd 0.39. The three-layered retractable soft roof is electrically operated and weighs only 65 kg. Maserati offers a choice of six colours and it takes 28secs to raise or lower it and it also works when the car is moving up to speeds of 30km/h. The cabin is typical Maserati which means in true Italian flair there’s colour, contrast, style, vivid use of leather and bespoke trim material. This car also benefits from the same craftsmanship and gorgeous materials as the GranTurismo. I particularly liked the Carbalho wood trimmed car. This Brazilian wood is unique with each part of it having a different weave pattern, a sort of fingerprint that guarantees that each car is truly unique. Meanwhile, the Poltrona Frau leather which adorns the seats has been designed to offer supple comfort and cushioning. Maserati surely knows how to pamper its clientele with a wide range of colour and trim options. Even as a sports car, the GranCabrio gets a lot of bells and whistles. A state-of-the-art navigation system is one of many information systems that the GranCabrio offers with the package including a seven inch high-resolution TFT display located in the centre of the dashboard which shows the functions of the CD player, navigation system, radio and on-board computer providing constant information on the journey and car performance. As a 2+2 sports car, real accommodation for rear passengers is always debatable, but not in this Maserati. However, the comfort levels vary depending on the occupants’ height and whether the car is being driven top up or down. With top down, head room is tight but Maserati have ensured that rear occupants

27


{First drive}

28


{First drive}

<< deeply inspired by the engineering and styling of the Granturismo, it didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t take long for maserati to re-engineer and come up with the stylish Grancabrio, the marqueâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s de facto first four-seat drop-top. >>

29


{First drive}

<< riding on the longest wheelbase in its class, the maserati Grancabrio can comfortably claim to be the only premium cabriolet with four full-size seats >>

30


{First drive}

get a decent field view, thanks to the 42mm inward and 40mm upward positioning of the seat. Actually, this arrangement was dictated by the roof mechanism, which has been cleverly concealed. I’m short, so I am fine with rear accommodation, but anyone taller than 1.7m would find the area cramped in a top down drive situation. In terms of practicality and cargo space usage, even Maserati acknowledges that most owners will have to use the rear seats as supplementary luggage space whenever required as at 173 litres, the boot space is quite limited. This is because the folding roof mechanism occupies more than 50 per cent of boot space. Maserati offers a unique solution for storage. As part of its accessories package its offers tailor-made bags that fit each of the two sculpted rear seats, complete with a belt to hold them in place. Besides that, customers can also fit a dedicated wind deflector that not only secures floating stuff, but cutting out the draft and some noise. To ensure some form of exclusivity, the low volume GranCabrio comes only with the topspec 4.7-litre V8 engine, which powers the GrandTourismo ‘S’ models. A whopping 440hp is available at the rear wheels at 7,000rpm and torque of 490Nm comes at 4,650rpm. All this power is routed through the same six-speed ZF automated manual as the GranTurismo,

but in this car, the software has been modified and so has the final-drive ratio. As expected, the chassis and suspension are purely driver-oriented and driving aids offered will delight any sports car purist. The car also benefits from several technology upgrades and major changes include developments to the hydraulic brake-assist and to the shock absorbers for the continuously adaptive Skyhook suspension system. Selecting ‘sport’ button stiffens that suspension and speeds up gear changes as well as re-routing the exhaust for maximum decibels. Like its coupe sibling, the car boasts a truly sensational soundtrack. The active and passive safety systems have been redesigned, with new roll-over protection and extensive stiffening both under the bonnet and beneath the car, where attention also focused on improved aerodynamics. Driving impressions Italian roads aren’t the greatest in the world, and our drive out there suggests that the car’s performance is impressively close to the coupe, despite the added weight. Our mountain loop was quite interesting and this is where we did most of the photo shoot. Despite facing intermittent downpours, we were able to keep the car on ground, point and shoot tight corners with ease. As a driver, you don’t feel the car’s weight as the steering is light and

31


{First drive} direct. However, at times we felt it to be a little low on feel. Although that can mean some roll in the bends, Maserati is happy to sell you an MC Sport suspension option if you want a stiffer GranTurismo S Automatic. Doing so would inevitably upset the car’s balance and allround ability, we think. But once back on the flat roads, you get a better feel of the chassis. This car does feel as stiff as promised, yet the active damping is pretty efficient in keep passengers happy and intact. This confidence in performance and predictable handling is a result of the ideal weight distribution. By positioning the engine with the automatic transmission, behind the front axle and the introduction of a two-piece drive shaft assisted by a limited-slip differential (the locking ratios are 25 per cent in traction and 45 per cent in release) to minimize transmission loss seems to be one of the invisible performance drivers in the car. The mix of roads we encountered, featured appallingly bad surfaces in places, with potholes sharp enough to seriously damage or wreck the alloy wheels, yet there was hardly any hint of nervousness from a large convertible. The skills of engineers must be commended as they have earned the stripes for not deviating a bit from the sporting and performance oriented focus. Considering the fact that the GranCabrio is a bit overweight, it was a bit surprising that you have to prod the 1,980kg car a bit to help it release its full charge. We noted that the car is particularly active when the engine kicks over 4,000rpm, and despite its weight issues, it reaches 100km/h from rest in 5.3secs.

The automatic transmission is mated to easy-to-reach steering wheel mounted paddles. When ‘sport’ mode is selected, the baffles open up and it releases extra horse and a jaw-dropping soundtrack from the exhaust. Despite the unfriendly weather, short dry spells allowed us to experience the car top down. With excellent design and air deflection, it is comfortable and only rear-seat passengers will feel a mild breeze ruffling through their hair. The layered roof is quite effective and the sound-deadening effort is pretty effective even at high speeds. Meanwhile, the car is capable of going up to 283km/h, its claimed top speed with no hassles at all. If there was a weak link in the driving experience in the GranTurismo S, it has been corrected in the GranCabrio. The issues related to brakes and low-rev torque are now matters of the past as we re-discovered the car’s confidence-inspiring stopping power, even in low traction situations. In contrast to the GranTurismo’s occasional jittery feel, the GranCabrio remains calm and composed most of the time. This is due to Hydraulic Brake Assist or HBA, which makes its first successful application in a Maserati. What it does is that it recognises when the driver is in a panic situation, analysing a set of parameters such as pressure on the brake servo, wheel speed and activation of the third rear stop light. Once the state of emergency has been declared, HBA effectively replaces the driver and activates the full power of the brakes to reduce the stopping distance to a minimum.

Maserati open-top Heritage

A

lthough, the Maserati GranCabrio is the first open-top four-seater Maserati but this doesn’t mean that it is without ancestry. Entire chapters of the history of the motor car have been written by open top Trident cars, although they were strictly two seaters. The first is the legendary A6G Frua Spyder, produced in a very limited series in the 1950s: it is in the details that the individual cars are distinguished from one another, details, which in the unique Frua, soar to the level of a masterpiece. To have a better understanding, one has to look no further than the front end with the chrome surround and the sunken fog lights, which a few months later, in the A6G 2000, would be transformed into the oval-shaped radiator grille, typical of the Maserati, with the large trident in the middle. The same blood flowed through the mechanical veins of the A6G Frua Spyder that would then ennoble cars such as the 3500 GT Spyder by Vignale, a matchless source of inspiration for the great Italian coachbuilders of the 1960s, who made a com-

32

petition out of dressing them with elegant suits hand-forged by master panel beaters. The 3500 GT Spyder was so beautiful that it even turned heads in Hollywood: it was used countless times in major studio films, it ‘acted’, for example, with Lee Marvin and John Cassavetes in The Killers and together with Kirk Douglas in Two Weeks in Another Town, in both cases wearing “stage outfits” signed by Vignale. The legend continues into the 1960s: by which time a new wind was blowing. Which became urgent in 1964, when the Mistral Spyder made its appearance: compared to the aesthetic rules of its time, it was almost minimalist, but anyone having the fortune to own one was driving a pure thoroughbred capable of propelling itself at 255 m/h. The Mistral wind turned into the Ghibli and even enchanted Henry Ford II, who drove around Detroit with his Spyder and to anyone commenting on the betrayal responded: “The Ghibli will disappear from my parking lot only when you’ve designed me a Ford that is just as beautiful.”


{First drive} << the Grancabrio’s magical chemistry starts when you look at it. the pininfarina designed car is unabashedly beautiful, with the soft top up or down. it also features a sophisticated canvas top with three layers of insulation material >> Verdict Maserati isn’t out for massive volumes for the GranCabrio. It will build about 2,000 of these convertibles a year. Given the fact, the main reason buyers purchase cars in this segment is exclusivity, these comparatively low numbers should guarantee that aspect to Maserati customers. Despite the fact that BMW’s 6 Series and Mercedes SL offers stiff competition, Maserati has definitely saved the best until last with the GranCabrio. UAE prices of the GranCabrio begin at Dh670,000.

33


{Interview}

Changing strategy for growth frank bernthaler, director, sales and marketing for daimler middle east, talks to automan about various aspects of the market for luxury cars in the region

34


{Interview}

M

ercedes-Benz Cars Middle East and Levant has reported May as its best month so far in the year with retail sales of 1,526 units across the region. Frank Bernthaler, Director of Sales and Marketing says this performance is best for the company since October 2008. It’s no secret that the year 2009 has been difficult for everybody in the automotive business including Daimler. A radical business strategy was adopted where the regional’s office focus was to get the cash flow running and staying alive, basically using tried and tested tools of the trade such as cash incentives and low margins to push metal and clear stocks. Compared to some other players in the region, Bernthaler says that the strategy helped the company to tick over. Despite low margins, his company was back on track once again with some improvement in sales in 2009. Although volume-wise the company admits a drop of 20 per cent year-on year, the important thing was to keep traffic in the Mercedes-Benz showrooms busy. With an array of new products, it ensured that its retail network became stronger in difficult times. Although, Daimler wasn’t able to capitalize the spurt in demand generated by the steady market improvement as most of the dealer network hadn’t anticipated this change and hence were left behind when it came to ordering cars. Bernthaler says that although most signs suggest that the automotive business is definitely picking up in the region, however, he admits that the pace was not as fast for them [Daimler] with the limiting factor being not enough cars on ground to support. Bernthaler says the number of units in stock was below normal and since the pre-orders weren’t done in time according to factor production schedules. As a result, the pre-ordered cars went to the allotted markets first. However, this hasn’t dampened Bernthaler’s spirits. He expects that in 2010, business will be back to 2008 levels or more. Meanwhile,

Bernthaler’s team has prepared an allout assault in the luxo-SUV segment for the current year where it is planning to attack the premium Japanese brands with a comprehensive product-cum-packaging-cumpricing strategy at all levels. This is perhaps one of the reasons why all- new Middle East specific variants called Grand Editions have been created for the SUV line-up including GLK, GL, ML Class models. Besides the SUVs, the passenger car product assault for 2010-2011 will be chiefly led by the new E-Class variants such as the cabrio, the SLS and AMG line-up and M-B products with AMG sports packaging. The idea is to change the business model from push strategy to pull strategy, says Bernthaler. Besides the new model introductions, a new dimension will be added to the retail business network across the region. This includes the approved used car business which is branded as part of its ‘proven exclusivity’ programme. The idea is to get Soukprospects to become the brands’ customers also when buying or selling a Mercedes-Benz car. Although, approved used car business by an official importer is a fairly new concept which has proven to be successful with dealerships in Bahrain, Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the idea is yet to catch up in the remaining Middle East and Levant markets. This is where education and creating awareness is important says Bernthaler. “At our level the job in hand now is to convince owners, retail partners that the idea of also selling used cars is profitable for the overall business provided the right investments are.

“We explain the modus operandi in detail which will also include fleet sales, affinity [customer loyalty] schemes.” Besides acceptance of the idea, there are several processes and systems to integrate the network into the existing business infrastructure. Bernthaler says that a highly advance and integrated centralized proven model will be used for this aspect of the business. “We will employ the services of Motortrak, a UK-based specialist which has been helping some of the best-known names in the automotive industry. We will harness the power of the Internet and e-commerce with the help of Motortrak, which has developed more than 2,500 web sites for groups and dealers of all sizes. Motortrak’s multi-lingual database

expertise is helping the global networks or dealerships to sell used cars online in Chinese, German, Japanese, Spanish, Italian and French and we intend to bring this experience here for the benefit of our partners in the network. In 18 months, Bernthaler feels that he will be able to ramp up customer management systems and bring them at par with the standards as set by Stuttgart.

35


{Road Test}

Bigg er & Better Kia motors has just wheeled in the third generation successor of its highly successful sportage compact suv for the region. automan finds the new arrival not just a befitting replacement, but also as a signature of transformation within suv and crossover line-up for the marque | Author: Chandan B Mallik | Photography:

36

| Shakeel Al Balushi


{{Road Test}

K

ia Motors has move quite a distance with its motor car line-up. The first generation body-on-frame Sportage, developed during early 90s used alliance technology as a result of a then three-way Ford-Mazda-Kia partnership. In fact, the vehicle was developed from a Mazda pickup truck. The second-generation Sportage, introduced in 2004, represented a huge step forward for Kia Motors in terms of architecture, design and engineering and was a commercial success. By the time the third generation was due, the global market dynamics have changed dramatically as a result of the current economic meltdown. The crisis had triggered a global slowdown in car sales worldwide and also prompted carmakers to look at a new direction to sustain operations, and meet legislation, fuel efficiency and emissions norms. So, some quick thinking was required for a successor that could meet the business objectives, besides Kia’s conscious effort to promote the brand independently. And considering the time schedule and constraints it’s quite a remarkable achievement for the incoming model which started life as a concept, barely four months after Peter Shreyer, the iconic Audi TT designer took over as design chief. In its career span of six years, the outgoing model achieved global sales of more than 860,000 units, While, Shreyer’s assignment looked at trends and design objectives, engineering looked at several things and topping the menu was the powertrain options of the outgoing models. Quickly it was realized that the existing 2.0-litre four pot CVVT engines producing 140 horses were inadequate for desert jobs, were not very flexible and hence needed to be spruced up. This is one of the reasons why dual CVVT has been introduced in the new Sportage which is offered in 2.0- and 2.4-litre fourcylinder configurations. Meanwhile, Kia’s 2.7-litre V6 that powered the top end models has been dropped and why? The mods to the new engines mean that despite a drop in displacement, the performance and efficiency levels have been surpassed commendably.

37


{Road Test} Timing for Kia couldn’t have been better with the arrival of chief designer Peter Schreyer [of Audi TT fame] in from Audi. Schreyer says that it was in 2007, when work started for the third generation Sportage, internally codenamed SL. He involved the company’s Frankfurt and California-based design studio who began the job by critically analyzing the outgoing Sportage. Then came the hard part, according to Schreyer, who says there were two divergent trains of thought – one idea was to pursue a tougher and more off-roadish theme, while the other was to create an agile and urbanfriendly style. Either way, the designs had to maintain the advantages of the four-wheel drive – a usefully high ground clearance, an elevated seating position and the feeling of being in command. The Kue concept presented at Detroit in 2007 was to test waters and it’s no surprise that the production Sportage takes most of its design cues from the concept. However, when you see the car in flesh, the story begins to unfold. Although, it is based on the Hyundai iX platform, with its overall length of 4,440mm, it is 90mm longer, at 1,855mm it is 15mm wider, and with a height of 1,685mm it is 60mm taller, the new Sportage has pleasant proportions but it is a bit smaller, wider and shorter than the current Honda CRV. The key design element of new Sportage’s stance is the pleasant relationship between its high shoulders and narrow glasshouse. Kia has created a vehicle with a sportscarlike ratio between sheet metal and glass. The side-windows are very narrow that gives an almost rally-car feeling. Follow the shoulder and roof lines and they meet at the striking reverse-angled C-pillar. Meanwhile, the soft surface treatment sign off the fine visual character and helping the overall profile is a low stance and the 2,640mm wheelbase. The build quality of this car can be judged by the panel gaps which are now Lexus quality. Despite the hotrod type of side window treatment and raked front windscreen, the car’s cabin is a nice area to be in. Besides a commanding driving position, clear view and convenient hip points for egress and ingress, the treatment is sporty and some influences of the lifestyle Soul CUV aren’t to be missed. The way the front cab area has been designed, there’s a lot of space and since the dash uses a cab forward design, it actually shields the front occupants from

38

<< outgoing

incoming

>>

<< what’s in, what’s out

Practicality Oodles of it. Besides the usual cubbyholes and storage places, the glovebox has a bottle/can cooler. Cargo space management is very good.

Design

The key design element of new Sportage’s purposeful stance is the relationship between

its high shoulders and narrow glasshouse. Kia has created a vehicle with a sportscar-like ratio between sheet metal and glass. The side-windows are very narrow that gives an almost rally-car feeling. Follow the shoulder and roof lines and they meet at the striking reverse-angled C-pillar.


{Road Test}

>>

Engineering Dual CVVT engines for better performance and fuel efficiency. Also new is the six-speed transmission. Front suspension carried over but revised. New rear suspension. Over all weight reduction by 91kg.

Safety

Extra rigid bodyshell, new crash avoidance

systems and controlled ascent and descent software added to the package enhances safety 24/7. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) come with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD). Every Sportage has electronic stability control system (ESP) and as well as a traction control system (TCS).

harsh sunlight. The car offers generous interior space for five passengers and cargo, a benefit of its long wheelbase. Its design also allows the doors to be wider than they might otherwise be for better access, especially in the rear seats. The Honda CR-V is the only close competitor with greater rear seat leg room, and it’s a much longer vehicle. The test car’s interior was trimmed in black cloth with an unusual all-black headliner and contrasting stitching. LX models feature a Dark Gunmetal dashboard and centre console, while colour options include Medium Grey, Light Alpine and Orange door inserts. The dashboard is neatly laid out with a three-cylinder’ Kia trademark instrument cluster, which is easy to read and the two layered central console is quite busy with ergonomically placed controls for climate control and multimedia. The top end models get leather and panoramic glass roof. Front-seat occupants get seats with good side supports and bolstering. Rear-seat passengers will find getting in and out is fairly easy as the rear wheel arch does not encroach into the wide door opening. There is also a decent amount of head and leg room. Kia reckons many customers will look at cargo space versatility and this is where the Sportage delivers the goods. The theme of drop and fold has evolved further in this car. First the back of front passenger seat folds down providing a table top for the driver and allowing for carrying long objects. The rear seat splits 60/40 and folds down almost flat. While the price point for the Sportage has gone up a bit, so has the packaging and content. The car even in basic garb is pretty well kitted, but the biggest news is under the semi-clamshell-esque bonnet. Our entry level LX test car was powered by 2.0-litre four-cylinder offering 164hp and 201Nm of torque at 6,200 and 4,600rpm respectively. Interestingly, the difference in outputs between the 2.0- and 2-4-litre is 11hp and 21Nm only. Although, both are mated to an all-new six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The LX is AWD with front bias and comes with diff-lock and hill descent control. No range controls are offered and as we discovered later, you don’t really need them in typical dune raids! The car has been designed to score a 5-Star rating in Euro NCAP’s crash tests and maximum scores in the USA’s two crash test programmes.

39


{Road Test}

<< the new sportage shares its platform with the hyundai tucson’s successor in the upcoming 2010 ix35. retaining the ‘compact suv’ layout of the current model, the sportage is a smaller alternative to the roomier seven-seat sorento >>

Verdict The new Sportage is no flash in the pan. It has been smartly designed and sensibly packaged as a lifestyle SUV with decent capabilities both on and off road. For a customer, it’s best of both worlds. You have styling, class appeal, solid engineering and an outstanding warranty and after care service package with prices beginning at RO7,525 for the 2.0-litre LX. But, if you are looking for some more power and extra features then better opt for the 2.4-litre EX version which is priced at RO8,525 top spec.

40


{{Road Test}

Stylewise, the third generation Sportage is based on the dynamic Kia Kue concept that was revealed in 2007. The production model has no reason to deviate much from the concept and it comes with the recently developed tiger grille design and enhanced dimensions

The all-new platform and bodyshell employs a much greater proportion high strength and extra-high strength steels than the previous model. Kiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s active and passive safety features are mostly standard on all models includes dual advanced front airbags, dual front-seat side-impact airbags (for torso protection) and front and rear curtain airbags (for head

protection in a side impact or rollover). New safety features include ESC with a new Rollover Sensor that deploys the side airbags, curtain airbags and seatbelt pretensioners when required and Hillstart Assist Control to prevent roll-back when starting on an incline. Downhill Brake Control is also included to help limit speed during a steep descent and

an ESS system which flashes the brake lights during an emergency. To offer an on-road bias, up front, the compact MacPherson Strut suspension has been fine-tuned, although it is largely carried over. The multi-link, fullyindependent rear gets subframe mounts, new shocks and coil springs for better isolation and smoothness.

41


{Road Test}

Poised with confidence

automan discovers the all-new 2010 tucson as one successful new chapter in transformation of hyundai from a maker of cheap econoboxes to a bonafide manufacturer of first-class quality global cars | Author: Chandan B Mallik | Photography: Shakeel Al Balushi |

42


{Road Test}

I

f you remember the outgoing Hyundai Tucson, it was one affordable SUV money could buy. It was decent in terms of its package and performance, but it was more Asian in styling and was seen as a viable alternative to a second hand or used Japanese equivalent. Hyundai is flexing its muscles in the global markets quite successfully and the fact of the matter is that despite the current economic crisis which has hard hit the bottom lines of even seasoned automotive players, Hyundai and Kia jointly are one exception to the rule. Hyundai has surprised business analysts with an outstanding and enviable 49 per cent year on year growth. Now, the big question is how could that be possible? What does Hyundai offer that others don’t? And what is it that has brought in this swing, as Hyundai was considered as a bread-and-butter brand? Well, you don’t have to go very far or be a rocket scientist to understand the shift in perception about this brand. Consistently, Hyundai has been producing affordable new cars, perfected engineering and is now synonymous with quality and reliability – something Toyota till now enjoyed barring the recent quality issues in the US. As a model, the first generation Tucson has been exceptionally successful worldwide and for the incoming new model, internally code named LM, the challenge for the project team was to conceive an even better C-class SUV. Therefore, starting with a clean slate, the design team moved away from the two-box off-roader look in favour of a sleeker, more refined profile while aiming for a roomier cabin and extra flexibility in storage capacity among others. The second generation Tucson is also the first CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle) to be designed and engineered in Europe at Hyundai’s Frankfurt-based design and technical centres. As a result, the car is very much European in style and design, and does strikes a stark contrast from its predecessor. The styling in fact, is the first application of Hyundai’s ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ design language [part of Hyundai’s 24/7 version 2.0 product initiative programme that includes seven allnew models by the end of 2011]. One look at the new Tucson reveals that this is a completely different direction for the model. Although, it’s marginally grown over the previous generation, its profile

43


{Road Test} and proportions have been maintained. The outgoing model’s quirky styling has completely disappeared into a cocoon and emerged as beautiful butterfly. The new Tucson rides on a 2,640mm wheelbase, so it is 10mm longer than the previous iteration and at 4,410mm and 1,820mm, it is also longer and wider than its predecessor (by 85mm and 20mm) respectively. The sculpted exterior with soft convex and concave surface treatment has a far more refined and premium appearance and complements an aggressive waist line coupled with a low-to-the-ground feel which is enhanced by the large 18in wheels shod with 225/55 rubber. But it does have generous ground clearance as a dual purpose vehicle with very convenient hip points for getting in and out. The glass-to-metal ratio is very balanced and is more SUV-like and doesn’t mimic Renault’s Korea-built Koleos, which is a SUV and has extra large glass areas which makes it feel like a MPV. And it’s not all about just beauty alone as aerodynamic tweaks include the addition of a rear spoiler in the package. The interior of the car has been planned to optimize space usage without compromising on styling or comfort, which is a pleasant change from most models in the compact crossover SUV class which feature cabins that can best be described as utilitarian in design. For starters, there’s a stylish dashboard, twin-cowl instrument panel and a practical glove box with chiller facility. Our test car from Dubai had a two-tone colour scheme which looked quite nice and appealing. For improved comfort, there’s extra legroom and headroom even though the overall height of the vehicle is low. Greater travel in the front seat adjustment gives more legroom and headroom for taller drivers and the feeling of spaciousness in the cabin is also enhanced by the new dual-panel panoramic sunroof. The part is that the traditional controls been maintained and not discarded for the sake of style over function. Other mod cons include push button start with smart-key proximity sensor. While, fit, finish, tolerances and panel gaps are mostly premium, some plastics in the cabin could be improved in quality. Under the bonnet, there’s a new 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine from the Theta series. Actually, Hyundai engineers have taken the World Engine, the largest gasoline engine program in the world which involved Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Daimler, and created the lighter, more fuel efficient and cleaner-running Theta-

44

II that actually produces more horsepower than the old V6 upgrade while getting significantly better fuel economy than the old four-cylinder without turbo or supercharging. The output engine from the Tucson is rated at 176hp, which is 26 per cent more than its predecessor comes with 168 lb.-ft. of torque. This high-tech all-aluminium 16-valve engine also has Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) on both camshafts and a Variable Induction System (VIS) for better engine breathing and in short, for non-technophiles, quite advanced for the segment and is mated to an all-new six-speed automatic gearbox with manual function which Hyundai calls Shiftronic [Tiptronic], which also happens to be a first for the brand. Interestingly, this new transmission shaves of 12kg in weight and it also is 41mm shorter and considerably simpler having 62 fewer parts. In fact, Hyundai claim that new Tucson is more fuel-efficient than the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape with four-cylinder engines. To make the car even more versatile than before, Hyundai engineers added electronic AWD system in the top variants. The AWD system automatically activates under any driving condition when needed, distributing the power equally and optimizing driving performance. Under normal driving, the system only distributes power to the front wheels thereby reducing fuel consumption. The system includes a driver-selectable AWD lock allowing for a 50/50 torque split between the front and rear wheels for off-road and very slippery conditions. Standard safety equipment is quite impressive and includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, hill holder (prevents rolling back on inclined stops) and hill descent control (automatically brakes down steep off-road hills when activated). Driving impressions The previous generation Tucson [including the V6] was never really known for its spirited driving demeanor, but the incoming Tucson is an indicator that things are seriously changing. For us the primary question always is: does the car’s athletic shape complemented with more agile handling, responsive steering and improved body roll control? Is the car more fun-to-drive? Hyundai has read our minds and has reworked on the underbody accoutrements to ensure a smooth and silky ride. The car’s suspension uses MacPherson struts up front and multi-links at the rear for


{Road Test}

<< the completely redesigned hyundai tucson has an efficient new powertrain and surprisingly good handling on- and off-road>>

verdict We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend anyone interested in a stylish lifestyle CUV with all-round capabilities this second generation Tuscon. As a spiritual successor, it has metamorphosed into a totally different league in all departments – styling, comfort, utility, performance and fuel economy. While some of the established top brands [and pioneers]

of this segment such as Honda and Toyota appear a bit lost as far as product direction goes, quite evident with the facelifted CR-V and soon-to-arrive refreshed RAV 4, Hyundai, on the other hand has proved that it knows the business inside out and have conveyed the fact that they are serious players and not just flash in the pan

more precise wheel control and a smoother ride. Meanwhile, all four wheels are controlled by coil springs and fade-resistant gas-charged shock absorbers. Stabilizer bar diameters have also increased which help keep the vehicle very flat during cornering and help provide quick turn-in response. This was quite evident in the highway and on-road city driving. The car also feels lighter on the move, thanks to the new electric motor-driven rack-and-pinion power steering which now replaces the older hydraulic system and it is calibrated through all vehicle speed ranges. In fact, we feel that the motor-driven electric power steering is one of the car’s greatest strengths. On the move, the car is quiet, and Hyundai say that the lighter and stiffer body shell, a sub-frame damper, and extra soundproofing measures isolate external sounds filtering in the cabin . Road noise has been minimized by improving stiffness in the front and rear struts, rear trailing arm and the spring sheet and crosswind noise infiltration is minimised. The car had good brakes with firm pedal feel and exemplary modulation, and this helps in the handling aspect and also due to the revised suspension geometry and wider track width, the car can be swinged faster in corners. We noted the chassis had only mild roll in brisk cornering, as would be expected of a vehicle engineered and tuned in Germany. In general, the AWD Tucson’s ride and handling can be described as good, but to some extra luxury oriented, the car can feel a bit harsh at times. Meanwhile, the turn circle is 34.7 feet which outclasses Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 in city driving and tight parking manouevring. Over all, on road, the car indeed feels livelier and sportier than established models such as the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, thanks to the extra cog in the transmission. But it is the new Tucson’s off-road driving demeanor that is most surprising. We took the car, engaged the diff-locks and disengaged the stability and traction control systems. The car has enough grunt to plow through dunes and sands without dampening the confidence of the driver. In fact, the suspension articulation, arrival and departure angles seem to be perfect as we could overcome moderate obstacles without touching the underbody or damaging the exhaust tips! And of course one need not forget the user-friendly touchscreen navigation and a Bluetooth® handsfree phone system and the rear view camera

45


{Road Test}

French twist designed by renault, engineered by Nissan and built in south Korea, the all-new Koleos is the french marque’s first ever 4x4 lifestyle crossover suv. question is: can it cut in the fiercely competitive market? we find ou | Author: Chandan B Mallik

T

he adage used sometimes ‘it’s better to arrive late than never’ usually helps business strategists and product planners to study the markets in-depth, understand and see what competition is up to. Timing is also important, especially for Renault at this stage, since the company is currently on an overdrive mode with its models as it expands globally. To many in the business, Renault may have come into the compact SUV market a little late with the Koleos SUV, but it does arrives fullyformed and not as a half-baked proposition. For the record, the SUV run for Renault

46

just doesn’t end here. In fact, the automaker has, recently confirmed market rumours that it made an offer for ailing South Korean SUV and car manufacturer SsangYong Motor Co. SsangYong produces saloon cars and SUVs mostly using dated Mercedes-Benz engineering. The buyout offer was made in conjunction with their Korean subsidiary Renault Samsung Motors and Alliance partner Nissan. The benefit of having a very strong alliance partner is quite evident in the Koleos. Nissan’s engineering has been extended into Renault and though, the current Nissan X-Trail has a

few more years in its career, Renault has redesigned and reworked the platform which also underpins the Qashqai specifically for the Koleos. Interestingly, it is the first genuine global product to come from the Renault/Nissan marriage, almost 10 years after Renault secured 36.8 per cent of Nissan. Till very recently, French carmakers very similar to their North American counterparts tend to be set in their ways and have not been able to respond quickly enough or adapt to trends that have been set in other parts of the world. With models such as the Koleos and


{Road Test}

other forthcoming cars in the line-up, Renault intends to dispel that myth and win over the hearts and minds of the skeptics with an array of new cars. In the Middle East, Renault expects the Koleos will greatly boost its sales and firmly believes that the car has all the ingredients to be on the shopping list for people wanting an SUV that stands out from the crowd in a brand conscious market. On the styling front, the Koleos does stand out, but not for its cutting edge design which one can see in the all-new third generation Kia Sportage or the new Hyundai

iX/Tucson, but for its typical French quirkiness. One can understand the difficulties in trying to morph an X-Trail into a Koleos! But it valiantly makes it up by trying to look modern with family design traits, balanced proportions and proper 5-seater SUV configuration. The length and width of Koleos are 4,520mm and 1,850mm respectively and ground clearance is 206mm, a bit more than the X-Trail. The cars rides on 225/60 tyres shod on 17in alloy rims. The test car was a middle spec 4WD edition with fabric interiors. Inside, the cabin seems to be quite big because of the exceptionally

glass-to-metal ratio [opposite of Kia Sportage] and you could be forgiven in mistaking the interior to be that of a MPV instead of a SUV. The dashboard uses minimalism in its design so one shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t expect the sportiness of the Kia or Hyundai equivalent. The layout of controls is clustered and takes a little time to get used to. Meanwhile, for a change, the speedometer markings are even numbered [usually odd numbered in French cars] and instruments are backlit red. However, the influence of the French quirkiness is still around when you consider things such as the cruise control stalk

47


{Road Test}

<< the Koleos is the tenth model renault has produced that carries the maximum five-star euro Ncap crash rating. electronic stability/traction control is standard and there’s dual front, side and curtain airbags and three child seat anchor points for the rear seats.>>

verdict Renault’s first attempt to build a genuine lifestyle utility vehicle comes at a time when there’s a dramatic change in attitude towards smaller SUVs. Although late in joining the bandwagon, the overall package will evoke mixed feelings since the current range of competitive small SUV offerings are exceptionally well packaged and positioned in terms of design, content, capabilities and pricing. And even if you took into account cars of Korean production origin, Kia and Hyundai, who have launched their respective all-new savvy editions of the Sportage and Tucson respectively, arguably are tough nuts to beat. It’s hard to fault the Renault Koleos when you look at the price and the package it offers. But despite this attraction, it is only after you

48

start experiencing the car you can empathsise where it comes from. Although Renault’s Scenic was intended for the compact MPV market, it doesn’t mean that Renault opened their crossover SUV innings without heritage or back-up. Yes, the X-Trail derived Koleos does face extremely tough competition in its first outing, but it will sell on the merit of its practicality, and overall performance more than design alone. And considering it uses bullet-proof engineering, punters need not worry too much about the reliability issues. The car is sensibly priced and offered in vailable in five categories - two 4x2 and three 4x4 versions with two trim levels – PE and LE. Prices in UAE begin at Dh 73,000 and tops at Dh89,000.


{Road Test}

and its placement. However, it is not complicated to use and one can adapt quickly to its operational models. The build quality is more Jap-Korean than French, so it’s good. For a lifestyle SUV, there’s also range-topping equipment to enjoy depending on variant and the generous list includes fabric or leather bound seats, heated front seats, a powered driver’s seat, front and rear parking sensors, a Bose sound system and a ‘Modularity Pack’, which includes numerous rear-seat storage and adjustment possibilities. There are high levels of standard equipment, with all models coming with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a keyless card start/top button function, automatic handbrake and dualzone climate-control. On top of a functional and practical interior there is up to 70 litres of storage space, including a chilled 15-litre glove compartment. The practical aspects of the car are superb with cubby holes, folding tables behind the front seats and concealed bins under the seats or rear foot wells. Meanwhile, the tailgate comes with a horizontally-split arrangement with the bottom half able to support up to 200kg. The bay loading height is also user friendly.While there is nothing boxy and off-road about the look of the Koleos, it does retain a good degree of SUV-specific features such as command seating and higher ride. The all-round view is exceptional, thanks to the larger glass area. However, we all know glass adds to weight and this car had a glass panaromic roof. Renault claims that the car weighs 1,533kg and has achieved 5-star crash test rating in Europe.Only one engine is offered which is from the QR25DE series and it displaces 2,488cc. The 4-speed automatic of the previous generation X-Trail has gone in favour of continuously variable transmission (CVT) with manual selector, activated at the shifter level. Actually, there are very few car makers in the business who have been commercially successful with CVT applications and with this combination, a usable 169hp at 6,000rpm and 226Nm of torque at 4,400rpm is available. On paper the Nissan-sourced engine is a bit underpowered when you consider

175hp coming out from Kia’s 2.4-litre four cylinder dual CVVT engine. In fact the lighter 2.0-litre Kia dual CVVT engine produces 164 horses.

Driving On the move, acceleration is smooth and adequate, but not aggressive. The car feels quite comfortable because it’s not very noisy and is stable on straight line despite its higher ground clearance. The front MacPherson-type suspension with the fully-independent multilinks at the rear were originally designed for the new X-Trail now find themselves doing a better job in the Koleos as it is able to let the car perform like an agile hatchback than a slow and sedate MPV. While, the suspension is on the softer side with an obvious bias towards comfort, but is able to contain the car’s tendency wallow pretty fast. Of course, the Koleos is no fast corner handling champion nor does it claim to be one, but we really enjoyed the ride quality over mixed surfaces and would accept the compromise for this type of vehicle. While we tried very hard to ignore the quirkiness you sometimes get in French cars, the curiously hidden behind the steering wheel cruise control buttons appeared to be the biggest culprit in that respect, but other elements in the package such the positioning of the air vents, stalks and the audio controls were helpful in offsetting that griping feeling. And to ensure first class travelling comfort for all occupants, Renault equipped the car with an automatic dual-zone heating and climate control system with specific vents for the rear seats. Meanwhile, rear passengers also benefit from sunshades and can adjust ventilation using the control located at the rear of the centre console. Mostly, manoeuvering around

town was an unstressed affair due to the light steering and at higher speeds it proved to be well-weighted and had an excellent on-centre feel, and it quite accurately sends feedback from the road to the driver making it feel reassuringly solid on both the motorways and side lanes. But it was the off-road sojourn with the car that proved to be an eye opener and pole clincher. A switch on the centre console allowed us to select between auto mode, in which the front/rear torque split is electronically controlled according to demand, or lock mode, when drive is fixed at a constant 50/50 front/ rear torque split. Switch of the Electronic Stability Program [it’s dormant and will resurface if sensors think so depending on driving conditions] and the car will take off-road trails and soft sand quite comfortably. The latest edition of Nissan’s all mode 4x4-i system [developed by Nissan for the new X-Trail] also combines and assists Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Uphill Start Support (USS) and Downhill Drive Support (DDS). The fully automatic system activates on any slope that exceeds a 10 per cent incline, and holds the car on the brakes until the driver starts to move away. We also discovered that the system also works if the vehicle is reversing up an incline. Driver gets extra confidence when he is able to engage the manual mode of the CVT, essentially the software allows extra torque in the operating band range with the equivalent feeling of driving in first or second gear in a conventional manual-automatic set-up.The same all-wheel drive management system also contributes to the vehicle’s active safety performance. The instant it detects even a small amount of oversteer or understeer, it immediately modifies the front-rear torque split, even before a possible intervention from the ESP kicks in and hence ensures a stable ride with minimum driver intervention. We also found out that the generous ground clearance [206mm] with approach and departure angles of 27 and 31 degrees respectively work in favour of the car, especially off-road and this virtually ensures that the under chassis components remain protected to some extent.

49


{launch}

Honda Trio hits region exploring new territory with the accord crosstour, honda declares a fresh focus at the premium niche market alongwith two of its latest motorcycle models

I

n an impressive ceremony at Dubai’s Palm Atlantis, Honda Motor Company Middle East Office officially launched the allnew Accord-based Crosstour. The Crosstour is being positioned as an extension to the line-up and will sit above the Accord saloon. Honda executives describe the Crosstour as an innovative crossover, but consciously stay away from branding it as a lifestyle station wagon. It’s no secret that many automakers think that the term, “station wagon” implies too much practicality and not enough on style. Honda thinks it has found a perfect new slot

50

with the Crosstour as it interprets the category of CUV being created as the fusion of the saloon and SUV. In recent years, the demand for CUVs has been growing faster than SUVs, so by designing a car more stylish than a CUV and more versatile than a saloon, it thinks it has a winner. The Middle East market represents one sixth of the global volume and Honda is keen to get premium products across the region. [see preview and details on page XXXXX]. On the sidelines of the Crosstour launch, Honda also added some vroom for the growing motorcycle community in the region

with the introduction of the VFR 1200F and VTR 1300CX, its new sports touring and first ever custom bike respectively The Honda Accord Crosstour’s styling and body construction has evolved from the foundation of the Accord saloon, so architecturally it is similar shape. On closer look, there are key differences throughout the entire body and none of the exterior panels are shared with any other Accord. The most noticeable differences include the overall height of the body from the floor to the roof and the obvious design differences in the rear


{launch} of the vehicle to accommodate the sloped roofline and the tailgate. The heightened body dimensions combined with increased ground clearance result in a commanding view of the road and a comfortable hip point for ease of entering and exiting the vehicle. Honda employed Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) formulas in constructing the car which uses 46 per cent higher torsional rigidity, yet remains lightweight and safe. Inside, the Crosstour has the same basic interior as the Accord, but Honda have gone one step further to define it as “Premium and active”. These two essentially represent the dual nature in terms of comfort and functionality in the car. Although, consistency with all Accords was non-negotiable, a variety of design techniques were used to enhance the feeling of width and space in the passenger cabin to express premium and accommodating quality. For occupants this car is a mix of comfort and utility. The front seats are identical to those found on the Accord saloon and come with extra bolstering. The longer wheel base has freed space at the rear so there’s generous leg and head room. Trim is a mix of leather and wood and equipment is standard and quite comprehensive. The only thing that seems to be missing is satellite navigation. The rear boot access is via liftgate and rear seats fold flat to increase cargo space. Furthermore, the interior packaging theme is divided into two distinct zones for passenger accommodation and cargo capabilities. The passenger zone seeks to provide occupants with sophisticated styling and advanced features similar to all Accord

body styles. The cargo zone continues the premium theme with highly visible application of quality materials above the floor line with more rugged versatility beneath the floor pan. The full-size spare wheel sits under the cargo bay, similar to that of SUVs. For the suspension, modifications to the Accord platform are minimal, but the Crosstour gets unique springs and shock absorbers and a constant ratio hydraulic steering rack which replaces the Accord’s variable unit. The car also has a more powerful brake system with two-piston calipers upfront and larger rear discs. The heart of Honda’s Accord line-up is its strong selling four cylinder models. Interestingly, the Crosstour is available only with a 60-degree V6, which is an advanced version of Honda’s 3.5-litre, SOHC, 24-valve engine. The i-VTEC valvetrain and high efficiency intake manifold optimize cylinderfilling efficiency across a wide range of engine speeds. The 271hp engine also incorporates Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) and depending on driving situations can deactivate and run the car on 3-, 4- or six cylinders. Fivespeed automatic transmission is offered in both FWD and 4WD models.

VFR 1200 F A “new breed of Honda” that is expected to take on the likes of Hayabusa and Kawasaki’s ZX-14R. Like the name implies, the new VFR 1200F complements the compact powertrain design with a technologically advanced V4 engine with unusual architecture with one cylinder closer one to a rear cylinder and dual clutch transmission. Honda’s new sport tourer

will run on a 1,237 cc liquid cooled 76° V4 that outputs nothing less than 172 bhp at 10,000 rpm and a maximum torque of 129 Nm at 8,750 rpm. Other than state-of-the-art performance, the 2010 Honda VFR 1200F also manages to impress with its sharp looks that evoke much aesthetic wonderment. A damn impressive two wheeler to look at, the bike comes with a fused cowl and body that make for a smooth, unified, aerodynamic surface.

VTX 1300CX Honda has finally designed and constructed a two-wheeler for people who have always longed for a factory built chopper from the brand. Choppers have existed on the fringes of the motorcycling scene for decades and often crude home-built efforts have inspired ever greater innovation. True choppers are now something of an art form with highly desirable looks and attitude. The Honda VT1300CX is a true original in the genre – a radical concept offered in a unique package that’s accessible to nearly every rider. Stunningly creative and with radical, head-turning looks, this motorcycle is a milestone. The design focus began with the high steering head and open look in the front end, and radiated outward from there. Extensive cooperation took place between the styling team in the USA at Honda Research Americas (HRA) and the Honda engineers in Japan. The engine is based on Honda’s proven and muscular VTX1300 which is 52-degree V-twin liquid-cooled and displaces 1,312cc . The engine is cooled by a compact radiator that’s neatly concealed between the frame’s downtubes.

51


{Preview}

Hybrid madness the much anticipated porsche 918 spyder, is not production-ready or on the market yet, but a $50,000 non-refundable deposit will guarantee you one if it gets the green light for production. we look at porscheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s plans for this car

52


{Preview}

<< the two-seater porsche 918 spyder mid-engined high-

performance sports car with plug-in hybrid technology clearly demonstrates a benchmark in new drive technology, but also the innovative power of porsche as a pioneer in hybrid drive for sports cars >> 53


{Preview} << the big advantage of a plug-in hybrid is that

the battery can be charged on the regular electrical network. the car’s kinetic energy is converted into electrical energy. when applying the brakes, it provides additional regenerated energy for fast accelerations >>

I

t’s an emerging trend in the motoring business of mixing and mating various technologies and then deciding what to do with it. In this case, we are referring to the new breed of electric-mechanical hybrid sports cars that are being showcased as technological masterpieces that also meet stricter future legislative requirements when it comes to fuel emissions and consumption. And we all know that with current technology, sports car makers such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche don’t have a bright future without this push. And that makes the business case for an electric hybrid module supported model even more significant. Like Ferrari, Porsche has been toying with the idea and it showcased the 918 Spyder hybrid concept which the sports carmaker built on the platform of a racing Porsche RS Spyder at the Geneva motor show in March this year. It seems that Porsche really wants to make up its mind what to do with it, meaning keep it as a concept or give it the green light for production. Such is the dilemma that Porsche pundits have decided to test waters once again. At the Pebble Beach Concours d-Elegance which is usually held in August, Porsche will offer a clandestine introduction to invited guests only,

54

for whom ‘money may not be the object at all. Actually, Porsche will take a $50,000 nonrefundable deposit to order the car once it gets the green light for production. Meanwhile, the concept that combines hightech racing features with electric-mobility and believed to offer a fascinating range of qualities will be put to the test as a full-blown racer as early as next year. This decision obviously comes following recent successes with the 911 GT3 R Hybrid racers, Porsche has announced its intention to bring the 918 Spyder hybrid models to the 24-hour race at the Nurburgring Nordschleife next year (2011). To do that, Porsche engineers have a couple of challenges to meet. Since this is technically a hybrid car, it has to be cat quick and capable of doing high speeds. The prime target of engineering is to work on the car to get its top speed up to the 320 km/h mark. With this figure in hand, theoretically, the 918 Spyder could do a lap around the Nordschleife track, otherwise known as the Green Hell, in under 7min and 30secs. The mid-engined two-seater is powered by a high-revving 3.4-litre V8 developing more than 500hp and a maximum engine speed of 9,200 rpm. The electric motors on the front and rear axle contribute an additional 218hp in the power package. Combined, they offer a super sports car performance with acceleration from zero to 100km/h in under 3.2secs. Power is transmitted to the wheels by a seven-speed Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) transmission that feeds the power of the electric drive system to the rear axle. Meanwhile, the front-wheel electric drive powers the wheels through a fixed transmission ratio. With a fuel rating of 3.0 litres/100 km fuel and a CO2 emissions figure of only 70g/km, the 918 Spyder is confidently looking like it has a future in the line-up.


{Preview} Essentially, the 918 Spyder concept is a parallel hybrid just like Toyota’s famous Prius. That means it has two powertrains, petrol and electric and can operate together or separately to propel the car which can be driven in several modes ranging from a modest pure electric city runner to race track scorcher. The driver decides how he wants the car to perform and which source of power to tap by a simple tap of a button on the steering wheel. In E-drive mode, the car runs using electric power alone and has a range of up to 25km which is a typical urban commute run. In the hybrid mode, the car uses both the electric motors and the combustion engine as a function of driving conditions and requirements. The sport hybrid mode uses both drive systems, but with the focus on performance. Most of the drive power goes to the rear wheels, with torque vectoring serving to additionally improve the car’s driving dynamics. In the extreme race hybrid mode the drive systems are focused on pure performance. With the battery sufficiently charged, a push-to-pass button feeds in additional electrical power also called E-Boost, quite handy in fast overtaking. For efficiency in performance and fuel economy like the drivetrain, there’s been quite a focus on the way the body structure has been designed. As expected, there are clear influences from Porsche’s motorsport experience. The car carries a modular structure with its monocoque bodyshell made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic composites with liberal use of lightweight magnesium and aluminium components. Together these measures have helped the car reduce weight to below 1,490 kg, yet maintaining a high level of torsional stiffness. From the styling point of view, the design concept takes a step backward in time when it comes to a reference point. Yes, there are influences from its legendary racing cars such as the Porsche 917 and even the current Porsche RS Spyder. The proportions and dimensions, structured design with perfectly balanced surfaces and detailing convey the message of an ideal synthesis of form and function But looks are not unrelated to performance. The smooth visual design balance, a rear spoiler and low stance are a result of an

advanced aerodynamics programme. The rear end of the car is striking with loops extending out of the headrests, which also accommodate retractable air intakes with a ram air function. The interiors from Porsche in the past would be considered as average by today’s standards. But with the arrival of the Panamera, interiors for both driver and passenger actually have a new definition. In the 918 too, this message takes a step further. There are body hugging bucket seats and the cockpit layout actually offers a futuristic glimpse at the potential interior architecture of forthcoming Porsches. Meanwhile, the three free-standing gauges for speed, engine speed (tacho) and energy management do look as if they came directly from a racing car in the ‘60s. But, there’s a dose of modernity as well. The centre console rises up towards the front and houses a touch screen for controlling the various functions in the car. Unlike normal Porsche’s, the driver faces extra instrumentation and operational units in this car. As a result, most of the controls relevant to the driver are mainly concentrated on the three-spoke multifunction steering wheel. The variable driving modes are supplemented by a switch enabling the driver to call up various drive programs on the move and this switch also acts as the pushto-pass button for E-boosting. Interestingly, instrument illumination varies from green for the consumption-oriented running modes to red for the performance-oriented driving programs. The big question is how many orders would Porsche actually need to give the car its production green signal? A comment by Porsche R&D chief Wolfgang Dürheimer suggests that the company would be rather pleased “if customer feedback is

55


{Preview} << the porsche 918 spyder concept also comes with a function

called range manager. after being activated in the centre display, the system uses the map in the navigation system to present the remaining range the car is able to cover. the system can also tell whether the driver is able to reach a certain destination on electric poweralone >>

positive and the carmaker ended up over time with about 1,000 firm orders.” Porsche says that it has almost 900 potential buyers for its new 918 Spyder, so it seems the business case has a good possibility of going ahead. This means that if Porsche were to put its hybrid 918 Spyder into a limited production cycle, it wouldn’t be the first time that it has done so. Remember, the Carrera GT which was introduced back in the early 2000s? Porsche used a similar tactic to put that car on the market.

56

Well, at least Porsche has a viable proposition where it can bake a cake and eat it too. It won’t have to look very far to prove that the best of both worlds don’t have to be mutually exclusive with the 918 Spyder concept. Besides that, if all went according to plan, Porsche will be able to take the title of most powerful road car it has ever produced soon. Be prepared to shell out $50,000 as non-refundable deposit if you want one. A thousand such deposits will guarantee the car gets into production!


{obituary}

Tragic end for Toyota test driver

T

he Nurburgring track can be very ruthless and unforgiving even for the most experienced driver. The Death Ring claimed the life of Toyota’s chief tester Hiromu Naruse and also left two BMW testers battling for their lives with serious crash related injuries.This horrific accident happened in the last week of sunny June on Highway 410 near the Nurburgring where 67-year-old Naruse driving one of two pre-production LFA test cars apparently collided head-on with a BMW 3 Series after veering into the opposite lane. Details relating

Remembering Naruse

I

n what would be his last interview on May 26 for Lexus Magazine, Naruse shared some insights about his experience behind the wheel of a test LFA. “When we raced the LFA in Nardo, Italy, I thought I might not return to Japan alive. The purpose of this ‘test’ was to evaluate the car’s durability at 200 mph for a long period. The race was in the dark with no lights on the track and there were

to the incident have been sketchy, but crash evidence suggests the accident to have happened at high speed. Both cars were traveling in an area with a speed limit of 100 km/h (62 mph), but the crash was violent enough that Naruse’s body had be pulled from the wreckage with the ‘Jaws of Life’ (rescue scissors). Naruse was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident by paramedics, although details of the cause of death have yet to be determined. The local authorities are investigating the accident site for clues.

birds flying towards me. Imagine if a tyre had burst! We created the final LFA through these kinds of test experiences.” Naruse, apart from being Toyota chief Akio Toyoda’s personal driver is widely regarded as Godfather of the LFA and also largely credited with the success of the Toyota 2000GT. After joining Toyota Motor Corporation in 1963, he was first employed as a temporary employee in the Vehicle Evaluation and Engineering Division of Toyota. (At the time, Naruse held numerous qualifications. In addition to being a certified auto mechanic, he also held a level-2 certificate for the abacus and was nearly placed in the Accounting Division). Naruse worked his way up through the ranks to become a test driver. During the first 10 years after joining Toyota, he was involved in

motorsports projects, and headed up production of the Toyota 7 and Toyota 2000GT. In 1970, Naruse was stationed in Switzerland where he was involved in the formative years of Toyota Motorsports, including Japan’s first participation in the Nürburgring and Spa-Francorchamps races. He influenced development of all the sporty mass-production vehicles from the Toyota 2000GT to the MR-S, and has racked up more years of experience and logged more miles on the holy ground of vehicle development, Nürburgring, than any other Japanese. Even Ferrari acknowledges his expertise, giving him the nickname “Nur Meister (One and Only Master Craftsman)” and referring to him as the “man who knows all the world’s roads.” Sadly, he will be missed by all.

<<hiromu Naruse was closely coNNected with the developmeNt aNd testiNG of the lfa supercar >>

57


{Road Test}

Still flying high consider it a luxury car with a difference. in a market that is getting increasingly comfort biased, the lexus rX350 has been a pioneer. automan tests the car | Author: Raj warrior | Photography: Shakeel Al Balushi |

58


{Road Test}

I

n other pages in this month’s magazine, we look at the range of SUVs that a certain luxury car marque offers. While the attempt by the brand there was to bring out the hardy, terrain-busting characteristics of even their entry level SUV, the understanding always remained that all the performance in the world had to come with a clutch of core values to make sense for a luxury segment buyer. Hence just as much importance would be given to things like air-conditioned seats, leather and DVD players and driver related goodies couched as necessity in terms of safety or performance. Like adaptive cruise control, reversing cameras or even the power adjustable seats with memory functions. At a certain level the customer is accustomed to a

feature set that gives him this package. Lexus has grown as a brand over the years, precisely for its ability to identify the need and the aspiration level of customers. The RX350 evolved as a slightly precocious kid in the block of ‘soft’ SUVs. At a time when most brands were still getting models to the concept stage, the RX served as the Japanese luxury brand’s very own urban-centred runabout. Lexus inaugurated the luxury crossover category with the original RX 300 model in 1998. More than one million Lexus RX models have been sold worldwide, making it the most successful luxury utility vehicle. The car in its current generation has a look that has been consciously made more muscular than before. This was partly to add the promise of the car’s ability to handle the

rough with the smooth. Of course, you know that the car will do the school run more often and with a better sense of purpose than the sand climb, but it can still do both and that’s more than you can say of a sedan. The stance of the car is one of power and muscle. While the very visible signature design cues of the front fascia and the region aft of the C-pillar define the car’s presence, short overhangs, good ground clearance and the presence of a powerful engine tell one of its ability. The car teams a 3.5-litre V6 engine with a six-speed multi-mode auto box. Better designed intake and exhaust manifolds improve engine aspiration for performance and economy. There are 275 horses available in the power band at a sprightly 6200rpm and

59


{Road Test}

verdict In terms of being the right product in the right market segment, the RX is a car that inspires buyers confidence. It isn’t all gung-ho like the bigger GX or LX, but is certainly feature-rich and highly capable. As for competitive brands, the RX does offer more plus points in its favour, though it hasn’t quite been able to shake the ‘soft’ image. Perhaps this is wrongly because of its one engine size. Our guess is that you would buy the car if your bias was towards comfort and really smooth drive experience. It has all the creature comforts luxury cars provide and the room and features to make life with the RX a very rewarding experience.

60


{Road Test} the flat torque curve has been optimised to offer the best performance, with a peak of 347Nm and 90 percent of this in turn being available all the way from 2300 to 6100rpm. That means that you’ll never feel the torque taper off and this can be felt when you leave the gearbox in ‘drive’ and floor the accelerator on an incline. Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) is used to control both intake and exhaust camshafts independently. Other features of the valvetrain include roller rocker arms and slimmer valve stems. Lexus have also incorporated an improved Acoustic Control Induction System (ACIS), which by varying intake runner length in response to engine speed and throttle position improves the engine’s torque characteristics. The ETCS-i (Electronic Throttle Control Systemintelligent) softens throttle response during initial acceleration for smoother takeoff and to help reduce wheel spin. The car’s six-speed automatic transmission replaces the previous five-speed. Using miniature high-flow linear solenoids to control transmission-fluid line-pressure, the transmission yields quicker shifting response. The torque converter uses a new low-speed lock-up damper to enable lock-up from second to sixth gear to help improve the fuel economy. The “Multi-Mode” bit of the gearbox allows the driver to shift manually. An Artificial Intelligence shifting (AI-SHIFT) control, which is seen in a Lexus for the first time in the RX, sets shift patterns based on the vehicle speed and throttle position and estimates road conditions and driver input to automatically control the shift pattern. AI-SHIFT can prevent unnecessary shifting, like seen in hilly areas. When descending inclines, the transmission prevents up-shifts to provide more engine braking. Coming from an AWD system that used a viscous coupling locking centre differential to provide 50:50 torque distribution, the current car’s Active Torque Control AWD uses an electronically controlled coupling ahead of the rear differential to vary torque distribution anywhere from 100:0 to 50:50 front to rear, depending on driving dynamics and road conditions. Advantages include weight reduction by 16 kgs and lower parasitic losses by 30 percent. You can feel the extra care that Lexus engineers took to make the feel of the engine just right. If you go linear with the gas pedal,

the response if refined and rather in tune with a car. It is when you floor the pedal or even better, let the car loose on some loose gravel or packed sand that one notices the quick electronic finessing of the drive train. The car also features some aspirational goodies. Two that we really loved were the HUD and the mouse that’s not quite a mouse, more a plaything. The former is the Heads Up Display that uses the wonders of a treated patch on the windshield and a small projector embedded in the dash to throw up a very readable info patch that looks like it is floating a metre or so in front of you. The readout is adjustable to take care of driver height. The other HMI (Human Machine Interface) is the controller which presents a logical and familiar way to access the car’s centre console screen. This is in addition to the screen being touch driven too. The fun part of the controller is that it is very computer mouse like in design and operation. It is so smooth, you have a concealed thought arising that it may fall off the console. Vehicle settings can be customised according to personal preference, including personal door-lock preferences, interior/exterior light adjustments, driver’s seat easy exit, and window-closure settings. The navigation system on grades of the RX can be controlled using either the “Remote Touch” device or by using voice command. The screen menus are selected with the controller, eliminating

the need to reach out or avert eyes from the road. Now becoming standard on other brands, Lexus introduced a wide-view side monitor and backup monitor in the RX. The driver can see hard-to-view areas by simply pressing the camera-select button on the steering wheel or, when in reverse, viewing the camera images on the navigation screen. An optional back up camera displays images on the eight-inch navigation screen; systems without navigation have a 2.4-inch display in the rear-view mirror. VDIM or Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management handling technology is available on the top grade RX 350. VDIM governs all of the vehicle’s dynamic handling systems – ABS, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control. VDIM also interfaces with the electronic throttle control system. It also provides a limited slip differential effect. The Traction Control and VSC functions can also be switched off, for example, when the driver needs to free the vehicle when stuck in mud or sand. You also get Hill-start Assist Control, where brake pressure is maintained for approximately two seconds after the brake pedal is released and the driver switches to the accelerator pedal on both climbs and descents.

61


{Motorsports - F1}

McLaren one-two as Red Bulls tangle in Turkey W

hen McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton broke his duck in 2010 he did so in dramatic style, in a Turkish Grand Prix that at one stage seemed destined to yield Red Bull yet another one-two. Red Bull’s Mark Webber led off the line as team mate Sebastian Vettel boiled through to push slow-starting Hamilton down to third and Mercedes GP’s Michael Schumacher edged ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button for fourth. Both McLaren drivers made up a place on that opening tour, however, and until the pit stops Hamilton put Webber under huge pressure. Then a slight delay for the Englishman, with his right-rear tyre, dropped him to third behind Webber and Vettel, with Button a watchful fourth, and until Lap 40 that was how they ran, nose to tail, each awaiting a mistake from the others. No one else was in the race. But on Lap 41 Vettel got a run on Webber on the inside going down to Turn 12,

62


{Motorsports - F1} and had drawn alongside, but as he tried to move to the right to gain the entry line his right rear wheel clipped Webber’s left front. Suddenly Vettel was spinning wildly down the road and into retirement with a punctured right-rear tyre, and as Webber was forced to run wide the two McLarens picked their way gleefully through the debris to snatch the leading positions. Webber and Vettel each squarely blamed the other for the accident, which left Red Bull technical guru Adrian Newey with his head in his hands. It seemed the McLaren duo had been handed the race on a plate but the drama wasn’t over. There was a small amount of rain, but around this time the McLaren drivers were also told to conserve fuel. Button sliced into Hamilton’s lead and got a similar run on him going into Turn 12 on Lap 48. But he was on the outside, and as Hamilton hung tough on the inside they went side by side through that corner. And 13. And 14. Across the finish line they were officially separated by 0.0s, and Button was credited with the lead, but Hamilton wasn’t done yet and they touched wheels lightly as he pushed back through into first place going into Turn One. It was fabulous stuff, and thereafter he was able to open the gap up again to score a timely victory as both he and Button eased off to save fuel. Button seemed happy enough with second, while Webber was so far ahead of Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes that he was able to pit for a new nose and front wing on Lap 42 and still finish on the podium. As a result he still leads the world championship with 93 points to Button’s 88 and Hamilton’s 84, while Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso is fourth on 79 from Vettel on 78. Neither Mercedes had the pace to challenge Red Bull or McLaren, but they

were much faster than the Ferraris which were having their 800th race. Schumacher was fourth, with team mate Nico Rosberg closing in as the track got greasy, to finish fifth ahead of Renault’s Robert Kubica and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa who had a race-long battle for sixth. Alonso was stuck for a long time behind an impressive Vitaly Petrov in the second Renault, but took the place after they brushed wheels at the start of Lap 54. That gave the Renault driver a puncture, which dropped him to 15th after a great performance that ultimately gave him only fastest lap on fresh tyres. The final points went to Adrian Sutil for Force India from Kamui Kobayashi, who beat BMW Sauber team mate Pedro de la Rosa to the line by two-tenths of a second. They did not collide. Behind them, Jaime Alguersuari brought his Toro Rosso home 12th, having twice set fastest lap after a late pit stop on Lap 41, Vitantonio Liuzzi’s Force India was 13th, then Rubens Barrichello was 14th for Williams after catching and passing team mate Nico Hulkenberg, who’d been forced into a pit stop on the opening lap after a brush with Sebastien Buemi who also needed a new right-rear tyre. He was 16th behind Petrov. The Virgins won the new team prize, with Timo Glock 18th behind Hulkenberg after both Lotuses had retired, and Lucas di Grassi was 19th. Bruno Senna had a great fight with his fellow countryman, but neither he nor team mate Karun Chandhok were running at the finish. The controversial yet gripping race moves McLaren back ahead of Red Bull in the constructors’ championship, with 172 points to 171, with Ferrari third on 146 and Mercedes fourth on 100. Renault have 73.

63


{Motorsports - F1}

Webber and Red Bull hit Monaco jackpot R

ed Bull’s Mark Webber underwent trial by safety car in Monte Carlo on Sunday afternoon, but kept his cool throughout four interventions, the last of which was after a late tangle at Rascasse between backmarkers Jarno Trulli and Karun Chandhok which happened right in front of his Red Bull. That brought out Bernd Maylander and the Mercedes for the last time, the previous three occasions involving two heavy crashes by Williams drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Rubens Barrichello. On all of those occasions Webber had calmly opened up the gap again over team mate Sebastian Vettel, who had beaten front-row starter Robert Kubica off the line at the start and then trailed Webber throughout. It was far from a gripping race, with only the accidents providing relief from total Red Bull domination as Kubica drove his heart out to keep them honest but was unable to

64

challenge. It was the first time an Australian had won in the Principality since Sir Jack Brabham did so for Cooper in 1959, and puts Webber into the lead of the world championship, level with Vettel on 78 points. Behind the valiant Kubica, Felipe Massa held Lewis Hamilton at bay as Fernando Alonso fought his way up from last place after a pit lane start. The first safety car came out on the opening lap after Hulkenberg crashed heavily in the tunnel after a front wing component failed. Then team mate Barrichello also shunted hard going up the hill to Massenet on the 31st lap due to a rear-end failure. That brought out the second safety car, and another came on the 43rd lap as a loose drain cover was noted in the vicinity. When Barrichello discarded his shattered car’s steering wheel, an HRT ran it over.

As the safety car pulled in at the end of the 78th after its final appearance, and on the race’s final lap all that remained was for the drivers to cross the line again, but an opportunistic Schumacher dived ahead of Alonso, demoting him to seventh place. That move was subsequently deemed illegal by the stewards, who added 20s to the German’s race time in lieu of a drive-through penalty, dropping him to 12th. Schumacher’s Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg was thus seventh, and behind him Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi made it a good day for Force India with eighth and ninth places. Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi Buemi inherited the final point for tenth after Schumacher’s penalty and team mate Jaime Alguersuari was the only other finisher. Besides Chandhok and Trulli, who crashed on the race’s 74th lap, the other non-finishers were Heikki Kovalainen and Bruno Senna, who quit on the 60th with


{Motorsports - F1}

mechanical failures, and Renault’s Vitaly Petrov who called it a day with five laps to go with after a troubled race following an early puncture. It wasn’t a great day for McLaren, with Jenson Button losing ground at the start and becoming the second retirement with suspected engine failure on the third lap. Mechanical problems also accounted for the Virgins of Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi, and the BMW Saubers of Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi. After Schumacher’s demotion, Alonso leaves Monaco third overall in the driver standings with 75 points, then come Button on 70 from Massa on 61, Kubica and Hamilton on 59 and Rosberg on 56. For the first time this season Red Bull also lead the constructors’ world championship, with 156 points, Ferrari on 136, McLaren on 129, Mercedes on 78 and Renault on 65.

Schumacher penalised for Alonso safety-car pass Mercedes GP’s Michael Schumacher has been penalised by the Monte Carlo race stewards for his overtaking manoeuvre on Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in the dying moments of the Monaco Grand Prix. Schumacher was handed a drive-through penalty, which is converted after the race into a 20-second time penalty, dropping him from sixth to 12th in the results. Schumacher passed Alonso just as the safety car pulled in at the end of Lap 78. The FIA stewards, which included his old sparring partner Damon Hill, have deemed the German breached Article 40.13 of the Sporting Regulations, which states that “if the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.” Mercedes will appeal the stewards’ decision and a date for that appeal will be set in due course by the FIA. Schumacher’s demotion moves Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi, who had finished in 11th, into the points in tenth place.

65


{Motorsports - wrc}

Latvala takes last stage victory in Rally New Zealand B

P Ford Focus driver Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala won Rally New Zealand after a day of high drama in the four special stages near Raglan. Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila snatched the win on the second run of the iconic Whaanga Coast test, the very last stage of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship’s fifth round. Latvala pushed hard to overtake overnight rally leader Sébastien Ogier of the Citroën Junior Team. Latvala went into the final test 6.2 seconds behind the Frenchman who did his chances no good with a small spin early in the stage and another, three corners from the end. Ogier eventually recorded a time just under nine seconds slower than the Ford’s, which gave victory to Latvala by 2.4 seconds. World champion and 2010 series leader Sébastien Loeb finished third in his works Citroen, 15.2 seconds behind Latvala. When he reached the end of the final stage, Latvala wasn’t sure he had won. “Three corners from the end (of Whaanga 2), I saw a piece of bumper on the road and knew something was happening. But I didn’t know what was going on (the bumper belonged to Ogier’s Citroen). “Suddenly my co-driver Miikka said: ‘we have won’. And we had won! There are no words to describe this. I can’t believe I’m second in the championship,” Latvala said. “I wasn’t the fastest here but I was the most consistent and that paid off when it mattered.” The winning margin was the second smallest in a WRC event this century. The previous one was the 2007 Rally New Zealand where Ford’s Marcus Grönholm beat Loeb on the final special stage by threetenths of a second. Latvala’s win is also significant for Ford as they overtook Lancia as the most successful manufacturer in WRC history, with 75 wins. The Raglan stages, particularly the long and very demanding Whaanga Coast test,

66

again determined the rally’s outcome. Two years ago, mishaps on the final run through Whaanga cost the factory Fords victory, and Loeb won. This year, the tables were turned, and it was the works Citroens which were in strife, and Ford which capitalised on their misfortune. Mikko Hirvonen finished fourth today, giving Ford a better manufacturers’ championship points haul than Citroën in this event. Citroen’s points from Rally New Zealand came from Loeb in third and Dani Sordo who finished fifth. Loeb started the morning well, overtaking Ogier for the lead in the first special stage, Te Hutewai, near Raglan. Ogier, running first on the road, spun and set only the eighth-fastest time. But then came the first run through the Whaanga Coast test, and disaster for Loeb who ran wide on a fast right-hander, sliding off the road in thick gravel and charging through shrubbery before coming to rest against a small tree. He got going again but had lost 30 seconds and dropped from the lead to fourth place, 21.7 seconds behind leader Ogier. “It was a bit more gravelled than what I expected and I lost control of the car,” Loeb said. “Then, the second pass through, I really tried again because we were not so far from the lead and finally I had another spin – maybe pushing a bit too hard.” Both Latvala and Hirvonen had been in strong form in the day’s opening tests, Hirvonen winning the first and finishing second in the other. Latvala, meanwhile, had been pouring the pressure on to Ogier and was now in second place. 5.6 seconds behind. Loeb won the morning’s third test, the second run through Te Hutewai, with Ogier second and edging the gap over Latvala to 6.2 seconds. The rally would be decided on the final stage, Whaanga Coast 2.Ogier said second place was “still a very good result but a bit frustrating. I did another

spin and I lost 10 seconds. With that, I lost first place. “For sure it was big disappointment to lose my first victory like this but it doesn’t really matter if I continue in this way I will have a victory soon, so it’s a good result,” said the former junior world rally champion. Fifth-placed Hirvonen said it had been a difficult weekend, “really difficult. In the end we managed to get two positions today and we got good (manufacturers’) points for the team.” After being day one’s overnight leader, Norway’s Petter Solberg was still in a strong position to push for his first win in his privately-entered Citroën as day three started. He won the first Whaanga stage in a time that was 23 seconds faster than Ogier’s and went into Whaanga 2 in third place, just 16.8 seconds behind the Frenchman and 10.6 adrift of Latvala. Solberg was pushing hard when he slid off the road, hitting a power pole and bringing down a power line. His


{Motorsports - wrc}

Citroen ended up in a ditch with its nose badly damaged and Solberg’s rally was over. Rally New Zealand also counts for the 2010 Super 2000 and production world rally championships. Ford scored a clean sweep in Super 2000, with Finn Jari Ketomaa finishing eighth overall, leading home the similar Fiesta S2000s of Xavier Pons and Martin Prokop. With a big lead over Pons, Ketomaa said he had just driven to finish on today’s four stages. “Trying to keep the rhythm and drive slowly, it’s not easy to go like that. The first stage was a little bit bad from my side but after that I started to go very well.” New Zealand rally champion Hayden Paddon won the production car world championship category in his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX finishing 14th overall. He also took the first New Zealander crown, claiming for the second time in succession the coveted Woolf-Whittaker Trophy. His main opposition, former production world champion Toshi Arai and double New Zealand champion Richard Mason, both fell out of contention on day one. Paddon finished just over three minutes ahead of fellow Kiwis contesting the PWRC class Emma Gilmour and Kingsley Thompson. Aside from worries about a faulty clutch during today’s stages, Paddon had a troublefree run. “It’s been an absolute dream weekend and we got the result we wanted. What more could we ask for?” It was an all-New Zealand podium in the production class with Gilmour bringing her Subaru Impreza STI into second, and Kingsley Thompson third in a Lancer EVO. The 40th running of Rally New Zealand, run mainly in fine but overcast conditions, drew many thousands of enthusiastic spectators to the gravel stages and the super specials on tarmac in the Auckland Domain and the Hampton Downs race circuit in the Waikato and to the service park at Queens Wharf on the Auckland waterfront.

67


{Motorsports - wrc}

Citroën wins a hotlydisputed rally

Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena drove a faultless final day in Rally Turkey to score a hat trick of wins in the 2010 World Rally Championship. This victory has enabled the Citroën Total World Rally Team crew to increase their lead in the Drivers’ World Rally Championship. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti retired in the final loop. The rain, which everybody feared would fall, did so on Saturday night/ Sunday morning. The final day of the event consisted of two passages through a three-stage loop run on earth. The Deniz and Mudarli (SS18 and 19) stages were cancelled as they were impassible. So the day started with the Ballica (ES20) stage. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena were first out on the road and took advantage of the damp conditions to set the quickest time. When the crew of the no. 1 C4 WRC arrived back in the Pendik service park, they were still reeling from having made an 85-metre jump! “It was an incredible sensation as we were up in the air for several seconds,” exclaimed Sébastien Loeb. “In the recce, not for a moment did we imagine that we’d jump so far. We gave ourselves a few more scares, but I had to keep on pushing.”

68


{Motorsports - wrc}

Sebastien Loeb Reached his 57th Victory in Turkey Citroen´s Sebastien Loeb reached his 57th rally win by claiming the victory in Rally of Turkey. Third day´s first and second stages were canceled but the day offered great enthusiasm. It was rain causing Deniz and Mudarli´s clayey sections to form unsuitable conditions for rallying and resulting organisers to cancel both stages. Due to cancelled stages drivers followed the route through Ballica´s start prior to midday service. Sebastien Loeb recorded the fastest time with 10.00.5 on 19.22 Km long Ballica. Petter Solberg followed Loeb with a tiny margin of 0.3 second. Sebastien Ogier was the third fastest. After coming to Pendik for midday service teams headed to previously cancelled stages. Sebastien Loeb won the stage Deniz while his team mate Dani Sordo was retiring. Mikko Hirvonen took second place in this stage and followed by his team mate Jari-Matti Latvala. On the penultimate test Sebastien Loeb claiemed another stage victory and strengthen his lead. Sebastien Ogier was the second fastest and Jari-Matti Latvala followed him. Sebastien Ogier was the quickest in the last stage of the rally in which crests was full of with spectators. Jari-Matti Latvala was 8.3 seconds slower than Ogier. Sebastien Loeb started to celebrate his third victory of the season at the end of the stage in which he took the third place. There is no change in drivers championship standings but Loeb increased his lead to 40 points in front of Petter Solberg. Mikko Hirvonen lies on the third place. 69


{Motorsports}

Ferrari celebrates their 800th Grand Prix in turkey

T

his weekend’s Turkish race will be a very special one for Ferrari, as it will be the Italian team’s 800th Grand Prix. And to celebrate reaching such a momentous milestone, a special commemorative logo will be placed on the engine covers of both F10s for the duration of the Istanbul Park event. “Eight hundred Grands Prix represents a milestone in the life of Ferrari, which fills us with satisfaction and pride,” said Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo. “I want to

share our delight in this achievement with the drivers who have driven our cars in the world championship and with our fans. It is nice to look back and see what we have done together, aware that we are part of a story that is without equal and is ongoing.” First as sporting director (from 1973-1976) and then as President (since 1991) Di Montezemolo has been involved in 359 of the 799 chapters of Ferrari’s Formula One history, during which time the team won a total of 17 world championships (seven driver titles and 10 constructor titles) and 123 Grands Prix. The only team to have participated in every world championship since its inception back in 1950, Ferrari’s first victory came courtesy of Jose Froilan Gonzalez at the 1951 British Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso clinched their most recent at the 2010 season opener in Bahrain. The Italian team have also set many

Formula one returns to the united states

F

ormula One World Championship Limited and Formula One Administration Limited (together, the F1 Commercial Rights Holder) and Full Throttle Productions, LP, promoter of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™, announce that a historic agreement has been reached for Austin, Texas to serve as the host city of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™ for years 2012 through 2021. “We are extremely honoured and proud to reach an agreement with the F1 Commercial Rights Holder. We have been diligently working together for several years to bring this great event to Austin, the State of Texas and back to the United States. All parties involved have a great amount of trust and confidence in each other and are committed to establishing the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™ in Austin, Texas as a prestigious global event,” stated Tavo Hellmund, Managing Partner of Full Throttle Productions, LP. Bernie Ecclestone, President and CEO of the Formula One Group stated: “For the first time in the history of Formula One in the United States, a world-class facility will be purpose-built to host the event. It was thirty years ago that the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™ was last held on a purpose-built 70

permanent road course circuit in Watkins Glen, NY (1961-1980), which enjoyed great success. Since then, Formula One has been hosted by Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix all on temporary street circuits. Indianapolis joined the ranks of host cities in 2000 when they added a road course inside the famed oval. Lewis Hamilton won the last Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™ in 2007, signalling the end to eight years at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This however, will be the first time a facility is constructed from the ground up specifically for Formula One in the US.” Mr. Hellmund added: “This is a case of the right timing in the right place. As many Americans know, Austin has earned a reputation as one of the ‘it’ cities in the United States. Austin features that rare combination of ideal geographic location and beauty.” Texas Governor Rick Perry conveyed his enthusiasm for the project, explaining “Texas’ relatively strong economy continues to draw both national and international attention and I commend Comptroller Combs for her work in bringing this exciting event to the Lone Star State.”

records, thanks to their 15 drivers’ titles, 16 constructors’ titles, 211 wins, 632 podium finishes, 223 second-place finishes, 198 thirdplace finishes, 203 pole positions and 220 fastest race laps. Other records held by Ferrari and their drivers include constructors’ championship points (4229.5), consecutive wins (14, between 1952-1953), one-two finishes (80), wins in one season for one driver (13, for Michael Schumacher in 2004), consecutive wins for a driver (nine, for Alberto Ascari from 19521953), consecutive podium finishes for a driver (19, for Schumacher from 2001-2002,) one-two finishes for a driver pairing (24, for Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello from 2000-2005), and consecutive points finishes per driver (24, for Schumacher from 20012003)

fia to clarify last-lap safety car rule

T

he FIA is to clarify regulations relating to safety-car procedures on the final lap of a race. It follows Michael Schumacher’s penalty for passing Fernando Alonso in the dying seconds of Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix. With the track declared clear and the safety car coming in, Schumacher’s Mercedes GP team believed their drivers were free to race as normal. However, race stewards subsequently penalised Schumacher for breaking Article 40.13 of the Sporting Regulations, which states: “If the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.” Mercedes originally planned to appeal the decision, but dropped those plans after the sport’s governing body agreed to review the rule in question. According to the FIA, “adjustments to the regulations are necessary to clarify the procedure that cars must meet when the last lap is controlled by the Safety Car whilst also ensuring that the signalling for teams and drivers is made more clear.”


PLAY Watch all the best car videos http://automanweb.com/automan-tv


{Chicane}

Lots of salt – no fish and ships Wanderlust and test driving make for a potent combination

T

ravel broadens the mind, they say and while I am all for the travel, sometimes the broadening does take a bit of time in manifesting itself. Right from trying to understand that flights do get delayed, tickets do get booked at the last minute and that as an Indian, I do need to visit one embassy or another quite frequently to get visas, my mind is well on its way to gaining the much touted width. However, on some journeys you don’t have to travel too far in order to get a completely new perspective on people and places. Take for instance a recent trip to Jordan. As a destination, it is hardly the most exotic. I have put off for a couple of years repeated invites through friends to visit. And yes, you can’t say tourism and Jordan in one breath without Petra making an entry. But Jordan is far more than Petra and some transient tourism. Firstly, it seems to be one of the few places where Indians get a visa on arrival. Thank you so much. Then, to a resident of Oman, Jordan presents some really interesting parallels. It has hillsides and terrain that could have been transplanted straight from here and it has people who display the same levels of hospitality and friendliness. What Jordan does have in addition is a location in one of the most volatile regions of the world and a shared border with Israel. My trip to Jordan was to drive four-wheel drive vehicles in locations near the Dead Sea and while I learned a lot about the capabilities of the SUVs in question, I learned much more of an interesting land. For instance did you know that the surface of the Dead Sea was almost 500 metres below sea level? And that almost a third of the Dead Sea is salt? And that is more than 8 times the normal salinity of a sea? And that while nothing lives in the sea, almost nothing is allowed on the sea too – take boats for example. Of

72

course, the fact that an international border runs through somewhere in the middle of the Dead Sea does give a reason to avoid having small boats causing big problems. Besides, it isn’t as if anyone is going out fishing to start with. My unsinkable enthusiasm met its match in the overly buoyant waters of the Dead Sea. You can lie on your back or your front – you’ll float, but you are strongly advised against putting your head in the water, or you’ll have the salt burning your eyes through the evening. And of course, we just had to enjoy the recuperative powers of being caked in Dead Sea mud, with even the most grizzled veteran claiming a miraculous recovery from the ravages of age. Between the mud, potash and salt industries and the fall in the fresh water feed from river Jordan, it is a wonder that the sea doesn’t set new records for the lowest open stretch of water. But it’s when you are on the road that you see the other side of the country. Speed limits are way below what we are used to here. And they are enforced by police patrols and speed cameras. And military checkposts are visible every few kilometres. And you can see how much effort has gone into making one of the driest places on Earth (measured on a per capita basis) into an agricultural heartland, with thick rubber hoses meandering all across the barren landscape. To add a sense of the incredible, we also visited a bio resort in the middle of nowhere, with a pure vegetarian menu and the excesses of a luxury hideaway built on the site of Herod’s palace at a hot spring. So while this trip didn’t have Petra on the itinerary, Jordan does nonetheless come across as a place you want to visit. Next time, Petra and hopefully Aqaba too.

Raj Warrior is editor of Automan and has been in the thick of the Automotive journalism field from the past 15 years. Want to comment or have your say? Email at raj@alroya.net. Identify yourself or your message will be trashed and your id blocked


Automan Magazine  

July Issue

Automan Magazine  

July Issue

Advertisement