Driving the 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT can be summed up in one word – FUN. This is not a family car; this is not even a practical car. This is the reward you give yourself for reaching a crowning achievement – professional or personal. It was Cyndi Lauper who sang Girls Just Wanna Have Fun; she must have been thinking about driving a convertible with the top down on a sunny day, the radio blaring and the feeling of freedom behind the wheel! I’ve just described the driving experience of a 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT.

With a powered convertible top, the car transforms electronically from a closed vehicle into an open-aired exhilarating ride. Sporting a cloth top, versus the vinyl most often equipped in this price range, the top fits flushed and snugly inside a tonneau, giving the car a first-class, sporty look. Totally powered and automatic, by unlocking the release handles located inside and pushing the “open” switch located on the dash, the transformation completes itself in just 19 seconds. This includes the audio system automatically readjusting to the open air setting.

Returning the car to a closed vehicle is equally easy; place the car in “park” and then just push the “close” button. The top is specifically designed to eliminate ballooning at highway speed. The defroster system is located in the rear window.

The car seats four but most comfortably, it is a ride for two. Driver side is power and manually controlled, while the passenger side is manual. With lumbar support, premium sport fabric and leather heated front seating, driving comfort can be customized in a variety of ways.

Another great feature enhancing the driving experience is the 650-watt Rockford Fosgate audio with Digital Signal Processing. The 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT comes fully equipped with a 6-CD in-dash changer and is MP3 compatible. Nine speakers, including an integrated 8” rear subwoofer, will keep your driving atmosphere lively and entertaining.

The interior features do not stop there. The dash hosts a center display providing compass readings, audio modes, outside temperature and time. Also located in the center dash are the audio selections, CD-Changer, seat warming and automatic climate control system; all within convenient and safe arm-reach. Some of the models are equipped with a Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) including an advanced airbag safety system, adding security to the ride. The SRS system has front air bags, side air bags and a curtain air bag, which is designed to only deploy on the side receiving the impact.

There is extra storage sections located throughout the front seat area. A spacious glove compartment, an extra compartment between the driver and passenger seats, and a two-cup holder all provide space for storing the little things that are important for having in your car. With a split fold-down rear seat, the trunk opens up providing space for the bigger items requiring transportation.

The car is good looking on the outside too, and definitely gets its share of second glances from others! Sporting a sleek look including 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels, auto-off halogen headlights, LED tail lamps and monocle-lens head lamps, the coupe promotes an expensive first impression. The 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT offers all the special features a sports-car enthusiast seeks, but at an affordable price starting at $25,000.

With a 260-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 engine, the car has an impressive “get up and go”. Available in a five-speed automatic or standard six-speed manual transmission, with the standard, the Spyder GT can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in approximately seven seconds. Armed with an anti-theft alarm system and remote keyless entry, these features greatly increase a woman’s sense of security.

The coupe is a fun ride and could be “just what the doctor orders”, when it comes to a prescription for stress-relief! One piece of advice - leave it in the garage when it rains; the convertible top drips into the car when you open the door. But when the sun comes out, there is no better way to get around town than in the 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT and listening to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

Bentleys Arrive at UK Flagship ShowroomThe British motoring legend, Bentley, has substantially increased its presence in the West Midlands following the completion of a state-of-the-art showroom at Fort Dunlop. Bentley Birmingham arrived at the new development in classic style with an extremely rare £3 million convoy of the iconic cars turning heads as they weaved round the Spitfire roundabout and rolled into their new home.

Bentley Birmingham has invested over £5 million in the move which now sees the city hosting one of the most prestigious showrooms anywhere in the UK and Europe. Mark Hudson, general manager of Bentley Birmingham, comments:

“We wanted to offer a showpiece dealership for the city and the region and that is exactly what we have achieved. Following the success of our business at Willenhall we have been able to invest in the new and improved site and we are delighted with the result. We can now offer an even better environment to view and experience these British cars and we are also extremely proud to have contributed to the development of the famous Fort Dunlop site.”

Mark added that the decision to further expand Bentley Birmingham’s presence was made possible by the popularity of cars like the Continental GT and Continental Flying Spur, which have both attracted a strong following in the city and West Midlands region.

“The move provides the capacity to grow the business in the future and, to ensure we continue to meet the demands of customers, a number of further local employment opportunities will be created, including an apprenticeship scheme which we hope to introduce in the near future.”

The arrival of Bentley at Fort Dunlop signals yet another new chapter in the incredible success story of the British marque which celebrates 60 years of manufacture at Crewe this year. Bentley goes from strength to strength, throughout the UK and globally too and the recent investment in Birmingham follows a substantial period of investment at the company’s Crewe factory. Since 1998 Bentley Motors has been revitalised with around £500m of inward investment, in new models, production equipment and skilled staff.

It has re-engineered its luxury grand-tourer, the Arnage, launched a stunning all-wheel-drive, 198mph coupe, the Continental GT, and followed this up in 2005 with the world’s fastest four-door production car, the Continental Flying Spur. Nor has the pace slackened since: 2006 has witnessed the launch of two critically acclaimed convertibles; a bespoke stablemate to the Arnage, to revive the Bentley Azure name; and a drop-top addition to the Continental family, the Continental GTC.

In addition to the iconic British cars the showroom will also be one of only four official Lamborghini dealerships in the UK. Customers throughout the West Midlands will be able to browse the legendary Italian manufacturer’s full range of sports cars, including the breathtaking new Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder.

Honda Concept Car Shines Brightly at Los Angeles Auto ShowStyling Concept Mixes Sports Car Attitude With Everyday Functionality

The Honda REMIX small sport concept vehicle made its world debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., announced today. The Honda REMIX explores the shape and design of a two-seat sports car focused on agile and fun-to-drive performance that can also provide exceptional practicality as a daily driver.

Sports car in shape and design, the low-slung REMIX features a wrap-around canopy that adds a fighter jet-feel to the driving experience. The aluminum-color exterior accentuates every line and curve in the geometric, yet fluid styling. Capable of delivering more than just driving performance, the rear storage area supplies generous cargo room.

"Pure Honda to the core, the REMIX concept vehicle focuses on a simple, lightweight and fun-to-drive philosophy," said John Mendel, senior vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. "The concept balances sports car virtues with real-world practicality."

The Honda REMIX small sport concept is a product of the Honda R&D Americas, Inc., Advanced Design Studio in Southern California. Purely a design concept, the vehicle is fashioned around a front-wheel drive small car platform with a 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. A sport suspension, along with aggressive tires and brakes, further supplement its performance side.

"The REMIX blends familiar Honda themes into a new, fresh design," said Ben Davidson, REMIX lead designer, Honda R&D Americas, Inc. "Smooth and fluid surfaces provide a sports car identity to the geometric shapes that form the functional aspect of this vehicle."

Honda R&D Americas, Inc., began its operations in California in 1975 with local market research activities and has steadily grown its capabilities over the past 30 years to include all aspects of new vehicle design and development. Recent development efforts include trend-setting products like the Honda Ridgeline, Honda Pilot, Honda Element, Honda Civic Coupe and Honda Civic Si.

The company will operate 10 major facilities in North America with the addition of two new design centers by the end of 2007. More than 1,300 designers, engineers and support personnel are engaged in the development of Honda and Acura passenger cars, motorcycles and power equipment products for North America and global markets. Its main centers of operation include the Los Angeles Center (Torrance) responsible for market research, concept development and styling design; the Ohio Center (Raymond, Ohio) responsible for complete product development, testing and support of North American supplier and manufacturing operations; and two dynamic test facilities in Mojave Desert, California, and East Liberty, Ohio.

Source: American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Winning Design Announced During Third Design Los Angeles ConferenceWinning Design Announced During Third Design Los Angeles Conference

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 30 -- General Motor's Hummer 02 design sketch was announced as the winner of the Los Angeles Auto Show's 2007 Design Challenge today. The third Design Challenge asked studios to form their vision of the future by creating a vehicle that is environmentally aware of its global footprint. From a field of eight automaker design studios, GM's Hummer 02 was chosen for its thought provoking, diverse, holistic concept design.

Powered by a fuel cell, the Hummer 02 is envisioned to "breathe" through a revolutionary phototropic body shell that produces pure oxygen throughout the lifespan of the vehicle. Algae-filled body panels transform harmful CO2 into pure oxygen that is subsequently released back into the environment.

"Our goal was to develop a concept that will replace the carbon footprint of automobiles. Our Finnish designer came up with an idea based around a photosynthesis cell and the whole team worked together to develop the concept," said Frank Saucedo, head designer General Motors Advanced Design. "This is a great competition for our young designers and we look forward to participating each year."

Entries were judged by multi-discipline design professionals who selected the winner for its originality of creative concept, contribution to the environment, degree of safety and reflection of a unique, spirited California "green" lifestyle.

"We were overwhelmed by the depth of imagination and creative thinking these top design studios created for this year's challenge," said Chuck Pelly, director of Design Los Angeles and partner in The Design Academy. "Hummer 02 was chosen because of the wide-range of known technologies included, but with an imaginative twist, such as the tread "light" tire technology. GM's vehicle has an approachable view of the future," said Pelly.

The purpose of the Design Challenge is to pit the manufacturers' Los Angeles-based design studios against one another. This year, studios were challenged to imagine a time when all vehicles have "green" technology allowing drivers to enjoy the Southern California environment without harming it. Designers enjoy participating in the challenge because it is a strong venue to showcase their talents and further explore new ideas in automotive design. In the past, participating studios have received impressive amounts of worldwide exposure among peers and media.

The Design Challenge is a part of Design Los Angeles, which began at the 2005 LA Auto Show and has become an important part of the show. Design Los Angeles is a one day symposium where workshops, speakers and other opportunities are provided to designers in the automotive industry.

Being that Los Angeles is home to a majority of the design studios representing automakers in North America, Europe and Asia, as well as the Art Center College of Design, one of the world's leading transportation design centers, Design Los Angeles has become an integral component in designers' ongoing development.

The world's automobile companies will be stepping forward with a number of production and concept vehicle world debuts to help usher in "A New Beginning" for the Los Angeles Auto Show. The theme conveys the increased national and international stature due to the show's earlier dates. The new dates give the show its own time period on the international auto show calendar, thereby resolving a 25-year-old conflict with the auto show in Detroit.

Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Spec B Sedan ReviewDRIVING DOWN THE ROAD

2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Spec B Sedan

What happens to a Subaru WRX when it grows up? It becomes a Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Spec B.

The Spec B's introduction last year as a limited-production model must have been successful, as it returns for 2007 as a full production model. And it gets a few new features as well, most significantly the "Subaru Intelligent Drive" (hereafter referred to as SI-Drive) driver-configurable engine management and throttle control system, a six-speed manual gearbox, and a new audio system that plays MP3 and WMA CDs and has an auxiliary input jack for MP3 players or iPods. The interior is trimmed in sporty blue Alcantara¨, looking just like a WRX, and the car comes equipped with just about every option in the Subaru catalog.

The namesake 2.5-liter engine is a close relative to that in the WRX STi, and even closer relative to what's now found in the regular WRX. If its 2007-spec 243 horsepower and 241 lb-ft of torque ratings seem a little less than the previous 250 and 250, they aren't. Subaru has revised its power measurement calibration to be more conservative. It's the same engine found in the Legacy 2.5 GT Limited, but in the Spec B it's matched to a six-speed, not five-speed gearbox, and, fitting its performance flagship status, no automatic is available. All four wheels are driven all the time - this is a Subaru, after all.

External differences between the Spec B and Limited are minimal, but underneath there are significant suspension modifications. Aluminum control arms, a revised suspension tuning and Bilstein shocks, and 18-inch wheels with 45-profile tires give a firmer ride and sharpen the cornering response for a chassis tuning very similar to the standard WRX, not the take-no-prisoners STi.

I found that to be quite reasonable, and totally appropriate for the Spec B's wonderful engine and drivetrain during my week with one. It's very much a larger WRX in its setup and demeanor, but just a touch softer and with more soundproofing for a more civilized driving experience. It's not quite "luxury" in its appointment level, but no complaints there - too many one-time sports sedans have softened into "luxury semi-sport" over the years. Call the Legacy Spec B "sports-comfort" and get out of its way.

APPEARANCE: "Conservative" is the operative word in the Spec B's styling. Understated, it's the opposite of a WRX STi. Nothing about its looks loudly proclaims "high performance", but the hints are there for those who know. The functional hood scoop is lacking on the naturally-aspirated Legacy 2.5i models, but is shared with other 2.5 GTs, as they also share the turbo engine. It's small, and barely rises above the gently-sculpted hood line. The headlights and lower front bumper fascia are no different than on the regular Legacy models, and side sill extension is minimal. All Legacy sedan models share large taillights and twin exhausts. Larger, 18-inch, wheels with low-profile tires are most notable exterior difference between the Spec B and other GT models.

COMFORT: With blue suede-like Alcantara for its main seating surfaces, the Spec B's interior looks very WRX-like. There's nothing wrong with that, or with the comfort and support of its well-bolstered (in leather), power-adjustable and heated front sports seats, either. Add in the thick leather-rimmed MOMO steering wheel, aluminum-trimmed pedals (including footrest), moonroof, and bright, easily-visible backlit instruments, and the driver has a fine office from which to enjoy life on the road. The front passenger gets the same accommodation, while rear passengers get more space than in a smaller Impreza WRX. The rear seat is split 60/40 and folds for cargo ability if necessary. The Spec B's interior noise level is noticeably lower than the WRX's. The Subaru navigation system dominates the top of the center stack. It uses a simple touch-screen interface, which also incorporates fuel, trip, and maintenance reminder functions, and a handy calculator with metric-English conversion. The audio and climate systems are controlled separately, for further simplicity. The high-grade audio system includes a 6-disc in-dash CD changer that plays MP3 and WMA discs as well as commercial CDs, AM, FM, and, optionally, XM satellite radio, and there is a jack in the center console box for an MP3 player or iPod. There is a power point placed conveniently next to that jack. The Spec B's interior design may not be as luxurious as some similarly-priced European competitors, but it is much more functional.

SAFETY: The Subaru Legacy has received a "Top Safety Pick, Gold" rating from the IIHS and a five-star rating for frontal crash protection from NHTSA. Full-time all-wheel drive and, in the Spec B, powerful four-wheel ventilated antilock disc brakes and the Vehicle Dynamics Control system contribute to active safety, while the "Ring Frame Reinforced" body structure, incorporating a strong central safety cage and front and rear crumple zones, and standard dual-stage front, front side, and side curtain airbags contribute to passive safety.

RIDE AND HANDLING: If there are few external differences between the Spec B and its Legacy brethren, there are plenty of differences in its chassis. Although the basic architecture of all Legacys is the same, a unibody structure with a fully-independent suspension by MacPherson struts in front and a multilink system in the rear, the Spec B has stiffer springs with matching Bilstein shocks, and aluminum replaces steel for the most of the front and rear control arms to reduce unsprung weight and improve suspension response. The standard Legacy GT's 17-inch wheels are replaced with 18s, shod with low-profile summer performance tires. The steering is quickened a bit. The ride is firm, but not at all uncomfortable, in the classic sport-luxury sedan manner, and cornering behavior is very good. All-wheel drive, with a viscous-coupling locking center differential ensures optimum traction in all situations. The GT's limited-slip rear differential is upgraded to a Torsen unit for improved side-to-side torque distribution. The Spec B is the real deal in an all-wheel drive performance sedan.

PERFORMANCE: The Spec B uses the same WRX STi-derived 2.5-liter turbocharged and intercooled aluminum alloy twincam, 16-valve flat-four engine as the regular Legacy GT, with variable valve timing and 243 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 241 lb-ft of torque (at 3600 rpm). But instead of a five-speed manual or automatic transmission, it's hooked up to a six-speed manual, developed from the one in the STi. Closer ratios allow less of an rpm drop between shifts, improving acceleration. Acceleration is further aided by lower final drive gearing, but not so low as to seriously affect fuel economy. Its 0-60 time of just over five seconds would have put it in supercar territory not long ago. Power gets to the ground efficiently thanks to the all-wheel drive system. New this year, and shared with the Legacy 2.5 GT Limited and Outback 2.5 XT Limited models, is SI-Drive. SI-Drive is integrated into the engine control computer, and allows three driver-selectable engine modes. "I" (Intelligent) mode reduces power output about 20 percent and has a more relaxed throttle response. It's meant for use on low-traction surfaces, and in stop-and-go commute driving. "S" (Sport) mode is the default, with the same response as in 2006 models. It allows full power and a moderate throttle response. "S#" (Sport sharp) doesn't actually increase power, but feels like it as it remaps the electronic throttle for notably quicker response, so less right foot movement means more go. I kept the switch in that position most of the time, kept my foot in it as much as possible, and still managed a 21 mpg average for fuel consumption.

CONCLUSIONS: With its Legacy Spec B, Subaru has created a WRX for grownups.


2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Spec B sedan

Base Price $ 33,995
Price As Tested $ 35,118
Engine Type horizontally-opposed turbocharged
and intercooled
dual overhead cam 4-cylinder
Engine Size 2.5 liters / 150 cu. in.
Horsepower 243 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 241 @ 3600 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length 105.1 in. / 186.2 in.
Curb Weight 3515 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 14.5
Fuel Capacity 16.9 gal.

Fuel Requirement 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline
Tires 215/45 YR18 Bridgestone Potenza RE050A
Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around,
ABS, EBD, VDC standard
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut /
independent multi-link
Drivetrain longitudinal front engine,
all-wheel drive


EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed 19 / 26 / 21
0 to 60 mph 5.1 sec

Wheel lock set $ 42
XM Satellite radio kit $ 456
Destination and delivery $ 625

- Importance of Design Highlights Changing Consumer Expectations About Vehicle Quality

Honda and Toyota combined garner six initial quality model awards in the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 South Africa Initial Quality Study(SM) (IQS) released today.

A customer-driven measure of problems experienced during the first three to seven months of ownership, the South Africa Initial Quality Study has been completely redesigned for 2006 to more precisely monitor consumer attitudes toward quality.

The study examines 228 individual problem symptoms across nine categories: vehicle exterior; the driving experience; features/controls/displays; audio/entertainment/navigation; seats; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); vehicle interior; engine/transmission; and other problems. All problems are identified as the number reported per 100 vehicles (PP100), with lower scores indicating fewer problems and therefore better quality.

"Continued quality improvements have caused consumers to focus increasingly more attention on soft quality issues, or vehicle design-related problems, rather than solely on a more traditional view of quality characterized by defects and malfunctions," said Brian Walters, senior director of J.D. Power and Associates Europe, Middle East and Africa operations.

To facilitate a deeper analysis, IQS problem symptoms have been further classified to two dimensions: defects/malfunctions and design-related problems. Nameplates with the fewest defects/malfunctions include Audi, BMW, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Subaru. Those with the fewest design-related problems include Audi, Daihatsu, Honda, Subaru, Toyota and Volvo.

"To satisfy owners and fully understand consumer perceptions of quality, manufacturers must consider both dimensions of vehicle quality," said Walters. "For instance, BMW models, along with those from Honda and Mercedes-Benz, have among the fewest defects/malfunctions. Yet, BMW's approach to features/controls/displays often creates some problems for customers, which ultimately contributes to more overall design-related anomalies when compared with Honda and Mercedes-Benz."

2006 IQS Ranking Highlights

With 150 PP100 (combined defects/malfunctions and design-related problems), Honda retains its position as the highest-ranking passenger vehicle nameplate. BMW ranks second (154), followed by Mercedes-Benz (157), Subaru (166) and Audi (169). Hyundai, Toyota, Kia, Chevrolet and Daihatsu round out the top 10 passenger vehicle nameplates.

Toyota is the highest-ranked pickup truck nameplate at 202 PP100, followed by Isuzu (267).

Registering fewer problems than any other model in the industry, Toyota's RAV4 (compact SUV) is one of four Toyota models to receive IQS awards. The Tazz (upper compact car), Hilux Single Cab (one-ton single cab pickup) and Hilux Double Cab (one-ton double cab pickup) also rank highest in their respective segments. Honda's Civic ranks highest in the upper small car segment, while its Jazz is one of the top-performing models in the industry and has lead the lower small car segment in initial quality for three consecutive years.

Other models leading their respective segments in initial quality are the Hyundai Atoz (lower compact car), Volkswagen Touran (compact MPV), the Opel Corsa Utility (compact pickup), and the BMW 3 Series, which has been the top-performing medium car for three consecutive years.

Assembly Plants

Vehicle assembly plants are ranked based solely on the number of defects and malfunctions. BMW's Rosslyn plant leads other South African plants in initial quality for a third consecutive year with 88 PP100. DaimlerChrysler's passenger vehicle plant, which produces the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, follows with 104 PP100, while Toyota's Durban truck line, which produces the Toyota Hilux pickup, ranks third with 155 PP100.

J.D. Power and Associates is recognised across the globe as the leading independent authority on consumer-reported quality in the automotive industry. The firm's primary role is to help automotive manufacturers further improve their product quality and service levels through a better understanding of consumers. J.D. Power and Associates also provides its study results to consumers for use as a reference point when purchasing a new vehicle.

Since its launch in the United States in 1987, the IQS has become a quality standard used by virtually every automotive manufacturer around the world. In addition to South Africa, J.D. Power and Associates conducts vehicle quality research in many other markets, including China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Each year, more than 1 million new-vehicle buyers around the world receive a J.D. Power and Associates IQS survey.

The 2006 South Africa Initial Quality Study is based on a representative sample of more than 9 600 new-vehicle owners who purchased their vehicles between December 2005 and April 2006. The survey was funded entirely by J.D. Power and Associates as a part of its global research programs and included a section of questions to assist the Department of Transport in measuring the performance of its vehicle licensing programme.

Initial Quality Nameplate Ranking -- Passenger Vehicles
Problems per 100 Vehicles
(Lower score reflects better quality performance)

Initial Quality Nameplate Ranking -- Passenger Vehicles
Problems per 100 Vehicles
(Lower score reflects better quality performance)

Honda 150
BMW 154
Mercedes-Benz 157
Subaru 166
Audi 169
Hyundai 190
Toyota 197
Kia 200
Chevrolet 213
Daihatsu 214
Mazda 219
Volvo 221
Nissan 232
Peugeot 237
Opel 238
Passenger Vehicle Segment Average 239
Ford 243
Renault 258
Citroen 287
Fiat 346
Volkswagen 347
Tata 598

Initial Quality Nameplate Ranking -- Pickup Trucks
Problems per 100 Vehicles
(Lower score reflects better quality performance)

Toyota 202
Isuzu 267
Pickup Truck Segment Average 304
Opel 317
Ford 341
Nissan 351

Top Vehicles per Segment in Initial Quality
Problems per 100 Vehicles
(Lower score reflects better quality performance)

Total PP100
Lower Compact Car
Hyundai Atoz 162
Kia Picanto 168
Fiat Panda 176

Upper Compact Car
Toyota Tazz 281

Lower Small Car
Honda Jazz 120
Toyota Yaris 148
Hyundai Getz 190

Upper Small Car
Honda Civic 158
Mercedes-Benz A-Class 165
BMW 1 Series 170

Medium Car
BMW 3 Series 150
Mercedes-Benz C-Class 161
Audi A4 163

Compact MAV
Volkswagen Touran 200
Toyota Corolla Verso 208

Compact SUV
Toyota RAV4 (Old) 102
Subaru Forester 142
Honda CR-V 151

Compact Pickup
Opel Corsa Utility 317
Ford Bantam 349

One-Ton Single Cab Pickup
Toyota Hilux Single Cab 208
Isuzu KB Single Cab 259

One-Ton Double Cab Pickup
Toyota Hilux Double Cab 224
Nissan Navara Double Cab 256
Isuzu KB Double Cab 278

Ferrari boutique opens in QatarA new Ferrari Store has opened in Qatar. The boutique shop sells Ferrari accessories at the Alfardan Automotive Center. It's the first store of its kind in the Middle East, which has continued to grow as a leading market for Maranello's finest. Similar to the store at The Wynn in Las Vegas, the Qatar store has clothes, shoes, toys, keychains and other accessories, all bearing the Ferrari logo.

Alfardan Automotive President Omar Alfardan told reporters that the store made sense as Ferrari is a huge draw anywhere in the world. He also said he expects to open more of these shops in Qatar in the future, including one in the Alfardan Towers and another in the multi-billion-dollar, man-made island off the Doha coast, the Pearl-Qatar.

Ferrari currently has several stores in Italy as well as shops in Hangzhou and Shanghai, as well as the one in Vegas.

[Source: autoblog.com]

ENGINE: 5-liter DOHC V10
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 500 hp @ 7750 rpm/383 lb.-ft. @ 6100 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed sequential manual gearbox
WHEELBASE: 109.4 in.
LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT: 190.2 x 73.0 x 54.1 in.
TIRES: 255/40 ZR19 (front)/285/35 ZR 19 (rear)
CARGO VOLUME: 13.0 cu. ft.
FUEL ECONOMY: 12 m pg city/18 mpg highway
STICKER: $106,690 (includes $695 destination and delivery charge and $3,000 gas guzzler tax)

Assets: Beautiful automobile with great gobs of power and the handling to go along with it.

Debits: The price, unfortunately. The trunk could be larger.

Several manufacturers have their “skunk works” where they develop high-performance versions of their standard road cars. Mercedes-Benz has AMG, Cadillac has the v-versions of some of its sportier cars, and even Chevrolet has “SS” badged versions of just about every car it markets.

Likewise, BMW offers M versions of some of its cars. The M designation means the car has been tuned to create a higher-performance engine, with a sportier suspension and often a different transmission. In some cases, there are engines available in the M cars that you can’t get in the non-M versions of the same car.

Such is the situation with the M6 Coupe, the hotted-up version of BMW’s stunning 6-Series Coupe. The M6 is powered by a V10 engine that develops 500 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque, much more than the standard car. All this comes at a price, of course, but even the “normal” 6-Series is far from bottom-of-the-line.

I’m one of those people who thinks the BMW 6-Series is one of the more beautiful automobiles that esteemed company has built. It, like most coupes, has great proportions and is, to me, the epitome of what a BMW should look like. Sure, the more prosaic 3- and 5-Series must be practical because they are the bread-and-butter cars, but the 6 is to be loved and adored.

With that in mind, I salivated when they handed me the keys to my own M6. Technically, of course, it wasn’t my own. I also had to share it with another journalist in the rolling hills north of Milwaukee, but it was worth the sharing.

The 500 hp V10 engine purred, no matter how hard we flogged it. Fortunately, the gendarmes weren’t in force that day, because we pushed the big round speedometer into triple digits on roads that had half that as a speed limit. I’ll confess I was speeding, but in a car like the M6 that isn’t driving dangerously. The car is solid and has a suspension designed to keep the driver and passengers safe, no matter what kind of road is encountered.

We proved this further later in our test day when we hit the track at Road America, one of the country’s premier road-racing facilities. My instructor/co-driver for my “hot laps” kept complimenting me on how smoothly I was driving and how well I was hitting the apexes of the corners. Heck, it wasn’t me; it was the M6. It’s the kind of car that can make anyone look like an experienced race driver.

But the M6 isn’t just about breaking speed limits or driving on a race track. It’s a solid coupe that can take you from point A to point B in style and comfort. While the standard 6-Series coupe or convertible can also perform this relatively simple act with equal style and panache, the M6 does it with the underlying feeling that, if you want to, you can be very naughty.

The seats in the M6 are leather-faced and offer excellent side support. Again, a good part of the reason for being able to drive on the track with such assurance is the fact that the M6 molds to your body so well. You grip a fat leather-covered steering wheel that keeps you in control of the car with great ease. I loved BMW’s new progressive steering. I kept my hands at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions for the entire ride, and never had to shuffle them around when I came to tighter corners. On the track, of course, with higher speeds and tighter corners there was a need to shift my hands, but not often and not by much.

The M6 is definitely a driver’s car.

There are some unfortunate compromises with the M6, compromises that you run into with most coupes. The trunk is tiny at 13 cubic feet. Sure, it’s about right for a compact car, but when you’re headed out for a trip of any length in a car like this, your wife will most certainly want to take along all her best clothes and shoes. So a larger trunk would be helpful. And it is simply too small for golf clubs. It’d be great if there was room for two sets, so you could impress your partner, but cramming one bag back there is tough.

But I’m carping. If you aren’t scared by the over-$100,000 sticker, and if you’re interested in a high-performance car that won’t set you back by 50 percent more than that, then the M6 might be the vehicle for you. It has a limited audience, but that audience can also consider itself very lucky.

Very lucky.

© 2006 The Auto Page Syndicate

Lexus RX 400h 5 Door SUVA few years ago our friends at Lexus loaned us an RX 300 for a road trip to Tennessee. Ever since then my pretty blonde has wanted one. She was enamored with the looks, feel, luxurious ambiance, and the comfort and convenience inside. She even looked for a used one when her trusty old Reatta was aging, but the RX 300 held its value so well that even the used ones cost nearly as much as a new one. I know many readers needn’t be as frugal as we, so perhaps the price is not such a big deal. Even considering the formidable price the Lexus vehicles we’ve evaluated all give a good value.

Based loosely on the Camry car platform the RX series is really a crossover (CUV), rather than what we think of as an SUV. The traditional SUV is on a truck platform, usually a body-on-frame. The RX, built on a welded steel unibody structure, was one of the first CUVs.

The lovely Millennium Silver RX 400h hybrid test vehicle in our driveway this week shows a base price of $42,580. Base price on the RX 350 (not a hybrid) is about $37,400, so we’re paying about 5-grand extra for the dual power unit. That base price includes the hybrid drive system, of course, and on-demand all-wheel-drive, electric rack-and-pinion steering, 4-wheel disc brakes (fronts are vented), 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, full-size spare, 8 airbags, adjustable smart seat belts with pretensioners, 4-sensor, 4-channel ABS with EBD (electronically controlled brake force distribution), regenerative braking, automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control, premium audio system, 10-way power drivers and passenger seats, power rear hatch door, auto-dimming power heated outside mirrors, manual tilt and telescoping leather, wood and brushed aluminum steering wheel, 7-inch LCD screen for control functions, and carpeted floor mats. What more could we need, you might ask.

Well, let’s look at the options our test car: a DVD rear entertainment system, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels (17-inch are standard), heated front seats, the Premium Plus Package which includes leather seats, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, memory setting functions for the driver, moon roof, roof rack, and HID headlights. It also has a towing package with transmission cooler and wiring harness, and the very expensive voice-activated navigation and monitoring system, wood steering wheel, cargo mat and wheel locks and back-up camera. That’s about 10-grand worth of options making our Lexus sticker out at $52,166.

Lexus RX 400h 5 Door SUVWe have a good opportunity to test the Lexus this week as we’re traveling to Chicago for a weekend with some youngsters – my daughter and son-in-law – who are dedicated city dwellers. The hybrid’s forte, of course, is maximizing efficiency in city traffic because of the ability to run on electricity at low speeds. Suspension is of conventional design, independent front and rear, with struts, coil springs, gas-charged shocks and stabilizer bars. The ride is smooth and sophisticated, meaning that not a hint of harshness or sloppiness intrudes on the luxurious ride. Steering is electronic, vehicle speed-sensing power assisted rack-and-pinion with good on-center feel.

The fuel economy estimates are for 31 mpg city and 27 highway. We’re observing about 23.5 average on our mostly highway test drive to Chicago. Watching our graphic display, part of the vehicle’s information system, we see a drastic increase when we’re crawling through a few miles of congestion on the Skyway. After about three miles of the congestion our average jumped to about 25-mpg – still well shy of the estimated level. Emissions are just about as low as we could imagine earning the SULEV designation (super ultra low emissions vehicle).

Toyota and Lexus are at the leading edge of hybrid technology with their third-generation hybrid system. In this case powering-the-car duties are shared by a 3.3-liter, quad-cam, V6 with intelligent variable valve timing - a powerful and smooth engine, to be sure. Assisting the gasoline engine are two electric motors that kick on at very low speeds, whenever extra power is needed for acceleration and to regenerate energy when braking or coasting. The electronics that control the interactions between power sources are way beyond this humble reporter’s comprehension. The total output of the dual drive system is listed at 268-hp. Acceleration is brisk, leaving no deficit in our expectations of power. At full throttle we don’t feel like were flailing or in any way exceeding the vehicle’s comfort level.

Inside we’re pampered by the Lexus version of elegance and simplicity - a nice combination of wood grain, brushed aluminum, leather and other quality materials. Conversation was easy in the ultra quiet cabin. My rear seat passengers thought it was comfortable and roomy back there but would have appreciated some seat heaters. OK, at over 50-grand that’s not unreasonable. It was pretty chilly on this football Saturday.

Lexus RX 400h 5 Door SUVMy daughter and a bunch of U of M alum pals gathered for a Michigan/Ohio State football game party. I’m thinking this is not the demographic who are potential customers for this relatively conservative luxury vehicle. My cronies are probably more amenable to the Lexus ambiance. (Michigan lost by one field goal but the enthusiasm of the party was not spoiled.)

The following day the ladies went shopping while the fellas stayed back to watch more football – the Bears this time. The ladies loved the Lexus for its ease of handling in the city and its aesthetics but didn’t begin to fill up the rear with its 85-cubic-feet of cargo area and 1,150-pounds of payload capacity, nor did they attempt to tow anything home though they could have managed 3,500 pounds of trailer. After all we do have the tailoring package and they know full well that I really want a vintage race car for Christmas.

Lexus’ standard warranty applies: 4-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, 6-year/70,000-miles on the powertrain, and 8-year/unlimited miles for corrosion. And hybrid-specific warranty covers for 8-year/100,000-miles the hybrid batteries and hybrid components.

You’ll not want the buy the Lexus RX 400h if your considerations are purely long range costs. After all, considering the extra cost of the dual power system and the fuel savings, even in the most generous scenario the payoff period is close to 10 years. If, on the other hand, you’re interested in a mighty classy and luxurious, space-efficient CUV that makes a statement about your environmental concerns and your forward-looking technological understanding, it would be hard to do better than this beauty.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

FORD To Showcase record breaking hydrogen fuel cell powered exploreR at 2006 LA Auto ShowLos Angeles, Nov. 27 – Ford Motor Company will raise the bar in the hydrogen fuel cell race today at the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show when it unveils an all-new fuel cell powered Explorer that can travel 350 miles on a single fill-up, more than any fuel cell vehicle on the road.

The six-passenger fuel cell Explorer is one of several vehicles with green technology that Ford will have at the show, including the new 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid, the PZEV emissions compliant Ford Fusion and Ford Focus and the 2008 Ford F-Series Super Duty with Ford Clean Diesel Technology.

The fuel cell Explorer prototype is part of a series of vehicles partially funded by a contract with the United States Department of Energy. The goal of the Technology Demonstration Vehicle program is to find a pathway for a fuel alternative to petroleum that has less environmental impact than current powertrain technology.

“We believe hydrogen may become a viable motor fuel in the long-term,” said Gerhard Schmidt, vice president, Research & Advanced Engineering, Ford Motor Company. “With these technology demonstration vehicles, Ford continues to lead the way in the development of hydrogen technology.”

Research into hydrogen, including the hydrogen fuel-cell-powered Ford Explorer, is part of Ford's overall effort to address the challenges of climate change and energy independence. Ford is moving ahead with a range of technology solutions simultaneously, including vehicles such as the Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid, hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen internal combustion engines, ethanol, clean diesel and refinements to gasoline fueled engines and advanced transmissions. Some of the technology, such as that seen in Ford’s lineup of hybrid vehicles, represents near-term approaches. Other technology, including hydrogen cell, must be viewed as a long-term option.

Fuel Cell Explorer

The first vehicle to be publicly unveiled from the Ford and DoE demonstration program is the fuel-cell-powered Ford Explorer. While it comes equipped with advanced electric all-wheel-drive like the production model from which it is based, a center-mounted hydrogen storage tank now occupies the space typically used for the 6-speed automatic transmission found in production Explorer models. Locating the hydrogen storage tank in this area allowed engineers to design a larger tank and deliver a never-before-achieved 350-mile driving range for a fuel cell vehicle. This unique design maintains Explorer’s six-passenger seating arrangement and the cargo capacity found in the production Ford Explorer.

In less than one year, the fuel cell Explorer has accumulated more than 17,000 miles, including a world-record drive of 1556 miles in a single 24-hour period, the most of any fuel cell vehicle to date. The record was set by Ford engineers at the new Dearborn Development Center test facility in Dearborn, Mich.

In January, at the 2007 North American International Auto Show, Ford will unveil the next vehicle in this series of demonstration vehicles.

Hydrogen Part of a Broader Effort At Ford

Ford first began working on hydrogen technology in the early 1990s. Ford’s first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, released in 2001, was based on a lightweight aluminum sedan body, which also was used in the development of the company’s first hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine.

The company currently has a fleet of 30 hydrogen-powered Focus fuel cell vehicles on the road as part of a worldwide, seven-city program to conduct real-world testing of fuel cell technology. The fleet has accumulated more than 300,000 miles since its inception. With this fleet on the ground, a great deal of information that can be integrated into future fuel cell vehicle propulsion systems is being generated in different local environmental conditions.

Having the fleet outside the confines of Ford Motor Company also has allowed the team to gain valuable feedback on servicing vehicles in the field. As a hydrogen infrastructure is developed and implemented for the fleet at each location, lessons learned are being generated to insure that the customer and hydrogen fueling interface is seamless and customer friendly.

Honda recalling 209,898 Mobilo carsTOKYO November 25, 2006; Japan Today reported that Honda Motor Co said on Friday that it is recalling a total of 209,898 of its Mobilio and the Mobilio Spike small passenger cars for repairs of defective parts.

The brake lights and the gears of the vehicles, manufactured from November 2001 to May 2005, may fail due to a defective electric wiring system, Honda said in a report to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. From October 2004 to September this year, 41 cases of such defects were reported, including one in which a driver could not move the gear stick from the position for parking, Honda said.