Author Archives: Zach Galea

Third Generation Porsche Boxter for Geneva

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Porsche’s latest version of their mid-engined sportscar, the Boxter has been revealed, ahead of its official unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show.

This latest incarnation of Porsche’s popular sportscar makes use of an aluminium construction and two upgraded versions of the six cylinder engine used in the previous generation Boxter. The upgraded engine has been downsized from 2.9 litres to 2.7 litres, yet power has increased by 10bhp to 265bhp. Fuel economy has improved by 15% to 36.9mpg. There is also another engine on offer, the 3.4 litre engine retained from the previous generation Boxter, that is more fuel efficient than before. This engine produces 315bhp, 5bhp more than before, and delivers 35.3mpg.

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The new Boxter comes with a manual gearbox as standard, but is also available with a seven speed PDK gearbox. The big news with the PDK gearbox is a so called “Sailing Feature” which decouples the engine on downhills and reduces the engines revs to 700rpm for short periods of time to boost fuel consumption. When equipped with the PDK gearbox and 2.7 litre engine, the Boxter is capable to reach 100km/h in 5.7s. The 3.4 litre S version accelerates to 100km/h in 5s dead. Performance can further be improved by speccing the car with the optional Sports Chrono Package which includes dynamic gearbox mounts.

The Boxter has stop/start technology, Alcantara interior, 18 inch alloy wheels, 7 inch touchscreen with a CD player and MP3 connectivity. The S variant features 19 inch alloy wheels, part leather interior and Bi-Xenon headlights.

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Fiat Ellezero

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Fiat has revealed information on an upcoming mini MPV that is set to be revealed at Geneva later in the year.

Design for the new mini MPV will mimic that of the new Fiat Panda , with a wraparound windscreen, improving all round visibility. The Ellezero is designed to replace the current Idea MPV, which has not made much of an impact in the European market, due to more upmarket competition like the Opel Meriva and Citroen C3 Picasso.

Engines are likely to include the 84bhp Twinair turbo, the 75bhp and 94bhp 1.3 Multijet diesels and the 99bhp 1.4 petrol from the 500 and Panda city cars. There will most likely be a redesigned Lancia version also available. No talk on prices yet, but expect the Lancia version to carry a slightly more premium price to the Fiat.

Blast From The Past: Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale

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Alfa Romeo. A name that oozes Italian passion, style and luxury. In 2010, Alfa Romeo celebrated its 100th anniversary, and over the past century they have produced some amazing cars, including the various Giulia sport saloons of the 60s, the charismatic Spider, which is probably Alfa’s most well known model, as well as some more controversial models, like the 1990s SZ, and GTV.

The car I am going to write about is my personal favourite, the Tipo 33 Stradale. Nothing in the world looks anything like this. Its proportions seem so perfect, with its curvacious lines throughout, and those sweeping teardrop headlights, a masterpiece designed by Franco Scaglione. This car was launched in 1967, and was created to take on the Ferrari Dino, Lamborghini Miura and De Tomaso Mangusta.

The 33 Stradale had a more futuristic design than all of its rivals with its bubble roof and butterfly doors. Underneath that gorgeous skin are the mechanics from the Tipo 33 racecar, or be it slightly detuned from the racer version. Both versions made use of a mid-mounted 2.0 litre V8 engine, the road car producing 230bhp, as opposed to the 270bhp that came out of the race version. The entire engine was built out of aluminium and was mated to a Coletti six speed gearbox. Suspension is double wishbones all round the car as well as disc brakes at all four corners. The road car also made use of the racer’s tubular chassis, consisted of three large tubes, fixed together in an ‘H’ shape. At the rear of the car, longitudinal sections were angled inwards to cradle the engine and gearbox. The tubular side-members also contained the rubber fuel tanks. The body was also made of aluminium, thus resulting in an overall weight of just 700kg.The interior was one of the most luxurious of its time, with leather throughout the cabin.

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Despite the car’s magificent looks, it was not a great seller due to its extraordinate price, and only eighteen cars were ever made. Today, there are no more than four known vehicles existing on the roads, with one of them belonging to Alfa Romeo. The others presumably belong to private buyers, cherishing what some would refer to as the pinnacle of automotive design. On rare occasions they might make an appearance on the road, inspiring those who see them, both from a visual and audible experience.

What does the future hold for such a car? From the actual car itself, not much, by todays standards the engine is tiny, although the power to weight ratio is quite extraordinate to say the least.However, this car’s design did inspire an entirely new car for Alfa Romeo, the 4C. Although the new car will not have a V8, Alfa Romeo claim that the new car will have a power-to-weight ratio nearly identical to that Tipo 33. As the name suggests, the 4C will make use of a four cylinder engine from the Giulietta Cloverleaf, producing about 235bhp. Alfa are also claiming that the new car will weight about 850kg. They are also claiming a price tag of about 45,000 Sterling, although recently there have been rumours of the price droping to 38,000 Sterling. With materials like carbon fibre, I do not have a clue how they are able to come up with such a price tag. However, if everything goes according to plan, and for Alfa Romeo’s sake I hope they do, then the struggling Italian brand may have another classic on their hands.

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New Mercedes SL Revealed

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Mercedes has taken wraps off its latest generation SL, just a month before being unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show.

This version of the SL is based on an all-new platform, made exclusively of aluminium, still makes use of longitudinal six-cylinder and eight-cylinder engines and rear-wheel drive. The aluminium construction makes it between 125kg and 140kg lighter and 20 percent stiffer than the outgoing car, Another aspect of the car that remains the same is the metal folding roof that can be folded away in less than 20 seconds.

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The new design harks back to the 1960s “Pagoda” SL, especially wwith its unbroken shoulderline running from the front to the back of the car. The front of the car makes use of an SLS-inspired front grille and large three-pointed-star taking centre stage. Mercedes claims that the overall design is the most aerodynamic car in its class, whilst also creating new standards for wind noise-based cabin refinement.

The line up begins with a 3.5 litre V6 producing 302bhp and 370Nm of torque, returning 41mpg. The 429bhp SL500 reaches 62mph in 4.6s curtosy of a 4.7 litre V8 engine. Both engines are paired with a seven-speed automatic gearbox.

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Peugeot 208 Revealed

Peugeot has finally revealed the first images of the 208, a car to replace their popular, 207. Peugeot want everyone know, that this is not just a reskinned 207. In fact this car has a number of key features that Peugeot hope will put them ahead in this segment of the market.

Peugeot are claiming to have taken inspiration from their late 80s classic, the 205. That car was revered for its low weight and agility, and this new 208 has its sights aimed squarely in the same direction. In its lightest specification, the 208 weighs 975kg, a massive 173kg less than the 207.

The 208 is also significantly smaller than the 207 on the exterior, being 70mm shorter than its predecessor and 10mm lower. However, do not think for one second that this reduction in size will affect the interior. In fact, Peugeot is claiming that inside, the 208 has more space than the 207 and has 15 litres more luggage space than the 207, and 50mm extra legroom.

The interior has been updated significantly, and in my opinion is the best looking part of the car. It is a simple yet stylish design with great emphasis on the use of top quality materials. The dashboard incorporates a smaller steering wheel, elevated instrument cluster and a touchscreen control unit which incorporates entertainment and navigation function, as well as any necessary vehicle dynamics. This touchscreen is available on all the models except the entry-level model. Customers can also choose to personalise the screen in various “skins”.

There are also a few differences with the variety of engines on offer on the 208. Two new petrol engines replace the old 1.4 and 1.6 litre units, with a 1.0 and  1.2 litre units. The 1.0 litre unit is claimed to produce 65.7mpg and emits 99g/km of CO2. No word yet on what sort of power these engines produce, but expect them to produce between 75 and 100bhp.

There are also five diesels on offer, some of which will incorporate Peugeot’s micro-hybrid technology and stop-start technology. Peugeot also claim that the most frugal engine will return 83.1mpg and 87g/km of CO2.

The 208 should be available in about a years time, with the introduction of the GTi varient to follow shortly after.

 

Peugeot’s 208 To Be Revealed Soon

According to rumours that have surfaced within the last 24 hours, Peugeot’s latest incarnation of their supermini, the 208, is set to be revealed very soon, possibly as soon as next week.

Many are claiming that the release date is set for the 2nd of November, next Wednesday to be precise. Peugeot has high hopes for their 207 replacement, with claimed reports that they are aiming to sell 500,000 a year.

There are also reports that the new car will be cheaper than the current 207, to make it more competitive with the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta. Rumours also suggest that on the exterior the new car is smaller than the 207, but more spacious on the interior.

Peugeot also aim on bringing back the spirit of the 205 GTi with this new car. The plan is to make the car lighter than the 207 and fitting the 1.6l petrol engine from the RCZ.

Lets hope the result is as good as these rumours, because if they are, Peugeot could have a real market winner on their hands.

Peugeot 508 vs Mercedes C200 CDi

Two separate trips to France allowed me to try out two cars from the same market category. The not so new, yet quite intriguing Mercedes C-class and the recently launched Peugeot 508 saloon.

Both these cars are fighting in a very competitive market, where everything from engine specification to interior trim quality is meant to be of top quality. These cars are however slightly different from one another. While the Mercedes is merely a car to fit in a market where the BMW 3-series rules the roost, the 508 is Peugeot’s top of the line model, replacing both the 607 and the 407. Therefore the 508 may also have to compete with a market that the 607 had to compete with in the past. Quite a tall order then.

First Impressions

When entering the Mercedes, the first thing you realise is how hard the seats are. Shrugging off that thought, I think I will get used to it when we hit the road. However, a few minutes of driving, you realise, that its almost impossible to get comfortable. I was already squirming in my seat after only a few minutes on the road, and I had to get through a 3hour drive. Not a very good start then.

The next thing you look at is the layout of the dashboard. At first it seems quite ordinary. Nothing to make you interested. In fact I would say it is quite boring. It hasn’t got any sort of sparkle in its design. I felt as though Mercedes intentionally designed the car’s interior to be as boring as possible.

The 508 is somewhat of a different story. The seats, are firm yet comfortable. They aren’t perfect, but they are adequate. I would however specify full leather on the 508 rather than the part leather that we had in our car. They are far more comfortable and are simply gorgeous to look at.

The layout of the dashboard is well laid out, with some lovely materials used throughout the cabin. The main instrument panel is fitted with a great looking piano black finish that makes the car that bit more special.

Driving

Both these cars are lovely to drive, with near identical road holding ability, which is impressive for the Peugeot considering it is front wheel drive. The Mercedes has a stiffer set up than the Peugeot due to its stiffer suspension and a lower ride height. I urge caution however with the Mercedes, especially on bumpy roads, especially in Malta where we still suffer from quite mediocre road maintenance. Due to the Mercedes’ firmer set up, comfort is compromised. This was not such a big problem on French roads, but in Malta, I can’t imagine myself getting used to it. The Mercedes has a 2.0l diesel engine producing 136bhp. And you immediately realise that this is not Mercedes’ forte. The engine gives a bad name to all diesel engines. It is so noisy. It sounds like the sort of diesel engine that we had ten years ago.

The 508 , while being lovely to drive, is also very comfortable, as is the norm with Peugeots. It has always been one of their main selling points, especially in their high end saloon segment. The cabin is very well insulated, definitely much better than the C-Class. The engine is Peugeot’s new 1.6 e-HDi model,producing 112bhp, which doesn’t sound like much but throughout our holiday we never felt the need for more power. It felt perfectly adequate.Our little 1.6 diesel engine was a fine little motor, with reasonable performance for day to day use. For those who want more power there is a 1.6l petrol engine, producing either 120bhp or 156bhp. There is also a 2.0l diesel engine, producing 163bhp and the current range topping 2.2l diesel engine producing 205bhp . A hybrid model will also be available to customers some time in 2012.Read more about Peugeot’s hybrid flagship here.

Day to Day living

I will be honest, after a few days the Mercedes got on my nerves, which was a shame because I was quite a fan of Mercedes. I used to prefer Mercedes over BMW, because BMW seemed to mainstream. I even liked the styling, in a glitzy chrome-filled sort of way. After a couple of days with the Mercedes, I got fed up of its uncomfortable seats, its noisy engine and lack of sparkle in the cabin. It just felt like yet another car to fill a niche gap. On a track it may be more fun to drive with its sportier set up, but in the real world it just feels below average.

The 508, while not being perfect gets very close. The main problem with it was its semi-automatic gearbox with wheel mounted paddle shifters. In manual mode the changes take some getting used to, since the car tends to jerk forwards when increasing a gear. However change your driving style slightly and changes are much smoother. Also the seats could a bit comfier, but these are things that can be changed when buying this car. Since this car is such a joy to drive, the manual gearbox would be much better suited to this car. Also spec leather seats. They are worth it. It is also very spacious for both the occupants in the front and in the back. The air conditioning is also brilliant, and will cool even the worst of our Maltese summers. I am struggling to find anything to complain about the 508. It is a very well accomplished car.

It is economical, fun to drive, comfortable, has a huge boot, and has an options list that would embarass a car a class above. Some might argue that Peugeots are unreliable, but after those trips with a Mercedes and this 508, I can safely assure that the Mercedes caused us more problems than the Peugeot. The Peugeot is a fine car, and it is a very reasonable car to buy. You do not get all that premium price rubbish that you get with Mercedes. What you get is a well built, spacious, good looking, fun to drive car that shows some people what they miss out on when they buy a car merely on a badge.

The Conclusion?

The Peugeot is definitely worth a look, well in my opinion it is worth more than a look. It deserves to be Peugeot’s best selling car.  The Mercedes doesn’t get my vote. For all the hype that is associated with the name, it is just an utter disappointment to me. If  however, neither of these cars tickle your fancy, the Audi A4 is a decent alternative. It is not as spacious as the 508, but it has a lovely interior, and is very well built.

Mclaren’s F1 Replacement

Rumour has it that Mclaren has already started testing its new F1 hypercar replacement, which is set to go on sale in 2014.

Mclaren have claimed that the new F1 will eclipse all the latest hypercars, even ones that haven’t been revealed yet. They claim that the performance will be superior to the Bugatti Veyron’s, the Enzo replacement and the 918 Spyder.

It is claimed that the new F1 will have a name similar to the MP4-12C’s, and that this latest hyper car has already had hot weather testing, presumably in Bahrain, and further testing in Germany and Spain.

The car will be powered by a 5.0l V8 engine producing 799bhp. Acceleration figures are also equally impressive, with a 0 to 60mph time of 2.8s, and 0 to 200mph in 20s. Truly eye watering performance.

This car is aimed to go into limited production of about 500 units with a price of close to €1,000,000. An equally impressive price tag then.

BMW’s New 3 Series

BMW’s latest generation 3 Series, has finally been revealed to the world.

This latest incarnation of BMW’s best selling car will be available in the first quarter of 2012, with two new engines included in the line up, a four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, and a 109 g/km diesel engine.

The new car still maintains the same front engine rear drive layout, and has broadly the same engine line up as the current.However, do not think that this car is just a reskinned version of the current car, this car has been completely redeveloped from the ground up. There will be a 316d, 318d, 320d, a 320d EfficientDynamics, 325d, 330d and a 335d. The petrol line up will include the 320i, the 328i and the 335i. Later on a petrol-hybrid version will be available, where the 3.0l will be mated to an electric motor.

The new car is 4623mm long, a full 93mm longer than its predecessor, however despite the car being larger, BMW claim that this new car is 40kg lighter than before. The boot is big enough to store 480 litres of luggage, which is about average compared to its two main rivals, the Audi A4 and the Mercedes C-Class.

The design of the car is heavily influenced by the latest generation 5 and 7 Series, especially towards the rear. The dashboard incorporates certain characteristics from BMW’s other models like the freestanding screen, which was first seen on the latest generation 1 Series.

Although only the saloon version has been revealed at the moment, in future there will be other body styles available, including an estate version, a convertible, a coupe and a GT version. The coupe version, however, will not carry the 3 Series badge, but will be called the 4 Series.

 

 

 

Alfa Romeo’s Future Plans Uncovered

Alfa Romeo recently revealed news regarding a new engine for their upcoming 159 replacement, the Giulia.

This new 1.8l turbocharged engine produces a massive 296bhp! The engine is made from aluminium and is said to be fitted with high pressure fuel injection and also makes use of the Multiair system. Rumour has it that this car will also be fitted in Alfa’s upcoming flagship, which may take the name of either the 6C or Montreal.

This new flagship will be rear wheel drive, and will based on the Chrysler 300c/Lancia Thema platform. This decision of a new luxury saloon has been made instead of the large SUV which I spoke about a few moths ago. This new flagship will have an all new V6 engine alongside the 1.8l engine.

However even though this all good news for Alfa Romeo, it has also surfaced that the Giulia will be delayed yet again for another year, possibly making an appearance in 2014. With the 159 going out of production at the end of next year, that means that Alfa will be without a 3 Series competitor for a year.

In 2013, Alfa is promising to deliver a small Kuga sized SUV to the market. Not much is known about the details of the car, but I imagine it will make use of the same platform as the Giulietta, and the same engine line up. Also in 2013, Alfa intends on revealing a facelifted MiTo, a five door MiTo and the 4C sportscar.

Stay tuned for more information on these upcoming cars!

Toyota’s New Yaris Now Available In Malta

The new Toyota Yaris, a car which sold very well here in Malta, is now available from €15,000.

Now , I would like to say from the start that I have never been a fan of the Yaris. I found the car to be quite a bore, and felt that it was only created to add more profits to Toyota. I always felt that it had a body over the mechanics because if it didn’t, it wouldn’t have sold. It just never stood out in the roads,and frankly I always believeed that there were better cars on the market that have more character than the Yaris and are much better looking.

It seems however, that Toyota is taking notice of the consumer’s needs, and realised that if they wants to compete in Europe, design is very important. To my eyes, it seems as though that the designers have spent to much time looking at the Peugeot 207 and the Renault Clio. From the back, it is unmistakably similar to the 207, whilst the C-pillar seems to be directly lifted from the Renault Clio.

The interior is very well designed, with easy to reach controls. The touchscreen interface is very responsive, but the UI is not very user friendly, and takes time to get used to. Materials on the main centre console is good enough, although other parts of the interior seem to be made of very cheap plastics, especially the whole bottom bit between the two front seats where the handbrake and gear lever are found. Let a nine year old loose into that car and he would be able to take apart the entire interior in a matter of seconds. Not something I expect from Toyota.

There are three engines on offer the base 1.0l petrol with 69bhp costs €15,000 with lots of standard equipment, including air conditioning, alloy wheels, Cd player with mp3 connectivity, a multimedia touchscreen, 6 speakers, a reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity, power steering, steering audio controls, front electric windows, ABS, airbags and a host of other things.  For €15,600, one can upgrade to the 1.3l petrol engine with 99bhp with the same array of standard equipment. There will also be a 1.4l diesel version producing 90bhp. Prices for the diesel version have yet to be verified.

Whilst the standard equipment is impressive, I am not fully convinced with this car.I think that European manufacturers are better looking, and in areas, better built than this Toyota. Also, and this is a personal thing, I do not think I could bring myself to buy a Toyota, after the brake problems they had very recently.

Frankfurt Motor Show: The Production Cars

While my previous post focused on the highlights of the Frankfurt Motor Show, This post is dedicated to the interesting cars that will hit showrooms within the coming months.

Porsche has finally taken wraps of its latest incarnation of an icon, the 911. Whilst there are no drastic alterations to the design, there are many subtle differences to the exterior to differentiate the previous model to the new model, including new front lights and rear lights, a redesigned front grille, and subtle changes to the overall profile of the car to make it that bit more aerodynamic. There are also new LEDs, inspired by the 918 Concept car. At the back there is a new rear wing that rises at 75mph.

The new Porsche 911

The chassis is made almost entirely made of aluminium, resulting in a 45kg weight loss. The S model features a 3.8l flat six engine producing 400bhp. The entry level on the 911 makes use of a 3.4l engine instead of a 3.6l, producing 350bhp. Another new feature is the introduction of a new seven speed manual gearbox. This car shall be available towards the end of this year.

VW revealed its latest city car, the Up!, to replace the rather dull Fox. The Up! iss powered by a 1.0l three cylinder engine. VW also revealed a variety of alternative versions of the Up!, including a 4×4 version, an electric version and an eco version.

The VW Up!

The Renault Twingo was also on show at the Frankfurt Motor Show.Click here to read about the new Renault Twingo.

Mini revealed its latest Coupe to rival the Audi TT and Peugeot RCZ.Read about the Mini Coupe.

Peugeot’s stand showed off its latest flagship, the Peugeot 508 RXH.

Mercedes showed off its latest B-Class, a car to rival the Europe’s best MPVs. This new car should be available in mid 2012, boasting 666 litres of boot space and a larger cabin than the previous generation B-Class. The car will be available with 1.6l petrol engines and 1.8l diesel engines.

Mercedes B-Class

Mercedes also revealed its SLS Roadster, a soft top version of the SLS supercar. This car is 40kg heavier than its hard top sibling, a figure achieved due to its aluminium construction.The powerplant remains unchanged from the hard top. That means a 6.2l V8 engine producing 563bhp, propelling the car to 62mph in 3.8 seconds and reaching a top speed of just over 200mph.  The soft top, while not being as quick as the engine, is fully retracted in just 11 seconds.

Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster

Subaru revealed its new XV crossover, a car based on the on the XV concept which was shown to us at the Shanghai Motor Show a few months ago. Not much is known about what engines will be available on this car. However what we do know is that the XV is based on the same platform as the Impreza. Expect more information on this car within the coming months.

Subaru XV

Ford has taken wraps off its new Focus ST. The new ST is also available in estate form, a first for Ford.This new ST is powered by a 2.0l four cylinder producing 247bhp.This new ST version will be available next year.

Ford Focus ST

Besides the Focus ST, Ford has also revealed the Fiesta ST, a car to take on the Polo GTi. The Fiesta features a 1.6l four cylinder engine producing 187bhp, and sprints to 62mph in just under seven seconds. This car should be available at about the same time as the Focus ST.

Ford Fiesta ST

Stay tuned to read more about these cars!