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Friday, 30 January 2009

LEAK! - Aston Martin Rapide appears for the first time

After Aston Martin was sold by Ford, many may have feared for the future of the brand, but it has demonstrated to be very capable of taking care of itself. One of the better proofs it has given is the development of a new four-door coupe, the Rapide, which has been photographed several times in tests around the world. Anyway, the pictures below have not been taken by any spy photographer, but by Aston Martin. The company has taken them, but has not released them, or else, these pictures have leaked and Autocar was the first one to share them with us.

Scheduled to be introduced at this years's Geneva Motor Show, the car is built over the DB9 platform, which has been stretched in 25.5 cm. This leads the car to be 5 m long. It is also 6.3 cm higher than DB9, what makes it have a good head room for its back passengers.

Power will come from the 6-litre V12 already in use by Aston Martin, but with more power, 480 bhp, mated to a ZF six-speed automatic transmission with Touchtronic control. Since the car weighs around 1,940 kg, it is expected to go from 0 to 96 km/h in 4.5 s. Top speed is expected to exceed 290 km/h and the price tag will be around 140,000 pounds, or else, it will be priced between DB9 and DBS.

Source: AutoCar

Porsche presents the GT3 version of the current 911

Close to the end of each of its generations, Porsche 911, the world's most traditional sportscar, traditionally presents its most agressive versions. The current generation, named 997, will be replaced in 2011 by 998, which has already been snapped around. Anyway, the 911 GT3 has just been presented and will make its first public appearance only in March, more precisely at the Geneva Motor Show.

The new supercar now has 435 bhp available, about 20 bhp more than the previous model. The explanation for this increase is a bigger engine (3.8-litre, instead of the 3.6-litre boxer powerplant) and a new VarioCam variable valve command, which now manages the escape valves as well. Top speed reache 312 km/h and 0 to 100 km/h comes in a mere 4.1 s.

As it usually happens in vehicles that are so strong, the engine is just one part of the whole process. The intelligent suspension PASM, for example, is stiffer, but also more concerned about simple problems the driver may have, such as getting in and out of sloppy parking spots. In order to help, a button allows the front part of the car to rise 3 cm in order to enter and to leave such places. Disc brakes are also bigger and lighter, with the option of ceramic brakes for more demanding brake conditions.

For the ones that drive in a harder way, traction and stability control systems can be completely turned off. There is no automatic reactivation when the driver chooses to turn them off, something that is respectfull for the driver's decision. Let's just hope they know what they are doing.

In Europe, GT3 must start its sales in May, for 98,100 euros. In the USA, the car will be sold from October on with a price tag of US$ 112,2 mil.

Source: Porsche

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Can an engine return 60 km/l of ethanol? Maxi-Eco says its engine can

Most recent efforts to turn the car into a fuel efficient vehicle consist of turning its powertrain into an electricity-fed system. Although this is really the most energy efficient powertrain known, there are issues yet to be solved, such as the time it takes to recharge the batteries, how much they weigh and how to discard them. This is why some people still believe in perfecting combustion engines. Wouldn't it be nice to have an engine that could run 60 km/l of ethanol, for example? According to Maxi-Eco, a Brazilian company, this is feasible. And they plan to prove it at the Progressive Automotive X Prize. The secret is under the hood of the car below.

This vehicle, which resembles Lotus Seven, an icon for light, fuel efficient and fun to drive cars, is powered by an axial engine. This engine uses some of the same principles applied to Wankel engines, but do not work like them. Not even close, according to Maxi-Eco. Since the invention has not been registered yet, details still cannot be revealed, but the basic idea behind the engine is that it uses a lot less parts than a regular Otto engine. Therefore, it is lighter and more efficient. “Our project has some similarities to Wankel engines in what relates to energy use, but not in what refers to physical characteristics nor in the way fuel is compressed. I can say it works very much like a regular Otto engine", André Martinho Salgado, from Maxi-Eco, told MotorTips.

Salgado trusts very much its company achievement. “One of the main goals for Progressive Automotive X Prize is to have cars able to reach 100 mpg, or 42 km/l and we will work towards this in the first stage of the engine development. We are currently working with prototypes and we have mathematically proved our engine can reach 60 km/l with ethanol.” The engine works so well, according to Salgado, that they have even given up the idea of turning the powertrain into a hybrid system. "We have cancelled the project for the secundary electric engine in December. We will go to the competition only with our combustion axial engine, which is much more efficient and does not use batteries, which are not environmentally friendly."

Maxi-Eco will take part in all categories, including a new one, that has just been created. "In the main category, we have to take to the USA a car able to carry five people, with more than 60 mandatory equipments, such as air-conditioning, ABS etc. We will use a series production vehicle equipped with our engine. The alternative category is not so demanding in what relates to equipments. We can present a vehicle with at leat three wheels and two places. Our prototype will have four wheels and two places. It will not be the Lotus Seven replica, but a different vehicle, produced with some special technologies."

The engine will be able to use ethanol or petrol, or else, it will be a flexible fuel powerplant. "For the competition, we will adjust it to work with E85, but there is the possibility for it to work on 100% of ethanol as well", Salgado said.

Source: Maxi-Eco

Extreme Bentley will be presented at the Geneva Motor Show

There is not much you can ask from a Bentley and it does not offer. Low price is certainly one of them, but the other things was getting increasingly difficult not to accomplish: low carbon emissions. The British company has managed to get there in a way that will please most of its fans: creating the most powerful car ever to wear a Bentley badge.

The Extreme Bentley, as the company has called it so far (even creating the website for it, with a great video), will not run only on ethanol, as some reports may lead you to think. It will be a flexible fuel vehicle, or else, it will run on any proportion of gasoline and E85. E85 uses 85% of ethanol and 15% of petrol in order for the car to start in a smooth way. In cold days, ethanol-powered cars tend not to start easily. In Brazil, where flexible fuel cars use 100% ethanol, there is a small fuel tank containing petrol to help cold morning starts.

Based on Bentley Continental GT, the car is only said to be the fastest Bentley ever, but there is no technical specs so far to support this claim. Another information to confirm only in March, at the Geneva Motor Show.

Source: Bentley

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Hulme plans to put its Spyder into production as soon as possible

New Zealand is not only a gorgeous country full of nice people. It is also the home of a new supercar, made by a company named to pay homage to Denis Hulme, the only New Zealander pilot to ever win a F1 championship. And the car is as extraordinary as the pilot, beginning with its appearance.

Spyder, as the car has been called, is a 4.61 m long, 1.96 m wide and 1.10 m high two-seater coupe, with a wheelbase of 2.83 m. Its first derivative, CanAm, is powered by a 5-litre V8 engine that once powered the M5, able to pump out 550 bhp and installed in front of the rear axle, what makes this car a mid-engined vehicle. It weighs 1,175 kg, what could assure great performance numbers but Hulme has not disclosed any information on them so far. Spyder, on the other hand, is expected to use a stronger engine, the LS9 V8 that powers the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and produces more than 650 bhp, according to Jock Freemantle, Hulme's CEO.

The company intends to produce 25 cars a year when production starts. There will be three models of the car: CanAm, a Spyder with no windshield, Spyder and F1. Production was predicted to start in 2007, but things did not occur like they were planned due to lack of funding. According to Freemantle, investors are starting to believe the project. Each vehicle will cost 310,000 pounds.

Text modified in 03-02-09.

Source: Hulme Supercars via Motor Authority

Opel will reveal in Geneva its version of Volt, the Ampera

Just as expected, Chevrolet Volt would not be a breakthrough just for Chevrolet. The Voltec technology that power this extended-range electric car will also be on other products. The first one beside Volt to present it was the Cadillac Converj, but this gorgeous coupe is still not confirmed for production. Opel, on the other hand, intends to sell its version of Volt in Europe. And it will be called Ampera in the Old World, as we will be able to see at Geneva Motor Show this year. Meanwhile, we can only get a glimpse of the new car, which is just below.

Apparently, Ampera presents the same shape of Volt. This is why the car also presents the same technical specifications. It can run 60 km only its lithium-ion batteries charge and a lot more due to a small combustion engine that works as a generator inside the car.

Opel states more information will be available in March, when the Swiss autoshow opens its gates, but, since this car is exactly like Volt, all we want to know is when it will start to be sold. And for how much.

Source: Opel

Monday, 26 January 2009

Mitsubishi will present the concept i MiEV Sport Air in Geneva

Electric cars are often said to be dull to drive. No engine roar, no performance... This is why most carmakers are presenting sports versions of their EVs and Mitsubishi is no exception. This is why the Japanese car company will take the new i MiEV Sport Air to Geneva in March.

According to Mitsubishi, the car will have a powerful electric engine and a low gravity centre due to the fact its lithium-ion batteries are installed on the floor of the car. This is all Mitsubishi dares to say, besides celebrating the fact that the car is not a pollutant vehicle. Let's check it out at this year's edition of Geneva Motor Show

Source: Mitsubishi