No 106 May-June 2010

Oman’s Best Automotive Resource

OMR 0.500 AED 5.00 QR 5.00

RaCe CRaZy aCe R y

Peugeot’s champ car based on 308 platform! Turbo-charged 1.6-litre, 200bhp powerpack

SupeR2010 drivenCat Cool Jaguar XKR

Meet a Bentley boy
Bentley’s regional head Chris Buxton talks to Automan about the year past and the new Mulsanne
Visit us online at

Mohammad Al taie

Small cars and the environment
There has been an intense focus from established car manufacturers around the world on the new growth economies of India, China and Brazil and the lucky early movers in this regard have had their foresight rewarded with healthy revenues and profits buoying up their balance sheets even during a ‘global’ recession. The common thread that runs through any post-mortem of the success of these markets to buck a world-wide trend usually hinges on how all countries have a huge internal trade and a demand for products and services from their populations. In motoring terms, the three economies have another commonality in that while there is a large degree of demand, it is skewed towards entry level and small cars. In that way, there is a degree of difference from the demand for small cars that is seen in Europe and Japan. They have their own issues with parking and commuting, but aren’t nearly as challenged when it comes to affordability. Hence small cars there may be small in size, but are usually big on features. In the new economies, affordability is the key and between the cost of acquisition, maintenance and fuel buyers are concerned about how far their money stretches. That’s the sort of market that the new generation of small cars seeks to address. Whether it is the Tata’s Nano or the newer competition from ReanultNissan and Suzuki, the aim is to get people off their two-wheelers and in to these almost no-frills cars. The biggest challenge for the industry and governments is to balance the aspirational needs of the vast middle-classes with the impact all these millions of new engines will have on the environment, while factoring in the desirable end results of improved transportation, increased employment and the boost to the economies of these countries. Of course they all need to address the question of how safe these new cars are on a developing road network. As more companies chase this burgeoning profile of consumer towards an increasingly elusive aim of a profitable year, the hope remains that authorities will continue to promote public transportation as a mainstay of cities and urban areas instead of allowing a free-for-all on the roads.

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106 | May 2010

sLs AMG Mercedes-Benz

in this issue


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26 k 32

40 k

Cover story The hot little turbo car from Peugeot - RCZ road test From luxury to mainstream desirable – the Lexus ES350 First drive The Jaguar XKR 2010 taken for a spin road test The Lincoln Navigator - all luxury yet still a challenger

46 k 52 k 54 k 56 k

Motorshow Lots of new cars from the Chinese capital Preview MINI’s new countryman is slowly brought out Bikes About Peugeot’s e-bike and power scooter road test The little Sirion proves to be big at heart




22 k 38 k 72

News All the news you can use from around the world aCCessorise All about various internet enabled devices and wannabe tablets iNterview We meet Chris Buxton, Bentley’s regional boss ChiCaNe Of the options of electric biking in the future...

62 k 66

F1 rePort The race report from China and Spain wrC rePort The race report from Sweden and Mexico

the BMw X1: BraNd New sPorts aCtivity vehiCle iNtrodUCed to BMw’s PoPUlar X Model raNge


MW is setting a new benchmark in the compact Sports Activity Vehicle segment with the launch of the newest member of its X model range, the all-new BMW X1. The youngest model to join the hugely successful X Sports Activity Vehicle portfolio comes with all of the features typical of the BMW X range, but at the same time offers a new interpretation of BMW’s Sheer Driving Pleasure. The driving characteristics of the BMW X1 offer the perfect combination of supreme agility and versatile sportiness with an appearance of a Sports Activity Vehicle and the agility of a BMW 1 Series. Available in three engine variants and measuring 4.45 metres in length, this five-door stands out from every angle as a BMW X model. The X1 xDrive28i top-of-the-range, sixcylinder petrol engine has a maximum output of 258hp, accelerating from 0-100 km/h in just 6.8 seconds and reaching a top speed of 230 km/h. The BMW X1 xDrive25i has 218hp, reaching 100Km/h in 7.9 seconds and a top speed of 223 Km/h. Also available is the sporting and economic sDrive 18i, a 2.0 litre

four cylinder engine with 150hp. Accelerating this agile performer from 0-100 km/h takes just 10.4 seconds and provides a top speed of 200 km/h. The interior of the BMW X1 is characterised by clear functionality and modern style. The elevated seating position, a generous feeling of space, the wide range of storage options and the variable interior offer ideal conditions for enjoying the BMW X1 both in an urban environment and beyond. The BMW X1 features an extremely stable body structure designed for maximum occupant safety. It achieved the highest score of five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test. NCAP (New Car Assement Programme) is regarded as one of the most important and demanding tests required for new vehicles worldwide. The test scenario covers accident types such as the head-on collision, side crash and side impact against a steel post. Modern drive-train technology gives the BMW X1 superior performance and efficiency all in one. The driver benefits from a powerful, economical and low-emission engine, BMW’s

intelligent xDrive all-wheel-drive technology, as well as a range of BMW EfficientDynamics technologies to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. The suspension technology featured in the BMW X1 offers high-precision power steering, high performance brakes and Dynamic Stability Control including Dynamic Traction Control. The BMW X1 comes with the latest generation of BMW iDrive functions, including the 6.5inch Business or 8.8inch Professional navigation systems. The iDrive system has been updated to provide easy access to all telecommunication, audio and entertainment functions. “Our BMW X5 and X6 models do exceptionally well in the Middle East so we are delighted to enrich our X model offering with the launch of the X1. It will be the entry level X model variant positioned below the X3 so we expect this model to attract a younger audience to our X model line-up,” said Phil Horton, Managing Director of BMW Group Middle East.


world’s First FoUr-seater atv By roBBy gordoN
airtrade Auto LLC, dealers of Polaris in Oman, announced the launch of the ATV (all terrain vehicle), industry’s first four-seat sport side-by-side. Mohammed Gulzar, General Manager, Polaris – U.A.E., Patrick Drugeon, C.E.O., Fairtrade Group of Companies and Hafidh Al Harthy, General Manager, Fairtrade Auto LLC, were present at the launch that took place at the showroom. The 2010 Ranger RZR 4 has been designed for Polaris in partnership with racing legend Robby Gordon. Boasting an 800cc Twin Cylinder High Output EFI Engine among other outstanding features, the Ranger RZR 4 is built for extreme, razor sharp performance and agility in the dunes, desert and wide-open spaces. Being highly unique, the vehicle has already garnered great interest locally and is now available on order through Fairtrade Auto. “2010’s most anticipated ATV is now available in Oman and we are delighted to offer it to our esteemed customers. At Fairtrade Auto, we are fully equipped to handle the vehicle’s complete servicing needs and related requirements. Polaris vehicles are thoughtfully planned and flawlessly executed,” said Patrick Drugeon, C.E.O., Fairtrade Group of Companies.


wattayah Motors showCased BeNtley, aUdi aNd volkswageN at oMaN’s First sPort & lUXUry Car show
attayah Motors, exclusive distributor of Bentley, Audi and Volkswagen in Oman showcased their leading 2010 models at Oman’s first Sport and Luxury Car Show. Representing Bentley’s powerful legacy and legendary performance, the two-seater race -style Continental Supersports, Bentley’s fastest model was on display. Renowned for breaking boundaries, the Continental Supersports can reach a speed of 60 mph in 3.7 seconds Audi fans were pleased to view the latest dynamic models available from Wattayah Motors including the sporty Audi R8, Audi S8, Audi TT and Audi A5. Supporting Audi, Volkswagen also showcased the popular sporty GTI and the Passat R36. “As a distributor of a number of world class


luxury and premium brands, this event is the perfect opportunity for Wattayah Motors to showcase some of our highest quality and newest models from Bentley, Audi and Volkswagen. The Omani motoring public is highly educated when it comes to the world of luxury automobiles and we a received a tremendous amount of interest in the models we had on show. “After getting a taste of the range offered at the Sport and Luxury Car Show, we invited prospective customers to visit the Wattayah Motors Showroom to book a test drive and have the opportunity to experience for themselves the world-class performance of these high performance cars in the environment where they belong – on the highways of the Sultanate.”

geNeral Motors aNNoUNCes New BraNd MaNager Nd
eneral Motors (GM) has announced the appointment of Luay Al Shurafa to the position of Regional Brand Manager of Chevrolet and GMC, GM Middle East. “Luay brings many years of experience in various managerial roles, and I look forward to working with him to take GM’s brands to the next level,” said Fadi Ghosn, GM Middle East Chief Marketing Officer. He added, “With his indepth sales experience, Luay will be crucial in


devising marketing strategies that will increase Chevrolet’s and GMC’s sales and build brand consideration,”. In his 12 years working for GM in the Middle East, Luay has successfully worked in finance and Sales operations. In his previous role as Regional Manager, Kuwait, Levant, Iraq, Luay worked hand in hand with dealers and distributors in individual markets to develop sales, service and marketing plans.


volvo Cars Crash-test laBoratory 10 years
When the new safety centre was inaugurated by Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf in early 2000, it was one of the most advanced in the car industry - a position it has retained over the years thanks to the continuous implementation of new equipment and new test methods. The latest technology infusion is in the form of a set of digital high-speed cameras that can take 200,000 frames per second. “The new cameras give us exceptional scope for studying collisions down to the tiniest detail. What is more, we have a number of miniature cameras that are installed inside the cars to capture what happens with various key components in the vehicle,” relates Thomas Broberg. The crash-test laboratory has one fixed and one movable test track. The movable track can be adjusted from 0 to 90 degrees. This makes it possible to carry out tests involving a variety of incident and accident scenarios, from frontal impacts to side impacts, between two moving cars approach at different angles and speeds. More over, avoidance and mitigation of collision can also be tested. The facility can currently handle more than 400 full-scale tests a year.

olvo Cars’ crash-test laboratory in Torslanda turns 10 this year - and the almost 3,000 full-scale tests that have been carried out during the high-tech facility’s first decade have helped give Volvo owners even safer cars. “We can replicate most of the incident and


accident scenarios that take place out on the roads. By analysing these and then testing new safety technology in the crash-test laboratory, we can improve the safety level in our cars so that they become even safer in real-life traffic conditions,” says Thomas Broberg, Senior Safety Advisor at Volvo Cars.

ZUBair aUtoMotive groUP helPs sUltaN QaBoos NQ UNiversity stUdeNts to go the ZUBair way


ubair Automotive Group and Students from the Sultan Qaboos University joined forces this week to organize their very own luxury car show aimed at fellow students wanting to know more about Oman’s exclusive auto brands A proactive team of young marketing professionals studying at the Sultan Qaboos University called on Zubair Automotive Group this week to help them showcase a fleet of luxury and sport cars besides exclusive watercrafts within the university’s grounds. Delighted to assist, Zubair Automotive Group the exclusive distributor of several luxury and sports car brands in Oman, showcased their leading 2010 models in support of the SQU Business Week 2010, held at Sultan Qaboos University earlier this week. The group of marketing students who belong to the College of Commerce and

Economics transformed the SQU lawns into a car showroom, giving teachers and students a taste of what it would be like to own one of Oman’s most prestigious and luxury cars. Showcasing some of the most recently launched models in The Sultanate, the iconic Dodge Challenger SRT8 made an appearance, bringing back to Oman it’s all new ground breaking performance and world-class ride. Well known among car enthusiasts as the ‘muscle car’ of all cars, this fierce looking machine was certainly not ignored by passersby. Working the floor like an Oscar winner, the style and elegance of the sporty Peugeot 308 CC convertible was to be applauded. Introduced as the first coupe version of the latest 308 range azgrabbed the attention of its public, managing to turn more than a few heads.

Not to be disappointed, Audi fans were pleased to view the latest and dynamic models available from Wattayah Motors including the sporty Audi TT and Audi Q5. Volkswagen pulled out all the stops by bringing other family members to the event including the popular sporty GTI and Tiguan.


gM Pays BaCk goverNMeNt loaNs iN FUll

sUZUki sX4 hatChBaCk: iNtelligeNt 4wd For all terraiNs

eneral Motors Company Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre recently announced that GM has made its final payment of $5.8 billion to the U.S. Treasury and Export Development Canada, paying back its government loans in full, ahead of schedule. The announcement came at a ceremony to highlight an investment of $257 million at GM’s Fairfax, Kansas, and Detroit Hamtramck assembly centers. The investment will prepare Fairfax to build the next generation of Chevrolet’s award-winning Malibu, and make Detroit Hamtramck a second source for Malibu, ensuring that Chevrolet can meet market demand for this popular mid-size sedan. The U.S., Canadian, and Ontario governments, as part of the launch of the new GM, provided loans of $8.4 billion and took equity stakes in the new company. Today’s payment of $5.8 billion ($4.7 billion to the U.S. Treasury and $C1.1 billion to Export Development Canada) completes the payback of these loans. Strong sales of new Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac products are fueling a steady increase in production as GM works to meet growing customer demand. Sales for GM’s four brands are up 36 percent through March versus the same period in 2009.


uzuki SX4 intelligent all-wheel drive (i-AWD) is part of Suzuki’s world strategy with a ‘sporty’ theme. Elegant and dynamic in both look and performance, it offers some of the best features of both a sporty compact and a sport utility vehicle (SUV). Like all Suzuki vehicles, the Suzuki SX4 i-AWD embodies Suzuki’s ‘Way of Life!’ philosophy and brand vision in that it will be a pleasure to drive, use and own. The model’s dynamic and elegant crossover design represents a great lifestyle product. The combination of responsive driving and 4x4 capabilities sets new standards in performance. It has been engineered from the outset to be a capable 4x4 to deliver a sharp, dynamic performance. The Suzuki SX4’s ability to track the driver’s intention would surprise even driving enthusiasts. Suzuki SX4 i-AWD is powered by a 2000 cc VVT (Variable Valve Timing) petrol engine generating 165 horsepower. The VVT petrol engine also features drive by wire throttle control for great response and a comfortable drive. SX4 i-AWD is equipped with 4WD-Auto, 4WD-Lock and 2WD modes which can accessed with a flick of switch according to the driving conditions. The three driving modes


provide an excellent traction and safe drive on all terrains. 4WD-Auto mode is suited for safe driving on rough roads and rainy conditions. In this mode, there is no torque transfer to the rear and vehicle operates as a front-wheel drive vehicle till the time there is pronounced front wheel slip. At this point, torque is automatically apportioned to the rear wheels to produce allwheel traction, enhancing stability. The 4WDLock mode for traction in muddy and sandy conditions provides constant torque to both axles up to around 40 mph for full traction before automatically switching over to the 4WD-Auto mode for smooth cruising. The 2WD mode transmits power primarily to the front wheels for a quiet drive with excellent fuel economy on the tarmac. All this with class leading ground clearance of 165 mm makes this vehicle and great drive on all terrains. The suspension system has high levels of bending and torsional rigidity. This along with wide tyres helps the vehicle to have better handling and helps the passengers to be comfortable over long journeys. The efficient dimensions and a minimum turning radius of 5.3 metres help drivers to negotiate narrow urban streets with relative ease and park in spots too small for bigger SUVs.


Ferrari UNveils 458 italia iN oMaN

errari’s new 458 Italia was unveiled to media and customers during an event held at the Ferrari showroom Al Kuwair in presence of Pietro Innocenti, General Manager, Ferrari Middle East and Africa and Nizar Al Shanfari, Vice President, Shanfari Sport Cars Division, the official importer of Ferrari in Oman. Nizar Al Shanfari commented: “We are glad to welcome Mr. Pietro Innocenti for the first time in our country. His recent appointment as General Manger in the Middle East and Africa areas witnesses the increased focus on Gcc counties. Our target is to improve and to share passion about the prancing horse heritage: this new amazing car will definitively make our job easier”. The new V8-engined berlinetta is a synthesis of style, creative flair, passion and cutting-edge technology, characteristics for which Italy as a nation is well-known. For this reason Ferrari chose to add the name of its homeland to the traditional figure representing the displacement and number of cylinders. Designed to fulfill the expectations and ambitions of our most passionate clients, the 458 Italia continues the Ferrari tradition


of putting the thrill into driving as a result of track-derived technological innovations. The Ferrari 458 Italia is a completely new car from every point of view: engine, design, aerodynamics, handling, instrumentation and ergonomics, just to name a few. The powerful hart is a 4.499 cc engine with an output of 570 Hp at 9.000 Rpm and a torque of 540 Nm at 6.000 Rpm (80% available at 3.250 Rpm). The Ferrari 458 Italia accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 3,4 seconds, 0-200 km/h in 10.4 seconds, and top speeds lies close to 325 Km/h. With the Ferrari 458 Italia, Maranello has brought a highly distinctive new car to its 8-cylinder range. The company now offers two models that share a common, race-derived DNA, both exceptionally sporty and fun to drive in true Ferrari tradition, but aimed at two very different kinds of client. While the Ferrari California was created for owners requiring a more versatile sports car with a practical edge, the 458 Italia is designed for owners for whom the priority is uncompromising onroad performance with occasional track day capability, but who still demand a car that is

useable in day-to-day driving like all Ferrari’s recent models.


iroN MaN 2 drives aN aUdi r8 sPyder
obert Downey Jr. has returned to his role as the ingenious engineer and superhero Iron Man. The world premiere of Iron Man 2 took place recently in Los Angeles. Along with Robert Downey Jr., several other big names accompanied director Jon Favreau down the red carpet, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson – and right in the centre of things, the Audi R8 Spyder. Robert Downey Jr. arrived for the premiere at the El Capitan Theatre in the supercar. It was a scene straight out of the Marvel Studios movie, in which main character Tony Stark drives the open-top two-seater. The R8 Spyder is practically custom-made for the superhero, a technological genius who needs to drive the car without his high-tech suit, but doesn’t want to miss out on innovative technology. Robert Downey Jr. and his R8 Spyder put Audi’s philosophy of Vorsprung durch Technik to good use: Iron Man’s visual capabilities are optimized by the helmet, for example, and the R8’s high efficiency LED headlights likewise provide for good vision. The supercar from Audi matches the Super Hero’s indestructible suit with its own carbon fiber composite materials in parts of its exterior

volkswageN at the eXPo 2010 iN shaNghai


skin, along with a high-strength aluminum frame known as the Audi Space Frame. And they both have their hearts in the right place: a glowing artificial one in Iron Man’s chest, and an impressive mid-engine design in the R8, which is visible externally. With its jet propulsion, the Iron Man suit worn by Robert Downey Jr. is unrivalled – and the R8 Spyder, with its 525 hp engine, needn’t fear its rivals either. The 5.2 liter FSI engine of the R8 powers the two-seater convertible to a top speed of 313 kilometers an hour. Only flying could be better – and in this case, Iron Man clearly comes out on top. But Robert Downey Jr. hardly needs to concern himself. In the movie, he has the best of both worlds. “Just like the first movie, Iron Man 2 is the perfect environment for the Audi R8. Like us, the technologically ingenious Super Hero Tony Stark represents Vorsprung durch Technik. And just as the R8 Spyder was developed from the Audi R8, the Super Hero Tony Stark surprises us with new innovations,” said Lothar Korn, Head of Marketing Communications at Audi. Robert Downey Jr., alias Tony Stark, also drove the Audi R8 in the first Iron Man movie, which was released in May 2008.

Volkswagen supports Expo theme of ‘Better City – Better Life’
Shanghai’s World Fair Expo 2010 ‘exclusive and official automobile sponsor’ - Volkswagen - will be taking a fundamental part in implementing the motto of the Expo, “Better City – Better Life”, to promote German trade, sustainable development and environmental protection. Volkswagen will support the German and Austrian pavilions by providing vehicles, and offer a glimpse of the future with its electric vehicle technology. The consulate general of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Chamber of Foreign Trade have also been provided with a total of nine vehicles; with staff and guests of the Austrian pavilion receiving three Volkswagen T5 Multivans and one Phaeton.

Driving presentation of the Volkswagen electric cars
Volkswagen is introducing a number of new initiatives in China this year, which supports the Expo theme of a sustainable and environmentally aware life. Volkswagen will present its electric and hybrid models in Shanghai this June. Journalists from all over the world will be among the first to test drive the vehicles and become acquainted with the innovative power of Volkswagen in electric mobility. Celebrating its 10th anniversary since its inception during the Expo 2000 in Hanover, visitors to the pavilion will be able to have their pictures taken standing in front of the ‘Autostadt’ while they wait to enter stand. Volkswagen is present inside and outside of the Expo, with 3,650 Touran taxi cabs operating throughout the sprawling city, especially for the world fair.


PorsChe world aNd asiaN PreMieres iN BeijiNg


elebrating the World Premiere of the new Panamera and Panamera 4 at Auto China 2010 in Beijing, Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart, is rapidly enlarging the Panamera model range. Following the successful start into the market of Porsche’s fourth model series last year, the new entry-level versions of this outstanding Gran Turismo will be available from May 2010. Like the proven V8 models already bringing home more than 50 awards worldwide, both the Panamera and the Panamera 4 are unique Gran Turismo combining sporting character with superior comfort and practical, everyday driving qualities. Both models are powered by a newly developed 3.6-litre V6 featuring Direct Fuel Injection and delivering maximum output of 300 hp (220 kW) plus peak torque of 400 Nm/295 lb-ft. In line with Porsche’s usual model designations the Panamera conveys its power to the road via its rear wheels, while the Panamera 4 comes as standard with active all-wheel drive. Porsche’s new Gran Turismo models, just like the new Cayenne Hybrid S celebrating its Asian Debut at the Beijing Auto Show, offer the outstanding qualities of the consistent Porsche Intelligent Performance development strategy: Featuring new technologies such as the Auto Start-Stop function, all three models make do with well under ten litres of fuel/100 km in the New European Driving Cycle. Presenting the concept study of a highperformance mid-engined sports car with highly efficient, low-emission drivetrain technology in Beijing, Porsche is once again proving the company’s competence in hybrid power at Auto China 2010. The 918 Spyder prototype combines high-tech racing technology with electric mobility to provide a truly fascinating range of qualities: On the one hand the emissions of a small compact car of just 70 grams of CO2 per kilometre on three litres of fuel per 100 kilometres, on the other hand the performance of a super sports car accelerating from a standstill to 100 km/h in just under 3.2 seconds, reaching a top speed of more than 320 km/h, and lapping the Nürburgring-Nordschleife in less than 7:30 minutes, faster even than the Porsche Carrera GT.

20th aNNiversary oF the legeNdary MClareN F1


n 1988, McLaren took the decision to expand from Formula One and design and build ìthe finest sports car the world had ever seenî. In March 1990 the team that was to create the F1 came together for the first time. In its 20th anniversary year, the McLaren F1 is considered by most people to be one of the greatest cars of all time. Its exclusivity, technical innovation, racing provenance, revolutionary packaging and extraordinary driving experience have made it an icon. Just two years later, the McLaren F1 road car was launched to the world on 28th May 1992 in Monaco, with the first production car delivered to its proud owner in December 1993. The F1 defines the McLaren road car DNA McLaren is a carbon pioneer. The McLaren Formula 1 team was the first team in Formula 1 to use a carbon fibre chassis in 1981. Nine years on, these Formula 1 techniques were developed to create the carbon monocoque for the McLaren F1: the resulting structure weighed just 100kg whilst offering the highest levels of strength and safety. The bare carbon fibre passenger doors weighed just 7 kg each (which included the weight of the side intrusion beam). The F1 defined the McLaren road car DNA: low weight, low polar moment of inertia, clever packaging, superb quality and innovative design, resulting in an outstanding driving

experience. The F1 bristles with innovative design. The central driving position, which ensures superb visibility and no compromise on control positions for the driver; the pannier side lockers providing unprecedented levels of luggage capacity in a car of this type; the patented suspension system to provide both control and ride quality. The F1 was launched at a price of £540,000 in 1994, and over the course of the next four years 64 F1, 5 F1 LM and 3 F1 GT road cars were produced, together with 28 F1 GTR race cars. An additional six prototypes were produced. In October 2008, a delivery mileage F1 was sold at auction for £2.53 million, underlining the F1ís status as one of the great motoring icons. On 27th April 2010, McLaren Automotive celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the start of the F1 programme by inviting F1 owners past and present to a celebration dinner at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, England. The following day, after an insight into McLaren Automotiveís exciting plans for a future range of high performance sports cars, the owners were treated to a display of 21 McLaren F1 road and race cars, the largest number of F1 cars ever assembled in one place.


iN other News
Volkswagen launch subsidiary Volkswagen r gmbh increased 61.4% year-onyear to 99,903 units due to increased output of the new Fuga, Note and other export models. Production outside of Japan saw a increase of 98.5% year-on-year to 218,924 units marking an all-time record for the month of March. In the U.S., production increased 94.3% year-onyear to 48,804 units due to increased demand for all models led by Altima and Maxima. In Mexico, production was up considerably by 161.1% year-on-year to 38,508 units fueled by robust sales of the Tiida and Sentra. In the U.K., production increased 68.7% year-onyear to 35,300 units due to increased demand for all models and particularly the brisk sales of the Qashqai. In Spain, production saw a considerable increase of 148.5% year-on-year to 7,902 units due to increased demand for all the models led by Navara. In China, production increased 64.0% yearon-year to 62,574 units marking an all-time record for a single month. Production in other regions was also remarkably up by 217.0% year-on-year to 25,836 units due to increased output in Thai. gm opens seoul adVanced design V Vanced sTudio With a renewed focus on designing, building and selling the world’s best vehicles, General Motors has announced the opening of the Seoul Advanced Design Studio in the heart of the 2010 World Design Capital. The studio is based in the city’s Gangnam area, which is considered not only the most exciting and stylish part of Korea’s capital, but also one of the world’s trendiest neighborhoods. GM Daewoo President and CEO Mike Arcamone said that design will continue to be a key to the company’s success. “Our award-winning Korean designers were responsible for the Chevrolet Cruze, Spark and yet to be launched Aveo,” said Arcamone. One of 10 GM global design centers and the design base for GM’s global mini and small vehicles, the GM Daewoo Design Center has relocated its advanced design function to Seoul from its headquarters in Bupyeong, Incheon, in order to enhance its function and specialty. chrysler group llc announces may 2010 u.s. incenTiVes Chrysler Group LLC recently announced 0 percent financing on most 2010 model year Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep; and Ram truck vehicles when financed through GMAC Financial Services. chrysler brand Consumers purchasing 2010 model year Chrysler brand vehicles can choose 0 percent financing for up to 60 months, or 1.9 percent financing for 72 months through GMAC Financial Services, or Consumer Cash of up to $3,000. Jeep brand Consumers who purchase Jeep brand 2010 model year vehicles can choose 0 percent financing for 36 months or attractive financing rates for longer terms or up to $4,000 Consumer Cash. Consumers who purchase a Jeep Liberty, Jeep Grand Cherokee or Jeep Commander can choose 0 percent financing for up to 60 months or Consumer Cash of up to $4,000 In addition, consumers who purchase or lease a Liberty, Grand Cherokee or Commander and finance through GMAC Financial Services are eligible for up to $1,000 in GMAC Bonus Cash Consumers purchasing a Jeep Wrangler are eligible for $500 in Mopar &; Bucks dodge brand Consumers purchasing most 2010 model year Dodge brand vehicles can choose from 0 percent financing for 36 months or Consumer Cash of up to $3,000. Consumers purchasing a Dodge Avenger, Dodge Grand Caravan or Dodge Nitro can choose 0 percent financing for up to 60 months, or up to $2,000 Consumer Cash Consumers who purchase Dodge Charger can choose from 0 percent financing for up to 72 months or Consumer Cash of $3,000 Consumers purchasing a Dodge Challenger can choose from attractive financing rates from GMAC

Volkswagen has responded to growing market demand for factory upgraded vehicles with the launch of a new wholly-owned subsidiary - Volkswagen R GmbH. Tasked with creating sporty and exclusive models, Volkswagen R GmbH’s workforce of over 350 employees meets individual customer preferences for sporty, customised versions of Volkswagen vehicles. This includes fitting sportier exteriors, exclusive interiors, and installing professional racing powertrains and running gears. Volkswagen R GmbH produces three versions of Volkswagen vehicles; performance-enhanced and upgraded sports cars – the R models, and cars fitted with customised independent equipment the R-Line and Exclusive models. Volkswagen R GmbH also serves as an important conduit to Volkswagen Motorsport. Volkswagen R GmbH is the main sponsor for this year’s Scirocco R-Cup - the most ecofriendly one-make cup series in the world, with up to 80 percent lower CO2 emissions thanks to BioCNG as fuel.

rolls-royce announces successFul FirsT QuarTer uar uarT Rolls-Royce Motor Cars announced recently that the company has enjoyed a successful first quarter in 2010, with sales increasing by 60% worldwide compared with the same period in 2009. Sales in APAC were double the same period in 2009, with sales in Mainland China more than trebling. Sales in the United States, Europe and the Middle East also showed substantial growth. The new Rolls-Royce Ghost was successfully introduced into a number of global markets following its international launch in California, including the largest market for RollsRoyce, the United States. It is notable that Ghost has not yet been delivered to China and that the surge in sales in this market during the first quarter was generated solely by RollsRoyce Phantom models. With the introduction of Ghost this trend is expected to continue. nissan resulT For march 2010 and Fiscal year 2009 Nissan’s global production in March increased 85.2% year-on-year to 318,827 units. Production in Japan


{Cover Story}

So Much froM So little
| Author: Raj Warrior |

For all its success in europe, Peugeot has not made much headway in the Middle east. Perhaps, it was lacking a brand champion like the stunning new rCZ. we test it in spain...


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wo months and two trips to Spain. It is not as if one would ever complain about the events that makes these trips necessary. First a tryst with a Lamborghini and then with a Peugeot. Before you do the classic double-take with a “pyuwhat?” as an accent on it, let’s tell you something about the car that the French brand had laid out for us. Now, we don’t have to tell you the position that Peugeot finds itself in here in Oman. In many ways it is a microcosm of the brand’s status in the Middle East, give or take a few percentage points here and there. Safe, solid cars with a flair for style and some lingering questions over long-term reliability and ability to withstand and operate in the region’s harsh environment. Peugeot usually even finds it a tough job to compete with most other European makes, especially the German ones except in their dominant market of North and East Africa. Of course, like most car makers, the past few years have been one of churn. They now have increased their product penetration into the region, offering a diverse range of cars from the small 206 and 207, through an Iranian sourced 206 sedan for the value for money markets and on to the rather zippy 308 and executive level 407. What is really missing from the portfolio is a genuine SUV. In Europe, Peugeot sells the 4007, an SUV based on the Mitsubshi Outlander, but it is limited in its ability to offer the car in other markets. So at the outset, Peugeot has to be able to make its presence felt with a rather limited arsenal. That’s where thinking out of the box helps the brand. Most drivers would agree that the most noticeable



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of Peugeot’s models are the CC variants of its hatchbacks - the 206 and 307CC. With their rather bubble topped silhoutte sticking out in traffic, to the long hair that tends to stream out from the open driving positions, people do notice the cars. It isn’t as if they are very practical to begin with. What with the need to use a particular floorpan and then accommodate all the moving parts of a collapsible metal roof, the interiors are strictly laid out as typical 2+2. From personal experience, we would rather call it a 2+1.x arrangement for anyone other than a child needs to sit sideways on the rear bench. So how do you go about matching the demanding needs of a brand that must make an impact worldwide, with a car that can be seen as a brand champion in all markets? You can’t have the supercar 908 everywhere to do that job, but you can project the next best thing. That is where the RCZ comes into existence and sets out to compete with established models like the Audi TT. We know that comparisons can be odious and often are, especially to the people behind the weaker of the compared cars. But in the case of the RCZ the TT is a sort of evaluative benchmark, though it shouldn’t be, especially seeing that it comes from a brand that’s ‘higher’ on the aspirational ladder and offers power packs that are larger as well. So we, unlike the bulk of the journalists on the trip, will not compare the two, other than remark on some passing similarities of form. The RCZ, akin to other speciality models like the CC variants, uses the economy of scale and engineering reliability of a the 308 base model. In an interesting discussion, company officials explained the rationale behind the RCZ’s evolution. To Peugeot, while making inroads in world markets is desirable, dominance of their home market in France and on a broader scale, Europe, is essential. In that the M1 vehicle segment, also kown as the C/C+ segment is most significant in terms of volume with turnover due to the nature of cars in that band. The 308 architecture is thus the one that best fits the needs of the brand. From the hatchback that starts the bottom end of the segment, evolutions include the SW, CC and new variants like the 3008 and 5008 that offer more volume on the same wheelbase. The RCZ is meant to be the top end of the M1 segment in terms of positioning and somehow has to distinguish itself from the rather urban feel of the CC. The biggest distinguisher here is the double bubble canopy that hogs the tail-on view of the car. It was loved as a concept on the 308 RCZ shown at Frankfurt 2007 and became, along with the aluminium arches and the redesigned front end with its rather largish and restyled logo, the features that mark the RCZ in its production form. The Frankfurt show in 2009 again served to launch the production


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<< in the case of the rCZ the tt is a sort of evaluative benchmark, though it shouldn’t be, especially seeing that it comes from a brand that’s ‘higher’ on the aspirational ladder >>

Typical items from the peugeot parts bin sit comfortably side-by-side with an almost custom designed interior. The RCZ is the first Peugeot to sport the redesigned logo.


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<< the dial communicates its fixation with France with the major speed stops demarcated in 70, 90, 110 and onwards >>

model, which, like its other short-run variants is not manufactured at the main plant north of Paris, but rather at the specialist Magna Steyr plant in Graz, Austria. The reasonably compact dimensions of the 308’s wheelbase result in a vehicle that doesn’t occupy too much road area. What is instantly noticeable is that the signature Peugeot long front overhang is retained, while the rear overhang is very much visually in keeping with the hatch origins. As for passenger space, the lower hip point, alongwith the slightly flatter layout ensure that the front two seats get all the legroom they require. Visually, the aluminium arches stand out, especially on the blue car that we tested. We understand that the colour scheme also encompasses body coloured arches, sort of allowing a buyer to blend in with the blacks and greys of the typical car pool in Europe, but what would be the point of that? As for the rear double-bubble – again the company chose to go against expectations by making it from glass rather than the polycarbonate that we expected. After all this car will not be a volume seller. Despite this the company has got a dedicated supplier in the form of St. Gobain Glass who made this unique form for them. An additional feature has been incorporated that we have a few mixed feelings about. An adjustable, deployable air spoiler sits on the lip of the rear deck. In auto mode, it comes into its own at around 160 kmph, but if you are one of the laddies who enjoy this sort of show, you can have it deploy even when stationary just so that everyone

knows you have the wherewithal to prevent the car from lifting off every once in a while. Why would we disapprove? We don’t. In the nature of our drive we went over 160 many times and the spoiler does help keep the rear axle firmly planted, especially when you consider the otherwise sleekly aerodynamic shape of the car. The question is whether the extra complexity of a motor was needed? If you park the car and switch off everything the spoiler doesn’t retract on its own when in manual mode. Why not just have a fixed wing, especially with a fixed roof car? When you get to the interiors, you are immediately at ease if you have been in a Peugeot before. The dial communicates its fixation with France with the major speed stops demarcated in 70, 90, 110 and onwards. However the style of the console has changed with the use of photo-etched treatment and backlit markings. The central clock reflects a similar treatment. The seats are nicely contoured with a wrap-around feel and feature integrated headrests, carrying the sporty feel onwards. The dash and steering wheel are wrapped in a soft-feel leatherlike material and the gearshift has the typical aluminium knob look of sporting cars. In order to allow ease of entry into the rather cosseted confines of this arched cabin, the door opens almost 90 degrees. Now when you consider that the door is quite large along the horizontal plane due to the need to access the rear bench and the almost right-angled


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This rear spoiler is going to be the subject of much discussion as it serves more to uplift one’s vanity, while playing its part in increasing downward force on the rear axle.


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<< Finally this car is about the marriage of a low capacity, high-performance engine with a level of handling and agility that makes for an interesting car >>

opening at its extreme, the car’s width increases dramatically making packed municipal parking lots a challenge. Even then, with all the opening available, it took the writer quite some doing to even get into the rear seat. The front seat was not pulled back, just in case it became impossible to get out. For all purposes the car needs to be treated as a two-seater with space for a couple of handbags available at the rear. Interestingly enough, the RCZ comes with two engines now and will be joined at a later stage by another one at a later stage. The two engines were available at the event, a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol unit, which we have seen before on the top level 308 and a 2.0-litre diesel unit that is meant principally for the European and North African markets. Most of us are familiar with the collaboration between Peugeot and BMW that saw the French marque adopt the high-performance 1.6-litre petrol units used on the MINI brand, while offering its highpressure HDI small diesel range in return to the German brand. In Peugeot parlance THP engines, now offer the best driving experience on a small platform and the 200 horsepower is nothing to be sneezed at. With its maximum torque of 255Nm at 1700rpm (or 275Nm with

overboost) and a maximum power of 200bhp at 5800rpm, it enables the RCZ to accelerate from 80 to 120kmph in 6.5 seconds in fifth gear and 0 to 100kmph in 7.6 seconds. The 4-cylinder engine has a capacity of 1598 cm3 combined with a range of innovative technologies like the twin-scroll turbocharger for performance and instant response at very low engine speeds, direct petrol injection, and variable valve lift coupled with variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust camshafts (VTi technology), for reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The “sound of the engine” during acceleration has also been optimised through the use of Sound System technology. A different sound is created according to the engine speed, just like a musical instrument. Partnered with a six-speed manual gearbox the engine has the wherewithal to deliver the complete package of blistering start, great low-end acceleration, overtaking ability and a top band that makes the car sound like a banshee. Of course the platform has its limitations. The engine powers the front-wheels and by choice the wheelbase remains in the zone of the 308 itself. The resultant ride is smooth and stable, but you can


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feel the tail on occasion around the corners. The suspension is also not the most refined to have on a small sports car, but Peugeot has for long shown an affinity towards the use of a rear torsion beam. Compared to the standard ‘Platform Two’ vehicle, the ride height has been lowered by 20mm, the centre of gravity is also lower by 40mm, the front track has been widened by 54mm and the rear track is wider by 72mm. The shock absorber calibration has also been revised to ensure the best possible levels of road holding and the RCZ will be available with both 18” and 19” wheels and tyres. On versions of the RCZ fitted with the petrol turbocharged 200 bhp THP engine, the front suspension benefits from a special lower antiroll bar to make the car even more responsive and agile. Finally this car is about the marriage of a low capacity, highperformance engine with a level of handling and agility that makes for an interesting car. Even on the twisting hill roads that characterised the countryside around Bilbao and Pamplona the car handled like it was glued to the road. With the sport pack and the short throw gearshift that is included with it, the car allows one to use the wide


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torque band to overtake even on climbs, while offering the extreme opposite for cruising along urban thoroughfares – the toruq band now works in your favour as without overloading the engine the car can shunt along in a comfortable third gear. The best part is that even from that point in its running you can floor the accelerator without shifting gears and the car does do its best to accommodate you. On a note of caution, potential owners need to understand that the large glass double dome does not translate into a panoramic roof. The roof is very snug and sports car like while offering the strength of steel to protect you in case of a flip-over. One would expect the RCZ to come to the Gulf region with only the 200 horsepower THP engine, though we hope that the car then gets its announced six-speed automatic gearbox with the 156bhp version as well to complement the nature of the car. And Peugeot are trying their best to keep the RCZ distinct from the CC, having promised that their use of the three letters breaks new ground for them – on purpose. We may yet see further models from other platforms join the RCZ in the line-up.




This column brings The laTesT, The TrendiesT and The musT-have accessories, gadgeTs and Toys ThaT we Think our readers should have. This monTh iT’s an alTernaTive camera special

Make a streak Part oF yoUr CoNNeCted liFestyle


ell released plans for Streak, a 5-inch Android™-based Tablet designed to provide people the best “on-the-go” entertainment, social connection, and navigation experience. Early in June the Dell Streak will be available across the UK at O2 stores,, The Carphone Warehouse, and later in the month at Pricing and data plans for the UK will be announced by O2 ahead of availability. Later this summer, Dell plans to make Streak available in the U.S. The Dell Streak is a compact and powerful companion for people who want to expand their ability to access their digital lives on the go, and realize tomorrow’s technology today. The spacious 5-inch screen is ideal for experiencing thousands of Android Market™ widgets, games and applications, all without squinting or compromising portability. B uilt-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and available 3G connectivity brings easy access for downloading and listening to music, updating social networking status in real-time, and staying connected to friends and family through e-mail, text, IM, and voice calls. On-the-go students, mobile professionals, and active families will find Streak’s web-browsing capabilities as natural as a laptop. The 5-inch screen is large enough to present Web pages in their natural form, create a comfortable viewing experience, and make turn-by-turn navigation simple and safe. The Dell Streak leverages Qualcomm’s Snapdragon™ solution with integrated 1GHz processor to combine basic functionality, performance, and benefits of a laptop in a pocket friendly size. The Dell Streak was designed with the future in mind and will support over-the-air updates including platform upgrades, Adobe Flash 10.1 on Android™ 2.2 later this year, video chat applications and other software innovations.

Networked walkMaN PhoNes
Sony Ericsson announced a new duo which continues the iconic Sony Ericsson Walkman phone legacy. With more than 130 million Walkman phones sold worldwide, Sony Ericsson now adds two affordable Walkman phones to its portfolio – without compromising on features. Sony Ericsson Zylo and Sony Ericsson Spiro provide consumers with the best music experience they have come to expect from Walkman phones but go one step further and marry music with social networking. From Twitter to Facebook, consumers can catch up with friends at just a touch of a button while still listening to their favourite music on the Walkman player. Another key function available on both phones is TrackID – which allows consumers to access the name and artist of a track they hear playing wherever they are. This function has proved popular with music lovers worldwide with 129million TrackID lookups in 2009 alone. Sony Ericsson Zylo and Sony Ericsson Spiro also feature the human curvature design that is now consistent across the whole Sony Ericsson portfolio. Beautiful and timeless human curvature also incorporates an ergonomic keypad which makes the handset easy to use.

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add aN edge to yoUr eNtoUrage
onsumers who desire a do-it-all device can now rely on the enTourage eDGe™, the world’s first dualbook™, that combines the functionalities of an e-reader, tablet netbook, note pad and audio/video player and recorder into one, sleek solution. The product is making its official debut at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas January 7-10 on display in the e-Book TechZone, Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) Central Hall booth #12140 and the Innovations showcase in the LVCC Grand Lobby. The enTourage eDGe is a dual-screen, WiFi-enabled electronic device that merges an e-paper screen with an LCD screen for enhanced


interactivity. The left side is comprised of a 9.7” diagonal e-paper display, where users can easily read e-books in PDF and EPUB format, draw diagrams and take notes. The right side of the product is a 10.1” diagonal LCD screen for easy Web surfing, email and instant message composition and sending and video watching. This screen also includes a virtual keyboard for convenient typing. These two screens work uniquely together to make content more interactive, such as pulling up

pages and images from the e-paper screen in color on the LCD, opening up video links from textbooks or dragging and dropping terms and names from the e-book into a Web browser to easily search for additional information. enTourage Systems is building its own e-book store, which has access to over 200,000 trade books and more than one million free public domain books digitized by Google, as well as to many popular magazines, newspapers and periodicals. This includes popular higher education e-textbooks in a variety of subjects from publishers such as McGraw Hill and John Wiley & Sons, as well as content frequently adopted by professors for course use from Oxford University Press. The enTourage eDGe includes a built-in noisecancelling microphone and 1.3 Mega Pixel camera to easily capture audio and video content, perfect for classroom lectures or taking down meeting minutes. The microphone can pick up audio from up to 30 feet away and stores the files in MP3 format. The product also runs on the Android operating system, making it easily customizable for each user. With the enTourage eDGe, consumers also get a complete eco-system to complement their user experience. enTourage Systems backs up all material directly to its servers, ensuring user documents are never inaccessible if a unit gets damaged or goes missing. This also includes the e-book store enTourage Systems is building from scratch, giving the company the ability to answer to consumer demands of what content they’d most like to see. To complement the user experience, enTourage eDGe users can also easily share files between devices. The enTourage eDGe also comes with a battery with advanced power saving modes to stay powered longer, with a minimum of six hours utilizing the LCD screen and over seven days if simply accessing the e-reader. The product was also designed with portability in mind, folding a full 360 degrees with ability to orient its displays horizontally or vertically, so a user can hold the enTourage eDGe as a book, single screen or prop it up like a laptop. This feature is also useful to orient the screens most comfortably whether the user is right- or left-handed.

hi teCh astroNoMy at yoUr haNds
Celebrating 50 years of optical innovation, Celestron offers the Limited Edition 50th Anniversary CPC 800 GPS. This elegant telescope features a hi-tech carbon fibre tube, striking 50th Anniversary graphics and a limited edition eyepiece kit. Only 300 50th Anniversary Edition CPCs are being made available worldwide, making this a must have collector’s item. Turn this scope to planets and see amazing detail on the surface of Jupiter; see Cassini’s Division in the rings of Saturn, and resolve details on the surface of Mars. Even the distant Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are within your

reach. Although large in aperture, with its conveniently located carrying handles and an instrument weight of only 42 lb., this telescope is portable enough to setup in your backyard or take with you to your favorite dark sky location. Celestron’s new CPC Series with revolutionary SkyAlign Alignment Technology re-defines everything that amateur astronomers are looking for — quick and simple alignment, GPS, unsurpassed optical quality, ease of set-up and use, ergonomics, enhanced computerization and, most important, affordability.

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Chariot of Aspiration

Packed full of goodies and with the reliability of a front-wheel drive geartrain, the lexus es350 brings desire to executive motoring. automan tests the 2010 variant
| Author: Charles Aitchison | Photography: Basim Al Muharbi |


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he ES350 is a medium-size four-seater sedan. Of course, it will seat five people, but as with almost all so-called fiveseaters, the fifth seat is really for occasional use only. We’ve come to expect the very highest standards from Lexus, so does this car make the grade? First impressions are of the usual tight and even shut lines and superb paintwork that we expect of Lexus. The White Pearl pearlescent paint on the test car is very attractive, both at a distance and close-up. Although now increasingly common in GCC, on this and other brands, that’s not surprising, as this particular paint finish is both beautiful and practical – reflecting the burning sun while looking smart and producing an interesting, ever-changing shimmer. There are three versions of the ES350 – in ascending order, Exclusive, Limited and Super Special. It was the latter on test. Settling into the car, the seats are covered in what is quite obviously top quality perforated leather. There are three levels of seat cooling available separately to front seat occupants, and both front seats have two memory settings. As well as all the usual adjustments, the driver’s seat squab extends, so those with longer legs can get some additional under-thigh support – very welcome for your reporter, as it would be for anyone with longer than average legs. It’s fun to watch it extending, as the way it rolls out, taking the leather seat covering with it without stretching it overmuch is very clever. I’m surprised the market doesn’t demand this facility as standard, as comfort at the wheel is so important for enjoyable and safe motoring,


and I expect most people above average height would feel more comfortable with it. The general feeling in the cabin is that it’s all very nicely and tastefully done, and a lot of thought has gone into the design. The quality and fit of the materials is very high. On closing the door, once you’re inside, the steering wheel comes towards you to the previously set position, or to the memory position (there are two for each of the front seats) when you push the seat memory button. When you stop the engine and open the door, the steering wheel retracts towards the dashboard, making egress easier. The cabin is well designed, both ergonomically and aesthetically, with high quality materials throughout. The knobs and switches all have a nice, solid feel to them. Even the rear-view mirror shows the attention to detail and the quality of the fittings, as the way it moves makes the job of adjusting it easier than in any other vehicle I know. Most mirrors are stiff & have a tendency to overshoot when you adjust them – this one just moves to the desired position. A neat touch is the double-hinged grab handles above each door – unusual and practical. Similarly, there’s a lockable box built in to the rear seats behind the central armrest – useful for keeping things safe when the car is being serviced, perhaps. The rear seats are comfortable and have plenty of legroom and enough headroom for almost everyone. The air conditioning, audio system, phone set-up and operation and sat-nav are all controlled via the central screen, which is also the monitor for the reversing camera.

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The audio system on the model tested is a 14 speaker Mark Levinson system, and it’s excellent. The radio does all one would expect, as does the 6 DVD changer. There are USB and Aux sockets for MP3 player, iPod, etc, and these work well. On the Exclusive and Limited versions there’s an 8-speaker audio system. Also on the audio side, it’s easy to connect a phone with Bluetooth into the system – very convenient, and a good safety feature. The system will store your all of your contacts automatically if you tell it to. There’s also a calendar facility, and you can store memos in the system, although it doesn’t sync with the calendar in your phone. The air conditioning is adjustable independently for each side and is very powerful. Combined with the three-level seat cooling it’s easy to achieve a comfortable temperature. There’s also seat heating, but that’s unlikely to be used much in GCC. Interestingly, the large central locker between the front seats is also air-conditioned. Useful for keeping chocolate from melting between the shops and home, perhaps. Actually, chocolate is quite a good metaphor for this car – it’s smooth, quite tasty (aesthetically and dynamically, rather than literally, obviously) and makes you feel good. As a powerful front-wheel-drive car, it wouldn’t be a surprise to get some torque steer on hard acceleration in the first two gears. However, whilst I didn’t try to provoke it, there were moments when I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had shown, but there was

no evidence of it during the test, even during fairly spirited driving. This is impressive, as the 3.5 litre engine puts out 300bhp, and 150bhp going through each of the front wheels is a lot for the contact patch to cope with. Steering is nicely weighted and just does what you would want and expect. The suspension is set for comfort rather than sport driving, but that’s fine; this is a luxury town car, not a sports car - although it can go like one if pushed. The six-speed gearbox does what it’s meant to do in a smooth and unobtrusive manner. The tiptronic facility works fine, although it would be nice to have the system match engine revs to the newly selected lower gear when using tiptronic mode - but that’s generally only available on cars with paddles. There’s not really much more to say about it, it does its job very well. The engine is smooth throughout the rev range and, with 300bhp it can get the car moving rapidly. It’s always useful to have more power than you usually need - it can get you out of trouble, as sometimes it’s better to be able to accelerate to avoid a tricky situation than to brake, and this is one of those cars in which that’s possible. Cars have a way of influencing driving style – some can turn even a timid driver into a boy-racer, others turn boy-racers into steady cruisers. The ES350 is more in the latter category – it will certainly produce the goods if you want strong acceleration, but its natural gait is that of rapid and relaxed, rather than rapid and racy, progress. Pushing it hard feels like whipping a well-bred and


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loyal middle-aged horse to perform in a race that it shouldn’t be in in the first place – it just doesn’t feel right. The high level of equipment includes such features as adaptive HID headlamps that turn with the front wheels, panoramic glass roof with moon roof and jam protection, PreCrash safety system (that tightens seatbelts and pre-loads the brakes to make them react more strongly) and, on the Super Special, radar adaptive cruise control that keeps a chosen distance between you and the car in front. I do wonder about this, as the pushing into the smallest space, even at speed, which is all too common in Oman, can result in the brakes being applied to keep the set distance. One potential consequence is that, as well as gradually falling back in the stream, there is the possibility of being hit from behind as the system brakes sharply when another car barges into your lane just in front of you. It’s really down to individual choice and experience. In theory it’s an excellent aid for

safety and ease; in practice I’m not so sure. There’s a warning beeper for parking as you might expect, as well as the rear camera view being displayed on the monitor when you select reverse gear. There are many other features, of course, but those give an idea of the very comprehensive specification. The ES350 is very well made; swift, stylish in a sophisticated, undemonstrative way, wellequipped, superbly quiet and comfortable, and with excellent manners. Also, because it’s a Lexus, we know that so long as it’s serviced correctly it’ll last until the end of time. Driving it, one feels cosseted and well insulated from the outside world. It’s a good choice for someone who wants a very comfortable large-ish car of high quality and doesn’t feel the need for a show-off, mine’s-bigger-thanyours trophy car. To extend the chocolate metaphor, it’s like a really good quality Swiss or Belgian chocolate – smooth as silk and thoroughly satisfying..


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{First drive}

Super cool cat
with the introduction of the all-new 2010 jaguar Xkr supercharged convertible, jaguar has finally crossed into supercar territory

nyone knowing about British cars will know that, while Jaguars are about beauty, they are also about speed and power. In-between ownership changes from Ford to India’s Tata Motors; there’s been some change in the attitude for the brand. Tata Motors seem to be more content to let Jaguar continue as a luxury car brand selling modest number of models instead of trying to become a volume global player [the plan hatched by Ford for Jaguar that miserably failed]. Now that there’s a shift in ideology, that makes greater business sense and the results are beginning to show. Given that Jaguar let chief designer Ian Callum and his crew decide on the exterior and the interior, the refreshed 2+2 grand tourer XKR is a stunning car in terms of design, proportions, elegance and aggressiveness.


The best part is attention to detail and engineering refinements that now comes with the 2010 arrivals. The long bonnet design reminds us of the legendary E-Type, it is offset nicely by the chrome-lined air intakes in the front bumper. Modernism comes in the form of LED taillights at the rear and surely the XKR looks much more refined and complete than its pre-2010 versions. Design wise, the 2010 XKR isn’t much different from its previous generation, but Jaguar designers have worked really hard to implement some nice styling effects that clearly underline the sporting pedigree of this coupe sport. The XKR is instantly identified by its low and wide stance, unique lower rear valance and a revised tailpipe design. The cars dual coloured cabin is clean, elegant and quite spacious. It is peppered

with comforts like leather, seat heating and cooling the typical three spoke steering wheel and the interior now comes with host of improvements and authentic craftsmanship with real wood veneers. Real wood veneers remain an important part of Jaguars craftsmanship and now include a new Rich Oak veneer option but the new XKR comes with its own unique Dark Oak. A Knurled Aluminium veneer is also available now. The story of rewriting finesse continues with the removal of the previous editions budget-cumborrowed looks such as new switchgear and the replacing the old fashioned traditional gear stick with the innovative JaguarDrive Selector as its transmission control interface. This flush fit knob is located in the central console and gently rises when in use. The first application of this system came in the XF saloon where it


{First drive}

worked so well there that Jaguar decided to transcend the experience into the XK. (there is not an XK series) Despite its high-tech approach, what is commendable is the fact that Jaguar has managed to avoid things like BMWs infamous iDrive-style controllers and needlessly complex arrays of buttons. Instead of a myriad switches, drivers of the XKR can use the touch-screen friendly multimedia interface. In true, contemporary Jaguar fashion, a great deal of useful and intuitive technology is controlled by the clear and elegant 7in touchscreen in the centre console. It provides Touch-screen access and control for the climate control and audio systems, for the Satellite Navigation system, for Bluetooth mobile connectivity and for Jaguars Portable Audio Interface-which are all standard

equipment. The Audio system options range from the HD radio single-slot or multi-disc CD players, or the ultimate, high-end Bowers & Wilkins system which is a 525-watt system with Dolby ProLogic II Surround Sound, three channel stereo with a unique amplifier, midrange speakers and high-output and low distortion and specially designed tweeters.

driving impressions
I have to admit that my seven-day test drive behind the wheel of the Jaguar XKR was a treat every second. The new lower stance and deeper side extensions give the car a lower centre of gravity and excellent aerodynamics. The car is enjoyable to drive most of the time and considering its engineering and architecture, it’s an easy car to live with.

Unlike the previous editions, the supercharger is much quieter now and helps the engine deliver breathtaking performance that’s almost too easy to control. Thanks to the sixth-generation, high-end twin vortex system supercharger that has been employed to boost power from the V8 engine. Technically, it is a compact Roots-type unit, feeding air through twin intercoolers, which in turn are water-cooled by their own discreet cooling circuit. This efficient design helps improves the superchargers thermodynamic efficiency by 16 per cent over its predecessor and also improves noise quality to the point where the unit is now virtually inaudible. Jaguar’s latest AJ-V8 Gen III series supercharged powertrain sets the XKR model alight with 510ps on tap from the 5.0-litre V8 engine which is mated to an electronic


{First drive}
<< the car is enjoyable to drive most of the time and considering its engineering and architecture, it’s an easy car to live with. Unlike the previous editions, the supercharger is much quieter now >>


{First drive}

six-speed transmission. With this combo, it responds brutally fast to a kick the throttle and the power knocks you back in your seat, not letting up until you reach its governed top speed or redline. In terms of performance figures, it knocks the 0-100km/h sprint time down to 4.8secs, just a second shy of the Porsche Panamera turbo! Meanwhile, I’m trying to imagine the case, if this car had launch control like BMWs current M5! Even at idling, the 2+2 cat’s exhaust sound rocks and it seems it has been enhanced to provide a deeper and more powerful resonance that matches the increase in torque at low revs. At higher engine speeds the intake acoustic feedback system combines with the exhaust system to provide more of that unique sound quality character. I am satisfied with at least one of the prerequisites of such a sporting GT, which is that when you start really driving this car, the engine sings to you. After all, it’s all part of the mystique that you buy into. While, the benefits of the XKRs aluminum rivet and bonding in the body shell and chassis are already acknowledged, in the car now feels much lighter, livelier and is definitely entertaining on road. There’s no cowl shake or vibrations even when traveling over poorly paved surfaces. Thanks to the reworked fully independent wishbone suspension system that now comes with stronger control arms, stiffer springs, thicker anti-roll bars and new cross members to further increase stiffness and strength.

The steering wheel has perfect weighting and is razor sharp in its feedback. Nothing else registers in my consciousness and I do realize that much of the refined handling is probably due to the car’s extensive use of lightweight aluminum and magnesium for portions of the body structure also. While, extra power is always welcome as it means improved throttle response from the engine for the driver and at the same time there is also an improvement in the torque curve. But, one doesn’t fail to notice the amazing torque low-down in the rev range which has greatly improved. And the best way to check this efficiency is in overtaking situations. Now, there’s another issue with a power boost. Considering the extra boost from the supercharger kit, besides top end power, finding the right balance right across the rev range is another important factor to consider in evaluating any sports car. Arguably, the new Active Differential Control (ADC feature is absolutely necessary for a car with high levels of power - something we’d probably have to agree with similar powered cars with limited slip differentials. In either case, the electronically or mechanically controlled modules continuously adapts to both the driver’s demands and the amount of grip available at each individual wheel. With ADC on board, we were pleasantly rewarded with a point and shoot ability and greatly improved cornering speeds and better directional stability. We didn’t encounter any unwanted or typical side effects of many


{First drive}
but also potentially improved stability when required. Despite its brutal power, the XKR, is not a loose cannon. It seems to be able to challenge the driver when a moment arrives and the time and place is perfect. Plus, the bonus is that with the Dynamic Stability Control system modes available, one can choose sportier mode/stance settings allowing the more experienced driver to fully exploit the cars performance and enjoy greater involvement in controlling it. I really enjoyed Dynamic Mode most as it sharpens the cars instincts as the shocks respond faster and firmer, the throttle response is quickened. You also get extra torque reserves and the transmission will allow the engine to rev up to 6,800rpm rev limiter without up shifting. With DSC off, allows you to switch the systems electronic protections off completely by pushing the button for about 10sec. This allows the driver to really push the XKR to its grip limits and letting it slide through turns nicely throwing the rear out and getting back in line at the end of the turn. The big cat rides on standard 19in asymmetric alloy wheels shod with high-performance Dunlop SP 01 tyres.Up front are 245/40ZR19in tyres and 275/35ZR19in tyres in the rear which contribute quite well in road holding.

I am pretty sure that most petrolheads will agree unanimously that the three letters XKR that sign off this sports car has the ability to demand desire and command respect. It also becomes aspirational because of its price tag, and naturally the XKR is that sort of a car that will remain pretty high on a true Jaguar enthusiasts purchase list. But is it really any good and worthy anymore considering it has a hefty price tag and that it is a lot of money to spend on a new car as there are some pretty capable machines around in the range such as Astons V8 Vantage, BMW M6 and Maserati GranTurismo S? We think despite formidable opposition, Jaguars flagship XKR is a spectacular piece of automobile styling and technology. The model has evolved very nicely and can hold on its own convincingly.


{First drive}
<< the electronically controlled, 6-speed Zr 6hP28 transmission offers virtually undetectable gearshifts and can be controlled either from steering wheel-mounted paddles, or full automatic with s mode, via the jaguardrive selector >>



{A head for luxury}

automan meets Bentley’s regional boss during an exclusive drive in oman for three of the brand’s cars – including the Continental supersport. Chris Buxton has a very down to earth approach for the key man behind a brand like Bentley

Q: bentley has a unique approach to sales in the region adding india into the basket of countries you handle. how important are the new growth markets of china and india to a brand like bentley? A: I am just back from the quarterly sales conference in the UK and the results show that to China, we just can’t supply enough cars. They take everything we can build for them. The rest of the world is still struggling, America is down, Europe is down, India is consistent with the Middle East. It is a steady market, where we are slowly growing and the dilemma for us and many other companies is this big China-India debate. I was at the big Mulsanne launch in Delhi two weeks ago and that was the question that I kept getting asked, how big is China and how big is India? And its a learning curve for me – having never worked in China though I go to India quite a bit, India is a much smaller market and though we’ve been longer in India we all know that the economies of th etwo countries are vastly different in many respects so we may probably sell less in India. But the strange fact is that there are probably more Bentleys in India today than there are in China. I don’t like quoting figures since they change so often, but we’ll probaby do about 25-30 units in India this year and we may do a thousand in China. But as I stand here today, there are more Bentleys in India than China. Q: could you tell us something about the mulsanne’s role in this year’s sales?
A: The next model we are launching in the area is the Mulsanne. You probably have already seen the car. The car in Dubai was a static car so no one’s actually driven it yet. We will have dynamic cars out in this summer and customer cars will probably arrive by December-January. I’ll be very open – like any car manufacturer we get only one chance to launch. So we’ve slipped back a bit with the Mulsanne but it arrives in December-January. American and European markets. But also there is growth in the Middle East. In 2008 we had the record year, we dropped a little bit last year mainly due to India and South Africa – those two being the smaller markets in my region and they were hit by the credit crunch. However the GCC states are very consistent. More than the drop in volumes in other markets what is interesting about the GCC states is the mix. They take very expensive cars. They enjoy the different amounts of options that we can give them. The average option price is much higher here than anywhere else. This market has sold more forward orders for the Mulsanne than anywhere else in the world, far more than America, Europe or the UK. We’ve done 322 forward orders, America has done 220. Bear in mind that this car hasn’t arrived yet. Theyve had the unveil, we’ve had the unveil, people have seen the press and it shows the inherent strength of this market that we are in.

Q: when the rolls-royce bentley split happened, rr took the top end with the phantom, while bentley’s new car was the continental, a long way down the ladder. so what actually brought about the mulsanne? A: I think that what happened was that when RR moved they just took 5 people. We had a factory that at the time could produce 7000 cars. It needed investment, if you went to the factory in 1996 it was a very old-fashioned British factory. Bringing in the Continental allowed us to generate revenue and invest. The outside of Bentley’s factory looked very old-fashioned with its northlit triangular roofs and brick walls. Inside, it is state-of-the-art without the robots. What the Continental allowed us to do is grow to a better size. Then what it did was allow us to bring in the variants on the small car platform as we refer to it – with the Flying Spur and Convertible. Then it allowed us to do the Mulsanne. The reason the Mulsanne is so important for us is that it is the first big Bentley to be on its own chassis since the 1930’s when we did the 8-litre. That’s why its so important for us. It is finally just a timing issue.

Q: how many cars do you sell in the region? A: About 600 units. We will do about 580 this year, we did around 612 two years ago, so anywhere around that figure is the norm. Our biggest markets by far are Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Last year Saudi lead and the year before the Emirates and that will probably be the same this year too and I can’t call it, they both compete for it month by month. Q: in terms of personalisation, where do you see the most requests coming from? A: Perhaps Qatar. The Qataris order three tone paints. I was talking about the cars that come down the line and we have a Flying Spur at the moment that’s got three exterior colours. This is really difficult to get to build because Bentley is very old-fashioned. So you can imagine when you put the request in, my old-fashioned colleagues at the factory kind of go – never! But the customer is always right and so we build what the customer wants. So we have ten three-tone cars currently in build and I saw one car on the line and knew that one was coming to the Middle East. Q: what’s the most popular model of your’s in the region? A: Well that’s got to be the four-door Flying Spur and its split between the 560 Spur and the 612 Speed. Very naively when I came to the Middle East I thought that the GTC would be popular because of all the sunshine until I realised how much of it there was.

Q: you had indicated that the middle east’s proportion of your sales has multiplied three-fold from 5 to 15% is this due to an overall drop in sales numbers or increased activity in the region? A: Mainly it is a result of the drop in the


{Road Test}


{Road Test}

NavigatiNg aN oN-road course
while offering luxurious interiors, the lincoln Navigator has its task cut out for it to make a dent in the luxury sUv market against entrenched competition
| Author: Charles Aitchison | Photography: Basim Al Muharbi |

ven for Oman, where we are used to very large SUVs, this one is big! Although it’s the size of a small truck, and is high and heavy, it actually drives much better than you might expect, having a good ride, enables excellent views of surrounding traffic, and, for such a large vehicle, it’s surprisingly manoeuvrable. With due allowance made for the width and length, it’s manageable until it comes to narrow spaces and parking. It’s not a town car - take it shopping if you must, but other shoppers won’t thank you for doing that. Even in its class it’s big – for instance, one’s eye level is significantly higher than in a Landcruiser Amazon or a Nissan Armada, so if height is a measure of status, then this vehicle is king of the hill in the full-size SUV stakes. Sitting at the wheel, it’s immediately obvious that the alignment of the major controls with the driver’s seat was not a high priority for the designers. The steering wheel is quite significantly off to the left. Why this is the case, especially with such a large vehicle, is a mystery. It’s not as if there’s any lack of space in which to ensure that the steering wheel, pedals and seat are aligned, and yet they have completely missed the boat on this. Maybe the person designing the position of the major controls and the person specifying the position of the seat worked in different offices. No doubt as an owner one would get used to this, although I found that at the end of several


hours of testing I was still almost as aware of it as at the beginning. The perforated seats are heated and cooled. In spite of the leather covering being exclusive to Lincoln, I found it to be rather ordinary at best. Personally I prefer alcantara, then cloth, as they are more practical than leather, especially in hot countries. However, the dictates of fashion are such that leather is the default covering for any vehicle that aspires to up-market status. Preferences with seats are many and varied, so it comes down to personal choice. I suggest that, if you’re considering the Lincoln, you take plenty of time sitting in it and ideally driving it, and take note of how it feels. As with all cars, this exercise is usually best conducted on your own or with a companion, as then you won’t be distracted by chatter from the salesman. Any technical and financial matters can be dealt with in the showroom. Of course, some sales people are very reluctant to let potential customers go out on their own, for all sorts of reasons, some of them protective of the customer, some possibly not so. The adage “He who pays the piper calls the tune” seems an appropriate one here. The cabin is plush in a very American way. The front seat passenger is faced with a very large blank panel, which has the air bag behind it. I don’t know if it’s an extra-large Americansize airbag that they’ve put in there, but the panel is certainly a distinctive feature.


{Road Test}
MyKey is now a regular feature across the upper end of the Ford range. It enables parents to limit top speed, volume on the music system, has a no-seat-belts-no-music feature and the warning for low fuel comes in sooner. These are sensible measures for those with young drivers in the family. There’s also the coded entry system, enabling you to lock the vehicle with the engine running. Microsoft Sync, which is now standard across the Ford range, although not fitted to the test vehicle, will be fitted to those available from now on. It’s a voice or touch-screen command communications management system for mobile phones and digital music players. Being able to control your GSM or iPod with voice commands is an excellent facility – for both convenience and safety. It’s also fun. Whilst bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, it does result in plenty of space inside. There are three rows of seats for up to seven people - eight if a third seat is substituted for the standard cool box between the second row seats. The third row splits 60/40 & folds flat electrically. Typically, the third row seats in most large SUVs are on the small side, being suitable only for children; however, those in the Navigator are full-size, and this is commendable. The middle row folds down so that, in combination with the third row when folded flat, there is space for two medium-size people to sleep. The removal of the cool box between the seats in the middle row would make for a much larger, shared sleeping area, rather than two separate ones. One unusual feature worth noting is the power running boards. When a door is opened, the running board on that side lowers itself down. This is quite amusing and actually practical as well, as the vehicle is so high that it’s useful to have a half-way step to and from the ground. Also powered is the tailgate. This is just as well, as it is very large and heavy. The system works fine. The information sheet handed out by the dealer states: “Punctuated by a striking chrome grille, the Navigator exudes confidence.” That is, indeed, how it looks – however, for your reporter at least, it also exudes a sort of tasteless flashy bling – a very large chrome grille that says “look at me” and cares only that people look, not what they think. Surely a stylish development of the Ford Expedition (on which the Navigator is based) would be more appropriate? In an effort to distinguish the Lincoln from the Ford, Lincoln have gone way over the top, confusing quantity (of chrome) for quality. The four-wheel drive is part-time, selected electronically via convenient buttons on the console. For on-road use it’s rear wheel drive. Whilst the Navigator will cope fine with trips such as visiting camps in the Wahiba, it is not a serious dune-bashing device. The electronically selected four-wheel drive is sometimes reluctant to stay in 4WD mode – it clicks in and out when on full lock on sand, for instance. It’s as if it can’t cope with the need to adjust for the wheels tracking different radii, so it disengages & then decides to re-engage, making rather uncomfortable-sounding metalto-metal clanking noises in the process. The Navigator’s close relative the Ford


{Road Test}


{Road Test}

Expedition does the same job with similar equipment at significantly less cost (RO16,495 against RO19,850) and, for this reviewer at least, in a much more honest-looking way. Yes, there is the higher status associated with Lincoln; however, if you want a vehicle to impress others while driving around town, there are better choices. The Navigator does have a higher quality interior, air suspension, adaptive cruise control, power folding mirrors and the auto-folding running boards. Both models have the good safety feature of power LED indicator repeaters in the door mirrors, visible to vehicles in the blind spot. If you opt for Sat-Nav, you also get the option of a reversing camera. I’m surprised the Sat-Nav isn’t standard.

The extra chrome is unlikely to impress anyone in the deserts or wadis, so I’m left wondering if this vehicle is trying to fill a niche that doesn’t really exist. On a positive note, it does have a certain presence; it’s very commodious and is well set-up for camping expeditions. One of its best qualities is the way it glides effortlessly along in a quiet, welldamped way. For long-distance touring it’s worth considering if you want to be able to sleep inside your vehicle. Also, it would make a very good tow car, especially as it has sway control. Anyone who has had the experience of a trailer weaving and taking over a car will know how valuable that can be.


{Road Test}



Poised to become king
auto China is beginning to flex its muscles in both domestic and international motoring. overdrive examines some of the interesting merchandise at Beijing. By Chandan B Mallik
he business of automobiles in China is pretty serious by most standards and its growth has been extremely impressive in 2009. In 2009, Chinese sales of cars, trucks and other vehicles soared to 13.6 million, a 46 per cent rise from the previous year’s levels and comfortably higher than the 10.4 million equivalent vehicles sold in the US last year. Only 33 years ago, there were only one million privately owned cars in the whole of China. Although car makers – both domestic and foreign chose Beijing to launch new cars and concepts, many analysts strongly believe that Shanghai is more important for the business


overall as it represents much more than just exhibits. Right now and in future, the focus for success in the Chinese automotive market is brand management and customer retention, and just not production strategies. The Chinese market is one of a kind, and not only in its high growth rate. More than fifty brands are vying for the buyers’ attention. In recent years Japanese, Korean, American, European, and domestic OEMs have built up sizable surplus capacity. Besides manufacturing, design houses – both manufacturer in-house and independents

are also opening up studios and research centres in China. Nissan along with its local partner and Bertone are the latest names joining the bandwagon. The Beijing Auto Show may have been the big automotive show in the first half of the year, but the next big auto show is set to be at the Shanghai Expo which opens officially this weekend. A mass of new energy and hybrid cars are set to launch at the Expo which is being focused on green technology and environmental concerns.

Ford start concept >>


y any measure, Ford’s Start concept, which actually is Ford’s own first concept car in three years, was definitely one of the top stars of Auto China. Roughly the size of a Mini, the five-seat premium concept car surprised many with its minimalistic design and intelligent details. The clean and timeless design seems to have been inspired by the Alfa Romeo Zagato SZ and the Porsche 356 Speedster in particular. It features an ambitious design, which includes laser-cut LED lights as well as two other sets of running lamps. The Start Concept also comes with the latest connectivity technology as well as “fun to drive” vehicle dynamics. The Start Concept will get a host of cutting edge technologies and will feature a new 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine which Ford contends will have a comparable horsepower and torque quotient to a traditional normally-aspirated in-line 4-cylinder all the while

delivering C02 emissions below the 100 g/ km mark. The compact power plant will come coupled to a 6-speed manual transmission to

maximize fuel economy. The new minicar has been designed to cater to a new global trend for ultra-compact cars


lamborghini >>


esigned for “discriminating super sports car enthusiasts,” the China Edition features a grey exterior with black and orange accents. Inside, the cabin is outfitted with alcantara upholstery, carbon fiber trim, orange accents, and an individually numbered badge. Like the standard Murcielago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce, the China Edition weighs 100kg less than the Murciélago LP 640. In order to achieve this “substantial weight reduction,” the SV has a high-strength sectional steel framework and a variety of carbon fiber components. Power is provided by a 6.5-litre V12 engine with 661hp and 660Nm of torque. It enables the hypercar to accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 3.2 seconds, before topping at out 342km/h. Production will be limited to 10 units and they will be available exclusively in China.

Murcielago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce China Limited Edition
The fact that Ferrari chose Beijing as the official coming out party for its fastest ever front-engined road car is a clear signal of the importance of this market to the crew from Maranello

Ferrari 599 gTo >>
errari officially presented a more performance oriented version of the 599 at the 2010 Auto China in Beijing. The company’s newest and fastest ever front engine sports car bears the GTO initials to support its performance credentials, but it is not an entirely new car. Sort of a street-legal stepping point between the production 599 GTB Fiorano and the track-only 599XX, the 599 GTO evokes the famous Gran Turismo Omologato designation made famous by the legendary 250 GTO of the 1960s and the muscle-bound 288 GTO of the 1980s. That’s quite a legacy to follow, so it’s a good thing the 599 GTO brings the goods. Output from the 6.0-litre V12 – itself derived from the Enzo’s engine – is up from 612 horsepower to 661, with torque up a modest 9 lb-ft to 457. Coupled with a 195kgweight reduction program – now tipping the scales at 1495 kg , the leaner and meaner 599 can sprint to 62 miles per hour from a standstill in a scant (and very specific) 3.35 seconds, with a top speed in excess of 208 mph, while


lapping the Fiorano test track from which its donor’s name is derived in a blitzing 1 minute,

24 secs. Only 599 examples will be built with a price tag approaching nearly $460k.


The first time we saw something that could roughly be equated to a sport coupe from this was a few years ago at the Detroit Auto Show was a shabbily assembled presentation. The star of Geely’s new midrange Gleagle brand was the GS coupe and with the Volvo acquisition, Geely has a bright future ahead

geely gleagle gs
eely presented an assortment of 11 concept cars at Auto China in Beijing this year - from a small electric car to a limousine and including sports cars, off-road jeeps, pickups and SUVs. It was an elaborate effort to test customer perception to Chinese automaker’s various proposals as the company searches for a consistent design direction for its Englon, Gleagle and Emgrand sub-brands. On the showstand, most of the local media’s attention was on the Gleagle GS - an entrylevel 2+2-seater fitting into the ‘Global Eagle’ range. Similar in size to Scion Tc, the GS is powered by a 1.3-liter turbocharged inline four producing 127 horsepower. It can be paired with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed dual clutch unit.


hyundai 2011 Verna / accent
yundai’s fluidic sculpture design language has now spread to the smallest vehicle in its lineup, and the new sub-compact slated to take the place of the aging Accent was unwrapped on the floor of the Beijing Motor Show. So, it’s not surprising that it looks like a scaled down Sonata. The Verna features sweptback headlights, a bold grille, and rearview mirrors with integrated LED turn signals. Inside, the cabin boasts higher quality materials and an improved design. Power comes from two new Gamma petrol engines with multiport fuel injection. The base 1.4-litre produces 106 hp and 135Nm of torque. When equipped with a five-speed manual, the Verna consumes 5.7 litres/100km and with the four-speed automatic and the Fuel Economy Package, the Verna consumes 6.2-litres/100km


dongfeng’s hand-crafted “hummer”

and-crafted can be something of a double edged sword in the car business. Rolls-Royces and Aston Martins are handmade treasures that show off their artisans’ decades of experience. The attention to detail is obsessive. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are machines that look like they were haphazardly slapped together by some drunken hack in a toolshed. This Dongfeng “Hummer” falls solidly into the latter category.



f at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That could very well sum up Volkswagen’s strategy with its Phaeton. The flagship saloon was designed to take “the people’s car” upmarket into Mercedes S-Class territory was first introduced in 2003. It underwent a facelift in 2009 and has now undergone yet another bout of surgery.

Vw phaeton


Despite the initial rumours, the car will most likely not going to be marketed as an 8 Series, but rather being an extension of the 6 Series. In either case, the German automaker’s latest concept is meant as an ideological follow-up to the Concept CS 2007, with BMW using the Gran Coupe to set the tone for the future of four-door coupes

bmw concept gran coupé
ith an exclusive Design Night on the evening of the first press day at Auto China in Beijing, BMW introduced a new concept: BMW Gran Coupe. The Gran Coupe is an elegant 4-door car with striking proportions and has more than a passing resemblance with the CS Concept. It’s quite clear that the concept study symbolizes the new design direction for BMW with lots of elements seen in the recent new models or concepts. The design language concentrates the fundamental values of the brand, including the famous Hofmeister Kink and kidney grille. Furthermore, the Gran Coupe inspiration came from classic BMWs, like the 3.0 Csi. The proportions are characterized


by a length of almost 5m, a height of just under 1.40m and a low centre of gravity which reflects the body’s aero efficiency. The production ready model will be launched in 2012 and the Gran Coupe Concept will make its

European debut at the Paris Motor Show this fall. Underneath it will use the same ‘backbone’ platform that underpins the current 5-series, 7-series and 5 GT. The car will offer the same mix of six- and eight-cylinder petrol and diesel engines as those cars, and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

“The shooting break (yes, it’s ‘break,’ not ‘brake’, according to M-B’s marketers) design isn’t something new – we’ve
seen it before in smaller vehicles like the original BMW Z3 M Coupe. Mercedes-Benz takes the shooting break concept one step further with the addition of two rear doors and a healthy dose of next-generation style

mercedes shooting break concept
he Mercedes Shooting Break concept is the quintessential definition of an ultra premium sporty wagon - and it looks like it could well be a new car in the product portfolio of the Mercedes range, ready to take on the BMW 5 GT head-tohead. While the level of detailing of both the exterior and the interior of the Shooting Break concept is outstanding - from the front and rear lamps, exquisite side door mirrors, elegant satin aluminium metallic grey exterior paint, front grille and rear exhaust. Though it is a concept, the roof line also seems too compromised to allow for suitable interior space and it is detached from the DLO line, so there is no real stream of continuity. As with the F800, it is the interior


that is the most striking, with a meticulously detailed environment. The 2+2 type seating configuration features rear bucket seats that are as upright as the front seats, but overall the cabin feels like that of a luxurious yacht.


It’s getting clearer by the day that Honda is planning to be a big player in the small car segment, especially in emerging markets such as India and China

honda- li nian everus concept


n 2008, Honda and its Chinese partner Guangzhou Honda Automobile had announced an entirely new brand for the Chinese market called Li Nian. Li Nian roughly translates to English as ‘idea’ and is based on Guangzhou Honda’s desire to create a new domestic brand for China. Li Nian hopes to pursue lofty ideals with a challenging spirit, or an affordable car with dynamics and stylishness. The City-sized Everus concept is the second product jointly-developed by both companies and features angular lines and an Acura-like grille. Although, few details are known about the Everus, Honda has confirmed that it will be

the first production Li Nian model to hit the Chinese market soon. Several reports suggest the offering may ride on a stretched City

saloon, which itself is built off a stretched Fit platform. This means power will be provided by a 1.5- or 1.8-litre engine.

iaT crosswind ii concept

chevrolet mpV5 Volt concept
M chose the Beijing motor show to show the Chevrolet MPV5 Volt - a new hybrid prototype inspired by the Volt saloon. Sharing the same essential design theme as its four-door counterpart, the MPV5 has


AT is one of China’s biggest prototype companies, providing styling and engineering support to the OEMs. The Crosswind II concept was one of three very competently resolved full-size models displayed on their large stand at the show, and it is a development of the Cross-Coupé model seen two years ago in Beijing. It’s a simple concept: the top half is coupé, the lower half has a tough offroader aesthetic, and it’s powered by a 150kW electric motor.


been developed to showcase the flexibility of the Voltec platform which will be used across a range of different types body segments in the near future.


mg Zero concept
he Zero was one of the surprises of the Beijing show, and represents the best example of the new ‘Facet Flow’ MG form language that the design teams in Shanghai and UK have been developing. It seems that MG has set its eyes on the lucrative Chinese small hatch segment, and the company’s first crack at the market debuted in the form of Zero Concept at this year’s Beijing Motor Show. At shade over 13 feet long, the fivedoor car is designed to offer more style than space. MG says the vehicle was penned by

The MG Zero Concept is a compact show car presented at the 2010 Beijing Auto Show that could preview a production model planned for market launch in 2011. Among the features are futuristic interior and an exterior display for text messages


Anthony Williams, the brand’s British director of design. In terms of exterior surfaces, this car appears close to production and SAIC expects the Zero to compete with the Ford Fiesta and Fiat’s Grande Punto to attract entry-level younger customers. The Zero boasts a floating center console, complete with touch screen controls, as well as some kind of communication system on the rear of the vehicle. The Zero will use an all-new platform from SAIC, called EP, which crucially allows for fitment of larger wheels

than is the norm in China, to ensure a more European stance to the car. SAIC expects production to start later this year, with sales in Europe targeted in their plans.

Vw e-lavida concept


esigned and developed by Shanghai Volkswagen, the Lavida is the first VW created without the assistance of German overlords. Available in the China since 2008 the Lavida is based on the Golf MKIV (aka the PQ34 platform). However, details for the E-Lavida concept with its unique styling and an unspecified electric powertrain are limited.

chana green i concept

hana is one of the biggest winners in the rapidly-changing Chinese car market. With sales up 92 percent in 2009 to 518,000, they’re the best performing domestic brand now with the entry-level Green Star being a top-selling model. There’s long been an association with Italian design houses, coordinated from their European studio in Turin, headed by design chief Luciano d’Ambrosio, but talking with him


he confirmed that the Green-i concept was designed purely in the China studio. Revealed at the Beijing Motor show, the car meets the needs of future hi-tech driving habits and uses steer-by-wire or Brake Energy Regeneration, which retrieve power from the braking process to charge the batteries. CHANA Green-i Electric Car measures 3.23m long, 1.67m wide and 1.56m high and

features interesting styling and shiny green goblin look.

That the Chinese automotive world is maturing fast was clearly indicated by the notable absence of weird or eyecatching doppelgangers by a bit more sophistication. Chinese car manufacturers have seriously brought their car designs up to global design standards





Your couNtrYmaN calls
MiNi has prereleased details of the fourth model in its line-up – the Countryman
ith the addition of the MINI Countryman as the fourth variant in its model family, MINI is taking the inimitable MINI feeling into a new dimension. The MINI Countryman crossover bridges the gap between the classic MINI concept and a contemporary Sports Activity Vehicle. Its broader range of abilities in both urban use and beyond paves the way for larger and evolving target groups with a greater need for space and flexibility to experience the driving fun that comes with a MINI. The brand’s first model to feature four doors The MINI Cooper S Countryman and MINI Cooper D Countryman can be ordered as an option with MINI ALL4 permanent allwheel drive. Here, an electromagnetic centre differential positioned directly on the final drive varies the distribution of power seamlessly between the front and rear axles. In normal driving conditions up to 50 per cent of the drive is sent to the rear wheels, in extreme situations as much as 100 per cent. The result is a new, traction-led expression of the agile handling for which MINI is famed. This ability is underpinned by sophisticated


and a wide-opening tailgate, the Countryman offers more space – which can be used in a wide variety of ways – to go with its raised seating position and optimised ride comfort. Plus, the “go-kart” feeling for which MINI is a byword has been preserved and takes on a new dimension with the optional MINI ALL4 all-wheel-drive system. The MINI Countryman expresses the defining virtues of the brand in terms of design, premium quality, handling, efficiency and the scope for customisation – and does so in an absorbingly individual way.

new suspension technology, which includes a front axle with MacPherson spring struts and forged track control arms, multi-link rear suspension and the electromechanical power steering system EPS. The MINI Countryman comes as standard with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system. Available as an option are Dynamic Traction Control (DTC, standard on the MINI Cooper S Countryman – both with front-wheel drive and ALL4 all-wheel drive – and MINI Cooper D Countryman with ALL4) and an electronic locking function for the front axle differential.

The MINI Countryman comes as standard with four seats, while a three-seat bench is available as a no-cost option. Its interior enhances comfort over long journeys with generous legroom, headroom and shoulder room. The rear seats can be moved forwards and backwards individually or in a 60 : 40 split (three-seat bench), the angle of the backrests can be adjusted and the backrests can be folded down either individually or in a 40 : 20 : 40 split (three-seat bench), all of which allows luggage capacity to be increased from 350 litres to a maximum 1,170 litres.

The MINI Countryman will be available with three petrol and two diesel engines at launch. All the drive units are sourced from a new generation of engines optimised using the BMW Group’s development expertise. And they all meet the EU5 and ULEV II exhaust emission standards. Output ranges from 66 kW/90 hp in the MINI One D Countryman to 135 kW/184 hp in the MINI Cooper S Countryman. With its twin-scroll turbocharger and direct injection now complemented by fully variable valve management, the 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in the range-topping model offers by

far the best balance between output and fuel consumption in its displacement class.

The new model combines larger body dimensions, increased ground clearance and four side doors with the hallmark features of MINI design. Short overhangs, a high window line, a commanding over-the-wheel stance and the wrap-around look of the windows – extending all the way around the vehicle – create typical MINI proportions.



Mobility as an option
Peugeot used its rCZ press event to highlight its position as a scooter and bicycle manufacturer as well as a provider of ‘alternate’ transportation solutions. automan checked out the wares



here aren’t too many car manufacturers around the world who are also equipped to make motorscooters. And then what are the chances they also make bicycles? Peugeot chooses to be different in that they see their mainstream buyers in Europe as needing mobility solutions and anyone who has seen the traffic in Paris will realise that offering a good motorscooter as transport is a must. At the event we have featured elsewhere in the magazine, Peugeot also showed off its two-wheeled line-up. Ranging from a variety of bicycles to two motorscooter ranges powered by 150cc normally aspirated and 125cc supercharged engines, the French manufacturer has a decent range on offer. We took a morning out to check on the two models that caught our eye. The first was the 125cc boosted engine on the Satelis range of bikes. This engine allows the scooter to fall below the radar of the French licensing laws, making it legal to ride without a licence. However, it is quite powerful, allowing one to clip along at above the speed limit. Ride quality is excellent and the bike itself is remarkably stable and with a well-communicated centre of gravity that lets you do really steep banked


turns at slow speeds. The pillion rider gets a command position and two grab handles, but the position requires one to step-up over the pillion. As for braking, the presence of ABS as an option goes down pretty well. This scooter would be a nice addition to Oman’s scenery. As for the second ride of the day, take a bicycle, add a battery and hub motor and you have the 25-kg e-bicycle that lends a green halo to Peugeot’s biking efforts. The battery can be unlocked from its carry position on the bike’s rear, hauled to your home and office and can be plugged in to be charged up.

Contrary to our expectations, the e-bike was rigged up as an assist-only model, requiring one to pedal to activate the motor. On the plus side, the assist level can be regulated from the readout panel and can be switched off altogether. There is also a regular 7-speed gearing on the bicycle, just in case you cherish the choice of pedalling uphill without motor. With a range that allows you to use the bike effectively in urban areas it may sell in Europe. But with a price tag of above RO 1000/- the market remains open to quite a few Chinese made e-bikes.


{Road Test}


{Road Test}

Big at Heart
the daihatsu sirion continues to silently capture the fancy of people with large needs and limited budgets
| Author: Charles Aitchison | Photography: Bassem Al Muharbi |

here seems to be an unwritten rule in Oman that bigger is better. The Daihatsu Sirion flies in the face of that idea. In practical terms, it has all of the accommodation and features that most people need; indeed, the Sirion provides a surprising amount for such a small package. As a means of up to four people zipping about town in an effortless and safe manner, being easy to park, highly manoeuvrable and attractive to look at, it ticks most people’s boxes for the essential requirements. The Sirion on test has a 1.5 litre Toyota engine – not big, but then as the car is small and light it doesn’t have to pull much, unless it’s fully loaded with people and luggage. The performance is sprightly, the four speed auto box works well and there is never any question of the car’s ability to keep up with, or even lead, the general flow of traffic. There’s also a 1.3 litre engine available. First impressions at the (adjustable for rake) wheel are of a good driving position, large windscreen, more space generally than might be expected of a small car, a clear and well set out instrument panel with major and minor controls falling easily to hand and set out in a logical way. The driver’s seat adjusts for height, and in any case headroom is very generous in front - less so in the rear, although only the tallest adults might find it limited. The front seats are well shaped and covered in material that looks attractive and should be very hardwearing. Settling in at the wheel, the only strange element is the position of the


switches for adjusting the door mirrors. It’s to the right of the steering wheel. Anyway, once that’s dealt with, on setting off the first impression is of a car that’s light to steer and easy to control – the major controls work just as they should, resulting in a car that is very easy to drive from the start. The only criticism in this respect is that the steering is perhaps a bit too light. This is confirmed over time, as there is very little resistance to steering effort; you have to steer out of corners as well as into them, as there’s so little self-centring force. Getting up to speed, the engine does its job fairly quietly and smoothly. One rather unpleasant surprise is that the speed warning beeper comes in at an indicated 119kph. These devices are bad enough when they come in at some point above the national speed limit, never mind below it. Also, why do those on some cars sound continuously, while others give a few “beeps” or “bongs” only? On this point, whilst the speed warning beeper is designed to promote safer driving, their effectiveness is questionable, to say the least. For those who want to exceed the limits it makes no difference if the beeper is sounding when they are doing 130kph or 160kph. Also, there’s an argument that, as the beepers are so irritating, they result in aggressive driving, and an irritated driver is naturally going to be less considerate of others. The result, at least sometimes, is the exact opposite of that intended. The ride is good for the size of car, and better than might be expected for a small, light


{Road Test}


{Road Test}

car with quite small wheels. The compromise between ride and handling is well judged, leaning towards the sporting, and it’s all the better for it. The controls are in harmony with each other – all quite light, the road-holding and handling are good, as might be expected for a light car with quite a wide track - the distance between left and right hand wheels - and generally the driving experience is thoroughly enjoyable. The large amount of glass makes for good all-round views. The instrument panel is clear and well designed. Speedo and rev counter consist of quite shallow arcs, rather than being circular, and although unconventional, it works just fine. The read-out for which gear is selected is clear and positioned dead centre, as is the neat little digital read-out for fuel consumption, time and distance information. The audio system is comprehensive, with single CD player, FM & AM radio and an Aux socket for iPod/MP3 player. The position of the Aux socket is not ideal, but shouldn’t be a problem. The four-speed auto box works well. The handy button on the side to give a quick change down to third for overtaking or engine braking is a good feature – once common here in Oman, now less so, it seems. This is a

useful feature because you don’t have to move the gearstick - one push to change down, a second to change back up is all that’s needed. It’s a small thing perhaps, but it does suit the car well, it makes for swifter, easier progress and will enhance the ownership experience for many. The interior fittings and minor controls are mostly well laid out and of good quality. The overall result is well designed, nicely styled and practical. For instance, there are no fewer than four cup-holders for the two front seat occupants, and two more for those in the rear. This is a car for people who like to have refreshments to hand! There are large open trays below the glovebox and in front of the gearstick, as well as door pockets. Perfect for those who like to clutter their car up with maps, sunglasses, sweets, etc. It’s good to see power windows all round, with auto onepush facility for the driver’s window. Although the rear seats are small, they are adequate for all but large or tall adults. They have an adjustable backrest, with two positions, the one with the most backwards rake being the one to suit adults, the more upright position might be better for young children, especially if a safety seat is fitted. The more upright position gives more room in

the trunk, which could sometimes matter, as, whilst it is fine for the size of car, it is not large. The rear seats split and fold down in the usual way for hatchbacks, giving a useful load area to cope with those. The exterior of the car shows good quality paintwork, good panel fit and sensible, welldesigned features such as the high level brake lights, up on the C pillars where they can easily be seen through following cars. The Sirion is a well-made car of character and style. The Toyota connection should result in well above average reliability and can’t do any harm to the resale value. It does its job competently and, with the minor drawbacks of over-light steering and the irritating speeding beeper, it scores highly in almost all aspects. Whilst the demand for small, economical cars is less in Oman than perhaps anywhere else in the world, there is, nevertheless, a place for such vehicles, as is apparent judging by the number of Sirions and other small cars one sees in Oman. Whether for a young person as their first car or simply as a runabout, this car should be on the shortlist for anyone who wants a handy, inexpensive (RO4,775 – RO5,000 depending on model) and economical car for getting about town.



Featherweight performer in town
the dream mix of road and track car is in oman now, with the launch of lotus here, with select models on offer



he English marque with a racing heritage is in Oman. Shanfari Automotive used an event based around an evening at the Oman Automobile Association’s go-kart track in Seeb to announce the acquisition of the dealership for Lotus cars in Oman. A press release handed out by the company says “The appointment of Shanfari Automotive Co LLC (trading under the name Shanfari Lotus) demonstrates Lotus’ further commitment to the growing Middle East market. Shanfari Lotus will also offer performance car track training courses (from 2011) for owners to learn to drive their Lotus sportscar in a track environment and to prepare them for the new GCC Lotus Cup races starting next year. “Shanfari Lotus is based in Muscat and will have dealership and service facilities in Al Khuwair initially, with further locations in the future.” The evening’s activities were split up into two segments with a press conference early on to inform journalists about the event, followed an hour later by the arrival of Dr Noel Guckian OBE, the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to honour the launch of the brand. The latter event saw the cars being unveiled and invited dignitaries getting a taste of the acclaimed handling of the cars through a series of demonstration drives around the tightly wound go-kart track. The cars unveiled that evening included the brand new Evora, the Exige and the Exige Cup 260. Addressing assembled newspersons, Chris Edwards, Shanfari Automotive’s affable General Manager marked on Shanfari Auto’s ability to connect with the customer profile required for a brand like Lotus. He also delved into the heritage of the marque, remarking on founder Colin Chapman’s passion that led to some of the most exciting cars.


Lotus Evora 2+2
The first all-new Lotus since the iconic Elise roadster made its debut in 1995, the Evora enters the sports car market as the world’s only production mid-engined 2+2. The Evora provides a tremendously rewarding

driving experience: the mid-engined layout gives exceptional agility and the Lotus engineered suspension ensures incredible ride and handling. Powered by a Lotus-tuned 3.5-litre V6 engine producing 280 PS, and weighing just 1350 kg, the Evora delivers an exhilarating experience true to the Lotus DNA characteristics. Because one of the roles of the Evora is to attract new lifestyle customers, as well as performance aficionado’s to the Lotus brand, the Evora offers a more refined ownership experience than Lotus’ existing smaller four cylinder models. Its elegantly styled cabin is beautifully trimmed and its equipment list includes contemporary features such as an advanced touchscreen multi-media system and electric power-fold door mirrors. Careful attention has also been paid to its ease of use. with wider, taller door apertures, narrower sills and higher seating position making getting in and out of the cabin a less athletic undertaking than it is in Lotus’ smaller sports cars (Elise, Exige, Europa and 2-Eleven), whilst the design of the cabin itself will accommodate two 99th percentile (6ft 5in tall) American males in the front seats. The ‘convenience factor’ of the Evora extends to all areas of the car. For instance, beneath the skin the entire front-end structure is a high tech aluminium “sacrificial” modular unit, with bolt on attachment to the main extruded aluminium tub. This modular unit is not only designed to deform for maximum safety, and to make the production assembly process more efficient, but also to reduce repair costs in the event of a frontal impact. The Evora will be hand crafted and built on a dedicated new assembly line within Lotus’ advanced manufacturing facility at Hethel in the East of England; capacity limitations will restrict production to less than

2000 cars a year, thus ensuring this dynamic new sports car’s rarity and exclusivity.

Lotus Exige S
The Lotus Exige is a renowned high performance coupe that has a well earned reputation of choice for drivers who demand uncompromised performance, both on the road and on the track. The 2010 Model Year also sees the introduction of a few key changes to the Exige to enhance the look and improve aerodynamic performance. A restyled front end and new larger, rear wing that not only reduces drag, but also gives a more muscular stance enhancing the lightweight shrinkwrapped look of the whole car. The composite rear wing is based on the design from the Exige GT3 road car concept shown at the Geneva Motorshow in 2007. Compared to the 2009 Model Year Exige tailgate mounted wing it is 181 mm wider and mounted 46 mm higher and 61 mm further back. Careful airflow management increases stability, reduces drag and, most importantly, maintains the impressive downforce figures of 42 kg at 160 km/h. Since the Exige S2 was launched in 2004, the power has increased from 190 hp through 220 hp to 240 hp in standard road form – more for the track centric Exige Cup 260 - and the new larger air intakes improve engine cooling for these current higher powered Exige variants.


{Motorsports - F1}

Faultless Webber wins with style in Spain
a first and a third, two podiums, another three trophies for the overflowing cabinets in Milton keynes. it was a decent haul for red Bull racing at the afternoon’s spanish grand Prix


{Motorsports - F1}
ark Webber drove the race of his life in Barcelona on Sunday afternoon, leaving Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel behind on the way to the third Grand Prix victory of his career. The Australian won the race to the first corner as Vettel tucked into second place ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, and steadily set the pace as he pulled away. By the time they had all made their first pit stops, Webber was more than nine seconds ahead of Hamilton, who had outfumbled Vettel in the tyre changes. The German got held up waiting for Alonso to come by to his pit, and then Hamilton went one lap longer than Red Bull had expected. As Lewis rejoined, Sebastian was heading for the outside line into Turn One, but as Hamilton had to jink round one of the Virgins which was hugging the inside line to let them go, Vettel had to run wide into the run-off area and that cemented Hamilton’s position. As Webber controlled things at the front, Hamilton drove like a demon to keep Vettel at bay, while further back Alonso established himself in a comfortable fourth ahead of a three-way scrap for fifth between the rejuvenated Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes, McLaren’s Jenson Button (who had lost out to the German in the stops) and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. While there was always the threat that something might shake out of these various groups, there wasn’t much action as stalemates set in, and it was not until Vettel ran wide in the Turn Seven esses on the 54th lap that things came to life. The German pitted at the end of the lap for a fresh set of Bridgestone’s soft tyres, but thereafter never set the pace that might have been expected of fresh rubber, suggesting that his RB6’s handling problems were more serious than worn rubber. It transpired that the balance was never good, and that subsequently the brakes had lost their edge. He was lucky to drop only to fourth behind Alonso, and another slice of fortune awaited him as, 10 laps later, Hamilton’s left front tyre gave up and sent him into the wall in Turn Three. That was a bitter blow for the Englishman, after a fantastic drive in which he had really taken the fight to the Red Bulls. Now Alonso was second, and as Vettel claimed the final podium position,


Schumacher led a beaten Button home with Massa sixth. Adrian Sutil drove a great race for Force India to claim seventh after resisting huge pressure from Renault’s Robert Kubica, who lost out at the start in a collision which sent BMW Sauber’s Pedro de la Rosa to the pits with a tattered right rear tyre. Behind them, Rubens Barrichello put in a superb performance for Williams to move from 17th on the grid to ninth place, and Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari claimed a point at home despite a drive-through penalty for clobbering Karun Chandhok’s HRT in an odd accident in which the Spaniard passed the Indian but turned in well before he’d cleared his car. Chandhok subsequently lost his front wing but retired with associated damage after pitting for a replacement. With HRT’s Bruno Senna crashing in Turn Four on the opening lap, it wasn’t a great outing for the Spanish team. Renault’s Vitaly Petrov and BMW Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi finished 11th and 12th, separated by eight-tenths of a second after a race-long scrap, while Nico Rosberg was a lowly 13th after getting bundled back in the infighting on the first lap and later having a bungled pit stop which required his Mercedes to be pushed back to its pit for a wheel to be retightened. Hamilton was classified 14th ahead of Vitantonio Liuzzi, who had an oversteering afternoon in a Force India that stopped out on the track on the last lap. Then came Nico Hulkenberg who had several good fights before losing ground in the second Williams. Three laps down, Jarno Trulli took a narrow ‘new teams’ victory for Lotus with Timo Glock challenging him all the way for Virgin and finishing only 1.4s adrift. Team mate Lucas di Grassi was a further lap down, the final finisher in 19th. Thanks to the revised points system, Webber’s victory throws him back into contention again. Button still leads the drivers’ championship with 70 points, followed by Alonso on 67, Vettel on 60, Webber on 53, Rosberg on 50, and Hamilton and Massa on 49. McLaren still lead the constructors’ with 119, with Ferrari second on Ferrari 116 from Red Bull on 113, Mercedes GP on 72 and Renault on 50.


{Motorsports - F1}

Button and McLaren spring Shanghai surprise
jenson Button won a nail-biting Chinese grand Prix for Mclaren on sunday afternoon, with team mate lewis hamilton chasing him home second after a race of many parts


{Motorsports - F1}


t began with light rain, a jump start by Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari and an incident in the first corner when Vitantonio Liuzzi spun his Force India into Kamui Kobayashi’s BMW Sauber and Sebastien Buemi’s Toro Rosso, bringing out the safety car. Alonso, and the chasing Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel immediately pitted to switch from slicks to wet tyres, leaving Nico Rosberg in the lead for Mercedes GP from Button. As racing resumed on the sixth lap these two continued to lead, chased by Renault’s Robert Kubica and, briefly until his BMW Sauber’s Ferrari engine broke, Pedro de la Rosa, all of them on Bridgestones slicks. Further back, Hamilton had taken the late decision to switch to wet tyres, but three laps later it was time for slicks again. This time as they headed for the pits, Vettel and Hamilton had an incident where the Englishman passed the German on the entry; as they left their respective pits both got sideways, and there was a question mark over whether Hamilton was released into his rival’s path. Then Vettel appeared to move over on Hamilton, pushing him towards other team’s pits. After speaking to both drivers, reviewing video evidence and debating the matter, the race stewards decided to reprimand both Hamilton and Vettel for driving in a dangerous manner. Back out on the track, Hamilton then dished out a driving lesson to Vettel, passing him with ease as he outfoxed both Red Bulls in one move on Lap 12. At that stage Rosberg had a 2.9s lead over Button, who was biding his time. The 2009 champion made a mistake on the 18th lap that saw Rosberg increase his lead to 4.5s, but a lap later it was the German’s turn to err, as he slid off in the final corner and handed the lead to Button. Rosberg’s error had been caused by heavier rain, and that triggered yet more wholesale pit stops on the 20th lap as Button, Rosberg, Kubica, the Pole’s impressive team mate Vitaly Petrov, Hamilton and Vettel all piled in for intermediate rain tyres, joining Mercedes GP’s Michael Schumacher, Webber, Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari, Force India’s Adrian Sutil, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso who had all stopped the previous lap. But just as it seemed things might settle down there came another dramatic twist as

the safety car was deployed again on the 21st lap. Alguersuari had gone off in his Toro Rosso, damaging the nose wing and leaving debris on the racing line. In a flash Button’s lead was wiped out, as was Hamilton’s 40s deficit to the leaders. The safety car pulled in on the 25th lap, but there was a huge traffic jam at the end of the back straight as Button backed up the field so much that Hamilton actually had to pull off on to the grass to avoid hitting Webber right in front of him. The Australian then got hung out to dry on the exit to the final corner, so that he had dropped from sixth to 11th place by the time he crossed the line. As half distance approached, Button led Rosberg by a second, with Hamilton fast closing on his old sparring partner Kubica for third. The tough Pole had resisted him in Melbourne, but here the McLaren’s straightline pace sealed the issue in Hamilton’s favour on the 29th lap, and soon Hamilton was giving Rosberg a hard time. Now he was himself only 4.7s adrift of Button and scented victory. On Lap 34 he pulled the same move on Rosberg that had earlier embarrassed Schumacher, but to everyone’s surprise Rosberg fought back and repassed the McLaren. That was the moment in which Hamilton lost his chance of victory, as Button’s lead over him stretched from 4.6s to 6.2s within a lap. Hamilton did the smart thing on Lap 37, switching to another set of fresh intermediate rain tyres, before Button, Rosberg and Alonso did likewise a lap later. In the stops Hamilton had overtaken Rosberg, and now it was mano a mano between the McLaren drivers. To begin with Button pulled away, opening his lead to as much as 9.9s, but as his tyres lost their edge Hamilton moved in again, and a major mistake by Button at the hairpin on Lap 51 left him tiptoeing home to the flag just 1.5s ahead. Behind Rosberg, Alonso drove beautifully to recover to fourth place ahead of Kubica and Vettel, with Petrov doing a great job for Renault to catch and pass Alguersuari and Schumacher to take seventh ahead of Webber, with Massa finally passing Schumacher at the end. In the constructors’ stakes, McLaren have 109 points to Ferrari’s 90, Red Bull’s 73, Mercedes GP’s 60 and Renault’s 46.


{Motorsports - wrc}



{Motorsports - wrc}


efending World Champions Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena snatched a fourth victory in Rally Mexico in five years, as Loeb took the outright lead in the 2010 FIA World Drivers’ Championship as a result of claiming an unprecedented 55th WRC win. The French duo were forced to run first on the road through the final three special stages of the re-named Rally Guanajuato Bicentenario, but the 55.5s overnight advantage was too much for either Norwegian Petter Solberg or Frenchman Sébastien Ogier to overturn. Loeb and the Citroën Total World Rally Team duly claimed another haul of maximum WRC points on the second round of the championship. “I had a good lead today and was not going to take any risks with that when I started first on the road,” said Loeb. “I was just breezing through the last couple of stages trying to keep my concentration.” The gripping tussle for second position eventually ended in Solberg’s favour. He and Ogier began the day separated by just 2.7s and the contest was only decided to the Norwegian’s advantage on the final super special stage when he set the fastest time. It marked a fitting end to a terrific three-day battle. Ford team orders dictated that Jari-Matti Latvala was ordered to slow down on the penultimate stage and enable BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team colleague Mikko Hirvonen to move up to fourth overall and claim two extra FIA Drivers’ Championship points in his quest for a maiden world title. The Blue Oval had been beaten fair and square over the Mexican gravel by Citroën, although the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team maintained a six-point lead over the Citroën Total World Rally Team in the FIA World Manufacturers’ Championship. Norwegian Henning Solberg confirmed an excellent sixth overall for the Stobart

M-Sport Ford Rally Team after setting several impressive stage times on day two and Argentina’s Federico Villagra finished in seventh place and gave the Munchi’s Rally Team its first points of the season. Spain’s Xavier Pons produced a scintillating time in the 19th special stage and that was sufficient to push him back above Czech driver Martin Prokop and into an S-WRC lead he had lost with clutch problems on Saturday. Pons finished eighth overall. The S-WRC success for Pons was the fifth in the relatively short lifespan of the new Ford Fiesta S2000 – it achieved outright victories in Monte Carlo and Qatar on its debut weekend in January and took outright victories in the Kuwait International Rally and the Rally Torrié in Portugal yesterday. Portugal’s Armindo Araújo cruised through the remaining three stages on Saturday to claim a comfortable win in the P-WRC category and the final place in the overall top 10. Once Japan’s Toshi Arai had lost considerable time changing a damaged wheel on Saturday, it was plain sailing for the defending champion, who snatched the series lead in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Loeb had only to defend a 55.5s lead over two tricky gravel stages and the final timed super special to make certain of a fourth victory in Mexico and a 55th WRC win. But the main centre of attention was the prospect of a titanic tussle between Solberg and Ogier for second position. A mere 2.7s separated the duo heading to the 28.7km of the Guanajuatito stage. With a refettled car, Pons was determined to challenge Prokop for victory in the S-WRC category, but Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah had fallen by the wayside at the overnight halt. It appears that the former P-WRC champion had damaged the inlet manifold on a heavy landing on the final stage on Saturday evening and the decision was taken

to withdraw his Škoda Fabia S2000 before the restart. His demise promoted Toshi Arai to 11th overall. Solberg - winner of Rally Mexico in 2005 - promised the grand attack and he was a man of his word. He reduced Loeb’s lead to 41.6s after a stunning run, but that was surpassed by the flying Ogier. The Frenchman beat Solberg by 4.1s to snatch second overall heading to the penultimate 17.94km special stage at Comanjilla. The fight for the runnerup spot was down to just 1.4s. Latvala and Hirvonen both managed to get inside Loeb’s stage time and maintained fourth and fifth overall, Solberg was sixth and Villagra consolidated his seventh place. But Pons overhauled Prokop to regain the S-WRC category lead. The Spaniard beat the Czech by 22.1s to take a 17.3s lead into the final two stages. Loeb continued to ease his pace and take no risks through the penultimate stage and Solberg managed to pip Ogier by 0.8s to reduce the Frenchman’s grip on second position to just 0.6s. Ford management instructed Latvala to slow down and enable championship leader Hirvonen to pass him into fourth position, while Pons all but clinched victory in the S-WRC section by moving a further 4.9s in front of Prokop. The final 4.42km of the super special stage settled the fight for second place. Loeb confirmed his 55th WRC win by the margin of 24.2s and Solberg pipped Ogier for the runner-up spot in a thrilling finale. The remainder of the top 10 held station, with Pons confirming his S-WRC victory and Ara˙jo emerging as the comfortable winner in the P-WRC category. Action in the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship resumes with the Jordan Rally on April 1st-3rd, which also includes the third round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship.


{Motorsports - wrc}

Hirvonen wins in Sweden!


{Motorsports - wrc}


ord Focus RS WRC driver Mikko Hirvonen got his quest for the 2010 World Rally Championship drivers’ title off to the best possible start today by winning the opening round of the series, Rally Sweden. Hirvonen, team-leader of the BP Ford Abu Dhabi Team, took the lead on Friday and successfully fought off a two-day attack from defending champion Sebastien Loeb, who finished second, 42.3sec behind in a Citroen C4 WRC. Today’s win was the 12th at World Championship level for the Finn, who lost the 2009 title fight by a single point to Loeb. Under the new WRC points system, Hirvonen opened his 2010 account with a maximum score of 25. After a careful approach through the final snow-covered stage, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen leapt onto the roof of their car at he finish control to celebrate their win. “It’s absolutely fantastic!” said Hirvonen. “And I’m really happy it’s over after those last few stages; you can’t imagine how nervous I was in there. It’s a perfect start to my year, I’ve never won the first round before, but after last season I’ve got one more year of experience. Now I plan to carry on like this. It’s a new game in Mexico and I can’t wait to get started again.” Having lost out to Hirvonen in a tyre gamble on Saturday afternoon, Loeb began Sunday’s competition trailing by 16.1sec. But after failing to make a big impression on today’s opening two stages, the Frenchman took the uncharacteristic decision to give up on the victory challenge after SS18, settling for second, and 18 championship points instead. “It’s been a tough weekend, and Mikko has done a perfect rally,” said Loeb. “We made a little mistake yesterday, but even without it I don’t know if I would have been able to beat him in the stages. He was strong and he deserves his victory. I did my best. There’s nothing more to say.” Third in Sweden, 33.1sec behind Loeb, was Hirvonen’s team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala, who started his season with a 15 points haul - helping to put Ford in the lead of the manufacturers’ contest. “It’s not been an easy weekend,” said the Finn. “We were struggling on Friday, but the speed started to come right on Saturday afternoon. I’m really pleased to finish in this position on the first round of the season.” Fourth went to Loeb’s team-mate Dani Sordo. The Spaniard finished 1min 26.2sec behind Latvala, largely because of a silly mistake on Saturday when a blanking plate wasn’t re-

moved from the front of his car, causing its engine to overheat. But after an otherwise strong performance, Sordo put a brave face on the result. “Fourth place is not bad, but of course third would have been better,” he said. “The first day was okay, then we made a mistake, but that’s rally sometimes. It’s okay though, we need to look to the future now. And fourth place will give me a good start position in Mexico, where the others will be cleaning the road.” Sebastien Ogier of the Citroen Junior team had a largely trouble-free event to finish fifth on his Rally Sweden debut, 4min 15.3sec adrift of Hirvonen’s winning time. “It’s a good result for all the team and I want to thank them for giving me a second season - it’s a great opportunity. The rally was good for me on day one then got a bit more difficult when we had to conserve our place. So it was less fun that I expected! But the most important thing was to finish and get experience.” Sixth was Stobart Ford team driver Henning Solberg, tackling his first event with new codriver Ilka Minor, and adjusting to a new English language pace-note system. “I wanted to catch Ogier, and I couldn’t do any more, so we have to be happy,” he said. “In the car it’s working well with Ilka. You’ll see later; this is a winning team!” Henning’s British team-mate Matthew Wilson was seventh in his Ford Focus RS WRC, to collect six championship points. “I’m slightly disappointed by Friday’s pace, but once we got the car sorted we improved on Saturday and today. I’m glad to get to the finish.” Norwegian Mads Ostberg was eighth after an up and down event in his 2007 spec Subaru Impreza WRC. The Norwegian had some encouraging stages but lost time in snowbanks and with a braking problem today. “A frustrating time,” he acknowledged. “I hoped my bad luck would stop this year but it seems not. I’ve done some mistakes, and we’ve had some problems with the car. I guess it evens things out. I hope we’ll get out again this season; we’re working on some S2000 things.” Petter Solberg’s first event in his 2009 specification Citroen C4 WRC turned out to be a disappointing one, with the former champion ending the rally ninth after failing to gel with his car. “This rally didn’t go our way - whether that’s down to me, or something else I don’t know,” he said. “Something hasn’t been right, that’s for sure. Things worked well before the rally, and the set-up should be the same as Sebastien Loeb’s. What can I say?”



the powerful eight cylinder racing machines to see if they had the mettle to participate in the Chevrolet Supercars ME Championship’s upcoming season. Several new competitors took part in the test session, which was supervised by Championship Organizer Sherif Al Mahdy. With four of the rumbling Chevrolets blistering around the track, anticipation for the beginning of the new season was high as old and new drivers looked on hungrily as the newcomers tore around the circuit. Drivers and sponsors were invited to attend the two day event where the Bahrain based series celebrated the completion of yet another successful season and looked forward to the upcoming 2010-11 season. As the one of the fastest growing categories in the Middle East, the Chevrolet Supercars ME Championship has continued to go from strength to strength and has found some of the region’s most competitive drivers in the cockpit of its Chevrolet powered cars. The Chevrolet Supercars ME Championship is the result of the unique collaboration between Bahrain International Circuit and Chevrolet Motorsport. Fahad Al Musalam claimed victory in the SC09 class in the 2009-10 season with a dominant display of driving, finishing on 96 points and an impressive nine podium finishes. Australian born Tarek Elgammal closed the year in second overall with 86 points, while Abdulaziz Al Yaeesh claimed third with 70 points.

he Chevrolet Supercars Middle East Championship held a two day promotional event at Bahrain International Circuit to promote the region’s most adrenaline pumping championship, where new


drivers, veteran competitors and sponsors were invited for a taste of next season’s racing action. The event gave aspiring drivers the opportunity to take to the outer track at Bahrain International Circuit in one of

sTe sTeFan bidding For 2011 F1 enTry enT
Serbia’s Zoran Stefanovic has confirmed that his team, currently known as Stefan GP, is bidding to fill the final slot on the Formula One grid for 2011. It follows his failed attempt to take part in this year’s championship using the former Toyota squad’s cars. The FIA chose to keep the 2010 grid at 12 teams rather than the permitted 13 after one new team dropped out at the last minute, but Formula One racing’s governing body has re-opened the selection process for next season with the aim of boosting the field to 26 cars. Announcing his bid, Stefanovic also revealed his intention to build a Formula One-standard race circuit as part of the planned Stefan Technology Park. Tthe track would also serve as the team’s base.

Pirelli enters race to supply 2011 tyres


renaulT To oFFer Fans Formula enaulT oFF FFer one Track day packages
The Renault Formula One team are to open up their doors this summer. The ‘Feel It’ programme will see paying members of the public get behind the wheel at Budapest’s Hungaroring circuit, home of the Hungarian Grand Prix. Renault say the experience is designed to offer a rare glimpse into the challenge faced by the best drivers on the planet every other weekend. The fast-track training programme will take the participants from junior Formula Renault cars to modern Formula One machinery in just one day.

talian tyre manufacturer Pirelli has confirmed its intention to join the bidding process to supply tyres to the Formula 1 field next season. Michelin and Cooper Avon had been the only firms in the running to replace Bridgestone but Pirelli – which has competed in F1 over three different stints in the past – has now revealed it will present a proposal to the teams and the sport’s stakeholders by the time of the Spanish Grand Prix next weekend. French firm Michelin was the first would-be tyre supplier to reveal its interest in succeeding former rival Bridgestone from next season and has since presented teams with a proposal to switch to 18-inch wheel rims for 2011. However, American company Cooper last week confirmed it was also in talks with the FIA to enter the sport through its Avon brand and its lower-cost bid is reportedly favoured by Bernie Ecclestone. Having been involved in F1 for eight years from the world championship’s inception in 1950, Pirelli returned to the grid in 19811986 before re-entering the sport for a further three-year stint from 1989.


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Does assisted cycling have a future?
A weekend of driving cars and riding scooters is broken by a tryst with an electric cycle


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 Identify yourself or your message will be trashed and your id blocked

f you can hark back far enough into the smoke-laden past of motoring, you will note that the first claimants to the crown of an automobile were in fact not powered by an internal combustion engine, the defining essence, if you may, of the modern automobile. There were other differences too – tricycle running gear seemed to be in vogue as was the afinity to driving exposed to the elements. Wikipedia tells us that on 31 December 1895 Ogden Bolton Jr. was granted U.S. Patent 552,271 for a battery-powered bicycle with “6-pole brush-and-commutator direct current (DC) hub motor mounted in the rear wheel.” Isn’t it surprising that with all the news we have been getting about various car companies celebrating their centenary, the 100 years of the electric bike passed as silently as the vehicle itself does? Of course, now the electric bike has taken on a new level of importance in the umwelt of transportation. The environment and the internal combustion engine’s effect on it is on the top of every nation’s agenda and there now exists a dedicated move to electric propulsion as a primary mover. Another interesting fact about the electric bicycle may have also escaped you. Wikipedia again tells us – It is estimated that there were roughly 120 million “ebikes” on the road in China as of early 2010. The “Electric Bikes Worldwide Reports – 2010 Update” estimates that 1,000,000 electric bicycles will be sold in Europe in 2010. The same report estimates that sales in the USA will reach roughly 300,000 in 2010, doubling the number sold in 2009. So where does that place the electric bike today? In the weekend we spent at a hideaway luxury hotel in Spain testing the new Peugeot RCZ, I got an opportunity to test the ‘mobility’ end of Peugeot’s business. Now, it isn’t as if the electric bicycle as proposed

by Peugeot breaks any new grounds. This 25 kilogramme bicycle is driven by a hub motor on the rear wheel, which draws power from the clip-on Lithum Ion battery on the rear. In the truest form, it is electrically-assisted, since you have to pedal to engage the electric drive. No coasting and no regeneration from braking. This leads to a very simple system that can get you across a crowded european inner-city. On the other hand, with a price tag of well over a 1000 euros, this bicycle is hardly going to capture any of the 120-million strong market of China. Again, while battery technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, the core necessity for the advancement of the electric bicycle has got to be a way to cut recharge times. Human beings as a rule don’t plan ahead, that’s why we have a yellow light to tell us when the fuel tank is ‘nearly’ empty. It is no joy to remember to detach the battery, carry it to your office and plug in the recharger every single time you ride the bike. Plug and play has to move more towards the play aspect of the phrase! The environmental aspect of sourcing the materials needed for the batteries and recycling them will feature in talk-shops around the globe. But then that’s not just for bicycles, that’s the way we are headed with all other forms of transport as well. While Peugeot is proposing a positive influence on our lives and the environment by performing the mindshift to using bicycles and their electric variants, the journey ahead for all of us to take the lifestyle change onboard will be hard, almost as hard as the sensation of sitting on a bicycle seat for a short trip. I can’t foresee the future for electric bicycles as a means of transport for the affluent. As for the needy masses, human ingenuity will rule as much as need will.




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