No 117 MAY 2011

Oman’s Best Automotive Resource

OMR 0.500 AED 5.00 QR 5.00

YOU’VE WAITED ALL THESE YEARS AND IT’S FINALLY HERE!

LEXUS LFA H EXCLUSIVE 2011

COOL! SUPER
IE, C Q&A CRAIG HARD EO O

MARINA OT LAPPED AT YAS

Details

inside

A RQUE’S JA PA NESE M RC A R FIRST SUPE REGION OUTING IN

E & AUDI A1 ON MARTIN RAPID Z IN OMAN W GT , AST ON MERCEDES-BEN STED 2011 BM G TE F ZAWAWI TRADIN

CONCEPTS DEMYSTIFIED 9 TOP TALENTS EXAMINED!

Visit us online at www.automanweb.com

G! CIN T UN NO NT THA N EVE ANGE E HE L CH U VAL IL W YOU R A OW UR C H YO

YOUR CAR’S SEAL OF EXCELLENCE!

MORE THAN 250 MODELS, 40 BRANDS, 15 CATEGORIES AND ONLY ONE WINNER IN EACH CATEGORY!
announces the thrills and prestige of its own Car of the Year awards. With enough packed in to take you through the year and a unique format of selection, Automan’s COTY awards will reward the best models on offer in Oman in 2011 Look out in every issue of Automan till August 2011. When we test drive cars, we will not only judge each car for how good it is for you as a buyer, we will also possibly select it as our editorial nominee in one of 13 categories:

13 Categories for Reader Voting
If the car deserves the tag, we will tag it as “Editorial Nominee” for the category it best suits. Look out for this logo on each story: EDITORIAL NOMINEE NAME OF THE CAR CATEGORY We will keep a running tally of all the editorial choices till August, after which, we will allow you, the reader to select further nominees through SMS and online at our website, all the way through till our October issue. And that’s when things get really exciting! The nominees in each category will go through a selection procedure that will result in one clear winner in each category. Additionally, our editors will also give two unique awards :

01 Small Car of the Year 02 Mid-size Car of the Year 03 Large Car of the Year 04 Premium Car of the Year 05 Luxury Car of the Year 06 Hot Hatch of the Year 07 Sports Car of the Year 08 Performance Car of the Year 09 Small SUV of the Year 10 Mid-size SUV of the Year 11 Large SUV of the Year 12 Premium SUV of the Year 13 Performance SUV of the Year

14 Best debut Model in Oman 15 Editor’s choice

At a glittering, year-end ceremony, the winners of each category will be awarded the Automan ‘Car of Year Award’ in its class.
www.automanweb.com
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editor-in-chief
Mohammad Al taie

Damage Control Mode
Japan continues to be in the news. Along with tremors and aftershocks, the Nuclear mess promises to be a long-term reminder of how our dependence on technology also makes us an unwitting slave to its terrors. We have been informed that the scale is somewhere close, though not equal to Chernobyl. Twenty years on the legacy of Chernobyl continues to haunt us, but it will take the Fukushima crisis to open our minds to alternatives. In the meantime we are presented with some issues - car production is teetering along, with some plants shut down, some running at reduced capacity and some hoping that committed supply of parts continue. Toyota has been extremely pro-active in sizing up the scale of the problem and giving early indications to the world of when it expects to be back to full production. Other car companies based in Japan haven’t been as open. As for other manufacturers worldwide, parts supply is going to be an issue though the chances are that some of them will post gains at the cost of the woes of the Japanese manufacturers. America’s big three have already either declared profits or have a
raj@alroya.net

AL roYA PreSS & PUBLiShinG Po Box: 343, Postal code 118 Al harthy complex Sultanate of oman email: automan@alroya.net Website: www.automanweb.com editorial office: tel: +968 24479888 extn 300, fax: +968 24479889 circulation office: tel: +968 2456 2360, fax: +968 2456 2194 PUBLiSher hatim Al taie editor & GM raj Warrior

hatim@alroya.net

significant turnaround underway. We have been speaking to a range of industry contacts on the importer side of the business and the worry is apparent in the conversations. Dealers are having to second guess the market. As it is the supply chain is quite long for car supply. Three month lead-times are the norm and even at that dealers usually carry stocks for longer than that especially if something happens to the buying environment in between. Thankfully the present moment does not seem to have much in terms of demand side issues. regional growth is steady and increased money supply in the market should aid liquidity and consumer confidence. But will there be cars to choose from? Oddly enough enough we may see consumers going through the entire demand-supply cyclic in this two-year timeframe. We do see a bit of a market shakeout happening and dealers seem to be digging the trenches already. In the local market, KIA, Hyundai and the American brands will consolidate their growth though it may be in a stagnant marketsize. And the luxury brands seem set to enjoy another year of not being ‘significantly’ affected by the financial woes of the world. In all this the Euro zone is still a sore point, what with Greece, Ireland, Iceland and Portugal repeatedly coming up in the news for all the wrong reasons.

execUtive editor chandan B Mallik chandan@alroya.net co-ordinAtor Pratibha n Kadam deSiGn Sawsan Al Muharbi

pratibha@alroya.net

sawsan@alroya.info

heAd of MArKetinG Maged Aziz maged@alroya.net MArKetinG Supreme Philips circULAtion books@alroya.net finAnce & AdMin Abraham daniel daniel@alroya.net Printer ruwi Modern Printers LLc tel: +968 2479 4167, 2479 8157 fax: +968 2470 0545

philips@alroya.net

© 2011 All editorial content of Automan in the magazine and its website is copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the management of AL roYA PreSS & PUBLiShinG Automan accepts unsolicited exclusive editorial material, but reserves the right to publish any such material. once published, the copyright for any such material will vest with AL roYA PreSS & PUBLiShinG

in this issue
SPECIAL FEATURE

{ROAD TEST}

K
Name Hyundai Blue2 What is it a FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) Where did it debut? 2011 Seoul Motor Show Source of inspiration The Blue2 gets its name from a combination of Hyundai’s environmentally-friendly division ‘Blue Drive’, and the number ‘2’ - as in H2, the symbol for hydrogen. Technical highlights The concept is powered by a fuel cell electric system that delivers 120hp of power and fuel economy of 34.9km/l. The impressive fuel economy is aided by low-resistance tyres and alloy wheels which are optimized to improve aerodynamic performance. The Blue2’s styling was driven by the design department’s keywords of ‘Intersected Flow’. What that means in words normal humans use is that the Blue2 has flowing body contours which are broken up by additional styling features - the black stripe which underscores the doors for example. The Hyundai Blue2’s condition is visible via unique images on the exterior of the car displayed on the outside via LED screen panels, which are located on both the front and rear of the car. Conventional side mirrors are replaced by side cameras and a roof camera. The Hyundai Blue2 concept also features a ‘welcome system’ which recognizes the driver and also opens the door automatically. The exterior styling is mirrored inside the Blue2, with asymmetrically-designed dashboards and doors. Wider seats enable people to get in and out of the vehicle more comfortably. Overall purpose/significance A solid stance coupled with the no-nonsense design means that it looks more like a mid-range luxury car than an affordable Hyundai.
Conventional side mirrors are replaced by side cameras and a roof camera, offering a state-of-the-art driving environment.

Small with big ambitions
With the A1 hatchback, Audi aims to lure first time buyers into the supermini segment as well as the brand. Automan checks out the Belgian-built car in Germany, a few weeks before its official Middle East debut
Author Chandan B Mallik

Automan’s takew Good news for future customers because Hyundai says that the Blue2 gives a hint of its blueprint for future sedans.

The car is equipped with low-resistance tyres and alloy wheels which are designed to improve aerodynamic performance.

Hyundai’s concept keywords for the exterior design are ‘Intersected Flow,’ featuring innovative and dynamic designs.

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The exterior designs flow inside the vehicle, with asymmetrically-designed dashboards and doors to optimize a driver’s convenience and add emotional value.

<< Hyundai is balancing design and innovation in concepts >>
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EDITORIAL AUDI A1

NOMINEE

HOT HATCHB

ACK

nowing how German premium automaker Audi currently operates, we have always wondered would the company ever consider and deliver a supermini package? It’s segment that it had almost abandoned after the poor commercial success with the aluminium bodied A2 several years ago. For Audi, it would not be an impossible job given the recent trend of its new model introductions and the boxes that would be ticked for such a project would surely include understated styling with a classy image and great powertrains and handling dynamics. With efficient smaller cars gaining market share all over the world, Audi now looks at the premium end of the supermini market with its A1 3- and 5-door hatchbacks. And somewhere in-between it also wants to prove that the company which can produce supercars like the R8, can also be equally good in producing smaller packages. And that’s what brought us to Berlin where we were invited to find out how much of this promise really stands. Although, the A1 is mechanically based on Volkswagen’s PQ25 platform which is also used in the SEAT Ibiza Mk4 and the VW Polo Mk5, Audi has taken extra measures to ensure that the car doesn’t appear as a badge engineered clone. To begin with it’s been given its own set of clothes and an individual profile. While, the A1 and VW Polo share the same 8-foot, 1.2inch wheelbase, but at 12 feet, 11.6 inches in length, the A1 is about an inch shorter than the Polo. The A1 is planned with several trim levels and many cosmetic options and will be marketed accordingly, and hence if one thinks that the entry-level models appear a bit anonymous, it’s not surprising. Also not surprising is the fact that the car’s neat proportions and compact dimensions confirm it as a MINI or 500 rival, but this baby Audi definitely lags behind the retro charms of competition. But as a lifestyle proposition, Audi is offering several interesting lifestyle and performance options ranging from simple things such as contrasting windscreen pillars, alloy wheels or stiffened suspension. Distinguishing features between the entry level and top end models are things like snazzy Xenon headlamps and eye-catching signature LED daytime running lamps. We would say the interior of the A1 is expressed in every last detail, typical of Audi—be it in the selection of the materials, in their fit and finish and in the tight tolerances. What doesn’t get missed to the trained eye is the fact several components have been heavily inspired or been donated from the flagship A8. In the electronics department, it’s the state-of-the-art multimedia interface (MMI), navigation system and Bose stereo. Aside from this kit, the aluminium trim,
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News

From Oman and the region

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braNdwaTch
From around the world Concept cars de-mystified

Saab’s financial woes

Top headliNes special feaTure

8 10

PREVIEW

PREVIEW

EXECUTIVE
EXPRESS
Author Chandan B Mallik

Refreshed for 2011 mid-cycle, the second generation Mercedes-Benz Viano people’s carrier offers ever better levels of comfort and performance efficiency than before

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iNTerview
CHOOSING A
FAMILIAR CAR

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56 57

When the options are clearly defined, choosing a car becomes so much a matter of ticking all the right boxes. But what happens when the car that ticks all the right boxes is one you never thought you would buy?
Author Raj Warrior

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question that I often have to answer is “which is the best car?” Now that’s an easy one to answer for I follow the dictum of trying not to place myself in anyone’s shoes. “The best car is the one that does the job best” is usually the one line answer I dole out. Now why do I find it so surprising that I have to face the outcome of this in my own choice of car? It has been sometime since I actually went through the motions of buying a car. One of the perks of being a car journalist is the amount of time I usually spend in someone else’s car. So when it comes to my personal choice I have no set wish list. I have at various times in my nine years here in Oman owned Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover, Mazda 6, smart fortwo and even three motorcycles. So when I gave up my last car, the Range Rover, I spent most of my commuting in a loaner Pajero and then used a rent a car Mazda 3 for almost a year. So the decision to buy a car again wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be – firstly the car had to meet the needs of my growing family, offering a regular 5-seater experience and an optional 7-seater layout when the need crops up. Then considering

A

the part-time nature of its occupancy there was really a disincentive against putting too much money in a second car. And thirdly, I have always been comfortable buying good condition pre-owned cars, since I have the means and resources to ensure that the cars are mechanically good and continue to be well-treated. Well, three weeks into my search and I found myself the proud owner of a Citroen C4 Grand Picasso. Huh! And come again, huh! At the outset, I had looked at various other options including some rather juicy deals on run-out models of SUVs and some equally good deals on dealer demo cars. However, in one such interaction I found out about a stock clearance action on some of the older stock with Citroen and almost before I knew it, the car was mine. It is at that juncture that the self-doubt sets it. What have I done? Does this car really make any sense? But I guess that every groom must have the same feeling after marriage too. The C4 Grand Picasso not only lives up to the scrutiny, it passes it with flying colours. To start off with, the C4 Grand Picasso is not an old model. Introduced in the 2006 Paris

Motorshow, the car is part of the broader C4 range that includes the C4 Picasso and the C4 Hatchback and Sedan models. Note the absence of the Grand tag in the other Picasso. The Grand Picasso is the 7-seater, while the C4 Picasso is the 5-seater. In the region, the car is available with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, rated at 143bhp and 200Nm of torque, combined with an automatic 4-speed gearbox. You have to drive the car to appreciate the role the engine plays in making it among the most sensible cars in the market. In terms of styling, there isn’t any other car that quite comes close in being so “over the top”. Yes it is a MPV in many senses, so Citroen has gone all out to emphasise it in the sweep of an unbelievably large windscreen, the large windows and the presence of a panoramic sunroof. From the shoulders upwards the car is almost entirely glass! The car has presence and with the hints of chrome and large wheels of the high spec model I had brought, the Grand Picasso draws you in to have a look at the features that set it apart.

Craig Hardie, CEO Zawawi Trading

cover sTory TesTed

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Lexus LFA hot lapped

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FACE TO FACE

{COVER

STORY}

IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Mercedes-Benz and its official Oman partner Zawawi Trading Company seem to have weathered the market conditions much better than key rivals. Automan speaks with Craig Hardie, the organisation’s current CEO about its success story

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raig Hardie, the current CEO of Zawawi Trading Company [Automotive], the authorized general distributor for Mercedes-Benz in the Sultanate of Oman is no stranger to the region. A hardcore retail and marketing professional, Hardie’s recent assignments have included Head of Market Management Western Europe & Head of Marketing & Communication (EMEA) at Chrysler International and Head of Marketing & Communication Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge Middle East at DaimlerChrysler Middle East. Hardie joined Zawawi Trading in October last year and ever since has overseen the dynamic growth of both the organisation and the brand’s representation in the Sultanate. Automan met Hardie at the launch of the refreshed Viano launch in Muscat to find out more about the organisation, the brand and forthcoming plans.

It’s no secret that the year 2009 had been difficult for everybody in the automotive business including Daimler. 2010 showed some signs of recovery. How’s 2011 looking? First allow me to clarify that Daimler is the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, the regional HQ is based in Dubai, and Zawawi Trading Company is the Authorized General Distributor for Mercedes-Benz in the Sultanate of Oman. Things are definitely looking up this year, and Zawawi Trading has had a successful start to 2011, with overall sales up by 20 per cent in the first quarter of 2011. The major contributors were the E-Class with a significant growth of 42 per cent and the S-Class with a 15 per cent increase in sales when compared to the same period of 2010. Sales of our SUVs also improved by 4 per cent and overall this was an extremely positive result for us to kick-start 2011 and we expect this momentum to continue, with a very busy year predicted. There have been some incidents of unrest in some of the Middle East countries including Oman. Are these factors affecting your business -- if so in what way? Although some markets have seen some negative effects, we have not experienced any downturn in sales and continue to contribute to strong regional sales figures which compensate for those markets which have been affected. Obviously, situations like these, it tends to affect medium-long term buying decisions, especially within the expat community. What measures are you taking to reassure your present and prospective customers? Are you planning any dedicated programme? We have several ideas and one of our key strengths is the strong residual value of our tried and tested products. First, we are offering ‘Proven Exclusivity’: An approved pre-owned branded car program. All vehicles branded in the pre-owned cars section are less than five years old and have been driven less than 100,000km. Program ensures peace of mind for our customers who will get the opportunity to buy a manufacturer-backed vehicle with GCC specifications that has undergone a complete multipoint check before being put on the market. The second programme is the new Integrated Service Package (ISP) for S-Class and GL-Class customers which offers free maintenance service. ISP allows customers to maintain their new Mercedes-Benz vehicle to optimum operating condition for the best performance for a period of five years or 105,000kms, free of charge. You have had an extraordinary career with both principal and retailer. What differences and challenges do you find at both ends and which one thrills you more? I have had the privilege in working on three continents and exposure of over 55 countries through the past 21 years. I have spent 15 of the 21 years at retail/ general distributor level and the remaining 6 years with DaimlerChrysler and finally Chrysler Europe, Middle East and Africa. I find OEM and retail/general distributor very rewarding and exciting for different reasons. The difference is the

perspective and goals you need to focus on are very different. The OEM is generally working on a global or regional level for product development. At retail you are taking what has been developed and targeting the best performance you can in your market. However, you must be realistic that not every product will sell well in every market. There is rarely an automotive product built that will suit every global market. This can be for a number of reasons: engine size, local tax and duties, general market and buyer behaviour, CO2 local laws, etc. My career in the automotive industry began in the retail business, so I definitely have a spot for the retail/general distributor business. How is this aspect helping shaping up the future of the dealership and what kind of benefits can customers expect? The aim for Zawawi Trading Company over the coming years is to excel at representing the Mercedes-Benz brands by achieving benchmark practices at a regional and International level. This in turn will be experienced by our customers in their interaction with our sales and Aftersales teams. We are looking at how to be more convenient for our customers on both Sales and Aftersales fronts. We have introduced new Management into Zawawi automotive to bring international experience and skills into our processes. What’s your activity plan for the remaining months of 2011? 2011 is a momentous year for Mercedes-Benz as we celebrate 125 years since the invention of the automobile on 29 January 1886, by the founding fathers Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler. To mark the occasion, Zawawi Trading will be unveiling a host of new vehicles in Oman. The first half of the year is already moving forward at a rapid pace starting with the launch of the elegant four door coupe CLS and the C-Class facelift, which will then be followed by the introduction of a totally new model, the C-Class Coupé. The third generation of MercedesBenz’s most exciting and successful sports car ever built – the desirable SLK - will also be launched later this year. And just in case that is not enough, Mercedes-Benz are putting the icing on their one-and-a-quarter-century birthday cake with the ferocious convertible version of the breakthrough gullwing super sports car – the SLS AMG Roadster – which will be hitting the roads later this year. Frank Bernthaler at regional office had mentioned in an interview with us last year that despite working on low margins, Daimler was back on track with some improvement in sales in 2009. Although volume-wise the company admits a drop of 20 per cent year-on year, the important thing was to keep traffic in the Mercedes-Benz showrooms busy. How were you supported during the tough business period [2009-2010] by Daimler? In the wake of the crisis, customers were expecting savings and invested playing competitors against each other to ensure they got the best deal. To maintain our position as the leading premium car brand in the Omani market, Mercedes-Benz, through the Regional Office in Dubai, supported Zawawi Trading Company with a three
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EDITORIAL

NOMINEE RAPIDE

ASTON MARTIN PREMIUM CAR

2011 Aston Martin Rapide 2011 Audi A1 2011 BMW GT

Automan checks out Aston Martin’s first four-door sports car, the 2011 Rapide in Oman
Author Chandan B Mallik

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close encounters with a rapide kind

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ower, beauty, and performance are three things that would matter more to us than practicality in a luxury sports car that we might be evaluating. And it’s no denying that in this day and age there are just a handful of exotic brands that can make a grand entry like an Aston Martin. However, till just a few years ago, barring the short period when Aston Martin produced Lagonda badged four seaters – the Gaydon, UK-based British carmakers’ range of sports cars were strictly limited to two-seaters only. With the arrival of the Rapide, one of Aston’s newest models last year, that equation has been permanently changed altogether. As with the increasing global trend of demanding top end cars, it’s no secret that the arrival of the Rapide in the region was also eagerly anticipated in the Middle East. But to think it’s the extra pair of doors and two

more seats lets that allow four adults to share the Aston experience without sacrificing the gorgeous looks or performance in Aston model would be some sort of underestimation. First of all, this 21st century four-door model owes a lot to its siblings in its creation and it’s not surprising when you have engineer-turned-CEO Dr Ulrich Bez’s guiding Aston Martin’s engineers to create a highly flexible ‘V/H architecture’ platform which can accommodate models like the DB9 or DBS and now the bigger Rapide. Despite it being five metres long [almost as long as a MercedesBenz S-Class or Maserati Quattroporte], the car’s front end looks identical to any other model in the current line-up such as the DB9 or V8 Vantage. While many in the business consider the Rapide as a long-wheelbase DB9, the flip side being that a Vantage is technically also a short wheelbase DB9. Whatever the

argument, we are pretty sure, in its heart and soul, none of them are same at all despite apparent similarities in construction such as the glued and riveted space frame and application of lightweight and strong carbonfibre resin composites in its structure. Meanwhile, the Rapide’s headlamps are lined with LED’s in the same way and the corporate signature grille resides up front. As expected the long bonnet is sculpted with more than a passing similarity with the V8 Vantage. Despite the visual similarities externally, the Rapide has a standalone profile, and yet remains strictly within the Aston Martin family guidelines. The car’s beautiful profile is also a result of design and fine attention to detailing. For instance, the usually exposed B-pillar is hidden behind the side windows in this car, which not only looks fantastic but also adds to a class appeal. The frameless window design

raNdoM pick
Citroen C4 Grand Picasso

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{COVER

STORY}

cover sTory 36
T

preview

LFa's first date at yas marina

2011 Lexus LFA super car shows its prowess at the Yas Marina Circuit in UAE
Author Chandan B Mallik

he LFA is the first supercar built by Lexus and it sits right on the top of the line-up as the ultimate flagship model within the performance F portfolio. While, the limited production car has been proving its credentials at tracks all over the world, it recently added Yas Marina to its ever growing list of track conquests. While, Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi is proving to be a popular venue for track events and testing high performance cars, the Middle East action debut of the LFA took place here a few weeks ago. Those familiar with the track will agree that the north loop has a special place in the hearts of spirited drivers as it throws both a challenge to both man and machine. As always, it’s a delight to participate in such demanding events and with the LFA it was no exception. Once out of the pit lane, even with 560bhp on tap, the car doesn’t need to be pushed aggressively to appreciate its power and road-hugging ability. The fun begins when the paddle-shifters are engaged in the sportiest setting where the gear swaps are snappy. In normal paces, as expected, the gearbox is a bit clunky in slow traffic with a few rattles and hisses here and there as the clutch engages and disengages, but that’s expected since this is by far the best single-clutch hydraulically actuated transmission available on the market. Another feature that brings the LFA much closer to track cars is the fact it has no adjustable damping systems. Even though some may consider this as a handicap, the LFA has a ride that’s not harsh, especially when considering that the car is also tuned for track use. Tackle a corner a bit more aggressively and the LFA responds with quick turn-in. On the straights where the car can literally stretch its legs, touching 250km/h is done so easily with absolute stability and confidence. We also noted that the force required to achieve a downshift with the shift paddle is marginally more than that required to upshift – a feature specifically ordered by the car’s chief engineer. We also must appreciate the way the engine has been configured to offer optimised performance on road [day to day driving] as well as some track fun. We know, there’s been involvement of Yamaha, who are acclaimed for the superiority in designing compact V-architecture engines and high-speed valvetrain expertise. Lexus and Yamaha have achieved the goal of giving quick and smooth engine response character in the LFA’s V10, and to do that, there’s some interesting technology applications involved such as individual throttle bodies for each cylinder, forged aluminium pistons and carbon-coated rocker arms with integrated oil jets, titanium connecting rods and valves. The result is that all these contribute to the engine’s ability to rev from idle to 9,000 rpm in just eye blinking 0.6 sec. In fact, the powerplant revs up so quickly that only a digitally simulated analog tachometer can keep up with it! On track, also we discovered that the LFA’s V10 is a superb engine with a lot of grunt. Like a track racing car it loves to be revved hard. With 90 per cent of the torque available from around 3,700 rpm, there’s none of the low-rpm issues that common with particularly high-revving engines. While the car’s acceleration is blistering fast on the straights, Lexus claims the LFA with its six-speed, single-clutch automated manual transmission gets to 96km/h in 3.7secs and will reach a top speed of 320km/h. Although it isn’t a direct shift gearbox [DSG], it feels well suited to the engine’s character and is so flexible that you can run the car at speeds as high as 166km/h on third gear without flinching. On an equal note, downshifts via the paddles are a delight both for the driver and aural pleasure. Lexus claims that the LFA engine has been acoustically perfected to deliver an incredible F1-like sound that changes dramatically at different revs and the signature soundtrack has been dubbed the ‘Octave Harmony’ by it’s creators.
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2011 Nissan Sunny 2011 M-B Viano

facTory Tour
Porsche Leipzig

MoTorsporTs chicaNe

Formula One, WRC, MotoGP A world in flux

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Su 1 8 15 22 29

Mo 2 9 16 23 30

Tu 3 10 17 24 31

We 4 11 18 25

Th 5 12 19 26

Fr 6 13 20 27

May

posTer

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117 | MAY s conc A Clas ept

2011

Benz edes Merc

regional news}
oman is first for tHe all-new 2011 dodge durango

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hofar Automotive, the official importer-retailer of Chrysler Group LLC products launched the all-new 2011 Dodge Durango in Oman last month. As a milestone event, the sultanate also became the first country in the Gulf to bring the American SUV to Dodge aficionados. It’s now pretty clear that Chrysler Group is on an overdrive and the new Durango is one of the products that will lead brand’s new product onslaught for 2011. Effectively, Dodge is jumping back into the trendy unibody sport utility (SUV) segment with the new Durango which offers three-row accommodation and is spacious enough to haul people and tuned to thrill anyone who truly loves to drive. The vehicle will be offered in five versions and two powertrain set-ups. Chrysler Group’s new 290hp 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine will be available on the entry level while the top of the line model gets a 360hp 5.7-litre HEMI V8 engine. Both engines are offered with fuel efficient technologies. The new features two automatic transmissions and two available full-time all-wheel-drive systems designed to provide smooth operation of the vehicle over a variety of road conditions. Where competitors have switched to car-based platforms, the HEMI-powered, all-wheel-drive Dodge Durango features a low-range transfer case for light off-road recreation and to ease manoeuvres such as towing. “The new Dodge Durango appeals to customers who need the versatility of a crossover and capability of an SUV, but want the refinement and characteristics of a premium performance vehicle,” said Ahmed Hussain Nasr, regional sales manager, Chrysler Middle East. Price guide RO12,500 -RO19,500

refresHed mercedes-Benz Viano range launcHed in oman

Honda Jazz gets styling and detail cHanges for 2011
onda’s smallest member in the region, the global Jazz has been refreshed inside out. While, the European model line-up now includes a hybrid [no plans for it here as of now], market specific upgrades now ensure that the zippy compact is much better than before. While Europe sees the return of the CVT transmission to the range, GCC models are equipped with the 118hp 1.5-litre engine with five speed automatic gearbox. A newly developed torque converter helps the car deliver 14.8 kg-m torque. With the restyled front and rear ends, Honda claims better aerodynamic efficiency. Besides three new colours, the model is offered in two trim levels two trim levels [LX and EX]. Optional features include panoramic sunroof, 16in alloys, cruise control buttons and paddle shifters.

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n its segment, Mercedes-Benz Viano vans have been frequently defining new benchmark for large-capacity vehicles. For 2011, the Viano gets a host of improvements including some styling details and engineering enhancements. Viano’s in GCC will get Euro 5 emissions compliant 3.5-litre, BlueEFFICIENCY engine which is good for 258hp. BlueEFFICIENCY technology helps reduce emissions and fuel consumption while enhancing performance. Mercedes have completely reconfigured the springs, auxiliary

springs and shock absorbers and designed new bearings for the shock absorbers with emphasis on ride comfort and safety. Also the cockpit and passenger compartment are more user-friendly and attractively appointed than ever. The revised Viano is instantly recognisable by its “face”, featuring the Mercedes star in the style of the current passenger cars, and a newly designed rear section. The MercedesBenz Viano is available in four variants - Trend, Ambiente, Fun and long wheel based Marco Polo camper with open top. Price guide RO18,000-RO22,000.

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BrandwatcH

In deep waters?
is saab and its czar victor Muller in the final phases of automotive history? automan examines the possibilities
Author Chandan B Mallik

here are many questions about the future of Swedish automaker Saab to which there are no clear cut answers as of now. But what is clear is the fact that lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Victor Muller, head of Spyker Cars and current chairman of Saab Automobile and better known as the man who masterminded the deal to acquire the ailing company from GM in 2010 has a lot on his hands – sagging sales, hostile suppliers, liquidity issues and even conspiracy theories. Technically speaking, the suave and usually media savvy Muller has entered the world of intrigue, followed by corporate blunders and a volley of accusations – in other words, the man has bitten more than what he can actually chew. We take a look at developments over the past few weeks, analyse the facts and then try to understand what exactly is happening and what real options Saab’s czar Muller has, given the current scenario which is going from bad to worse.

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Figures speak
Saab reported a colossal loss and growing debt in 2010. Victor Muller accepted the fact that he had spoken too soon about the bright prospects of Saab. Spyker ignored its own branded luxury car figures - a small business which it is selling and said the much larger
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Saab lost $308mn on sales. Top of FormBottom of Form Muller isn’t expecting turn to profit in 2011, but vowed to earn money in 2012 as new products come on line. Share holders didn’t digest the facts and stocks of Saab subsequently lost its sheen and plummeted at the stock exchange.

Automan’s take: Did Muller open his mouth too early? It seems so, and his inexperience in handling corporate affairs at this level shows up like a sore thumb.

Supplier’s agony
No manufacturing entity which depends on external suppliers can afford to do this. Assuming Saab operates on the just-in-time inventory basis, the lifeline is severely affected if supplies are withhold or stopped. This is exactly what has happened. Saab’s production ground to a halt several times in the past couple of weeks because suppliers were not being paid and they stopped supplies.

was innocent or was this a pre-meditated and shrewd manouevre of using a small fish as bait to lure the big fish?

The big fish
In January 2010, Spyker made an agreement in principle with GM on buying the ailing Saab which it was desperate to offload. During negotiations, GM realised that the largest co-owner of Spyker (29.9 per cent) was the head of Converse Group Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov. GM raised objections about Converse Group, but agreed to sell Saab on condition that the Russian businessman was out of Spyker. The position of GM was reportedly linked to the suspected relations of Antonov to organized crime and money laundering.But Vladimir Antonov believes that in fact GM wants to keep the Russian investor out of Saab.

Automan’s take: It’s not surprising that Saab watchers can think of something as sinister given the alleged background of one of the proposers.

Future business forecast
It’s too early to say, as of now. First the production of the existing line-up has to come back on line. Then the aging line-up has to be freshened and perhaps new models, segments and markets where the brand isn’t represented need to be explored, nurtured and grown. All this needs to be factored in the business medium to long-term business plan in addition to an aggressive PR campaign.

Automan’s take: Regaining confidence of suppliers should be top on Muller’s agenda. To do this, he needs sufficient doses of working capital and dollops of reassurance. Be it banks, government bail outs or private funding.

The Russian connection
The name of Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov has been associated with Victor Muller on more than one occasion. Actually, Muller’s connection with Antonov stems back to 2005 when the former was head of Spyker. Antonov apparently offered to join his Converse group to the capital of Spyker. Muller was not interested, because at the time he had serious sponsors [Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala b e i n g

Bail out options
The issue with the loan is that Bank Snoras is controlled by Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov, who has alleged ties with organized crime. Sweden extended Saab a $577mn loan, giving the country final say in any ownership changes. Sweden is currently reviewing the loan proposal, but it remains to be seen when a decision might be handed down. Meanwhile, Vladimir Antonov –the majority Spyker shareholder who GM has prevented from taking a stake in Saab has put in a request to Sweden’s National Debt Office last month to invest in the carmaker. Antonov has said that his company was ready to invest $70m in Saab and in return wants to take a 30 per cent stake in the company.

Automan’s take: Question is: does Saab have a viable business plan? And bigger than that, why did Saab chief executive Jan-Aake Jonsson, unexpectedly announce last month that he would be stepping down? The 59-yearold CEO, who has lead the Swedish automaker for six years, will be best remembered as an executive who fought tooth and nail to keep the brand alive, by working on an ambitious plan to revive an aging product line-up.

Moving forward
Whether it is Victor Muller just playing his games or whether it is an orchestrated business strategy masterminded by Antonov is not clear. But what is clear is that fact that cash flow is the fundamental basis of any business plan and it seems that Saab watchers are beginning to feel that a good part of the cash crunch is actually being engineered by Muller and company. How long can Muller buy time by citing current problems as “a small glitch.” Is this the beginning end of the road for Muller, personally with Saab?

one of them]. Spyker was doing well and by 2006 it almost reached a break-even point. Meanwhile, over ambitious Spyker bought the team Formula 1, and that proved to be a costly affair. Muller’s company got a lot of PR and hype, but it also drained the company’s business in less than a year, and by the end of 2007 Spyker was on the verge of being almost bankrupted. Antonov called Muller again and repeated his previous offer. Muller caved in and in January 2007 inked the deal. As a result, a part of Converse Group - Lithuanian Bank Snoras - became the main shareholder of Spyker.

Automan’s take: The authority, which has a say in ownership changes because it guaranteed a European Investment Bank (EIB) loan to Saab, said it would give its answer in a few weeks. If approved, it would be a win-win situation for both Muller and Antonov -- A face saver for Muller and official entry for Antonov in Saab. Muller needs to quickly think of a solid fallback plan should the decision swing against.

Automan’s take: The problem is that Bank Snoras is controlled by Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov, who has alleged ties with organized crime in Russia. Was Muller not aware that a front company was being used to gain some sort of credibility at the cost of Spyker? If Muller didn’t, can he claim that he
Breaking news

Conspiracy theories
During the ongoing crisis, there are several rumours doing the rounds. Among them, the one which is on the podium: is this cash crunch being deliberately engineered to help get SAAB into Russian ownership?

Automan’s take: No points for guessing that the current crisis is not an easy one to overcome, given the complications, conspiracy theories, mind games and transparency. But, Muller could be treading thin ice with this Antonov connection. Actually, Muller doesn’t have to look far. Uwe Gemballa, noted German Porsche tuner was found shot dead after reportedly going missing in South Africa. Grapevine suggested that Gemballa had turned towards Czech fugitive and South African organized crime boss, Radovan Krejcir for a business alliance which apparently went sour.

Ailing Saab’s last minute financial lifeline has come from funds raised after the company has been permitted sell off some real estate holdings, offices and production facilities to Antonov who plans to lease them back to Saab.
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{Headlines}

Ward’s ‘Best car interiors’
While most car awards are dedicated to categories where the criterion is usually overall performance and utility packaging, seldom there’s an award dedicated from a consumer’s point of view – a place where most of the time is spend in a car. Ward’s Auto, which is also know for the awarding car makers the equivalent of ‘Engine Oscars’ every years has now released a list of the best car interiors in a number of different vehicle segments for this year. Surprisingly, only two luxury brands have made it in this programme. Ward’s Auto includes both cars and trucks. The main categories are then divided into segments, with

TOP HEADLINES

Automan’s take: What is interesting is that top class interiors are now no more exclusive to premium

This year’s top 10 winners
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Audi A8

2
BMW X3 xDrive35i

The car boasts significantly better rear leg- and elbow room and its cargo space is now claimed to be the class leader with rear seat folded down. The New devices, interfaces and comforts go hand in hand with real wood trim. The standard leather upholstery and trim had that expensive look and feel. In legroom, the A8 splits the difference between the BMW and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans. interior of the car comes with tasteful surfaces and typical BMW dark dashboard moldings contrast with lighter lower sections and carpet colours. Highgrade wood trim accents are used sparingly on the centre console, door trimsand above the glovebox.

3

Chevy Cruze 2LT RS

4
Dodge Charger Rallye Plus

marks a shift in the qualitative thinking of GM. The twin pod interior styling of the bigger Malibu influences the Cruz. Overall quality is now enhanced with high line materials and increased precision fit and finish. Soft-touch panels now occupy many parts of the cabin, including the dash and doors and all models get leading infotainment packaging such as a stereo system with MP3 playback capability, six speakers and an auxiliary jack for personal playback devices. A premium Pioneer sound system is available, as is a USB port for iPod operation. Other available technologies include Bluetooth and a navigation system. If the last model had a cheap car interior, the new one is benchmarking premium German merchandise. Pentastar engine models include Base, Rallye and Rallye Plus trim packages and these cars have all black or off-set black with red seats and accents or black with tan seats and accents or black and light frost seats and accents in the interiors. It’s more of a hit than a miss, with real metal dashboard components and a complete absence of tacky, scratchy trim lines.

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list for 2011 announced
one winner named in each category. After driving the vehicles over a two month period, judges evaluated them during their daily driving cycles and awarded points for design, material selection, fit-and-finish, ergonomics, driver information, safety, value and comfort. From a field of 51 new models, it was the 2011 Audi A8 and 2011 BMW X3 which qualified for the top honours in the premium segment. Highlights of the A8 were its high-gloss wood on the seat backs and suede inserts on its stylized door innards. The car’s gear lever was also praised for its ergonomic design, which acts as a rest for the lower part of the hand while working the new MMI controller. Of more surprise was the U.S.built X3, which testers praised for its two-tone black-and-cream interior colour scheme and wood trim. Superior fit-and-finish and ample space for five occupants were also highlights, and even the latest iDrive controller got the thumbs up.

brands only. Even budget brands can throw up a few surprises – take the Ford Focus or new Hyundai Elantra for instance!

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Ford Focus Titanium
The Focus has a wrapped around the driver cockpitstyle interior. The cockpit is also host to Ford’s latest driver connect technology, MyFord. The system uses stateofthe-art combination of controls and display screens to operate the key vehicle features. On higher spec models, MyFord system includes an eight inch touch screen which allows a wide range of functions via a clear and intuitive colour display. MyFord is complemented by SYNC connectivity package, which integrates voice control system, Bluetooth and satellite navigation, along with connection points for a wide variety of external devices and media players.

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Honda Odyssey

The all-new 2011 Honda Odyssey seeks to redefine the concept of the minivan. The 2011 model’s lower roofline and wider track contribute to a sleeker, stronger and more dynamic presence and opens up new opportunities for the interior. Honda has set up the MPV to carry seven to eight people in total or six adults more comfortably than any SUV. New interior features add more convenience for families, while available entertainment technology introduces high-definition connectivity and split-screen viewing. Overall, the car is loaded with gadgets and flexibility.

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Hyundai Elantra Limited
This new arrival draws praise for the design of its interior features, including the “curvaceous sensuality” of the instrument panel. Ward’s AutoWorld Editor-in-Chief Drew Winter said that the auto “delivers enough flair to suggest the South Korean automaker is finding its own unique interior design language. The Elantra offers more interior room than Focus, Cruze, Civic or Corolla. Hyundai also offers premium features such as a proximity key with push button start and immobilizer, power sunroof, one touch driver’s window and leather seating surfaces, audio system with six-speakers and iPod/USB/ auxiliary input jacks and touch-screen navigation in higher spec models.

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Jeep Grand Cherokee
The redesigned interior offers four more inches of legroom in the rear seat and 19 per cent more cargo space. European in flavor and execution, it features rich materials and elegant appointments, as well as more room for five passengers and cargo. The rear seats recline for comfort enabling passengers to look up at the sky through the optional Panoramic sunroof that extends over both rows of seats.

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Kia Optima EX
Offering occupants both space and comfort with a number of standard convenience features, the saloon’s chic cabin unifies with its all-new exterior des i g n language. In addition to offering a comfortable cabin, impressive technology features such as a high end audio system with MP3 compatibility, auxiliary and USB audio input jacks, Bluetooth connectivity with steering wheel-mounted voice activation controls are some of the key features. Premium features include push-button start, smart key, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way powered driver’s seat, illuminated glove box, rear reading lamps and chrome door handles.

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Volvo S60
In the S60’s elegant new coupé-like design, designers have packed it with sporty leather seats and genuine aluminium trim. Instruments and central console are angled towards the driver to create a sensation of focus and control. The central console also hosts the optional 7in TFT display screen. Innovative features include electronic climate control system which offers automatic control of both temperature and ventilation. And then there’s an interior air quality monitoring system. The car has also been equipped with clean zone interior system and when the car is unlocked using the remote control, the passenger compartment is automatically ventilated if the outdoor temperature exceeds 10°C.

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news Headlines
Production Bugatti Galibier could be launched in 2013
Nearly two years after the five-door Bugatti 16C Galibier concept was unveiled, a new report suggest that the model has been green-lighted for production as the world economy continues to improve. Although rumoured previously, news agency Bloomberg cited two unidentified sources who say the Galibier will be launched in 2013 or 2014 with a base price of approximately $1.42mn. The production Galibier hatchback will most of its sleek styling and will be endowed with a bespoke interior. A supercharged 8.0-litre 16-cylinder engine offering close to 800hp is expected to find place.

According recent media reports, Aston Martin and Daimler have signed an engine and platform sharing agreement. While this has been rumored since 2008, the two companies actually signed an agreement in late 2010. Aston Martin will build the low volume Maybach at their factory in Gaydon, England and in return, Daimler will reportedly give Aston the M/GL platform as well as the 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8. Furthermore, the British carmaker also stands to gain an undisclosed diesel engine, hybrid technology, and the 2013 S-Class platform for the proposed Lagonda sedan. Sounds interesting so far, but we think the forthcoming Frankfurt Motor Show in September will give us a clearer picture. While it is not easy anymore to entering the very top of the luxury saloon market [ask Maybach] which is virtually no match to the might of Bentley or Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin thinks it can make a dent in the hyper-exclusive market with the re-launch of its Lagonda brand. Ground reality is that both Aston and Daimler understand that a standalone profitable business plan for this cannot be achieved and hence both parties have decided to join hands. However, one question remains unanswered: does the partnership include a provision for Aston to include a new platform to eventually replace the aging VH architecture on which its entire line-up is now based.

Aston Martin and Daimler ink cooperation deal

Jaguar and Land Rover in model expansion mode
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Phil Popham, JLR’s sales and operations director has indicated that the brands will have “40 significant product introductions in the next five years.” Land Rover is reportedly eyeing a crossover that would slot below the LR2 and on the other end of the spectrum, the redesigned Range Rover is set to be unveiled in 2012 or 2013. In regards to Jaguar, there will be all-wheel drive versions of the XF and XJ besides possible estate variants and the much awaited X-type successor. Lastly, there is the possibility of an XFR-S and XE (or F-type) entry-level roadster. Jaguar says it is confident that in less than two years it will be able to produce an all-wheel-drive version of its flagship XJ sedan. This variant could coincide with the launch of the car’s mid-cycle refresh. Although the all-wheel-drive XJ is important for the American market, Jaguar is planning a raft of new and redesigned models to reinvigorate its sales around the world. Before the small luxury sedan is released, Jaguar is planning to release a four-cylinder diesel version of the XF.

Ferrari 599 successor has Lamborghini Aventador in sight
It’s an open fact that Lamborghini’s new Aventador flagship supercar features a new 700hp V12 engine. Does this mean that Lamborghini will be the sole benefactor in this segment? Apparently, no because we are aware that Ferrari has plans for no fewer than cars by 2013. With the replacement for the 599 GTB Fiorano being on the top of the list, we are sure that Ferrari isn’t planning to be outclassed or outnumbered by cross-country rival Lamborghini. So, what should we expect the development goal of Ferrari 599 successor to look like? For starters, we think Ferrari’s next-generation 599 will arrive with at least 700hp on tap. And despite talk about twinturbo V8s and HY-KERS hybrid systems, Ferrari’s big grand-tourer is expected to get a version of the direct injected 6.3-litre V12, which is being used in the FF. Although, the FF will arrive earlier with a complicated all-wheel drive system, the 599 successor is expected to remain faithful to rear-wheel drive.

Cadillac SRX to get bigger engine

Holden US programme approved
According to a well-known US website, internal GM documents have revealed green light for a Holden designed and engineered model for US. GM Inside News (GMI) says the documents show America’s biggest car-maker has given the tick to the program for an ‘SS Sedan’ based on the Australian car after the project was pushed back two years from an original launch date of 2012 to fit with the arrival of Holden’s new VF model – thought to be a reskin of the current rear-drive VE. The website also says the documents also reveal that GM is considering adding the Commodore Sportwagon and pick-up to the Chevrolet ranks in the US, with the SUV being referred to in the documents as El Camino – the name used by Chevrolet for its legendary coupe pick-up between 1959 and 1987. Having said this, GMI, which is renowned for its internal GM contacts cautions that the wagon and pick-up programmes are still to be officially approved. It is also reported that GM global design chief Ed Welburn recently visited Holden’s design studios in Melbourne to look at the VF Commodore and other projects. The Americanbased GMI website says the documents in its possession reveal the codes for the Holdenbased Chevrolet cars, with the SS Sedan going under the tag Z2SC, the Sportwagon as Z2WC and the El Camino ute as Z2RC. We think the ‘Z’ pre-fix refers to Zeta – GM’s reardrive platform, while the ‘2’ might refer to the second generation of this platform.

The second-generation SRX launched almost three years ago will get a significant upgrade over and under the skin. For, 2012 the biggest news is that the SRX will get shoehorned a 300hp 3.6-litre V6, replaces the slightly underpowered 265hp 3.0-litre

portfolio. The new V6 will be standard on both front and all-wheel-drive SRXs and sixspeed automatic transmission will remain the only available gearbox. Cadillac claims that despite increase in displacement, the new engine will give the SRX a wider power band

In

Out

V6. Cadillac hasn’t indicated any plans for its 2.8-litre turbocharged V6. The incoming 3.6-litre V6 is code-named LLT and features direct injection technology. Several versions of the same engine are used in GM’s Lambdaplatform crossovers like the GMC Acadia, the Cadillac CTS and the Chevrolet Camaro, among other vehicles in GM’s product

with fuel economy penalties. In addition, 2012 SRXs will be offered with Bluetooth as standard kit (previously unavailable on the base front-wheel-drive model), a heated steering wheel as standard for all but the base model, relocated door lock switches and a new machined finish for the optional 20in alloy wheels.

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news Headlines
Seat to build Q3 CUV for Audi
Volkswagen Group’s Spanish subsidiary will start building the compact-sized, BMW X1-rivalling Audi Q3 SUV soon at its Martorell plant, 30km north-west of Barcelona. While struggling SEAT gets a much needed boost in production capacity and help saving jobs, Audi has postponed the decision on a possible US production facility for now. The Q3 will join Audi’s portfolio of crossover SUVs, which includes the new Q5 and Q7. In fact, the Q3’a platform is shared with a number of VW models, as well as the Audi A3 and hence it will get a transversely mounted powerplant. While the Q3 is technically a sibling of the VW Tiguan, but unlike the Tiguan, off-road capability will not on the list of Audi’s engineering targets, and instead the focus is on sportiness with the help of the company’s Quattro all-wheel drive. Details of the car were released a few days before the Shanghai Motor Show last month. ee

First details of SM7 large sedan released

UK turns down Lotus loan application
At the 2010 Paris Auto Show, Hethel, Norfolk, UK-based sports car maker Lotus shared some of its ambitious plans which included launch of up to six new models between now and 2015, as well as start inhouse development of its own powertrains. Lotus also admitted that to achieve this business objective, it would need additional financing. And to secure funding for the project, the company approached UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) for a $50mn loan. The government fund kitty is worth about $2.3bn, is designed to help kick-start local production capabilities and hopefully create jobs, but it appears that Lotus’ business plan didn’t meet the criteria. So, does this mean Lotus plans will see the cold storage? Not really, as the company has been secure a substantial loan from Malaysiabased financial institutions. The timely shot in the arm is expected to help the company’s turnaround plan which includes product development and upgradation of its UK facility. Should all go well, Lotus could break-even in 2014. While, the automaker is no doubt disappointed with the UK decision it isn’t going down without a fight. Lotus released a statement saying that the automaker was exploring all options, adding that a next step could be “submitting an updated bid for round two of the RGF (government loan), which is set to close on July 1.

Renault Samsung released a teaser sketch of the successor to its South Korean domestic market SM7 – which is large D-segment sedan days before the Seoul Motor Show. In its current form it is actually based on the previous-generation Nissan Maxima. The first images released show the incoming car to be much sleeker and modern with a sharply raked windscreen flowing nicely into a lowslung coupe-like roofline. A large Audi-style grille and elongated, upswept headlights that lead to a pronounced shoulder line point to

a stylish new direction for the French-owned South Korean car-maker. Compared with Samsung’s current range of conservatively styled offerings, the SM7 replacement’s new look comes at a time when the brand is in the process of raising its game -- at least in the design department. Engine details haven’t been revealed, although Renault Samsung has confirmed that the SM7 will be built on a stretched version of the platform underpinning the smaller SM5.

Aston Martin opens shop in India
Barely a year after entering the South American market, the British sports car manufacturer has jumped continents to open the doors to its first official showroom in the financial capital, Mumbai in India. “India represents a new opportunity for us and as part of our programme of growing the reach of the global Aston Martin dealership
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network; this expansion brings our brand to a different audience in a new market,” said Michael van der Sande, chief commercial officer in a statement. The new boutiquestyled showroom and service facility is located at Kemp’s Corner,in Mumbai. Aston Martin will offer its entire line-up for the Indian market.

Concepts de-mystified
Concept or show cars are great crowd pullers in any automotive car show. But are they just there for PR purposes or is there a hidden message somewhere? Automan examines some interesting recent concepts
Author Chandan B Mallik

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sPecial feature

Name Hyundai Blue2 What is it a FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) Where did it debut? 2011 Seoul Motor Show Source of inspiration The Blue2 gets its name from a combination of Hyundai’s environmentally-friendly division ‘Blue Drive’, and the number ‘2’ - as in H2, the symbol for hydrogen. Technical highlights The concept is powered by a fuel cell electric system that delivers 120hp of power and fuel economy of 34.9km/l. The impressive fuel economy is aided by low-resistance tyres and alloy wheels which are optimized to improve aerodynamic performance. The Blue2’s styling was driven by the design department’s keywords of ‘Intersected Flow’. What that means in words normal humans use is that the Blue2 has flowing body contours which are broken up by additional styling features - the black stripe which underscores the doors for example. The Hyundai Blue2’s condition is visible via unique images on the exterior of the car displayed on the outside via LED screen panels, which are located on both the front and rear of the car. Conventional side mirrors are replaced by side cameras and a roof camera. The Hyundai Blue2 concept also features a ‘welcome system’ which recognizes the driver and also opens the door automatically. The exterior styling is mirrored inside the Blue2, with asymmetrically-designed dashboards and doors. Wider seats enable people to get in and out of the vehicle more comfortably. Overall purpose/significance A solid stance coupled with the no-nonsense design means that it looks more like a mid-range luxury car than an affordable Hyundai.

Automan’s takew Good news for future customers because Hyundai says that the Blue2 gives a hint of its blueprint for future sedans.

Hyundai’s concept keywords for the exterior design are ‘Intersected Flow,’ featuring innovative and dynamic designs.

The exterior designs flow inside the vehicle, with asymmetrically-designed dashboards and doors to optimize a driver’s convenience and add emotional value.

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Conventional side mirrors are replaced by side cameras and a roof camera, offering a state-of-the-art driving environment.

The car is equipped with low-resistance tyres and alloy wheels which are designed to improve aerodynamic performance.

<< hyundai
is balancing design and innovation in concepts >>
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sPecial feature

Both generations of the A-Class were front-wheel drive, and the new A-Class is expected to be no different.

<< in 1993
Mercedes-benz ventured into a completely new vehicle class with the revolutionary concept of the vision a 93. The a-class concept is the first heartbeat of a new generation >>

Interior is flooded with light from the large panoramic roof and many of its unusual features were inspired by aircraft engineering.

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The concept features Mercedes’ new design cues that we’ve seen on the F800 concept and the CLS Shooting Brake concept. Prominent features include full LED headlamps, which include 90 optical fibers for daytime running lamps that form a wing shape within the lamps.

What is it Mercedes-Benz A-Class Concept Where did it debut? 2011 Auto Shanghai show Source of inspiration Designed with influence from the wind, waves, and aviation engineering. Technical highlights Previous generations of the A-Class used sandwich-style construction in a one-box profile. For the third-generation model, this philosophy has changed into a contemporary two-box format similar to that of the Audi A3, the BMW 1-series and the Volkswagen Golf. The exterior design of the Concept A-Class features free interplay with the body surfaces, theme first showed in the F 800 Style concept. The side view is structured by three prominent lines: the front structural edge above the front wing forms a dropping line, while the prominent shoulder muscle above the rear axle underlines the car’s coupé-like character. A further line extends upwards from the rear wheel arch in a sweeping curve. The cabin’s design takes its influence from a modern aircraft. The air vents are patterned after jet fighter’s afterburners and shift lever takes the form of a “reverse thrust control”. The car is fitted with a turbocharged BlueEFFICIENCY four-cylinder petrol engine based on the new M270 series and a dual clutch transmission driving the front wheels. The 2.0-litre engine develops 210bhp. Overall purpose/significance Quite clearly, Mercedes-Benz is looking at new emerging markets such as China and India for a volume player and at the same time is hoping that the fresh design and eye-catching detailing will make the entry-level model more appealing to younger customers in its established global markets.

Automan’s take

Mercedes-Benz literally shocked the world when they first dropped the A-Class teaser sketch last month. And it gives a fairly strong design direction of what the next A-Class should look like when it arrives in 2012. Although the concept shown had a four-seater layout, expect the production version to offer a five- seat interior.

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sPecial feature

What is it Chevrolet Mi-ray Roadster Concept Where did it debut? 2011 Seoul Motor Show Source of inspiration ‘Mi-ray’ is Korean for ‘future’ and the roadster concept also celebrates Chevrolet’s 100-year heritage of designing stunning vehicles in the brand’s newest market. Technical highlights Developed exclusively at the GM Advanced Design Studio in Seoul, the design theme pays rich tributes to Chevrolet’s sports car heritage. It is small and open like the 1963 Monza SS, and light and purposeful like the 1962 Corvair Super Spyder. Its expressive, aerodynamic fuselage is reminiscent of modern jet fighters. Using the latest in hybrid technology, the car uses two front-mounted 15Kw electric motors powered by a 1.6-kWh lithium-ion battery that is also charged through regenerative braking energy. The Mi-ray has the capability of being switched from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive. For performance driving, the Mi-ray’s 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine combines with the electric motors, providing spirited torque control to both the left and right wheels as needed. The high-tech engine, mounted behind the cockpit, drives the rear wheels while seamlessly integrating electrification technology that defines a new standard in the compact roadster segment. A dual-clutch transmission (DCT) enables a reduction in the powertrain’s size by eliminating the torque converter. Overall purpose/significance The Mi-ray concept offers an exploration of future possibilities for the brand and attempts in creating a fresh look at what sports cars of the future might be from the bow-tie logo brand.

Automan’s take

By combining GM’s expertise in propulsion technology and mating it to visionary design in the Mi-ray, the concept certainly points to the future of Chevrolets around the globe – expressive, youthful and entertaining.

For an overall effect of sculptural velocity in the interior, the package contains a mix of brushed aluminium, natural leather, white fabric and liquid metal surfaces.

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The front and rear bumpers evoke Chevrolet Corvettes of the past and express the concept’s sports car spirit.

<<w The compact
open top Mi-ray pays tribute to chevrolet’s sports car heritage. it’s very much like the 1963 Monza ss and light and purposeful like the 1962 corvair super spyder >>

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sPecial feature

<< phantom eX102 or experimental electric concept will serve as
a working test bed for rolls-royce to evaluate the possibility of establishing alternative drive-train technology in future cars >>

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What is it Rolls-Royce 102EX Electric Concept Where did it debut? 2011 Geneva Motor Show Source of inspiration The ultra luxury carmaker recognises the need to look to the future and to plan for long-term sustainable growth. An investigation into alternative drive-train options is an important step in that process. Technical highlights Reinvention is part of being timeless and Phantom EE is the latest in a line of experimental vehicles from Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. It builds on a legacy which dates back to 1919 and 1EX. The Phantom EE began life as a stock Phantom. Its naturally aspirated 6.75-litre V12 petrol engine and 6-speed gearbox have been replaced by a lithium ion battery pack and two electric motors mounted on the rear sub-frame. These motors are connected to a single speed transmission with integrated differential. Each motor is power rated to 145kW, giving Phantom EE a maximum power output of 290kW and torque of 800Nm available over a wide band. This compares with 338kW for standard Phantom with maximum torque of 720Nm, delivered at 3,500rpm. The battery chemistry is based on high energy density technology which in turn helps in achieving an acceptable range between re-charges. Prelaunch tests suggests Phantom EE should run to a range of up to 200km. Delivered on an effortless wave of torque, 0-60mph will be achieved in under eight seconds (5.7sec in standard Phantom), with top speed limited to 160km/h. Re-charging is undertaken with a plug and five-pin socket which takes the place of the normal fuel filling mechanism for Phantom. Phantom EE is thought to have the largest passenger car battery in the world. Peak current is 850A, delivered at 338v DC. Overall purpose/significance Throughout 2011 Phantom EE will serve as a working test bed, giving owners, VIPs, the media and enthusiasts the opportunity to experience an established alternative drive-train technology and to feed back their experiences, thoughts and concerns directly.

Automan’s take While evaluation of new technology is an important part of any test programme, however, more fundamentally the car will seek answers to questions posed of Rolls-Royce owners: what their needs might be for the future considering factors such as range, performance and re-charging infrastructure.

102EX bears the famous hallmarks of the Rolls-Royce Phantom on which it is based, such as hand craftsmanship, fine detailing and iconic design cues like the pantheon grille and the Spirit of Ecstasy which celebrates its centenary in 2011.

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What is it Kia KV7 Concept Where did it debut? 2011 North American International Auto Show Source of inspiration Although, multipurpose vans at their very core, are simply boxy structures, Kia thinks there’s a genuine need of an reassessment due to the fact that everyone seems so desperate to attach the word ‘sporty’ to their MPVs. Technical highlights Kia’s gullwinged MPV study was conceived at the automaker’s California design studio and is a mix of fantasy, futurism and lifestyle. It has “lounge seating” that includes a couch and two oversized rounded swivel seats in the rear. The driver and front passenger seats are also capable of swiveling around, making the interior perfect for hanging out during breaks on a road trip. Riding on 20in wheels, the vehicle hits a height of 1,729 mm, and stretches to nearly 4,873mm in length. There is plenty of room to this vehicle, thanks to its 2,033mm width and extra generous 3,100mm wheelbase. The car uses a 285hp 2.0-litre direct injection turbo charged engine mated to automatic transmission. Overall purpose/significance Kia Motors’ design-led transformation has delivered eye-catching vehicles such as the Soul, Sorento and Sportage. Most of Kia’s new production models bear strong resemblances to the concept cars that preceded them.

Automan’s take

Although it would seem very much market specific, the Kia KV7 MPV design study has an interesting look that could inject some muchneeded style into the North American minivan segment.

<<kia Motors’ design-led transformation is ensuring that
customers can look forward to striking design language even in the traditionally not-so-stylish Mpv segment >>
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Downsizing is a key element in Renault’s strategy to meet its declared objective of being Europe’s leading automaker with regard to CO2 emissions along with the phased introduction of innovative user-friendly technologies

What is it Renault Captur concept Where did it debut? 2011 Geneva Motor Show Source of inspiration The design strategy is based on different stages of the human life cycle, with each phase taking the form of a specific concept car. The first, the two-seater DeZir coupé, expressed ‘falling in love’, the passion present at the beginning of any new adventure. With the Captur Concept, Renault addresses the second phase of this cycle, that of two people exploring the world around them. Technical highlights Based on the Nissan Juke platform, the Captur employs Renault’s new design cues which are flowing lines in a athletic body designed to mimic a sprinter on the starting blocks, according to its exterior designer, Julio Lozano. The car is fitted with a removable hard convertible top and when removed, the Captur transforms the urban coupe into a convertible with genuine off-road abilities. Key component in the equation is the 160hp 1.6-litre twin-turbo diesel engine paired with a new efficient dual clutch six-speed automatic that Renault claims can deliver up to 17 per cent greater fuel economy while reducing CO2 emissions to 99g/km. The car also features a new RX2 mechanical self-locking differential that can automatically direct torque to the wheel with the greatest amount of traction. Overall purpose/significance It’s no secret that Renault has been planning a line of new crossovers based on Nissan platforms and styled after the Captur concept. It may be recalled that at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, Renault revealed its new brand identity and now it is taking the idea forward.

Automan’s take
to it.

Renault takes a fundamental design language introduced on the DeZir concept car but adds a more technical and functional dimension

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<<The captur follows last year’s deZir
show car in showing the way forward for the french automaker’s design language and the brand’s future vision of being simple, sensuous and warm >>

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<< kia is also looking at future niche markets with stylish five-door, four-seater city, zero-emission electric cars >>
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What is it Kia Naimo electric concept Where did it debut? 2011 Seoul Motor Show Source of inspiration Taking its name from the Korean word “Ne-mo”, (pronounced ‘Neh-mo’, meaning ‘square shape’), the Naimo electric crossover utility vehicle (CUV) was conceived by Kia’s international design team in Seoul. Technical highlights The car has been designed as a five-door, four-seater urban runabout and its design is characterized by its simple lines and a solid muscular stance. It’s about 3,900mm long and does away with B-pillars. Rear doors are hinged to optimize access. Rear-view mirrors and traditional wipers are also scrapped in favour of miniature cameras and “air wipers” which clear water using a high-intensity air jet located at the base of the windscreen. Naimo’s interior was designed to evoke a strong sense of tranquility and features hand-crafted materials throughout. Korean oak is used to trim the interior door panels and the entire interior floor, Korean “Han-ji” paper is used for the head lining. Alongside these traditional elements sit modern features such as transparent organic light emitting diodes. The Naimo is powered by an 80 kW electric motor which Kia says produces maximum torque of 280Nm and will deliver a top speed of 150km/h, while the 27kWh Lithium Ion Polymer battery pack promises a range of around 200km on a single charge. Kia says the Naimo can be recharged to 80 per cent of its capacity within 25 minutes using a 50kW quick charge, with a full-charge taking five and a half hours using a conventional outlet. Overall purpose/significance The third electric vehicle concept explores the practicalities of introducing a zero-emissions in a city run about.

Automan’s take

Kia Motors seems to be heavily inspired by the purity and grace of traditional Korean arts and crafts, and combines this with cutting edge technologies to deliver a truly premium experience in a motor car.

The interior was designed to evoke a strong sense of tranquility and features hand-crafted materials throughout.

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What is it MINI Paceman Crossover concept Where did it debut? 2011 North American International Auto Show Source of inspiration It’s been a decade since BMW-Group revived and reincarnated the legendary MINI Cooper and it is high time for a befitting replacement. Technical highlights centre rail system and four individual seats. The styling is classic of the brand, featuring an oversized large centremounted speedometer and matching round air vents. Overall purpose/significance BMW Group, the current owners and custodians of MINI brand want to expand the line-up with meaningful variants. The MINI Paceman Concept is the first Sports Activity Coupé in the premium small segment of the market.

Automan’s take The current generation of MINIs are sold more on the lines of premium lifestyle offering than a cheap point A to point B transportation. With this new crossover, MINI will attempt to excite customers, particularly “young, modern, extrovert urbanites” that the company believes is ahead of the pack.

<< MiNi owes its commercial success due to its ability in creating innovative concepts for urban mobility >>

Mobile lifestyles in the big cities of the future has inspired the Paceman

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<< it is hugely doubtful that bMw will ever produce such a vehicle but it will surely retain its status as an exclusive one-off >>

A fun vehicle to the core with bundles of energy, oomph and practical applications.

What is it BMW M3 Pick-up concept Where did it debut? press function near Munich Source of inspiration A fourth body variant of the BMW M3 Coupé, M3 Convertible and M3 sedan Technical highlights The sanctified asphalt of Nürburgring was where this car was spotted first by spy photographers in April. BMW has indeed created a one-of-a-kind pick-up based on an M3. From the B-pillars forward, this prototype is all ground-hugging BMW M3. Yet at the rear, this car has more in common with a Chevy El Camino. This pick-up gets the same 4.0-litre, 420hp fire breathing V8. It also boasts a removable roof for open-air driving and the car boasts of a payload capacity of 450kg. Racing stripes done up in camouflage hinted at this being a factory-endorsed prototype, rather than the handiwork of some wacky private owner. BMW have no production plans for this one-off car and its career is earmarked for exclusive use as a workshop transport vehicle for BMW M GmbH. Overall purpose/significance BMW M GmbH provides top class evidence of its exceptional competence in developing and building high-grade individual dream cars

Automan’s take In this absurd world of motoring, what was initially thought of as a wicked April Fool’s joke turns out to be a real machine with a highrevving V8 engine at the front, a generously sized load area behind and a removable Targa roof above.

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face to face

In the rIght dIrectIon
Mercedes-Benz and its official Oman partner Zawawi Trading Company seem to have weathered the market conditions much better than key rivals. Automan speaks with Craig Hardie, the organisation’s current CEO about its success story

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raig Hardie, the current CEO of Zawawi Trading Company [Automotive], the authorized general distributor for Mercedes-Benz in the Sultanate of Oman is no stranger to the region. A hardcore retail and marketing professional, Hardie’s recent assignments have included Head of Market Management Western Europe & Head of Marketing & Communication (EMEA) at Chrysler International and Head of Marketing & Communication Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge Middle East at DaimlerChrysler Middle East. Hardie joined Zawawi Trading in October last year and ever since has overseen the dynamic growth of both the organisation and the brand’s representation in the Sultanate. Automan met Hardie at the launch of the refreshed Viano launch in Muscat to find out more about the organisation, the brand and forthcoming plans.

It’s no secret that the year 2009 had been difficult for everybody in the automotive business including Daimler. 2010 showed some signs of recovery. How’s 2011 looking? First allow me to clarify that Daimler is the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, the regional HQ is based in Dubai, and Zawawi Trading Company is the Authorized General Distributor for Mercedes-Benz in the Sultanate of Oman. Things are definitely looking up this year, and Zawawi Trading has had a successful start to 2011, with overall sales up by 20 per cent in the first quarter of 2011. The major contributors were the E-Class with a significant growth of 42 per cent and the S-Class with a 15 per cent increase in sales when compared to the same period of 2010. Sales of our SUVs also improved by 4 per cent and overall this was an extremely positive result for us to kick-start 2011 and we expect this momentum to continue, with a very busy year predicted. There have been some incidents of unrest in some of the Middle East countries including Oman. Are these factors affecting your business -- if so in what way? Although some markets have seen some negative effects, we have not experienced any downturn in sales and continue to contribute to strong regional sales figures which compensate for those markets which have been affected. Obviously, situations like these, it tends to affect medium-long term buying decisions, especially within the expat community. What measures are you taking to reassure your present and prospective customers? Are you planning any dedicated programme? We have several ideas and one of our key strengths is the strong residual value of our tried and tested products. First, we are offering ‘Proven Exclusivity’: An approved pre-owned branded car program. All vehicles branded in the pre-owned cars section are less than five years old and have been driven less than 100,000km. Program ensures peace of mind for our customers who will get the opportunity to buy a manufacturer-backed vehicle with GCC specifications that has undergone a complete multipoint check before being put on the market. The second programme is the new Integrated Service Package (ISP) for S-Class and GL-Class customers which offers free maintenance service. ISP allows customers to maintain their new Mercedes-Benz vehicle to optimum operating condition for the best performance for a period of five years or 105,000kms, free of charge. You have had an extraordinary career with both principal and retailer. What differences and challenges do you find at both ends and which one thrills you more? I have had the privilege in working on three continents and exposure of over 55 countries through the past 21 years. I have spent 15 of the 21 years at retail/ general distributor level and the remaining 6 years with DaimlerChrysler and finally Chrysler Europe, Middle East and Africa. I find OEM and retail/general distributor very rewarding and exciting for different reasons. The difference is the

perspective and goals you need to focus on are very different. The OEM is generally working on a global or regional level for product development. At retail you are taking what has been developed and targeting the best performance you can in your market. However, you must be realistic that not every product will sell well in every market. There is rarely an automotive product built that will suit every global market. This can be for a number of reasons: engine size, local tax and duties, general market and buyer behaviour, CO2 local laws, etc. My career in the automotive industry began in the retail business, so I definitely have a spot for the retail/general distributor business. How is this aspect helping shaping up the future of the dealership and what kind of benefits can customers expect? The aim for Zawawi Trading Company over the coming years is to excel at representing the Mercedes-Benz brands by achieving benchmark practices at a regional and International level. This in turn will be experienced by our customers in their interaction with our sales and Aftersales teams. We are looking at how to be more convenient for our customers on both Sales and Aftersales fronts. We have introduced new Management into Zawawi automotive to bring international experience and skills into our processes. What’s your activity plan for the remaining months of 2011? 2011 is a momentous year for Mercedes-Benz as we celebrate 125 years since the invention of the automobile on 29 January 1886, by the founding fathers Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler. To mark the occasion, Zawawi Trading will be unveiling a host of new vehicles in Oman. The first half of the year is already moving forward at a rapid pace starting with the launch of the elegant four door coupe CLS and the C-Class facelift, which will then be followed by the introduction of a totally new model, the C-Class Coupé. The third generation of MercedesBenz’s most exciting and successful sports car ever built – the desirable SLK - will also be launched later this year. And just in case that is not enough, Mercedes-Benz are putting the icing on their one-and-a-quarter-century birthday cake with the ferocious convertible version of the breakthrough gullwing super sports car – the SLS AMG Roadster – which will be hitting the roads later this year. Frank Bernthaler at regional office had mentioned in an interview with us last year that despite working on low margins, Daimler was back on track with some improvement in sales in 2009. Although volume-wise the company admits a drop of 20 per cent year-on year, the important thing was to keep traffic in the Mercedes-Benz showrooms busy. How were you supported during the tough business period [2009-2010] by Daimler? In the wake of the crisis, customers were expecting savings and invested playing competitors against each other to ensure they got the best deal. To maintain our position as the leading premium car brand in the Omani market, Mercedes-Benz, through the Regional Office in Dubai, supported Zawawi Trading Company with a three
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face to face
pronged approach. This included sales support throughout the year. Zawawi Trading Company was also supported by Mercedes-Benz through the development of core skills with our sales teams and improvements to our business and customer processes during the difficult economic climate. This support allowed us to not only weather the storm better than our competitors, but also come out fitter than we went in. In 2010, we also remember that Daimler regional office adopted a rather radical business strategy which prioritized cash flow running and help keep retail partners’ business ticking. The tools employed were tried and tested methods of the trade such as cash incentives and low margins to push metal and clear stocks. How’s the situation now? Is it the same or are there some differences? Oman has a long and rich history as an important trading hub for the region, and this heritage is evident today by the innate pride taken by the Omani people in ensuring the best outcome is achieved in everything they undertake. This has seen the Sultanate achieve unprecedented success, and garner respect on an international scale. Measures were taken during the crisis to offer our prestigious vehicles at more competitive prices, as well as focussing heavily on our Customer Relationship Management and Corporate Social Investment. However, Mercedes-Benz also takes pride in its history of offering products with the innate core values of safety, quality, reliability, comfort and efficiency, at prices that reflect the quality that a luxury brand such as this represents. Now that the global economy is in recovery and returning to normality, we are also returning to the Mercedes-Benz regional pricing strategy offered across the GCC, avoiding going down the same route of some of our competitors that may have negatively affected the luxury image of their brand by continuing to heavily discount their products. This return to fixed GCC pricing ensures that Mercedes-Benz retains its prestigious image and status as the leading premium car brand in the Omani market, offering a luxury product with higher residual value for our customers. Your performance in Q1 would have given you an indication of what you have to do next. What targets have you set and how are you going to achieve them? As earlier stated Q1 of 2011 has started off with a good footing, with sales up 20 per cent compared to the previous year which we intend to further bolster with the introduction of the several new vehicles. We also want to continue building our SUV market share through our ML and GL Grand Editions. Overall, we expect growth for the MercedesBenz products through 2011 and beyond. At regional level, there were talks of an all-out aggressive strategy to attack the premium Japanese brands with a comprehensive product-cum-packagingcum-pricing strategy at all levels. Has the plan been put into action? Mercedes-Benz is the number one premium automotive brand in the region, and leads both in terms of product and price. The Middle East in general is a very strong SUV market, which is where Mercedes-Benz has set their sights in terms of growing market share and is succeeding in doing so. A seven per cent increase in Mercedes-Benz ML and GL SUV sales was witnessed in 2010, compared to the same period in 2009. The wave of success continued in the first quarter this year due to the very successful AMG package offered for the ML and GL. The S-Class also enjoys the status of being the most successful luxury sedan in the region, and we expect to galvanise its popularity with the introduction of the efficient and more powerful new 350 and 500 CGI engine versions this month. Besides the new model introductions in 2011, a new dimension was planned to be added to the retail business network across the region including branded approved used car business as part of ‘proven exclusivity’ programme. The core idea is to get Souk-prospects to become the brands’ customers also when buying or selling a Mercedes-Benz car. What’s your involvement? Zawawi Trading is participating in the regional ‘ProvenExclusivity’ program. Details about the benefits, as well as cars available under the ‘ProvenExclusivity’ program are now available on the recently launched website www.oman. mb-usedcars.com. The site offers customers the chance to browse through a selection of pre-owned vehicles now available under the program. Approved pre-owned vehicles from Zawawi are serviced to Mercedes-Benz global standards and come with a 12-month extended warranty. Customers have the opportunity to trade in any make of vehicle and take advantage of the pre-owned car scheme. All ‘ProvenExclusivity’ vehicles are registered with MB NET - Mercedes-Benz Net - the global Mercedes registration system which checks chassis numbers, service and car repair history, ensuring customers of the highest standards of quality and safety as well as total vehicle transparency. The company also carries out checks to ensure that the correct mileage is shown. This new program not only provides peace of mind to pre-owned car buyers who know they are getting a quality pre-owned car with a proven history, it also gives new car buyers stability in the used-car market allowing them to buy in the knowledge that their car will retain its value during their ownership. Admittedly, the approved used car business by an official importer is a fairly new concept [but proven to be successful with dealerships in Bahrain, Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi], the idea is yet to catch up in the remaining Middle East and Levant markets. Isn’t selling good quality used cars profitable for the overall business provided the right investments are made? For Zawawi the used car business has slowly developed over the past years. As mentioned we are heavily participating in the Daimler Proven Exclusivity program. We are developing a number of new car sales programs that will also allow us to secure used car stock a year down the track. As a brand the used car business is vital in support of a new car business. This will allow us to provide our customers stronger re-sale value and allow us to offer a greater variety of MercedesBenz products to all Oman customers. Used cars are not just good business sense but are necessary to operate a retail business to its full potential. We believe that the Motortrak system has been adopted for the region. Please update us with your take on this? Motortrak is a digital retail marketing specialist that has developed an innovative new website platform that provides unprecedented flexibility for Zawawi Trading to market their MercedesBenz pre-owned cars online. More importantly, the platform has the potential to improve the customer’s dealership experience, as well as their perception of the brand. In your opinion, what’s the real job of the hour to sustain business [from push to pull] and gain customer confidence? Mercedes-Benz core values are safety, quality, reliability, comfort and efficiency. The commitment to customers that these core values represent is innately present in not only Mercedes-Benz cars, but in every employee, and in every Zawawi Trading Company showroom that these magnificent vehicles are displayed. This shared ambition and unrivalled customer focus is why Zawawi continues to deliver the best of the best to our clientele from the leading premium car brand in the Omani market, Mercedes-Benz.

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LFa's first date at yas marina

2011 lexus lfa super car shows its prowess at the yas Marina circuit in uae and signals its formal arrival in the region
Author Chandan B Mallik

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he LFA is the first supercar built by Lexus and it sits right on the top of the line-up as the ultimate flagship model within the performance F portfolio. While, the limited production car has been proving its credentials at tracks all over the world, it recently added Yas Marina to its ever growing list of track conquests. While, Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi is proving to be a popular venue for track events and testing high performance cars, the Middle East action debut of the LFA took place here a few weeks ago. Those familiar with the track will agree that the north loop has a special place in the hearts of spirited drivers as it throws both a challenge to both man and machine. As always, it’s a delight to participate in such demanding events and with the LFA it was no exception. Once out of the pit lane, even with 560bhp on tap, the car doesn’t need to be pushed aggressively to appreciate its power and road-hugging ability. The fun begins when the paddle-shifters are engaged in the sportiest setting where the gear swaps are snappy. In normal paces, as expected, the gearbox is a bit clunky in slow traffic with a few rattles and hisses here and there as the clutch engages and disengages, but that’s expected since this is by far the best single-clutch hydraulically actuated transmission available on the market. Another feature that brings the LFA much closer to track cars is the fact it has no adjustable damping systems. Even though some may consider this as a handicap, the LFA has a ride that’s not harsh, especially when considering that the car is also tuned for track use. Tackle a corner a bit more aggressively and the LFA responds with quick turn-in. On the straights where the car can literally stretch its legs, touching 250km/h is done so easily with absolute stability and confidence. We also noted that the force required to achieve a downshift with the shift paddle is marginally more than that required to upshift – a feature specifically ordered by the car’s chief engineer. We also must appreciate the way the engine has been configured to offer optimised performance on road [day to day driving] as well as some track fun. We know, there’s been involvement of Yamaha, who are acclaimed for the superiority in designing compact V-architecture engines and high-speed valvetrain expertise. Lexus and Yamaha have achieved the goal of giving quick and smooth engine response character in the LFA’s V10, and to do that, there’s some interesting technology applications involved such as individual throttle bodies for each cylinder, forged aluminium pistons and carbon-coated rocker arms with integrated oil jets, titanium connecting rods and valves. The result is that all these contribute to the engine’s ability to rev from idle to 9,000 rpm in just eye blinking 0.6 sec. In fact, the powerplant revs up so quickly that only a digitally simulated analog tachometer can keep up with it! On track, also we discovered that the LFA’s V10 is a superb engine with a lot of grunt. Like a track racing car it loves to be revved hard. With 90 per cent of the torque available from around 3,700 rpm, there’s none of the low-rpm issues that common with particularly high-revving engines. While the car’s acceleration is blistering fast on the straights, Lexus claims the LFA with its six-speed, single-clutch automated manual transmission gets to 96km/h in 3.7secs and will reach a top speed of 320km/h. Although it isn’t a direct shift gearbox [DSG], it feels well suited to the engine’s character and is so flexible that you can run the car at speeds as high as 166km/h on third gear without flinching. On an equal note, downshifts via the paddles are a delight both for the driver and aural pleasure. Lexus claims that the LFA engine has been acoustically perfected to deliver an incredible F1-like sound that changes dramatically at different revs and the signature soundtrack has been dubbed the ‘Octave Harmony’ by it’s creators.
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Aerodynamics
As befitting a super car, focus of aerodynamics was to achieve drivetrain cooling and superb high-speed handling and stability. Extensive wind tunnel testing helped produce a wind-cheating profile with a drag coefficient of 0.31. Airflow is precisely controlled over, under and around the car. A carbon fibre rear diffuser and flat underbody generate significant downforce, with an active rear wing, complete with a gurney flap on the leading edge, boosting the level further still.

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Brakes
The brake discs are made of Carbon Ceramic Material (CCM), which as well as being lighter than steel, gives fade-free performance in all conditions. The front discs are 390mm in diameter and 34mm thick, gripped by six-piston aluminium calipers; the rear discs measure 306mm across, are 28mm thick and are fitted with four-pot calipers. All use high-friction micron pads, manufactured exclusively for use with these brakes.

Tyres
Bridgestone Potenza S001 tyres are mounted on 20in rims all around. The 265/35ZR20 front tyres are mounted on 9.5in rims and the 305/30ZR20 tyres in the rear get mated to 11.5in wheels.

Transmission
Purpose designed and built six-speed Automated Sequential Gearbox (ASG) that drives the rear wheels via a limited slip differential. To help achieve the optimum 48:52 front-to-rear weight distribution, it is contained in a transaxle mounted over the rear axle. The ASG is operated by paddle shifts mounted on the steering column and is engineered for exceptionally fast shifts: an upshift can be effected in just 0.2 seconds. The system has four driving modes: Auto, Sport, Normal and Wet, activated by a selector dial on the dashboard. Each mode has a specific gearshift programme, and engine and brake control logic systems to let the driver tailor the car’s performance to suit driving conditions.

Engine
The Lexus LFA has a normallyaspirated 72° V10 4.8 litre sports tuned engine that produces 560hp and 480Nm of torque at 6,800rpm, 90 per cent of which is available from 3,700rpm all the way to the 9,000rpm red line, thanks to Dual VVT-i technology, equal length exhaust manifolds and highvolume, 12-hole fuel injectors. The powertrain helps deliver a top speed of over 320km/h and clocks 0-100km/h in 3.7secs.

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Suspension
The track-tuned suspension is the result of intensive development work carried out by Lexus at the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife circuit. The idea was to offer the best possible balance between control and comfort. The bespoke wishbone front/multilink rear design makes extensive use of aluminium alloy for high strength and low weight, and the aluminium monotube dampers are the same as those Lexus used for its LFA race car in the Nurburgring 24-hour race.

Production plans
The production of the Lexus LFA is limited to 500 units worldwide. A large number of customisable options will ensure that no two identical models will exist in the region. Customers invited to buy the car can personalise the Lexus LFA to suit their tastes. The bespoke options on offer rival all other Lexus models in production.

Interior
The low-slung hand-built cabin comes with driver-focused ergonomics and is divided into three zones. Alcantara leather bound seats and interior interplay with carbon fibre trim. Floorhinged brake and throttle pedals are made of forged aluminium. As with the exterior finish, owners can choose different interior colours and details.

Safety
Passive and active safety are in line with the demands of the car. The central carbon fibre reinforced plastic central structure is extremely strong and provides excellent impact protection. Crash boxes are fitted front and rear that are designed to deform in a controlled fashion in the event of an impact. That at the front is made of CFRP; that at the rear from extruded aluminium. Side impact protection includes strong and rigid carbon fibre side members and door structures comprising an aluminium inner panel and a Glass fibre reinforced Sheet Moulding Compound (G-SMC) outer skin. The LFA gets Lexus’s Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) system, which co-ordinates the smooth operation of the ABS, vehicle stability and traction control systems as the vehicle approaches its performance limits, based on critical data on brake operation, yaw and roll rates, individual wheel speed and longitudinal, lateral and vertical acceleration. Passive safety features include two-stage adaptive front airbags and seatbelt airbags for driver and passenger and a driver’s knee airbag.
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Construction
To keep the car’s weight to an absolute minimum was one of the defining elements in the development of the Lexus LFA and this led to the decision to switch from using aluminium for the car’s construction to advanced Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) for the chassis and bodywork. Using aerospace resin bonding techniques, at four times the strength of aluminium, CFRP gives the Lexus LFA an exceptionally stiff and strong structure, and also delivers major weight advantages, saving around 100kg on an equivalent aluminium body. CFRP accounts for 65 per cent of the body-in-white, with aluminium alloy used for the remaining 35 per cent.

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close encounters with a rapide kind
automan checks out aston Martin’s first four-door sports car, the 2011 rapide in oman
Author Chandan B Mallik Photography Shakeel Al Baloushi

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Editorial

NomiNEE tiN rapidE ar

astoN mar

prEmium c

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ower, beauty, and performance are three things that would matter more to us than practicality in a luxury sports car that we might be evaluating. And it’s no denying that in this day and age there are just a handful of exotic brands that can make a grand entry like an Aston Martin. However, till just a few years ago, barring the short period when Aston Martin produced Lagonda badged four seaters – the Gaydon, UK-based British carmakers’ range of sports cars were strictly limited to two-seaters only. With the arrival of the Rapide, one of Aston’s newest models last year, that equation has been permanently changed altogether. As with the increasing global trend of demanding top end cars, it’s no secret that the arrival of the Rapide in the region was also eagerly anticipated in the Middle East. But to think it’s the extra pair of doors and two

more seats lets that allow four adults to share the Aston experience without sacrificing the gorgeous looks or performance in Aston model would be some sort of underestimation. First of all, this 21st century four-door model owes a lot to its siblings in its creation and it’s not surprising when you have engineer-turned-CEO Dr Ulrich Bez’s guiding Aston Martin’s engineers to create a highly flexible ‘V/H architecture’ platform which can accommodate models like the DB9 or DBS and now the bigger Rapide. Despite it being five metres long [almost as long as a MercedesBenz S-Class or Maserati Quattroporte], the car’s front end looks identical to any other model in the current line-up such as the DB9 or V8 Vantage. While many in the business consider the Rapide as a long-wheelbase DB9, the flip side being that a Vantage is technically also a short wheelbase DB9. Whatever the

argument, we are pretty sure, in its heart and soul, none of them are same at all despite apparent similarities in construction such as the glued and riveted space frame and application of lightweight and strong carbonfibre resin composites in its structure. Meanwhile, the Rapide’s headlamps are lined with LED’s in the same way and the corporate signature grille resides up front. As expected the long bonnet is sculpted with more than a passing similarity with the V8 Vantage. Despite the visual similarities externally, the Rapide has a standalone profile, and yet remains strictly within the Aston Martin family guidelines. The car’s beautiful profile is also a result of design and fine attention to detailing. For instance, the usually exposed B-pillar is hidden behind the side windows in this car, which not only looks fantastic but also adds to a class appeal. The frameless window design

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corners. A standard Adaptive Damping System (ADS) automatically adjusts the suspension settings based on road conditions and driver inputs. Six-piston calipers hide inside 20in alloy wheels up front wearing 245/40 aspect tyres while four-piston calipers, and a dedicated single-piston parking brake caliper, reside in the wider rear wheels shod with 295/35 aspect Bridgestone Potenza rubber.

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pops out and settles in an awkward angle and its display quality is a bit archaic and is not as good as those found in many other luxury cars. However, unapparent from the exterior, the view outward isn’t particularly challenged and the Recaro designed front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of adjustments. Both front seats are heated and as an optional bonus they also cooled us in the Rapide we tested. Firing the engine via the crystal key after it is inserted in its dedicated slot on the dash rewards the occupants with a sonorous

Driving impressions
Since we have driven the Panamera,

Quattroporte and Panamera within a relative short span of each other, we can say that while the Panamera is amazingly good, but it is not as lovable as the Rapide. There are several reasons for this. First, for a car in this price range, there are some agricultural features such as the steering wheel adjustment, which is manual with a lever underneath and some of the switch gears and buttons are awkwardly placed and some do not have a rich feel to them. The navigation system is displayed on a relatively small screen that

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land. ilt outside eng to be bu aston Martin e first yr by Magna ste he rapide is th T , austria e built in Graz The cars ar

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also complements the door handles which are subtle giving it a sleek coupe-like appearance. Unlike the Porsche Panamera which has several powertrain variants and limited edition models with 2WD and AWD, the Rapide is offered as just one model, but it does come with pretty long list of bespoke options. Opening the front ‘swan doors’ as Aston Martin calls them, it’s immediately obvious this car is different. Once settled inside, it may amuse a newcomer unfamiliar with Astons to discover that there’s no gear shift lever.
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Instead there are four big buttons below the heating vents in the central console marked P for Park, R for Reverse, N for Neutral, and D for Drive. In the middle is the slot for the ignition key. As an all-new family member, we were expecting the Rapide’s interior to be allnew as well. But, despite a superb bespoke application and dollops of handcrafted leather and accoutrements, it evokes mixed feelings, because it’s too similar with the other models. This means it is attractive, with a flowing

central console with tiny buttons that sacrifice usability for aesthetics. Getting in and out is a bit of a squeeze for anyone over six-foot, but once inside there is sufficient legroom. Although 30.1in may sound conservative, the cabin doesn’t feel claustrophobic since there’s generous headroom available which is actually better than that of the Porsche Panamera – the Rapide’s closest rival. Aston Martin says that it can offer an array of interior appointments such as Bridge of Weir leather, mod cons such as Bang and Olufsen Beo Sound Audio

For a 4-door hatch back with coupe profile, the bespoke leather interiors are nice, quite detailed with good head and leg room. However, some kit needs to be updated as per segment trends

system, hard disk drive, Satnav, Bluetooth connectivity, special customer specified paint schemes and different colours of leather. While, bespoke elements in this car try to give you an impression that its business class, but, in our opinion, the crude molding and weird angle of the screen somewhat downgrades the overall ambience to economy. Although the Rapide is a four-seater with a coupe like profile, technically it is also a hatchback, very much like a Vantage. This means there’s a long tail gate which when

opens helps access a huge load area. Unlike other sporty hatchbacks were load are is minimal, the Rapide’s cargo space is really generous and quite practical. In the powertrain department, unlike Porsche which offers a normally-aspirated 3.6-litre V6 and 4.8-litre V8 [both normally aspirated or forced fed] with varying outputs and torque along with RWD or AWD options and limited special editions, the face saver in the Rapide is its additional displacement and extra four cylinders of the hand built engine.

Using the same engine that propels the DB9 and Volante models, it gets 470hp from the normally-aspirated 6.0-litre V12 mated to a six-speed Touchtronic2 six-speed automatic gearbox. But the big news is that the Rapide sits in a unique comfort zone with its personalized unique final drive ratio of 3.46:1. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a specially built carbon-fibre propeller shaft. The suspension package is very similar to that of the DB9 which is essentially comprised of independent double-wishbones on all four
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five new models in less than 12 months can only be possible when you have a solid common base. The 2011 aston Martin rapide is one of
V12 exhaust note and we noted that around 3,800rpm, the bypass exhaust valves open and the car really comes alive with an even more intense resonance. On the move, the behaves more like a sports car than a 1,954kg four-door saloon on a wheelbase of 117.7in. There is plenty of power immediately available and the car’s engine seems to love the prodding we gave it. Thanks to responsive steering that gives excellent feedback, the Rapide drives as if it’s much smaller than it is and part of this performance is owed to the fact that there’s a rear-mounted, automatic transaxle and near perfect weight distribution of 51 per cent up front and 49 per cent at the rear. What we also like was that in ‘Drive’ mode, pulling either of the leather-trimmed magnesium alloy paddles mounted on the steering column activates the Touchtronic mode, effectively giving unhendered access to the driver to shift gears via the paddles. Unlike some other cars, the Touchtronic mode in the Rapide is also accessible directly on engine start-up. We preferred to keep it simple and engaged the ‘Drive’ mode pressing the ‘D’ control on the centre console. This turned out to be good manouevre especially in notmal day-to-day driving as we left the gearbox to select the most appropriate gear for the speed and driving conditions. In this respect, the car feels silky smooth and unassuming. But once out of town and on the highways we decided to extract some more fun. Actually, you don’t have to look far for this -- the car’s been provided with a ‘Sport’ mode option and it can be activated instantly by a engaging the appropriate button on the centre console. Within milliseconds, the car’s character

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them and perhaps the most significant car launched by aston Martin since dr ulrich bez took over the reins in July 2000
changes – from normal road going car into a sports car without pretensions. In reality, what happens is that the mapping software responsible for the systems engages a more aggressive gear shift strategy. Naturally, the gear changes feel sharper and more forceful with engine speed matching on downshifts more aggressive and in full automatic mode, upshifts occur at higher speeds. Besides faster gearshifts, also comes a two-stage adaptive damping that also complements throttle response and gear changes. We found the Rapide as good on twisty mountain roads near Sur or Nizwa as it is on the highways. We feel that the longer wheelbase also makes for a better ride and encourages attacks on corners in a boy racer style that would leave many cars trying to play catch-up nervously behind. One other thing we note was that unlike some cars, where the transmission switches back into automatic mode after a while, the Rapide continues in manual Touchtronic mode and it’s up to the driver to push the D button again to return to fully automatic. This car is sporty enough to delight to drive but a bit short on supercar performance even with its official 0-96km/h time of 5sec and a top speed of 300km/h, but it comes pretty close.

Verdict
On a level playing field, it would be unfair to compare the Rapide against a Panamera or a Quattroporte for that matter. This is because of the fundamental thinking and purpose behind this car. While Porsche and Maserati can be classified as market-driven, Aston Martin’s objective wasn’t to dip into the segment and take away sales from the Germans or Italians. This British automaker was seeking to offer its exclusive owners a four-passenger option, something it had never truly delivered in the past under this brand umbrella.

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Small with big ambitions
with the a1 hatchback, audi aims to lure first time buyers into the supermini segment as well as the brand. automan checks out the belgian-built car in Germany, a few weeks before its official Middle east debut
Author Chandan B Mallik

Editorial audi a1

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nowing how German premium automaker Audi currently operates, we have always wondered would the company ever consider and deliver a supermini package? It’s segment that it had almost abandoned after the poor commercial success with the aluminium bodied A2 several years ago. For Audi, it would not be an impossible job given the recent trend of its new model introductions and the boxes that would be ticked for such a project would surely include understated styling with a classy image and great powertrains and handling dynamics. With efficient smaller cars gaining market share all over the world, Audi now looks at the premium end of the supermini market with its A1 3- and 5-door hatchbacks. And somewhere in-between it also wants to prove that the company which can produce supercars like the R8, can also be equally good in producing smaller packages. And that’s what brought us to Berlin where we were invited to find out how much of this promise really stands. Although, the A1 is mechanically based on Volkswagen’s PQ25 platform which is also used in the SEAT Ibiza Mk4 and the VW Polo Mk5, Audi has taken extra measures to ensure that the car doesn’t appear as a badge engineered clone. To begin with it’s been given its own set of clothes and an individual profile. While, the A1 and VW Polo share the same 8-foot, 1.2inch wheelbase, but at 12 feet, 11.6 inches in length, the A1 is about an inch shorter than the Polo. The A1 is planned with several trim levels and many cosmetic options and will be marketed accordingly, and hence if one thinks that the entry-level models appear a bit anonymous, it’s not surprising. Also not surprising is the fact that the car’s neat proportions and compact dimensions confirm it as a MINI or 500 rival, but this baby Audi definitely lags behind the retro charms of competition. But as a lifestyle proposition, Audi is offering several interesting lifestyle and performance options ranging from simple things such as contrasting windscreen pillars, alloy wheels or stiffened suspension. Distinguishing features between the entry level and top end models are things like snazzy Xenon headlamps and eye-catching signature LED daytime running lamps. We would say the interior of the A1 is expressed in every last detail, typical of Audi—be it in the selection of the materials, in their fit and finish and in the tight tolerances. What doesn’t get missed to the trained eye is the fact several components have been heavily inspired or been donated from the flagship A8. In the electronics department, it’s the state-of-the-art multimedia interface (MMI), navigation system and Bose stereo. Aside from this kit, the aluminium trim,
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the famous knurled chrome heater switches and the beautiful symmetry of the MMI are best examples of adaptation to a smaller scale. Sport trim models add a bit more glitz, while S line versions feature a moody black roof lining and extra brushed aluminium trim. Don’t expect cabin space to equal that of the A8, but there’s plenty of space for frontseat passengers. Boot space is very generous, and significantly ahead of the MINI, while false boot floor provides a flat load area when the seats are folded. The rear accommodation can be cramped and best suited for children. We also noted that unlike Audi’s general standards, there’s a hint of cost cutting in the entry level models. While there’s no dispute about the fact that under the skin this is essentially a Volkswagen Polo, as it does share the same MacPherson-strut front and torsion-beam rear suspension arrangement, brake options and range of engines and transmissions. However, there are some specific changes incorporated in the suspension such as longer trailing arms to better maintain handling integrity and the introduction of a high-tensile strength steel sub-frame up front. In general, torsion beams are simple as well as cost- and space-effective, but they suffer from ride/noise issues when the suspension is hardened up to improve the handling. Knowing this would be a dampener, Audi engineers redesigned rear-suspension guide bushes to allow unidirectional deflection in an attempt to help overcome this drawback. Rack-and-pinion steering is assisted by a hydraulic–electric system, and all models have standard electronic stability along with an electronically activated limited-slip differential to help reduce wheel spin, which is usually associated with small, powerful, front-wheel drive hatchbacks. It’s no secret that at Audi, efficiency is always high on the corporate and product agenda and the A1 is no exception to the rule. While several petrol and diesel engines are offered, the common factor among them is the seven-speed S tronic transmission which uses dual-clutch technology for smooth and fast gear shifting. Transmission is offered in both automatic and manual with paddles on the steering wheel available as an option. All this would be expected in a small package that has to think big.

Driving impressions
We tried out two of the petrols and one diesel from the options offered. The first drive began with the smallest single-cam 1.2-litre engine, which delivers 85hp at 4,800rpm and

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118 lb-ft of torque at 1,500 rpm, and then moving up to a twin-cam 1.4-litre TFSI engine delivering 120hp at 5,000 rpm and 148 lb-ft of torque at 1,500 rpm. The 1.6-litre diesel was turbocharged and offered 104hp at 4,400 rpm and 184 lb-ft of torque, also at 1500 rpm. Apparently, Audi wanted to offer max torque at low revs in all the engine variants and there’s a good reason for this too. We also checked out the middle Sport trim level, which is predicted to be the most popular seller. This car has a slightly hardened sports suspension with seats offering extra lateral support and leather trim for the steering wheel and shifter. I also remember a car upgraded with 17in wheels and tyres. The cars we drove were pre-production models and as always there are some niggles with them. While we can empathise with that, we realized that the low-end torque was more than good enough to kickstart the 1,100kg car up the road with confidence. The flipside was that it’s also noisy and we could also feel some vibration in the cabin. Giving the benefit of doubt, at the time the A1 actually felt a less refined than the equivalent VW Polo model and we expect that those issues would have been sorted out by the time the cars hit showrooms.

audi is rekindling its compact segment aspirations with the all-new 3- or 5-door a1 hatchback. it has also abandoned the exotic and expensive aluminium bodied a2 route and has chosen to use a contemporary approach

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audi’s expects that lifestyle and various trim options packages in the a1 sub compact will give revered rivals a run for their money

After spending almost equal amounts of time and near identical driving loops with the three variants, in our opinion, it’s the 1.4-litre TFSI unit which qualifies for the performance tag, however, the diesel is more spritely on take-off, thanks to the additional torque availability. On the handling front, given Audi’s sporty character theme across the line-up, the A1 disappoints with its below average performance despite the fact there’s abundant pulling power at low revs. Even the basic model’s ride is reasonably comfortable, but when driving over uneven surfaces or hitting a pothole, it seemed to catch out on the rear suspension and instead of absorbing the irregularities it was actually transmitting them to the rest of the cabin. Even the car’s with 17in wheels didn’t do

much to improve ride quality as they would do in, say, a MINI Cooper. The steering is accurate and firmly weighted but we felt it lacks the killer feedback and the sporting feel of its closest rivals. The handling is equally disappointing. The A1 has none of the qualities of its revered rivals and that shows up when the car is thrown into fast corners. The A1 simply does the job, but with none of the chassis character that allows you to steer the car with the throttle or the brakes. The brakes are strong, but again, the pedal lacks a quick feedback. Of all the variants driven, we would say the S line gives the driver maximum focused set-up. Although, not so brilliant to drive, there’s no loss of suitability for day-to-day driving.

Verdict
The A1 makes its entry in the supermini segment, but it will be a while it can catch up with the charisma of the well established MINI. It will have to work really very hard to earn its stripes, but at least there’s one role that car has a clear advantage – its variants and lifestyle options, which in turn should allow the brand to appeal to first time buyers.

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Role model

it’s not a station wagon or a suv. with the 2011 GT, bMw is looking at reaching out to a new segment in the region. automan thoroughly examines the car’s prospects in the Middle east market by spending some time with it in oman
Author Chandan B Mallik Photography Shakeel Al Baloushi 56

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Editorial bmw gt

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t seems that the German premium brands have taken the lead in creating new model segments in recent years and we can wholeheartedly agree that there’s a tried and tested agenda which follows on the lines of a famous adage ‘innovation pays’. Most of us remember the days a few years ago when we were trying understand the fundamentals and fine points of a then newly created ‘crossover’ segment. Well, this innovation certainly paid off for some car brands and also helped in creating business opportunities for first timers. But as always, the industry doesn’t just sits on its laurels and waits for some competitor to come up with a mouth watering proposal. And that’s a situation that has sort of paved the way for BMW Group in the form of the GT. From an innovation point of view and considering BMW’s existing line-up, product think-tanks are quick to suggest that the GT is not a station wagon or a SUV. And the fall out, once again, was that many of our seasoned colleagues spent a lot of debates in trying to figure out BMW’s real motive behind this first time all-new product. Naturally, the volley of questions includes things such as: why did BMW Group build it on the especially on the PO7 platform? Is the GT a real product extension of an established models series such as 5 or 7, or is it a market specific product and most of all, what purpose does it ultimately serve et.al? Automan’s first encounter with the GT was in Germany last year. And after we came to know that the GT was heading towards the Middle East, we took it upon ourselves to rediscover this product and ascertain where this car could fit within the regional market profile. Although, the GT is not being promoted directly by BMW as the extension of current model 5 and 7 Series, the carmaker is firm on the fact that it will occupy a standalone position. BMW has also made it clear that in concept or execution it’s not a station wagon or an extension of the X5 SUV, but is more of a combination of features of a premium saloon and a modern highly versatile sports activity vehicle and hence the standalone justification. For a car, that has dimensions mimicking in length the 7 Series, height and boot space slightly more than the 5 Series station wagon and headroom comparable to the BMW X5, it’s presence is sheer mass on the road. At first glance, the GT exhibits familiar BMW profile in a new packaging recipe. The five door car appears stretched and sports a coupé-like roofline with a more upright front competed with the signature BMW kidney grille, large air intakes and slanted dual headlights. While, new technology application such as LED fed daytime running lights have been applied, the rear end treatment is clinically clean with clear-cut horizontal lines. The sign off at the rear are the L-shaped LED rear light clusters. While there are power bulges in the bodywork, however, from some angles, the car appears overwhelming in its stance. As the GT is intended to appeal more to families, there’s quite a bit of consideration in terms of the execution of the interior. The interior gets most of the bells and whistles that are usually associated in the 5 or 7 Series and that means as a befitting BMW motor car and there’s no shortage of talent when it comes to comfort or conveniences. Once inside the car with frameless windows, the feel is of a generously spacious car, but not of an X5/X3 SUV type [despite sitting higher than say a stock 5 or 7 Series], but more in the

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comfortable surroundings of a long wheel base 7 Series. With SUV like large window areas, the optional panorama glass roof, as well as the usual array of exquisite materials and top quality of finish, the GT is every inch a BMW with the additional bonus of a truly flexible interior. While the rear seats of the car boasts of legroom similar to that in the 7-Series with same headroom as in the BMW X5, luggage capacity with upright seats is 440 litres. A detachable partition behind the rear seats separates the cabin from the cargo bay. The rear seats can slide forward up to 100mm and boosts luggage capacity to 590 litres. Maximum cargo capacity of 1,700 litres is possible with rear seats folded. The twopiece tailgate and load bay height are quite practical and user friendly. A single button operation lifts the hatch in its entirety, while another, fitted alongside pops the tailgate like a conventional saloon. In fairness, while the hatch is huge, we felt the smaller opening accessed through the tailgate was too small for routine jobs. Comfort features include four-zone automatic air-conditioning (standard in the 550i) satnav, a USB port, 80GB HDD, a DVD entertainment system at the rear and panorama glass roof. BMW’s new iDrive with its Control Display up to 10.2 inches in size, and the cockpit in Black Panel technology all help to give the driver maximum supremacy at all times. The BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo is entering the market with a choice of no less than three ultra-modern drive units carrying over BMW EfficientDynamics into a new segment in the automobile world. The GT comes with two forced-fed engines and our test car had the smaller twin turbo 3.5litre straight-six cylinder, which offers 306hp when mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Besides engine technology, the GT also benefits from BMW’s EfficientDynamics programme which means better fuel economy and emission management. Interestingly, suspension technology in the GT is quite advanced and uses aluminium double track control arm in the front axle. Standard features also include rear axle air suspension as well as hydraulic rack-andpinion steering with a steering servo pump operating on demand. The suspension is also driver oriented as it gets BMW’s Dynamic Drive Control package as standard kit. The software is responsible for gearshift dynamics, throttle mapping and steering assistance and it works alongside optional Adaptive Drive, where the NORMAL, SPORT and SPORT+ programs are offered. The driver also has the choice of the COMFORT mode available directly from the Dynamic Drive Control button on the centre console. Intervention in DSC Dynamic Stability

<< it’s highly unlikely
that bMw will ever produce an estate version of the 7 series. The GT perhaps aims to fill that gap with more family orientation >>
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Control can be reduced in the SPORT+ setting and in the traction mode. As always, active and passive safety have been well catered to in the GT. Package for occupants include three-point inertia-reel seat belts on all seats, frontal and side airbags as well as head airbags at the side, crashactivated headrests at the front, runflat tyres and a tyre pressure indicator.

Driving impressions
Usually, there’s little to complain about when it comes to driving a 5 or 7 Series or the X5. Most of the time we had the car, the GT felt closer to a 7 Series than an X5. And in either case, BMW engineering has ensured that it is a truly satisfying machine to drive with versatility of a Swiss Army knife. The GT is comfortable and quiet, and impressively quick and agile for a vehicle of its size and weight. The car’s suspension has dual character and is nearly as flawless as its engine, whether cruising in a straight line on a secondary rough road. It will also go through curves with equal competence and without unsettling its occupants, thanks to its superb chassis and suspension set-up and the options offered. But there are also some surprises when you engage the car’s Dynamic Drive Control settings. In comfort mode, the ride is almost silky smooth and we think it’s both interesting and amusing. The car puts refinement and smoothness at the core of its character - even in sport and sport plus modes, something you usually don’t find in purely family-dedicated cars. Even on the winding roads near Emarat, the GT was quite involving to drive, but we also note that there’s less steering feel than your regular 5 or 7 Series. I think we have to empathise with BMW’s argument that this evolution is very deliberate as it has targeted to build a new segment benchmark for outright performance in a mature car.

Verdict
If you are driver familiar with the 5 or 7 Series and wanted a car that delivers near identical handling and performance in a unique package that also appeals to the specific family demands, then the GT is a good candidate for consideration, especially given the fact that there’s no body variant of the 7 Series and the 5’s estate version is smaller for the purpose.

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Choosing a
familiar Car
When the options are clearly defined, choosing a car becomes so much a matter of ticking all the right boxes. But what happens when the car that ticks all the right boxes is one you never thought you would buy?
Author Raj Warrior

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question that I often have to answer is “which is the best car?” Now that’s an easy one to answer for I follow the dictum of trying not to place myself in anyone’s shoes. “The best car is the one that does the job best” is usually the one line answer I dole out. Now why do I find it so surprising that I have to face the outcome of this in my own choice of car? It has been sometime since I actually went through the motions of buying a car. One of the perks of being a car journalist is the amount of time I usually spend in someone else’s car. So when it comes to my personal choice I have no set wish list. I have at various times in my nine years here in Oman owned Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover, Mazda 6, smart fortwo and even three motorcycles. So when I gave up my last car, the Range Rover, I spent most of my commuting in a loaner Pajero and then used a rent a car Mazda 3 for almost a year. So the decision to buy a car again wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be – firstly the car had to meet the needs of my growing family, offering a regular 5-seater experience and an optional 7-seater layout

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when the need crops up. Then considering the part-time nature of its occupancy there was really a disincentive against putting too much money in a second car. And thirdly, I have always been comfortable buying good condition pre-owned cars, since I have the means and resources to ensure that the cars are mechanically good and continue to be well-treated. Well, three weeks into my search and I found myself the proud owner of a Citroen C4 Grand Picasso. Huh! And come again, huh! At the outset, I had looked at various other options including some rather juicy deals on run-out models of SUVs and some equally good deals on dealer demo cars. However, in one such interaction I found out about a stock clearance action on some of the older stock with Citroen and almost before I knew it, the car was mine. It is at that juncture that the self-doubt sets it. What have I done? Does this car really make any sense? But I guess that every groom must have the same feeling after marriage too. The C4 Grand Picasso not only lives up to the scrutiny, it passes it with flying colours.

To start off with, the C4 Grand Picasso is not an old model. Introduced in the 2006 Paris Motorshow, the car is part of the broader C4 range that includes the C4 Picasso and the C4 Hatchback and Sedan models. Note the absence of the Grand tag in the other Picasso. The Grand Picasso is the 7-seater, while the C4 Picasso is the 5-seater. In the region, the car is available with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, rated at 143bhp and 200Nm of torque, combined with an automatic 4-speed gearbox. You have to drive the car to appreciate the role the engine plays in making it among the most sensible cars in the market. In terms of styling, there isn’t any other car that quite comes close in being so “over the top”. Yes it is a MPV in many senses, so Citroen has gone all out to emphasise it in the sweep of an unbelievably large windscreen, the large windows and the presence of a panoramic sunroof. From the shoulders upwards the car is almost entirely glass! The car has presence and with the hints of chrome and large wheels of the high spec model I had brought, the Grand Picasso draws you in to
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Steering wheel: Lessons can be learnt from Citroen about how many functions can be built into a multi-function steering wheel. Technically the wheel has a hub that is packed with the majority of the functions, including the ability to scroll through vehicle settings, communications, media and both the cruise control and speed limit settings. Stalks also control tripmeter and other efficiency calculations. Unbelievably, there are also paddle shifts that serve as manual gear selectors in both D and M modes.

Storage spaces: Two large stowaway bins on the dashboard partner with a large glove compartment, a mini-fridge in the central console and generous drink holders. Front seatbacks have large pockets and fold-out meal trays.

Air-conditioning: Genuine four-zone climate control with driver override and even a small perfume holder make this one of the best units we have seen till now. And the surprising thing is that it cools much better than we expected from a ‘European’ car.
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Seating: Two Captains chairs with lumbar support at the front, three independent seats on the second row with fore-aft and recline adjustment as well as the ability to stack away to clear space for a load bay. Third row seats foldaway under the floor in a one pull motion and offer good access and reasonable legroom for shorter adults.

Convenience: Cruise control, Selectable speed limiter, Bluetooth hands-free phone, rear parking sensors, excellent audio system, adjustable mood lighting, powered foldaway mirrors, pool lighting, delayed headlight off, “find me” and automatically applied parking brake along with Hill Ascent assist.

Screening: Stowaway sunblinds on the rear window, second and third row windows a stiff heat resistant roll-out cover for the panoramic roof cut out some of the sun that streams in. The front windshield needs all the help it can get from the genius of the design of the driver and passenger sunshade. The regular sunshade is integrated with a roll-out extension that reduces the amount of sun that gets on to your lap.

have a look at the features that set it apart. In short the Grand Picasso has all the features of a luxury car, packaged into what we would describe as the most intelligently designed and packaged transportation solution that we have encountered. And the experience of driving it and living with the car has changed my appreciation of what other manufacturers offer as the norm. Average fuel consumption

over 7000 kilometers has been better than 10 kmpl and the car rides like a flying carpet. There is admittedly some body roll to remind you that you are in a MPV but other than that and the upright seating position, you could be in any car. In many ways the Grand Picasso reminds me of my days in the MCC smart fortwo. You can almost imagine that the car ends a foot and a half behind you as it zips in and out

of traffic. The question that arises is with the excellent product, good build quality, fit and finish and package of the Grand Picasso, why hasn’t Citroen been able to sell more of them? And why has the French brand suffered as an also ran in the region? With my experience of the product and brand I would think that they should be as popular as Volkswagen at the very least.
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Bigger and Better
Nissan’s all-new C-segment soon-to-arrive Sunny sedan aims to recover lost ground with a host of new efficient technologies and trendy design elements
Author Chandan B Mallik

issan’s global compact Sunny model has actually set several benchmarks in the past and in the process the model has also inspired several old and new competitors to up their respective games in the segment. Now, that global economic trends are dictating trends of what we will

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drive in future, the volume value-for-money model from the Japanese brand has once again come under the microscope as compact cars are getting a lot of attention lately from consumers as a result of rising fuel costs and concerns about the environment. It’s also good news for Nissan as it has a new

global “V” (for Versatile) platform to play with. So it’s not surprising that the whole exercise begins with a ‘clean sheet’ ground-up design and in effect takes the model in to a whole new direction while proving that style doesn’t have to be sacrificed against affordability. The new model uses nearly 20 per cent fewer platform

components and weighs 68kg less than the previous “B” platform. While retaining the same 102.4in wheelbase and 66.7in width as the previous generation Sunny, the new model is 1.2in lower in height at 59.6in and 0.6in shorter in overall length at 175.4in. The biggest dimensional gain, however, is in the boot, thanks to a more compact powertrain set-up, it allows for a 2.7in increase in the rear overhang. On the styling front, Nissan’s new signature sedan grille design and jewellike headlights almost mimic the Maxima. The interior aims to combine five-passenger practicality with a high degree of comfort and refinement. And depending on market specific demands will offer entertainment and connectivity features, such as Bluetooth®, navigation system with 5-in touch-screen display, Satellite Radio and an iPod®/ USB interface. Other features include trip computer, power windows with driver’s onetouch down, speed-sensing auto door locks, remote trunk release lever and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. The new car will also sell on efficiency. Nissan is trumpeting fuel mileage of 12.75km/ litre city mileage from its second-generation a twin Continuously Variable Timing Control HR16DE 1.6-litre four-cylinder dual injector per cylinder system engine when mated to latest generation of Xtronic CVT™ transmission. The CVT also features a transmission ratio of 7.3:1, which is broader than those of conventional CVTs and even typical 7-speed automatic transmissions. Friction is reduced by about 30 per cent, weight by about 13 per cent and overall size by about 10 per cent over the previous Nissan models with CVT packages. Meanwhile, the valve timing technology comes from the Maxima and the engine should be good for 109hp at 6,000 rpm and 107 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. The level of safety kit and standard features have been uprated and all the new Sunny’s are now equipped with an independent MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension, with front and rear stabilizer bars. Other standard equipment includes Electric Power Steering and powerassisted front disc/rear drum brakes. Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA) is also now standard. Nissan Advanced Air Bag System (AABS) (includes dual-stage front supplemental air bags and front seat side-impact supplemental air bags for chest protection), seat-mounted driver and front passenger side-impact supplemental air bags, and roof-mounted curtain side-impact air bags for front and rear outboard occupant head protection.

The new Sunny’s exterior design is also a departure from most current compact sedans, offering a fresh, refreshing design character that is both sophisticated and highly aerodynamic. This sub-compact new model will go on sale in China first and then across 170 countries eventually under different names.

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ExEcutivE
ExprEss
Author Chandan B Mallik

Refreshed for 2011 mid-cycle, the second generation Mercedes-Benz Viano people’s carrier offers ever better levels of comfort and performance efficiency than before

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t’s no secret that the Mercedes-Benz Viano started its career in 1996 as a multipurpose vehicle based on the popular Vito commercial panel van. Now in its second generation and despite its rare combination of spacious seating and generous luggage capacity, the Viano received mixed reviews from the motoring press and users worldwide. The van-based design is seen as a blessing by some critics and a failing by others. In 2010, Mercedes-Benz gave some thought to it and decided to put the Viano under the spotlight. As a result, the carmaker has invested in a comprehensive package inside out in the Viano to make it more user-friendly and remove its market perceived weakness such as manoeuvrability and most of all its bland interiors indicating its commercial vehicle origins. To begin the exercise, Mercedes-Benz refined some of the styling elements beginning with revised front and rear bumpers and new set of lamps in keeping with the style of the current passenger cars from the brand. Three slats painted in silver with chrome trims partition the radiator grille, fronting a sporty black grille

featuring a diamond pattern. Daytime running lights are standard and integrated with the fog lamps. Bi-Xenon package with LED daytime driving lights, cornering lights are also available as options in entry models and standard in top trims such as Ambiente. The

Viano’s front and rear bumpers also come in a new, upgraded design featuring a honeycomb look with smooth surface finish. Mercedes-Benz continues to offer the Viano as the only model in its class, but in three different body lengths and lifestyle packaging such as the Marco Polo camper van which is based on the long wheel base Viano with a front-opening pop-up roof. This roof is also optionally available for the Viano Fun multipurpose vehicle in its long variant. However, common to all variants are features for

everyday practicality. The cabin has also been revisited with driver ergonomics in mind. The instrument panel and instruments are carryover, the shift lever is new and in the upper control panel on the centre console, pushbuttons have replaced the previous rocker switches. The overhead control unit has been upgraded with two reading lamps and a polished finish. On vehicles equipped with rear air-conditioning, corresponding new controls are also incorporated together with a display. The front-passenger seat base now incorporates an additional 12 V socket to supply power to electronic devices. Alternatively, the Mercedes-Benz Viano is available with a lockable valuables compartment (standard in Viano Marco Polo). A rearview camera is optionally available as a practical reversing aid in conjunction with the COMAND system. Its lens is integrated in the licence plate panel on the tailgate. The driver’s four-spoke multifunction steering wheel with new control buttons has more than a passing resemblance to the steering wheel of the C-Class. In addition to the attractive fabrics

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and stylish nappa leather covers in various colours, the new nappa Lugano branded leather upholstery brings in upscale refinement. The Lugano nappa leather upholstery comes as standard in the Ambiente and is optionally available for the Trend. The van’s handling also receives a boost for luxury performance. While the Mercedes Viano’s front axle continues to be based on independent wheel suspension with spring struts, Mercedes-Benz has carried out a complete redesign of the axle’s finer points of detail. Suspension springs and components such as springs, struts, links and anti-roll bar have been modified to offer improved response. The steering additionally employs a new characteristic and a different torsion bar. The rear gets reconfigured springs, shock absorbers and control arms. The anti-roll bar and its bearings are also among the new developments. Middle East versions are powered by a 258hp 3.5-litre V6 engine which is Euro 5 emissions compliant. This engine also employs an automatic transmission. It offers maximum torque of 340Nm at 2,500-5,000rpm and via automatic transmission can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 8.7secs. The refreshed Viano also benefits from BlueEFFICIENCY technology and includes efficient battery management, low rolling resistance tyres, ECO power steering pump, a controlled fuel pump and internal engine measures.

Safety packaging includes ESP Electronic Stability Programme with anti-lock braking system (ABS), acceleration skid control and brake assist, while models with factory-fitted trailer coupling come with trailer stabilisation. Start-off Assist (AAS), an automatic tyre pressure monitoring system, the PARKTRONIC parking and manoeuvring assistant and a reversing camera are optionally available.

<< The viano’s usp is a
paragon of practicality and luxury for corporate commuters. presently, in its second generation and having undergone a number of changes including a new name in 2004, the revisions over and under the skin for 2011 are quite impressive >>
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Visiting the cellar of performance
Porsche is the iconic sports car brand and was one of the first movers in setting up manufacturing facilities in the erstwhile East Germany after unification. Leipzig is home to the brand’s Cayenne plant, which has also become the base to manufacture the Panamera. We pay a visit to the factory to understand what makes the brand tick.
Author Raj Warrior

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erformance is a goal as much as it is the most exciting outcome of some of the test drives we have been involved in – ask any enthusiast and there are about a handful of brands that reel off their tongues when discussing performance in its broader aspects. And when you want a German brand that boasts a complete stable of performance cars then you can’t miss Porsche. Oddly enough, for a brand that shares such close links with the “people’s car”, Porsche is about as rarified as you can get without losing commercial sense. What happens then when you get an invite to participate in a Driving school run by Porsche as an adjunct to its factory? Get on a plane and land up in the rather small town of Leipzig. Strong crosswinds are a norm around the airport, so you get a rather bumpy welcome on the runway. Note to self at that would be to send the pilot for correctional training at the Porsche facility. However, this story isn’t about the training element at all. For in all the glamour of driving 911s around test tracks, we shouldn’t forget the importance that the factory plays not just as a source of the large Porsches but also in the role the brand plays in the town’s fortunes. It was more than a decade ago that the decision was

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<< in all the high tech nature of the production line, with its
overhead conveyors and wooden flooring, we noticed that the
taken to move into the region. The development of the performance SUV platform that was shared by VW and Porsche was on full steam and the greenfields development outside Leipzig over 400 hectares was aimed to contribute to the industrialisation and integration of eastern parts of the newly united Germany. VW were also investing in Dresden, another industrial town a few hundred kilometres to the North and the supply chain logistics and the proximity to other plants in countries of Eastern Europe was more than coincidental. Today the factory looks like it wouldn’t be out of place as a spaceport. The Porsche Diamond visitors centre is visible from miles around and is the most prominent feature of the plant itself. The centre has within it a small microverse of the Porsche brand identity, with conference centre, brand shop, high-class restaurant, and also serves as the home to the driving school. The customer centre is placed centrally between the factory on one’s right and the test track on the left. You can make out the landscaping that places a rather hairy (to drive over) mound in a landscape that is so flat that the driving instructors joke about being able to see their relatives coming to visit an hour before they arrive. The 3.75km test track designed by Hermann Tilke is laid out in the middle of a biosphere created around the factory. The presence of cattle is designed to mow the grass and in many ways, Porsche is leading an ecological wave to stay ahead in the PR war against large internal combustion engines and their impact on the environment. The 6km off-road track for the Cayenne is part of the green cover. Both the tracks serve multiple purposes, including as proving grounds for cars off the production line, test and as instructional tracks. The company also organises a number of open days when the tracks are available for customers to drive their own cars. The factory itself started out as an operation to assemble Cayenne’s from pre-painted shells that arrive from the main manufacturing plant in Bratislava, Slovakia. Started in 1999 has now grown with the addition of an extra section to handle the additional

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quintessential robots of a modern car plant were almost absent The plant currently has 650 workers >>

Facts and Figures
Panamera production Assy line length, overall:580 metres (1,900 ft) No of production stations:71 In-house production depth:15 per cent (Panamera) Value creation in Germany:70 per cent Cayenne production / mix line Assy line length:480 metres (1,575 ft) No of production stations:111 In-house production depth:10 per cent (Cayenne) Value creation in Germany:55 per cent Areas Plant premises:400 hectares Assy hall Cayenne / mix:18,600 square metres (200,100 sq ft) Customer Centre area used:5,800 square metres (62,400 sq ft) Assy hall Panamera:25,000 square metres (269,000 sq ft) Pilot and Analysis Centre:4,800 square metres (51,650 sq ft) Integration Centre:2,500 square metres (2,690 sq ft)

stations required by the Panamera. For some time in between there Carrera GT was also manufactured at the plant, which produced 1,270 of the cars. While Porsche spent Euro 127 million initially on the plant, by 2006 they needed to invest a further 150 million to give them the ability to expand production to include the four-door performance saloon Panamera. An additional assembly area spanning 25,000 sq.m allows for the special bays required for the Panamera. The shells of both the larger Porsches arrive from Bratislava by rail and are then taken through their integration process. The factory operates on a lean manufacturing basis with just the parts required for making a day’s stock of cars. The typical Cayenne takes just 17 hours to go through the entire process, while the Panamera takes a few hours more. The engines for the cars come from Zuffenhausen and are integrated with their

tubing and harnesses and fluids in a separate zone in Leipzig. The assemblies are then integrated with the cars. In all the high tech nature of the production line, with its overhead conveyors and wooden flooring, we noticed that the quintessential robots of a modern car plant were almost absent. They make their presence felt here at the station for windshield integration where their ability to accurately handled the expanse and weight of the windshield and accurately apply adhesive overcome any skill that the workers can bring onboard. The plant currently has 650 workers. The assembly line can handle a great deal of complexity in terms of specifications and personalisation. The same line takes care of both models, in left-hand and right-hand drive and from there on the variants just grow. We were informed that with trim choices, colours, electronics and drivetrains there were more

than a million combinations. At the end of the assembly line, every car is taken for a 20km shakedown on the track, to check out the various quality control parameters and to make sure that there is nothing that will fall off, we guess. After that, a final clean and valet process leads to the roll out of Cayennes and Panameras that will travel all the way to markets around the world, where the legend of Porsche grows with every new model meant for the growing class of rich people. The Leipzig plant is also slated to be the home for the future smaller SUV codenamed ‘Cajun’ that has been announced. However, in the case of the Cajun, the plant expansion will involve a much deeper move, with the inclusion of a body and paintshop as well. The staff strength is also slated to grow dramatically and company officials know the importance that the extra employment will bring to the region.
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Hamilton takes sensational Shanghai win

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ewis Hamilton scored a fabulous victory for McLaren in a Chinese race of excellent drives, catching and passing Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel on the 52nd of the 56 laps as the reigning world champion’s gamble on a twostop strategy - and a 25-lap run on Pirelli’s hard rubber - just failed to pay off. Behind them, Mark Webber drove a brilliant race from 18th to third in the second Red Bull, only seven seconds behind Hamilton, after catching and despatching Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, then doing the same to Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes and McLaren’s Jenson Button in the closing stages. It was an odd race, that began with Button and Hamilton leading from Vettel, before Vettel repassed them as the first pit stops were made. He jumped Hamilton just before his stop on Lap 13, but admitted he was somewhat bemused when leader Button initially drove into the Red Bull pit before frantically being waved through to McLaren next door! Rosberg had stopped on Lap 12 and then had a spell in the lead for Mercedes from Lap 17 until he stopped again on Lap 25. That put Vettel back in the lead until he stopped for the second and last time on Lap 31, whereupon Massa had a spell in front. The Brazilian was right back on form, comfortably outpacing team mate Fernando Alonso this day. Such are the characteristics of the Pirellis that the form of races is not established until the final stints, and by Lap 40 Vettel was out front, 3.6s ahead of Massa with Rosberg third from Hamilton, who had overtaken Button. Steadily Massa reeled in Vettel, but it was the McLarens that were on the move. Hamilton took Rosberg on Lap 42, Massa on 44, and then slashed a 3.7s deficit to Vettel before forcing his way by in Turn Seven on the 52nd lap.

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For a while it seemed that Button might follow suit, but Webber had the freshest tyres. He ran the primes until Lap 10, then switched to the softer options and, having made his final stop on Lap 40, was flying. As Button began to move in on Vettel, having passed Massa and Rosberg, Webber was stalking him and dived by on the penultimate lap to make the podium after a superb effort. Three-stopping Rosberg was left fifth, ahead of the disillusioned Massa and Alonso for whom two-stop strategies had not worked out, while a decent afternoon’s work left Schumacher eighth. Renault’s two-stop strategy didn’t do the trick either, but Vitaly Petrov took ninth place from Paul di Resta on the 52nd lap, and Kamui Kobayashi pushed the Scottish rookie out of the points for the first time in his short Formula One career soon afterwards. By the finish Di Resta was under heavy pressure from Nick Heidfeld too, after the German had had an adventurous race trapped in the midfield. He held off the Renault, however, but was disappointed to miss out on a point after yet again being Force India’s faster driver. Rubens Barrichello was 13th for Williams after a race spent dicing mainly with Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus, while Toro Rosso’s promising afternoon evaporated right at the start as Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi dropped back. The Spaniard became the race’s sole retirement when he lost the righ-rear wheel after his first pit stop, while Buemi had to be satisfied with 14th after a deeply disappointing afternoon. The Swiss driver headed home Adrian Sutil, who was involved in a collision for which Sauber’s Sergio Perez was given a drivethrough penalty. The Mexican finished 17th, behind Kovalainen, and ahead of Williams’ Pastor Maldonado and Jarno Trulli in the other Lotus, who had relatively uneventful races. Jerome D’Ambrosio was again Virgin’s faster runner, heading home Timo Glock in 20th and 21st places, while Tonio Liuzzi caught and passed HRT team mate Narain Karthikeyan on the final lap after having to make up a lot of ground following a drive-through penalty early on for jumping the start. Vettel now has 68 points from Hamilton’s 47, with Button third on 38 from Webber’s 37, Alonso’s 26 and Massa’s 24. Red Bull still lead the constructors’ championship, with 105 points to McLaren’s 85, Ferrari’s 50 and Renault’s 32.

austin track officially named circuit of tHe americas
s construction work continues on the new United States Grand Prix venue in Texas ahead of Formula One racing’s return to the country in 2012, race organisers have named the Austin facility the ‘Circuit of the Americas’. “One of the most inviting aspects of the name is the word ‘Americas’,” explained Red McCombs, founding partner of the facility, at a launch event on Tuesday. “It reflects Austin’s ideal location at the crossroads of North America from north to south, east to west. Also, it speaks to our state as a centre of commerce and cultural exchange in this hemisphere.” Tavo Hellmund, managing partner of Full Throttle Productions L.P. and chairman of Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, added: “We are building a destination for entertainment and business, not simply a race track, and this brand reflects that entire idea. Racing days will account for a total of about

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30 days a year, but great performances and winning ideas will be inspired by this brand every day.” The 5.5-kilometre track, located in Wandering Creek, southeast of the Texan capital, will combine 133 feet of elevation change and 20 turns. The circuit’s master plan also features additional visitor attractions including a proposed driving/ riding experience and a kart track.

formula one’s turkisH grand Prix is on tHe outs
ormula One and Turkey are apparently on the splits, as Turkish newspaper Haberturk claims that the Turkish Grand Prix won’t take place in 2012. Istanbul chamber of commerce chief Murat Yalcintas reportedly told the publication “It looks like the Formula One race won’t be held in Istanbul next year.” The reported reason for the decision was that Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone (above) raised the race fee from $13 million to $26 million; a price Istanbul doesn’t appear eager to meet. The paper claims that the reason for the decision has less to do with the rising cost of F1 and more to do with the fact that Ecclestone

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is interested in a 2012 race in Moscow. F1 has made no formal announcements regarding a foray into Moscow or the future of the Turkey race.

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Vettel keeps cool to win Malaysian thriller
ed Bull’s Sebastian Vettel made it look so easy as he scored his second victory of the season and extended his world championship points tally to 50 on race afternoon in Malaysia. The German took the lead at the start, nursed his tyres through three pits stops, avoided using his problematic KERS from the 29th lap after instruction from his team, yet was still 6.1s ahead of a charging Jenson Button in the McLaren with a lap to go. Button did the impossible by running 19 laps on a set of Pirelli’s prime tyres where previously nobody had managed more than 16, but the 3.2s gap at the chequered flag reflected the side-by-side weaving that Vettel did in triumph as he reached the finish line. Lewis Hamilton in the other McLaren had been in the fight all afternoon, once he had overtaken super-fast starting Nick Heidfeld’s Renault in the first stops, but unlike his team mate the Briton lost pace on the primes, fell behind Button after the third stops, and needed a fourth to make it to the flag in seventh after running off the track. Heidfeld likewise kept in play throughout to beat Mark Webber’s Red Bull to the final podium slot, after the KERS-less Australian fought back from a terrible opening lap and four pit stops. Behind them, Felipe Massa brought his Ferrari home fifth after three stops, only 0.2s ahead of team mate Fernando Alonso, who seemed set to take Hamilton’s third place until he hit the back of the McLaren on the 46th lap and needed a fourth stop for a new front wing. He had been struggling for some time with a DRS wing which stopped working properly. Kamui Kobayashi mixed it with anyone and everyone all afternoon, including some wonderful side-by-side racing with Webber as confirmation that the DRS wing concept worked superbly here, and took eighth place for Sauber in Hamilton’s wake and ahead of Michael Schumacher who was able to muscle his way ahead of Paul di Resta’s Force India with two laps remaining. Once again the Scottish rookie beat team

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mate Adrian Sutil, who needed a stop for attention to first lap damage only three laps into the race, but couldn’t hold off seventime champion Schumacher’s Mercedes as his Pirellis were finished. Nevertheless he maintained his great record of scoring points in both of his Grands Prix. Nico Rosberg had a miserable race for 12th in the second Mercedes, ahead of the duelling Toro Rossos of Sebastien Buemi, who overcame a stop-and-go penalty for pit-lane speeding to beat team mate Jaime Alguersuari to 13th. Heikki Kovalainen just failed to catch

Hamilton and alonso Handed 20-second time Penalties
cLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso have had 20 seconds added to their race times by the Malaysian stewards following their clash during the Sepang event. Hamilton was penalised for making more than one change of direction as he tried to defend his position from Alonso. The Spaniard,

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meanwhile, received the same penalty for causing a collision with the British driver during the fight. Hamilton’s penalty promotes Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi to seventh in the race results and drops the McLaren driver to eighth. Alonso retains his sixth-place finish.

Hamilton unrePentant oVer malaysia moVe

the Spaniard by the flag, as Lotus beat Virgin and Timo Glock in the newer teams’ race to complete the finishers. Vitaly Petrov had just repassed Kobayashi for eighth place on the 53rd lap when he had a big off which sent his Renault bouncing so high over a kerb that his car’s steering column seemed damaged on landing, but though he hit an advertising hoarding he didn’t hurt himself. His race, however, was over. Tonio Liuzzi didn’t make the finish either as his HRT stopped when running 18th, nor did Jerome D’Ambrosio’s Virgin which had been just ahead of him. Jarno Trulli’s Lotus also ran into unreliability, as did Sergio Perez’s Sauber and Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT, while both Williams drivers, Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello, had early problems and failed to get home. Vettel now has 50 points to Button’s 26, with Hamilton on 24, Webber on 22, Alonso on 20, Massa on 16 and Heidfeld and Petrov on 15. Red Bull move further into the lead of the constructors’ championship

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ewis Hamilton says he did nothing wrong in defending third place in Malaysia last weekend from arch-enemy Fernando Alonso, even though the race stewards gave him a 20s time penalty which subsequently dropped him from seventh to eighth place. The stewards insisted that he made more than one change of direction trying to keep the Spaniard behind him on the 45th lap. But they also penalised the Ferrari driver 20s for running into the back of Hamilton’s McLaren on the next lap. “I don’t think I was overly defending my position,” he said yesterday. “I’m a racer, and people want to see racing, they want to see overtaking and I would never in a million years try to put anyone else - or even myself - in danger.

“I think I’ve always raced with my heart and I think I’ve always made pretty smart decisions when it comes to racing and defending. When you’re defending you have to try and make your car as wide as possible. The rule is basically that you’re not allowed to make more than one manoeuvre to defend, but where they were saying I was defending too much was on the straight, where he actually was 10 or 15 metres behind me, so I wasn’t defending a move that he had done.” Hamilton also argued successfully last year that he was not blocking Vitaly Petrov’s Renault on the straights, but the stewards thought the two incidents were different. “It’s how you interpret the rules and you can’t do anything about it,” he acknowledged. “But I appreciate all the support I’ve had.”

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Ogier wins Jordan Rally by a nose
he Citroen Total World Rally Team driver came back from a 0.5 second deficit to Ford rival Jari-Matti Latvala on the final stage, winning the Jordan Rally by 0.2 seconds - the narrowest victory margin in WRC history. Ogier started the final day with a 31.6 second lead but facing the disadvantage of running first on the road, a task that had left Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen trailing by over two minutes after the first day’s stages. Hirvonen’s BP Ford Abu Dhabi team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala pushed his Fiesta RS WRC to the very limit to overturn the gap, passing Sebastien Loeb in the morning and finally breaking Ogier’s lead on the penultimate stage. “Incredible,” said Ogier. “An incredible day. I had to push like hell today. It’s an amazing feeling. Jari-Matti was so fast today and I had to drive flat out. I’m so happy to end like this.” Ogier’s remarkable time of 5m21.720s on the Power Stage was just four hundredths of a second faster than Hirvonen, who had preserved his tyres for a final push to secure maximum bonus points, knowing that he was too far away from the leaders to challenge them. “We were full on it but I definitely gave it the best shot I had,” said Hirvonen, who takes two bonus points to add to his fourth place overall. “I’m a little bit disappointed with the overall result because yesterday I struggled, but today was better.” Ogier’s team-mate Sebastien Loeb seemed to have settled for third place overall after suffering from oversteer throughout the day. As usual, though, he had something extra in reserve for the Power Stage but fell just 0.3 seconds

Sebastien Ogier became the first World Rally Championship driver to earn maximum points by winning the climactic bonus point Power Stage as well as taking overall victory.
short. “I did a big mistake near the end of the stage,” said Loeb. “I went completely wide in the sand and it felt like I lost two seconds.” Loeb’s third place finish, coupled with third place on the power stage, moves him into the championship lead with 74 points to Hirvonen’s 72. Latvala dropped time in the middle of the final stage and at one point was 4.5 seconds down on his team-mate’s benchmark time. An enormous push over the closing kilometres brought him to 0.7 seconds away from the leaders, but it was not quite enough to hold on to his overall lead. “I pushed very hard and if I lose I can be satisfied with second place,” Latvala said at the end of his run. “I pushed as much as I can.” Ogier’s maximum points haul means he moves ahead of Latvala in the championship, lying third behind Hirvonen on 69 points with Latvala on 66. The four-way fight for the win between Ogier, Latvala, Loeb and Petter Solberg had become a three-way fight on SS17. “About two kilometres into the stage, we had a major spin and just went off the road and got s t u c k ,” said Solberg. “There were some really big rocks there, and we were not able to get the car back on the stage and continue.” Fifth place overall fell to the M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC of Matthew Wilson, who had been battling with ex-Formula 1 driver Kimi Raikkonen throughout the event. A puncture early in SS19 dropped Raikkonen out of the equation, which came as a relief to Wilson. “Something happened after service,” he said. “Maybe we lost a little preload from the rear diff. Even on the straight I can’t keep it in a straight line, but we got a bit of luck to finish fifth. We’ve learned a lot again about the car.” “We wanted to push a bit harder after the first gravel rally,” said Raikkonen. “From the driving side this is probably one of my best and most consistent rallies so I’m happy with that.” Wilson and Raikkonen lie seventh and eighth in the championship, separated by four points. Federico Villagra took seventh place, the best finish of the year for the Munchis Ford World Rally Team driver. Despite some worries about oil temperature he defended his position from the Fiesta RS WRC of Khalid Al Qassimi, who in finishing eighth took his best placing in this event since it became part of the W R C

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calendar. Al Qassimi slipped to 25 seconds behind Villagra over the final stage but he retained a comfortable gap of 4m43.8s to ninth-placed Dennis Kuipers. Bernardo Sousa took SWRC honours as well as scoring a championship point by finishing tenth overall. In the final stage he was nursing a suspension problem. “In the end it was okay,” said Sousa. “We were pushing a lot be we kept it on the road. In the left-hand corners we had to be cautious not to put too much pressure on the shock. I’m delighted with this win.”

2012 fia wrc calendar announced
he provisional calendar for the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship has been announced following an extensive period of consultation between the WRC promoter North One Sport, individual event organisers, competing teams and the FIA, motorsport’s world governing body. The 2012 calendar reflects a new vision for the WRC. This focuses on raising the bar in terms of the level of organisation and promotion of events but also increasing the sense of challenge and achieving a diverse mix of locations and surfaces to underline the WRC’s standing as

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an epic motorsport adventure. In line with the FIA allowing for greater flexibility in the format and structure of events, the new calendar will achieve a greater spirit of innovation, reflected in the inclusion of a long distance event in Argentina and the multi-territory SwedenNorway rally. The WRC will also welcome another new addition to its calendar of events with Abu Dhabi intent on delivering a pioneering approach to hosting a world class WRC event in front of the sport’s growing fan base in the important Middle East region.

Sousa wins maiden SWRC
Bernardo Sousa has clinched his first Super 2000 World Rally Championship (SWRC) victory after an exceptionally tough Jordan Rally.
he 28-year-old hit the front of the field after just five kilometres of the opening stage, when he passed the stricken Ford Fiesta S2000 of long-time and runaway leader Nasser Al-Attiyah. The Qatar driver’s Ford has succumbed to engine failure and, while he battled on through the Yakrut stage, the white smoke from the back of the Fiesta told its own tale. He pulled over and retired. “It’s very disappointing,” said Al-Attiyah. “We went off the start line and I felt the power going from the engine, in the end there was nothing and we had to stop. We had done everything we could on this event, but some times this is the sport and it can happen.” Sousa was next into the stage and he

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admitted passing Al-Attiyah did affect his concentration. “My head was everywhere when we passed him,” said the Portuguese, “then at the end of the stage, we had a spin as well. We dropped about 30 seconds in there, it was tough, but I am really sorry for Nasser, nobody likes it when this happens.” Sousa’s focus returned to his own rally quickly enough as he endured a big moment on his own on the first run through the Baptism Site stage just before service. “We hit a rock in the road,” he said, “it must have been the size of a football. It threw the car right up in the air and when we got to the end we saw the sump guard had been sliced open, it was incredible. Everything seems to

be okay with the engine, though - but I think we are quite lucky.” From then on, Sousa was just keeping an eye on the times and the dials directly ahead of him. “The car was getting a bit tired towards the end of the event,” said Sousa soon after spraying the champagne. “But we did it. This is a fantastic result for us and for the team.” Estonian Karl Kruuda moves into the lead of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship - an impressive feat for the 18-year-old Skoda driver. Kruuda’s car was also suffering from the incredible heat in the stages and some of Jordan’s bigger rocks.

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motor sPorts al-Qassimi Boosted By Jordan Points
Team Abu Dhabi driver Khalid Al Qassimi says his run to eighth place on the Jordan Rally last week has kick-started his world championship season.

l Qass im Fiesta i, driving a factory RS WR -assis C, h to final d a challenge opes the res ted Ford for a t ult wil rivers’ year l lead op 10 standin it’s a c 13th in finish hallen gs aft the ta Al Qas in the ging er he ble fo of the simi w climbe llowing it ran year. “ on the but realistic d to as a c It was the fo goal.” treach Jordan om urth e ero a very and W vent RC can bined Midd Rally in 200 tough has rein us surface, 7 le Eas didate distrac ra of the but th vigora t cham when tio eve de e fight lly on a te me pe pionsh my pla n for many succes manding gra nt. He said I show rsonall d my season ip drivers n - to his kno s on th vel sta ed and re y,” said makin ,b co wledge basics ges -energ eD g his 4 “I finis A ised and dr ncentrate o ut it shaped hed 10 ead Sea eve was pivotal 0th wo l Qassimi, in Jord n the ive cle well. least m to his who w nt. th her rld c an tec ve “A bit e as a aim fo . “The result hampionship of luck rly on stage hnical manag Author tch that,” s in 2008 and r a top s I kno has in start ed to went m aid th ity-bac wante 10 pla spired w avo e Jordan ked dr d to at y of WRC ce by iver. “T Abu Dhabi was a id several h way when s the en me to Tourism he per uge st I my se great a resu tarts only fue d of th sona ones, as result lt, as d lled my e sol but and h WRC c on to life.” id the [due t determ l milestone Ber as la ampaig o the t A ranspo te arrival of ination to ge n with l Qassimi re brought g re on Ra lly d’It rt dela t our eq su Northe ma alia Sa ys]. It u rn Iris mes his gravel caused ipment rdinia ins u h co-d event Petter nex a bit o riv is So and ru Jor fa ns from based in the t month. Th er Rally C lberg has v dan PBeat e allowed hampio port to 5-8. des to hit exit wn of nship ba Olbia when Pite the se ck from his ries co latest he 20 d ntinue tex 03 wo s in Sa isappointme as l rld ch conten rdinia nt in t ampio tion fo an next m he Wo the fou n was r a p rld onth. rth eve odium fro ds mot in Ten-ye nt in s only t finish Solber m2 ogP ar uccess o for g 013 ion in in Aus deal signed of WR , who is no he cra hit trouble Jordan for new tin inc w 43 p C sh on , lud C World oin will be title leader stages ed into retir ce again w Champ es the thre ircuit of the hen able to ement Sebast ts adrift left to Americ e class ionship ien Lo appea with t run. A take h reveale a es of orna S . e rance h fterwa d that the Mo s™ ports, on Rall eart from his b, rds, So ree back in he fea WRC c toGP S.L., 3 Thrott y d’Ita lberg red his 2009. ould h FourTe le Pro lia Sar last Citr historic in a H av metre degna Citroen e finished t signing ductions, L xasMGP, LL drop a e slipped d oen DS3 hird ov P join C and to the nd it n own a former X on som tly an erall ot bec Full new C of a ten-yea co-driv sara WRC e nounc ome w 60r contr ircuit o Texas, er Phil alongs Chris P rocks after ed the edged act brin f the A from 2 Mills. ide he and atterso g merica 013 This a n lef co-driv “I was s™ fac ing MotoGP greem . er ility in hoping t the road. World ent in but th Austin for a clu C at’s ho , Moto3 hampionship des the thr w it is podium finis year-o . ee cat ; the ,” said ld. “No h egorie MotoG The a w we forwar s of th P clas ddition just ha the 36d e s, Mo with t ve to lo of a t rest of to the next to2 a he alr en-yea ok nd event the se eady Formu r Moto and th as perfec sc la 1 GP de e tly bo on. The car United heduled ten Circuit al is th da also h -year States couple of the ys, an worked ap dea d A G constr d I w supplie py about t uction mericas™ in rand Prix™ l to host t as he ne d by M . he , for Austin w tyre ic which , Texa disapp s s is cu ointed helin. I was rrently the just so and als roll do under o lucky wn.” not to

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moto gP

enzo n Lorgns i rei in Spa

wet in the ictory arco kv g) too after M y Racin de España ed whilst or in sh a Fact Yamah n Premio bw i Team) cra a (Repsol enzo ( resin e Gra e Lor Pedros (Ducati Jorg at th nda G with Dani yden lo Ho P race MotoG lli (San Car ish one-two d Nicky Ha an an ce n Simon It was a Sp positio . cond leading claiming se ) Honda third. eam) in T

uilt on eam) b spar T th, ahead eA six (Mapfr finish ) rberá tor Ba e in Losail to Motoracing Héc anc n ab s able , wa ardio rform his pe Abraham (C ing the race pick arel e and was on g dur or, of K plac shin onster to Spies’ err a. ter cra ake seventh P race. Cal f s (M dros le who a ot due dward ind Pe g MotoG was ab ount t Colin E Tech 3) who m place beh second aha Tech 3) s the visitin to rem is a ts in h rostru am ded up rt. It te a Yamah orld take a nster Y er similar fa d top up poin also en ta w (Mo toGP W the front ft urse to e American nable to res e the oli lo o a co m Crutch ighth place rashed in a s first rent M su tak r th he cur n started fro k up 25 c oweve trap and wa d in third to ee d his H he ider’s an io pic to tak when he son. ritish r eason avel Champ was able to ry of the the gr den who finis Team this s h rider, is was the B is rookie sea to Czec nd ti ay row a ce. Th first vic io bwin uit in h pion Toni r Duca h the team. epsol was H im his m five pla he Jerez circ m it ium fo R o and cla the Gran Pre second home rld Cha tt rst pod his career w ey Stoner ( fi lentin points son at race a h Moto2 Wo ght his bike he d of r Cas as his circuit om Va ea e fr lt w inne secon ) brou al place in t Spanis n 2011 s a. This resu mistak race race w Honda n e dalusia Qatar s victim to a h ended his ed from s (LCR e with the fi ki’s John the An Pedrosa. Th Españ at a Elía ic rt de plac Suzu nda) w ti Team) wh ider who sta nd ive win -two with er his ro h s Ho ov sa in nint oing to Rizla injured Álva the succes lica one ti r uca .256s rly lap h ossi (D ly. The Duca ithin the ea ssing ng lear 13 ic race whic he rep om R ac ay fr cing t top te and a ot r pa ture ished th w gap aw s, repla ing) lap. he r a cha prema s up to four p. Afte can fin Hopkin after a long Pramac Rac Mallor mpatriot afte the very last g grou arget and as ade a adin , ( th, w ta si 12 e le til co em xt t Bautis apiros fellow edictable un un in wet ined th his ne lian, h Loris C then jo Stoner was n the Austra control of nda) eries. s unpr which was r slippery, s o st wa o, sol Ho victory then lo ith Stoner, ery Lorenz oeuvre 13th. o (Rep e a race v n t s d was In a king it ay to his firs d his ma e inside an ollision w Dovizio ixth mad made rider ns, ma th c w on Andrea from s g up a few sed a gh on onditio was on his Honda lian ee sec ffered u u c r arted s it thro His error ca The Repsol the Ita ith a th alian su celli who st g start pickin o backward l t lass w ff. e. st Simon n isin mier c renzo. The I g a potentia to g his bik them both o is bike, whil own the pre prom tarted tly error whe h sin g Lo d rd rt in the , but s e s restart sendin one, lo furthe e over i picke ive sta places e a co e gravel. Th able to tinue, albeit ahead, Ross vantag side at turn ade a tentat e hunt ad n mad h was un to con high dm in th ther er nd the track into t a y a ft le s fur t back rosa h a nast ing) 14th a his was off was ab e to incident d to ge in. Ped ry Rac e. esini) last in e he slid ebut w but manage maha Facto he dying ished th plac lo Honda Gr fourth chang . Du d fin field s to or fif Italian race king n Car oints f the pit ies (Ya second in t the a p to his en Sp rd for g into ma (Sa e rostrum, t e Japanese up 11 up in win. B comin i Aoya ia Hirosh way from th MotoGP. Th ad been for the ed the Span e and ended res. wet ty ss s. tak ce a ult in nish h had pa made a mis ing 20 point he same one pla his best res best fi us t ut los n, or previo venth. It was laps, b gravel, positio story f rider’s se

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{ChiCane}

A World in Flux
Apples fall off trees and onto the ground. A fact that is reputed have helped Isaac Newton frame his laws of Gravity. However most other accepted facts seem to be bent if not tossed out nowadays. What does a changing environment mean for us?

does anyone remember the good old days? The days when people took the simple things in life for granted - like day following night and night following day and so on. Of course, for those of a more spiritual bent “God willing” would have been a fair qualifier to add. However, for those of us who accepted that there were certain truisms that we never questioned, it made for a much more balanced outlook on life. Look around you now and see how things are changing. Take our environment for instance - in the past few years we have had deadly hurricanes, ‘earthshaking’ Earthquakes, planegrounding volcanic eruptions and two major Tsunamis. This on top of heavy rains, long droughts and various sundry localised problems. The cost to the world economy has been enormous. If you see it from an industry vertical problem, the past few years have been hell for the insurance, travel and airline industries. Now as if to add the icing, Japan’s own experience with Mother Nature has knocked a blow to electronics, automotive and the nuclear industry. So let’s say we won’t buy anything significant over the next couple of years - what about food? Most people can still remember that the price of staples would increase by a single digit percentage point a year, if at all. Your grandfather was the only one who could shock you by saying, “in my time Rice cost only...” which was a significant factor of difference. What with drought, supply problems, fuel costs and disturbances, most consumers around the world can’t be sure what the cost of Rice will be by this year end. Then what about the other old hoary chestnut - “work hard and prosper”? I’ve tried telling that to my son, only to get the most deadpan look in return. I can understand his disbelief. The people who prosper are those with the contacts, with the ability to soft-talk or those that are smarter than their fellowman. Most hard workers remain just that. Oddly enough the biggest change that we are witness to is in our system of belief. We have to accept that change is the only constant. In the automotive field we have seen enough of that happen. Volvo and Saab are Swedish brands, just like Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Jaguar and Land Rover are British. How do we define the ethnicity of a brand? By acclaim or by ownership? Again, for the past century autos and cars have been synonymous. The next century seems to be setting the trend for us to call them suvs. How we as human beings stay ‘with it’ will be governed by the speed with which we assimilate the new and unexpected and make them part of the norm. Our younger generations will be the spearhead of the change. They will be the ones driving cars with joysticks. As for me save the pleasure of a good meaty steering wheel and the old-fashioned roar of a large engine.

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

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