126

No 126 FEB 2012

Oman’s Best Automotive Resource

OMR 0.500 AED 5.00 QR 5.00

AUTOMAN FEBRUARY 2012

2012 Seventh generation BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 SERIES, ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE S, KIA RIO, VW GOLF R, VINTAGE CAR RALLY & DELHI AUTO EXPO, MOTORSPORTS

+

all our regular features

MORE THAN 250 MODELS, 40 BRANDS, 15 CATEGORIES AND ONLY ONE WINNER IN EACH CATEGORY!

EXCLUSIV

E

Redesigning icons: tough or easy?
Michael Mauer of Porsche and Keiichi Yoneda san of Toyota present interesting viewpoints

AN

INNERS D! W OUNCE N
See results inside P-60
Visit us online at www.automanweb.com

Also tested:

2012 Aston Martin Vantage S

editor-in-chief
Mohammad Al taie

Welcome to another landmark issue from Automan. This month the issue is packed with automotive coverage, test drives and show reviews. But the content pales into insignificance when you measure it against the presence of our maiden Car of the Year assessments and results.

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

As we told our readers at the beginning of 2011. Automan chose the year to be a year of car testing, reviews and excitement. In the year we managed to cover the entire gamut of cars, covering 15 categories. In some months that entailed tests of between 6 to 7 cars on top of our regular staple of automotive coverage. And the fact that we had completed a decade as a car magazine gives the brand the weightage to conduct the COTY in Oman. At the outset we communicated to car importers and manufacturer representative offices in the region that the Car of the Year would be awarded to models that had actually been tested or driven by us. Additionally the model had to be one that made its way to Oman. We needed to set ourselves apart from the plethora of me-too awards that look at pleasing everyone, or alternately choose a single car that catches the fancy of the editor. Of course, we know that there will be the assumption of loss, wherever there is a winner declared. However nothing could be further from the truth in the Automan COTY. We have clearly stated that our COTY will only be based on cars that were made available to our editorial team of testers through the year. We have had some degree of wishful thinking from industry insiders who would like to see their models win the award in a category, without so much as a “please drive my car” from them. To all the people who missed the opportunity in COTY 2011, we have to say call us for a test drive now. At the same time it is pleasant to know the buzz the awards have created in the industry. We get regular calls about the progress and have unfortunately been unable to tell anyone, including the brands that won in each category finally about the status. Every single one of them will read about their success from the pages of this issue. We will be handing over the awards to the winners during the month of February and will let you know the feelings of the winners next month. Another first was our executive editor paying a visit to the Auto Expo in New Delhi which has now emerged as a significant, if rather disorganised, event in the automotive calendar. The Detroit motorshow which was held at around the same time has become a Tier two event, especially when seen from the point of view of the emerging markets where growth is – we carry the reports inside. In the meantime we also have to announce that our website has undergone a major upgrade in platform and in visual appeal. At a time when car magazines in the region are shutting down due to economic considerations, our magazine is thriving on the support of both the local car industry as well as regional brands. We thank all our readers for making that happen.

hatim@alroya.net

raj@alroya.net

execUtive editor chandan B Mallik chandan@alroya.net deSiGn Sawsan Al Muharbi

sawsan@alroya.info

heAd of MArketinG Maged Aziz maged@alroya.net circULAtion books@alroya.net finAnce & AdMin Abraham daniel daniel@alroya.net Sumy Mol sumy@alroya.net WeBSite & it Mohammed f draz

mohammed.draz@alroya.net

Printer ruwi Modern Printers LLc tel: +968 2479 4167, 2479 8157 fax: +968 2470 0545

© 2012 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
SPOTLIGHT
{ROAD TEST}

k

107 10

Blame it on

Rio!

Typical subcompact cars were small, light weight, inexpensive and mostly passed on incognito. But Kia Motors has given the segment something to talk about with its all-new 2012 second generation Rio
Author Chandan B Mallik | Photography: Raj Warrior

News New car launches in Oman 2012 Porsche Carrera S launched in Abu Dhabi

4 6

14

14

STAR POWER

was last month Show in Tokyo lovers et al. s biennial Motor technology location, Japan’ porary and ng fraternity, mix of contem Even in its new for the motori very unusual experience ghts of this a fabulous this at the highli highlights of Automan looks looks at the under one roof Khan future y author and Faisal
Author Chandan B Mallik | Photograph

50
15 50 51

braNdwatch Toyota engineer for new Camry, Keiichi Yoneda’s Oman visit 10 GM regains #1 spot 11 Q&a With Porsche designer Michael Mauer 9 spotlight Delhi Auto Expo 14 North American International Auto Show 22 special feature Statesman Vintage Rally 26 cover story 2012 BMW 3 Series 38 road tests Aston Martin Vantage S 30 CMC Z7 MPV 46 Kia Rio sedan 50 VW Golf R 46 car of the year The winners Motorsports Dakar Rally, Formula One, WRC, Le Mans 60 74

SPOTLIGHT

FIRST DRIVE

Lexus has said that it is on an aggressive product led drive. And with the LF-A and newlyintroduced LF-LC, Lexus really has shown off some stunning designs in recent years. Whether you like the styling of these vehicles or not is beside the point – these aren’t staid sedans or conservative crossers. They’re showing a new side of Lexus, and the LF-LC generated plenty of buzz at this year’s show.

Lexus

IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT
With a slow but steady recovery in the US market underway, it seems that most automotive brands chose to present softer themes at the North American International Auto Show last month
Author Chandan B Mallik

Chevrolet

Both Detroit and Delhi motor shows happened in the same month and represented the New Year’s openers in the East and West. And what a contrast it was! While, this Asian emerging market India welcomed new brands, cars/bikes and concepts amidst fierce domestic competition at the show, the mood at Detroit still seemed to be influenced by the current economic climate. But what was common is the fact that global automotive media and top level industry executives were present in both shows as car and twowheeler brands try to break the somber mood of the past [particularly in Detroit] and take advantage of the platform to launch new models, brag about technological innovations, tease with concept vehicles and spin their stories to several thousand curious journalists, bloggers, TV

producers and hangers-on. Some indicators at NAIAS suggested that things were slowly but surely limping back to normal. For example, Nissan staged a return after a couple years and the current subject of fuel economy and electrification was among the strong themes [as they have been for the past few years]. Besides the hype and hoopla, most automotive brands in Detroit seemed to play the cautious game by concentrating on lighter themes such as exterior-design departures and interior connectivity technologies.

Automan presents key highlights from the show.

GM’s volume brand presented two two-door four seater concepts [no interiors were shown] based on FWD and RWD platforms. The red Chevrolet Code 130R Concept looks as if it was inspired by iconic sports car legends like the BMW 2002 and Datsun 510. By far, one of Chevy’s most daring concept cars in recent times that’s mechanically based on the new Alpha rear-wheel drive platform [also underpinning the Cadillac ATS]. A traditional three-box design, the Code 130 features an upright greenhouse and rides on a 109-inch wheelbase with short overhangs. Under the bonnet is a tuned-up direct-injection 150hp 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine coupled with GM’s eAssist electric assist system that supplements engine power, performs regenerative braking and allows for engine auto start/stop.The second concept car, the second of GMs youth-oriented concepts and spiritual sibling to the Code 130S Concept, the Tru 140S is designed to bring exotic styling to the compact segment. The white is said to get its styling inspiration from Italian sports cars [we think Honda’s CR-Z is the closest source] and is mechanically based on Cruze/Volt platform. Small 1.4-litre turbo charged four-cylinder engines will power the car.

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The possible replacement of the NSX has been in the news for while and were aware that the 21st century version of this supercar was going to be shown in Detroit. Till the last moment nothing had been officially unveiled and when the sheet was pulled off, it revealed a hybrid coupe instead. Looking almost identical to Tony Stark’s Acura on the film set of The Avengers, Honda of America spokesman Gary Robinson said the vehicle was a, “one-off, fictional car that was made just for the movie and will not be produced.” However, a production ready model will be available in three years says Honda which will be developed by Honda R&D Americas and manufactured in Ohio. The next-generation supercar will have a mid-mounted V6 engine, make use of lightweight materials and include Honda’s Sport Hybrid SHAWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) hybrid system.

Author Chandan B Mallik Author Raj Warrior

Acura
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30

Gaydon, UK-based Aston Martin’s Vantage S is more than just a logical progression of the model series and Automan discovers its true colours in Oman

Ad Vantage ‘S’
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AUTOMAN COTY 2011

{ROAD TEST}

First edition of Automan’s COTY 2011 has come at a time when the global auto industry has been trying very hard to beat obstacles due to the ongoing economic slowdown.

Winner takes it all
It’s no secret that fortunes of the global automotive industry have been affected as a result of the threeyear economic crisis and a series of natural disasters. The global financial downturn which began in 2008 and peaked in 2010 has affected mostly European and Asian automobile manufacturers in general, but bigger shocks were experienced by the American automobile fraternity in particular. Following dramatic drops in automobile sales in 2008, each of the “Big Three” U.S. automakers: General Motors (GM), Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler, requested emergency Federal loans in order to address impending cash shortages. By April 2009, the situation had worsened such that both GM and Chrysler were faced with imminent bankruptcy and liquidation. Meanwhile, the rest of the industry went into a cautious wait and watch mode for the next 24 months hoping for speedy recovery. But that didn’t happen. On the contrary, while some innovative brands thrived, several saw their bottomlines erode considerably. But each crisis also offers a new set of challenges and in some cases new opportunities. Fortunes of several Japanese and non-Japanese brands operating out of mainland Japan and Thailand took a direct hit last year as a result of the devastating Tsunami followed by floods. Many important new model launches – especially of small pick-up trucks and SUVs – have been postponed indefinitely while production of several models has been seriously affected. The double-whammy came for several players who were slow to read the vital signs and take appropriate action. Besides serious dip in sales and not being able to make the right investments in the right place or time also cost them market shares and brand loyalty. The smart players went into economy mode with efficiency as the mantra or began looking at new/unrepresented segments. And this mantra included introduction of efficient technologies, hybridization, reducing displacement capacity and cylinders, lightweight construction among other measures. And this period also saw the rise and rise of progressive brands. Once considered as cheap offerings, South Korean brands such as Hyundai and Kia grabbed the lion’s share of the market as not only they keep getting better and better with interesting and exciting products on offer, but also have created several enviable benchmarks. American brands such as Ford and GM have also upped their game significantly in quality and have revised their respective global product strategies with new offerings. Small cars such the Ford Focus and the Chevy Sonic are the first American-built subcompacts since the 1970s that are finally are world-class. Some car manufacturers from Asia, Europe and North America delayed new model introductions and most opted for production cuts and began implementing innovative marketing strategies to entice reluctant consumers. So, in a nutshell, it has been an interesting period for Team Automan. Editors at Automan spent a whole year testing eligible models in the region for our maiden 2011 Car of the Year programme. In terms if representation there were XX Americans, XX Europeans, and XX Asians, including XX Koreans. We tested XX cars, including some variants. At the onset of the COTY programme, we have ensured that is doesn’t end up as a comparison test. We have meticulously evaluated each car tested against our six criteria, though the huge selection of cars provided us with tempting pairings from say models like the Audi A7 versus Mercedes-Benz CLS to seven compacts in various segments; three subcompacts; A-segment cars and three sporty niche models, including the most fun-to-drive car with the best exhaust note such as the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman or Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque. The presence of iconic models with huge improvements inside out such as the Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata made the job even tougher for us. These models now successfully challenge conventional automotive wisdom by sticking to universal global design, a path recognized as a sure and safe alternative and perhaps the only way to successfully build commodity cars. Besides, the above, our assessment also looked in to areas such as advancement in design which considered among things perceived quality execution of exterior and interior styling; innovation in vehicle packaging; selection and use of materials. Engineering is also a fundamental area and here our consideration included total vehicle concept and execution, solutions to packaging, manufacturing and dynamics issues; use of costeffective technologies that actually benefit the consumer. We also included primary safety in the list – both active and passive and lastly value for money in terms of price and equipment levels, service/ warranties measured against those of vehicles in the same market segment. The job of choosing the finalists hasn’t been easy for Team Automan. We think our assessment is fair and impartial. We also would like to express our thanks to all manufacturers who provided vehicles for evaluation in Oman at dealership level and also vehicles from the Regional HQs.

MORE THAN 250 MODELS, 40 BRANDS, 15 CATEGORIES AND ONLY ONE WINNER IN EACH CATEGORY!

Category

Large car

2011 Dodge Charger
The Dodge Charger has received one of the more substantial redesigns of all the recently redone Chrysler Group LLC vehicles. As a muscle car, the Charger’s exterior is sharper and well-defined and its interior is no longer considered basic. Though some were underwhelmed by certain elements of the interior, we have to remember that this is a Dodge and not a luxury oriented Chrysler model. The infotainment system and sporty cabin details got thumbs up from the judges. But, it’s the range and variants that impress. The entry level model comes with the award-winning 3.6-litre normally-

Automan’s take :
Dodge is changing the rules of the game, and the all-new 2011 Charger embodies the brand’s promise to deliver American performance machines that deliver world-class efficiency, technology, authentic materials and standout styling for customers. As the Dodge brand’s allnew flagship four-door coupe, the new Charger exemplifies how Chrysler Group is applying strict targets for world-class performance, quality, technology and refinement.

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aspirated Pentastar V6 which delivers premium, world-class E-segment sedan precision at an incredible value. Next up the ladder is R/T version which offers 370hp and 395 lb-ft of torque. Despite its five-speed automatic transmission, it’s hard not to love this car. In the large-car segment, the new Dodge Charger fits its purpose well. This four-door has attitude to spare and the V6 is quite economical and fun to drive as a day to day car. But when considered alongside some of the other well-regarded contenders, the Charger needs more than a redone interior and the eight-speed transmission to grab the Car of the Year title.

Author Raj Warrior Photographs: Raj Warrior

46

Far from the glamour world of cars, a Taiwanese company has quietly introduced competition in the people carrier segment with the Z7.

Competition in Innovation
47

61

46

{COVER

STORY}

Terminator
3 arrives
Author Chandan B Mallik

cover story 38
38

On a fundamental level, there’s no disputing the fact that it was BMW’s 3-Series [E30] that pretty much invented the rear-wheel drive sports sedan genre. Automan was invited by the manufacturer to attend its ride and drive event for the all-new sixth-generation F30
39

Motorsports Q&a With Bruno Senna 78 chicaNe Car manufacturers’ understanding of customer requirements 80

OMAN & REGIONAL NEws}
new 2012 CamRy CustomeRs feliCitateD

eVoque by Range RoVeR now in oman

A special event was held at the Toyota showroom in Barka to felicitate the owners of the brand new 2012 Toyota Camry as part of a customer meet programme. Customers also met high-ranking Toyota officials including Keiichi Yoneda, project general manager for the new Camry in Japan who specially came down for this event. During the occasion, Yoneda San shared his views on the new Camry by saying: “The new Camry is an indispensable model in the Toyota line-up. To further improve its position and reinforce its reputation of this Toyota backbone model, we set out the mission with two objectives. The first one was how to meet the changed market demands of today and therefore produce a bestseller in the mid-size sedan market. The second was to refine Toyota’s safety and quality uncompromisingly. With these objectives, we wanted to create a mid-size sedan that would lead the world and set new standards in the coming era. Hence, we made the concept for the new Camry as the new era sedan, signifying a combination of greater emotional-appeal and rational attraction. In an exclusive interview with Automan, Yoneda San shared some interesting details about the new Camry development [see interview in Brandwatch]. mHD intRoDuCes CmC z7 mPV

No, it’s not a designer apparel but, a stunning allnew luxurious lifestyle crossover model line-up from the iconic Tata Motors-owned Gaydon, UK-based Land Rover. These stylish production models in 3and 5-door variants were unveiled at the brand’s authorized dealership Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC in Oman. Although designed as a cross-coupé as in the spirit of the groundbreaking Land Rover LRX concept car a few years ago, both models, in their own territories offer an innovative new interpretation of the original cross-coupé design. The cars offered are powered by highly efficient forced fed 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engines using direct fuel injection and twin variable valve timing. When

mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox, the 240hp powertrain is capable of delivering 0-100km/h performance in 7.6secs. While, several trims and variants are being offered, the Evoque will be the first Range Rover to offer customers a choice between a full-time four-wheel-drive system, which delivers outstanding performance and traction on all surfaces, and a low carbon, front-wheel-drive option for further enhanced fuel economy. The Evoque can also be specified with the sophisticated Adaptive Dynamics system which uses advanced MagneRide dampers to provide a particularly good balance of confident, nimble handling and supple, controlled ride. Depending in variant, prices begin at OMR24,500 – OMR28,500.

infiniti fx RefResHeD foR 2012
of the brand’s iconic performance crossover, the FX which enters the 2012 model year with big news – notably a revised front grille and front fascia design inspired by the Infiniti Essence Concept, revised meter illumination and some new features including a new exterior colour and new 20in wheel design. The FX35 is powered by a 303hp 3.5-litre 24valve DOHC V6 engine paired with a standard 7-speed automatic transmission featuring advanced Adaptive Shift Control. The FX35 is being introduced in the GCC first followed by the FX50 and is also offered with Intelligent All-Wheel Drive. Oman prices for the FX35 begin at OMR24,500. Meanwhile, Arabian Automobiles, the exclusive dealer of Infiniti in Dubai and the Northern Emirates has also announced the arrival of the enhanced FX in its showrooms where the starting prices begin at AED217,000.
enhancements have arrived at Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC [MHD] Volvo showrooms in the Sultanate. The R-packaging includes the C30 hatchback, S60 sedan and XC60 SUV. With these new additions, MHD is addressing the requirements of customers who might be looking for a hatchback, a full size saloon or a SUV with a bit more than the usual.

Automotive division of MHD LLC launched the all-new MPV called Z7 for Oman. The Z7 is manufactured by CMC in Taiwan. CMC was founded in 1969 and has a technical collaboration with Mitsubishi Motors Corporation. CMC currently produces more than 120,000 vehicles per annum and its portfolio has sedans, RVs, LCV’s and trucks. MHD is offering the 2.4-litre engine CMC Z7 for OMR7,995 with a three years/ 60,000km warranty and AAA road side assistance for two years.

2011 was good for Nissan’s prestigious Infiniti brand globally and regionally. In Oman, the brand registered a year on year growth of 30 per cent and the brand has ambitious global plans. By 2016, it wants to sell half a million units worldwide. While the US is the brand’s numero uno market, the Middle East is equally important where it expect to close sales at around 5,000 units by March 2012. Juergen Schmitz, general manager of Infiniti’s regional business unit was in Oman during the launch
For Swedish performance aficionados who remember the Volvo R models from the ’90s and early 2000s, the R-philosophy has been pretty simple and straight forward. Rather than increase power, add-ons were being limited to stiffer suspension bits, flashy wheels, and sportier interior and exterior trim. The 2012 MY range of Volvo R-Design cars with cosmetic

VolVo R-Design in oman
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REGIONAL NEws
new Regional DiReCtoR at mClaRen automotiVe
McLaren Automotive has confirmed that Mark Harrison, the current Head of PR, has been appointed as regional director for Middle East & Africa. The appointment follows outgoing regional director, Ian Gorsuch’s relocation to Singapore as regional director for Asia Pacific -- a newly created position that supports the creation of McLaren Automotive Asia, a private limited company registered in Singapore to oversee McLaren Automotive’s Asia Pacific operations. Harrison will be responsible for enhancing McLaren Automotive’s presence across the Middle East and Africa, managing the company’s relationships with its appointed retailers in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE (Abu Dhabi, Dubai) and South Africa.

2012 911 PoRsCHe CaRReRa s bReaks CoVeR in abu DHabi
The Yas Marina track and some quiet back roads in and around Abu Dhabi turned out to be the perfect setting for Porsche Middle East to present its all-new 911 Carrera. The completely new generation iconic coupe comes from a family that has been acclaimed as one of the world’s benchmark sports cars since its launch in 1963. True to the 911 tradition, the distinctive Porsche design language exudes power and elegance. The unmistakable silhouette still catches the eye while incorporating new, exciting contours and precisely designed details; a 100mm longer wheelbase for improved stability and greater interior space; front and rear overhangs are shorter, maintaining the compact footprint that has been a longstanding 911 attribute; the sporting stance is emphasised by the lower roof line and a wider front track increases on-road presence further still while raising the chassis dynamics. The Porsche 911 Carrera is powered by a new 3.4-litre engine developing 350hp, and the Carrera S features a 400hp version of the now familiar 3.8-litre and both engines offer performance improvements for both models -- the 3.4-litre Carrera with PDK accelerates from 0-100km/h in 4.6sec [0.1sec quicker than the prior model] and in Sport Plus mode on the optional Sport Chrono Pack cuts that timing to 4.4sec. The 3.8-litre Carrera S with PDK can accelerate from 0- 100km/h in 4.3sec [Sport Plus 4.1 sec], 0.2sec quicker than its predecessor. Despite added equipment the car is actually 45kg lighter and notable new first time features include Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control [PDCC] active roll stabilisation system on the Porsche 911 Carrera S and also Porsche Torque Vectoring [PTV] with rear limited slip differential.

towell auto CentRe oPens sHowRoom in bani bu ali
Towell Auto Centre (TAC) has opened a brand new showroom at Bani Bu Ali. The new showroom was inaugurated by H. E. Hilal Ali Saud Al Habsi, the Wali of Bani Bu Ali in the presence of several dignitaries, customers and senior officials from TAC. Located conveniently on the main road in an easily accessible location, the showroom will offer the same standards in sales, after-sales service and spare parts.

lifestyle utility PiCk-uP fRom Vw launCHeD in oman
Volkswagen has launched the new Amarok pick-up in the Sultanate. The pick-up begins its international career as a Double Cab with a four-door body that offers impressive space for five adults. In both concept and style, the Amarok is clearly influenced by the new Volkswagen Design DNA. Although petrol-engined double cabs remain a small niche, VW is least tackling it with a small but sophisticated four-cylinder turbo charged engine - the first of its kind in this segment. In Oman, the Amarok will be offered with 160hp and six-speed manual gearbox via which it channels its power to the rear wheels. Comfort and lifestyle features of this Argentina-built vehicle includes air-conditioning, a four-speaker CD/MP3 audio system, cruise control, trip computer, electric windows and mirrors, height and reach adjustable steering wheel, dual front airbags, traction control and off-road ABS. In addition to the pickup’s numerous standard features, an extensive accessories program is being offered for the Amarok as well. Amarok prices begin from OMR7,150.00.

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FAcE tO FAcE

igning Redes an icon
10

Is it easy or tough to redesign a motoring icon such as the Porsche 911 Carerra, a model which has held its enviable status in its segment since 1963 amidst conflicting demands? Michael Mauer, the current chief of design at Porsche explains the fine points of how the job was done during the regional launch of the seventh generation.

As a designer how do you perceive the 911? We consider the 911 as an automotive engineering icon. One of the reasons for this is that it has been cautiously and consistently refined over the years. Given the circumstances and history of this model series what path did you chose for designing the seventhgeneration 911 Carrera. Was it revolutionary or evolutionary? We as designers had a very clear view of the job. Our objective was to create a car that was clearly recognizable as a 911 and more importantly a new 911. Had we opted for a radical redesign, then this simply wouldn’t be a 911 anymore. Hence, we had to maintain the delicate balance between design and engineering of the 911 without deviating too much. Can you be a bit more specific? For us it was very important to maintain the car’s distinctive shape, starting with the long hood, bulging headlamps, the characteristic ‘flyline’ roof, and, of course, from the engineering perspective, the rear-engine layout and some performance/handling demands. What were your priority areas during design development? I’d say three key areas were prioritized – balancing proportions, maintain the 911 silhouette/profile and fine detailing. How did you go about it? First we studied in detail each generation model and looked at the classical elements We have been able to create a Porsche 911 that is at once familiar and yet radically different. Although the overall width is unchanged, we have managed to give it a wider track up front and lowered the roof height in the process. Let’s begin with the

front end. The wing is typical of 911 and the silhouette above is now sleeker and more athletic. We’ve pushed the headlamps back and the windscreen is more convex and raked. Also we have relocated the rear view mirrors to the shoulder where we think it is appropriate for a sports car. I am happy how the car now looks flatter and lower when viewed from the front. From the sides you can see the unmistakable 911 cues – the way the ‘flyline’ roof ends and the wraparound window lines. Meanwhile, at the rear, we have adopted precision in design. As you note, the trademark shoulder of the car is wider now which also emphasises where the power is applied to the road comes from and we also created a new element to highlight the end the roofline along with narrower tail lamps. The new element we are referring to relates to the lip located at the edge and the way we have integrated the retractable spoiler elegantly in the body. And for the interior? Again, we haven’t deviated in key 911 identifiable items such as the ignition key location on the left hand side or the large tachometer in the centre of the instrument cluster. Subtle changes now include the orientation of the instrument panel which is now a bit more towards the driver for that close cockpit feel and also the Cayenne/ Panamera inspired central console which gives the feeling that you are sitting lower in the car.

Porsche claims that 90 per cent of this car is new. What’s new and what has been carried over? There’s not a single panel or part carried over but for the powertrain – which has undergone some significant enhancements.

Michael Mauer, the current chief of design at Porsche is no stranger to the world of automotive design. The exMercedes-Benz designer admitted at the Carrera S presentation in Abu Dhabi that redesigning a modern version of this iconic model series without tampering with its classic design DNA and heritage was no easy task. The first thing Mauer admitted in this project was that he had to recognize the limits confronting him and his team as there were very few vehicles which can claim to be more iconic and in the current climate fewer projects or opportunities that could be more challenging like redesigning the 911 as a modern and classic motor car.

The car is longer, lower and wider and it has been designed to incorporate an array of new technologies intended to make it more powerful and more dynamic – while also improving its fuel economy by an estimated 16 percent. Has the addition of new features added weight to the vehicle and thereby compromised with the overall packaging? The answer is yes and no. While some components have been added which did increase weight, at the same time our engineers have been able to shave off 45kgs by using intelligent construction and weight management techniques without compromising safety or performance. We have noticed some new character lines on the car. What’s the purpose for this? We added those character lines to give it a sharper and sportier feel without distorting the proportions despite the car being dimensionally a bit larger. Where did the idea of larger wheels come from? The idea to use larger 20in wheels in the tight and broadened wheel arches was a specific demand from the racing division.

11

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eNgiNeeriNg a Quiet revolutioN
he unassuming countenance of Yonedasan hides a deeply emotional connection to the car he has shepherded to a global launch of such significance. Keiichi Yoneda considers the 2012 Camry one of his most treasured projects. “We had a very difficult time during the development process of the Camry. There were issues related to quality that the company was going through and this resulted in the project having to be reassessed with fresh benchmarks for quality.” This was of course with reference to the huge blow that Toyota Motor Corporation were taking in terms of product recalls as the industry headed into the 2009 financial crisis. Top management were keen to set the record straight and they made sure that the replacement Camry would designed and made to new benchmarks. “We started out with very high performance parameters right at the beginning, so they did not have to be changed. However, even our already high quality standards were not considered path-breaking so we had to improve them to a level that is unmatched. In essence we had to take twice as much care and effort to push the quality benchmarks higher.” Getting drawn back into his memories of the task this entailed, Yoneda-san said, “If you look at particulars, this even entailed revisiting the design and engineering drawings to make sure that nothing was overlooked or to see where we could improve on downstream processes and production.” This rigour was continued all through the manufacturing process and entailed changes to the quality assurance stages at every juncture. “The number of quality assurance, test procedures and checks went up dramatically. So much was riding on the Camry’s success that we just had to make sure that it all fell in place correctly.” This focus on quality has already migrated out of the development process to the production lines around the world. Between the importance of the Camry for the brand in achieving leadership in the US market to the global supply out of Australia, Toyota invested heavily in carrying the quality message to its production lines around the world. “We began the process by making sure that the Japanese and US plants were equally involved with the new quality focus and then have integrated other plants into the same process.” This renewed quality focus as well as the economic straitjacket of a strong Yen could be the reason why the company is considering supplying Asian markets from its US factory. Yoneda-san is also rather confident about

T

Automan met Keiichi Yoneda, Deputy Chief Engineer of Toyota Motor Corporation, recognised as the man behind the development work on the Camry 2012 that is making waves in Oman. He was in the country as part of a regional fact-finding and feedback tour to gauge the response to the changes brought about in the iconic Toyota model. We had the privilege of being the only media in Oman to meet him face-to-face and get some personal insight from the man about his pet project.
the 2012 Camry’s renewed appeal in the US domestic market, where through the years the model has been a bestseller. “In terms of performance, the Camry is now definitely at the head of the pack.” With its new styling the Camry looks like it is appealing to a younger buyer. The two watchwords that the designers used were “Emotional” and “Rational”. Making sure that the car was the quality benchmark connects with the latter. However the car’s performance and styling are surely at the core of the emotional connect. “We now have three grades of the car, each of which is just that little bit different in terms of what it offers the customer. Like the SE which we are launching today, which is meant for the younger buyer,

which is very important in this market, while the GLX is targeted at families. On the SE it is not just the styling – we have added a sporty feel on the suspension and handling.” We of course were interested in whether the well-known hybrid powertrain available for the Camry in the US would make its way to the region. And the reason we asked Yoneda-san this question was more because of the performance gain in acceleration and mid-range torque availability rather than fuelefficiency. “We introduced the hybrid Camry in various markets including the US, Japan, Australia, China and Thailand. However the battery of the hybrid drivetrain is the weak point that prevents it from being introduced in this region. The high operating temperatures result in the performance of the battery degrading over a period of time. Now you may think that the US has hot areas – like Arizona – so how does it function well there? The reason is that while it can get very hot, it is not hot over a period of time with heat spells lasting just a couple of months and temperatures normally reaching only 43 degrees. Of course it is hotter here and for longer.” The plan for introduction of the hybrid drivetrain in the region is setting off in a small way with Dubai taxis. The benefit that Yonedasan sees in this move is that the typical Taxi is operating almost all the time, with its airconditioning on. This allows the battery to be kept in a climate-controlled environment as opposed to the personally driven car which goes through short periods of use and then extended parking in hot parking lots or the open. “We already have hybrids in the region in the Lexus line-up, like the LS600h and the CT200h, but in these cases we don’t foresee a problem because in most cases these cars are parked under shade or in a closed garage.” Yoneda-san also skimmed through the Automan cover story on the 2012 Camry (in our December 2011 issue) and seeing that we had driven the sun-roof equipped GLX model asked the assembled team from the Saud Bahwan group to how us the car without it, so that we could see the way in which extra space has been created by scooping out the roof lining in the front too. He was all smiles when we said that we had already noticed that – you wouldn’t expect a rational man like Keiichi Yoneda getting so emotionally carried away with his product until you come to realise that the Camry is so much more than that for him. - Interviewed in Oman by Raj Warrior

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The numbers game: 2011 was good for some
GM is # 1 again. In less than three years after emerging from bankruptcy General Motors is positioned to once again be the world’s number one automaker, with sales for 2011 totaling 9.03mn. Its largest brand Chevrolet, meanwhile, reported an all-time record of 4.76mn sales to close out its 100th anniversary. However, GM’s victory celebration will have to wait for Toyota to confirm its 2011 numbers. The Japanese giant had toppled its US rival as global king-of-the-hill three years ago but it lost thousands of units of production in 2011 due to the impact of the March 11 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. For the first three quarters of last year, Toyota deliveries were off 8.8 per cent to 5.77mn. But fourth quarter sales and production were again set back by subsequent flooding in Thailand. Preliminary figures suggest it will end 2011 with 7.9mn sales, down about 6 per cent for the full year. That is likely to mean that Volkswagen AG will squeak into second place, with total sales of 8.39mn for the year. Excluding Daimler, the Renault-Nissan Alliance also appears to be positioned to push past Toyota, with sales of 8.03mn likely to move it into third place for 2011. BMW still maintained its world number 1 ranking in sales of premium cars. BMW posted an overall rise in 14 per cent sales volumes to reach total sales of 1.67mn units which included sales of BMW, Rolls Royce and MINI models. Audi went on to become the second beating Mercedes Benz by registering a growth of 19 per cent to 1.3mn vehicles in terms of sales. Controversy in the air? According to The Wall Street Journal, VW has said it will be adding some 200,000 units to its previously released sales total, contributions from some commercial truck manufacturers that are subsidiaries. Moreover, the WSJ has called into question GM’s practice of counting the vehicles sold by two Chinese partners in which GM does not have a controlling interest. Liuzhou Wuling Motors sold 1.2mn vehicles in China last year, according to the report, which the Journal says some analysts don’t count in tabulating their numbers. If those vehicles were excluded from GM’s nine million vehicle sales total, it would drop behind VW. Further controversy may cloud third place on the list, as the Nissan-Renault partnership may have passed Toyota in the rankings, according to the report. That is, if you accept the notion that Nissan and Renault are one company and that Renault’s AvtoVAZ subsidiary should have its sales numbers count. Renault has a 25per cent stake in the Russian company, notes the report.

Honda to get back in form by Q1
Honda was another brand stuck with massive constraints of production due to lack of supply of components from its vendors who were affected by the Thailand floods. While the carmaker has managed to secure alternate sources for the components, mainly electronic and underbody parts from Japan and China, it hopes the new arrangement will ensure uninterrupted supplies and expects things to normalize by March. The Japanese automaker has already resumed City production and are aiming to get the production of the Asia-speicific Brio and Jazz up and running by next month to prevent waiting periods and delay to customers. Honda aims to resume its production output to 9,000 to 10,000 units per month by March, 2012 in India alone. Honda is also considering the setting up of a production line at its second plant in Tapukara near Rajasthan, India.

Automan’s take
The latest industry sales numbers can’t simply be dismissed no matter what WSJ has to say. For GM, they symbolize a significant recovery since the maker lost the sales crown shortly before having to enter Chapter 11 protection. In particular, the tally underscores the US maker’s increasing focus on markets outside of its traditional hub in North America. Nearly three out of four GM vehicles were sold, last year, in markets ranging from China to the Czech Republic. Significant is also the fact that VW aims to be the world’s number one by 2018 by annually selling a total of 10m vehicles. It will be very interesting to see how these global brands carve out their strategy to beat each other to get the numero uno spot.

DRB-Hicom to buy Proton
It is now confirmed that Malaysian billionaire Syed Mokhtar Al- Bukhary’s DRB-Hicom [DRB] has agreed to buy Lotus sportscarowner Proton Holdings for US$410mn in Malaysia’s biggest automotive takeover since 2000. Selangor-based DRB manufactures, distributes and assembles a range of vehicles from motorcycles to garbage trucks for global carmakers from Volkswagen AG (VOW) to Suzuki Motor Corporation and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz. It has eight assembly plants, of which four are for producing cars.

Saab: the saga continues
When most of us thought that Saab’s chapter was permanently closed and it was one less brand in the automotive arena, according to a new report from Reuters, the Chinese firm Youngman is ready to make a new bid for the Swedish brand and it could be worth more than a billion Euros. It may be recalled that the door appeared closed on Youngman a while ago when General Motors, which engineered much of the technology in the 9-5 and 9-4X, said it wouldn’t do a deal that risked harming its position in China. The Chinese company has Saab’s Phoenix architecture in mind, which is ready to go and is said to be essentially free of GM intellectual property. According to Just-Auto, Phoenixbased Lotus variants for China are also under consideration but with Proton’s pending sale to DRB-Hicom, this is a bit unclear at the moment. In addition, there are more issues on hand to consider such as how many of Saab’s assets are still even available for purchase? Suitor from Turkey? Adding a new twist to Saab’s ongoing bankruptcy process, Turkish private-equity firm Brightwell Holdings BV has announced that it plans to bid on the Swedish automaker. The news comes just one day after Chinese automaker Youngman confirmed that it was still interested in purchasing the bankrupt car maker. Brightwell currently has investments in the energy, transportation and technology industries, and apparently wants to add auto manufacturing to its portfolio. The company says that it would revive Saab ’s manufacturing business.

Automan’s take
The issue is that the Saab deal brokered with Youngman would make General Motors compete against another company for which GM was building cars and that was using GM technology. To get around that, Youngman has proposed buying Saab and not using GM tech, which, that’s right, would mean walking away from the still-new 9-5 and 9-4X. Instead, Youngman would restart Saab production with a brand-new 9-3 for China domestic market only. We think GM is furiously trying to protect its intellectual property rights and prevent the Chinese access to their technology/processes and in the process according to some analysts being a bit adamant considering the fact that the 9-3 isn’t a real threat to GM’s prospects. The Chinese company has Saab’s Phoenix architecture in mind, which is ready to go and said to be essentially free of GM intellectual property with help of Lotus.

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Ford’s Ecoboost technology for Mustang?
What’s the possibility of an Ecoboost Mustang coming in the fold in view of the current technology trends? What has long been just a rumour has finally been confirmed as reality: Ford will soon offer the Mustang with an EcoBoost motor. “Given the success we’ve had with EcoBoost across the lineup that we’ve talked about, it’s fair to assume that we will have an EcoBoost Mustang in the very near future,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford ’s group vice president of Global Product Development. However, Kuzak didn’t specify what EcoBoost package Ford would offer in the Mustang. We think it could be a four-cylinder unit displacing 2.0-litre [direct-injected, turbocharged from the upcoming Focus ST] and good for 247hp. As of now, the 3.7-litre V6 produces 305hp and hence the proposed package could slot under the V6 as an entry level model. Another consideration could be an EcoBoost 2.5-litre four with around 300hp but more economical than the 3.7-litre. Given the current trend in Ford Fusion and the Edge which have fuel efficient Ecoboost four-cylinders, we will not be surprised if this formula is adopted for the Mustang.

Automan’s take

It’s natural for many Mustang aficionados to raise eyebrows at such an eventuality. However, in Mustang’s history, there is a precedent for a performance-oriented pony car with just four cylinders on board. The Mustang SVO produced during 1984-86 made an impressive 205hp from its turbocharged 2.3-litre inline-four. Should all go well, expect to the see the EcoBoost-equipped Mustang in a showroom in a year or two.

Hyundai takes the lead in transmission technology
A new engineering development has been confirmed by Hyundai which is sure to create some ripples in the automotive industry. Hyundai is entering into the 10speed automatic transmission club with its own version of such as transmission. Further confirmation has come from Hyundai Motor Group’s president Park Seong Hyon who has said that 10-speed automatic transmissions will become available in the group’s luxury models from 2014.

Dodge Dart to get Hyundai transmissions?

Budget Rent a Car has added the new Audi A6 to its fleet of cars. Seen during the key handing over ceremony [l-r] Abdel Karim Awwad of Audi, Shabbir S. Boxwala, GM of Budget Rent a Car and Audi officials

Tata Nano for Bangladesh
The world’s cheapest car, Tata Nano after having a really memorable journey in the Indian auto market is now headed to Bangladesh. The first batch of Nanos arrived this month and the Bangladeshi dealership of Tata Motors has struck a deal with the company to import 2,000 units Nano cars per year. The Tata Nano will be sold in the Bangladeshi market for Taka 6,50,000 [US$7,766]. In India the Tata Nano was launched in March 2009 for a retail price US$ 2,500 [before taxes]. Tata Motors also exports the Nano to countries such as South Africa and Sri Lanka SAARC countries including Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar will be added soon.

Automan’s take

Only a few years ago, six-speed automatic gearboxes were available only in top-of-the-line premium performance or luxury cars. Then the gear count started to increase gradually: first at seven, which seemed like a novelty, and quite recently at eight, which most luxury carmakers rushed to adopt and now this new development. It will be interesting to see how the overall industry reacts eventually.

Hyundai’s US CEO John Krafcik has recently confirmed that the Korean automaker Hyundai will supply Chrysler with transmissions for its new Dodge Dart. This is because according to Car and Driver, the American manufacturer is reportedly having issues getting the transmission properly calibrated to obtain the lofty fuel economy numbers. Although, Chrysler hasn’t officially confirmed the move as of yet, and Hyundai is also keeping its lips sealed on which transmissions are headed to the Dart line, we think the current Sonata’s six-speed automatic is best suited for the purpose.

Automan’s take

Automobili Lamborghini has opened a new dealership in France, Lamborghini Paris Ouest (West). The showroom is located on 15 Boulevard Gouvion, Saint Cyr is managed by Lamborghini’s partner Neubauer Group.

This alliance may seem like odd dance partners, but in real terms, the tie-up makes plenty of business sense. And part of this has to do with the now-defunct Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance with Mitsubishi where both companies, especially Chrysler [when under Daimler] used engines produced out of the arrangement. The proposed 2.0- and 2.4-litre four-cylinder engines for the Dart will share more than a few strands of DNA with the same displacement engines found under the hood of vehicles like the Hyundai Sonata. Needless to say, it shouldn’t take too much effort to get the bulletproof Hyundai gearbox and Chrysler engines to pair up nicely.

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Study: Toyota’s electronics not to blame in unintended acceleration
The seemingly never ending investigation into the possible causes of unintended acceleration by Toyota vehicles has once again found no fault in the Japanese automaker’s components, but instead raised new questions about the capability of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration when it comes to making such determinations. The latest study, a 162-pg turner by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) National Research Council, titled “The Safety Promise and Challenges of Automotive Electronics: Insights from Unintended Acceleration,” yet again cleared Toyota of fault, but interestingly turned the spotlight back on the very organization that commissioned the report: NHTSA. The report says that no findings were ever substantiated that pointed to electronics specifically being the root cause of unintended acceleration out of the hundreds of cases investigated, but it did raise questions about whether or not the safety organization was so equipped to properly investigate these sorts of matters as the electronics in vehicles continue to become more and more advanced. Not surprisingly, Toyota thanked NAS for its work, but now it appears NHTSA is the one that needs to begin its work – starting with lobbying Congress for additional funding to better training among other initiatives.

Spyker considers closure

After significant investment and growth in China, Aston Martin continues its bold expansion, with the recent opening of the luxury British marque’s largest flagship showroom, in the Pudong district of Shanghai. The new appointment marks the seventh dealership for Aston Martin in China.

New designer Kia Motors branded showrooms launched
The first of Kia’s new global standard Red Cube showrooms has opened at Arnold Clark Northwich in Cheshire, UK. The Red Cube concept has been created to deliver the most complete visual representation of Kia’s design-focused brand strategy and whilst the new showrooms will only open at major new-build sites many of the concept’s elements will soon be found at all Kia showrooms in the UK. The dramatic new-look showroom features strong red cladding, distinctive side-return architecture and a clean, impressive interior to give customers an even more professional and comfortable experience when they are either buying a new Kia or returning for after-sales service. Simon Hetherington, Dealer Development Director at Kia Motors (UK) Ltd., said: “This is a dramatic new look for Kia across the globe and I am proud that the UK has one of the first such new showrooms to open in Europe and by the end of this year almost all of our dealers will have adopted our new brand identity.”

Saab’s parent Swedish Auto losing board members is the latest setback for company’s CEO, Victor Muller, who is desperately trying to raise funds for salvaging his automotive enterprises. Now it appears that Swedish Automobile NV (‘Swan’) continues to look to sell Spyker in the wake of the Saab bankruptcy. Swan said it will carry on with the sale despite the fact that the company’s supervisory board has just abandoned the crippled enterprise. According to The Washington Post, Swan announced it had begun negotiations to sell Spyker last September to a private equity firm for $41 million. Now the company says proceeds from that sale won’t be enough to ensure that Swan can meet its liabilities. If the company can’t complete the sale or find extra funding, Swan may go belly up and take Spyker with it. All three members of the Swan supervisory board resigned due to a “difference of opinion” with the company’s CEO, Victor Muller over funding alternatives. A fall out of this is that shares in the automaker have since plummeted by around 12 per cent. The company’s articles of association allow for the holder of a single priority share in the company to name new board members. In this case, that holder is believed to be controversial Russian tycoon Vladimir Antonov.

Geneva teasers

For the first time, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) has decided to select the most demanding European market as global launch pad for an all-new vehicle. Next March, the Geneva Motor Show will see the world premiere of a strategic and innovative premium vehicle, to be retailed sequentially during 2012 – a car of substance that will reflect a gradual transformation in Mitsubishi’s design language.

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That India is one of the important emerging car markets was best illustrated at the sprawling Pragati Maidan complex in New Delhi last month. It seemed this year that this Asian market has moved up the ranks when you consider content and presentation. Read on…

Maruti Suzuki

India’s pioneering automotive alliance that virtually single-handedly revolutionised transportation in

India in early 80s and commanded virtual monopoly till other brands began to realize India’s vast

market potential is now facing tough competition. While the alliance benefits from Japanese expertise, the Indian-set up has also upped the ante on home turf. Besides the domestic models, Maruti Suzuki presented a concept SUV called XA Alpha [remarkably similar to the Range Rover Evoque in design and size]. At concept stage only for now, no engineering details were released but one thing was clear. This concept crossover isn’t the replacement for the much awaited Jimny. Maruti Suzuki also unveiled the Ertiga MPV, which was showcased two years ago as a concept (RIII) at the 2010 Auto Expo. The Ertiga which goes on sale in March is based on the extended Swift platform.

Bikes galore

India is also currently the world’s second largest market for two wheelers [by volume] and most brands had some presence in one form another. Also present for the first time was Britain’s Triumph and Italy’s MotoGuzzi. Honda launched seven bikes including the CBR 125, Suzuki launched two new 125cc commuter bikes – Hayate and Swish. Enfield India launched a highly improved touring version of its 10-year-old Thunderbird along with accessories, while Yamaha, Vespa, Hero, BMW, Kawasaki also showcased their respective offerings and a couple of battery-powered models.

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Hyundai

The Korean carmaker has an impressive portfolio for the Indian market. The carmaker introduced the new Sonata, Veloster along with world premiere of its Hexa Space MPV concept and North American Car of the Year 2012 -- the 2012 Elantra. It may be noted that the Elantra pipped Volkswagen’s Passat and Ford Focus to win the award. Meanwhile, the new MPV concept revolutionizes the use of interior space, another example of Hyundai’s “New Thinking. New Possibilities.” Internally codenamed HND-7, the concept carries Hyundai’s characteristic “Fluidic Sculpture” design language, including the bold character lines on the side panels. Inside, Hexa Space incorporates other elements of family design, such as Hyundai’s distinctive hexagonal grille, which is applied to the seat designs.

Ford India’s return to the Auto Expo after a four year hiatus was impressive. The company left no stone unturned to ensure a well laid out show with the EcoSport taking center stage. Present at the Ford stand was the Figo, new Fiesta and Endeavour. The Ford EcoSport was unveiled and Ford CEO, Alan Mulally was there to reiterate Ford’s commitment to the Indian market. The Fiesta based B-platform SUV concept called the EcoSport. This is the second of ten new models to be spawned from this platform by mid-decade and will eventually be sold in 100 markets worldwide. Ford projects the new B-platform family of vehicles will represent more than two million units of annual production as compact cars continue to drive global growth. The new EcoSport was developed in Ford’s Development Center in Camaçari, Brazil. Previously, the EcoSport name was used on a crossover SUV version of the European derived Ford Fusion MPV in Latin America since 2003 and served as the first affordable SUV in the region. The car will be built simultaneously in India and Brazil. What’s more, under Ford One strategy, the new car is will initially target emerging markets and eventually will be launched globally.

Ford

Nissan Honda
There was some anticipation about some of Honda’s new replacement models. Sadly, Detroit didn’t have it nor did Delhi. Despite generous floor space, the shortfall was evident. It seems that devastating floods in Thailand have taken its toll in the Asia operations of Honda so much so that it was a case of missed opportunity again – especially for the all-new CR-V. Meanwhile, Honda had to bear and grin and managed showcase its Indian line-up at the Auto Expo with the usual suspects including the Accord, outgoing Civic, Brio and the refreshed City.
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Nissan India unveiled the Evalia MPV [not available in ME] and its usual array including the 370Z and GT-R. Also representing environmental credentials was the zero-emissions electric Nissan Leaf and on the other hand a one-off hooligan dressed Nismo Micra concept. Also on display was the new Sunny and adding the glamour quotient was brand ambassador and film actor Ranbir Kapoor.

Jaguar Land Rover

At the Dubai Motor Show we saw a variation of the Land Rover Defender concept. Delhi saw both the Defender 100 and 100 Sports concept sporting Firenze Red – a new colour. The concept vehicles extend the commitment to being environment friendly and comes with an intelligent TwinSolenoid Stop/Start system mated to eight-speed automatic gearbox. The next feature is the unique Driveline Disconnect system, which sends power to the front-axle only unless conditions demand all-wheel drive. “Our intention is to introduce the all new Defender in the middle of the decade - there’s a lot of work to do to meet these dates and our concepts are just the start of the journey,” said John Edwards, Land Rover’s global brand director.The Jaguar stand was no less than Dubai with the full line-up including the concept CX-75 and the recently introduced C-X16.

Renault
The familiar Indian rear-engined ‘Tuk Tuk’ now gets an extra wheel, steering wheel and car-like body

Bajaj Auto

In a way, Renault’s display overshadowed Nissan with an array of concept, race and new cars. The Duster SUV [soon to arrive in ME] was unveiled along with the refreshed Koleos. Renault’s design study, the Dezir and a racing version of the Clio was also on display.

Tata Motors
At the Geneva Motor Show last year Tata Motors unveiled the Europe flavoured Pixel. This ultra compact with scissor doors is touted as the most efficiently packaged four-seater in the world comes with Zero Turn ability which renders an exceptionally small turning circle radius of 2.6 meters. Powered by a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine the Pixel is currently targeted at European markets. Tata’s $2,500 Nano was also introduced with a CNG variant and body kits were showcased for the domestic models and a new version of its Safari SUV was also showcased.

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BMW & MINI

India has craved for the MINI brand for years and it has finally arrived. MINI unveiled four models including the Countryman crossover and Cooper S. Meanwhile, BMW plans to set fire to India’s roads with the legendary M5. Besides the usual array of sedan’s and SUVS, BMW India also unveiled their Vision ConnectedDrive concept study. Like the Dubai show, the limited bespoke edition Steinway and Sons edition of the BMW 7 Series was also on display.

Skoda
Skoda has been in India for almost a decade now and the brand is on a bull run with over 30,000 units sold in 2011. At the auto show, the carmaker’s highlight was the RS 2000 concept, a four door roadster based on Fabia platform.

DC Design

Informed motoring buff and Bollywood veteran Amitabh Bachchan was on hand to take the wraps off this glorious red Audi R8–like profiled sportscar, the Avanti prototype along with its creator Indian car designer Dilip Chabbria. The car is powered by mid-mounted Ford EcoBoost 2.0-litre four-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve engine mated to a sixspeed manual gearbox. Max power is 240bhp at 5,500rpm with 366Nm of torque coming at 3,500rpm. DC plans to build 300 cars a year and will engage specialists to fine tune active and passive safety systems.

Audi

Celebrating its fifth successive year in the Indian luxury car market, the Audi stand displayed the compact SUV - Audi Q3, the A3 e-tron concept, the S6 limousine, the most powerful diesel SUV - Audi Q7 V12 and some highlights from the existing Audi India product range. The luxury carmaker also demonstrated its three technology pillars: Audi e-tron, Audi ultra and Audi connect which redefine mobility and will be the drivers of urban mobility solutions of the future. The Audi range was presented by Peter Schwarzenbauer, member of the board of management of AUDI AG for marketing and sales, and Michael Perschke, Head, Audi India.

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General Motors

General Motors India brought out an impressive array of 15 production models/concepts and the Chevrolet stand was divided into three themes namely: Chevrolet Next, Chevrolet Technology & Innovation and Chevrolet Performance. Spelling out future plans, the Chevrolet Next section, GM showcased a range of new models that will be launched in India soon. The Tavera Neo3 SUV was part of this programme has been upgraded to represent luxury and premium feel. There was also a refreshed version of the Captiva.

Other models which are Middle East favourites included the Camaro Convertible, Corvette Stingray Concept and Cruze racing car. GM also had specially prepared versions of the Chevrolet Cruze and compact Beat hatchback. At the Chevrolet Next section, GM is also showcased the all-new Chevrolet Sail hatchback and the Chevrolet MPV as well as the Chevrolet Beat Diesel, India’s most fuel-efficient car and the Chevrolet Beat Music Edition.

In the Chevrolet Technology & Innovation section, GM is displayed an array of its future technologies like the plug-in extended range Chevrolet Volt, the Chevrolet Beat BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle and Chevrolet EN-V, which is short for Electric Networked-Vehicle and the Chevrolet Spark LPG.

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spotlight

Mahindra Ssanyong
complete overhaul takes place, Mahindra executives said that it should be ready by 2014-15 with its global portfolio of vehicles. Currently Mahindra is in the process of developing two platforms along with the Korean firm, one of which will be for India and the other for the Korean market. At Delhi, near production version of the replacement Korando SUV was showcased. Meanwhile, the jointly developed platforms will serve as the base for the future Mahindra SUVs. Currently the company has the Bolero, Scorpio, the Xylo and the recently

India’s utility car maker Mahindra shot into global prominence after it acquired SsangYong. While a

launched XUV500 SUVs being sold in the Indian market.

Volkswagen
Volkswagen introduced the new Touareg, second generation all-new Beetle and besides the current Polo, Vento and Jetta, the German automaker also showcased the Volkswagen XL1 Concept – it mobile super efficient technologies three wheel lab. The XL1 Concept returns close to 100 km/l by using a combination of a 800cc, 2-cylinder diesel engine and 27hp electric motor.

Premier
Remember Daihatsu’s Terios – its small SUV? Well, a Chinese company bought the tools and dies for the body a couple of years back and now Indian manufacturer Premier has based its refreshed version as the 2012 Rio. The Premier Rio gets a facelift for the current year and also receives one of the best diesel engines in the country. Yes, the Rio diesel is now powered by Fiat’s 1.3litre Multijet engine, producing 75 PS of power at 4,000rpm and 190Nm of torque 1,750rpm. The Rio will be available in India in three variants – 1.2-litre petrol, 1.5-litre turbo diesel and the 1.3litre Multijet.

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In the drIver’s seat
With a slow but steady recovery in the US market underway, it seems that most automotive brands chose to present softer themes at the North American International Auto Show last month
Author Chandan B Mallik

Both Detroit and Delhi motor shows happened in the same month and represented the New Year’s openers in the East and West. And what a contrast it was! While this Asian emerging market India welcomed new brands, cars/bikes and concepts amidst fierce domestic competition at the show, the mood at Detroit still seemed to be influenced by the current economic climate. But what was common is the fact that global automotive media and top level industry executives were present in both shows as car and twowheeler brands try to break the somber mood of the past [particularly in Detroit] and take advantage of the platform to launch new models, brag about technological innovations, tease with concept vehicles and spin their stories to several thousand curious journalists, bloggers, TV

producers and hangers-on. Some indicators at NAIAS suggested that things were slowly but surely limping back to normal. For example, Nissan staged a return after a couple of years and the current subject of fuel economy and electrification was among the strong themes [as they have been for the past few years]. Besides the hype and hoopla, most automotive brands in Detroit seemed to play the cautious game by concentrating on lighter themes such as exterior-design departures and interior connectivity technologies.

Automan presents key highlights from the show.

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spotlight

Lexus has said that it is on an aggressive product led drive. And with the LF-A and newlyintroduced LF-LC, Lexus really has shown off some stunning designs in recent years. Whether you like the styling of these vehicles or not is beside the point – these aren’t staid sedans or conservative crossers. They’re showing a new side of Lexus, and the LF-LC generated plenty of buzz at this year’s show.

Lexus

Chevrolet

GM’s volume brand presented two two-door four seater concepts [no interiors were shown] based on FWD and RWD platforms. The red Chevrolet Code 130R Concept looks as if it was inspired by iconic sports car legends like the BMW 2002 and Datsun 510. By far one of Chevy’s most daring concept cars in recent times it is mechanically based on the new Alpha rear-wheel drive platform [also underpinning the Cadillac ATS]. A traditional three-box design, the Code 130 features an upright greenhouse and rides on a 109-inch wheelbase with short overhangs. Under the bonnet is a tuned-up direct-injection 150hp 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine coupled with GM’s eAssist electric assist system that supplements engine power, performs regenerative braking and allows for engine auto start/stop.The second concept car, the second of GMs youth-oriented concepts and spiritual sibling to the Code 130S Concept, the Tru 140S is designed to bring exotic styling to the compact segment. The white car is said to get its styling inspiration from Italian sports cars [we think Honda’s CR-Z is the closest source] and is mechanically based on Cruze/Volt platform. Small 1.4litre turbo charged four-cylinder engines will power the car.

The possible replacement of the NSX has been in the news for while and were aware that the 21st century version of this supercar was going to be shown in Detroit. Till the last moment nothing had been officially unveiled and when the sheet was pulled off, it revealed a hybrid coupe instead. Looking almost identical to Tony Stark’s Acura on the film set of The Avengers, Honda of America spokesman Gary Robinson said the vehicle was a, “one-off, fictional car that was made just for the movie and will not be produced.” However, a production ready model will be available in three years says Honda which will be developed by Honda R&D Americas and manufactured in Ohio. The next-generation supercar will have a mid-mounted V6 engine, make use of lightweight materials and include Honda’s Sport Hybrid SHAWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) hybrid system.

Acura
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Key highlight was the unveiling of the 2013 SL-Class. The new roadster uses an all-aluminium bodyshell, and possesses evolutionary design which borrows a few design cues from the SLK and SLS AMG. Notable highlights include a single bar grille, oversized headlights and a lightweight hardtop which can be raised or lowered in less than 20secs. Two powertrain options will be offered: entrylevel 302hp 3.5-litre V6 for the SL350 and the SL 500, on the other hand will get a 429hp 4.7-litre V8. Both variants will be offered with BlueEFFICIENCY technologies.

Mercedes-Benz Cadillac
A giant leap forward for Ford’s midsize Fusion sedan, to be offered in several variants -- petrol, petrol-electric and plug-in. The newest Fusion is to be loaded with of all kinds of technology to appeal to tech-obsessed consumers.

After several months of teasing, GM’s premium brand Cadillac officially unveiled the 2013 ATS. Designed to take on the rear wheel drive Europeans – the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class in particular, the ATS has an active shutter grille which closes at highway speeds to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency, LEDinfused headlights and 17in alloy wheels.

Ford Smart
Smart For-Us concept is a design study for an electric urban pick-up that provides seating for two. As an open top car, there’s a small cargo bed and no protection from the elements. The electric drive of the smart for-us is based on the innovative drive concept of the smart fortwo electric drive, which will be launched in 2012.

Nissan

Although, Nissan presented in a low key manner its redesigned Pathfinder concept with a few details, the Japanese auto maker seems to be on an efficiency drive for this model. The new package aims to increase fuel economy by 25 per cent over its predecessor by several technologyled measures such as weight loss and enhanced efficiency from the 3.5-litre V6based powertrains. Nissan has confirmed the 2013 Pathfinder will utilize continuously variable transmission and intelligent allwheel drive.

Ford is carving out a new future for its Lincoln brand, and the renovation begins with the 2013 Lincoln MKZ luxury sedan. A concept version of the car with all the upgraded trapping was on display at the show.

Lincoln
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VW’s Bugster is a technology variant of the Beetle. Besides its lowered roof it is a pure electric car. It has a 114-horsepower electric motor and a 100-mile range. The E-Bugster is marginally wider than the regular Beetle, with new front and rear bumpers sporting LED lamps, VW’s newest concept signature. The E-Bugster is part of a broader product onslaught that Volkswagen hopes will boost total US sales to more than a million by 2018 for all of its brands.

VW

spotlight
Toyota showed its Prius-inspired NS4 plug-in hybrid concept. Toyota says will be positioned separate from the Prius family and will spearhead a new line up of green cars to be introduced in near future. Although engineering details are still limited, but Toyota says it hopes to launch this technology in a car very similar to the 2013 concept by 2015 – with some technologies trickling sooner into other Toyotas. The vehicle is built around a nextgeneration drivetrain, includes several new safety technologies, and these are those that will also find their way onto other models in the near future.

Toyota Honda
Porsche revealed the all-new 911 Cabriolet at Detroit. Porsche has focused on enhancing the efficiency quotient of the new model with a combination of lightweight materials and energy savings components like an electrically assisted power steering rack. The 3.8-litre boxer six cylinder engine continues and is good for 400hp.

Hyundai

Porsche
Honda’s claims the 2013 Accord coupe is new glimpse of the athletic styling direction, but we think it looks a lot like the current model with some added character lines. The car will get three all-new powertrains, including the first US application of both a 2.4-litre direct-injected engine and two-motor plug-in hybrid system from Honda’s suite of nextgeneration Earth Dreams™ powertrain technologies besides six-speed transmission. The 2012 Hyundai Elantra took top honours in the most exclusive award in North America when it was named 2012 North American Car of the Year. It was Hyundai’s second win. Detroit was also the platform for Hyundai to present the facelifted Genesis, now with the corporate face.

At the 2010 edition of the show, MINI presented the Beachcomber concept. This time the focus was on the 2013 Roadster that will be available with a choice of four powerful yet also efficient petrol and diesel engines from launch. The model line-up ranges from the 122hp Cooper Roadster, 143hp Cooper SD Roadster and Cooper S Roadster to the sharpest performer of all, the 121hp MINI John Cooper Works tuned model. MINI says that the MINI Roadster is not only the sole premium model of its kind in the small car segment, but also ranks as the only open-top twoseater in the brand’s history.

MINI

The 2013 Dodge Dart aims to redefine performance with Alfa Romeo DNA, fuel-efficient powertrains and Dodge’s passion for performance in the compact segment. The USbuilt Dart will be available three four-cylinder engines with displacement ranging from 1.4-, 2.0- and 2.4-litre. One of the surprise displays was the 700C concept MPV which is clearly a mix of themes from Chrysler’s current line-up. Although Chrysler made no official statement about the powertrain, there’s been plenty of speculation. Suggestions include that it could be the design test bed for a new kind of plug-in or electric minivan.

Dodge

Chrysler

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Beauties from a bygone era
efef

The rajas and maharajas may have come and gone, but vintage, classic car and bike collectors and restorers in India still possess an unfathomed dynamism and enthusiasm in keeping these beauties of the past ship-shape and running. Among the participants this year was our very own editor of Automan at the 45th Statesman Vintage and Classic Rally in Kolkata, India
Author Chandan B Mallik | Photography: author and Anish Basu Mallik

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spotlight
The Renault corporation was founded in 1899 as Société Renault Frères by Louis Renault and his brothers. In 1904, Renault Freres Ltd was formed as a private company in the UK. In 1906, they produced 8-9 hp and 10-14hp cars with two-cylinder engines

A low pressure depression in the Bay of

Bengal threatened to disrupt the annual outdoor festival of oldies in the second week of January. Braving the elements, enthusiastic owners and restorers turned up with their magnificent and meticulously prepared old timers – be it cars or bikes for scrutiny on Jan 7 at the army’s Eastern Command stadium [also known as Fort William] in Kolkata, India. The event: 45th Statesman Vintage & Classic car rally. And it’s this time of the year these garaged beauties are brought to life amongst admirers and aficionados. As always for the two-day event, there was a full contingent of Judges divided into three sections. Points were scored for mechanical aspects, authenticity, fit and finish and overall performance through the timed routes. Although quite a few regular cars were conspicuous by their absence – the Ford Model
Stoewer was a German automobile manufacturer before World War II whose headquarters were in Stettin (Szczecin). Founded by the Stoewer brothers, Emil and Bernhard in 1896 for manufacturing sewing machines in Stettin, the company started making cars three years later. The first cars has four cylinder engines

The badge on the Rolls-Royce was changed from Red to Black not, as popularly believed to commemorate Henry Royce’s death in 1910, but because Royce himself decided Black was aesthetically more appropriate. Some customers complained that the red badge often clashed with the colour of the car. The Prince of Wales was particularly outspoken on the subject.

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Automan editor with the trophy won during the event for his 100 per cent nut and bolt restored 1965 Gilera Guibleo motorcycle

T, Standard Coventry, 1903 Humber, the allaluminium 1919 AC Carrier [the only one in the world] in particular, the oldest car on show was the 1906 Renault Freres, followed by a host of Austins [model 7s’ in particular], a rare

The SS100 is a British two-seater sports car built between 1936 and 1940 by SS Cars Ltd of Coventry, England
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Mercedes-Benz peoples’ car among others. Classics included cars from almost every decade, A fully restored Jaguar SS100, MG Spitfire, Triumph, VW Beetles, Rover, Dodge Kingsway, 1925-26/1937-38 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, Morris, Auburn, 1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster, Pontiac, Riley, 1951 Fiat Topolina, 1948 Hudson Super six, Adler Junior, Citroen traction Avant 15/6, Buick Tourer, 1913 Stoewer, Alvis, 1935 Rytecraft, 1935 Bentley, 1928 Studebaker, 1929 Packard and several contemporary and interesting bygone machines.

The Rytecraft Scootacar was a British microcar built by the British Motorboat Manufacturing Company in London between 1934 and 1940

spotlight

Besides the cars, were also bikes – mostly Britain-built BSAs, Triumph, Norton, a Panther Slope, Royal Enfield and from Germany a couple of BMWs. Italy was represented by Lambretta and a meticulously restored 1965 Gilera Guibleo [belonging to the author]. Period pageantry was also

a highlight of the event where crowds witnessed traditional Bengali and Rajasthani cultures during the British Raj days. Despite the inclement weather, the event began with a grand parade and the cars and bikes then took a 50km drive through the city and looped back for the awards ceremony.

This 1935 Mercedes-Benz 130H prepared for the masses featured a rear-mounted, water-cooled inline four. Having sold just 4,300 units between 1933 and 1935, M-B’s ‘people’s car’ concept idea never caught on

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FIRst dRIvE

gaydon, uK-based aston Martin’s vantage s is more than just a logical progression of the model series and automan discovers its true colours in oman
Author Chandan B Mallik | Photography: Raj Warrior

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Ad Vantage ‘S’
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FIRst dRIvE

aston Martin has always said that its cars are as much about luxury as they are about performance. for the racetrack, there’s aston Martin racing which builds specific track oriented race cars

The contribution of the asymmetric Bridgestone Potenza RE050 performance tyres [245/40 in the front and 285/35 in the rear] and the benefits of the wider by 10mm rear track [when compared to the standard Vantage] is clearly evident.

the vantage s is product that gets best of both worlds. it’s a proper race bred road car that takes its influence from both the full-blown vantage gt4 racer and the v12 vantage
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I

n this issue of Automan, we’ve come across a nice mix of cars and have also been able to meet and discuss with designers and engineers on how they have managed to further improve a potent existing package. And if the car happens to be an iconic one, the job becomes even more challenging. The same can be said with the 2012 Aston Martin’s Vantage S that has hit the Sultanate roads recently. Aston Martin isn’t known to cut corners when creating a car – even if it’s a derivative of an existing range. The Vantage range comes of age with the new V8 Vantage with ‘S’ badging. Very similar in philosophy practiced by in-house tuner set-ups, the Vantage S is

characterised by a host of new driver-focused features in a familiar set-up with one clear cut business objective: push the honed dynamics of the standard Vantage to a new benchmark level. Now, to do that, engineers at Aston Martin have had to look at things inside out quite meticulously. From the exterior there are cues and for those familiar with the Vantage will note that the besides the ‘Vantage S’ badging on the rear of the car, the aero-profiled rear spoiler is an immediate give away to this more serious version from the Vantage family even at standstill. At Aston, what might appear as cosmetically motivated elements are actually bits and pieces designed with an engineering

purpose and it’s no surprise to find the carbon fibre splitter located on the lower lip of the front bumper which is perfectly-aligned with the large air intakes feeding air to the engine and front brakes. Knowing how engineers and wind tunnel experts design things, apart from being cosmetically more aggressive, we are pretty sure about the downforce benefits at higher speeds from the aero-inspired elements. While this is a road going car, there are several cues that suggest some influences from the brand’s track-oriented cars. The Vantage S looks wider too, with more pronounced side sills, which are quite similar to those in the GT4 car, while running on wider rear wheels [10.0J x 19in] and low profile slicks. The new 19in wheels are unique to the Vantage S and feature a ‘V’ spoke design with a diamond turned finish. One of the nice things about Aston Martin’s design philosophy is that there’s no compromise in the luxury elements in the car vs performance package. As a result, the car hasn’t been stripped in a desperate measure to lose weight. There’s a nice Alcantara-bound leather interior, bespoke trims, the retractable satnav screen and even an upmarket B&O stereo is available besides other modern conveniences. Meanwhile, under the bonnet, the normallyaspirated V8 has been further tweaked to offer more power and torque. The revised offerings stand at 430bhp [+10bhp] at 7,300rpm and 490Nm [+20Nm] coming at 5,000rpm. Taken in isolation these figures may appear modest,

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FIRst dRIvE

for the vantage s the carmaker’s engineers have extracted slightly more power and torque from the v8. but equally important is the fact that the revisited performance package includes larger brakes, enhanced aerodynamics, and a bespoke seven-speed automated manual transmission for faster shifts and less weight
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but when considered with the total integrated performance package, then things become more realistic. While, the current trend in the business is to find ways to reduce flab without compromising on safety or performance, the biggest news out here is in the transmission and braking department. Turin-based transaxle manufacturer Graziano, along with input from Aston Martin’s development team have developed a new seven-speed robotized automated manual gearbox called Sportshift™ II. Specifically designed for the Vantage S, it replaces the six-speed Sportshift gearbox [a single-clutch automated manual transmission] fitted to the standard Vantage models and the N420. Technically, it remains a single-clutch automated manual transmission and is about 24kg lighter. Rumour is that a double clutch set-up was considered but dropped since it is physically bigger and at least 45kg heavier. Besides that, the extra cog permits shorter ratios for the first six gears which can take advantage of the optimum torque, which combined with a shorter final drive ratio of 4.182:1 delivers quicker acceleration. Besides performance, it has also helped engineers to give this long front end car near perfect weight balance which stands at 49:51. Also helping in the effort is the traditional Aston Martin placement of the transaxle at the rear of the car and interestingly, Aston has done away with the oil cooling radiator for the transmission. That’s not all. To give the car enhanced performance capabilities, specific dynamic revisions now include a quickened steering rack ratio of 15:1 [compared to 17:1 on the standard car] and a larger diameter front brake disc with new six-piston front brake calipers besides new springs and dampers for the suspension. Aston claims that the new dynamic stability control (DSC) system has been specifically tuned in car along with new safety features such as Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA) and Hill Start Assist (HSA). Despite the various weight saving measures employed, the Vantage S weighs in at 1,610kg. Driving impressions The engine firing ritual is pretty standard now in Astons. Insert the key fob in its dedicated slot in the dash and push the starter button after a few seconds. A nice whine from the engine bay suggests the car is ready. Releasing or engaging the awkwardly placed hand brake is a chore – it’s a combination of a mechanical lever [but it’s actually electronically operated] and we felt that this could have been upgraded

as it reminded us of the similar quirky system in the older Jaguars. Besides that the space between the door and the lever [also old fashioned] is very tight – we would like to see this aspect been taken care of soon! Selecting the drive mode is simple – just push the correct button on the dash [there’s no physical shifter] and move on. Although a 10bhp bump wouldn’t be considered as a radical improvement in a sports car of this nature, one of the interesting aspects about the car’s engine is that the torque delivery at low to mid-range is pretty impressive. This has been achieved through a valved air intake system and an aggressive spark strategy where the air intake system valve opens above 3,500rpm to allow more air to flow into the engine. This means that optimised performance is available irrespective of torque curve and this allows the dual driving nature of the car. Although the Sportshift™ II offers an extra cog and has shorter ratios, it is not as smooth or refined as the modern double-clutch or DSG systems. There’s still a feel of that mechanical twitching during shifting but the nice thing about the set-up is that the column-mounted paddle shifters allowed us to take an increased level of control, modulating the throttle pedal to achieve the desired type of gear change. As expected, pushing the driver-friendly ‘Sport’ button quickened the gear shift timing and also gave us a chance to experience a more aggressive throttle response while also opening the exhaust bypass valves across most of the engine speed range. The best torque performance we got was in mid-range at around 5,000rpm. Another interesting character of the gearbox we noted was that the ratios allow the first six gears to sit closer together [taking advantage of the engine’s torque] and enhances the acceleration feel while the seventh gear has longer ratio tuned to deliver a quieter, more refined cruising gear for highway stretches. And we are sure this arrangement also contributes in increasing fuel economy. The car’s chassis and suspension setup is really good and a delight to handle. While the Vantage itself was sporty enough on road, the S takes this definition a notch higher with a razor sharp steering feedback and tighter lock-in turn. The contribution of the asymmetric Bridgestone Potenza RE050 performance tyres [245/40 in the front and 285/35 in the rear] and the benefits of the wider by 10mm rear track [when compared to the standard Vantage] shouldn’t go unnoticed by a seasoned driver.

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FIRst dRIvE
as with all aston Martins, the vantage s benefits from near perfect weight balance of 49:51 front to rear owing to the placement of the gearbox on the transaxle contributing to the excellent dynamics

One of the features we would love to test is the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system in this car on track that has been specifically tuned with emphasis on its sporting characteristics. A three-stage DSC system allows the driver to tailor the level of electronic intervention according to the type of driving. In default mode, the system is set to ‘on’ which will limit any tyre slip in difficult conditions, and provide the maximum amount

of security possible without being intrusive. Holding the DSC button for four seconds will engage ‘Track Mode’ which delays the electronic intervention further, creating a safe yet purer experience. Depressing the button for a further five seconds will disengage the system completely. Verdict If the engineering rationale behind creating

the Vantage S was to push the boundaries of the V8 Vantage range with the highest levels of driver involvement possible, then we can empathise with Aston’s engineers who have done an exemplary job of enhancing nearly every dynamic element of the car to create a highly distinctive driving experience befitting the ‘S’ badge. In our opinion, this is a genuine race bred road car that takes its influence from both the full-blown Vantage GT4 racer and the

Despite its track orientation, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage S is actually quite a practical day to day sports car, even featuring a usable 300-litre boot capacity with convenient tail gate opening in the coupe

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{cOvER

stORY}

Terminator
3 arrives
Author Chandan B Mallik

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on a fundamental level, there’s no disputing the fact that it was BMW’s 3-series [e30] that pretty much invented the rear-wheel drive sports sedan genre. automan was invited by the manufacturer to attend its ride and drive event for the all-new sixth-generation F30
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{cOvER

stORY}

he first question I had in mind when I first set sight on the F30, was whether this new arrival was a worthy successor to the outgoing E90 [3-Series] sedan? It’s a natural reaction since most of us who have watched and felt the 3-Series close enough [and even owned one somewhere in the model’s several generations of existence] are aware how this model almost single-handedly stirred a revolution in the segment with rear wheel drive architecture and a remarkable normallyaspirated straight-six 2.0-litre engine in the E30 of the early 80s right up to the outgoing E46. For BMW, the 3-Series is its global volume seller and also the brand’s entry-level sedan ticket. The job for replacing the E46 is crucial as not only does BMW need to keep the model series at the top of its class, but for that fact that it will hopefully promote to other vehicles in the BMW family. We had two days in this mission to find out in and around Barcelona, Spain including a half day track experience at the famous Cataluyna track thrown in as part of the test package. First things first: the all-new sixth generation 2012 3-Series comes at a time when most carmakers including BMW Group are moving on to efficiency platform besides introduction of Efficient Dynamics programme in a phased manner. This in a layman’s perspective means smaller displacements and lesser cylinders combined with efficient transmissions, lightweight construction and swapping of energy sapping systems with more efficient ones. As a result of these in a newly packaged motor car, one would expect a completely new driving experience and a good possibility of a totally different feel. Besides that, there are very few rear wheel drive models in the segment sporty enough with the exception of a new player coming from the US as a 2013MY model – the all-new Cadillac ATS and possibly a new model from Jaguar, which has ambitious plans as part of a new model assault, which will include a replacement for the XK and fourwheel-drive versions of the current XF and XJ. As of now, the key rivals would be the C-Class from Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti G and to some extent Audi’s A4 [although the A4 is front wheel drive]. Now, there are a couple of things in a 3-Series that nobody wants changed – the lovely steering feel, chassis dynamics and the way it

T

For over 35 years, drivers have been treated to expect dynamic, sporty driving performance in a 3-Series. Thanks in part to powertrain

and chassis technology which rank among core strengths of the brand topped now with new levels of comfort and convenience

features including a simplified I-Drive.

handles from this sporty midsize luxury car. As for handling, the car certainly must live up to the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ tag and by far, we always considered the model series to represent the best car in its class. Besides a bit of anxiety, we were keen to find out if the changes and new packaging could have affected the new arrival for better or for worse? The new arrival is built on a new platform which is also shared with the next-gen 1 Series [F20]. The new car has grown – now it runs on a longer wheelbase, wider track and is longer by two inches overall. At first glance, I would not hesitate to say that sheetmetal is evolutionary, not revolutionary or anywhere near the controversial ex-BMW design chief Chris Bangle’s designs. On the contrary, I would rate Christopher Weil’s restyle touches as positive in the sense that the car retains predictable corporate design cues and connects well with the pre-Bangle era 3-Series models. For those who didn’t know, Christopher Weil is part of Adrian Von Hooydonk’s team and his new design language at BMW and he also designed the GT. From aesthetics, the idea of pushing the headlamp lens right into the grille is perhaps the most unusual aspect of the new 3-Series design and we think the car is much closer to the 5-Series in overall execution with its new dual character lines. While the car is bigger and has more kit than before, it doesn’t mean that it’s heavier or clumsy. Weight savings have been possible due to selective use of higher strength steels in the body structure, a modded and lighter base engine, and increased use of plastics, composites, and aluminium in the chassis. An equivalently equipped 328i is 40kg lighter than its predecessor. The new platform’s suspension is effectively an update of the existing hardware. This means the car gets a forged aluminium five-link MacPherson strut set-up at the rear and aluminum-intensive double-joint struts up front. The cabin is typical of BMW and revised dimensions have been put to good use.

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For instance, the 1.9in wheelbase stretch which was used to add a half inch of legroom in both rows also helps lower the front seats enough to facilitate extra 1.8in for headroom up front while the rear heads enjoys 0.2in more clearance now. The clinically clean instrument panel sits in the dashboard which has a unique to BMW feature -- the revised placement of the navigation screen, which instead of being recessed, now sits on top of the dashboard with retractable mechanism. It’s a very thin glossy black tablet, rimmed in a simple chrome band. The instrument cluster also gets a uniform non-reflective matte black background that allows colour graphics, essential information and even cruise control settings to be posted

between the main dials. Meanwhile, as before, there’s the latest iteration of iDrive completed with now-familiar combination of buttons and rotary controller remains on the center console, near the gear shifter. While it has been simplified in its operation, still the system seems unnecessarily complex, and we are not sure how it will appeal to the iPhone generation of consumers. One thing BMW marketing has done is to create four comprehensive packages: Modern, Luxury, Sport and M-Sport by cleverly incorporating some former options. These packages are differentiated by interior and exterior design cues, with chassis upgrades to the latter two that make them the only options

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{cOvER
Key rivals

stORY}

The heat is on in the segment and the next couple of years should turn out quite interesting. The new 3-Series will face stiff competition from compatriots and some new brands who are aiming this slot with either all-new machines or extensively upgraded ones. While the list grows, the A4 is still Audi’s biggest volume seller and Cadillac’s forthcoming RWD ATS could offer some serious competition. Mercedes-Benz has a new generation C-Class coming in 2013-14 with a lot of efficiency technologies on board.

Mercedes-Benz c class
Extensively upgraded almost to a point that it could be considered as all new, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class now has a more striking design. A lot of focus has been given to the cabin, and there is now a high-resolution colour display screen in the instrument cluster, an elegant new dashboard with grained surface and upmarket trim. Efficiencyenhancing measures including new engines, the improved 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission and depending on markets, the ECO start/stop function also a key feature. Fuel consumption has been improved by up to 31 per cent.

cadillac aTs
Cadillac is introducing the all-new 2013 ATS, its compact luxury sports sedan as a challenge to the world’s best premium cars. An all-new lightweight vehicle architecture has been developed for this vehicle. A broad lineup of engines -- including two four-cylinders and a V6 for America will be offered. The entry-level engine will include an all-new 270hp 2.0litre turbocharged four-cylinderand Cadillac’s award-winning 318hp 3.6-litre V6 mated to ZF transmissions. At 135hp/L, the new 2.0T is one of the most power-dense engines in the industry, topping engines from European competitors. Cadillac ATS will offer both manual and automatic transmission options, along with rear-wheel and all-wheel-drive configurations.

audi a4
Audi’s bestseller is in its eighth generation and the model series is getting stronger by the day. Audi has updated the A4 series with new solutions for efficiency, driving dynamics and infotainment, along with an even more attractive design, attest the “Vorsprung durch Technik” achieved by the A4 Sedan, the A4 Avant, the A4 allroad quattro and the S4. Most of A4 models are front-wheel drive and most variants offer continuously variable multitronic as an option while permanent all-wheel drive is standard on the Audi A4 allroad Quattro model only. The entry-level engine is the 120hp 1.8-litre TFSI and at the top of the line is the 3.0litre TFSI in two output variants.

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worth considering for spirited drivers. Under the bonnet, for almost 20 years as we are aware, 3-Series models have enjoyed inline-six engines. Although the 335i badged variants carries on with a single-turbo 3.0litre six pumping out 300hp and 300lb-ft of torque, there’s a new engine that BMW is keen to promote. It’s the new forced-fed 2.0-litre four-cylinder in the 328i which offers 240hp at 5,000rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque at 4,000rpm. Both engines are mated to ZF eight-speed automatic transmissions. Driving impressions Our test cars were shod with 19in Bridgestone Potenza S001s -- 225/40 [front] and 255/35 [rear]. Meanwhile, aerodynamic efficiency is also improved from Cd 0.29 to Cd 0.23 now in the 328i. Our test car also had the optional variable-ratio electric-assist rack [which replaces the sublime hydraulic power steering assist that we have been so used to], and to which BMW claims that it provides a 14.5:1 ratio on-centre, quickening to 11.2:1 as the wheel passes about 100° in either direction. The first day of the drive focused on day-to-day driving situations in and around Barcelona and we began the drive with the entry level turbo charged 2.0-litre. This engine uses direct injection, has a new faster-acting Valvetronic timing and lift, and twin-scroll turbo support to offer 10 more horses and 60 lb-ft of additional torque than in the old

in-line six. On the move the changes are evident as most of the torque is delivered 1,500rpm earlier [when compared with the in-line six]. This means from the onset itself the car’s powertrain is much more relaxed, thanks also in part to the sublime eight-speed transmission. On the issue of the switch from hydraulic assist to electric power steering, we are not entirely convinced of BMW’s logic to do it [although technical experts at Barcelona at length talked about its benefits] and unless one gets used to it, the passing away of the once legendary steering feel will be mourned by aficionados. But the brighter side is that despite the new layout and architecture, BMW hasn’t compromised in maintaining an ideal 50:50 front:rear weight balance as before. While driving through the endless roundabouts and city traffic in Barcelona, we took the opportunity to toggle the Driving Dynamics Control switch to the new Eco Pro setting. Activating this optimizes all systems for maximum efficiency [including reducing power sent to heated seats and mirrors, lowering A/C output], and most of all remapping the throttle and shift on the fly to discourage rash or uneconomical driving. The display under the speedometer also provides driving hints, such as indicating when to reduce throttle input if you pass 70 per cent or to slow down if you’re above 120km/h street legal limts. That’s not all, it also tells you when to upshift the manual or to take the automatic out of sport shift mode [during which the new auto startstop system is disabled]. The display

indicates the amount of driving range your frugality has earned. Admittedly, it takes a while to get used to this new set-up. Given the car’s electronic options, we spent 95 per cent of the drive in the Sport or Sport+ settings and in the process pushed the 2.0-litre and enjoyed the eight-speed automatic’s crisp upshifts and rev-matched paddle downshifts. The car also appears lighter to handle and is also a full second quicker than the outgoing 328i with a 0-100km/h sprint time under 5.5sec in the automatic. What is encouraging is the fact that as before, the electronics aren’t that intrusive [beside the friendly advisory role] enough to spoil what a typical 3-Series driver is used to. On track, we even got a better opportunity to get acquainted with the car and its steering in particular. While the effort and heft feel natural enough, on smooth, dry track it transmits no nervousness to suggest subtle variation in the grip level of the road surface, perhaps one of the reasons why the ratio transition feels unnatural in the tightest corners. After spending more than half a day on track, we can safely conclude that the electric steering does indeed convey to the driver when approaching the limits of adhesion and we noted that both in fast corners and the twisty public road, the F30 feels as nimble and agile as the E90. While it can attack a fast corner, supporting in the endeavour we think is its broader stance and 10 per cent more rigid structure and driverfriendly tighter suspension settings.

with the sixth-generation all-new 3-series, bMw group’s higher efficiency parameters are reaching beyond mere dynamic attributes to stir comfort and convenience in the overall package

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Verdict We are fully aware of where the 3-Series came from and now where it is heading. We also appreciate the fact that BMW Group has tried to incorporate as many efficient technologies and systems [in view of competition and in line with future demands, legislation etc] while trying to remain faithful as much as possible to the original theme. Somewhere, inbetween they have gone overboard and those bits come up as niggles which a driver familiar with the 3-Series will immediately spot. Otherwise, it’s a nicely packaged model series.

stORY}

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Author Raj Warrior Photographs: Raj Warrior

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far from the glamour world of cars, a taiwanese company has quietly introduced competition in the people carrier segment with the Z7

Competition in Innovation
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f you are in the market for a 7-plus seater to move people and goods around the city and hinterland the sort of vehicle you have at your disposal is largely limited to certain wellknown products that meet specific needs. From the luxury end of the market with the Mercedes Viano or lower down the scale with vehicles like the the Grand Voyager, Previa, H1 or even the Carnival manufacturers make people movers with either the family buyer or the corporate fleet segment in mind. However, the question remains of giving the best value package in a specific segment and the entry level people mover has now largely become the territory of the Innova, which is the de facto standard. The CMC Z7 thus comes into Oman with its sights set on getting a degree of market share from the Innova. CMC is not a very well known among the retail car buying public even though it predates most of the mainland China based brands in coming here. Its range of products in the country were based around small footprint cargo carriers and it is only now that the brand is treading into a more retail presence. The Z7 was unveiled in the beginning of 2012 as a multi-purpose people carrier and at the outset, its provenance can be gauged by the Z on the logo and the Mitsubishi tri-Diamond on the steering wheel boss. CMC has been in operation in Taiwan as a Mitsubishi collaboration and sell some wellknown models on the island including the Colt, Fortis, Lancer and Outlander. The Z7 is sold as the Zinger and comes with the latest iteration of the Japanese brand’s MIVEC engine and powertrain. But unfortunately, CMC cannot sell
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it as a Mitsubishi outside the island nation and therefore it lands up in Oman with a stylised Z taking position on the triangle for the badge. As far as the test drive goes, we were definitely guilty of under-rating the car much before we reached the showroom. After all it is one more wannabe from the far-east and had no pedigree other than a Mitsubishi drivetrain. And first looks were not about to change that mindset. The Z7 is built on a similar layout to the Innova. It uses a commercial vehicle platform with a front-engine rear-wheel drive alignment and hard springing. The profile is very much the monobox of a cab-forward layout yet accommodates the engine largely ahead of the driver. The grille is so very turn of the millennium if not older. And the colour was white. But you put the key in, start the engine and things change. The engine sounds so familiar as it settles into the steady hum of the Mitsubishi 2.4-litre MIVEC engine. That’s what gets you to start looking around the interiors of the Z7. The steering wheel’s Mitsubishi logo may be part of the reason too. The dashboard is one huge expanse of plastic and you are really happy that the colour scheme is in two shades of brown rather than greys. The dark reddish brown colour on the top of the dash is arranged in a large semi-circle but the joins in the plastic are not quite perfect so they tend to catch your eye. The Instrument Panel is quite nice to look at and the centre console is even better. Especially the climate control knobs in their blue livery. The gearshift lever is also a Mitsubishi regular

issue. The driver’s seat is well bolstered as are the other seats with nice headrests and even a fold down armrest in the second row, much more than you should expect – after all this is a modified commercial vehicle. The access to the seats is easy though you do have to step up as you get into the second row. And the third row access is through the second row like in most MPV’s by flipping the smaller seat ahead. The seat has a convenient locking arrangement to prevent it from falling back. The rear seats have moderate legroom though the underfloor layout ensures that the entire third row can be folded but not recessed into the floor. The wheels are 225/60 R16 Alloy wheels with a pleasant split 5-spoke design. And you can even get fog lamps. The air-conditioning is excellent – with a highly efficient blower with reasonably quiet air delivery even on the 4 stop and a roof mounted blower assembly provided for the second row. This gets an override button on the centre console but flow control means that the driver has to reach behind and adjust. The entire system works off one condensor unit. The suspension is a mix of a double wishbone with stabilizer in the front and a multi-link with stabilizer in the rear over a rigid axle. Once the Z7 starts moving you realise that the hard springing of the Z7 is indicative of a large load bearing capacity or in this case we would almost expect a 4WD powertrain underneath. The auto gearbox is a 4-speed standard unit with an overdrive cut-off switch on the side of the gearknob. The engine’s 136PS output rarely is required unless you are really pushing

the engine or choose to leave the overdrive off, as the engine rarely if ever revs to the max. The understated power delivery is helped by a reasonable torque of 203 Nm. The engine is the lower rated 2.4 unit in the MIVEC series but is more than sufficient for the car. As for safety features, the Z7 gets two airbags and its braking is supplemented by ABS and EBD so that you have a reasonable degree of confidence, despite the fade under hard braking. The car also gets a remote opener on the key – a single blue button that you press once to unlock and press again to lock with an audio clue to make sure that you know the car is locked. Other features include parking sensors, storage cubby holes and even a sunglass holder. The audio system is a locally fitted MP3 CD system. If you really push the Z7 hard you get every bit of roll and rebound that you expect, but keep it in normal drive parameters and the vehicle seems as capable as the Innova in transporting seven adults in comfort. Like the multi-use platform of the Thailand made Toyota, the Z7 looks like it could get a 4WD transmission so that it could be sold as a psuedo-SUV. Until then the only issue is if the Z7 can be sold at a price that makes it just right to compete for the fleet buyer’s interest.

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Blame it on

Rio!

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typical subcompact cars were small, light weight, inexpensive and mostly passed on incognito. but Kia Motors has given the segment something to talk about with its all-new 2012 rio
Author Chandan B Mallik | Photography: Raj Warrior

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he small and economy car segment is beginning to grow both horizontally and vertically worldwide and the markets in Oman are also witnessing this trend. Interestingly, this segment has clearly specialised into market niches where on one hand you have the small city car, the inexpensive-to-run but not necessarily very small general economy car, and on the other, performance derivatives that capitalise on light weight of the cars on which they are based. In the not so distant past, we have observed that economy car designers were forced by stringent design constraints to be inventive. This may come as a surprise the fact that many innovations in automobile design were originally developed for economy cars such as transverse engine placement, front wheel drive among other features, which have been carried forward into other segments as well. Kia Motors transformation from a “cheap and cheerful” Asian brand to a brand that consumers will ‘want to aspire’ even at entry level had taken an important step following the brand’s unveiling of its first generation Rio in 2006. This model not only raised the level in the entry level segment by offering class-leading horsepower, interior volume and features, but also helped Kia’s aspirations as a quality-orientated volume seller. The new generation Rio aims to take the level even higher. Its arrival is clearly inspired by the subcompact volume-oriented European market and with the segment becoming even more crowded with the arrival of rival models such as the Ford Fiesta, the Chevrolet Sonic, the Mazda 2, Peugeot 207, Honda Jazz, Toyota Yaris, new Hyundai Accent and is good enough to touch Volkswagen’s Polo in Oman, the timing couldn’t be better for Kia to roll out an extensively revamped Rio. For 2012, the Rio line-up, which includes this sedan and a five-door hatchback variant comes with a more distinctive design inside and out, efficient powertrains, impressive list of available features and optional stop-start technology in some models. Although, Kia claims that the European Ford Fiesta and Peugeot 207 were benchmarked specifically as comparative targets, as a global model a lot of ideas for the sub-compact came from Kia’s design studios in Irvine, California. As a result, both sedan and hatchback come with highly sculpted sloping shoulder lines and wedge-shaped exteriors. In many ways the styling and body language also echoes the aggressive lines found on other Kia models such

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as the current Optima and Sportage. While, both hatchback and sedan Rio models sport their own interpretations of Kia’s signature grille which seem to be slimmed down to accommodate the oversized headlamps, the inclusion of the bigger air intake helps the dominating effect in the car’s appearance up front, while the rear of the car sports large, bold tail lamps. At 13ft and 3in similar to most outgoing models in the segment, the new Rio platform has also grown. Now it sports a longer wheelbase -- 101.2in as opposed to the outgoing car’s 98.4in. This has helped Rio to get a distinctive style and feel, while it may appear less sleek than say a Ford Fiesta but not as mature as Volkswagen’s top end Polo. Peter Schreyer’s hallmark signature cues are evident all over and thanks to the windscreen moving forward by six inches it helps improved over all packaging and view from inside. The design team responsible for the interior seems to have showered a lot of affection in the detailing of the cabin. What is nice about the new Rio is that although it is a small car, you don’t have to sacrifice on luxuries. The cabin has room for five adults and the rear seat will accommodate three six-footers. And the user experience begins with soft to touch plastic trim, an attractive sports motorcycle inspired three-gauge binnacle, and mod cons such as 12v power sockets, USB port, auxiliary jack and things like Bluetooth connectivity. And depending on spec level there’s plenty of function to follow the good form. Cruise control and a tilting-and-telescoping steering column are available on the EX model. While there’s plenty of function to follow the good form, the small boot space and not-so-easy access to door bins are our only niggles out here. Meanwhile, Bluetooth, cruise control, and a tilting-and-telescoping steering column are standard on all but the price-leading LX model. With the new dimensions and elegant proportions, the car unmistakably aspires toward [and achieves] a premium European looks with its 14in or 15in wheels and our topof-the-line test model went even further with 17in alloy wheels and LED daytime running lamps. The global Rio has been designed to accommodate a variety of engines ranging from 1.2-litre right up to 1.6-litre depending on markets. For Oman, there’s the normallyaspirated Gamma series 1.4-litre 4-cylinder CVVT engine good enough for 108hp at 6,300rpm along with 14Kg-m of torque.

The Rio sedan appears to be the sportier and the most European in design execution. An aggressive front face, blackened lower

rear valance and taillamp treatment that emphasizes the width of the platform. Another tip-off is the wheel/tyre package,

with the Kia offering the 17in alloys shod with 205/45 tyres. Kia’s middle order

1.4-litre engine is offered. While cabin is comfortable and spacious for both front and rear occupants, it comes at a price: short boot space.

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the all-new Kia rio sedan ushers in the next chapter of Kia Motors’ ongoing design-led transformation with eye-catching design, advanced technologies and sophistication in the small car segment

Key rivals
Chevrolet’s youthful, aggressive design is backed by turbocharged performance and agile ride and handling, combining to deliver an efficient, fun-todrive small car. A hardcore performance RS badged variant is also available

Ford Fiesta

Mazda2
This car is Zoom-Zoom in its most concentrated form - compact and efficient, yet packed with style and substance

Also available in four- and five-door body styles set a new small car benchmark for safety, connectivity and

Chevrolet Sonic

powertrain technology when launched in 2010

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Automatic transmission is 4-speed while manual versions get two extra cogs in this front wheel drive car. Although, the outgoing Rio was popular with Omani customers, the model was known to have been criticised for its standard safety gear or the lack of it. Kia has rectified this aspect and the new model [depending on spec] gets the full complement of active and passive safety kit, including front, side and curtain airbags, Hill Assist and electronic stability control. Driving impressions As expected, the seats in this sub compact are firm and supportive with the driving position experiencing a marginal offset. Considering this car was designed to accommodate a variety of powertrains, we would have been surprised if Kia engineers would have individually calibrated the systems for each variant of this a bread and butter model like Volkswagen does in its Polo line-up or Chevrolet with its new Sonic. On the move, our top-of-the-line car seemed free of any real bad habits, even though it’s not as playful as, say, a Mazda 2. While ride and handling hardly compare with the old Rio, the car pulls well and isn’t noisy unless it is really pushed hard. The electric power steering feels exactly like that in most modern cars -- quick and precise but mostly devoid of feedback and with some heaviness up front due to the heavier and larger tyre-rim combination. In most driving conditions that we encountered in Oman, the Rio rides comfortably, with little of the bouncing typically associated with small cars and considering the fact that this is such a short-wheelbase car with a basic strut and torsion-beam suspension, one can hardly expect anything more than this. However, one does expect some refinement in a version that looks sporty enough! In the car shod with 17in rims, at times we felt that we weren’t getting as much communication or feedback as to what the front wheels are doing and how much grip was available. This may sound a bit stretching, but the ground reality is that most people who buy such cars aren’t looking for sporty characters. Braking and stopping power of this car is good. Verdict The new Kia Rio is a great contender in the sub compact category even in a highly competitive market such as Oman. Besides significantly raising the benchmark standards in the segment, it has also made it tough for critics to find faults on this scale. The Rio succeeds better than just about any of its competitors in most departments. Its style is alluring enough to bring people into the showrooms, and once they sit inside, we are confident that most punters will appreciate the car’s build quality inside out. While, its drivetrain and driving dynamics might not be ahead of the game, it certainly competes head on with its competition – especially in departments where it matters most these days – value for money and day-to-day running costs. In terms of Kia’s pricing, it puts the Rio in direct firing line of the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris and the new Chevrolet Sonic, which we think will end up as its arch rival eventually. However, as purists, we’d like to offer an observation – the Rio’s basic architecture can support is sportier version with some engineering tweaks.

the rio is able benchmark several important standards in the sub-compact class and becomes a vehicle that is not only affordable, but one that people will aspire to own
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{GuEst cOLuMN}

Marketing cars to women
Mars vs. Venus They say men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Well sure they are, especially when it comes to cars. Today women account for a good percentage of car buyers and are also amongst the key influencers in the purchase decision made by their better halves. So isn’t it vital for marketers to consider what is it that attracts or influences a woman when it comes to choosing their cars? I am sure you agree it is important in view of the positive changes in the social status of women over the past few decades. Today, women are increasingly participating in economic development of the country and are even outshining their male counterparts academically almost everywhere in the world. It is in fact a lesser known fact that women are also considered safer drivers, and data from insurance companies and traffic accident records confirm this. More and more women are going out to work and more are realising their entrepreneurial ambitions. Women are not only driving to work but are also seen dropping their kids to school, buying grocery or driving around town socialising; what’s more is that some of them even enjoy driving for adventure. So it is natural that their buying behaviour has, and continues to change with time. Way back in the 50’s there were some American auto brands that specially designed and named their models with the specific aim of attracting women customers. But in the modern context, with the exception of one Korean brand which has gone to the extent of sub-naming their popular model ’Juliet’, it is hard to think of any such brands. Communication dynamics A large portion of auto-advertising is directed at women and children today. But marketers need to understand and remember that unlike most men, women aren’t linear in their thoughts. Unfortunately, this fact is not taken into account while designing most automobile communication probably because the marketing departments at automobile distributors and creative departments at ad agencies tend to be populated by men more than women. It is probably due to this that, much too often we see women represented in automobile advertising in a stereotypical or sexist manner as an influencer in the deal. In the western world there are real estate agencies and financial service providers exclusively for women; some countries even have holiday companies aimed solely at women. Having said that, even there is a large majority of marketers who still carry the belief that cars are the ‘male thing’, and a piece of ‘engineering’! On the home ground Back in Oman we already have specialised bank accounts and credit cards exclusively for women. It is hence important that more thought be given to how automobile distributors can enrich the customer service experience of their women clientele. Several local auto dealers have female sales consultants today, but probably small gestures and initiatives - such as having an ‘exclusive ladies service desk’ run by women staff would also be a good idea to enhance the ownership experience of women. It must be mentioned here however, that one auto brand has broken the convention and has pioneered an exclusive ‘valentine’s campaign’ aimed more towards impressing their ‘fairer’ clientele for the past five years… Different wiring Researches conducted by several psychologists have found that men and women are wired differently, and hence respond differently to different stimuli, which also include marketing and advertising. There have been studies that indicate that non-working women tend to suppress their desires and certain aspects of their personality in favour of their families. Having mentioned that however, there is certainly a lot for auto-marketers to gain if they are able to address the other personality facets of women, which are fighting for recognition and satisfaction. Research has also shown while the man of the house might decide which car model to buy; women influence the choice of body colour, interior comfort, safety and features. Marketers are already familiar with the three key stages pre-family, newly married and family with kids but there are several other subsets or segments which could and need to be addressed. The differences The next step logically would be to understand broad statistical generalisations: • Women are comparatively more sensitive to details in given information; and able to better integrate emotional and rational aspects. • Women look at the ‘larger picture’, considering more factors while making decisions. • Women react more positively to pictures and colours. • Women are more skilled at linguistics and idea generation. The key inference from these factors is that women are more likely to consider buying decisions rationally, and think them through then men are. This would possibly also mean that they are more likely to read the long copy that is part of most print advertising today. How to market to women Well I now move on to listing some possible cues while designing marketing communications aimed at women. It always helps to use suggestions in the communication; and adjust the theme of the message with conjunctive phrases like ‘and’, ‘of course’, ‘but’, ‘however’. Even the use of more questions, helps keep women engaged. The expression of emotional aspects with verbs like ‘I think’, ‘I feel’ and use of qualifiers like ‘a bit’, ‘kind of’, ‘sort of’ and the use of more adjectives in the communication like - “this is an exciting new model” is sure to catch attention. Finally, it will also help to ensure that colloquialism is used to the minimum. Some experts believe that automobile ads that work better with women are those where women are defined by their personalities and feelings, rather then simply by their jobs or roles. It has also been noticed that ads that communicate how a specific product or service fits their current and aspirational lifestyle work better with women. But having mentioned that, there is no single winning formula towards creating effective adverting for women across countries and cultures. All said and done The key lesson from most research conducted globally about marketing cars to women, which is also the ground rule of marketing remains understand your consumer and then communicate to them in a manner and language matching their (her, in this case) needs, attitudes and emotions. Therefore, in this case designing empathic communication is the elusive key to success.

The author is a marketing, branding and advertising strategist with nearly 17 years of experience. He is passionate about automobile marketing and studying consumer behavior and is currently working as Head of Marketing & Communications with Towell Auto Centre in Oman
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Happiness to the power of ‘R’
Author Raj Warrior Photograph s: Raj Warrio r
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ne little alphabet can be quite significant – if you find it in the right place. The R on the Golf R is meant to signify a lot of things for the Golf series as well Volkswagen GmbH itself. For the Golf R and the Scirocco R are the first two products from the wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen that was set up in 2010 to extend the core brand into a performance and luxury direction. Though not modelled quite on the lines of AMG in its symbiosis with parent Mercedes-Benz, the R subsidiary effectively hosts the same thrust on creating a halo around VW’s models. To this end the R subsidiary not only produces the two sporty models. It is also responsible for an exterior and interior trim package called the R-line that you can order on normal VW models as well as for the touch of extra luxury packing available as the Exclusive package on some of the higher end models. But its the two sports models that are grabbing all the attention. The Golf R is an all-wheel drive 4Motion equipped 2.0-litre TSI variant, while the Scirocco R is a two-wheel drive layout with an almost equally powerful 2.0-litre TSI engine. At first glance the Golf R stands out from the both the normal Golf and GTI by the presence of LED lighting elements on both the front and rear of the car as well as the specially styled alloy wheels and black brake callipers on the large 17inch brake discs. Ah yes, and of course the ever present stylized R is prominent. But this year some of the LED elements are making their appearance in the GTI and as for the value proposition of these style elements, they are becoming quite prevalent on the new generation of mid-segment cars from Hyundai and Kia, so how much do they help with the brand. You really don’t need to look outside the VW shed to look for competition to the R. The GTI has been the top of the pack for some years, even in the previous model generation. And having driven the GTI and the erstwhile R32 variant of the Golf

O

the first product to hit the region from volkswagen’s new performance and enhancement subsidiary, the golf r is a signature product that defines exceptional performance
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The efficiency in the Golf R is a result of highly advanced exercise in downsizing. While the current model’s predecessor, the R32, generated its power from a larger displacement V6 3.2-litre engine, now this is done with four cylinders and just 2.0-litre displacement by combining direct injection

back to back around a track, we were always rather fond of the inspired handling and quick spool up performance of the front-wheel drive sprinter. Which of course brings us back to the R32, the father if you will of the current R. Powered by a 3.2-litre 6 cylinder connected to an all-wheel drive platform, the R32 had a narrow V layout (at 15-degrees), natural aspiration and a top output of 250horsepower with a healthy torque of 320Nm in the mid-range. One of the issues that the car had was that the engine block and drivetrain were quite heavy and you felt the weight difference over the GTI holding you back. As a stand-alone product for the R division

the car needs to address fuel-efficiency issues as well and the move to the power the sixth-generation with a smaller 2.0-litre TSI engine with a much larger Turbo is a step to keep the power and torque at high levels while improving fuel-efficiency. The salient features of the new powertrain combination include a four-cylinder TSI engine with a large blower, intercooler and a power output of 266bhp at 6000rpm. The engine is connected through an automatic (standard in this region) with a DSG gearbox to a new iteration of the 4MOTION all-wheel drive system. Interestingly, the use of a high powered Turbo means that the already substantial torque of the 6-cylinder R32 has been bettered to 350Nm in a rather flat torque curve that remains steady all the way up to 5000 rpm. Both the torque and power are thus higher than the GTI’s as well as more than that one the Scirocco R. The current generation Golf has the aggressive styling cues that makes the car look like it moving even when standing still. So with the powerful engine, gearbox and AWD on board the car should rock on the road. When you get behind the wheel you notice the VW feel of the cabin, with its dark shades, textured plastic and familiar steering wheel. The small +/- paddles of the DSG manual shift peek out from behind the horizontal spokes and the instrument panel presents a rather interesting sight with its twin tachometer and speedo readouts in addition to a multi-display in the centre of the two orbs.

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petrol engine with turbocharging. The Golf R also benefits from most of the high quality interiors of the sixth generation Golf and Volkswagen Individual, the brand’s bespoke set-up has been involved in helping the car’s upper-class positioning.

The seats are unbelievably good in terms of styling and support. Race inspired design with substantial hold around the mid body region gives an appeal to the seat that makes you forget that most controls in the cabin are manual, not electrical. Of course you should expect this in a car that needs to lose as much weight as possible. The speedo dial also carries a neat trick of its own – it is asymmetric in layout going all the way to 300 km/h but the 100 mark is top dead centre. This is achieved by its drive by wire nature and a controller that allows similar spaced arcs on the circumference to increase in stops from 20 km/h to 60 km/h at the upper end. The engine roars to life and settles into a steady thrum and acceleration is awesome once the turbo kicks in. However, that doesn’t mean that slow speed driving is laggardly. Unlike normal turbo-charged cars, there is no clatter below the turbo activation point and the gearbox takes in the lower revs nicely. Acceleration to 100 km/h is in 5.5 seconds, but that is only part of the game. The car’s AWD helps nicely to cut out wheelspin as you take off and the ESP can be tweaked into sport mode that allows for a certain degree of spin and slide by toggling the ESP button. Of course the latest auto gearbox also allows you to kick in the manual override at any time and the S position of the selector holds the gear impossibly long as you accelerate or load the engine. The car’s TSI also adds in a neat trick when you are trundling along in traffic at a 100 or

so and spot an opening to overtake. It kicks in dramatically with the accelerator pedal and even without any perceptible downshift of gears you get a handy extra 30 to 40 km/h instantly. We can already picture the mayhem on the roads as young drivers take liberties with the instant on spurts of the R. However it is in the handling around curves and bends that the R drops in favour of the GTI. We think that the culprit is the neutral handling of the AWD system more than anything else. Take a curve at speed at the car’s natural tendency is to try to straighten out – unlike on the GTI which seems to hug curves as if its natural point and shoot character has found the perfect performance territory. In the balance, we know that the wellheeled young buyer will gravitate towards the greater power of the R. But there seems to be a bit of a disconnect with the buyer’s lifestyle. The audio system takes auxiliary input from an SD card and 3.5mm port. But where is the USB port or iPod dock? Does the buyer spend around 15000 Rials and then have to use an FM adapter? Other than small niggles like these and the fact that despite VW’s claims to the contrary the fuel-efficiency is quite bad the R is the cat’s whiskers as far as having a dream lifestyle car goes. You wouldn’t even want to look at other cars that are far more powerful or actually carry luxury badges – the Golf R inspires, it moves you and it even makes sense as an everyday car. Now why would you buy something else?

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AutOMAN cOtY 2011

First edition of Automan’s COTY 2011 has come at a time when the global auto industry has been trying very hard to beat obstacles due to the ongoing economic slowdown.

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MORE THAN 250 MODELS, 40 BRANDS, 15 CATEGORIES AND ONLY ONE WINNER IN EACH CATEGORY!

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industry have been affected as a result of the three-year economic crisis followed by a series of natural disasters in Japan and Thailand. The global financial downturn which began in 2008 and peaked in 2010 has affected mostly European and Asian automobile manufacturers in general, but bigger shocks were experienced by the American automobile fraternity in particular. Following dramatic drops in automobile sales in 2008, each of the “Big Three” US automakers: General Motors (GM), Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler, requested emergency Federal loans in order to address impending cash shortages. By April 2009, the situation had worsened such that both GM and Chrysler were faced with imminent bankruptcy and liquidation. Meanwhile, the rest of the industry went into a cautious wait and watch mode for the next 24 months hoping for speedy recovery. But that didn’t happen. On the contrary, while some innovative brands thrived, several saw their bottomlines erode considerably. But each crisis also offers a new set of challenges and in some cases new opportunities. Fortunes of several Japanese and non-Japanese brands operating out of mainland Japan and Thailand took a direct hit last year as a result of the devastating Tsunami followed by floods. Many important new model launches – especially of small pick-up trucks and SUVs – have been postponed indefinitely while production of several models has been seriously affected. The double-whammy came for several players who were slow to read the vital signs and take appropriate action. Besides serious dip in sales and not being able to make the right investments in the right place or time also cost them market shares and brand loyalty. The smart players went into economy mode with efficiency as the mantra or began looking at new/unrepresented segments. And this mantra included introduction of efficient technologies, hybridization, reducing displacement capacity and cylinders, lightweight construction among other measures. And this period also saw the rise and rise of progressive brands. Once considered as cheap offerings, South Korean brands such as Hyundai and Kia grabbed the lion’s share of the market as not only they keep getting better and better with interesting and exciting products on offer, but also have created several enviable benchmarks. American brands such as Ford and GM have also upped their game significantly in quality and have revised their respective global product strategies with new offerings. Small cars such the Ford Focus

and the Chevy Sonic are the first American-built subcompacts since the 1970s that are finally are world-class. Some car manufacturers from Asia, Europe and North America delayed new model introductions and most opted for production cuts and began implementing innovative marketing strategies to entice reluctant consumers. So, in a nutshell, it has been an interesting period for Team Automan. Editors at Automan spent a whole year testing eligible models in the region for our maiden 2011 Car of the Year programme. At the onset of the COTY programme, we have ensured that is doesn’t end up as a comparison test. We have meticulously evaluated each car tested against our six criteria, though the huge selection of cars provided us with tempting pairings from say models like the Audi A7 versus Mercedes-Benz CLS to seven compacts in various segments; three subcompacts; A-segment cars and three sporty niche models, including the most fun-to-drive car with the best exhaust note such as the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman or Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque. Only models which we have actually tested have been assessed. The presence of iconic models with huge improvements inside out such as the Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata made the job even tougher for us. These models now successfully challenge conventional automotive wisdom by sticking to universal global design, a path recognized as a sure and safe alternative and perhaps the only way to successfully build commodity cars. Besides, the above, our assessment also looked in to areas such as advancement in design which considered among things perceived quality execution of exterior and interior styling; innovation in vehicle packaging; selection and use of materials. Engineering is also a fundamental area and here our consideration included total vehicle concept and execution, solutions to packaging, manufacturing and dynamics issues; use of costeffective technologies that actually benefit the consumer. We also included primary safety in the list – both active and passive and lastly value for money in terms of price and equipment levels, service/warranties measured against those of vehicles in the same market segment. The job of choosing the finalists hasn’t been easy for Team Automan. We think our assessment is fair and impartial. We also would like to express our thanks to all manufacturers who provided vehicles for evaluation in Oman at dealership level and also vehicles from the Regional HQs.

Category

Large car

2011 Dodge Charger
The Dodge Charger has received one of the more substantial redesigns of all the recently redone Chrysler Group LLC vehicles. As a muscle car, the Charger’s exterior is sharper and well-defined and its interior is no longer considered basic. Though some were underwhelmed by certain elements of the interior, we have to remember that this is a Dodge and not a luxury oriented Chrysler model. The infotainment system and sporty cabin details got thumbs up from the judges. But, it’s the range and variants that impress. The entry level model comes with the award-winning 3.6-litre normally-

Automan’s take
Dodge is changing the rules of the game, and the all-new 2011 Charger embodies the brand’s promise to deliver American performance machines that deliver world-class efficiency, technology, authentic materials and standout styling for customers. As the Dodge brand’s allnew flagship four-door coupe, the new Charger exemplifies how Chrysler Group is applying strict targets for world-class performance, quality, technology and refinement.

aspirated Pentastar V6 which delivers premium, world-class E-segment sedan precision at an incredible value. Next up the ladder is R/T version which offers 370hp and 395 lb-ft of torque. Despite its five-speed automatic transmission, it’s hard not to love this car. In the large-car segment, the new Dodge Charger fits its purpose well. This four-door has attitude to spare and the V6 is quite economical and fun to drive as a day to day car. But when considered alongside some of the other well-regarded contenders, the Charger needs more than a redone interior and the eight-speed transmission to grab the Car of the Year title.

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AutOMAN cOtY 2011

Category

Small car

2011 Mazda 2/Kia Rio
Automan’s take
Both the Mazda 2 and Kia Rio excel in most departments and it is extremely difficult to say which one is actually better! Both are style statements, engineered exceptionally well and exceed the requirements in this growing segment. In many respects, these two are responsible for raising the benchmarks in the subcompact segment for others to follow. Mazda brand. Meanwhile, the Rio from Kia Motors also represents a new wave of thinking – be it design, engineering, quality and over all packaging. With exceptional levels of kit, the Rio has also challenged the stalwarts in the segment and its extra attention in occupant safety is commendable. The Rio is equipped with a high level of standard safety features, up to six airbags, three-point seatbelts for all seating positions, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), a four-wheel Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), which coordinates the car’s ESC and ABS to help the driver stay in control of the vehicle at all times.

Originally launched in 2007, the new Mazda 2 was first introduced in Europe, Japan and Australia. The introduction of the model in Oman was seen as a necessity to enhance the brand’s presence in the Sultanate. Its launch created a unique offering in the B-car (sub compact) segment, especially through its distinguished design and outstanding driving performance. Since then, it has been highly acclaimed throughout the world, winning 48 automotive awards, including “Car of the Year” accolades in many markets, including Japan, New Zealand, Chile, Bulgaria and Greece. Notably, the Mazda 2 was selected as the “2008 World Car of the Year” (WCOTY) at the 2008 New York International Auto Show is now recognized as one of the global models which symbolizes the essence of the

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Category

Hot hatch

2011 Audi A1
Audi’s product line is getting bigger and better. The entry level pitch began with the 3-door VW Polo-based A1 and in a very short time Audi has extended the A1 family with the A1 Sportback version. What is significant is that the five-door model is emotional and individual, communicative and youthful, sporty and efficient. Audi’s idea is to create an entry-level model with all the bells and whistles associated with its bigger siblings including bespoke options for exterior and interiors and a range of turbocharged and supercharged engines to choose from.

Automan’s take
Small cars are usually built with volumes in mind. While, the Japanese and Korean brands have excelled in small car offerings, the top end premium was a vacant spot till now. What has impressed the judges is the way Audi has been able to is bring premium value and performance in a subcompact segment.

In terms of rivals, the judges were also impressed with Lexus’ first ever compact, five-door car, the CT 200h hybrid hatchback. This baby Lexus introduces the company’s unique synthesis of quality, sophistication and high technology to the premium compact segment clearly aimed at a younger group of customers, but judges are not sure whether the target market in Oman for this car which has been specifically designed and developed with primarily Europe in mind would cut in to the market with this sophisticated technologyled packaging.

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AutOMAN cOtY 2011

Category

Mid-size car

2011 Toyota Camry
One of Toyota’s global bullet-proof models in terms of reliability since introduction in 1983, past models have been often been criticized for their bland styling inside out. While competition is looking to lessen Toyota’s clout in the midsize sedan market by stepping up their game, Toyota has paid attention where it matters most. With the all-new, seventh-generation Camry, Toyota seems to have got the message and has debuted a bold, sophisticated new design with a more spacious interior, improved driving dynamics and an even quieter ride than before. With class leading safety, fuel economy from its four-cylinder 2.5-litre based powertrain and multi-media technology added in, the end result is the best Camry Toyota has ever made for the Middle East markets.

Automan’s take
Toyota in particular is going through a really rough period – from PR disasters in US to the after effects of Tsunami in Japan and floods in Thailand. Despite all this, the car maker hasn’t lost focus in what it has set out to do. In the case of the Camry, even during product development, benchmark priorities kept changing as product planners wanted to make sure that their perennial winner was back in form and in function. What impressed the judges is that the car is even better than before and is the befitting spiritual successor of an iconic model series for the Japanese brand that originally established the template for the modern midsize sedan. The earlier Camrys set definitive benchmarks for quality, dependability and reliability, along with a comfortable, quiet ride. Although the new Camry isn’t a radical change, but what catches our attention is the fact that the substantial revision enhances dramatically a formula that has proven unbeatable for two decades.

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Category

Premium car

2011 Infiniti M
As flagship sedan from Nissan’s luxury performance premium brand, the Infiniti M Line also revels in the uniqueness that is Infiniti. The flowing character lines of the Essence concept car have influenced the styling and profile of this production car. The new Infiniti M Line has been able to call on key Infiniti strengths in order to satisfy more demanding drivers. These include lightweight construction, adaptive technology, race-bred engine design and sophisticated chassis design with almost

Automan’s take
A more exclusive alternative to the traditional stalwarts of the executive class, such as the BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-Class , the Infiniti M Line takes Infiniti’s sedan range to a higher new level, inside, outside and on the road as well. The Infiniti M combines rear-wheel-drive poise with impeccable luxury credentials in a sedan with space to spare inside the best designed and finished cabin that Infiniti has ever offered.

perfect weight distribution With Infiniti M, there’s a conscious attempt to add an element of bespoke character in a performance sedan – be it craftsmanship or driver appeal. It’s less than a year, as the world’s newest luxury automotive brand Infiniti faces up to the traditional executive car hierarchy for the first time quite confidently without the Q. Power, performance and technology all come together with signature Infiniti sophistication in the all-new Infiniti M Line.

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AutOMAN cOtY 2011

Category

Luxury car

2011 Bentley Continental GT
Automan’s take
Extensively upgraded with the help of new construction technologies in aluminium such as superforming which have allowed Bentley designers to sculpt a new body. As a result, the Continental GT coupe has an even crisper, more defined appearance. However, it’s the cabin where most of the upgrades are even more visible -- the interior accoutrements that now boast an eight-inch touchscreen interface, dynamic When Bentley introduced the Continental GT in 2003, it represented the first step in Bentley’s renaissance. The CGT also defined a whole new market segment. It was a luxury GT offering excellent usability that remained true to the Bentley grand touring spirit. The second chapter of this four-seat coupe builds on the success of its iconic predecessor, capturing that GT spirit but with even higher standards of design, engineering, luxury, craftsmanship, dynamic performance, everyday practicality and refinement. navigation and even Google Maps. Comfort and convenience is top notch out here beginning with seats which now provide even greater support and rear leg-room; a sweeping dashboard even more style and modernity. That’s not all – under the bonnet there’s substantial news – there’s impressive boost in output from its 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 engine, which now offers 567hp and 516lb-ft of torque.

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Category

Sports car

2011 Cadillac CTS-V
Automan’s take
Cadillac’s line of V-badged cars is essentially America’s answer to models from the inhouse tuners representing premium German brands such as Audi, BMW and MercedesBenz. By combining the new Cadillac CTS Coupe’s dramatic design with a 556hp supercharged V8 engine mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic from the CTS-V sedan has resulted in a visually striking luxury performance sports coupe. The overall CTS-V packaging impressed the judges in a segment that has exceptionally Although, the CTS-V is the only V-badged model currently in Cadillac’s line-up, it comes in all flavours -- sedan, coupe and wagon bodystyles. And when you consider that it comes with a supercharged V8 power doling out 556hp, those are the figures that have the potential to make many super or sports cars nervous. While one can debate about the merits in packaging, but there’s one area where V-badged Cadillacs can’t be beaten in the luxury performance segment, and that’s bang for your buck. strong competition. On one hand there’s the Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG (available in sedan or wagon styles) and the C63 AMG (available in sedan or coupe styles) as well as BMW’s M5 which is all-new for the current model year and comes with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual clutch. Besides sub four second performance, the CTS-V comes with a long list of standard features including HID adaptive headlamps, rear parking sensors, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and Bluetooth.

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AutOMAN cOtY 2011

Category

Performance car

2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
It’s no secret that in the 125 year history of Mercedes-Benz has produced a wide range of super cars. But only a handful among them can actually qualify as true supercars. The original 300SL Gullwing from the 50s was one to revere, while a modern iteration came in the form of the McLaren-built SLR for the 21st century. What makes the SLS AMG unique is that it clearly is able to connect with both. It takes heritage cues of the former and mates the epic performance of the latter in a price package so hard to resist. In either body style [gullwing or roadster], the SLS AMG is a perfect ambassador

Automan’s take
What really impressed the judge just how serious Mercedes-Benz has upped the game in the supercar segment by offering an innovative product that matches both in status and in speed. With a 0-66km/h time of 3.8sec and a top speed of 315km/h, the SLS AMG can truly lay its claim as a befitting successor to the original Gullwing.

representing the AMG performance brand. The SLS’ long, low Silver Arrows-inspired nose shields a potent V8 underneath, which is a handmade AMG unit displacing 6.3litres and offering grunt worth 571hp and 479lbs-ft of torque via its sublime sevenspeed dual-clutch transmission. By far, despite the industry looking at alternatives in the segment, the SLS is one of the great motoring thrills of our time despite the fact it really has a claustrophobic cabin, but not short of modern conveniences such as the COMAND infotainment controls, Bluetooth, a navigation system and new Performance Media system.

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Category

Small SUV

2011 Kia Sportage/Hyundai Tucson
You could describe these two crossover SUVs in the category ‘Separated at birth’ but we would consider them more on the lines of sibling rivalry. Both Hyundai and Kia have studied the markets very well and offer an amazing interpretation on mechanically similar platforms. While, both vehicles share more than just the same platform, the two also share the same engine choices and the same six-speed automatic transmission. Both are available with front-wheel or allwheel drive. What differentiates is styling

Automan’s take
Judges were impressed with the fact that both iterations have been very well presented in terms of design, engineering and overall packaging and performance. It is difficult not to respect the strides made by both car makers in keeping the very distinctive vehicles despite the fact there’s quite a bit of shared engineering under the sheetmetal. And the sheer volumes that the retailers enjoy in Oman is testimony to a solid product.

and packaging -- Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture language is all over the Tucson, thanks to exBMW/M-B/Toyota designer Thomas Burkle’s signature cues, while ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer has ensured that the thirdgeneration Sportage gets a sportier and more recognizable design character. Inside, comfort and convenience features score top marks while under the bonnet are at least two super efficient near identical powertrain options.

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AutOMAN cOtY 2011

Category

Mid size SUV

2011 VW Touareg
The current Touareg is in its second generation and in this edition, lessons learnt from the first generation have been very well inculcated. Volkswagen has been quick to adapt and incorporate a host of technologies and applications. Not only has VW made the Touareg lighter, more fuel efficient and an agile performer, it has also made it into an even more versatile allround vehicle. In keeping with the weight loss programme, generous weight loss has come from the 4Motion Torsion limitedslip diff set-up replacing the 4XMotion air suspension and centre and rear differentials. The entry-level model is still served with an optimised V6 FSI, continues to offer 280PS.

Automan’s take
VW has designed a vehicle to be used the way people actually drive it VW’s midsize crossover with distinctive styling, powertrain options, plenty of luxury and a reasonable price tag are compelling. While, the vehicle has been upgraded in styling and efficiency, it continues to be a segmentleader in several areas, especially in terms of comfort and as a capable lifestyle vehicle.

And at 9.9litres per 100km it consumes 2.5 litres less fuel than the previous version. New features on board such as hill start assistant, auto-hold function, emergency braking function and spin-off features from the 4MOTION system which has electronic differential locks at all four wheels, 31° of climbing angle and an off-road driving program that tunes the ABS, EDS and ASR for off-road duty, activates Hill Descent Assist and adjusts the automatic gearshift points are also quite effective and impressive. What also impressed the judges was the new interior which is more functional, enhanced comfort in seats and more leg room in the rear.

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Category

Performance SUV

2011 Range Rover Sport
The Range Rover has been top on the punter’s list looking for a luxurious, overthe-top SUV with a bespoke British feel. But when the specific requirement is that this luxo SUV needs to be as quick as a sports car then it’s the Range Rover Sport that fits the bill perfectly. Technically, the Range Rover Sport is smaller and sleeker than the regular Range Rover. It has been designed and engineered with on-road performance during its development rather than strictly hard-core off-road capability. This led the engineers to select the smaller platform used in the Land Rover LR3 and this translates directly into and affordable r starting price for the Range Rover Sport compared to the Range Rover. What impressed the judges is the way Land Rover has kept the Range Rover Sport up to date in the performance, ride and handling departments which have benefited with the introduction of new co-developed with Jaguar engines, transmission and chassis systems. Besides the engineering, styling enhancements and revised interior make the car hard to beat. The range-topper gets a supercharged version of the 5.0-litre V8 that’s good for 510hp and 461lbs-ft of torque. The car will go from 0-96km/h in just 5.9 sec, but fast acceleration isn’t the only calling card of the car. For its update last year engineers put the SUV through an extensive program of chassis system modifications to improve on-road dynamics while preserving the vehicle’s offroad capabilities. The changes included a new ‘Adaptive Dynamics’ suspension management system, as well as a road-focused ‘Dynamic’ mode for better agility and ride quality.

Automan’s take
The Range Rover Sport represents super efficient packaging from the brand along with substantial in-house engineering. Using the best talents from the group,what has caught the judges attention is how the Indian-owned British marque is reinventing itself and ensuring commerical success through innovative and capable products such as the Sport. The Sport also transcends several boundaries in the segment it sits.

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AutOMAN cOtY 2011
Category Large SUV

2011 Toyota Land Cruiser 5.7
Over the years, Toyota has improved and enriched content in the Land Cruiser without compromising on its go-anywhere capability. What started out as a highly competent utilitarian off-road 4x4 has now been transformed into an upscale and luxurious eight-passenger sport utility vehicle (SUV). For the region which remains relatively isolated from the ups and downs of global fuel prices, Toyota has introduced its topof-the-line 5.7-litre V8 DOHC engine which produces 381hp and 401lb-ft of torque in the

Automan’s take
2011 was a landmark year for the career of Toyota’s Land Cruiser model series. The Land Cruiser recently celebrated its 60th anniversary since its original launch in Japan and has remained a permanent model in Toyota’s Middle East model line-up for several decades. And career wise it shows no sign of diminishing despite the arrival of several new models in the fray.

current Land Cruiser series. With 90 per cent of peak torque available at just 2,200 rpm, it further enhances the vehicle’s capabilities as an outstanding tow vehicle. Toyota has also ensured that its advanced dual independent Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) technology helps to optimize power, fuel efficiency and emissions. Besides that, interior refinements and features are at par with luxury class vehicles.

Automan’s take
Among the selection offered, the judges would like to pick the Cayenne Turbo, which offers super car-like sprints. Altogether, handling and road-holding is superb in any model, thanks to standard all-wheel drive and the lighter structure and lower centre of gravity. Judges also found Porsche’s Adaptive Suspension Management (PASM) airsuspension system, along with the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), significantly improve both ride and handling over the base set-up.

Category

Premium SUV

2011 Porsche Cayenne
It’s almost a decade since Porsche first introduced the Cayenne SUV with hardcore fans crying foul over the decision. Undeterred, Porsche’s engineering proved that the Cayenne, in some trim levels was really fast and was capable of outclassing many sports cars. Now, in its second generation it is by far the current top-selling model in the Porsche
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family. In fact, Porsche has just rolled out its 100,000th second-generation Cayenne after only one full year in to sales. While, the Cayenne was completely redesigned for 2011, what impressed the judges was the fact the line-up still offers four different powertrains to choose from -- starting with an entry level 300hp 3.6-litre V6 going all the

way up to a 500hp bi-turbo 4.8-litre V8 in the range-topping Cayenne Turbo. Porsche has also added environmental credentials with the Cayenne S Hybrid. And the judges after driving it for several days could empathise why it’s so popular with a wide range of buyers in the Middle East and Oman in particular.

Automan’s take
The all-new Veloster is actually an interesting departure from what we usually acquainted with Hyundai. Introduced in production form at the 2011 Detroit auto show, the three-door hatchback’s styling is unlike anything we’ve ever seen from this South Korean manufacturer. This product is a definitive demonstration of Hyundai’s innovative, creative and engineering capabilities. Although, the introductory model in Oman comes with a single powertrain option, what attracts us to it its eclectic but attractive, weird but not off-putting styling and efficient engineering and above average performance and exceptional value for money.

Category

Best debut

2011 Hyundai Veloster
Did Hyundai take a gamble with the unusual Veloster? Or was it a new and confident expression of Hyundai’s capabilities? It’s no secret that in two decades ago, Hyundai engineers have come a long way from tuning archaic Mitsubishi four-cylinder engines to develop advanced hybrids and dual-clutch automatic transmissions in-house. One just can’t help but also appreciate the idea that Hyundai engineers are quite capable in transforming a normal day-to-day car into a great driving machine. While, case in point is the current Genesis range, but it’s the unusual Veloster that has caught our attention full-on. Like the MINI’s svelte Cooper Clubman, the Veloster comes with a purpose. It uses Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design language and sports motorcycles for inspiration in design and on the passenger side is a character line that neatly hides the handle for the coupe’s third door. Unlike past pseudo-coupes with rear-hinged extra doors, the Veloster has a conventionally opening door back there, so it can be opened independently of the front door. Even with the third door, the Veloster still looks like a fastback. The equipment-loaded interior feels more like a pricier offering and the car has a better interior than Honda or Toyota has ever done in this segment. While looks are sporty and attractive, the Veloster doesn’t exactly scream performance. It’s not dull and its 138hp, 1.6-litre I-4 under the bonnet has to really work hard, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone, given that the Veloster hasn’t been designed as an out and out sports car.

Category

Editor’s choice

Automan’s take
Like the coupé, the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque 5-door remains faithful to the spirit of the Land Rover LRX concept car which offered a new interpretation of the original cross-coupé design. In either garb, the Evoque stays true to the core values of the Range Rover brand, providing premium levels of craftsmanship, luxury, performance and renowned Land Rover all-terrain capability, but in a more compact package. And depending on package chosen there’s a wide choice of capabilities – both on and off road.

2011 Range Rover Evoque
The future of Land Rover is looking quite a bit different especially after India’s Tata Motors bought the UK-based manufacturer over three years ago. In general, Land Rovers have longer product life spans than rivals, so a new Land Rover on the anvil is big news, especially when the new Land Rover is the smallest, most fuel-efficient Land Rover ever built. With new levels of investments and enthusiasm injected by Tata Motors, desides reinforcing the existing line-up with substantial upgrades, Land Rover has also now ventured into crossover lifestyle territory with the cross-coupe styled 3- and 5-door Range Rover Evoque. As of now there are just a handful of car companies that depend 100 per cent on SUVs or pickups for business [Jeep, GMC]. While GMC

also moved into the crossover arena with successful products, Jeep’s foray ended with mixed results. Land Rover’s newest model has scored well with the judges not just for its punchy turbo four-cylinder engine, eyecatching style, and high-quality interior, but over all execution and positioning.

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French domination again!

Dakar is the ultimate two-week long endurance test with this year’s rally covering 8,300km, including 4,200km of special competitive stages through some of the toughest terrain in the world through the wilds of Argentina, Chile and Peru

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MOtOR spORts
hile the last special stage was won by Norway’s Pål Anders Ullevålseter (motorcycles) and Robby Gordon (cars), France’s Cyril Despres and Stéphane Peterhansel took their fourth and tenth Dakars respectively, all categories included. The champions were applauded on the podium on Lima’s Plaza de Armas by a huge crowd which came to acclaim both the competitors and the arrival of the greatest rally raid in the world to Lima’s capital. All in all, 97 motorcycles, 12 quads, 78 cars and 60 trucks made it to the finishing line of the 33rd Dakar, i.e., 249 of the 443 vehicles which started the rally in Mar del Plata. Advantage Despres... The demonstration was decided at all levels. After covering 8,300 kilometres on roads, courses and dunes since the start in Mar del Plata, the gap between Marc Coma and Cyril Despres is 53’20”. The Frenchman has won his fourth title in Lima... One more than his great rival in the elite of this sport! Once again, the extremely close race between the two champions proved that one has to be an all-rounder in order to win a Dakar: physical stamina is important, navigational mistakes were tiny but enough to decide their duel, their piloting was as good as it was fast, strategy played an important role, the mechanical aspect (on identical KTMs) was well-managed... with a disappointment for Marc Coma: on the eve of the finish, a gearbox breakdown prevented him from fighting on at a time when he was leading the general classification. The Catalan was also forced to replace his engine, which gave rise to a 45-minute penalty pursuant to the new rule. This time loss proved fatal, following a two-week battle in which victories were measured in seconds. Behind Despres and Coma, the riders vying for a podium spot were never in a position to challenge the title contenders. Strong and consistent Hélder

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Rodrigues finished the rally in 3rd place, just like last year. He took a stage win but ended up 1 h behind the French champion. He may be able to mount a stronger challenge if he ends up with a Yamaha YZF, which neither David Casteu nor Olivier Pain was able to place at the top of the classification. On the route between Mar del Plata and Lima, those following the motorcycle category discovered that the future of Catalonia no longer rests exclusively on Marc Coma’s shoulders. The breakthrough of this year came from Joan Barreda, who lost all chances of shining in the overall classification at the beginning of the rally (11th at the end) but was still able to leave his mark on the race, with a stage win and eight specials in the Top 5. Italy’s Alessandro Boturri was the fastest rookie in the Dakar (8th, 2 h 59’04” behind Despres), racing for the new team Bordone-Ferrari, which also placed Jordi Viladoms in fourth. The Catalan clan can be happy, with Laia Sanz taking the win in the ladies’ category. On the other hand, Stéphane Hamard won the classification of riders participating without assistance. In the car category, everyone expected it to be a Mini affair, since the X-Raid team seemed to have the best hardware and the best drivers... and this was the case! In the end, the Frankfurt-based team won eight stages out of thirteen with four different pilots (with Stéphane Peterhansel taking three). Most importantly, the team was always in command of the overall classification. Therefore, it was no surprise to see the main duel take place between “Peter” and his most experienced teammate, Spain’s Joan “Nani” Roma. Although he took the lead in stage 3, master “Peter” still had to wait until the penultimate stage to get an unassailable advantage. In the end, Stéphane Peterhansel took his fourth win in the car category (the first in South America) with a margin of 41’56” over the Catalan driver, joining Vatanen as the recordholder in the car category. Most importantly, the driver from Vésoul has written yet another chapter in the history of the Dakar with his tenth win, all categories included! Nevertheless, X-Raid’s irresistible performance cannot hide Robby Gordon’s comeback. Aided by the driving skills of his teammate and defending champion, Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, and propelled by the raw power of his car (whose compliance with the rules was disputed), the driver from California left his mark on the 33rd edition of the rally, both on the course and in the bivouac, since he was the only pilot able to stand up to the X-Raid tyranny. But, despite his three stage victories, Gordon only managed to finish fifth in the overall classification, more than 2 h 15’ down. The highlight of the 2012 Dakar was the performance of ever-consistent Giniel de Villiers, with a less boisterous but more effective style. Although his preparation was cut short and the project was still in the making, the South African driver managed to crack a podium place in the very first participation of the new Toyota. This will give

him confidence and ambition for the future. Finally, the win in the two-wheel drive category went to Ronan Chabot and his SMG buggy. He was extremely consistent and beat South Africa’s Mark Corbett by over nine hours. This margin would have made much easier the life of Xavier Foj, the winner of the production category! But once again, the Spaniard had to wait until the final part of the race to open the decisive gap and win the race against his best enemy, Japan’s Jun Mitsuhashi, by 59’. The statistics of the quad category are misleading. Defending champion Alejandro Patronelli managed to get back-to-back wins. He seized the lead after the Copiapó-Copiapó loop and never let it go. His brother Marcos lost all his chances when he conceded 1 h 20’ in stage 7. But the formal domination of the race by the elder of the brothers from Las Flores was contested throughout the entire rally by another Argentinean: Tomás Maffei. Last year’s seventh-placed pilot took the lead after stages 4 and 5 and was able to cling onto the Patronellis, only losing his second place after stage 9. The list of stage winners is proof of how hotly contested the race was: four for Maffei, including the prestigious finale in Lima, and three for each of the brothers. Behind the terrific trio, Chile’s Ignacio

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Casale and Uruguay’s Sergio Lafuente round off the Top 5... over six and eight hours back, respectively. The Italo-French pilot Camelia Liparoti went one better than last year, finishing ninth. Finally, today will go down in history as the first time the Dakar rally was won by Gerard de Rooy and the Italian constructor Iveco. A winning combination which already seemed to have it in the bag at the start in Mar del Plata, such were the means mobilised by the Dutch armada to reach their goals. Nevertheless, the balance was only tipped in favour of De Rooy Jr after stage 9, with the withdrawal of Aleš Loprais due to an accident. The young Czech driver had been able to keep Gerard de Rooy in his sights until then, losing only 15’39” in the general classification. Despite this mano a mano, it was De Rooy who left his mark on the 2012 edition by taking the most stages (5) and leading the race from stage 4 onwards. 25 years after his father Jan, Gerard has written a new chapter of De Rooy history in the Dakar, in a category marked by the failure of the Kamazs to repeat last year’s dominating performance. The overhaul of their management team still has to pay dividends. Eduard Nikolayev’s disqualification for antisportive behaviour in stage 4 showed just how difficult the transition is proving to be. Nevertheless, this allowed Andrey Karginov and the reserved Kazakh Artur Ardavichus to shine by taking their maiden victories at the Dakar.

MINI WINS FIRST INTERNATIONAL RALLY

The MINI John Cooper Works rally car won its first FIA international event this weekend when Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari took victory at the Qatar International Rally, the first round of the 2012 Middle East Rally Championship (MERC). Al Kuwari and his co-driving brother, Nasser AlKuwari, emerged victorious by a margin of 2m 24.9s and confirmed their first career MERC win and a debut success for the Prodrive-built and Tok Sport-run MINI John Cooper Works Super Production Car (SPC). “It is a fantastic feeling to win this rally,” said AlKuwari, who became the 32nd driver in history to win at least one round of the MERC. “I have achieved success in national rallies in Qatar, but this was the big one. This was the rally I wanted to win. It was a great battle with Nasser. The new car was fantastic. This is the biggest win of my career.” Prodrive chairman, David Richards, said: “It is particularly fitting that the MINI’s first international win has come in Qatar, as this was also Prodrive’s first ever rally back in 1984 in the inaugural year of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, when Saeed Al Hajri took victory in our Rothmans Porsche 911 SC RS. Saeed went on to win the Middle East Rally Championship that year; let’s hope Abdulaziz can do the same.” The MINI SPC is the regional rally specification of the MINI World Rally Car. The cars are nearly identical except that the SPC runs with a smaller engine restrictor (30 mm versus 33 mm) and a smaller rear wing.

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MOtOR spORts -F1
Entries Open for 2012 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will return for its 22nd running in 2012, and will once again be held across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi from 30th March to 6th April. The world famous event will allow competitors to explore some of the wonders of the Western Region of Al Gharbia, and will go deep into the Liwa desert. But exploration is not the only thing that awaits competitors during this event; after all, it’s not called a ‘Challenge’ for nothing, and the event is guaranteed to push all participants to the limit. The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region and organised by the Automobile and Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates (ATCUAE). The ATCUAE has now opened registration to competitors driving cars and trucks complying with FIA T1, T2, T3 and T4 technical regulations, and motorcyclists and quads running under the auspices of the FIM. The 2012 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will be the opening round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, and Round 2 of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies. In the primary categories, last year’s car class was won by Desert Challenge legend Stephane Peterhansel, a multiple winner of the event on both two and four wheels, and the motorcycle class was won by Spaniard Marc Coma. Both competitors are currently leading their respective categories in the 2012 Dakar Rally, and will be hoping to gain a strong result as preparation for a defence of their Desert Challenge titles. Alongside them last year, a field of over 170 competitors from 34 different countries battled to cover the 1500km of the route to reach the finish line in Abu Dhabi. The 2011 edition of the event also set a new milestone by being broadcasted on some of the world’s leading sports channels, to 121million homes, in 59 different countries, and across 20 different languages.

2012 Le Mans: shock treatment

Peugeot out, Morgan and Toyota in

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The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East has been given a fresh boost with the news that Qatar has joined the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on the championship circuit for the first time. Losail International Circuit, home to world class motor bike and motor racing since 2004, will stage Rounds 9 and 10 of the 2011-2012 Porsche one-make series on March 2-3.

SA Peugeot Citroën has announced the French automaker will leave Le Mans racing indefinitely. Reuters reports the manufacturer cites financial issues as the reason for the drastic move, saying Peugeot will now focus its efforts on improving its sales performance in 2012 instead. For its part, Peugeot has issued an official statement confirming the development on its motorsports site. Peugeot is currently Europe’s second-largest vehicle manufacturer, though the company has suffered a string of thinning profit reports in recent months. Last year, Phillippe Varin, Peugeot’s chief executive, announced a plan to save the company $1.03bn in 2012 through a variety of tactics, including job redundancies. Unfortunately, the company’s impressive Le Mans racing effort is a casualty of cost savings as well. Of all the rivalries in motorsports, few have been as entertaining or heated as the one that blossomed between Peugeot and Audi at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Peugeot swiped the crown from its German rivals in 2009 with its futuristic, diesel-powered 908 prototype, though Audi has won the legendary race seven out of the last eight years. That loss, however, forced Audi to abandon the open cockpit design of its R15 and earlier models in favor of a closed dome on the new R18. Interestingly enough, Reuters reports Peugeot sister company Citroën won’t turn its back on the World Rally Championship. Meanwhile, two new names will add their

names on the Le Mans circuit. Britain’s Morgan may not be the first brand to come to mind when you think of cutting-edge racing technology, but the small automaker has a deep and rich heritage in motorsports including Le Mans, where Morgan scored a class victory in 1962. That was fifty years ago this year, and so, for the first time since last running the Aero 8R GT2 back in 2004, Morgan is planning a return to the famous French endurance race once again. Rather than develop one of its existing sportscars into a GT racer, however, Morgan is teaming up with independent racing team OAK Racing to build a Morgan LMP2. The car will be based on a Pescarolo chassis, OAK Racing and Morgan running one factorybacked car in the new FIA World Endurance Championship (which includes Le Mans) this year, with additional examples to be made available for customer teams interested in getting on board. On the heels of Peugeot’s Le Mans withdrawal announcement, Toyota has released first photos of it new Le Mans hybrid racer car. Right on target with previously released design illustrations, the petrolelectric hybrid-powered race car will be fitted to a newly developed chassis according to LMP1 specifications. It will be built by Toyota Motorsport at its headquarters in Cologne, Germany while the hybrid powertrain will come from Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan.

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a rising star
After a shaky start in his Formula 1 career, Bruno Senna has now something to smile about with Williams F1 team

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n 17 January 2012, Bruno Senna, nephew of F1 legend Ayrton Senna was confirmed as a Williams driver. Senna will partner Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado.As his uncle had been racing for Williams at the time of his death, Senna first sought out his family’s blessing before joining the team. Senna was reported to bring fourteen million Euros in sponsorship to the team. Senna’s career into F1 has been a bit stormy so far. After stints in F3 and GP2 series, he resisted the temptation to enter Le Mans. His patience paid off an he sampled a contemporary Formula One car for the first time in November 2008 when he tested for Honda in Barcelona. Despite Senna coming to within 0.3 seconds of then Honda F1 racing driver Jenson Button in the three-day test, the later announcement that Honda would withdraw from Formula One lessened his opportunity of a 2009 race seat in Formula One, unless the squad were to find a buyer before the beginning of the season in March. Senna was expected to be the team’s second driver were it to make the 2009 grid, until Rubens Barrichello was reported to have re-signed with the team. On 30 October 2009, Senna announced that he had signed a deal to race in Formula One in 2010 with Hispanic

Racing Team led by Adrián Campos and would be driving for Campos Meta. After nine races, on 7 January 2011, HRT announced that Senna would not drive for them during the 2011 season. On 31 January 2011, Senna was announced as a test and reserve driver for the Renault team. In August, Senna replaced Nick Heidfeld for the remaining races of the 2011 season. He finished ninth at the Italian Grand Prix, scoring his first Formula One points. In Singapore, the Renault cars struggled with grip on the slow street circuit, with Senna qualifying and finishing 15th, however he still finished ahead of teammate Petrov. Senna finished 16th in Japan, 13th in Korea, and 12th in the first Indian Grand Prix, after being forced to change tyres late in the race. In Abu Dhabi, Senna again finished 16th after receiving a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags, and suffering a KERS failure. In the final race of the season, his home race in Brazil, Senna outqualfied Petrov for the third time, by starting ninth on the grid. On lap 10 of the race, Senna was involved in a collision with Michael Schumacher, for which Senna received a drive-through penalty, and finished the race in 17th place.On 9 December, it was announced that Romain Grosjean would partner Kimi

Räikkönen at the team in 2012, leaving Senna without a drive. And that’s all behind with his new assignment. Q: Now you’ve been confirmed as a Williams driver, what are your thoughts heading into 2012? BS: I’m really happy to be a part of a team with such a fantastic heritage. I am very proud that Williams has chosen me to race in what will be an important year for them. Everyone is extremely motivated for 2012 and it is great to be part of that motivation. It is true that they didn’t have the best season last year, but it is clear that the team is on a new path and everyone is pulling together to ensure that this year is a better one. I really hope that I can demonstrate what I can do, not only for the team, but for myself. It’s going to be interesting to see what we can achieve together. Q: What are your objectives for the 2012 season? BS: It’s difficult to set objectives before the season starts, but I intend to push the car 100% to the limit to get the maximum performance we can from it.

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Q: What are your thoughts on the Renault engine having raced with it last season and what do you think Renault can bring to Williams in 2012? BS: After a few races with the Renault engine in 2011, I’ve learnt a great deal about it. It is a very good unit with good drivability, which is another positive step forward for the team. As a driver, you need to have every weapon available to you operating at its optimum in order to put in competitive times throughout the race. I’m sure we can develop the car even further with the Renault engine and it will be interesting for me to be able to give the team feedback applying my previous experiences. Q: What do you make of your new team mate, Pastor Maldonado? BS: Pastor is a great driver. I’ve raced against him in GP2 and we always get along well. He’s been a very tough opponent in the past and he is going to be even tougher now we are both in the same car. We’ll certainly be trying to beat each other, but as teammates we’re going to work together to move the team forward. Q: Can you talk us through what you have been working on at the factory so far? BS: I’ve been at the Williams factory in Grove both before and after Christmas being really put through my paces in the simulator, on the track and in the gym. We’ve also done some evaluation work on the track (but not in an F1 car). The main purpose was for the team to evaluate me and to understand how to get the best out of me as a driver. But it’s also been really useful for me as it familiarises me with all the procedural things, such as learning the layout of the steering wheel before I get into the real car. When we start testing I won’t need to think about that so I’ll just be able to get on and drive the FW34. Q: So you have had an opportunity to work with your new engineers? BS: I think we’ve started off really well and now I’m looking forward to working with them more over the season. The relationship between a driver and engineer is something that few people can understand. You need mutual respect, to understand each other well and know how to work together in order to really gel from the start. That relationship and continuity can make such a difference to your overall performance. Q: What started your career in motorsport? BS: I was a motorsport fan from a young age and of course there has been a great influence from my uncle, but ever since I first put my feet into a go-kart I never wanted to do anything else. I’m very privileged to be able to do what I love, as to race in Formula One has always been my dream. Q: You were once quoted as saying that, given the chance to drive any legendary Formula One car from the past, you would choose the 1993 activesuspension Williams. How important is it to you to now be a part of a team with such a motorsport heritage? BS: The team has an amazing history and walking around the museum just makes me drool! I’ve seen many of these cars on track and always wondered how it would feel to actually race them. I’ve never been in one, so I think it would be good to get a run in the active ride car at Goodwood, just to get a feel! Q: You have considerable support from Brazil, can you tell us about that? BS: I feel very proud to be Brazilian right now. Knowing I have such great support behind me, people who have been there since the start, gives me such a great feeling. Knowing people have chosen me to bear their name gives me even more motivation to create good memories for them. Q: Your uncle, Ayrton, raced for Williams. How significant is it for you to be joining the team? BS: It will be very interesting to drive for a team that my uncle drove for. Quite a few of the people still here actually worked with Ayrton and I’m happy that they are now giving me the chance to prove myself here. Hopefully we can bring back some good memories and create some great new ones too. Q: Fast forward to this time next year, what achievements would you be happy with? BS: I hope that by the end of 2012 we can say we extracted 100% of the performance from the Williams-Renault FW34, whatever that may be. That is the most important thing. I just want to get the maximum possible out of the car and make the most of this opportunity. It is such an important year for both the team and myself as it will help shape my future. I hope that future will be long and successful, and it all starts here.

Verstappen released from jail
Former F1 driver Jos Verstappen was released from jail in his native Holland after spending two weeks behind bars. Apparently, the 39-year-old, a former teammate to Michael Schumacher in the 90s, faced an attempted murder charge after his ex-girlfriend is alleged to have been struck recently by Verstappen’s car. The Dutch news agency ANP said the attempted murder charge has now been withdrawn, and his lawyer is quoted as saying there is also no evidence of attempted aggravated assault. “The court granted the request for Jos Verstappen’s release, partly because of the lack of evidence,” a statement provided by the lawyers read.

Hamilton summoned to Sutil’s Munich trial
Lewis Hamilton has been summoned as a witness in the forthcoming Munich trial of his friend and F1 rival Adrian Sutil. It was expected the McLaren driver would have to appear, given the fact that - on the night of his Chinese grand prix win last April - he was present when German Sutil allegedly glassed Lotus team executive Eric Lux in a Shanghai nightclub. The Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper said the former Force India’s grievous bodily harm trial will take place over two days beginning 30 January. It means that Hamilton will have to head almost directly from the trial to attend the launch of the 2012 McLaren on 1 February. “Lewis Hamilton will be called as a witness on the first day,” a Munich court spokeswoman confirmed. “The appearance is mandatory,” she added. Sutil’s manager Manfred Zimmermann said he is not worried. “We have a video where it can be seen clearly that this was not Adrian attacking or intentionally hurting someone,” he said. “We expect an acquittal, or at worst a conviction for negligent injury. But that would not jeopardise his career,” insisted Zimmermann. It is reported that former Virgin driver Jerome d’Ambrosio and a F1 journalist might also appear as witnesses.

Reports hint at Ferrari test for Kubica in June
Robert Kubica’s comeback could be at the wheel of a turbocharged 2010 Ferrari, according to reports in the Italian media, despite the recent setback of a re-broken leg after an icy fall. The Polish driver could be only months away from attempting some laps in a F1 simulator. As for his track return, it is rumoured Ferrari sees Kubica as a potential test driver, with a view to ultimately becoming Fernando Alonso’s teammate.

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{ChiCane}

connecting with lifestyle
I was driving the Golf R the other day and discovered to my chagrin that the high-powered car, with an audio system that had more than its fair share of aural fidelity was just not iPod friendly. Yes, it did have a 3.5mm auxiliary jack, but frankly with the plethora of handy media and video players around, who uses the little jack any more? I had carried along my iPod to test the system – instead having to make do with the rather mediocre range of English FM stations we have in Muscat. Apparently you can slot in an SD card instead. How many of you carry your music around on SD cards? I would love to think that this is a unique case of a car’s features in mismatch to its audience – but it isn’t. Right from the beginning of the MP3 age – which in turn spawned the age of digital music, car makers have been playing a rather laggardly catch-up with lifestyles. At the beginning I presumed the reason had to do with being unwilling to pay Fraunhofer Institute the necessary licence fees for using the MP3 format. It was only after keeping tabs over the years that you really get a sense that design and engineering teams are often so blinded by their own brilliance that they don’t factor in the essential, things which even a layman could clarify, if asked. The concept of personal music is well and truly entrenched. We download and port our music choices to personal devices, largely powered by the ease of use and affordability of the iPod and similar devices. If we cant afford that, most of us write the stuff on USB flash drives. The share of public who carry there music on MP3 CDs is still significant but shrinking. And the audio cassette tape is going the way of the dinosaurs. I would expect that in only a couple of years home music systems will move to a solid state or hard disk drive format, accepting inputs from the web, USB flash drives and over wireless. So why are car audio systems still fixated on MP3 CDs and aux ports? It is in this area that manufacturers like Hyundai and Kia and some of the Chinese brands are taking customer attention. It looks like they know what the customer wants and are giving it to him. Good interiors, high quality audio, easy portability and interfaces. So you carry your mobile phone, media player or even a thumb drive and take your music along. It isn’t as if you are going to buy these advantages at the cost of the car itself. If the choice is between two cars that match on the basic ownership parameters, then this sort of connect with lifestyles will make the difference. Otherwise image the issue with spending a few thousand Rials on the car of your choice and then having to adapt your lifestyle habits to match with the car. Many manufacturers are making the leap ahead in technology – like having streaming bluetooth audio on their systems, USB ports and even hard disks. But the issue that they all face is that with the rampant growth of technology their job gets that much tougher. When you buy a car the chances are that you will own it for between four to six years and if you have taken care of it then the next owner will take it through a decade. And a decade is now like forever in terms of the appropriate feature set. Of course you can always get an after market system that is better suited for the times – or like so many of us do now – buy a small FM transmitter. The importance of keeping on top of technology, if not ahead of it is crucial. Even a company with the venerated credentials of Kodak has filed for bankruptcy because it didn’t read the progress of digital photography correctly, even though it pioneered it. Car makers aren’t going to go out of business by misreading personal entertainment dimensions but they definitely need to keep in tune with all aspects of fashion, lifestyle and technology to avoid losing marketshare.

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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