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  • Visiting Autostadt – the city of the Volkswagen Group

    For fans of the automobile, there are a wide range of pilgrimages to be pursued, be it the Nürburgring, Maranello, Bonneville Salt Flats, and many more. Naturally, appeal is subjective, and some might prioritise certain locales above others.

    Should you be a fan of the Volkswagen Group, you’ve come to the right place because the Autostadt is the point of focus here. Even if you aren’t a fan of VW AG, stick around for the bevy of photos that will hopefully pique your interest.

    In German, the Autostadt means ‘car city’ and it is located in Wolfsburg, right next to VW AG’s headquarters and its colossal car plant. Spanning 250,000 square metres and built with an investment in excess of 400 million euros, the Henn-designed complex attracts around 1.2 million visitors yearly despite not being a “theme park” in the traditional sense.

    The most prominent landmark here is the CarTowers, or AutoTurme which is part of the Autostadt car delivery system along with the ellipse-shaped Customer Centre. Both serve to provide Volkswagen customers the unique experience of personally picking up their own cars. This is so the odometer displays precisely “0 km” when they get behind the wheel for the first time at the Autostadt.

    Fully automated systems that rely on a vast network of machines and belts help shuttle cars directly from the adjacent Volkswagen factory via an underground tunnel, ensuring they are never driven. These new cars are stored in either of the two towers roughly 24 hours before being delivered to customers, with each being able to house 400 cars within their 48-metre steel and glass structure.

    Should visitors want to “feel like a car” being parked in the CarTowers, a guided tour in a panoramic grass lift takes you to the silo’s observation deck on the 20th floor, where you’ll be greeted by a view of the complex and parts of Wolfsburg.

    Of course, there are other landmarks within the Autostadt like the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the complex, with the road leading up to it containing an easter egg. If you’ll notice, there a different sections that illustrate different road building techniques used throughout the years, from the use of cobblestone to bricks and modern asphalt that we know today.

    Most customers who choose to pick up their car (and regular visitors) will stay at the Ritz, which is positioned with a direct view of the VW Kraftwerk power facility. As part of available packages, most choose to extend their stays so they can better explore the rest of the attractions.

    These include the various pavilions dedicated to the individual brand within the Group, all within close proximity to one another. Each one is unique in the way it is designed, with the Porsche pavilion being among the more eye-catching ones as the exterior “skin” is made from stainless steel and shaped to resemble the curvature of the 911’s roofline.

    Another major landmark, and the place most would spend a lot of time at, is the ZeitHaus, a museum that pays tribute to historic automobiles. Naturally, there’s a good number of representatives from VW but the exhibits also include fascinating cars like the DMC DeLorean, Jaguar E-Type, first-generation Chevrolet Corvette, BMW 2002 and many more.

    All the cars are distributed across five floors, with some being designated as Design Icons while others are part of the Related Rides exhibition. Exhibits are swapped out periodically as some of the working exhibits are sent out to events, so visitors might see a revised line-up with every visit.

    Just beside the ZeitHaus is the GroupForum, which contains various exhibition halls that focus on sustainability (Green Level), vehicle development (Autowerk) and design. From a cutaway of a Lamborghini Aventador to the various connecting joints used in Volkswagen chassis, a game that tests your knowledge on sustainability, and a timeline of iconic designs, there’s something here for everyone.

    The little ones aren’t left out as well, with various play areas set up to make sure they are entertained. They can even partake in a “driving course” where they will learn the basic and safety aspects of driving in a “school” before trying out for real on small, electric “cars” in a mini city.

    The space also contains two cinemas, one of which utilises a curved panorama LED screen playing AutolandD – four fictional short stories about the love Germans feel for their cars. Should you feel famished, there are over 10 restaurants spread across the grounds, including Tachometer, where you can experience the famous VW-made currywurst (yes, it’s a thing).

    If you’re itching to drive something, just across the canal are tracks dedicated to all-terrain driving, safety training and even a module to teach you how to drive more efficiently.

    During our time there, we joined the safety-training course that focused on the interplay of reaction time, braking and stopping distance, with various versions of the Golf (TSI, TDI and e-Golf) being our training vehicle. More advanced courses are available as well, with prices around the 20-30 euros mark.

    The Autostadt is a truly unique place to visit, and a statement of just how far the brand has come since it came to be over eight decades ago. While it might be called a “car city,” the complex more accurately celebrates many things beyond just those with four wheels; from the progression of humankind’s mobility capabilities to evolution of the arts, architecture and design. If you ever find yourself in Germany, you should make it a point to pay a visit and if you’re not, here’s a large gallery for your enjoyment instead. Enjoy.

     
  • 2019 Ducati SuperSport to come in Titanium Grey

    DU 2018-05-04 MY19 SUPERSPORT

    Coming in Titanium Grey for the 2019 riding season is the Ducati SuperSport, the Borgo Panigale firm’s take on a sports-tourer, with the emphasis on ‘sports’. Currently retailing in Malaysia at RM76,320 without GST – the SuperSport S with Ohlins suspension and performance parts is priced at RM83,867 – the SuperSport sees the demise of the Ducati Red paintjob from the base model.

    However, the SuperSport S will continue to be available in Ducati Red and Starsilk White. The new Titanium Grey paint comes in a matte coat and is complemented by the frame and wheels finished in red.

    Carrying the Testrastretta 11 V-twin, the SuperSport produces 110 hp at 9,000 rpm and 93 Nm of torque at 6,500 rpm from 937 cc. The ride-by-wire engine is fuelled by twin Mikuni throttle bodies, with power getting to the ground via a six-speed gearbox.

    Marzocchi and Sachs provide suspension front and rear, respectively, with 43 mm diameter upside-down forks and adjustable monoshock for the base model, with the ‘S’ getting Ohlins units. Braking is with radially-mounted Brembo M4-32 Monobloc callipers grabbing 320 mm brake discs.

    With fuel carried inside a 16-litre tank, the SuperSport is claimed to weigh 210 kg wet and seat height is 810 mm. Ducati Performance provides a range of performance accessories including Akrapovic exhaust, titanium racing exhaust, Ohlins steering damper and Bluetooth module for the Ducati Multimedia System.

     
  • Renault will never dominate Mitsubishi, Nissan: Ghosn

    The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance will always remain a partnership, with no one party dominant to the point that it completely owns the others, according to Carlos Ghosn, the chairman and CEO of the alliance.

    Speaking to shareholders of Mitsubishi Motors at their annual meeting in Tokyo earlier today, he reiterated that there was “zero chance” that the French automaker will make the two other companies wholly-owned subsidiaries, The Mainichi reports.

    At the meeting, Mitsubishi shareholders expressed their concern over the company losing its strengths or being taken over by Nissan or Renault, but Ghosn assuaged their fears. “If Nissan wanted to acquire Mitsubishi, Nissan would have bought all of Mitsubishi. We did it because we don’t believe in acquisition, we believe in partnership. And this is the essence of an alliance,” he said.

    “Anybody who will ask for Nissan or Mitsubishi to become a fully-owned subsidiary of Renault has zero chance of getting the result. We do not believe that companies where you have one company dominating the others are sustainable. It doesn’t work,” he told the shareholders.

    The initial alliance was formed in 1999 – Renault came to Nissan’s aid then when the latter was on the verge of bankruptcy, and the French carmaker has since held a 43.4% stake in the Japanese company, with Nissan in turn given a 15% non-voting stake in Renault.

    Since then, however, Nissan has grown to be a more profitable company than its French partner, and now commands a larger market value and better sales figures. In October 2016, Nissan acquired a 34% stake in Mitsubishi, forming the three-way alliance.

     
  • Future Lamborghini supercars to be PHEV – no turbos!

    It looks like Lamborghini is planning to stick with naturally-aspirated engines for its super-sports models, resisting the downsizing and turbocharging trend that its rivals are adopting. According to Autocar, the Italian carmaker’s technical director, Maurizio Reggiani said he intends to resist any pressure to reduce the number of cylinders in its next generation of supercars.

    “Every car has a mission, and based on that mission you have to choose the right engine. For the [Urus SUV] the decision was turbo, but we will continue to choose natural aspiration for the super-sports cars. In the future, we will need to take account of fuel consumption and emissions. I am convinced the naturally aspirated engine coupled with a hybrid system can be the right answer,” explained Reggiani.

    The successor to the Huracán is scheduled to debut in 2022, and there’s a good chance it will be a plug-in hybrid. However, Reggiani hinted that the Aventador, which will be introduced before 2022, will also be employing an electrified powertrain.

    He said: “We need to reinvent this icon without [losing] the characteristics of the current car: carbon-fibre, the V12 naturally aspirated engine and other components. Looking forward, if it is a hybrid, then in what ways can we compensate for its weight?”

    Of course, the issue with electrification is added weight, but Reggiani also said that battery density is as big of a concern, because the battery pack needs to be able to accommodate a significant number of cells. The automaker is currently working on a project – previewed by the Terzo Millennio concept – with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston to develop CF bodywork that can act as a storage battery as well as superconductors.

    Reggiani said an electrical drivetrain may help smoothen out the current Aventador’s ‘sometimes aggressive’ single-clutch transmission. “You could use the electric motor to ensure that you don’t have torque interruption,” he noted.

    The Aventador’s successor will still come with a naturally-aspirated V12, as will the Huracán with a V10. “The reaction you have to a 10-cylinder engine you cannot have from any other kind. This is what our customers love. Why do I need to do something different? If I trust in the NA engine, why downgrade my powertrain to a V8 or V6? I am Lamborghini, I am the top of the pinnacle of super-sports cars. I want to stay where I am,” said Reggiani.

    GALLERY: Lamborghini Aventador S in Malaysia

    GALLERY: Lamborghini Huracán Performante Spyder

     
  • 2018 Moto Guzzi V7 III Limited shown at Biarritz

    Unveiled at Biarritz, France, setting for the Wheels and Waves motorcycle event, was the 2018 Moto Guzzi V7 III Limited. Coming in a limited production run of only 500 numbered units worldwide, the V7 III Limited is the latest iteration of the retro styled V7 “seven-fifty.”

    Taking cues from classic motorcycle design, the V7 III Limited comes with numerous chrome plated components, including a chromium fuel tank, secured by a black leather strap for that vintage look. The Moto Guzzi eagle tank emblem is done up with a burnished finish, off setting the reflective chrome.

    Black is also extensively as a design colour on the allow wheels and saddle with “old school” stitching, and complements the carbon-fibre in the side panels and front and rear mudguards. Machined aluminium is used for the locking fuel cap and handlebar risers, onto which the V7 III Limited’s edition number is inscribed.

    The V7 III series of Moto Guzzi motorcycles is powered by an air-cooled transverse V-twin that displaces 744 cc, with power rated at 52 hp at 6,200 rpm and 60 Nm of torque at 4,900 rpm. Coming with a six-speed gearbox, Brembo does the braking with a single 320 mm disc in front grabbed by quadruple asymmetric calliper pistons with a single disc in the rear.

    Fuel is carried a 21-litre tank and the V7 III has a claimed wet weight of 209 kg. Suspension uses conventional non-adjustable telescopic forks up front with an 18-inch wheel and pre-load adjustable twin shock absorbers in the rear, rolling on a 17-inch hoop.

    In Malaysia, there are four versions of the 2018 Moto Guzzi V7 III with prices sans GST and not including road tax, insurance and registration. These are the V7 III Stone (RM63,133), the V7 III Special (67,830), the V7 III Racer (RM77,264) and the V7 II Anniversario (RM76,321).

     
  • MRT Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya line to proceed, but told to reduce costs by CEP – 24% complete

    The MRT Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya (SSP) line will not suffer the same fate as the MRT3 a.k.a. Circle Line, which has been scrapped by the new government. The second MRT line will proceed, but MRT Corp has been tasked by the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) to find ways to lower the price of the project, Malay Mail reports.

    This was revealed by MRT Corp CEO Datuk Shahril Mokhtar after he met the CEP in KL today. “We are working on something, we will have a chat on how to find ways to reduce the cost further for Line 2 (MRT SSP Line). We exchanged ideas but the key is to reduce the cost so we could save the people’s money,” he said, adding that the line is over 24% complete now.

    The 52.2 km MRT SSP line will consist of 38.7 km of elevated tracks and 13.5 km of underground tunnels. The first phase of the line, which cost RM32 billion, is expected to be operational by the Q3 2021 before its full completion in late 2022. The first MRT Sg Buloh-Kajang (SBK) line was fully opened in July last year.

    Prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced on May 30 that the government is cancelling the MRT3 project, which was to be a loop line of the Greater KL/Klang Valley integrated transit system. Originally targeted for completion by 2025, the 40 km MRT3 was to have 26 stations with 32 km of it built underground.

     
  • AD: PETRONAS and the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS team in Formula 1 – pushing forward together for you

    It’s been eight years since PETRONAS was signed on as the title sponsor of the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Motorsport team in Formula 1. Since then, the duo have stormed to four consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championships, making the team the most successful in the current hybrid era. That’s quite some feat, by any standards.

    But to call PETRONAS as simply a title sponsor would be to do it injustice – for all intents and purposes it really is a technical partner, working closely with the Brackley-based team to extract maximum performance from its 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 engine and hybrid electric powertrain.

    Fierce competition and a greater emphasis on fuel saving over the years have put extreme demands on these high-tech power units, increasing the risk of mechanical failure and retirements as engines have to deliver on both performance and fuel economy. PETRONAS has expanded its efforts into making sure that its fuels, lubricants and fluids stay cool in the ultra-high-pressure environment of a Formula 1 engine, protecting vital components and keeping them reliable race after race.

    Last year, Lewis Hamilton was the only driver to finish every race in the season and score points in each one on his way to winning his fourth world title. In fact, the British driver still holds the record for the most consecutive points finishes, having finished no lower than ninth place between the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix and the recent 2018 Monaco Grand Prix – that’s an astonishing 31 races.

    This incredible reliability record underscores PETRONAS’ ability to develop world-class fluids at the pinnacle of motor racing – a true winning formula. All this expertise goes back into producing products that enhance and protect modern passenger car technologies, such as downsized turbocharged engines and advanced hybrid electric powertrains, that bear a striking resemblance to what you’ll find on Formula 1 cars today.

    In short, PETRONAS and the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Motorsport team are pushing forward in Formula 1 together to deliver high-performance products that work for you and your car. The complete range of Primax fuels, Syntium lubricants and Tutela fluids have all been developed in the crucible of intense racing, and you can try them today at the nearest PETRONAS fuel station.

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  • Mercedes-AMG C53 name trademarked – over 400 hp?

    Daimler has applied to reserve the ‘C 53’ nameplate with the World Intellectual Property Organisation, a move that falls in line with Mercedes-Benz’s efforts to replace the existing AMG 43 suffix with AMG 53. This, according to AutoGuide, signals the eventual arrival of the Mercedes-AMG C 53, which may either be introduced soon, or in the next W206 C-Class.

    Currently, the AMG 53 line-up consists of the CLS 53, E 53 Coupe and E 53 Cabriolet, all of which are powered by the tristar’s new M256 3.0 litre inline-six petrol engine. It’s turbocharged to make 435 hp and 520 Nm of torque, and the petrol motor is augmented with an electric compressor. Expect the C 53 to share the same setup, though it may be downtuned as to not show up its bigger brothers (the C 43 has less power than the E 43).

    In the larger 53 models, the engine also features a 48 V mild hybrid system and EQ Boost starter-alternator, the latter offering an additional 22 hp and 250 Nm. Power goes out to all four wheels (4Matic+) through a nine-speed AMG Speedshift TCT 9G automatic.


    The new M256 3.0 litre straight-six as shown in the new CLS 53

    This mild hybrid setup produces more power than the 3.0 twin-turbo V6 found in the C 43 (385 hp/520 Nm in its upgraded facelift form), so it makes sense to think that the C 53 will be positioned between the base C 43 and top-of-the-line C 63. Alternatively, Mercedes could also offer a non-AMG C 450, leaving two AMG-badged variants – C 53 and C 63 – to top the range.

    Which direction would you prefer, dear readers?

    GALLERY: W205 Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic facelift

     
  • SDAC opens upgraded Ford centre in Kota Kinabalu

    Sime Darby Auto Connexion (SDAC), Ford’s official distribution partner in Malaysia, today announced the opening of its newly upgraded Ford showroom and service centre in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

    Located at Jalan Limau Manis, the 3,216 square metre Sime Darby Auto Connexion Kota Kinabalu is designed with Ford’s global Brand@Retail standards. It has six additional service bays with vehicle hoists, which make up a total of 13 service bays.

    The facility is equipped with the latest diagnostic equipment and maintains a full supply of spare parts, SDAC says. There’s also a dedicated customer service lounge with free WiFi, hot beverages and snacks.

    “Sime Darby Auto Connexion Kota Kinabalu is designed to offer an unmatched customer experience, with convenience, efficiency and comfort. This upgraded facility is part of Ford and SDAC’s network expansion and customer service enhancement plan aimed to offer the very best sales and aftersales services to better serve growing number of Ford customers in East Malaysia,” said Syed Ahmad Muzri Bin Syed Faiz, MD of SDAC.

    “The quality of the ownership experience we provide is just as important as the quality of our world-class Ford vehicles. The newly upgraded Sime Darby Auto Connexion Kota Kinabalu demonstrates our joint commitment to offer Ford customers an even better experience,” said Truong Kim Phong, MD of Asia Pacific Emerging Markets at Ford.

    Sime Darby Auto Connexion Kota Kinabalu is located at Jalan Limau Manis, off Jalan Lintas. The showroom (contact number 088 425 255) is open from 8:30am to 5.30pm from Monday to Friday, and from 8:30am to 12:30pm on Saturday. The service centre’s (088 427 666) opening hours are 8:00am to 5:00pm on weekdays and 8:00am to 12:30pm on Saturday.

     
  • Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance reports cost savings of €5.7 billion from improved cooperation

    The Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance has reported that as a result of closer cooperation between alliance members, annual synergies climbed to €5.7 billion (RM26.5 billion) last year from €5 billion (RM23.2 billion) in 2016, an improvement of 14%. It said that consolidation and convergence resulted in cost savings, incremental revenue gains and cost avoidance.

    “The Alliance has a direct, positive impact on the growth and profit of each member company. In 2017, the Alliance turbo-charged the performance of all three companies including Mitsubishi Motors, which saw its first full-year of synergy gains,” said chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn.

    “We expect to generate growing synergies in coming years as the Alliance accelerates convergence through increased utilisation of joint plants, common vehicle platforms, technology-sharing and our combined presence in mature and emerging markets. We reaffirm our synergy goal of more than €10 billion by the end of 2022,” he added.

    Engineering-based gains came from shared R&D costs and investments, while in manufacturing, shared platforms such as the Datsun redi-GO and Renault Kwid in vehicle production resulted in lower production costs. Significant cost reductions were also obtained via a more centralised sourcing of parts, equipment/tooling and common utilities for facilities around the world.

    Shared spare parts warehouses between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors in Europe, Japan and Australia also contributed to the cause, as did reduced costs associated with vehicle transportation, an example being Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors combining shipments of finished vehicles from plants in Thailand to their respective dealers.

    The Alliance reported total sales of more than 10.6 million vehicles for 2017, and under its Alliance 2022 strategic plan, combined annual sales are expected to climb to more than 14 million vehicles by the end of the plan. Nine million of these will be built on four common platforms including electric and B-segment vehicles, and the use of common powertrains will be extended from one third to 75% of the total.

     
 

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Last Updated 21 Jun 2018



 

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