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  • All-new Kia Picanto to be offered with 1.0 litre turbo, manual transmission, GT-Line trim level in Europe

    Set to make its debut at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, more images of the all-new, third-generation Kia Picanto have been unveiled ahead of its Swiss showing in March. What’s known as the Art Collection variant in its native Korea goes by the GT-Line moniker elsewhere, and the range-topping trim level has been confirmed for the European market.

    For Europe, the third-generation Picanto is set to sport the nameplate’s most powerful variant yet, courtesy of a 1.0 litre, turbocharged T-GDI direct injection petrol engine, which endows the A-segment hatchback with 100 PS and 172 Nm of torque.

    The turbocharged, direct-injection mill is one of three petrol engines, the others being a 1.0 litre MPI unit producing 67 PS and 96 Nm of torque and a 1.25 litre MPI engine producing 84 PS and 122 Nm of torque. In terms of CO2 emissions, the 1.0 litre unit is rated at 89 g/km, with the 1.25 litre unit rated at 104 g/km, an improvement from the 95 g/km and 106 g/km seen on their respective predecessors.

    Upgrades to the entry-level, naturally-aspirated 1.0 litre engine include a new exhaust manifold integrated into the cylinder head, while a new cooling system with a shut-off valve helps reduce warm-up times from cold starts. Elsewhere, a new two-stage oil pump helps reduce mechanical friction, according to Kia.

    The 1.25 litre engine in the new Picanto also receives similar upgrades, with the optimising of the CVVT (continuously variable valve timing) for this engine in addition to the cooling system and shut-off valve also adopted from the new 1.0 engine. New, low-friction coated piston rings also aid the reducing of friction for improved efficiency, says the automaker.

    The range-topping, 1.0 litre T-GDI turbocharged engine features an integrated exhaust manifold, a high-pressure, 200 bar fuel supply, along with laser-drilled fuel injectors for precise fuel delivery towards more controlled combustion, for improved accelerative response and efficiency, says Kia. All three powerplants are mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, with a four-speed auto being an option for the 1.25 litre variant.

    Inside, refinement measures abound – the new Picanto gains a new soundproofing panel beneath the dashboard and in the cabin floor, while expandable, sound-absorbing foam has also been applied to the lower sections of its A- and B-pillars.

    A new sound-absorbing engine cover resides beneath the bonnet, and along with the reshaped air intake, helps isolate engine noise from the cabin; the Picanto’s engine mounts have also been revised to better counteract vibrations. Just beyond the hood, the Picanto’s windscreen wipers have been lowered by six millimetres for less wind noise at the base of the windscreen.

    As detailed before, the Picanto is built upon an all-new platform for the marque’s small cars, and gains a 44% composition of Advanced High Strength Steel (up from 22%) for a tensile strength improvement of 12%, while the body-in-white is lighter by 23 kg. The floor pan, roof rails and engine bay, along with its A- and B-pillars, feature the use of AHSS.

    The stiffer bodyshell gives a stronger foundation from which the suspension can work from, and so the Picanto now sports front anti-roll bars which are two percent stiffer and mounted slightly lower in front; at the rear, the anti-roll bars are five percent stiffer and mounted slightly higher.

    The new Picanto’s longer wheelbase and shorter front overhang also repositions its pitch centre slightly rearwards, for a reduction in nose dive under braking without a potentially ride-compromising firmer suspension rate. The rear torsion beam axle has been reshaped and new-design trailing arms collectively offer a 1.8 kg saving, without loss of rigidity, says Kia.

    For greater agility, a new steering rack is now 13% quicker than before, its new ratio now 14.3:1 from the previous model’s 16.5:1. Steering wheel turns are now reduced to 2.8 turns lock-to-lock from 3.4 turn previously, while the front axle has less weight ahead of it for less inertia.

    Infotainment come courtesy of a 7.0-inch “floating” touchscreen, which interfaces Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for mobile device integration. Optionally, a reverse camera with dynamic guide lines can be specified, along with a wireless smartphone charger and USB port.

    The Picanto’s boot grows from 200 litres of capacity previously to 255 litres, along with offering a two-step boot floor, which can be raised or lowered 145 mm for either additional storage space or for an under-floor storage area. With a one-touch lever, the 60:40 split-folding rear seats fold flat to liberate a total capacity of 1,100 litres.

    Safety features on the third-generation Picanto include six airbags (front, front side and curtain airbags), and an optional knee airbag, while active safety features include electronic stability control and a tyre pressure monitoring system. The Picanto also comes with autonomous emergency braking for added safety in urban surroundings.

  • SPIED: B9 Audi RS4 Avant tests all-weather traction

    It’s been a while since we’ve seen the next-generation B9 Audi RS4 out testing, but Ingolstadt’s new wagon-bodied bruiser has finally been caught again by our European spy photographers, undergoing winter testing ahead of its unveiling at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

    The RS4’s customary bespoke front bumper, with massive air intakes flanking the singleframe grille, is front and centre as before – though don’t expect that cool LED light bar to be offered on the options list anytime soon. Making its first appearance here, however, are fender box flares that replace the more conventional round ones on past mules. The rear diffuser also looks to be larger and more aggressive.

    So, the wagon’s hulking appearance seems to have been retained, then, but another staple since the B7 model, the 4.2 litre naturally-aspirated V8, is set to be dropped in favour of a modified version of the S4‘s 3.0 litre turbocharged V6. On the RS model, the mill is expected to be augmented by twin turbos instead of just one on the S4, pushing power output from 354 hp to a massive 450 hp.

    Also set to be ditched is the seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission, replaced by an eight-speed automatic transmission as seen on the current RS6 and RS7. Drive is almost certainly sent to all four wheels via a rear-biased version of Audi’s quattro permanent all-wheel drive system.

  • Toyota to debut autonomous i-TRIL Concept in Geneva

    Toyota will be debuting an autonomous-capable, electric-powered concept in Geneva. The automaker says that the i-TRIL Concept, positioned as an alternative to city cars, other electric vehicles and motorcycles, is aimed at people who want to have fun even while puttering about at slow speeds in urban surroundings.

    Quite how this fun aspect will be presented remains to be seen, as is the shape of the study itself, but the automaker says the vehicle, which has a one-plus-two seating layout, features Active Lean technology.

    The tech, which angles the vehicle when cornering to provide high levels of stability, safety and comfort, has been seen before, on the i-ROAD three-wheeler that was first presented in 2013, also at the Swiss show.

    On that one, the system uses a lean actuator and gearing mounted above the front suspension member, linked via a yoke to the left and right front wheels. An ECU calculates the required degree of lean based on steering angle, gyro-sensor and vehicle speed information, and the system automatically moves the wheels up/down in opposite directions, applying a lean angle to counteract the centrifugal force of cornering.

    Developed by Toyota Motor Europe, in collaboration with the company’s ED2 design studio in Nice, the i-TRIL is set to showcase numerous innovative aspects of the automaker’s research into improved and more engaging environmentally-friendly mobility solutions. The study is also said to be capable of operating autonomously.

    GALLERY: Toyota i-ROAD all-electric personal mobility vehicle, 2013

  • SPIED: Aston Martin DB11 Volante spotted again

    The Aston Martin DB11 Volante has been spotted undergoing testing again, with the prototype seen here still wearing the same promotional decals as before, which points towards a 2018 introduction and a dedicated website where you can register your interest.

    As before, the convertible version of the DB11 remains largely identical to the coupe until you reach the A-pillars. Therefore, the Curlicue vents that help reduce front-end lift over the front axle, one-piece bonnet, LED headlights and front grille are unchanged.

    Beyond that, the British carmaker has made some modifications to the car’s rear haunches and deck in order to accommodate the folding soft-top. From certain angles, the car certainly looks to be a little taller compared to the coupe, although we’ll have to wait for official figures to comfirm.

    Beyond those revisions, the DB11 continues to retain the same rear bumper, diffuser and dual exhaust outlets as the fixed top model. The Volante should also carry the drivetrain setup from the DB11 – a 5.2 litre twin-turbo V12 engine (600 hp/700 Nm) mated to an eight-speed automatic.

  • VIDEO: Rory Reid goes rallying in an Ariel Nomad

    Welcome to episode two Rory Reid’s Road Trips, the online-only series where the Top Gear host introduces some of the world’s most amazing roads in nifty cars. Consider it as something interesting to watch while you wait for Series 24 of the popular car show to air.

    This time, Reid is behind the wheel of the Ariel Nomad, essentially an Atom that has been repurposed for off-road duties. Powered by a Honda-sourced K24 2.4 litre four-cylinder engine that provides 238 hp and 300 Nm of torque, the 670 kg Nomad will accelerate from 0-100 km/h in just 3.4 seconds.

    In the video, the Nomad is let loose on the roads of the Elan Valley in Wales, where it passes various man-made dams and some pretty scenery along the way. Halfway through, Reid decides to do a spot of rallying, taking the rear-wheel drive-only Nomad on some pretty muddy roads that serves as a training ground for the Forest Experience Rally School.

    The route spans 900 acres and has a 14.5 km of gravel stages that runs through dense woodland. To make sure the Nomad isn’t parked in a tree, Reid enlists the help of eight-time Rally America champion, David Higgins. What follows after, you’ll have to watch and see.

  • California Superbike School with BMW Motorrad – how to hone the craft while taking it to the edge, in safety

    Having ridden and raced motorcycles for over three-and-a-half decades, there are many who ask me for tips and guidance on how to ride motorcycles. To the many such requests I get, I usually decline, pointing them to a superbike riding clinic. But the best of the riding schools, bar none and sworn by riders and champion racers alike, is the California Superbike School (CSS).

    Founded by Keith Code in 1980, perfection of the art and science of taking a motorcycle at high speed around a corner featured prominently in the syllabus. Some riders may scoff at this, thinking they know all there is to know about riding because they can get their knee down.

    Having previously attended CSS back in the 90s and early 2000, when BMW Motorrad Malaysia offered us a place in CSS at Sepang International Circuit (SIC), we jumped at the chance. Perfecting “the craft”, as we call it, requires constant practice, as well as instruction to iron out bad habits that riders pick up along the way.

    Split into four levels, CSS takes riders from the very basics of learning how to ride fast, what to see, and how to see it, all the way up to precision honing of specific advanced skills. No matter who the rider is, world champion or newbie, everyone starts at Level One.

    The beauty of CSS is that students, after finishing all the levels, can revisit each level at will, in order to perfect areas where they feel their riding skills are weak. Some don’t go up to Level Three or Four, preferring to further hone their level one and two skills before progressing further.

    Levels in CSS are split into modules, with Level One teaching the importance of lines, turning points and looking where you’re going. Most of the drills in Level One and Two limit the rider to one or two gears, and no brakes, so that the rider concentrates on throttle and bike control, rather than outright speed, and students go out on the track after each module to practice what they have learned.

    We attended both Level One and Two, and the second stage develops the rider’s visual skills. One of the key lessons in this level is it gives you a sense of how big the track actually is, where your lines are, and how to process the visual information your brain is receiving.

    At the end of the two days for Levels One and Two, students were allowed out on track with a “no limits” final session. This allowed all students to combine and practice what they learned throughout the level, in a safe and controlled environment.

    Through the entire session, the S1000 RR performed well, and was sure-footed and confidence inspiring on the Pirelli Supercorsa tyres. The 2016 BMW Motorrad S1000 RR retails for RM104,900, and puts out 199 hp at at 12,500 rpm and 113 Nm of torque at 10,500 rpm.

    CSS isoOrganised in Malaysia by Singapore-based SBR Trackdays, and there could be another session of CSS at SIC later this year. In addition, CSS is also held in the Philippines and Indonesia. Attending CSS in Malaysia will cost you USD 1,600 (RM7,132) per two-day session, not including a suitable motorcycle, with one level on each day. Rental of track bikes is available through prior arrangement.

  • PSA to maintain Opel’s four German factories – report

    The news about PSA Group in talks with General Motors over the purchase of the latter’s European business surfaced last week. Size and scale must be on the mind of the French looking to take over Opel and Vauxhall, and Europe’s overcapacity is a known issue. Should the takeover succeed, surely some factories will have to be sacrificed?

    Well, according to reports, Opel’s German factories will survive. German Sunday paper Bild am Sonntag reported that the PSA Group, which makes Peugeot and Citroen cars, has pledged to the German government to continue operating all four of Opel’s plants in the country.

    It said that PSA’s general counsel Olivier Bourges told two deputy ministers and an adviser to Chancellor Angela Merkel that Opel would continue as a separate entity within the group and that no German sites would be closed. No sources were specified. The publication added that the takeover deal will likely be signed by March 9 at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show.

    However, things do not look so good for Opel’s sister brand Vauxhall, which is based in the UK. Two sources close to PSA have told Reuters that job and plant cuts were part of the PSA-GM talks, with the two British sites of Vauxhall in the front line. PSA’s CEO will meet British PM Theresa May to discuss the deal amid concern that Brexit could put Vauxhall sites at a disadvantage to Opel’s.

    The wire service points out that Germany accounts for about half of GM Europe’s 38,000 staff, while there are 4,500 staff in Britain. Spain and Poland also host Opel factories. A PSA spokesman confirmed that a meeting between PSA reps and German officials had taken place last week. Opel declined comment.

  • Maserati Levante launched in Malaysia – RM889k

    Just a few months after it was first previewed in Malaysia, the Maserati Levante has now gone on sale in Malaysia via Naza Italia. On offer here is a sole diesel-powered variant, which comes with a starting price of RM888,800 (inclusive of local taxes and duties), before options (more on that later).

    The mill employed here is a 3.0 litre turbodiesel V6 providing 275 hp at 4,000 rpm and 600 Nm of torque at 2,000 to 2,600 rpm. It is mated to a ZF AT8-HP70 eight-speed automatic gearbox with a Q4 all-wheel drive system and rear limited slip differential.

    In terms of performance, the Levante will sprint from zero to 100 km/h in just 6.9 seconds, and has a top speed of 230 km/h. As for the mid-size premium crossover’s green credentials, it has a claimed fuel consumption of 7.2 l/100 km following the NEDC cycle, while C02 emissions is rated at 180 g/km.

    The Levante comes as standard with active air suspension as well as the brand’s Skyhook adaptive dampers, the latter being an option in other markets. Both the car’s drivetrain and suspension can be adjusted by selecting from four different drive modes – Normal, Sport, Off-road and Increased Control and Efficiency (ICE).

    As for styling, the Levante, which gets its name from a warm Mediterranean wind, features many cues from current Maserati models, including the “Saetta” logo on the C-pillar and concave front grille. Standard exterior equipment fitted to Malaysian-spec cars are bi-xenon headlights (with LED DRLs) and 18-inch wheels (with 225/60 tyres).

    Inside, there’s an 8.4-inch touchscreen display for the Maserati Control Plus infotainment system, with a rotary controller and AHA function (online services). You’ll also get leather upholstery, a dual-zone climate control system and powered front seats.

    As mentioned earlier, there are a few optional extras for the Levante, including two packages – Sport and Luxury. The former sees a black piano finish applied to the front grille and skid plates, along with the addition of chrome door sills, red brake calipers, larger 20-inch Nereo machine-polished wheels, power adjustable steering column and sports steering wheel.

    Meanwhile, the Luxury pack tags on a metallic front grille finish, illuminated door sills, lower bumper elements, Zefiro 19-inch wheels, chrome trunk siil and black brake calipers. Customers can also opt for the exclusive Zegna Edition pack with the Luxury, which introduces bespoke silk from Ermenegildo Zegna to the seats, roof lining and sun visors.

    Each purchase of the Levante includes a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty and three-year/60,000 km Maserati Premium Service Plus. Those interested to get up close with the Levante can head over to Naza Italia’s showroom in Petaling Jaya to view and test drive the crossover.

    GALLERY: Maserati Levante preview in Malaysia

    GALLERY: Maserati Levante official photos

  • Autonomous race cars go head-to-head in Roborace demo – Robocar set to be revealed on February 27

    Roborace, the showcase series for self-driving race cars running alongside the Formula E championship, has completed its first ever live demonstration of two driver-less cars on the track at the same time.

    The demo took place on the city streets of Buenos Aires – which is playing host to Formula E’s third race of the 2016-17 season – using Roborace’s development cars, DevBot 1 and 2. ahead of the reveal of the Robocar race vehicle at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on February 27.

    The two DevBots, kitted out in liveries matching Argentine football teams River Plate and Boca Juniors, took to the track together and navigated the street circuit entirely autonomously, using the various sensors and systems on board to navigate the street circuit without any human intervention.

    The driver-less, electric racing series aims to provide an avenue for autonomous driving as well as offer software engineers a competitive venue to refine their craft. Teams will apparently share the same hardware, as in a base car, but develop their own software to run it.

    The basis of competition is interaction, with the ability of the AI software to perceive and interact within a dynamic environment being key to proceedings. Now, who said that there’d be a remote chance of driverless racing ever becoming a reality, then?

  • 2017 Chevrolet Trax compact SUV spotted in Malaysia

    A new compact SUV will be joining the market, from the looks of it. Reader Mohd Faizul sent in these pics of two unidentified SUVs on a trailer along the Kesas Highway, and while the front and rear badges are covered, the model name is clearly displayed on the hatch. It’s the Chevrolet Trax.

    The Trax is GM’s compact global crossover that will go into an arena currently occupied by the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, the forgotten Ford EcoSport and the not-here-yet Toyota C-HR. There’s also the Renault Captur and recently facelifted Peugeot 2008. It may be a fresh entry here, but the Trax has been around the block – it first surfaced back in 2012, but the car seen here is the latest facelift that debuted a year ago.

    In Asean, the facelifted Chevy Trax is currently available in Vietnam. In Indonesia, the Trax was launched in December 2015, and we covered it at IIMS 2016, but this refreshed Trax with the sharper face is yet to reach the Republic.

    The Chevy’s 4,248 mm length is 47 mm shorter than a Mitsubishi ASX, but both have around the same width. The Trax has a 2,555 mm wheelbase and sufficient space to accommodate five persons in a comfortable high seating position, the company says Chevy. With the 60:40 rear seats folded, it can hold 1,370 litres of cargo and there are 15 compartments in the cabin.

    In both Vietnam and Indonesia, the crossover is powered by a 1.4 litre Ecotec turbo engine with 140 PS and 200 Nm of torque, paired to a six-speed torque converter automatic with Tiptronic. This, should it be specified for Malaysia as well, will set the Chevy apart in a competitive class dominated by the Honda.

    The images here show two trim levels. The blue car is of a higher spec, as it wears larger (possibly 18-inch) rims and silver-painted “underguard” panels on the front and rear bumper. Both cars come with LED daytime running lights, projector headlamps and fog lamps.

    GALLERY: Chevrolet Trax facelift

    GALLERY: Pre-facelift Chevrolet Trax at IIMS 2016


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