Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saab 9-X Air

It's just over 25 years since Saab unveiled its first four- seat convertible, a car based on its 900 model that became the most popular rag-top in the world.

In a new take on topless motoring the Swedish carmaker has come up with its 9-X Air concept car.

It will be revealed to the public at the Paris Motor Show next week and Saab says it's a glimpse of what a convertible from the company could look like.

Featuring what Saab calls a canopy top, the 9-X Air is not like other convertibles as it incorporates prominent rear pillars which curve upwards to mount the flat folding roof.

This is not dissimilar to Ferrari and Ford sports prototype endurance cars of the 60s which never resulted in production versions. With the top down in the 9-X Air, occupants can enjoy open-top motoring free from buffeting, while with the cloth top in place, the 9-X Air assumes the appearance of a solid-roofed coupe.

The 9-X Air's raked rear pillars – which have a separate rear screen between them – support the canopy top in a design development of the classic Targa roof principle.

However, instead of having a manually detachable roof section, the Saab canopy top will be power operated, neatly and quickly folding away in the boot, taking up very little load volume. Saab has already filed a patent for the design.

The roof design allows a clean, sculpted body contour for the 9-X Air, but there's no mistaking the car as being anything but a Saab, for its Scandinavian-inspired design links as directly as ever to Saab's aircraft heritage.

With a purposeful stance, and minimal front and rear overhangs, the effect is complemented by the single, wraparound window graphic, and smooth, uncluttered body surfaces.

Anthony Lo, director of advanced design at General Motors Europe, says of the car: "Like her sister, the 9-X BioHybrid, this car is all about efficiency in design and performance. It offers important benefits in weight-saving and packaging, as well as giving us the freedom to take convertible design forward."

The 9-X Air showcases seamless, wireless connectivity (Bluetooth) with one or multiple devices (mobile phones, PDAs etc).

Designed in parallel with the Saab 9-X BioHybrid concept, the 9-X Air shares its distinctive frontal styling, together with its highly efficient powertrain. The small, 1.4-litre Saab BioPower engine combines measures for more responsible performance: smaller engines, turbocharging, the use of biofuel and hybrid technology.

Running on E85 fuel (85 per cent bioethanol/15 per cent petrol), the engine delivers 147kW, giving zero- to-100kmh acceleration in 8.1 seconds and CO2 tailpipe emissions of 107g/km. Compared with normal petrol, the environmental impact on a source-to-wheel basis of using E85 is even more beneficial.

The exterior of the 9-X Air is defined by the prominent C-pillars, or buttresses, that provide the rear mounting for the canopy top – a powered, flat-folding roof developed from a Targa top principle. In a further break with design convention, the 9-X Air dispenses with a boot lid.

Instead, a large storage compartment, big enough to accommodate two golf bags, slides out from underneath the rear light bar. To save weight, it is spring- loaded, without power assistance, and slides on rollers.

Inside, the 9-X Air's driver information zone encompasses the top of the door moulding as well as the traditional dashboard. It's a fresh execution of Saab's traditional, driver-focused cockpit layout and dispenses with a central, floor-mounted console.

The zone is a flat, arc-shaped surface, within which a row of five display screens is embedded and illuminated in green 3D graphics.

In cooperation with Sony Ericsson, the 9-X Air's in-car interface enables streaming of data, entertainment and satellite navigation functions, which are transferred automatically to the car while the driver's PDA, phone or iPod remains on board, and the smarter the device, the more functions are available.

The same unit could also be programmed to remotely lock /unlock the car, raise or lower the canopy top, and even remotely change in-car pre-sets.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

FORD 2009 FIESTA ECOnetic - 65 Miles per Gallon

If ever there was a car made for the times, this would seem to be it: a sporty subcompact that seats five, offers a navigation system, and gets a whopping 65 miles to the gallon. Oh yes, and the car is made by Ford Motor, known widely for lumbering gas hogs.

Ford's 2009 Fiesta ECOnetic goes on sale in November. But here's the catch: Despite the car's potential to transform Ford's image and help it compete with Toyota Motor and Honda Motor in its home market, the company will sell the little fuel sipper only in Europe. "We know it's an awesome vehicle," says Ford America President Mark Fields. "But there are business reasons why we can't sell it in the U.S." The main one: The Fiesta ECOnetic runs on diesel.

Automakers such as Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz have predicted for years that a technology called "clean diesel" would overcome many Americans' antipathy to a fuel still often thought of as the smelly stuff that powers tractor trailers. Diesel vehicles now hitting the market with pollution-fighting technology are as clean or cleaner than gasoline and at least 30% more fuel-efficient.

Yet while half of all cars sold in Europe last year ran on diesel, the U.S. market remains relatively unfriendly to the fuel. Taxes aimed at commercial trucks mean diesel costs anywhere from 40 cents to $1 more per gallon than gasoline. Add to this the success of the Toyota Prius, and you can see why only 3% of cars in the U.S. use diesel. "Americans see hybrids as the darling," says Global Insight auto analyst Philip Gott, "and diesel as old-tech."

None of this is stopping European and Japanese automakers, which are betting they can jump-start the U.S. market with new diesel models. Mercedes-Benz by next year will have three cars it markets as "BlueTec." Even Nissan (NSANY) and Honda, which long opposed building diesel cars in Europe, plan to introduce them in the U.S. in 2010. But Ford, whose Fiesta ECOnetic compares favorably with European diesels, can't make a business case for bringing the car to the U.S.

First of all, the engines are built in Britain, so labor costs are high. Plus the pound remains stronger than the greenback. At prevailing exchange rates, the Fiesta ECOnetic would sell for about $25,700 in the U.S. By contrast, the Prius typically goes for about $24,000. A $1,300 tax deduction available to buyers of new diesel cars could bring the price of the Fiesta to around $24,400. But Ford doesn't believe it could charge enough to make money on an imported ECOnetic.

Ford plans to make a gas-powered version of the Fiesta in Mexico for the U.S. So why not manufacture diesel engines there, too? Building a plant would cost at least $350 million at a time when Ford has been burning through more than $1 billion a month in cash reserves. Besides, the automaker would have to produce at least 350,000 engines a year to make such a venture profitable. "We just don't think North and South America would buy that many diesel cars," says Fields.

The question, of course, is whether the U.S. ever will embrace diesel fuel and allow automakers to achieve sufficient scale to make money on such vehicles. California certified VW and Mercedes diesel cars earlier this year, after a four-year ban. James N. Hall, of auto researcher 293 Analysts, says that bellwether state and the Northeast remain "hostile to diesel." But the risk to Ford is that the fuel takes off, and the carmaker finds itself playing catch-up—despite having a serious diesel contender in its arsenal.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hyundai Genesis

Hyundai Motor America today announced that HKS USA, Inc. will create a high-performance Genesis Coupe 2.0t for the 2008 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show. The all-new, rear-wheel drive Hyundai model will make its SEMA debut at the Las Vegas Convention Center Nov. 4 - Nov. 7, 2008. HKS, the leading manufacturer of premium performance parts, is the second company to join Hyundai for this year's SEMA show.

"Genesis Coupe has the basic DNA that HKS looks for -- an excellent chassis, rear-wheel drive, aggressive styling and a new generation turbo-charged engine. These attributes provide the opportunity for HKS to maximize the Genesis Coupe driving performance capabilities for the serious driving enthusiast," said Rick Lafferty, president, HKS USA, Inc. "HKS is allocating R&D, engineering and prototyping resources to lay the groundwork for HKS-brand Genesis Coupe performance parts. We are looking forward to working with Hyundai to realize the full performance potential of the Genesis Coupe."
The HKS plan for the Genesis Coupe includes a HKS GT Turbo upgrade to maximize horsepower and torque, HKS engine internals, HKS limited-edition turbo exhaust system, HKS Super Mega Flow Intake System, HKS Engine Management and HKS Hipermax III fully-adjustable suspension.
"We've designed Genesis Coupe from the start to be tuner-friendly," said John Krafcik, vice president, Product Development and Strategic Planning, Hyundai Motor America. "Partnering with an industry leader like HKS is a terrific way for us to stretch the performance envelope of Genesis Coupe."
The HKS Genesis Coupe will also showcase functional ground effects designed by Ken Style, HKS Time-Attack cars' aerodynamic partner. The interior will emphasize driver comfort and control with HKS electronics including CAMP2 that monitors up to 24 data signals from the Genesis OBD2 and programmable calculations for fuel costs, average fuel consumption and fuel efficiency in real time.

-- Hyundai's first rear-wheel drive sports car
-- 306 horsepower (est.) from enhanced 3.8-liter V6 from Genesis sedan
-- Standard 210 horsepower (est.) turbocharged, intercooled inline four
-- Genesis Coupe arrives in the spring of 2009 as a 2010 model

HKS USA, Inc. is a leading manufacturer and supplier of premium automotive aftermarket performance systems, parts and accessories. Delivering its products to both the import and domestic car markets, HKS has been recognized for its engineering and performance excellence in the automotive industry since 1973. Established in 1982, HKS USA, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of HKS Company, Ltd. Japan and distributes its products through its worldwide dealer network. For more information about HKS USA, Inc., visit their website at
Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of South Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through 800 dealerships nationwide.

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