Luxury Cars

"The difference between men and little boys is the price of their toys."

Fast Cars

"Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car."- E.B. White

Car Technology

"And I, I took the road less traveled by. I was using a GPS system."- Robert Brault

Green Cars

"Environmentally friendly cars will soon cease to be an option ... they will become a necessity."- Fujio Cho

Safe Cars

"Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves." - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Electric car wars at London Motor Show

Well the age of the electric car is definitely here and there is no denying it if you have been to the London International Motor Show. Lightning Car automakers have revealed their Lightning GT, the first British all electric sports car with zero emissions that can go from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds, and has a top speed of more than 130 mph.

Its performance is impressive, beating the Jaguar 4.2 XKR by 1 second in the 0-60 challenge, and providing 700+ bhp, in comparison to the Jaguar's 420 bhp. It is also far more impressive than the current top selling hybrid, Toyota's Prius, which does 0-60 in more than 10 seconds and only gives you 76 bhp. It also receives an A in its green rating, which puts your carbon offset cost at £0.0, my favourite price, and that is only the beginning of where it saves you money. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on one of these beauties, it would cost you 2.2 pence per mile, you would save £300 on road tax, £1,920 in congestion charges from 48 working weeks, and another £10,000 if it is a company car through lower company car tax and company fuel benefit tax.

But there is of course its competitor, Tesla Motors' Roadster, and it does have a few evident advantages. For one thing, it is already in production and the company aims to be popping 100 of these babies a month by December. Then there is the range it can travel. The Lightning GT can do 200 miles per charge in comparison to the Tesla Roadster's 220.

But perhaps the biggest difference is the price. The Tesla Roadster is shipping for about $100,000 (around £50,000) and that is a huge difference to the Lightning GT, which has a £15,000 deposit just to preorder. The estimated price tag will be somewhere around £135,000, more than twice what the Roadster costs.

There are only two characteristics that can tip the scales in favour of the Lightning GT and those are its longevity and British pride. Lightning Car claims that the batteries in the car will last up to 12 years before you have to replace them, and maintain 85% capacity after 15,000 charges. Unfortunately the websites for each car provide information relevant to their market (US and UK) which makes it difficult for a more detailed comparison. In my mind, with such a high price tag it does really all come down to British pride. This is a beautiful piece of machinery, just like its competitor, but lets see if pride in our country's own product will be enough to make it viable.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Audi TT 2.0T - The Mini Supercar

When Audi came around the concept of a new compact sports car the whole motoring world hold their breath patiently until that glorious day back in August 1998 when the new Audi TT coupé was released. And then everyone exhaled in disappointment.

What Audi came up with as a great production idea was to create a coupé car based on the failure model VW Golf 4 and they might have done so as they refrained from producing a coupé model for a long time. Not inconceivably of course, the first Audi TT was so flabby in feeling and numb in handling that not only failed to impress as a sports car but also it proved dangerous, forcing Audi to recall all models, revive the set-up and let it out again in various different versions. Personally I thought it to be a strange looking little car, resembling an object that integrates characteristics of a woman’s breast and a futuristic armored army vehicle.

The first version was somewhat a commercial success, particularly in the UK, nevertheless after 8 years of constant questioning of the odd design a second version with the code name Typ 8J was revealed on April 6, 2006. The new Audi TT looks in a sense unarguably similar to the old tit-on-a-battle-tank like 1999 design. The new Audi TT admittedly appears to very much be in accordance with the new and familiar by now Audi design persona, showing of its longer, muscled bonnet and an overall lower, more aggressive posture.

VW executives lashed around the Audi designers so as to not repeat the same mistakes, so the poor Audi designer’s brainstormed for endless nights, squeezed their little insomnia-affected brains until they came up with not one but two brilliant mechanical innovations. The first one and for most is the awing achievement of successfully integrating a front aluminum part with a steel rear, a solution proven dreadful historically. The second one is the optional magnetic suspension. The technology implements essentially shock iron-filled absorbers that react when exposed to electric currents.

The new Audi TT is a sparkly little sports car, graceful when cornering growling like an aroused lioness with a very descent performance even from the basic 4 cylinder Audi TT T2.0 which will bring you from stance to 62 in 6.4 seconds and will stop accelerating at 149mph.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Alfa Romeo 8c Competizione - Black Dream

Ok, I am officially fixated with the new Alfa Romeo 8c Competizione. It isn't longer than 2 weeks ago that I proudly published my first tribute upon this dream-of-a-car and here we are again...

As mentioned last week over my views of the 2004's Alfa Romeo GT everyone will be gawping at Alfa Romeo's stand in a few days at the British Motor Show Many long-expected Alfa’s, including the top-notch hatchback MiTo expected into production in 2010, will be lined up flashing their Italian curves for our eyes only.

Nevertheless, the purpose of today's entry is merely to share with you a the Alfa Romeo 8c Competizione in its saturday night black gown after a responsive comment I had to reflect upon. So, there we are. And where does that leaves as? Nowhere! Many will love the black, many will adore the red.

Nevertheless, I got a call from Christian Bale just now, requesting, in light of my expertise upon the 8c Competizione, how can he get hold of one like the above to arrive tonight at Leicester Square for his UK opening of the Dark Knight. So, I will have to do my best then, shouldn't I?

Friday, July 18, 2008

VW takes over Scania

Europe's largest car manufacturer, Volkswagen, has announced that it has received the green light to go ahead with the takeover of Swedish bus and lorry manufacturer Scania, which will add the company to VW's extensive collection of brands, which includes Bentley, Skoda and Audi.

VW has had sole control in Scania since March 2008, however it had to get approval from the EU for the move and also had to deal with anti-trust cases in several European countries. Final voting stakes should be acquired later in the month in a move that is estimated to cost VW 2.8 billion euro, and which could eventually lead to a merger between VW and MAN.

Some might think it a strange move for VW to acquire a company that makes large vehicles when oil prices are constantly climbing and sales in larger vehicles are dropping, but I think we can be sure that truckers will only stop trucking when the last drop of fuel disappears into the atmosphere.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Alfa Romeo GT - Achievement or Failure?

Just a couple of days ago I was glorifying the Alfa Romeo 8c Competizione, soaking my keyboard in a concoction of drool, as I strain my eyes trying to memorize every curve, every detail of this carbon fiber body, and tears, as I am, most probably, never going to lay my eyes on one.

Well, I will actually and quite soon really. One of them beauties will be anticipating my appearance through the great doors of ExceL for the British International Motor Show coming up in 10 days. Thus, I can carry on now, living my pitiful life knowing that whatever I do, no matter how much money I earn there is no chance I will ever buy one; and that is simply because the 8c Competizione should not be classified as a car but as a piece of art and 500 of them will remain locked in collector’s garages.

So, in light of my anticipated meeting with my dream car I thought to look into the Italian familia of stunning models in order to go beyond the mere lunacy tag and drill into the genuine reasons of why people actually buy Alfa Romeo cars.

And that brings as to Alfa Romeo GT which made its big debut in 2004. When I saw it, and I believe I can speak on behalf of most car enthusiasts with a common sense of taste I thought this is a great looking car. I mean, few could argue that it slightly resembles the Renault 406 Coupe from certain angles and to be perfectly honest I would agree. But only from very specific and actually very few angles. Alfa Romeo GT has an edge, created by straight lines and sharp angles forming a buzzy exterior with tremendous amounts of energy and tension that the Renault lacked. Plus, the Renault 406 Coupe is a utterly pointless car whereas this one... well, at least not utterly!

Unfortunately the Alfa Romeo GT carries on its back a treacherous legacy, the same legacy that made the brand infamous throughout motorists globally. The 2.0JTS version stands its ground in the market from an equipment perspective, offering for its £21,495 list price gizmos like leather upholstery, cruise control and unexpectedly an Bose stereo. The 2.0 litre engine, although producing 165 very promising Italian bhp, won’t achieve a 0-62mph performance better than in 8.7sec while when forced up to 134mph the stallions will seize gulping further. And don’t get me wrong, most probably everyone would be thrilled to put all these aside if it was for the stirring to compensate. But no! Alfa Romeo GT’s stirring will fail to compensate, as the engine performance failed to impress and as the handling failed to disguise another front-wheel-drive failure of a car while Alfa Romeo’s funs receive blow, after blow, after blow...

And this is were I need to raise my voice all the way to Turin, Italy, as a loyal Alfa Romeo fun and cry for attention, cry for someone to reflect on my inability to comprehend why this great Italian manufacturer, while failing consistently to produce a decent front-wheel-drive car, don’t they go back to their dusty sketching archives locked behind doors made in the 60’s and 70’s and unearth how Alfa Romeo’s designers, 30-40 years ago, managed to write brilliant car manufacturing history with a humble pencil and a dirty rubber...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Van hire, avoiding moving pains

I have been moving house ever since I can remember. I don't think my family ever lived in one place for more than 6 years at a time, and since I moved out of the "family home", I have stayed at 8 different flats in 4 years, that's an average of moving every 6 months. In the majority of the cases I was just renting a room or moving in with a girl, so the only things I had to move were the books, DVDs and clothes I own. However, recently, came move number 9, and for that particular move I had furniture and decorations to take with me, and I was moving in with very good friends who were also leaving their old flats. So we needed a big van to move all the stuff around.

Due to bad communication we ended up with a Ford transit, which of course could not fit all the gear of three young professionals. So we had to run multiple trips. On the upside, we knew the move was going to take all day and the van filling up gave us an excuse to stop for lunch after we unloaded the first two sets of boxes. So we took a couple of hours off and then headed out for the last of the things. Even though the transit had served us well in central London and we were able to navigate between all the parked cars, we came to a standstill during rush hour in a suburb where 2 lanes become one. I counted 14 buses ahead of us. But we were in no rush, switched the engine off, turned the radio on, and one of us jumped out into the immobile traffic and went to the shop for sweets and soft drinks. We felt like proper van drivers, looking below us to the puny cars surrounding us and the driver would chat with anyone in a convertible brightening everyone's day.

Initially, I had been against the transit because I thought it would have been too small and had recommended something a bit larger. But if you would rather take a break half way through the day and don't feel comfortable driving a Luton (they are pretty big) perhaps that is the type of vehicle you should consider. It is also a good idea to hire your van from a company that has several drop off locations, as we managed to save a couple of hours (and a lot of petrol) the following day by dropping off van at the branch that was near our new flat.

One of my favourite things about the company we hired from, SixT, is the safety tips for people who have not driven a van before, which I wish we had looked at before driving, as we did not know about blind spots and the such. Still we all got to our new flat safe and sound and did not cause any havoc of the roads.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

GM job cuts revealed

It was a long time coming, what with the way things have been going in the US car industry. With sales dropping and oil prices rising General Motors found themselves in unfamiliar territory, when their customers switched from larger SUVs to smaller fuel efficient cars and sales in trucks and semis dropped throughout the US.

And as GM's shares reached their lowest point in the last 50 years, the car manufacture giant announced the closure of 4 factories that produce its larger vehicles, as it opted for the production of what consumers seem to be going for; smaller cars, that are cheaper in the short run and the long run.

GM desperately needs to cut back on costs if it is to remain viable, although executives in the company insist that they do not just want to remain viable, but come out "winners". So, the company is selling its Hummer, it has promised to cut its white collar cost by 20% and is selling assets and borrowing in order to reinvigorate its finances. Meanwhile, GM's stock value has dropped by 60% this year.

I wonder if GM will be able to survive what seems to me like the end of an era, the time of the easy rider. Is it over so soon?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Alfa Rome 8c Competizione - Collection Super Car

Finally, after years and years of mechanically moderate or even rubbish models, perfectly designed as they might were, Alfa Romeo storms back in the super car arena with 8c Competizione. But hold your horses mates, this is going to be an one-off class demonstration unfortunately, as Alfa Romeo has no plans to adapt, implement or be inspired from this rear-wheel drive beauty for any future models.

To be honest, I love the brand. My father owned an 1.8 Alfa Romeo Alfetta which he says it was driving amazingly, obeying his commands before leaving the soft matter of his brain! So, I hope I don’t sound harsh when saying that many Alfas have proved fairly quick and fun to drive while the majority are superbly designed but I have never heard from anyone coming to me and saying: you know what mate, I am driving the best car in the world, I am driving an Alfa Romeo. And I blame for that big daddy Fiat, which in an attempt to tackle soaring complaints for rustiness, unreliability and continuous electrical failures decided to nick some of Alfa Romeo’s glamour and doom it to mediocrity.

Up until now... its like a dream come true... The Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione is an Alfa loyal to both the brand's extroverted design and the superior mechanical heritage. 450bhp is the fierce outcome of a 4.7 liter V8 engine, resting quietly under the carbon-fiber dressed body of this Italian Prima Donna.

On a theoretical basis the price is around £100,000 but practically every single one of the 500 8c Competizione has been pre-sold a long long time ago. So, if you are lucky enough to come across one of the 41 sold in Great Britain take as many pictures as possible, fornicate with it you may but whatever you do don’t leave it out of your site for as long as it stays in vision... cause you won’t be seeing one any time soon.

By the way, is it only me or it could really be Batman’s on-the-pull-car if you paint it black?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Never get stuck in traffic. Well, at least improve your chances.

It's terrible, driving down the A40 or whatever is the motorway you take, when you've planned it for a day with no traffic, so you can get from point A to point B with the minimum of hassle and time, and then suddenly, BANG! It all stands still. Cars as far as the eye can see...

So with my upcoming house move I am really happy with this new digital radiostation that has been launched by the Highways Agency. Apparently, this Traffic Radio will be broadcast 24 hours a day, giving us the information on traffic, emergency incidents and roadworks. Seeing as we will have to move 4 peoples' stuff in one day (keeping the budget tight), Central London to North London, then to Southwest, just below the river, and then all the way to West zone 6, this service will be invaluable.
Apart from traffic news, the radio station will also provide us with national headlines and it utilises information from more than 3,500 road sensors and 10,000 CCTV cameras, as well as road staff, police, helicopters and planes, and will be updated every 10 minutes during peak traffic periods.

For the moment Traffic Radio is available on digital radio covering around 80% of England and will become more widely available over the next two years. At present Transport for London and the Highway Agency are running the programme, but their aim is to include traffic agencies in Scotland and Wales in order to provide a service for the entire country.

Of course if you do not have a DAB radio in your car you should check the station's website before you leave or if you have mobile access, take a break and have a look. Whatever the senario, it is a welcome programme for any of us driving around the capital and the rest of the country.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

GM King of the Hill

The hype over the last month has been that the future is held by car manufacturers who make smaller more fuel efficient vehicles, however it was General Motors who came out on top, with the highest sales in June. There had been fears that with plummeting auto sales and skyrocketing oil prices, GM's position would be taken over by Toyota, with its fleet of smaller efficient cars.

Nonetheless, GM managed to pull through with an 18% drop in sales in comparison to June last year, mainly due to a clearance sale with very favourable financing options, which boosted their sales near the end of the month. In relative terms, GM's sales were only down 8%, as June 2008 had 3 less sale days than June 2007. And with that GM managed to push through to first position in sales, ahead of Toyota, which was down by 21% in sales.
It is something of a surprise, seeing as the trend over the last month has been declining sales for most companies and a tendency to market more efficient vehicles, however this small decrease in sales may be what Honda was hoping for, as it is the only company that is increasing its production of pickup trucks and vehicles of that size category.

Will this decline end? Even though sales aren't dropping as much as one would expect, is it really viable for us to continue to use cars at the same rate and in the same way we have been doing for the last 100 years, especially with the developments in oil and raw material prices ?


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