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  • Next Mercedes-AMG A45 will get more than 400 hp

    Somewhere in the upper echelons of the hot hatch market, a power war has been brewing for some time. Mercedes-AMG was the first to jump on the bandwagon with the original A 45 in 2013, whose hand-built 2.0 litre M133 turbo mill – the most powerful series-production four-cylinder in the world, no less – churned out a stout 360 hp.

    Just a year later, Audi swooped in to take the lead with the RS3 and its 367 hp 2.5 litre five-cylinder turbo; Mercedes then retook the crown with 381 hp from 2015’s facelifted A 45, which was then beaten this year with the revised RS3, now with 400 hp. Ingolstadt won’t hold that advantage for too long however, as Affalterbach is set to one-up its compatriot with the next-generation A 45, according to CarAdvice.

    Mercedes-AMG CEO Tobias Moers told the publication that when the new car does arrive – which could still be as many as two years away – it will come with a new, more powerful engine. “The new 2.0 litre will be an all-new engine,” he said.

    When asked if the engine will come with a rumoured electric turbocharger, following in the footsteps of the facelifted S-Class‘ new 3.0 litre straight-six, he answered, “Yes, an electric turbine is something we have a close link to, but maybe not in that first version.”

    Moers said that while it is too early to talk about specifics, “we have to do something special,” adding that the car will go over the 400 hp mark. “We don’t want to give a tip or an advantage to our competitors, but we do need to be over 300 kW (402 hp) – that’s the new standard,” he said.

    Apart from that, the 4Matic all-wheel drive system could also feature elements from the fully-variable 4Matic+ system on the new E 63, although Moers stressed that “it’s really not easy to scale that AWD technology down from the E- to A-Class.”

     
  • Consumer association calls for the use of child seats to be made compulsory without any further delay

    A non-profit consumer group has urged the government to make the use of child safety seats in passenger vehicles mandatory without any further delay. The Malaysian Consumers Association (Maconas) said that such a move – which it has long proposed – will help reduce fatalities and serious injuries, Berita Harian reports.

    Its president, Datuk Amarjit Singh Gill, said the ministry of transport and relevant government agencies should be committed to making the use of such seats compulsory. He said that it will prevent incidents in which children are thrown out of the car in accidents, as was the case two days ago when a five-year-old boy died after being flung out of his parents’ car when it was hit by a bus.

    “The safety of passengers in a vehicle is not only applicable to adults but to children and infants as well. It is sad to learn that a life was lost in the accident on the North-South Expressway near Seremban yesterday because there was no child seat in place,” he said in a statement.

    Amarjit believed that the loss of life could have been avoided if the boy had been secured properly with the use of a seat belt and a child safety seat.

    He said thousands of vehicles are on the road every day and children – from infants to five – are always at risk being seated in the back seat without any tailored safety features in place. He lamented the fact that there are still many who have a nonchalant attitude towards safety, citing those who place a child on their lap while seated in front as an example.

    Amarjit said that based on previous studies, statistics showed that the use of safety seats can reduce the risk of death by 71% for infants and 54% for children aged one to five years. “If we are serious about improving road safety, we must also be serious in ensuring that all precautionary measures are taken to ensure the safety of all passengers in the vehicle,” he stated.

     
  • PLUS toll collection goes fully electronic – all 94 toll plazas from Juru, Penang to Skudai, Johor on ETC

    All 94 toll plazas operated by PLUS Expressways – spanning from Juru, Penang to Skudai, Johor – commenced electronic operation from noon today, the highway operator announced.

    “Starting today, no more cash payments will be accepted, and PLUS highway users are required to pay toll (charges) via the PLUSMiles card, Touch ‘n’ Go card, or SmartTag. This will contribute to smoother and faster toll transactions at toll plazas,” PLUS Malaysia MD Datuk Azman Ismail said.

    The electronic toll collection (ETC) system is 300% quicker than the manual cash transaction system, according to PLUS. By its calculations, a SmartTag lane can handle up to 16 transactions a minute or 1,000 vehicles per hour while a Touch ‘n’ Go lane can manage 10 transactions a minute or 600 vehicles per hour, compared with the manual cash lane which can handle up to three transactions a minute, or 180 vehicles per hour.

    Sales and top up lanes will be set up to enable the public to purchase electronic cards before entering the highway, according to Azman. Currently, there are more than 9,000 top-up locations across the country, including ATMs, petrol stations, 24-hour convenience stores and shopping centres, he added.

    Also along the PLUS highway are over 50 locations at which users can top up their electronic cards free of surcharge. These include Petronas stations at 14 locations, Shell stations at 16 locations, BHP and Caltex stations, each with two locations, and one Petron station. Additionally, there are also 15 self-service kiosks along the PLUS highway, as well as three toll plazas with Touch ‘n’ Go top-up services.

    Most may already know this, but PLUS reiterated that the MyKad can also be used for toll transactions along the highway. It functions just as a Touch ‘n’ Go card does, only requiring the user to have sufficient credit in the MyKad for the electronic toll transactions to be made.

    User adoption of electronic payment methods currently stands at 92%, Azman said, though he added that he is confident that a 100% adoption rate will be reached very quickly.

     
  • Mitsubishi nudges ahead of Toyota and Honda, becomes top auto exporter in Thailand for first time

    Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) has become the number-one automotive exporter in Thailand for the first time in its history. The automaker registered a total export volume of 309,915 units for the 12-month period ending March 31, 2017, nudging it ahead of its larger competitors.

    The company’s export performance means that its Laem Chabang facility, its main production hub in the ASEAN region, is now its largest global production hub, with more than 80% of all local production sent out for export.

    The facility’s production capacity of 424,000 vehicles is the largest of all MMC’s factories globally, and vehicles are exported to over 120 countries worldwide. The automaker operates four factories and has a workforce of more than 6,000 in the Kingdom.

    For the last fiscal year, the company’s Thai operations produced 353,000 vehicles, and export destinations were Europe (28%), ASEAN and Asia region (25%), North America (21%), Oceania (12%) and others (14%).

    The announcement follows on the opening of its new Indonesian manufacturing plant in Bekasi, West Java, yesterday. The Bekasi factory has a production capacity of 160,000 units a year, and is the automaker’s second largest facility in the region. It will build the Pajero Sport, followed by an all-new seven-seater MPV in October.

     
  • VIDEO: 2009 Honda S2000 Edition 100 showcased

    Honda UK has an impressive fleet of cars in its Heritage Collection, and you’ve probably seen some of them when they were gathered together to coincide with the debut of the all-new Civic Type R. However, for the first episode of its new Honda Heritage video series, the company brought out one of its most iconic convertibles ever – the S2000.

    This isn’t just any regular old S2000 but the GT Edition 100, which was built to commemorate the end of production of the rear-wheel drive sports car. The Edition 100 was unique to the United Kingdom market, while other European countries got the Ultimate Edition instead. As the name suggests, only 100 units were made (the one shown here is car #36), and featured unique aesthetic details as Tom Lynch, press officer and fleet coordinator for Honda UK, shows us in the video.

    He also explains that the Edition 100 is based on the AP2, which first appeared as a 2004 model year car. New headlights, taillights, rear bumper, exhaust pipes and chassis tweaks were among the changes that differentiated it from the pre-facelift AP1 model.

    Under the hood, the 2.0 litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder VTEC engine revved up to 9,000 rpm, and was rated at 237 hp at 8,300 rpm and 208 Nm of torque at 7,500 rpm, good for a zero to 100 km/h time of 6.2 seconds. The mill is paired to six-speed manual and a limited-slip differential, with drive going to the rear wheels.

    Production of the S2000 ceased in 2009, and the company has not officially revealed any plans for a successor. However, it has been heavily rumoured that Honda may have a new S2000 in the works, and if it could remake the NSX for the modern world, why not the S2000, right?

     
  • April 2017 week five fuel price – petrol, diesel down

    Another Wednesday, another weekly fuel price announcement – and this time motorists can breathe a sigh of relief as prices of fuels have gone down across the board.

    Starting tomorrow, April 27, RON 95 will be priced at RM2.21 per litre (down six sen compared to the previous week), with RON 97 at RM2.49 per litre (down five sen). As for diesel, Euro 2M will be RM2.14 per litre (down seven sen), with Euro 5 diesel at RM2.24 per litre (down seven sen). These prices will last until May 3, when the next price adjustment will be announced.

    This is the fifth update of the weekly price announcements since the new pricing system came into effect on March 30. Compared to March 2017 prices – before the system was implemented – RON 95 is down nine sen, RON 97 down 11 sen, and diesel is down eight sen.

     
  • Ford looking to bamboo as new sustainable material

    You’ve probably seen it being used in construction and as the main food source for pandas. Now, Ford is looking to one of the world’s strongest natural materials – bamboo – to be used in vehicle interiors.

    According to the company, bamboo performs widely better than other synthetic and natural fibres that are tested in a range of materials tests. This includes tensile strength tests to impact strength tests, and even temperature tests, where the material is heated to 212 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure it can maintain its integrity.

    “Bamboo is amazing. It’s strong, flexible, totally renewable, and plentiful in China and many other parts of Asia,” said Janet Yin, a materials engineering supervisor at Ford’s Nanjing Research & Engineering Centre.

    In addition, bamboo only requires two to five years to grow to full maturity, so it regenerates quickly as compared to other trees that require decades. Over the past few years, Ford has worked with suppliers to assess the viability of using bamboo in vehicle interiors and to create a super hard material by combining it with plastic.

    Ford’s usage of sustainable material is pretty widespread, and can be found in a variety of its vehicles. For instance, kenaf, a tropical plant in the cotton family, is used in the door bolsters of Escape, while EcoLon post-consumer nylon carpeting is used as cylinder head covers in Escape, Fusion, Mustang and F-150.

     
  • Fisker EMotion – debuts in August, 644+ km EV range

    Henrik Fisker has confirmed on his official Twitter page that the new EMotion will make its debut in August this year. The first product to come from his new setup – Fisker Inc – the upcoming electric vehicle (EV) is claimed to offer over 644 km of range on single charge.

    In a separate tweet, Fisker dropped more details about the EV, which will utilise carbon-fibre and aluminium in its construction. This will allow it to have a structure that is 20% lighter than other cars in size, namely the Tesla Model S.

    Meanwhile, on another social media posting (this time on Facebook), Fisker Inc states the EMotion will be capable of level six autonomous driving, which is one more than SAE International’s standard. The sixth level is unique to the EMotion, and when activated, “will allow Fisker EMotion to drive extra aggressive and push all other autonomous vehicles to the side,” as the company puts it.

    “This will allow the Fisker EMotion owners to get quicker to work than any owner of any other autonomous vehicle,” concludes the Facebook post’s caption.

    Business Insider also reports that the EMotion will have a top speed of 259 km/h, and will be built at VLF Automotive’s plant in Detroit, which is also where the Force 1 is made. That impressive all-electric range will be provided by new-age battery technology, which uses graphene supercapacitors instead of traditional lithium ion batteries.

     
  • Apple training testers with G27-equipped Lexus SUVs

    Tech giant Apple currently has a programme in which test staff are taught how to regain manual control of an autonomous vehicle, according to a Business Insider report. A document obtained by the news website reveals that Apple is training its drivers – before they are allowed on public roads – to be able to override the autonomous system if there is a need to do so.

    Three Lexus RX450h SUVs have been enlisted for this purpose, and they have each been outfitted with a Logitech G27 steering wheel and pedals – yes, the kind you’d use for a gaming console – for drive-by-wire control of the vehicles. During safety testing, the autonomous system is controlled electronically either by the installed controls, or via software. The tester onboard needs to be ready to assume control of the vehicle.

    In operation, depressing the brake pedal or turning the steering wheel will disable autonomous mode, although drivers can continue to accelerate without disengaging the vehicle’s self-driving function. Six permits have been applied for by Apple for the three previous-gen SUVs, and most of the drivers are PhDs specialising in machine learning and with prior experience in companies such as Bosch and Tesla, according to the report.

    Thus equipped, the vehicles will be able to “capture and store relevant data before a collision occurs,” Apple told Business Insider. Called the Apple Automated System, the self-driving setup in each car must be monitored by a driver who has to pass seven different tests before they are considered fully trained. Each Apple driver will have two practice runs and three trials on a private course, the report adds.

    Divided into three types of manoeuvres (basic, intervention and situational), the table details the various scenarios in which the Apple safety driver will have to take over control of the autonomous vehicle, and to what extent. As before, Apple remains tight-lipped on its autonomous car developments.

     
  • BMW M550d xDrive – 4 turbos, diesel, 400 hp/760 Nm

    BMW has introduced another variant to its G30 5 Series portfolio with the M550d xDrive, a new M Performance model that is offered in Sedan and Touring (seen here) guise. BMW says the oil burning alternative to the M550i xDrive packs the “world’s most powerful six-cylinder diesel engine in the automotive area,” so let’s start there.

    The 3.0 litre in-line six mill features BMW’s TwinPower Turbo Technology with not one, not two, but four turbochargers. Two low-pressure turbochargers are new here, replacing the previous large-sized third turbocharger.

    Both units, along with one of the two high-pressure turbos are permanently powered during travel, with the second high-pressure turbo only kicking in at engine speeds of over 2,500 rpm. As a result of this multi-stage turbocharging, you get 400 hp at 4,400 pm and 760 Nm of torque from 2,000 rpm, which is 19 hp and 20 Nm more than its predecessor.

    Drive is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed Steptronic sports transmission and xDrive all-wheel drive system. In terms of performance, the M550d xDrive will accelerate from a standstill to 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds (4.6 seconds for the Touring), and will hit a maximum top speed of 250 km/h (electronically limited).

    As for efficiency, the car will consume as little as 5.4 litres per 100 km, and CO2 emissions are as low as 142 g/km. These figures represent an 11% reduction from the previous-generation model as well.

    Similar to the M550i, the M550d comes with M sports suspension and a 10 mm reduction in ride height compared to a standard 5 Series. This can be further enhanced with the optional Adaptive M Suspension Professional pack that regulates the response of the dampers to provide higher driving dynamics.

    Styling wise, the M550d is fitted with the M aerodynamic package, while the exterior mirror covers, the kidney grille surround and M Performance bars, and the two Air Breathers are all finished in Cerium Grey metallic.

    Other details include the exhaust system with M Performance specific twin tailpipe trims in dark chrome, and brake calipers finished in blue metallic with the M inscription on them. Standard wheels here are 19-inch Double Spoke 664 M light alloy wheels in Cerium Grey (245/40 front and 275/35 rear tyres).

    BMW also offers two 20-inch options – Double Spoke Design 668 M or BMW Individual light alloy wheels with VSpoke Design 759 in Bicolor. Both wheel sizes are paired with 245/35 tyres at the front and 275/30 at the rear.

    On the interior, the door sills are illuminated and bear the ‘M550d’ inscription on them, and you get several M goodies like the pedals, footrest, leather steering wheel and specific instrument display. Optional items here include M sports seats with Dakota leather or fabric/Alcantara and an M sports leather steering wheel.

     
 

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