miércoles, 30 de septiembre de 2009

2009 KIA Optima

Optima is in a strong position to change the way consumers think about midsize sedan offerings


Kia Motors America (KMA) unveiled the 2009 Kia Optima midsize sedan at the New York International Auto Show. On sale in early fall, the refreshed Optima offers a completely modified exterior, which offers a more aggressive, dynamic style than previous models, and is outfitted with a new engine that provides more power and better fuel economy. For 2009, Optima also is larger than its predecessors, which complements its distinctive new styling and separates itself from other vehicles in the growing midsize segment.

"Optima is in a strong position to  change the way consumers think about midsize sedan offerings," said Tom Loveless, vice president, sales of KMA. "Already known for its exemplary quality, safety and value, Optima's sleek new redesign provides consumers with a sporty, fuel-efficient choice and showcases Kia's commitment to providing the best all-around vehicle package."

The 2009 Kia Optima is presented with new front, side and rear styling cues, which build upon Kia's philosophy of creating dynamic vehicles that evoke passion. The fog lamps and lower front grille have been enlarged and the headlamps narrowed to create an aggressively sharper look. Wider side garnishes add sportiness while the acute front lines continue toward the back, ending on a distinctly edged trunk lid. To complete the redesigned rear fascia, taillights are narrowed to enhance Optima's sleeker cosmetic appearance.

Also, new for 2009 is the addition of the sporty SX trim, which complements the handsomely equipped, value-priced LX and luxury-oriented EX trims. Already available with Kia's Rio, Rio5, Spectra and Spectra5 models, the SX line provides another dimension for Optima buyers looking for a sportier midsize. Along with a sport-tuned suspension, SX upgrades include: a black-bezeled front grille and headlamps, LED outside-mirror turning signals, fog lights and hyper-silver-finished 17-inch wheels. EX and LV V6 models are equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels, and are fitted with Goodyear tires.

Available in two powerplants - a 2.4 liter four-cylinder or a 2.7-liter V6 engine - and two five-speed transmissions (manual with LX four-cylinder model only), the 2009 Kia Optima introduces a new engine under its hood. When redesigned as a 2006.5 model, the peppy four-cylinder engine delivered 161 horsepower, a 15-percent increase from the previous generation. For 2009, a more powerful 2.4-liter engine takes its place, producing an additional 13 horsepower. Optima's four-cylinder output increases to 175 horsepower and 169 lb-ft of torque. The available 2.7 liter V6 engine remains a carryover but output has increased to 190 horsepower and 184 lb-ft or torque. The V6 is mated to a five-speed, gated automatic transmission. All automatics feature Sportmatic clutchless shifting.

The introductions of Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) and a Variable Intake System (VIS) further enhance Optima's new under-the hood excitement. These added systems improve the vehicle's fuel economy without sacrificing power. Buit on a unibody frame, the front-wheel-drive Optima utilizes independent front and rear suspension systems. MacPherson struts are used in the front with a multi-link layout in the rear and are joined with coil springs and anti-roll bars (standard equipment on all models) to engage drivers with responsive handling and provide utmost comfort whether the road is smooth or less than ideal.

The rest of the center fascia and floor console receive minor tuning for even more intuitive operation whereas the new barrel-type instrument cluster design adopts a sporty red illumination. Optima continues to offer two seat trims in gray or beige color schemes - cloth (LX), leather (EX) -with black leather trim on SX models, which also features aluminum trim, metal sport pedals and a Supervision meter cluster.

Amidst the host of additional options, Optima still offers an array of standard features. The LX is equipped with air conditioning, power windows and door locks, an AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers, cloth seat and door trim, a six-way adjustable driver's seat and four-way adjustable front passenger seat as well as 60/40-split folding rear seats. EX models upgrade to a leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt and telescopic functions, leather seat and door trim, leather-wrapped shift knob, automatic temperature control, an auto dimming rearview mirror featuring Homelink and an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat. Convenience and Premium Packages offer further content upgrades, including a power sunroof and an infinity audio system.

As with the rest of the Kia line-up, the 2009 Kia Optima is equipped with many safety features as standard equipment. This includes six airbags (dual advanced front and front-seat mounted side as well as full-length side curtain), front active headrests, side-impact door beams, height-adjustable front seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, three-point seatbelts for all seating positions, Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). The Electronic Stability Control (ESC), a Traction Control System (TCS), brake assist and four-wheel anti-lock brakes.

The 2009 Kia Optima is covered by Kia's comprehensive warranty program, which offers unprecedented consumer protection. Included in this program are a 10-year/100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty and a five-year/100,000 mile anti-perforation warranty. A five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan also is part of the comprehensive vehicle coverage.

sábado, 26 de septiembre de 2009

Road Test - 2008 Nissan Armada Le

Passes, left me convinced that the Armada is one of the best people haulers on the market. My passengers felt safe and sound as I navigated through blowing snow and dense fog (aided by one of the best OEM navigation systems on the market) with the surefootedness of Nissan's All-Mode 4WD system, as well as electronic traction and stability controls in play.

Acceleration was very linear, even on hills and slippery road surfaces, and once grip was established the engine cruised along quietly as my road mates watched movies on the flip-down, roof mounted screen. I entertained myself grabbing radio signals from outer space via the XM satellite radio, and I must admit that it is nice to have the XM system for journeys like this, as terrestial radio signals fade out quickly when you travel through mountainous regions. The five-speed automatic seemed to adapt quickly to my inputs via the throttle and brakes, but efficiency was the order of the day when on the highway.

The Armada comes equipped with four-wheel disc brakes backed up by electronic systems to prevent locking and wheelspin. I was impressed that even after a few long descents and one panic stop for a wayward moose, they proved fade tree. This is no small feat as the Armada is  a heavy hauler at almost three tons. Factor in the additional weight of passengers, gear and some buyers, maybe even a trailer, and you can see why  Nissan's engineers focused on giving the Armada tremendous stopping power. Had the moose become a hood ornament  the Armada features front, side and curtain deployed airbags as standard equipment.

Steering is precise for such a large vehicle, and its speed-sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering never felt intrusive. The independent suspension absorbed road irregularities with aplomb, helped out by an auto leveling rear suspension and stabilizer bars to counter the effects of the load on board.

There are few vehicles on the road today that can offer as much room, comfort and versatility as the Nissan Armada. Its subtle makeover gives it a fresh face, and brings a new level and refinement to a category that needed some more polish. The 2008 Armada is definitely worth a long look.
Engine:          5.6L V-8
Power(hp):     317
Torque(lb/ft): 385
Weight(kgs.lbs): 2,652/5,834
0-97 KPH (sec):  6.5
Transmission:     5 speed auto
Base MSRP:    $63,298
L/100KM(city/highway): 18.1/11.7

miércoles, 23 de septiembre de 2009

Matic climate control, power windows/mirrors, cruise, fog lights, aluminum pedals and a GTS-style rear spoiler. No options are being offered.

Mitsubishi's S-AWC system monitors steering wheel angle, throttle position, wheel speeds as well as longitudinal and lateral movements to improve traction and overall handling. In real-time, the S-AWC computer tells the Active Center Differential (ACD) how much torque front and rear wheels should get, while the innovative Active Yaw Control (AYC) rear differential uses a torque transfer mechanism to enhance cornering performance by limiting the yaw movement acting on the vehicle. Combined with ABS brakes sporting EBD, Active Stability Control (ASC) helps keep the car from spinning out while exiting launching and cornering. Three traction modes are available - tarmac, gravel and snow - and the system can be switched off when conditions warrant it.

Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada (MMSC) didn't have to twist my arm to get behind the wheel of this "wicked white" GSR and drive it from Malibu to the Streets of Willow Springs test circuit a little over 100 miles away in Rosamond. The almost three-hour route took me through the heart of Southern California's Canyon Country where the GSR high-performance suspension and five-speed manual truly excel.

While it is wider, heavier and stiffer than previous Evos, its aluminum hood, roof and front fenders translate into a low centre of gravity. Greater compliance is another huge benefit over standard Lancers. Steering is light and precise and, with its weight distributed 59/41 in the front/rear, the GSR is not only predictable and easy to drive, it's so much fun!

Throttle response is also excellent. Power comes on very linearly and the turbo kicks in just below 3,000 rpm with virtually no lag. First to fourth are fairly close together, but the GSR could certainly benefit from a true over-drive gear as it cruises on the highway quite noisily. Pedals could be a bit closer together, but the clutch is firm and responsive and the shifter slides into place effortlessly.

The GSR has barely any rolling resistance and you can feel it asking to go faster into every corner. After several hours on the road and track, the brakes were still going strong - GSR's Brembo one-piece front rotors resisted fade admirably and left me wondering if the MR's standard two-piece front rotors will ever be tested.

On or off the track, the GSR does everything it's told to. Even I was able to put it into a Scandinavian flick on my first attempt with little effort on a small autocross course MMSC had set up.

On the motor sport front, Mitsubishi and Subaru are both upping their support for Canadian rally teams this year. The arch-rivalry between these two fierce and famous rally icons should heat up like never before. Pent-up demand for the Evolution here ought to help propel sales of the GSR above expectations. And, with a track record like the Evo's, there's no reason to believe that Canuck interest in the Lancer family as a whole won't rise.
Engine:          2.OL Turbo 1-4
Power(hp):                         291
Torque(lb/ft):                    300
Weight(kgs/lbs):  1,595/3,509
0-97 KPH (sec.)                  5.0
Transmission: 5-spd man-opt twin clutch 6-spd auto
Base MSRP:              $41,498
L/100 KM (city/highway):12.9/9.0

sábado, 19 de septiembre de 2009

Volvo Celebrates its 15 Millionth Car

It's taken 80 years, but Volvo has finally reached a major milestone in its history: the production of its 15 millionth car, a 2008 C70.

Introduced to the world in 1911 as SKF, the Swedish manufacturer began by producing a little-known car called the OV4, so named for the Swedish term for "open car," with the four denoting the number of cylinders. Modestly popular, Volvo's production line grew slowly but surely, churning out a whopping 297 cars in 1929, a pace that would continue in the post-WWII era as the company was decimated by the global economic depression. As a result, it took Volvo 23 years to produce just 100,000 cars (today it takes just three months for Volvo's factories to meet that same figure). By the 70's, that recession has made way for what is still Volvo's most successful car ever: the 200-series. With a production run that spanned almost two decades (1974 to 1993), over 2.8  million 200-series sedans, coupes, and wagons were let loose on the world. By 1993, the classic three-box model the 200-series exemplified had made way for a more friendly and  modern style seen in the current lineup.

martes, 15 de septiembre de 2009

BMW Introduces In-Car Internet

While the aftermarket has been supplying in-car computers with wireless internet access for a few years now, it's not a step auto manufacturers have been keen to take. The combination of such paid services as OnStar combined with various locale-specific hurdles has long provided manufacturers with ample reason to avoid investment in that technology. But it would appear no one told the folks from Bavaria that, since they've just taken the wrapper off their new ConnectedDrive system that allows anywhere access to the world wide web.

Utilizing the same cellular band as the world famous (and as yet unavailable in Canada) iPhone, the BMW system's broad-scale access trades the faster 3G cellular network's speed for the broad-scale network's wider coverage. It uses the brand's hit-and-miss iDrive controller to enter URLs, check email, and even conduct online banking transactions, and will disallow internet access when the vehicle is moving, with only rear-seat entertainment system equipped cars allowing truly mobile surfing. Sadly, it will debut in Europe before appearing on our shores, but serves as a very good indicator of the things to come.

lunes, 14 de septiembre de 2009

First Drive - 2008 Subaru Impreza WRK STi

A Serious Performer

Most all-wheel drive systems these days apportion torque front-to-rear, and occasionally even side-to-side at the rear, via some unseen, all-knowing electronic brain that must be obeyed. And these systems do a great job for the driver who just wants optimum traction and handling without any fuss.

But some people - say, rally drivers, or those who fancy themselves being one on that favourite gravel road - want more say in how the car behaves, and to know where the power is going all the time. For them, there is the Subaru Impreza WRK STI, which really allows a degree of mechanical customization unheard of before.

The heart of the third-generation STI is the Driver Controlled Centre Differential (refreshingly logical name, that) which offers four different settings, one of which, Manual, has six settings of its own. Auto setting is like "Program" on a camera - the best all around performance for most situations. Auto (-) Active Sport setting opens the centre limited-slip differential and sends more torque to the rear (as in, hang the tail out). Auto (+) tightens the LCD for better control on loose surfaces. And in Manual, the fromt-rear torque split can be changed in six increments.

Its engine is, of course, a boxer four, but specially beefed up and reinforced over even the regular WRX turbo en gine. This latest version, still 2.5 litres small, pumps out 305 hp, or almost two hp per cubic inch, while still being perfectly drivable, and meeting the most stringent Califor nia emissions regs.

The only transmission available is a six-speed manual, but we wonder how long it will be, in this day and age, before a clutchless, paddle-shifted version is offered. Wheels are 18-inch forged BBS units, shod with Dunlop SP600 245/

40-18 tires. Brakes are big Brembos, with four-piston cali pers in front and two-pistons in back, all of which are big ger than the last model’s binders. A double-wishbone sus pension replaces the previous strut-type design at the rear, while the front remains a strong KYB strut set-up. Alas, the water spray for the intercooler, and the big rear wing, didn’t make the cut on the new model.

Based as it is, however loosely, on the new-generation Impreza, the STI gets all the benefits of the stronger body shell, and incidentally is available as a five-door hatchback only. It actually is less of an Impreza than it looks, as it has been thoroughly massaged to the point where it is more closely related to the actual rally cars than to the garden-

variety cars. The most obvious clue to the STI’s intentions is its wide fender flares, rear roofline spoiler and aero ground ef fects bits. The hood scoop, brake-cooling air intakes and engine heat outlets are all functional. It is all business.

Except, perhaps, inside, where some creature comforts have crept into what had been more of a purposeful driver’s environment in the last generation. Yes, it still preserves its rally-roots, especially with the very supportive and grippy front seats, upholstered in Alcantara with leather trim. But otherwise, there is a new emphasis on comfort and spaciousness, which are good things that could hardly have been engineered out of the STI when all Imprezas benefit from them. But for the STI to play in the arena of top-level performance cars, as Subaru wants it to, it had to be equipped with some luxury items. So, okay, there is automatic climate control, and power windows! locks/mirrors, and a good audio system. But cruise control, and a navigation system? How ironic is that, in a rally car for the street? Sounds like the days of actual human navigators in real rallies might be numbered...just set her on cruise, punch in your destination, and all you would have to do is steer the car.

Okay, all kidding aside, the STI is something pretty unique, in the way that it can be completely tailored to driving style and conditions. We still think that most of its owners will let the vari ous computers decide what is best, most of the time. But all the adjustable systems are at least fun to play around with. And there is always 0-to-i 00 runs in the I iv range to amuse the driver, too.

Engine : 2.5 H-4 Turbo

Power : 305

Torque (lb/ft): 290

Weight (kgs/lbs): 1,530/3,366

0 - 97 KPH (sec.)  4.5

Transmission : 6-speed manual

Base MSRP : $44,995

L/100 KM (city/highway) 12.2/8.7

For a starting price of $44,995, you get a serious performer that is equally at home on a paved race track, on a special rally stage, or as a very capable daily driver, in any weather. It’ll haul people and luggage just like any compact hatchback, deliver reasonable fuel economy if you don’t explore its capabilities too often, and be fairly comfortable in the process. All that makes it a good value, too

The Vehicle Dynamics Control system itself has three settings — Normal, Traction (less restrictive VDC and ABS) and Off. As if that is not enough, there is also SI-DAIVE, found in other Subarus, that allows three levels of throttle response, from normal to "hair trigger."

Whew, that is quite a list of driver-adjustable functions, so if one can keep track of how they all work, one can get the most out of the STI. We think, though, that most STI drivers will be quite happy with their car in the "normal, automatic" settings, and well they should be, as it is equipped to be a serious performance machine.