By Tessa R. Salazar Inquirer WAS it just coincidence that as the Inquirer flashed the news about climate change on its banner page, its Motoring section had in its possession (for a couple of days, at least) two hybrid cars from two of the world's trailblazers in hybrid power technology? Maybe there has been, indeed, an ultimate purpose for endeavors that would, at first, seem meaningless and a waste of time. Take, for example, our effort to drive these two hybrid cars (a Toyota Prius and a Honda Civic with Integrated Motor Assist) through some of the most congested locations in Metro Manila at the worst possible driving times (payday Friday night and Saturday afternoon). Thus, the 1.5-liter Prius (a second-generation test unit) and the 2006 Civic 1.3 i-DSi with IMA were virtually inseparable for two days, driven in identical routes and lanes, loaded up at the same fuel stations and subjected to the same traffic situations. Two for the road The Prius had already been test driven earlier this year by Inquirer Motoring. This would be the first time, though, that it would have a fellow hybrid for a companion. At the onset, the Prius evidently has a more space-age "look" than the Civic, owing to a prominent energy screen monitor at the center of the dashboard, a unique, tiny gearshift lever just below that monitor, and an EV mode on the left side of the dashboard. Pushing the EV button would give the driver full-time electric power for speed up to 42 kph for as far as 3 km, or depending on the battery charge levels. The Prius demolished all our misconceptions of hybrids as being slowpokes. This Prius, with a body as big as a 1.8-liter Altis, pulled like it was a 2-liter sedan, even during uphill runs. As we noted previously, the gasoline engine may produce a measly 76 hp at 5,000 rpm, but when combined with the 67 hp at 1,200 to 1,540 rpm of the electric engine, you effectively harness over 478 Nm (net of torque) and 110 horsepower at its peak. We have also observed that the electric motor's characteristic high torque was also an immense help on the uphill (both engines worked during steep climbs). The Civic Hybrid, on the other hand, looks every bit a regular Civic sedan except for the large side markings spelling out "Integrated Motor Assist" and the decal "hybrid" at the rear. The digital monitors at the dash betray its hidden nature, of course, with noticeable gauges for battery charge and the IMA system. The Civic driver control package looks more user friendly for its needle-type gauges, conventional ignition switch, and regular A/T gearshift lever. Photos courtesy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
November 2007 Archives
By Aida Sevilla-Mendoza Inquirer THE 4TH Car of the Year (Coty) Philippines Awards program, which was held at the Rockwell Tent in Makati last Thursday, established quite a few firsts. It was the first time that: a European brand won the big trophy. The 2007 Car of the Year, the Volvo C30 (shown in photo) is a sports coupe that aced the Luxury Subcompact category versus the BMW 120i and the Mercedes-Benz B160. What's more, the Swedish carmaker outshone its German rivals two more times when the Volvo S60 T5 won the Executive Car of the Year Award and the Volvo S80 2.5L topped the Luxury Car category. Swept It was also the first time that a Korean brand -- Kia -- swept four category awards, besting Japanese brands. The Kia Picanto 1.1 DLX bagged the Basic Subcompact Car of the Year Award, the Kia Rio 1.4 sedan was adjudged the Executive Subcompact Car of the Year, the Kia Carens CRDi collected the Compact Van/Multipurpose Vehicle of the Year Award and the Kia Carnival LX 2.9 CRDi short wheelbase won the Executive Van/MPV of the Year trophy. For the first time, the Car Awards Group Inc. (Cagi), organizer of Coty, got a big business corporation to be the title sponsor, i.e. Petron Corp. Thus it is now officially known as the Petron 2007 Car of the Year Awards. The decision to get a title sponsor was made by Cagi 2007 president Ira Panganiban with the concurrence of his board: External VP Andy Sevilla, external vice president; Fernan Lao, internal VP and technical committee chair; and Jeff Reyes, treasurer. Media practitioners All the officers and members of Cagi, if you don't know it yet, are media practitioners as Cagi is a nonstock, nonprofit private organization of motoring journalists that conducts consumer-oriented tests of mass production motor vehicles annually to help consumers make an informed choice when buying a car and to recognize the progress of the auto industry in engineering, quality, design and safety features. This time, the Automobile Association Philippines (AAP) supported the 2007 Coty Awards not as a sponsor, but as Cagi's technical partner in testing the entries. After all, AAP is a nonprofit, nonstock organization, the national auto club that is the only Philippine affiliate of the FIA, the Paris-based body that governs motor sports worldwide including F1, the WRC and Le Mans. AAP motor sports committee chair Mandy Eduque and AAP director Dave Arcenas participated in some of the car testing sessions. Categories The number of categories was increased from 11 in the 3rd Coty to 23 after the Cagi executive board consulted the technical experts of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (Campi) on how to improve the Coty formula. Passenger cars now have nine categories: Basic Subcompact, Executive Subcompact, Luxury Subcompact, Midsize, Sports Car, Executive, Luxury and Ultra Luxury. Car-based utility vehicles enter four categories: 2WD Crossover/Wagon, 4WD Crossover/Wagon, Luxury Crossover/Wagon and Ultra-Luxury Crossover/Wagon. Minivans were divided into four categories: Compact Van/Multipurpose Vehicle (MPV), Executive Van/MPV, Luxury Van/MPV and Ultra Luxury Van/MPV. Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) were also Compact, Executive, Luxury or Ultra Luxury. Pickup trucks have two categories: 2WD (4x2) and 4WD (4x4). Chose The car manufacturers themselves, not Cagi, chose which of their products would participate and in which category each would enter. The car manufacturers also took care of bringing the test units to the test venue. Entries that did not win in their respective categories last time were allowed to try again. Previously, losing entries were not allowed to participate unless the motor vehicle in question had undergone major changes or upgrades in engineering, technology and/or safety features. A facelift -- new headlights or taillights, a new grille, new bumpers -- did not count. 87 entries Eighty-seven cars and trucks were tested over a span of eight Saturdays from Aug. 25 to Oct. 13 at the San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite. The total number would have been 97 if the test units of 10 models had shown up. The number of Special Awards was increased from four to 19. Supporters of Coty 2007 sponsored the awards. Thus, Toyota Motors Philippines won the AAP Best Road Safety Campaign Award, the Honda Jazz 1.3 won the Standard Insurance Best Value for Money Award, the Nissan Teana the Rockwell Land Best Interior Design Award, the Mercedes-Benz S350 the Bridgestone Most Comfortable Ride Award, the Mitsubishi Outlander the Bosch Best In-Car Entertainment Award, the Subaru Impreza WRX the Globe Media Dream Car Award and the Petron 2007 Car of the Year, the Volvo C30, also won the Concept One Sexiest Car Award. So Coty 2007 was a year of firsts, setting the stage for a more exciting 2008.
By Andre Palma Inquirer MAJOR motor shows are often difficult to initially grasp in their entirety. Merely a single pass of the major manufacturer's displays can send even the most jaded of motoring hacks reeling from all the sights, sounds and sheet metal. You just get numb from the sensory overload. Trying to understand what's going on and what the general flavor of the show is comes only when the shell shock passes. Even then, moments of true insight are rare. Tokyo's place in the international motor show arena is to divine the future. It is through the fantasy world of concept cars that the world's major players try to capture our imagination. For manufacturers, showing up at Tokyo without a jaw-dropping interpretation of the future is like going to a wedding reception in your flip-flops. This year there were quite a few who apparently forgot the dress code. Maybe it was a calculated risk on the part of the manufacturers. In all honesty, trying to steal the limelight from two of the most exciting new releases would be near impossible. Show headliner Headlining the show for all intents was the unveiling of Nissan's GTR. As bold as the concept, technology and execution of this soon-to-be available super car is its rebellious break from the sustainable eco friendly line that most of the mainstream players are towing. It would be hard to find anyone who went to the show this year who did not take home a snapshot of the latest interpretation of the all-conquering Skylines of years past. Off-duty showgirls, clad in trench coats over their scant motor show finery snapped away on their equally tiny and cute mobile phones. Even executives from the European sporting brands jostled with masses to get a closer peek. You get the picture. The excitement about the GTR is deserved. This car revives the Japanese super car genre and is the gauntlet on the table to the other players who traditionally participate in the segment. Significant too is the gossip going around the Nissan GTR. Finally available in left-hand drive for the first time in history, it looks like the Philippines will be getting a few units. Don't hold your breath though, as this information came from the same people who promised us the Teana in 2003. Controversially designed A new release that is sure to hit our shores will be the controversially designed 2008 Subaru Impreza and the generally more impressive STI version. Derogatory remarks about the styling of these WRC-derived everyday tarmac monsters are getting tiresome already. There is really nothing we can do about what this car looks like. And if we can get that out of the way, maybe we can focus on the changes that are going to affect more important things regarding Impreza -- mainly the way it will drive. Pray that function overshadows form in this case. The shift over to the hatchback format is a necessity born of the WRC. Subaru needs a platform that will go toe to toe with the kinds of car that Loeb and the gang are driving. Shorter wheelbases combined with lighter cars will logically be snappier around the corners. Engines remain the same with the beautifully linear power of the EJ25 turbo family of power plants under the brand's signature hood scoops. Seriously folks, these cars are coming and there's an invite in my mailbox to allay any fears that the Philippine market is going to lose out on these models. The mid-level Imprezas are going to break cover soon, likely within the month. The much-awaited, hot and bothered STI version will hit the fast lanes of Philippine roads sometime next year. Cars that are able to steal the limelight from the futuristic prototypes and concepts are rare indeed and in this case, the Nissan GTR and the Subaru Impreza WRX Sti define the 40th Tokyo Motor show. This year has given us two models to that are really worth the wait. Speed is on the Philippine motoring horizon. What a wonderful world indeed!
By Charles E. Buban Inquirer IF a carmaker would like to celebrate a milestone in its corporate history, it would usually roll out a special edition of its top-selling model. These days, however, carmakers would instead hold an activity or a program that usually pertains to caring for the environment. Such an act may seem ironic considering emissions from vehicles these carmakers produce are often cited as among the major sources of air pollution and thus, a major public health issue. Improving awareness "It's no longer just producing vehicles and engines that have the least impact on the environment, a car company should also help in improving public awareness," explained Isuzu Philippines Corp. president Keiji Takeda. This is why IPC organizes events like fuel economy runs as well as the greening of premiere parks in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao under a park conservation campaign that has become the company's project whenever it celebrates its anniversary. "If the public is more aware of why they should be more environmentally conscious, they would be able to appreciate the things the company is doing with its vehicle product offerings," he said. Up-to-date In the case of car giant Toyota it's all about being up-to-date to the current state-of-the-art environmental practices. Indeed, Toyota Philippines has shown examples of how it's possible to incorporate sustainable practices into large-scale manufacturing facilities and provide a healthy environment for employees. Recently, the company announced it has acquired a "busted fluorescent lamp eater" or a crusher that forms an integral part of a company-wide environmental management system to make busted fluorescent lamps acceptable for glass recycling or fit for sanitary landfills. Processed It needs to be processed thoroughly because fluorescent lamps contains mercury, a poisonous substance (so toxic that a teaspoon of this could contaminate an 81,000-square-meter lake forever). Exposure to high levels of mercury could make children potentially at risk for learning disabilities, motor skill impairment and short-term memory loss. "Indeed, carmakers are exploring new terrain here but the good thing about this campaign is that it does not really end here. Our children and our children's children will surely reap the benefits of having healthy environment for more decades to come," Takeda said.
By Tessa R. Salazar Inquirer THE NUMBER of companies that participated in the recently concluded 40th Tokyo Motor Show was 241, two more than the 2005 edition's 239. But if you were to go by the Who's Who of the automotive industry, numbers can't hide the gaping hole left by those who were conspicuously absent this time. Some of the Detroit Motown's top executives were not seen and their absence didn't go unnoticed. Asahi Shimbun wasted no time reporting these truants. A Fortune report at CNNMoney even went so far as writing "RIP" for the Tokyo Motor Show after citing auto launches by US top automakers being done elsewhere. Have these fortune tellers hit the nail on the head, or have they just been too quick to the draw? Journalists who attended the motor show witnessed numerous concept vehicles and environment-friendly hybrid machines, making this writer think that the motor show was undergoing a sea change in its overall vision. Major shift in direction And if, indeed, the 53-year-old motor show was undergoing a "second childhood," a major shift in direction toward being more environmentally conscientious, then it has to contend with two factors: 1) These hybrids and concepts are still a long way off from actual commercial production, especially in minor markets like the Philippines, and this may be a major turnoff for prospective buyers window shopping in Tokyo; and 2) Even the major markets such as the United States and emerging powerhouse China seem not to be biting the "green" carrot dangled before them. Of course, the motor show still had its highlight moments, such as the much-anticipated launch of the Nissan GT-R (which did not disappoint, except for the announcement that there was still no tentative release date yet in the Philippines), the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X (tentative RP launch date sometime in April 2008), and the new Subaru WRX STI (tentative RP launch date March 2008). Honda offered its own surprises for the Tokyo delegates (the latter announcing that its sportier Accord 2.4- and 3.5-liter versions would be available here by the second quarter of 2008). But if you hear the talk between the revs, something seems to be really amiss. Weak car market "The Japanese car market is altogether in weak health. Following a decline of two percent to 4.64 million cars already last year, the market shrank further in the first eight months of this year by 6.3 percent to 2.98 million cars," said Matthias Wissmann, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, during a press briefing attended by Inquirer Motoring at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan. In another press briefing, Bernard Bohr, chair of the Bosch Automotive Group, said that automobile production in Japan would remain almost stagnant until 2015, at 11.5 million units. But worldwide, he said that Japanese automakers would increase their production over the same period: from 23 to 29 million vehicles. Fortune's interview with analyst Michel Dunne indicated that Japanese consumers bought 5.7 million vehicles in 2005, but were expected to purchase only 5.2 million units this year. "By comparison, the China market is exploding -- from 5.3 million units two years ago to 8 million units in 2007 -- making it the second largest auto market in the world after the United States." By 2010, Dunne expects Japan to still be "under 6 million units while demand in China is expected to reach 11.5 million." Japan still main route Bohr said during the press conference that for Bosch one of the main routes for automotive growth would still lie in Japan. He said that even if Japanese automakers were going international in their supplier structures, it would still be in Japan where major decisions will be made. Bosch engineers confirm they still collaborate closely with customers in Japan. Their know-how in Japan also serves to support Bosch development teams worldwide. Bosch Group is one of the biggest German employers in Japan with a workforce of more than 7,800. It operates 20 manufacturing plants, five engineering centers and two test courses. "Support like this goes to places as far away as Brazil, where, for a Japanese automaker, we are developing a flex fuel system that improves cold-start capability when the engine is running on ethanol," Bohr said. Favorable signs Bohr also sees favorable signs for diesel-fed automobiles in Japan, with Nissan and Honda announcing they would launch a diesel passenger car for the domestic Japanese market. "This is an opportunity for us, not least in view of fuel prices in Japan, which have risen by a good 10 percent since the beginning of the year," Bohr quipped.
By Aida Sevilla Mendoza Inquirer IF you are shopping for an affordable common rail diesel-powered multipurpose vehicle, the Korean manufacturers make choosing a difficult task. Why? Because Kia Motors and its parent company Hyundai Motor Co. offer not one, not two, but three CRDi (common rail direct injection) MPVs to choose from: the Hyundai Starex, Kia Carnival and Kia Carens. But when it comes to a compact CRDi MPV, the choice narrows down to the 2007 Kia Carens since the Hyundai Matrix was withdrawn from the Philippine market a year or so ago. The Carens first entered with a 2.0-liter, DOHC, 16-valve gasoline engine. The CRDi variant showed up soon after, completing Kia's CRDi-powered foursome together with the 4x4 Sorento midsize SUV, the 4x4 Sportage compact SUV and the Carnival midsize MPV (which this column reviewed last August.) No competition With no other CRDi seven-seater compact MPV in competition unless you consider the D-4D Toyota Innova a compact MPV, the Carens enjoys a monopoly in this segment. The Toyota Avanza, Mitsubishi Fuzion and soon-to-come Nissan Grand Livina all have gasoline engines. This is not to say that the CRDi Carens needs monopoly status to gain market share. At a suggested retail price (SRP) of P875,000 for the LX manual transmission (MT), P925,000 for the LX automatic transmission (AT) or P1,050,000 for the EX AT, the CRDi Carens gives good value for money with the advantage of more frugal fuel consumption, thanks to Kiaís second generation CRDi engine technology, and the lower (by P5 per liter) pump price of diesel fuel. Specs The 2007 Carens' 2.0-liter SOHC 16-valve CRDi engine with variable geometry turbocharger (VGT) and diesel oxidation catalyst delivers 140 ps/4,000 rpm and 31 kg-m/2,500 rpm max torque through the front wheels. The MT is 5-speed while the AT is 4-speed with Neuro Fuzzy logic. In the United States, where it is sold as the Rondo, the Carens has a 2.7-liter DOHC V6 gasoline engine and a 5-speed AT whereas here, as previously stated, the gasoline Carens has a 2.0-liter DOHC engine and a 4-speed AT or 5-speed MT. However, given a choice between a V6 gasoline engine and a 2.0-liter CRDi engine for a compact MPV like the Carens, I'd opt for the latter anytime in view of the endlessly rising oil prices. Besides, the Carens' CRDi powerplant packs more than adequate torque to propel the 1,716-kg body forward at a fast clip. The seven-seater Carens may have been designed for family use, but it has a certain sporty flair and is surprisingly fun to drive. Suspension A carlike ride quality is traceable to a fully independent suspension (MacPherson strut up front, multilink with coil spring at the rear) with stabilizer bars and disc brakes fore and aft. Handling and steering compare favorably with a compact sport sedan's, although there is some body lean when tackling fast corners. The cabin is well-insulated from road and wind noise while the CRDi engine is not as noisy or harsh as older model diesel engines. The gear shift is conveniently located at the base of the center console stack. The high seats, high ceiling and large glass area provide good visibility and a spacious feeling although the thick C pillars somewhat obstruct the driver's rear view. The quality of the interior materials is above-average and the instruments and gauges are logically placed, easy to read and easy to reach. A total of six cupholders, three power outlets, two rear storage boxes and a small tray above the glove box are a few of the convenient standard features. 7 seats But what is most surprising about the Carens is that it neatly fits seven comfy, supportive, recline-able seats on a wheelbase that is only 4,545 mm in overall length. Front seat and second row passengers enjoy ample leg and head room, but the tight legroom in the third row makes it good only for children. The second row splits 60/40 and slides forward for easy access to the third row, which splits 50/50 and can be folded flat into the floor to create cargo space. With the third row seats up, there is no cargo space behind. Unfortunately, it is in the safety features that the Carens is parsimonious. Only the top-of-the-line EX has an airbag -- only one at that -- and keyless entry with alarm. No Carens sold here has ABS or EBD or Stability Control while the Carens sold in the United States has six airbags, ABS and anti-skid as standard equipment. Perhaps essential safety features were removed to lower the SRP but their absence, together with the generally low resale value of Kia vehicles, may make safety-conscious buyers balk despite the Carens' excellent quality and sporty performance. * * * TODAY'S BUMPER STICKER: Give Satan an inch and he'll be a ruler.
By Andre Palma Inquirer THE INEVITABLE came to my garage last week in the form of a charcoal gray, four-door hatch. The nondescript car mutely crept up the incline of the driveway and powered down in almost complete silence; such a voiceless way to announce an arrival of such significance. I stared at it for a while, trying to grasp the gravity and consequence of this automobile. And in the quiet darkness of the garage, I could swear all the other cars were staring too. This is a car that for all intents and purposes, spells the obsolescence of almost every other car on Philippine roads today. Over a million units of this very model and its similarly powered brethren inconspicuously ply roads around the globe, leaving in their wake reduced fuel consumption and some of the lowest motor vehicle carbon emissions ever. The hybrids have landed and the 2007 Toyota Prius is at the tip of the spear. Here's a photo of the Toyota Prius hybrid in silver pine. Old news Hybrids and their symbiotic petroleum and electric engines are old news in the rest of the world but only a handful of these cars are in the country. Having already tested hybrids at both Hondas Tochigi R&D and Toyotas Fuji Speedway, one can only imagine my excitement for a test drive in the Philippine setting. Your initial moments in a Prius cockpit can be a little unnerving. First of all, there is no physical key to speak of, just a plastic transponder that goes into a slot on the dashboard. Next is the start button one presses to bring the electrical and engine systems to life, a process that is uncannily silent and uneventful. It is in fact easy to forget the Prius is on at all, as the electric engine does not have the usual violent ignition process of traditional powerplants. Info center Secondary systems such as the air conditioning and the audio are accessed primarily through a centrally located screen with touch interface. This colored monitor also serves as your information center regarding the status of each of the vehicles engines, the massive 168-bank NiMH (nickel metal hydride) battery, trip information and estimated fuel efficiency. Placing the dash mounted shift lever in gear gets the hybrid moving and things only get better when the car takes to the road. While some will think that the need for fuel efficiency and dramatic emission reduction take the punch out of this car, two minutes in this car will make you think twice about such an assessment. Acceleration with conviction comes from the massive 400 Nm of torque available to the electric motor from the very bottom of the rpm band. Think of direct drive electric motors found on battery-powered remote-controlled cars and you will begin to understand the off the line acceleration of this Prius. Notable too is the way that the two motors seamlessly integrate with each other, handing off powering duties in a manner that is almost indiscernible to the driver. Road feel and traction are generally similar to other passenger automobiles with the exception of a sensation of weight that lends an air of stability to the Prius, especially at speed. At somewhere around the century and a half-speed mark, this hybrid is comfortably planted and feels like it could keep going all day. The funny thing is that it probably could. Fuel efficiency While manufacturer-supplied fuel-efficiency numbers are often too incredible to believe, this particular cars actual consumption makes one think twice about being too critical. Despite over 450 kilometers of standstill traffic and rocketing, flat-out on empty toll roads, the fuel indicator shows that a little more than three fourths tank remains. That, ladies and gentlemen, spells fuel efficiency in any language. Guiltless driving pleasure can be had after all. Capturing the automotive spirit of this remarkable little Toyota has honestly been difficult because of all the overwhelming innovation. So it must be boiled down to its basics so to speak. Underneath all the gadgets and gimmickry, cars are all about the driving experience. And at the end of the day, some things about the Prius just make you want to drive it over and over and over again. That's what separates great cars from the good ones.
By Aida Sevilla Mendoza Inquirer NEVER eat a full meal before you board a Lancer Evolution X with a Mitsubishi Motors Corp. test driver at the wheel. This was what we learned during the handling demo organized by MMC at a handling test track after lunch and a tour of MMCÂ’s Okazaki, Nagoya plant. Prior to the handling demo, we were allowed to take the Evo X for a brief test drive. The four motoring journalists from the Philippines (with this columnist as the only female) were divided into pairs and took turns driving the 2008 Lancer and the Evo X one lap each around MMCÂ’s oval test track in Okazaki. We also got to drive the i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) around a slalom course on a smaller test track. Test-driving the high-performance turbocharged AWD 2008 Lancer Evo, one of the 10 fastest cars in the world, was to be the highlight of our sojourn to Japan for the 40th Tokyo Motor Show. But whoa! We were told to limit driving speeds to 120 kph. And to make sure that we observed the speed limit, a Japanese MMC engineer sat in the back seat each time out. We did not protest, but perhaps the Evo X itself did, in a manner of speaking. We noticed that the new 2.0-liter 4B11 Mivec (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control system) engine with aluminum cylinder block and twin scroll turbocharger was revving by itself as if to protest the placid pace and daring us to make max use of its capability. Shift modes Could it be because of the shift mode we were in? The Evo XÂ’s 6-speed Twin Clutch SST (Sequential Sportshift Transmission) has three shift modes: Normal, which upshifts early for fuel economy; Sport, which holds gears longer and delivers quicker shifts; and S-Sport mode, which holds gears much longer, downshifts more aggressively and changes gears vigorously. Dual-clutch technology, which heretofore was only offered by Audi, changes gears faster and more smoothly than a jerky single-clutch sequential manual. On the track, the Evo X reached 120 kph almost immediately and seemed eager to go faster but the presence of the MMC engineer in the back seat made me lift my foot off the accelerator when the needle reached 150 kph. Although MMC has not yet announced the engine specs and top speed, the US specs are expected to be 295 hp/6,500 rpm and 300 lb-ft/4,000 rpm max torque. The aluminum block, the first ever in an Evo since the modelÂ’s 1992 debut, reduces the engineÂ’s weight by 28 lb and not only results in improved fuel efficiency, it also helps lower the carÂ’s center of gravity and thereby increases its stability on the road. All-wheel control The new Evo is taller and wider than the 2006 Evo IX and has a wider track and wheelbase. Its platform, the same as the normally aspirated 2008 Lancer and the Outlander SUV, is more rigid in torsion than the outgoing Evo, which translates into faster cornering speeds. Together with S-AWC (Super All-Wheel Control), the stiffer chassis guarantees more agility with more grip and traction. S-AWC integrates drive-torque distribution, braking (Brembo brakes on 18-inch Enkel wheels) and the rear differentialÂ’s active yaw control to influence the carÂ’s cornering performance. Active Stability Control (ASC), MitsubishiÂ’s new electronic safety system, can be switched off in the Evo X for track usage. I forgot to ask the MMC test driver whether he switched off the ASC before he took us on that handling demo run at breakneck speed on a rally-like test course. It was the most exciting ride of my life since it was the first time I was buffeted by G-forces so many times. I sat in the front Recaro seat with my crash helmet almost coming off as the Evo X, with superb self-assurance, rocketed up and down the handling track two times. Red line On the first lap, the MMC driver used the center consoleÂ’s automatic transmission; on the second lap, the manual transmissionÂ’s steering column-mounted paddle shifters. Although I was unable to read the speedometer because of the roller coaster ride, I managed to see the tach needle often swinging close to the red line. All throughout while it was being flung around, the Evo X retained its composure and felt utterly safe and capable. At the end of the Evo XÂ’s handling run, those seated in the back felt so dizzy and nauseous that they chose not to join the off-road demo of the Delica D:5. It was then that we realized the wisdom of not having a full meal before a handling demo of the Evo X. Nonetheless, the demo proved that MitsubishiÂ’s cutting-edge technologiesÂ—4B11 MIVEC aluminum engine, twin scroll turbocharger, Twin Clutch SST, S-AWC, active yaw control and ASCÂ—work together smoothly to make the Lancer Evolution X the best rally-bred sport sedan ever produced yet. * * * TODAY'Â’S BUMPER STICKER: My other car is a bicycle. Photo by Aida Sevilla Mendoza
By Tessa R. Salazar Inquirer HE isn't just swift. He's precise. And wouldn't we wish we were a bit just like him in our everyday struggles in the chaotic streets of Metro Manila. His name, fittingly so, is Russ Swift, and he is a world-class precision driver and Guinness record holder. Russ can execute the tightest J turns and parallel park in the blink of an eye. He can spin a car into a parking space just 33 cm longer than the vehicle. At the Honda Automobile R&D center in Tochigi, each of the automotive writers present didn't dare do a Swift-like parking maneuver. Instead, they did somewhat the opposite: park a vehicle equipped with a park assist system with computer-assisted steering and voice guidance, which effectively takes the guesswork out of parking. Parallel-assist parking Here's how the "spoon-fed" parallel-assist parking works. Stop on the nose of the parked rear vehicle when it is aligned with the indicator on the left front door lining. Then turn on the parallel-assist switch. The driver moves the car slowly forward until the voice guide asks him or her to stop the car. While backing, the driver is asked to keep the position of the steering wheel. The voice guide will tell the driver when to stop. He or she is then asked to turn the steering wheel into the center position to make the precise position in backing the car. Voila! This same program also does reverse parking. And this does away with an expensive rear monitor. Such technologies have been at use already in many Honda cars in Japan. This system would not be introduced in the Philippines in the near future. Glow in the dark Though it does look like a ghost glowing in the dark, it's actually a living, breathing pedestrian reflected in front of a car in the dead of night. By reflecting images obtained from two far infrared cameras positioned in the lower section of the front bumper in the heads up display, this visibility safety system introduced in the Japanese car Legend in 2004 supports the driver's night-time vision. When the system detects pedestrians, it cautions the driver via an audio warning and visual enhancement frame. Journalists were then brought to the world's first indoor, omni-directional real-world crash test facility in the Tochigi R&D center that Honda built in 2000. Here, scribes were able to witness an actual head-on collision between a CR-V and an Accord (complete with crash test dummies) at 60 kph. Ugh! Even for crash-test dummies, the postcrash details are quite gory but suffice to say, based on the tests, the occupants will survive albeit with some injuries. One crash was enough, though. The facility also conducts collision tests between vehicles at various angles, in addition to fixed barrier tests. Crash dummy Honda has even developed a pedestrian crash dummy that reproduces the kinetics of the human body during car-to-pedestrian collisions to identify the parts of the car body most often involved in the infliction of injuries. And we have to thank this hapless dummy for making it possible for the carmaker to introduce recent safety designs such as the pop-up hood and the pedestrian injury reduction body to reduce head injuries during collisions. Actuators "pop up" the rear portion of the engine hood at approximately 10 cm when three sensors located in the front bumper and a vehicle speed sensor determine a collision with a pedestrian has occurred. This provides a space between the rigid engine components and the hood, reducing head injuries to pedestrians. Again, this technology had been first incorporated in the Legend that is being sold in Europe. Bikers' airbags Motorcyclists plunging face first into airbags? Sounds loony, but it may help save countless lives. And yes, Honda is taking this seriously and has developed the world's first airbag system for mass production in motorcycles, and can help lessen the severity of head injuries caused by motorcycle frontal collisions. Airbag-equipped motorcycles have been on sale in the United States since September 2006, in Europe in October 2006 and in Japan in June 2007.
By Charles E. Buban Inquirer TOKYO, Japan--The Tokyo Motor Show has always been about technology and this year's 40th staging of one of the world's leading automobile expos is no exception as green cars featuring advanced propulsion technology share centerstage with some of today's fastest and most powerful production cars. This writer finally got the chance to get up close and personal with the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X as well as Fuji Heavy Industries' (maker of Subaru brand of vehicles) new Impreza WRX STI. Of course, this writer also witnessed the much-awaited debut of the all-new Nissan GT-R. "It only shows that while the car industry is continuously developing solutions to increase energy efficiency and reduce a car's environmental impact, carmakers will never stop dishing out passion-inspiring high-performance sports cars," said Raymond Tribdino, Nissan Motor Philippines Inc. senior manager for market and product planning. Paraded Indeed, while Nissan finally rolled out its most anticipated muscle car, it also paraded its latest breakthroughs in gasoline, diesel and electric-powered vehicles. According to Tribdino, Nissan sets a mid-term environmental action plan called Nissan Green Program 2010 that seeks ways to maximize the fuel economy of internal combustion engines. Included in this plan is the development of a clean diesel engine that will soon power the upcoming 2008 X-Trail compact SUV (to be sold in Japan); the development of the Variable Valve Event and Lift system that will be installed in the upcoming gasoline engine of the Skyline Coupe (also to be sold in Japan); the development of the company's own design of a continuously variable transmission that will be paired to several Nissan engines; and the acceleration of the development of the next generation lithium-ion battery for use in various hybrid electric and electric vehicles that Nissan is conceiving. Environmental consideration In fact, even the newly unveiled GT-R super car, which boasts a 475 horsepower, 3.8-liter twin turbo V6 VR38 engine, meets Japan's ultra-low emission vehicle standards as proof of Nissan's seriousness in putting environmental consideration a top priority. Aside from developing cleaner emissions in both of its gasoline and diesel engines, Nissan is also putting a lot of research in battery-powered vehicles, which the company believes holds a lot of promise. "Case in point is Nissan's lithium-ion powered Pivo 2 that was unveiled at the motor show. While it uses the same type of rechargeable battery commonly used in consumer electronics, Pivo 2's powerplant is more advanced," Tribdino said. More compact For the first time, Nissan was able to develop a more compact lithium-ion battery. Like flat metal sheets that can be laid on top of one another (similar to a sans rival cake), they require much less space than today's cylindrical-shaped lithium-ion batteries, thereby freeing up more space to increase cabin dimension as well as saving on total car weight. Though half the size of today's conventional batteries, it's 1.5 times more powerful and twice the capacity. With this battery, Pivo 2 could now travel about 126 km on a single charge and plugs into a regular home electric socket. But despite the advancement, carmakers like Nissan admit that they are still looking for the ultimate environment-friendly vehicle. "The goal is to have a car that could deliver zero impact on the environment. However it must also be cost-efficient to build as well as it should be attractive for the car buyer not only in terms of price but also to its drivability, safety and reliability," Tribdino said.
By Andre Palma Inquirer TOKYO, Japan--Since Kiichiro Toyoda got it into his head to shift from textile looms to manufacturing automobiles, the Toyota Motor Corp. has come a long way. In a short 70 years from the first Model AA rolling off the Koromo plant assembly line, the Japanese manufacturer now has its sights set on the No. 1 spot in the global automotive scheme of things. Great really if you are one to speculate on the worldwide stock markets but honestly the impact on the Filipino motorist is anything but a forgone conclusion. One key phrase frames Toyota's future strategy for world domination. "Sustainable mobility" seems like words plucked out of just any public relations handbook but the way these two words will color and flavor the way we will drive in the very near future is undeniable, scary even. By addressing environmental, safety and congestion issues, the way we drive and what we drive will change dramatically. In a world obsessed with carbon footprints, protecting biodiversity and the search for renewable sources of energy, the automobile is often painted as public enemy No. 1. While the Battle for Mother Earth seems lost and the human race is doomed to a carbon-choked future care of the evil automobile, small inroads have been made that responsibly look toward tomorrow. Targets Since 1997, over a million Toyota branded, gasoline electric hybrids have been sold. Sales volumes point to a peak in 2017 where these fuel-efficient, low-impact vehicles will reach over a million units a year. Yet the push for sustainability does not end with the current generation of hybrids. In the search for the ultimate eco-car, diverse sources of energy with low carbon impact from production to consumption are the targets. The days of the fossil fuel dependence are numbered but the complete change over to cleaner, greener sources of energy may take a while. In the interim, current power train innovation is channeled toward environmental performance as well as the driving dynamics that are the basis for any fundamentally sound automobile. Toyota gasoline engines will shift from VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing-intelligent) to D-4S (Direct Injection 4 Stroke) systems with continuous intake valve lift volume controls. Diesel powerplants will incorporate Piezo injectors, lower compression ratios and stricter catalytic converters with common-rail direct-injection systems. Finally transmissions move into 8-speed automatics and CVT systems with total vehicle management suites matching engine load more precisely with speed and emissions. Image leader At the forefront is Toyota's image leader in the hybrid segment, the second generation Prius. The handful on Philippine roads can be seen as a sign of things to come, the tip of leading edge of the world wide hybrid model explosion that includes luxury models such as the Lexus GS450h and the LS600h. Even the locally popular Camry now comes in a hybrid model targeted at the North American market. Seat time in these cars at Toyota's Mobilitas driving facility at Fuji Speedway, including the Alphard hybrid mini van and the Harrier and Highlander hybrid SUVs confirm unexpected performance with attention-grabbing fuel efficiency. Driving clean and green hybrids can apparently be fun but apparently not even a fraction of the fun the future holds. The jewel in Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive crown must be the FT-HS sports concept. Rear-wheel drive with a 2+2 coupe layout, this sleek exercise in automotive design boasts a 3.5-liter V6 hybrid motor with over 400 bhp and four second times to 100 kph. Touted as the spiritual successor to the Supra, pictures do not do the FT-HS justice. Unfounded rumors point to a 2009 production date, just in time for the 41st Tokyo Motor Show. More than just a technology demonstrator, this single car shows that the tide is turning in favor of "sustainable mobility" indeed, and Toyota is leading the charge.
By Tessa R. Salazar Inquirer TOKYO, Japan--If it moves, we'll build a better one. That, in a nutshell, seems to be what Honda is keen on doing in the near (and not-so-near) future. Takeo Fukui, president and CEO of Honda, in a 15-minute interview with members of the Philippine motoring media, revealed the carmaker's plans on not limiting itself to two- and four-wheeled contraptions. After coming out with such environmental vehicles such as the Civic 2.0GL, Stream, Partner 4WD, the CR-V, Elysion Prestige and Crossroad models in 2007, which Honda claims have all attained fuel-efficiency ratings mandated in its 2011 standards, Fukui says Honda is now developing a jet engine, and more Asimo-like household robots. Q: After cars and motorbikes, what's next with Honda? A: The first delivery of the jets will be on 2010. Unlike automobiles and motorcycles, we have to have a longer perspective and outlook when it comes to the airplane business. First we work on the jets, and then would be Asimo. We are to supply Asimo to ordinary households. Q: So, will Honda go seriously into the aviation industry? A: When it comes to our jet business, we have to think of this long term, so we have to put in place a long-term strategy and make it a good business for us. Only after that will the next step be on making Asimo as a business. Q: Can you genuinely reconcile F1 motorsports with environmentalism, considering that motorsports require large amounts of fuel and tires? A: I think we might save some fuel if we're going to stop formula racing, but people don't live thinking about the environment only. You need to enjoy your life. That's what we're here for, and therefore we think that we need to have motorsports for the sake of enjoyment. That's the reason we need to have Formula 1 racing. Comparatively, the amount of gasoline consumed in by all 22 teams on Formula 1 races over one year is half the amount of gasoline that a single trip from Tokyo to Frankfurt would require on a plane. Thanks to Formula 1, billions of people around the world are enjoying themselves. Q: After a quite disappointing season in Formula 1, what are your plans for next year? A: I think because of my age, my memory is starting to fail, I've forgotten everything about this season (laughter). But for some strange reason my memory is very clear about the year before that. I remember especially very well the Hungarian Grand Prix (laughter). I think this season we have come to understand what we need to work on technically and also we have reinforced the engineering team. We're thinking most likely next season you'll start to see the results and we'll be on the top positions where Honda is supposed to be. Q: You have any plans of changing your driver lineup, include a Japanese driver? A: Next season we're planning to stick to the current driver lineup. Q: What's your timetable for commercial production of diesel-fed Hondas and what Honda models will first run on clean diesels? A: The definition of clean diesel is very difficult because diesel on sale in Europe now is already clean. But then in the United States and Japan the regulations that are being said to be put in place and the NOx level that is required there is extremely stringent, meaning we cannot just bring the European cars into these markets. Therefore, we need to overcome these technical challenges so that we can clear the requirements in both the United States and Japan. We're hoping to be able to launch diesel engines within two years (in these markets). Q: At the other end of the spectrum is the Asian market, where diesel fuel quality is low. How will you approach this? A: As you say, for clean diesel, sulfur content needs to be reduced. Unless you can do so, we cannot serve clean diesel in these markets. Japan has already complied, Europe also. The United States has come close to meeting these requirements but it requires a lot of money. You need to invest, and eventually there will come a time the Philippines has to make that investment. Q: Do you see Honda participating in the F1 and the 24-hour Le Mans using diesel engines? A: For the Formula 1 races they have their own unique standards and I donít think that we will be able to use diesels for the time being. For Le Mans it's not time for us yet to seriously be a challenger there. We think Formula 1 is the pinnacle, the most difficult race of all. Q: When do you expect us to see fuel cell cars on the streets? A: At the motor show, we have on display the concept model, and based on that model next year we will be launching fuel cell vehicles, but it will be just in Japan and the United States. We could be selling some tens of thousands of these within maybe 10 years.
By Aida Sevilla-Mendoza Inquirer TOKYO, Japan--At a glittering international event like the 40th Tokyo Motor Show displaying 520 new vehicles of 30 carmakers at a venue spread over 440,000 square meters, it is difficult to hold the attention of the 1.5 million visitors expected, including thousands from overseas, during its 16-day run. On Press Preview day, several manufacturers caught the eye by exhibiting outrageously styled concept cars. While the designs of the three concept cars presented by Mitsubishi Motors Corp. were not as edgily in-your-face futuristic as the Toyota HI-CT, Honda Puyo or Nissan Pivo2, they looked more user-friendly, more practical and more ready to leap from the drawing board into commercial production in the near future. And for visitors already in the market for a new car, Mitsubishi unveiled the latest iteration of the Lancer Evolution, which is one of the fastest high-performance mass production cars in the world yet is affordably priced. The more sedate version of the Evo X, the 2008 Lancer sedan (named as the Galant Fortis in Japan) was also on view. A closer look People kept flocking back to the Mitsubishi pavilion to take a closer look at the i MiEV Sport electric minicar, the Concept-CX compact SUV and the Concept-ZT clean diesel 2.2-liter premium sedan, all three of which represent Mitsubishi's key auto-manufacturing values of Driving Pleasure, Safety and Environmental Responsibility. Here's a photo of the i MIEV Sport. Here's the Concept-CX. And the Concept-ZT. Mitsubishi's focus on Environmental Performance evolved from these three key values with the electric i MiEV sports coupe as the environmental flagship. The culmination of 35 years of EV (electric vehicle) R&D, the i MiEV experimental car was finalized in 2006 and has undergone public road testing. At present, Mitsubishi is working with several power companies with the end in view of launching the i MiEV on the market. Why the fuss over the i MiEV? It produces little noise and zero on-road carbon dioxide emissions, costs less to run and its lithium-ion batteries can be quick-charged in 30 minutes using a 3-phase 200V supply system. Using a regular 200-volt household domestic outlet, it takes seven hours to fully recharge the i MiEV for a cruising range of 160 km. When driving downhill, slowing down or braking, the i MiEV recovers inertial energy, employing the motor as a generator. 3 motors The i MiEV Sport weighs only 970 kg, is shod with 175/46R17 tires, has a max speed of 180 km per hour and can run a distance of 200 km on a single charge. Two in-wheel motors drive the front wheels of the i MiEV Sport while a single motor powers the rear wheels, with electric-powered 4WD (E-4WD) optimizing the power generated by each motor. Sporty performance and excellent stability, demolishing preconceptions about the drivability of EVs, result from the S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control) system that integrates management of the E-4WD, E-AYC (Electric Active Yaw Control), ABS and Active Stability Control. It has a microwave wireless charging system to make recharging more convenient. Moreover, aside from the energy recycling system of the basic i MiEV, the Sport draws energy from natural sources via auxiliary solar glass panels and wind turbine fans (used during deceleration only). To further save energy, the taillights and other lights use low-energy, highly luminous LEDs. The location of the 330-volt battery under the floor and the motor, inverter and charger under the cargo area lowers the i MiEV's center of gravity while enhancing front/rear weight distribution. This characteristic of the rear midship layout frees up space for occupants and luggage and contributes to vehicle stability. The body and suspension use strong, lightweight and highly rigid extruded and die-cast aluminum, improving fuel efficiency and performance. Crashworthy As for safety, the i MiEV Sport is multidirectional crashworthy due to Mitsubishi's RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) body protecting occupants in a collision. Again, the rear midship layout benefits occupants as the way the front side members, cross members and other structural parts are located more efficiently absorbs the impact in frontal and side crashes. In case of a rear-ender, the major EV components under the cargo area engage with the floor to form a protective barrier. Fast-forwarding toward the future, Mitsubishi is developing a MiEV communication system with high-speed PLC (Power Line Communications) that allows the user to connect his home computer and the i MiEV Sport. The user can control recharging, in-car audio and air conditioning from inside the home, update the navigation system via the Internet, send or receive e-mail and also collect vehicle maintenance info to keep the car in top shape. Summing up, Mitsubishi's high-tech concept cars, especially the i MiEV Sport, gave a glimpse of the motoring world's future in environmental performance. Photos courtesy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer