autojaponica

Archive for October, 2008|Monthly archive page

Next Generation Mazda Wankel 13b Renesis Engine

In Mazda on October 29, 2008 at 5:50 pm

More information is beginning to emerge regarding the next Renesis engine due to make an appearance in an all new RX7/8 in autumn 2010.   

Mazda has been burning the midnight oil of recent, preparing a hydrogen version of the car but it is thought that it won’t be ready in time for the new cars debut so the next powerplant will continue as petrol.

The current 13b engine displaces 1300cc by the use of twin 654cc rotors.  Rambunctious grapevine rumblings suggest that the new engine will use two 800cc rotors to produce (you’ll need to check this because i didn’t use a calculator) 1600cc and more power.  Over 300 ps has been mentioned.

Mazda’s Wankel engine has come in for some criticism over the years for its woeful (by modern standards) oil and petrol consumption so to address this concern Wankel engineers will try to resolve the new lump to be a little kinder on the purse. 

RX Mazda’s are great cars and the current RX8 is no exception and by all accounts is a bit of a hotcake but you have to wonder if Mazda themselves wouldn’t like to put some distance from the Wankel unit.  Clearly not.

It was in 1960 that Kenichi Yamamoto of the Hiroshima firm hopped off to Germany to meet with the chief Wankel (original designer) himself, Mr Felix Wankel and secure a licence to produce the engine in Japan.  

The Wankel has served Mazda continuously since then but is it only Mazda who see the benefit of the rotary engine?  Motoring publications usually agree that the RX8 is a supreme car but some respectable magazines criticise the engine as just being plain weird and some even say it’s a bit of a wanker.

What strikes me is that no other manufacturers of late have ever tried to emulate Mazda’s exploits with the engine and its not like its new technology.  I mean they could if they wanted to.

 Of course the RX series of cars have a long history and with that comes a bearded following.  Some of these geeks (those who call themselves the true wankers) consider it sacrilege to employ anything but a rotary engine in an RX car.  In fact they would rather shave off their beards and eat them.

Mazda, it’s up to you but a lot of people are thinking that it might be a good time to start wanking about a different future to the wankel or have you already gone blind?

All that said and done, RX’s are wonderful things and i wish Mazda every success with the upcoming model.

Mazda RX8

Mazda RX8

Japanese Design VS European Design

In opinion on October 28, 2008 at 5:39 pm

Hailing from Europe as i do, it goes with the territory that we assume that the best autmotive design is claimed by us.  Not for any other reason than the worlds most coveted cars are still largely European and we love them and like to think that the rest of the world wants to emulate us but i’m starting to see a few weaknesses in the facade.

 

Europe does produce some stunning pieces of vehicluar art but those little gems are mostly in the very expensive catergory and so slightly irrelevant for most of us. 

For the German, French, British, Albanian etc motoring masses it’s more a case of pootling around in something as inoffensive looking as possible.  This is what the continential makers do very well, they produce lots of pleasant looking cars and when they can’t think of something suitably generic they raid their heritage and produce a fatter version of the old Fiat 500.

Japanese maunfacturers are so heavily involved in the European market place that they even develop cars that are specifically targeted at the Spanish, Italians, Andorrans etc.

I was thinking today what Japanese car designs i could never find myself in.  Purposefully steering clear of some of the home grown shockers (that we should all avoid) available i tried to only consider those models that would be passable to my myself, family  and friends here and back home.

Alot passed through my mind including and in order the new Mc Rib by Mcdonalds, George Bush failing the next election, a Suzuki Swift, a new pair of socks, joining a cult, the most BEAUTIFUL pair of breasts, a Nissan Dualis, George Bush eating a cheese burger and Mishal Husain (BBC World anchor) driving the Nissan.

Now whats interesting about this is that i only thought about sex once or possibly twice and they say that the average male thinks about the damnable subject at least once every 10 seconds (i think).  This whole thought process took about 3 minutes so i can (and i will) mark myself out as a role model for other men. 

Anyway back to the cars,  Suzuki’s Swift and Nissan’s Dualis or Qashqai in Europe (i like to think it’s code for cash cow).  Both these models were specifically developed for the European punter and have by all accounts been well received.

Examine these two cars and you will notice that they are quite pleasant looking and but totally forgettable, rather like a BBC news reader (excluding Mishal Husain).

Europe prides itself on its clean and sober lines in a car and that is exactly what these two emulate.

Not to say that this is a bad thing but it can be a rather humdrum design philosophy and these days alot of the mainstream European manufacturers produce mostly lots of inoffensive and very generic looking cars.

Japan still arguably leads the world in putting some really rotting metal together but Eastern design is anything but predictable and so when awaiting a new domestic car to break cover you really never know what thing of beauty or appalling beast will make an entrance.

The point of this story and to sum it up is that Japan has the edge on Europe in design and that Japanese consumers are to put it midly more out there,less conservative and more mouldable as a car buying public.

I can’t think of any examples to back this up right now because frankly im tired and this is a blog so i don’t need to try very hard but i’m going to defend my precarious position and write more about this delightful pet subject again so watch this space.

At the time of writing even my computer won’ show the Nissan clearly in the photos below, clearly sharing in my sense of exasperation regarding the aesthetics of the car.  I’m loathe to say its anything to do with my IT skills.

Nissan Dualis/Qashqai

Nissan Dualis/Qashqai

 

 

Suzuki Swift

Suzuki Swift

GTR SUV Whispers

In Nissan on October 27, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Unconfirmed reports suggest that in addition to the GTR 4 door, Nissan now have aspirations to further the GTR’s versatility and plan on releasing an SUV version of the legendary sports car. 

No doubt inspired by their new rival Porsche’s success with the Cayenne SUV.

If and this one is a big if, it will result in Nissan effectively having an equivalent model for every current Porsche. 

Meaning GTR vs 911, GTR 4 door vs Panamera, GTR SUV vs Cayenne and this will unsettle the Porsche fan boys, 350Z vs Boxster/Cayenne. 

Let’s see what materialises in the next few months.

Performance Suzuki SX4 Details

In Suzuki on October 23, 2008 at 4:34 pm

The Suzuki SX4 is a strange thing, to this day i still can’t really work out what it is.

People say it’s a crossover.  Meaning part 4×4, SUV and compact shopping car.  That’s all very well but i just can’t get sweaty about it, mostly down to its high foreheaded styling, general drabness and what it has to compete against and i would have thought that other car of Suzuki’s, the Swift would be one of them.  Of course i have never driven one. 

What has piqued my interest though is the long awaited performance version.  It`s been rumoured for a while and the perception was that it would receive a turbocharger like it’s rally counterpart.  However recent reports suggest that Suzuki will go down the normally aspirated route by using a tuned version of its J20A 2.0 lite engine presently available in the SX4.  The J20A produces 145ps but for the fast SX4 170ps is considered tuneable.

When the car makes an appearance next year in the spring it should look the part, suitably slammed with some add on bits to the body as well as upgraded tyres and perhaps a bit of a naughty sports exhaust.

Expected selling price in Japan will be from 2 million yen.  No idea where else it is going to sell but i imagine the Americans and Europeans could get into it.

When researching this, what suprised me was that the current sedate SX4 has the option of a 2.0 litre engine.  it strikes me as a little excessive for such a small car and for the class or classes i should  say (crossover and all) that it tries to compete in.  I just can’t imagine anyone ordering a 2000ccc SX4 with automatic transmission (M/T not available on this model in Japan).  Must be some eccentric people out there. 

The upcoming SX4 Evolution (might be called that) i can understand though.

Below pic is not of the Evolution model but of the current highest spec SX4.

current 2.0 SX4

current 2.0 SX4

Upcoming 4 Door Nissan GTR

In Nissan on October 22, 2008 at 4:58 pm

The R35 GTR has been received well, with brisk sales and the world’s motoring press still picking their jaws up off the proverbial floor after being blown away by the sheer dynamics of the car.

Carlos Ghon’s monster is a hugely controversial car (although it’s not always clear why) but whether you like it or not (plenty don’t) the fast Nissan has set plenty of benchmarks after blasting away the stated Porsche 911 Turbo rival performancifically (that really should be a word) and dare i say it actually punches a lot higher.

Although sales have been encouraging ( i don’t know what they are), apparently Neesun (as the Americans say) has not shifted as many GTR’S in the USA as they had expected.  The feeling is that in order to flog a few more to the typical American punter they will need to increase the marketability of the car and that won’t mean adding more power (upcoming V SPEC) but rather attaching another 2 doors to make a 4 door GTR

It’s hoped that this new evolution should appeal more to the over 40`s with the extra practicality etc.

Those who are abreast of Nissan’s heritage will know that the very first GTR was the PGC10 released in 1969 and it initially only came with 4 doors.  After that all other performance Skyline’s came were 2 door coupes except a very limited edition of the late 90’s R33 that was modified to 4 doors by Autech.

This new development is unlikely to sit well with Porsche who are already very advanced in forming their own 4 door Panamera (lovely name) model to be released next year.  It looks as if Nissan are going to be a recurring nightmare for the men from Stuttgart.

The ojisan’s (middle aged man in Japanese) GTR is likely to make it into production at the end of 2010, giving Nissan abundant time to take delivery of a Panamera and spend a few weeks abusing it around the nurburgring etc.

The mechanicals of the longer GTR are expected to stay the same but naturally an increase in body dimensions will be required.

Possibly the new car will debut in North America before either Japan or Europe.

Whatever next?  What about a Porsche Cayenne rivaling SUV!!!!!!!!!!!   

Porsche Panamera

Porsche Panamera

Hot New Nissan March/Micra

In Nissan on October 21, 2008 at 4:39 pm

Nissan is an interesting company recently.  The GTR is now well and truly in production and new versions are set to appear over the coming months including a V Spec, a 4 door and even heaven forbid a possible GTR SUV.  Infiniti is also set to be introduced to Europe and a whole host of new models are due to debut globally in the fairly immediate future. 

WIth all this activity, frankly Nissan must be pretty busy but luckily for them the recent downturn in car sales has  forced the maker to cut production at some plants, freeing up staff to get their heads down and start developing all these new cars.

Global car buyers are increasingly moving to smaller, more efficient transport (thats what the papers say) in order to offset current high prices, co2 and instability.  Surely Nissan must be less than patiently hanging on for next years all new March( in Asia)/Micra (other markets).

Although it is one of their cheapest cars, it sells in huge numbers and is very much the bread and butter model. 

It seems like the current generation bubbly looking K12 March has been around for ages (actually only since 2003) so it’s about time it was kicked out of the factory.

The dimensions of the new car are likely to be similar to the outgoing but the design will be different if not completely detached from the K12 (talk about stating the obvious).  Engine choices will probably include various frugal 1.3, 1.5 and even a 1.0 litre.

If rumours serve true then it would appear that Nissan’s engineers have some sporting designs on a version of the 1.0 litre and may be planning or most likely have already force inducted it to produce a dramatic (1000cc) 140ps

Similar in concept to VW’s TSI engine, the hot Nissan will make use of both turbocharger and supecharger to ensure a very high compression, effectively creating a super-turbo (lets hope they call it that). 

No other details are available but expect the little rocket to be suitably lowered, stiffened etc.

A more sedate and normally aspirated 1.0 litre is also going into production to serve as the company’s credit cruncher.

Expect more details at the Tokyo Motor Show but more importantly lets just hope i’m not shown up.

Not Like This

Not Like This

AE86 Heir? Subaru/Toyota Coupe, More Details Emerge

In Subaru on October 20, 2008 at 3:34 pm

As is widely Known Toyota and Subaru are working together on a new sports coupe potentially to be viewed as a successor to the legendary Toyota AE86 (hachi-roku) of the eighties. 

Dubbed the FR (hopefully a more inspiring name is on the cards) as a result of its front engined RWD layout, the coupe is set for a relase in the autumn of 2011.   

The car is mooted to be based on a legacy platform and will use either the 2.0l or 2.5l version of Subaru’s flat 4 boxer engine.  

Power is estimated to be a not disrespectful 200ps.  The specs sound very promising especially when you consider that some magazines expect the car to be on sale for as little as 2 million yen. 

Its been widely reported that the car will be sold in Japan as a Toyota and internationally as a Subaru.  Either that or it could be marketed through both companies and sold as two slightly different styles, something that is quite likely to happen for the home market. 

At least initially, both versions of the car will be built in Japan at Subaru’s new Oizumi factory.

Fuel economy might be a stumbling block with the engine choice but if they can make the car light enough it might be a worthy inheritor of the AE86 crown.

Unless of course Toyota have something else in the works for that purpose.   

 

Spy Shot of Potential Subaru/Toyota Coupe

Spy Shot of Potential Subaru/Toyota Coupe

Toyota IQ

In Toyota on October 17, 2008 at 4:16 pm

With Much Fanfare earlier this week, Toyota launched their much awaited 1.4 million yen 2 door IQ city car in Japan to go on sale next month.

The IQ would seemingly have all the attributes to make it a big seller in its home market.  First of all its tiny with an equally small 1000cc engine, both features highly regarded by the Japanese consumer.  It also carries the revered name of the most domestically respected brand.  

All of these little strings add to the IQ’S petite bow and should ensure a steady stream of orders.

Japan may however present the biggest challenge to the rather dynamic IQ`s global sales onslaught and that challenge will be the omnipresent Kei car. 

Toyota doesn`t presently dabble in this market directly but it does very heavily with its Daihatsu brand.

For historical, social, enviromental and economic reasons, Japan has long had a class of automobile which must conform to engine capacity (660cc) and size (very small) restrictions.  The benefit in owning one of these dimunitive machines is a big reduction in insurance, road tax and naturally they can be very cheap to buy new.

Toyota`s IQ doesn’t fit this criteria except in size but one without the other is meaningless. 

The range of Kei cars is vast and covers a huge range of styles.  Mostly city cars but also vans, 2 seater sports and even mini 4×4’s.  Nearly all of them come with 4 doors as standard and are supremely spacious given their dimensions.

For less yen than Toyota`s smallest, a newly revised and very cool looking Suzuki Wagon R Stingray can be had with 4 doors, 64 ps against the IQ’s 68ps and able to achieve a rather gratifying 21.5km per litre compared to a slightly better 23km per litre for the IQ.

In my mind the Suzuki would represent a alot more car for the money especially as it starts nearly 200,000 yen cheaper at 1.25 million yen.

The great Japanse public will soon make their preferences clear.

Toyota IQ

Toyota IQ

Suzuki Stingray

Suzuki Stingray

Honda Beat Successor

In Honda on October 13, 2008 at 5:40 pm

Suzuki and Daihatsu firmly lead the way in Kei(660cc) car sales with the Suzuki Wagon R currently in front as Japan’s best selling car.

KEI cars are designed to be cheap to buy, cheap to run and insanely practical for their size.  They have never been about out and out performance. 

Japanese low displacement Regulations stipulate that two types of 660cc engine can be manufactured to keep in line with the authorities.  Either a 54PS normally aspitrated or an ever so slightly turbocharged 64ps version.

Of course a huge tuning scene exists around KEI cars but their is only so much that one can safely extract from such a tiny engine.

Currently the closest you can get to a semi sporting experience is through Daihatsu’s 2 seater Copen, although it is a little soft and in fairness doesn’t really try to be anything but.

The glory days of sporting KEI was in the 90`s was when we had the 2 seater Honda Beat, Suzuki ( ridiculously named) Cappuccino and the quirkiest by far, the Mazda ( although designed by Suzuki) Autozam AZ1 complete with gullwing doors.  

Sadly the Japanese recession killed all these cars off pretty quickly as although they were not expensive to buy they represented zero practicality and could only ever be a second or third car.

The Honda and Suzuki were both Front Mid Engined But the AZ1 was a real midship, like a true thoroughbred. 

Of recent Honda has increased it’s investment in KEI car development and hopes to catch up with Daihatsu and Suzuki in the selling game.

It looks as if Honda are planning a new range of KEI automobiles and the word on the street is that a Successor to the Beat might be one of them. 

Lets hope so.

If the rumour is true then expect the car to have a normally aspirated 3 cylinder block but able to produce the equivalent turbocharged 64PS using Honda`s engine technology.  Although they do offer a turbo in their current LIFE shopping wagon,Honda does have a general aversion to all things forced induction.  

Hopefully other makers will join in the fascinating very low displacement sports market, certainly current economics may dictate so.   

Previous Generation Beat

Previous Generation Beat

The Wonderfully exciting AZ1

The Wonderfully exciting AZ1

New NSX To Be Badged Acura

In Honda on October 9, 2008 at 4:03 pm

Toyota suprisingly didn’t release their Lexus brand into the home market until 2005,  electing to badge the same cars as stuffy old Toyota`s up to that point. 

Following on from the SORT of success that Lexus has experienced in Japan it looks like Honda will follow suit by stamping its new NSX as an Acura (Honda`s upmarket American brand).

Sadly, to emphasise Acura as an exclusive badge, Honda will be following Lexus’s lead in pricing.  Current speculation persists that the V10 NSX will be over 20 million yen  when it is released in the autumn of 2010. 

It`s not clear if the NSX will be promoted as an Acura in every market.  Although certainly it will be in the US and brand sensitive Europe might benefit from a little differentiation.

NSX Replacement At The Ring

NSX Replacement At The Ring