autojaponica

Archive for January, 2009|Monthly archive page

Next Honda S2000

In Honda on January 30, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Honda must be a depressing place to work at the moment

The company is winding down production, people are losing their jobs and Honda is seemingly trying as hard as possible to turn themselves into the frumpiest of all Japanese manufacturers by axing everything that might make the company still appear to cling on to Soichiro Honda’s original dream of producing world class affordable or not sports cars as well as their bread and butter line.

This is a shame because up to now Honda has represented all that is arresting about Japanese Automotivity past, present and future.

They are without doubt the most passionate of all their domestic competitors  when it comes to engineering driving flair .

In Formula 1 Japanese fans were ecstatic to see Honda do well in their glory days and loyally supported them even in the non Japanese driver crap years of late.  Toyota has yet to carry or be able to garner the same interest in their largely more successful F1 campaigns of recent.

The company has now cancelled the NSX for the forseeable future and this week announced that production of the popular S2000 would complete in June of this year. 

Worst of all is that Honda have not announced any plans for an expected S2000 replacement or haven’t they?

According to Japanese media a possible spiritual replacement is still in the works and will make an appearance at the end of 2011 or early 2012 depending on market conditions.

The new car will feature another 4 cylinder 2 or 2.5 litre and may make use of a turbo or super charger (previously sacrilege in Honda sports cars).  A power increase is expected but Honda will utilise technlogy to improve petrol consumption ( diesel or hybrid is not being considered currently) such as a stop/start system and developing more efficient engine management.

Lay out is likely to assume a classic FR guise.

Heres hoping that Honda have another go at  it.  

 

Current Honda S2000

Current Honda S2000

GT-R SUV 2012?

In Nissan on January 26, 2009 at 5:03 pm

It seems that Nissan are determined to follow in Porsche’s footsteps with their GT-R brand. 

Both the upcoming 4 door GT-R and also an increasingly possible SUV version envisaged to Rival some of the premium cross-over vehicles from Europe, specifically the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X6 are still planned as of now.

Originally expected to make an appearance in 2010/2011 the 4 door version of Japan’s fastest ever sports car is now not anticipated until 2012 with the less secure SUV version to follow.   No need to tell you that the delay is as a result of the world not having any money at the moment and especially America which is the intended main market for both models.

Mechanically both cars are still predicted to use the same engine as the current GT-R super car although the 4 door in particular may receive something different.

New Lexus RX350

In Lexus on January 23, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Earlier this week Lexus launched its new RX model replacement in Tokyo.

Japan will receive both the RX350 and the RX450h hybrid model.

The RX350 gets a 3.5 litre V6 engine that produces a very reasonable 280 PS.

As expected the car is dripping with technology focused on fuel economy, safety and comfort as well as driving dynamics.

Making such a large and powerful SUV fuel efficient must be quite a challenge but Lexus have endeavoured to do so.

Most of these improvements are naturally focused on the RX450h but the RX350 achieves a figure of 9.7 km/l which is actually worse than the outgoing model (sold as a Toyota Harrier here) although largely irrelevant because the new car now has a much larger engine (3500 cc vs 2400 cc) with an incomparable power increase.  To put it straightly the RX350 is not very fuel efficient at all but probably about as good as it gets for such a large capacity petrol unit.

Lexus claim that the RX has emission levels 75% lower than the standard adopted by the government for low emissions vehicles.  With that knowledge in hand you might wonder what monster of a car would only just scrape through the approval process. 

The new car has apparently been manufactured using more environmentally friendly materials and most fascinatingly the company say it has reduced the volatile organic compounds (their words) used in some of the interior parts to reduce discomforting odours.  So if you are the owner of a festering stink bomb of a previous generation RX then know that you won’t have to suffer anymore cold winters with the windows open if you trade in now.

All a bit of a mystery to me.

Safety is enhanced by side monitors that enable the driver to avoid obstacles that may lie within the turning radius.   A pre-collision system that uses radar to predict a frontal impact works with a brake assist function and no less than 10 airbags (which is 8 more than my car) are fitted.

All this risk decreasing adds to the disconcerting evidence that if you can afford an expensive car you stand less chance of being injured or worse in a car crash although it is nice for some to know that they’re money is appreciated and that Toyota are taking care of their high value customers. 

The rest of us are just cannon fodder.

Fundamentally, handling is said to be improved by a re-designed rear suspension as well as computer assisted stabilising while cornering.  A number of less dramatic steps have also been taken to aid driving enjoyment.

The old RX styling was loved by some, disliked by others but for the most part left people feeling indifferent.  I myself thought it looked a bit like a boat with its downward sloping front under body.

Thankfully the new car has lost most of its maritime influence and now presents a more solid form than its predecessor.

The front looks particularly well resolved with an attractive light and grille arrangement.

Lines across the body are well executed although i can’t help feeling that the front wheel arches are a little too distinct.

The rear is frankly conservative but perfectly acceptable.

People who like to buy premium SUV’s are a difficult bunch.  They don’t want the car to look or be utilitarian but at the same time want it to have some degree of off road ability if only for when they are asked to defend their purchase.  It is of course doubtful that any Lexus RX’s will ever experience much mudplugging however. 

Because of these unique requirements, all makers of this class of vehicle try to design their car to look as close to its more conventional family members as possible but with a rasied ride height.  

The RX is no exception and and it has me wondering if after employing a stable of sumo wrestlers to sit on the body for a day or two the end result would be a Lexus IS350.

Inside the RX exudes quality and certainly looks to be a comfortable place to spend time. 

Leather and lots of tactile surfaces seem to be the order of the day topped off with some tastefully appointed wood.

Prices for the RX350 start at 4,600,000 JPY.  The much higher spec hybrid RX450h won’t be released for sale until April.

Lexus RX350

Lexus RX350

New Honda Beat

In Honda on January 19, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Speculation still fuels the rumour that Honda may be planning to produce a successor to the famous Beat model of the 90’s.

The old Beat is now a cult car if ever there was one.  Loads of them exist on the roads of Japan both kept standard and also delightfully tuned.

Although the little Honda was hardly especially fast as it couldn’t really be with only 64 PS to play with produced from its tiny 660 cc engine. Most owners however felt that this was largely offset by the car’s sublime handling.

If the new car goes ahead it will debut in a year or two and will feature either a turbo charged or intelligent (as in the old one) engine management system to reach the maximum 64 PS permitted under Japanese KEI car regulations.

 The car will of course be a two seater and and this time will have an automatic folding metal or soft roof.

Honda will aim for a starting price of below 2 million yen.

I love the old model and would like to buy one but some problems exist. 

Firstly i have a car

I don’t have any money. 

My wife doesn’t like the car.

It isn’t practical.

More than any of these however is that I’m a foreigner living in homogeneous Japan and as any foreigner will tell you who has lived in this country for a time, we like to keep as low a profile as possible when going about daily business for self conscious reasons.

This just isn’t possible in a Honda beat.  It is so small and foreigners look so gigantic in it (with the roof down) that frankly you end up looking like a tit proudly on display for all others in the traffic jam to have a gawk at the interesting chap from overseas in his little Honda.

A bit like an Adult riding a child’s bicycle  

Old Honda beat

Old Honda beat

Lexus LF-A Update

In Lexus on January 15, 2009 at 5:03 pm

 Adding further fuel to the fire that the Lexus LF-A will finally make it to production in 2010 comes the news that the Nagoya company will unleash the racing car version once again at this year’s Nurburgring 24 hours race. 

The 4.8 litre 570 PS V10 powered super car is expected to priced at a  horrendous 25 to 30 million Yen when it finally reaches the market putting it firmly in the realm of the very well heeled.

Weight is reported to be an impressive 1550 kg.

Production is apparently going to be kept to only 200 to 300 units initially but will increase as the car gathers momentum in sales. 

Previous rumours have suggested that the car is not as fast around the Nurburgring as the GT-R but then neither is a Ferrari  F430 or Lamborghini Murcielago which are both cars that the fast Lexus will compete against.

This car will have to be not just good but bloody marvellous if it hopes to compete in the prestigious European market (a target area) where at such a large price it will find itself very much in badge snob territory.

New GT-R edition, Spec M

In Nissan on January 14, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Whilst Honda has been continually slapping itself on the wrist for entertaining the idea of a new NSX replacement,  trying Formula 1 and indeed have been making noises about forever committing to making mundane cars from now on, luckily a little more optimism exists at Nissan.

Whether they like it or not the Yokohama Firm created the GT-R before the world went tits up and so they are forced to make it sell and plan on introducing more models to achieve their dream of offering a like for like range to rival Porsche’s dominance in the niche and it is very much a niche where the Stuttgart company resides in.

Within the GT-R brand may come the still planned 4 door and seperately an SUV model but before those two models arrive a more comfort orientated version of the standard car is set to debut in 2010.

Designated Spec M, the new GT-R is conceived as a more luxury alternative to the standard.

Although mechanically the same, Spec M customers will have the choice of outfitting their cars with all kinds of interior trim options.

It is though a range of softer less motor-sport inspired seats will be offered in a range of colours and materials.  A very, very high end audio system will be a part of the package and further exterior colour options are to be made available.

Apparently the focus of the Spec M is flexibility of order with the car to be available in in any mixture of trim or bells and whistles that the customer wishes.

Pricing is not clear but you would have to be a bit silly not to imagine it’s going to be somewhere north of the standard GT-R.

Nissan GT-R Spec V Released

In Nissan on January 8, 2009 at 9:56 am

Nissan today released the long awaited Spec V version of its Porsche beating GT-R super car.

Designed to be a more extreme and performance focused version of an already phenomenally fast car the new Spec V goes on sale at only seven specially selected dealers across Japan for an almost breathtaking 15,750,000 Yen.

Naturally in order to justify such a large premium over the existing standard model, Nissan have been busy making the Spec V a little special.

Just so that everybody knows that yours is a Spec V the specification includes a carbon fibre rear spoiler,  a carbon fibre grille and carbon fibre brake ducts.  The carbon fibre theme continues inside where the material embellishes various trim areas (basically there is a lot of carbon fibre).  Unlike the standard model, Nissan’s Spec V only comes available with two seats and features very expensive carbon fibre Recaro buckets. 

Most wonderfully of all is that the Spec V is finished in its very own unique black opal body colour (no other colour is available).

Although Nissan don’t seem to have increased the power output of the engine they do claim to have enhanced performance with a new high gear boost control device, which momentarily increases boost to the twin turbochargers for greater torque and better acceleration.

The Spec V is also adorned with an exotic titanium coated exhaust system and carbon ceramic brakes showing through some new lightweight wheels shod in sticky rubber and all looked after by an exclusive suspension set up. 

Of course all the attention that has been lavished on the car has resulted in a lighter vehicle than the standard GT-R.

Although this car was already highly developed by the time the global recession struck it is still a wonder that such a fabulously excessive automobile has made it to production.  If Nissan were Honda it would have been axed already but thankfully that is not the case and the Spec V has seen the light of day.

Deciding whether the car is really worth 7 million Yen more than the standard GT-R will be down to those who can afford to think about it but it does seem to be priced more to maintain exclusivity than for the level of equipment.

This is a rather historical moment in Japanese automotive history as the Nissan GT-R Spec V represents the most expensive and fastest new car ever to go into production in Japan.

 

Nissan GT-R Spec V

Nissan GT-R Spec V

New 2009/2010 Nissan Silvia?

In Nissan on January 7, 2009 at 5:36 pm

In a rare piece of positive news from the world of Japanese sports cars, it emerges that Nissan are considering a successor to the Japanese market Silvia last produced in 2002.

Rampant speculation suggests that the Yokohama firm have been speaking to their dealers and trying to gain some insight into how a reasonably priced sports coupe might be received by an increasingly frugal Japanese public.

To be perceived as a lead in sports model to sit below the Fairlady Z, if the car goes ahead it will be designed as a classic front engined rear wheel drive layout based on Nissan’s adaptable FM platform that currently underpins the recently released new generation Fairlady Z.  The new coupe however is expected to be both shorter and narrower in dimension.

Rumblings indicate that power may be derived from a 1800 cc turbocharged unit so over 200 PS would seem entirely possible.

Nissan would likely offer a 6 speed manual transmission along with a sequential paddle shift as an available cost option.

On a gracious note, Nissan is hoping to be able to sell the coupe to us the recession weary public for less than 2.5 million JPY.

Expect more information over the next few months but no doubt the rumour machine will start in earnest (at least quietly) at this months Tokyo Auto Salon.

Should they go ahead with the car?

Of course they should although it might contradict Nissan’s seeming desire to move their sports products upmarket.

To succeed, first of all it will need to to be an up yours sort of car ( in true Japanese sports car style) but maintaining unquestionable dynamics and mechanics.

With recorded waning interest among Japanese young people Nissan will have to fight for sales but with recent reduced interest from other domestic manufacturers in the performance market they might have a little niche all to themselves for a while.

Nissan would also need to keep their recent aversion to all things third party tuning under their cap (as evidenced by the restrictions programmed into the GT-R’s ECU to limit tuners access) as the tuning market and all its followers will make a large proportion of sales in Japan.

Lastly if the home market don’t buy it then foreign lovers of lairy Japanese sports cars will.

Build it Nissan.

Last Generation Silvia

Last Generation Silvia