Sunday, May 18, 2008

250GP replacement to be unveiled Saturday

Yamaha_TD2.jpgThe four-stroke replacement for 250cc two-stroke racing will be unveiled at the Grand Prix de France this weekend. It's expected that the class will be replaced by 600cc four-stroke prototypes. The rules will be presented in proposal form, then considered by both the International Race Teams Association and Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers Association and should be finalized June 8 at the Catalunya GP. The new rules could be implemented as early as 2010.

Despite heavy opposition from KTM and Aprilia, it's expected that the rules change will pass. To allow those companies time to adapt (companies who have significantly more experience racing two-strokes than four), it's expected that there will be a one-year moratorium on new teams entering the class, taking effect once the rules are implemented. Check back Saturday for full details.

250GP replaced with four-stroke 625-650cc inline-fours

250GP_four-stroke.jpgDorna unveiled its proposal for a four-stroke replacement for the 250GP class today. If it gets its way, 250cc two-strokes will be replaced by four-strokes of between 625 and 650cc in 2011.The capacity was chosen to protect World Supersport racing. With the aim of keeping costs down, further rules dictate the new engines will be inline-fours, won't have traction control and will use controlled ECUs. Unlike World Supersport, the as yet unnamed new class of GP racing will be exclusively prototype based. No production machines will be allowed.

While the new capacity may sound too close to MotoGP's 800cc limit, the changes are intended to drastically reduce costs. Right now, at about €1million, leasing a 250cc GP bike is only about one-third cheaper than a MotoGP machine. Under the new rules, that cost would drop to less than €100,000. That seems to be the driving reason for these drastic changes, so while we will mourn the loss of yet another two-stroke racing class, we will welcome more accessible, more competitive racing.

Final details of the rule changes will be announced after they are ratified June 7 at the Catalunya GP.

foto modifikasi yamaha mio

Yamaha's success saling automatic bike in Indonesia influenced other manufacturer to sale the same bike type. After Yamaha Nouvo, Yamaha launch Yamaha Mio which has won Indonesian market and forced Honda and Suzuki to take a role in this class. Honda launched Honda Vario and Suzuki lauched Suzuki Spin and Skywave to compete Yamaha Mio. Then, Yamaha launch Mio Soul and we hear some rumors in recent days that Yamaha will bring their retro bike to Indonesia, Yamaha Vino. People call it Yamaha Mio Vino, yups .. it could be a retro style of Yamaha Mio, not like it's original Vino which has only 50CC capacity, but 125CC.

Yamaha Mio Vino, Mio gaya Retro

Honda CS1, Your New City Sport Choice

After being secret for about two monts, finally Honda launch their new motorcycle in Indonesia. This motorcycle has been advertised for about one month, but didn't mentinoned it's name. And finally, 6 April last week, Honda launch it for public in Surabaya. It's name is Honda CS1 (City Sport).

AMG’s Green Initiatives Include Possibility of Diesels, Hybrids, and Turbo V-6s

Mercedes-Benz performance brand AMG shows its environmental side.

Mercedes’s AMG performance division wants to offer guiltless pleasure for those who love performance cars but are tired of being criticized for a lack of commitment to save the planet.

On the eve of the 2008 Geneva auto show, AMG boss Volker Mornhinweg boldly announced that the fleet of performance cars will achieve a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2012. Smaller engines, hybrid systems, and diesels are all on the table for Mercedes’ thriving performance sub-brand.

Mornhinweg leveled a shot at BMW’s claim to “efficient dynamics” which is spawning products such as the X5 Vision diesel hybrid concept, also unveiled in Geneva. AMG’s roots are in racing, he said, and “racing was always about ‘efficient dynamics,’ we just called it differently.” He then went on to announce fuel-saving technologies to be offered in AMG cars across the globe.

In 2010, direct-injection gasoline engines and start-stop systems will mark the beginning of the push to lower consumption and emissions. AMG is developing a crankshaft starter-generator system that it claims is far more advanced that BMW’s current system, which operates with a conventional starter.

Two-Mode Performance

But that kind of technology is just the beginning. AMG is working on full hybrid cars that can drive short distances with just the electric motor. Mercedes is part of a consortium with General Motors, Chrysler, and BMW in developing this “two-mode” or full hybrid system for use by each automaker.

Mercedes did not want to launch its version of the two-mode system in the M-class, as there already are hybrid SUVs on the market, and “we don’t want to be a follower,” says Mornhinweg. For AMG, look for the technology to bow on a low, sporty car like the CL, the SL, or the CLS.

What’s more, you may be able to get an AMG oil-burner. Mornhinweg: “We are monitoring the diesel. There is currently no demand, but if that changes, we can react immediately.”
The idea would not be new. Five years ago, AMG offered the 228-hp, five-cylinder C30 CDI turbo-diesel, and while it was successful in some Southern European markets, it was loud and generally unloved. AMG had not seriously considered a follow-up model, but that thinking has changed. By the end of 2008, the brand will have decided whether to proceed with a second diesel.

Turbocharged V-6s on Tap?

In a reversal of its strategy of the past few years, AMG could also offer six-cylinder gasoline engines again. This time around, they would be turbocharged. Mornhinweg says that a decision will be made soon. Turbocharged V-8 engines are already high on the agenda.

Despite all that fuel-saving technology, AMG continues to focus on fun and performance. The new MCT multi-clutch transmission—essentially Mercedes’ seven-speed automatic with a multiclutch system replacing the torque converter—will migrate to more models after its debut in the SL63 AMG. The next-generation CLK and SLK are sure bets to receive the gearbox, while the C-class is an open question. It won’t replace the automatic throughout the lineup as it is not well-suited to towing and does not fit the character of the S- or CL-class luxury cars.

AMG will also up its performance credibility with ceramic brakes. By now, they are reliable but cooling is still a challenge, and there needs to be a significant performance advantage over the regular brakes to warrant the additional cost.

AMG is hoping its fuel-saving announcements present a challenge to competitors. Porsche has announced a CO2 reduction of 30 percent for its V-6 hybrid powertrain over the regular V-6. But such savings across the entire fleet are “unrealistic,” Porsche board member Wolfgang Dürheimer tells us here in Geneva.

Last year, AMG sold 20,107 units, its best results ever. For 2008 and beyond, Mornhinweg is aiming for “further, profitable growth.” If he reaches his ambitious CO2 targets, Mother Earth won’t really care.

Meanwhile, Daimler AG is claiming a breakthrough in battery technology, saying it has achieved the Holy Grail of adapting lithium-ion technology for automotive use—crucial to winning the race to offering hybrid, electric, and fuel-cell vehicles. It will be used in the Mercedes S 400 BlueHybrid staring in 2009. The stumbling block had been integrating the power source into the climate control system

2011 Chevrolet Volt Concept

GM checks off milestones in the development of its gasoline-electric plug-in vehicle.

General Motors is developing the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle and its lithium-ion battery pack on parallel paths—and both have passed significant milestones en route to a targeted November 2010 launch.

Larry Burns, GM vice president of research and development and strategic planning, tells Car and Driver in an interview that the design of the car has been frozen. While the production model is not a twin of the Volt concept, the more conventional sedan bears a family resemblance to the Chevy Malibu. And, in the interests of speed, it dips into parts bins of existing GM products wherever possible. That likely includes an existing four-cylinder gasoline engine as the on-board means of recharging the battery that, alone, gives the vehicle a range of only 40 miles.

The car was designed around the need to package a battery pack with a 150,000-mile life, with enough performance for a 0-to-60 mph time of 8.5 seconds. The Volt concept also underwent changes to improve aerodynamics after extensive wind-tunnel testing.

Time to Hit the Road

And at an event in Detroit, GM execs discussed preparations for road-testing the lithium-ion batteries that will go into the production car—past tests were with nickel-metal hydride batteries. The next stage of testing begins this month, with battery packs in a 2001 Chevy Malibu mule to gather much-needed durability data as the team scrambles to simulate 10 years of usage over the next two.

Burns says initially GM canvassed numerous battery suppliers around the world as part of its e-flex program. After a “bake-off” between suppliers, GM is working with two deemed to “have the chemistries to get there.” Burns says there are eight criteria that GM determined its lithium-ion batteries must meet for automotive application, including such things as energy density, extreme temperature viability, the material set, and cost.

GM has shown a series of concepts with the e-flex propulsion system: the original gasoline-electric Volt concept, a hydrogen-electric Volt, and the Opel Flextreme, which is diesel-electric.
The Volt will qualify as a PZEV (partial zero-emissions vehicle) and there will be an E85 ULEV (ultra-low emissions vehicle), but there are no plans for a diesel, execs said this week.

Second-Gen Work Underway

Meanwhile, Burns says work is already underway on the second generation. He declines to give a timeframe.

Plug-ins may be exciting, but with a range of only 40 miles, they fall short in comparison to a family-size fuel-cell vehicle with a 300-mile range and zero emissions. Burns sees work on plug-ins as a complimentary play to FCVs that convert hydrogen to electricity onboard, with batteries for power assist and to store energy regenerated in braking.

And he doesn’t anticipate the Chevy Tahoe or other full-size vehicles—or even minivans, wagons or mid-size SUVs—will be offered as plug-ins. “It’s okay for a Cobalt-sized vehicle, but not something with twice the mass.” For larger vehicles, GM’s two-mode hybrid system makes more sense. And efficient gasoline engines will continue to play a significant role in the future, Burns says.

GM Determined to be Fuel-Cell Vehicle Leader

And while the Volt program has been designated a number-one priority at GM, fuel-cell-vehicle development is running full steam as well, Burns says, because GM is determined not to repeat with FCVs what happened with hybrids, with Toyota getting so far out in front of the market. “Toyota creamed us on the Prius,” Burns says. “It won’t happen again.”

Audi R8 Sport Under Consideration

Pole-dancing? Audi’s next lightweight supermodel might be a bit more of a stripper.

The Audi R8 is great. But as evidenced by the R8 V-12 TDI (nee R8 TDI Le Mans) concept car on display at this year’s Detroit and Geneva auto shows, Audi is clearly thinking about proliferating the R8 lineup.

The next R8 to roll down the spotless Neckarsulm, Germany, assembly line may be a lightweight stripper version rather than a more powerful oil-burner. So hints Stafan Reil, the head of development for Quattro, GmbH, which assembles the R8 and almost every Audi that starts with “S” and “RS.”

Lighter, more intensified cars make sense for Audi’s sport cars, Reil tells Car and Driver, much like Lamborghini’s success with the lightened Gallardo Superleggera.

“This is a direction you can go and make business,” Reil says, stressing that Audi won’t build anything that won’t make the company money. “It makes sense for the TT, and maybe in the future in an R8.”

A stripped-down-and-juiced-up R8, likely to be called the R8 Sport or R8 Quattro Sport, would adhere to the same ethos as the 2005 TT Quattro Sport, 1000 of which were made in 2005, although none made it to the U.S. The TT Quattro Sport had a more powerful version of the TT’s turbocharged four-cylinder engine, with a stiffer suspension, fewer interior comfort features, and no rear seats or spare tire. Freed from the additional weight, the Sport was able to lop half a second off the 0-to-60 mph sprint. Styling was unique, as was the paint job: all had a black roof over a contrasting body color.
This philosophy would translate well to the R8. Horsepower would rise from 420 to somewhere around 500, we think, with racing seats, fewer speakers, and more carbon fiber throughout the body and chassis. We also expect to see carbon-ceramic brakes and slightly racier bodywork/paintwork. Such a car might be able to hit 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds, given that the “base” R8 does the dash in four flat.

Reil’s comments also suggest a similar treatment is planned for the TT, in addition to the TT-S that debuted in Detroit and the rumored TT-RS. When and where either of these models would be sold is still up in the air. But for our part, we sure hope they can “make business” with them over here

2010 Audi S4 to Get Supercharged V6

Audi maintains performance while increasing efficiency by 20%.

Those who assumed the 2010 Audi S4 would share its powertrain with the S5 were incorrect. Instead, look for an all-new forced-induction 3.0-liter V-6 that will generate something close to the 340 horsepower found in the outgoing S4’s 4.2-liter V-8.

Why is the Audi S4 moving from a V-8 to a V-6, just as the BMW M3 moved from an inline-six to a V-8? In two words: Fuel economy. Audi’s strategy is to deliver comparable or improved overall performance by toeing the line on weight and maintaining power output by using forced induction on a smaller displacement engine. Doing so will boost a manual transmission S4’s fuel economy on the European cycle to 23.3 mpg compared with only 19.4 mpg for the V-8 S5. That’s an efficiency gain of 20%.

A less powerful, 290-hp, 310 lb-ft version of the engine will be the base offering in the A6 Quattro, replacing the 3.2-liter V-6. Known as TFSI, which in the past has been Audi’s internal moniker for four-cylinder turbos, the new engine may be referred to as the 3.0T in the model name, possibly indicating a twin-charged system using both a supercharger and a turbocharger. While Volkswagen has a “twincharger,” Audi has not yet offered such a system. At the very least, we expect the new V-6 to be supercharged, although what will allow the S4’s version to generate 50 or so more horsepower is still a mystery.

Don’t look for a dramatically lower weight in this S4. Compared with the outgoing 2008 A4, the redesigned 2009 A4’s body is approximately 10 percent lighter. The A4 and S4 will use identical sheetmetal this time around—the new S4 apparently was not developed by Audi’s high-performance division, Quattro GmbH, but the S4 will be distinguished by having distinct cladding from the A4. Not only does the sharing save money, but stresses the exclusivity of the RS 4 which will better stand out with its distinct sheetmetal—including bulging fenders—and a V-8.
We expect to see Audi roll out its Magna-sourced “sport differential” (BMW uses ZF) in the S5 and Q5 as well, to combat understeer in its four-wheel-drive vehicles. This trick differential, like the one in the BMW X6, adds about 40 pounds. The S4 will be the first Audi vehicle in the U.S. with a longitudinal engine layout to offer a dual-clutch transmission. Now known as S tronic (although even Audi people still call it DSG, as it was originally known, and as VW still calls it), this seven-speed sequential-manual will further improve performance and efficiency.

The supercharger will make the V-6 weigh about the same as the V-8 overall. Add in the requisite safety and luxury features that every new model gets, and it’s a wash. Expect Audi to claim a nominal weight reduction of only 20–100 pounds for the new model, putting it at about 3900 pounds.

Audi will debut the 2010 S4 this fall sometime after the 2008 Paris show in October—making the L.A. show in November a possibility. Expect the new S4 to compete with the BMW 335i for efficiency but the Audi probably won’t have the edge in performance and will cost significantly more. Watch for more details on the new S4’s engine in the coming days.

2006 BMW Z4 M Coupe vs. 2006 Porsche Cayman S

Two used-to-be roadsters aim for the hearts of purist drivers.

The tradition of sports-car automaking in recent history has been to turn out a roadster, wait until sales slip, then produce a hardtop to pick up the slack. To the nonenthusiast driver, the idea of turning a perfectly good convertible sports car into a hardtop coupe must seem as pointless as the plot of the film Snakes on a Plane. Why give up the joys of driving alfresco to permanently insert yourself into a rolling phone booth, especially if it costs about the same as the ragtop? But adding a roof to a convertible makes sense to car enthusiasts, because the roof increases structural rigidity that in turn allows for a sportier chassis.

In general, a stiff structure leads to a car that is more precise all around, as everything that is intended to move on a car (wheels, suspension, steering) works best when it is attached to a structure that moves about as little as a line at the DMV. Bolt a terrific chassis to a less-than-rigid platform, and movement in the structure will introduce unpredictable motion and inexact wheel control that will muddy handling. Stiff springs, often found on sporting cars, only exacerbate the motion in a flexing structure. Similarly, a floppy structure will introduce imprecision to the steering system, potentially degrading feel and accuracy.

The Porsche Cayman S and the recently introduced BMW Z4 M coupe are hardtop versions of the Porsche Boxster and BMW Z4 M roadster, although Porsche takes exception to that assessment and wants the Cayman considered as a completely separate model line. Delusion aside, the Cayman S and the M coupe are in the grand, olden-day tradition of the MGB GT coupe and Triumph GT6, trading open-air motoring for a distinctive look and the dynamic benefits that come from increased structural rigidity. Indeed, Porsche claims the hardtop Cayman S is 100 percent more rigid than a softtop Boxster S. Both deliver on the promise of the coupe née convertible by offering a driving experience that is different — more sporting and track-ready than that of their cloth-top brethren.

For the hardtop Cayman S, Porsche charges $4200 more than the price of the convertible Boxster S. BMW, though, charges $2000 less for the M coupe than the convertible M roadster. We can imagine that more than a few customers have walked into a Porsche dealership and balked at the idea that the fixed-roof car costs more than the ragtop. Porsche points out a significant fact: The Cayman S has a larger, 3.4-liter engine and 15 more horses than the Boxster S. But pricing the Cayman above the Boxster does separate the driving poseur from the purist.

At this point you’re probably wondering when we’re gonna insert the 400-hp Corvette into this comparison test. No, the Vette remains in the wings because Corvette coupes all have removable targa-style roofs, whereas our two Germans have fixed roofs. If you’re thinking a Z06, which has a fixed roof, would fit in with these coupes, we’d argue that its 505 horsepower puts it in a different league. Arbitrary, you say? Well, you and tech director/Corvette drooler Larry Webster should get a room. In any event, the Corvette isn’t here, so it’s Germany versus Germany, BMW versus Porsche. And after a week comparing the Cayman S and M coupe, we’ve discovered that although both are spawned from roadsters and offer nearly identical performance, it was easy to choose a winner.

We’ve been waiting to get behind the wheel of the M coupe since BMW pulled the wraps off of it at the Frankfurt auto show in 2005. We still remember with fondness the last-generation M coupe, even though in silhouette it looked like a low-top boot. When BMW stopped producing the original M coupe in 2002, it was 315 horsepower strong and arguably the most amusing car in BMW’s lineup. Would the new coupe, we wondered, be engaging enough to make us forget the fondness we had for its predecessor?

The ’06 M coupe is a striking and handsome design when you see it in person. Admittedly, there is a great deal of excited styling, flame surfacing, and what-not crammed into its diminutive 161.9 inches, but all the discordant lines somehow gel together to give off a pleasant vibe that suggests baby Aston Martin. That might be a stretch, but we can all agree that this M coupe’s exterior design will turn on a larger swath of the populace than the previous M coupe did. When parked next to the Porsche, the Z4 M consistently drew more attention and praise. Perhaps passersby didn’t realize the Cayman S was a new model and mistook it for a 911, a mistake that Cayman owners likely won’t mind.

Under the long hood of the M coupe is the familiar iron-block inline six-cylinder engine with an aluminum head that currently propels the M3 and the Z4 M roadster. As in the M roadster, the engine makes 330 horses high up at 7900 rpm, with 262 pound-feet of torque coming at 4900 rpm. The BMW’s logbook on this comparo was full of praise for the responsive flexibility and “angry metallic wail” of the powerful straight-six. It’s connected to the engine by a ZF six-speed manual that boasts short throws but has a slightly rubbery feel. We also found that it’s easy to beat the second-gear synchros during a high-rpm shift from first to second gear. You get a teeth-rattling grrauuch!

A quick run through the 3303-pound M-car’s gears produces a 0-to-60 time of 4.8 seconds, a quarter-mile time of 13.4 seconds at 105 mph, and a governed top speed of 160 mph. The Cayman S rang in at 4.8 seconds to 60 and posted a slightly quicker quarter-mile time of 13.3 seconds at 107 mph on its way to an ungoverned top speed of 166 mph. This M coupe proved to be a couple of ticks slower than the M roadster we tested in June, which was just 26 pounds lighter (the performance difference is likely attributable to production variation and a green engine). Nevertheless, the BMW is quick and has shorter gearing (through the first four gears) than the Cayman S, endowing it with an eagerness that makes it feel faster than the Porsche in day-to-day urban driving.

On the highway, the coupe locks onto the horizon and rarely requires any correction to stay steadfastly in a lane, but the addition of a roof means it’s not so easy to see the traffic around you. The view out the back is only good for reading the license plate of the car directly behind, rear-quarter views are blocked by the large C-pillars and hatch, the windshield is so short you’ll have to crane your neck to see stoplights dangling overhead, and the roof creeps into one’s peripheral vision. Not surprisingly, six-foot-five tech editor Dave VanderWerp griped the loudest about the pillbox-view interior. It does feel smaller and more intimate than the one-cubic-foot difference between the two cars suggests. However, for humans of a more reasonable stature, the M coupe’s intimacy lends a special feel that is absent in the more spacious Cayman. Whenever we’re in the Cayman, we’re reminded of its brother, the Boxster. The M coupe somehow manages to make us completely forget the Z4 with which it shares much of its interior.

After a slog of 150 or so miles, we arrived at GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Michigan. We would have been fresh and ready to start lapping the M coupe, but we needed a moment to walk off the miles owing to the stiff ride, unyielding seats, and seating position that arranges the driver almost between the rear wheels. Perhaps our glutes were just sore and sensitive from racing go-karts a few days before, but the Cayman S didn’t draw any such complaints. This would also be a good time to mention that the M coupe ran out of gas on the way to the track while continuing to show an eighth of a tank on hand and a range of 40 miles. Unnervingly, it repeated this failure a second time, the needle showing a quarter of a tank and 60 miles still in the bank. A fill-up revealed that the coupe had mysteriously run out of fuel with four gallons in its 14.5-gallon tank.

On the track, the M-car’s engine proved willing and eager to pull the coupe hard out of corners. Steering feel through the thick-rimmed, multifunctional steering wheel received praise from associate technical editor Robin Warner. “I love gripping the thick wheel in my hands,” he enthused, “and I always know what the car is doing.” However, what Warner giveth, Warner taketh away: “Unfortunately, what it’s always doing is understeering.”

Supporting the M coupe are struts up front and a multilink setup in back. Compared with the M roadster, the coupe has higher spring rates and more aggressive damping. Many chassis parts are shared with the M3, and although the tuning is different, the setup is conceptually the same. Common components include the rear subframe, limited-slip differential, rear anti-roll-bar mounting points, wheel bearings, front control arms, and vented and cross-drilled rotors clamped by single-piston calipers that are shared with the M3 Competition package. On the skidpad, the coupe clung to the tune of 0.89 g. On the track, it lacks the fluidity, sensitivity to weight transfer, and overall grip of the Cayman. We all agreed that the M coupe is willing and easy to drive on the track, but it takes only one corner in the Cayman S to realize the Porsche has one of the best sports-car chassis this side of a Lotus.

Even before we started lapping GingerMan’s 1.88-mile circuit, the brake feel of the M coupe drew some flack: “Longish pedal travel, strong and grabby, but lacking the firm pedal of the Porsche.” Nonetheless, the BMW equaled the Porsche’s 154-foot stop from 70 mph. After three hot laps, the brake pedal became familiar enough with the carpet that we’re surprised they didn’t get engaged. As the brakes began to fade, the Continental ContiSportContact tires began to lose grip and squirm underneath. Interestingly, BMW was stuck with tires that are a generation old. Continental couldn’t make sufficient quantities of its ContiSportContact 2 series in the necessary sizes in time for the M coupe’s launch. The old Contis have an M3 marking on the sidewall, which indicates that BMW had some say in their development, but they still pale next to the Cayman S’s rubber. Porsche equips most of its cars with Mich­elin Pilot Sport PS2s, and the extra grip the Cayman S enjoys over the M coupe is probably due to Porsche’s choice of rubber. With more time, we might have outfitted the M coupe with PS2s to see how the tires affect skidpad grip and lap times. We certainly could have purchased a lot of tires for the $12,380 difference in as-tested prices between the two cars [or bought a Kia Rio — Ed.]. Our $56,270 Z4 M (that price includes a $1000 gas-guzzler tax) came equipped with rain-sensing wipers, power seats, auto-dimming mirrors, and a navigation system and still managed to undercut the Cayman S’s $59,695 base price, not to mention the $68,650 as-tested price. There is some value here, and the M coupe feels sporting and alive in isolation, but life becomes unsettled for the BMW as long as a Porsche is around.

The Cayman S, fresh off a win against the barely legal Lotus Exige [“Coup de Coupes,” C/D, March 2006], faces a more sensible and civilized competitor in the Z4 M coupe. The Cayman S couldn’t quite match the track prowess of the Exige, but it clobbered it everywhere else. This time, the Porsche is up against a BMW that is similar in concept and is blessed with more than a modicum of practicality.

The Cayman S matches or beats all the BMW’s performance numbers (except the 5-to-60-mph time) and proved to be more usable and easier to live with on a daily basis. A lot of the livability can likely be traced to the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) that drops the suspension by 0.4 inch and allows the dampers to be adjusted with the touch of a button. PASM costs $1990, but it gives the Cayman S a smooth and supple ride in the normal mode — even when equipped with 19-inch wheels with rubber-band-like sidewalls — and if you want a track-ready setup, push the PASM button or the sport button, and a firmly damped suspension is immediately at hand.

In the suspension’s normal mode, we settled into the flawless seating position and reveled in the Cayman’s superior outward visibility. After slipping into the supportive if simple-looking chairs, we happily spent hours at a time behind the wheel. A couple of hours in the harsher M coupe are all one needs to begin to feel a bit battered.

On the track, the Cayman S was nearly two seconds quicker than the BMW. That time can likely be traced to the glued-to-the-track Michelin tires, fade-resistant brakes, and easy-to-exploit and neutral handling. We’ve come to expect strong brakes from Porsche, so it’s no surprise that the four-piston calipers clamping large cross-drilled rotors offered fade-free performance and a firm, reassuring pedal feel. Perhaps due to its mid-engine layout and slightly rearward weight distribution, the Cayman S felt more stable and balanced during severe braking. Steering is similarly reassuring, direct, and communicative. Effort builds predictably through the relatively thin-rimmed, three-spoke wheel. With 295 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque, the throaty 3.4-liter flat-six makes short work of straightaways. In the Cayman S, shift efforts are lighter and throws from the six-speed manual transmission are longer, but if you demand shorter throws, Porsche offers a sport-shift option for $765.

Through the 11 corners of GingerMan Raceway, the Porsche felt alive. It’s seemingly unperturbed by cornering pressure. Brake late into a corner, and the rear end will begin to come around ever so gradually and predictably. Do all your braking in a straight line, and the Cayman S will take a neutral set that can only be upset by a quick lift or quick stab of the throttle. Add more steering, and experience understeer. Unlike so many things in life, the Cayman S’s handling is faithful and vice-free.

2008 Limited Edition Porsche Boxster and Boxster S

Orange-flavored Boxsters to go into production soon.

There’s really only one way to describe Porsche’s Limited Edition Boxster and Boxster S: Orange.

We first saw this retro-inspired paint job on the 911 GT3 RS a year ago, and now it has been bestowed on the Boxster line. In fact, the color covers everything in the Boxster: the roll bars, interior trim, and even the shift pattern markings are rendered in the less-than-subtle hue. Black side mirrors, intake vents, and script “Boxster” badges offer a slight visual reprieve.

It’s all due to a Splashlight Studios creation that was shown at the New York auto show and attracted so much interest that Porsche wants to endow 500 new Boxsters—250 base models and 250 S models—with the paint job. The modified cars will go into production soon, with an aggressive front lip, revised rear spoiler, and a diffuser in the rear bumper that Porsche says reduces aerodynamic lift.

To ensure this Boxster is special, the package adds a dual-tip sport exhaust to add a handful of extra ponies to the already powerful car.

Inside, Porsche nabs the three-spoke Alcantara-clad steering wheel from the GT3 RS, and they’ve added Alcantara to the seats and parking brake. The car rides on sleek black wheels with silver lips.

Even though the 2007 Boxster S is considerably faster than last year’s model, it’s hard to imagine anyone confusing these special edition cars for a real GT3 RS. Still, we don’t doubt there will be Boxster owners trying to do just that. Right after they don sunglasses so they can look at the car without retinal damage.

2009 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid

Porsche’s upcoming hybrid ute will deliver more than 400 pound-feet of torque.

Two years ago at the Frankfurt auto show, Porsche announced it had begun work on a hybrid Cayenne program, but the company has remained quiet since then, except to tell us it has remained partnered with VW on the SUV’s development. However, Porsche recently broke its silence and gave us a few more details about what we can expect from its new hybrid SUV, which is on track for a 2009 launch.

What we know is that a compact, 34-kW electric motor in the Cayenne hybrid will slot between its 3.6-liter V-6 and the six-speed automatic transmission, a series configuration that Porsche claims is more compatible with the Cayenne’s platform. The company also says the setup is more fuel efficient and flexible in terms of the hybrid system management, which Porsche claims will allow the vehicle’s performance to remain, well, Porsche-like. By adding electric power to the 290-hp, direct-injection V-6, maximum torque rises from 273 lb-ft to over 400 at 1800 rpm for the hybrid. That part sounds good, but all the hybrid components will add significant weight to the already bloated Cayenne, so we’ll have to wait to see what affect this has on not only acceleration but Porsche hallmarks such as handling and braking as well.

Porsche’s fuel-economy target for the Cayenne hybrid is 24 to 26 mpg—some 25 percent better than the current V-6 Cayenne’s mpg. Porsche did not make any mention of reduced emissions, but we expect at least commensurate improvements along those lines.

Other unique features of the Cayenne hybrid that have been designed to decrease fuel consumption include the vacuum pump for the brakes and the air conditioning, which will operate on electric power. Components such as the oil pump in the Cayenne’s automatic transmission, have also been replaced by electrically powered units. Further efficiencies were gained by the fitting of an electrohydraulic steering system—a move that may not be welcomed by purists.

Porsche also plans to introduce a hybrid version of its Panamera four-door sometime after its 2009 debut.

This is all great news, we suppose, but we’re still scratching our heads trying to figure out exactly what the point is of a hybrid Cayenne or Panamera. After all, few people buy luxury SUVs or four-door GTs because they’re “green.” Nor, for that matter, do they stay away from them because they’re not.

To the contrary, however, Porsche has claimed in the past that more and more rich people are interested in environmentally sound vehicles. But is the demand really that high? The only thing we can surmise is that Porsche is bending under major regulatory pressures, because considering what low volumes the Cayenne hybrid is expected to pull in, there can’t be much money in it, even at the prices we expect Porsche to charge for its mighty new green machines.

Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet

It’s official: the 911 lineup adds yet another sibling.

We almost didn’t write about this car since, well, there’s so little cutting-edge news here, but then we said, “What the heck?” since it’s such good eye candy. So here goes:

Hear ye! Hear ye! Behold the 2008 Porsche 911 Turbo cabriolet! A car that looks, well, like a 911 Turbo with the standard 911 cabriolet’s fabric top! Woo-woo!

Okay, however unsurprised we may be with the Turbo cab’s appearance, it’s not as if we’re not salivating. We find the 911 Turbo cabriolet as delicious as the current 911 Turbo coupe. The convertible will be powered by the same frighteningly powerful 480-hp 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged flat-six as the coupe and offered with the same choice of six-speed manual or Tiptronic S automatic transmission.

The additional weight and rigidity compromises of the convertible will dampen performance just a tad, with only a claimed 150-pound weight gain. When the hardtop is capable of a 3.4-second sprint to 60 mph, who are we to bicker about a few 10ths when the sun is beaming on our smiling faces?

Slated to be released this September, the 911 Turbo will be Porsche’s fastest open-topped car since last year’s $440,000 Carrera GT, and the most expensive car in Porsche’s current lineup. Base price in Europe will be equivalent to roughly $172,000, a $30k smack above the previous generation car, while in the U.S. the 911 Turbo Cab is a relative deal starting at $137,360.

2008 Porsche 911 GT2

A V-8 and a manual: Has Porsche finally perfected the Cayenne?

Our relationship with the Porsche Cayenne has been love/hate from the beginning. First, the idea—let alone the execution—of a big, heavy Porsche ute was something not everyone loved. But Porsche gave all Cayenne models a serious power upgrade for ’08, which we all loved. Then it announced the Cayenne hybrid, which put some of us off again. But Porsche is roping us back in at the Frankfurt auto show with this tasty dish: the 2009 Cayenne GTS.

Powered by an enhanced version of the Cayenne S’s naturally aspirated 4.8-liter V-8 with a tidy 400 horsepower, the GTS is a distinctly sport-flavored model that slots in nicely between the mid-level 385-hp S and the top-dog 500-hp Cayenne Turbo. Even better, the GTS will be available with—get this—a true six-speed manual transmission as a no-cost option. We’re, um, sorta looking forward to trying out that combo.

Other changes include a tightened chassis, which gets all kinds of techie stuff like electronic dampers, an air suspension, and Porsche’s excellent stability-control system as standard. Gorgeous multispoke 21-inch wheels and 295/35 tires reside under slight fender flares. Much more aggressive lower-body addenda, new fascias, a more aggressive rear spoiler, and cool quad tailpipes are among the rest of the revisions. Sport seats and two new available colors—Nordic Gold and GTS Red—round out the GTS-specific features.

Now, if only Porsche could put the big girl on a weight-loss program, we might consider it perfected. In the meantime, the GTS looks darn close. We’ll see the 2009 Cayenne GTS here next March at an expected price of $69,300.

Porsche Cayenne GTS 2009

The V-8 Cayenne sprouts a six-speed stick and actually ups the fun factor.

Just a blink back, the 21st century arrived, and a lot of people were wondering if someone had slipped a little acid into Porsche’s breakfast cereal. Excuse me? Who, exactly, is willing to pay a lot of money for a Porsche sport-utility vehicle?

The laughter has died way down. The Cayenne SUV is now Porsche’s bestselling vehicle, accounting for about a third of all sales: exactly 10,061 of a total 29,140 Porsches sold in the U.S. through October 2007. Porsche says it’s making all the Cayennes it can, 180 a day.

The Fourth in a Bestselling Lineup

When the fish are biting, you want to take advantage, and that’s why Porsche has been churning out new variations of the Cayenne. There are now four of them. The base Cayenne, with a 290-hp V-6, goes for $44,295. Sporting an updated 385-hp V-8, the Cayenne S starts at $58,795. The monster Cayenne Turbo, with a 500-hp twin-turbo V-8, checks in at an eye-crossing $94,595. That left one slot for a fourth model, the $70,195, 405-hp GTS you see here, which goes on sale in February.

Like all Porsches, the Cayennes have long options lists intended to give the automaker the greatest per-car profit. Mission accomplished. It’s ridiculous. What car company sells fewer than 100,000 vehicles per year worldwide and makes a pretax profit of $8.5 billion (helped along by a $759 million reevaluation of its 22-percent stake in Volkswagen)?

That’s Right, a Proper Manual Transmission in a 405-hp SUV

Move in closer. What really makes this newest Cayenne particularly interesting is that Porsche has seen fit to arm the 5300-pound truck with a six-speed manual gearbox—something apparently no other V-8–powered sport-ute maker thinks is a wise idea. So in early November, we arrived in southern Portugal to see if a two-and-a-half-ton truck and a six-speed manual make sense.

The first thing that makes the manual an entertaining idea is that there are 405 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque on one end of it. That’s a 20-hp premium over the output in the same-size V-8 in the step-down Cayenne S. Imagine the wrinkled brows and clucking tongues of all those Porsche engineers: That’s a horsepower-to-weight ratio of about 13 pounds per, compared with the crushingly fast Turbo’s rate of 11.3 per horsepower. The only thing that materializes to us as competition is a supercharged Range Rover, which boasts an even 400 horsepower and a $93,600 sticker, or if you have a sense of humor, a 393-hp Hummer H2 that is stuck lugging around almost 17 pounds per horsie.

Get This: It’s Actually a Hoot to Drive

In addition to the horsepower boost, the GTS gets huge footprints (21-inch wheels and tires are standard), permanent all-wheel drive, and all sorts of anti-roll chassis voodoo and stability control—it’s there to keep this truck from behaving like a big goofy, slobbering truck. And that’s just what it does. At that point, the only thing missing is some high-school kid’s idea of very loud pipes. That, and a 4.1:1 axle ratio. Funny you should ask: The GTS has both.

When you climb aboard, the Cayenne’s seat and layout tell you you’re not occupying someone’s dining-room chair. There are various damper settings to choose from, with the car hunkering down and tightening up in three stages. Push the sport button, and amusingly, the clearly hot-dog rap of the dual exhausts gets louder—majorly loud—causing a kind of giggling frenzy in the cabin as if you’d been transported back to your last cafeteria food fight. They are about the rudest bad-boy pipes we can recall in years, if you don’t count a Viper’s ridiculous yowling.

Team that exhaust note with this truck’s volatile current of evenly delivered power—it just surges all over the power band—on some mostly empty roller-coaster countryside that shows no sign of uniformed authorities in the weeds, and the effect is exhilarating and hypnotizing, and it makes your cheeks tingle. It’s as if you should be wearing a big orange hat with the word “FUN” on the front. It’s not an idle claim when Porsche boasts that this is unlike any other SUV. It is. Given a little time, we could probably identify a handful of prominent sports cars this brute would blow by.

With the shorter rear end, first gear gets gobbled up quickly during tire-yelping starts, but the moment the clublike shifter clicks crisply into second, the thrust is superbly impressive. But the force always comes on in a controlled, fluid manner, so there’s no squirrelly behavior.

The Cayenne GTS is easy to drive, and easy to slip gracefully into three-digit speeds without those little hairs on the back of your neck standing up. Porsche says the GTS will get to 60 mph a couple 10ths quicker than the S model (in the high fives), but that’s not why you’ll be slobbering all over yourself. It’s up in the middle ranges, where second gear starts and third ends. That’s where the excitement is. Roll the windows down, and let it go. Claimed top speed is 157 mph.

It’s hardly a monumental declaration to say this is one of the best-handling, most-rip-roaring SUVs we’ve driven, and the six-speed’s smoothness means you’ll never find yourself in the awkward position of kangarooing clumsily down the road. The clutch is not at all a workout for your left calf muscle, with takeup as simple as it is in a Honda, shockingly simple, in fact. The real effort is in controlling the driver.

One would presume that money is not an issue for someone who buys a Cayenne of this accomplished rank, nor is gluttonous fuel economy. Indeed, Porsche did not get in the position of being able to write a check for the Volkswagen works by passing out discount vouchers for 911s. The base price of the Cayenne GTS is $70,195 when it goes on sale in the U.S. in February, and, as noted, the options list is absolutely lascivious. The GTS is also available with a six-speed automatic, but be sure to check out the manual.

Performance Tests 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8

We finally slap our test gear onto the potent Challenger SRT8 to see if it’s actually up to the challenge.

With so much presale buildup, we’ve told you bit by bit pretty much everything about Dodge’s old-meets-new Challenger SRT8. By now, the fundamentals should be familiar. The SRT8 is essentially a Charger SRT8 sedan with four inches cut from the middle and two fewer doors; it’s powered by the same 425-hp, 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 found in other SRT8 models in the Chrysler family; and it looks spectacular in orange. It also outguns the R/T and SE Challenger models that will be added for ’09.

What you might not know are some of the finer details. The 2008 SRT8 is the only Challenger to be designated as an ’08, and each of the 6400 U.S. cars—they are already sold out—gets a numbered plaque, orange seat stripes, and faux-carbon-fiber hood stripes. Also, the Challenger SRT8 debuts SRT’s brake “knock back” system that ensures the pads stay close to the discs during spirited driving as well as a “Performance Features” readout on the dashboard that displays acceleration, braking, and handling achievements for the driver’s amusement. The Challenger SRT8 starts at just over $40,000.

But until we shot up Angeles Crest Highway in the SRT8 at the press program in Pasadena, California, we hadn’t been able to log any significant drive time. Soon afterward, we got our paws on one at home in Ann Arbor and took it to the test track to get the numbers. Would the Challenger’s bad-ass attitude be backed up with genuine muscle-car street cred, or was Chrysler unable to mask the family sedan beneath the retrospective skin?

More Than Just Another Square-Jawed Muscle Car

The answer? Both. Thanks to that monster motor and a short first gear, the Challenger does earn a dollop of street cred, hitting 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, charging through the quarter-mile in 13.3 at 108 mph, and running to a drag-limited top speed of 168 mph.

But the Challenger SRT8 is more than just a drag-strip junkie. Its LX platform, for all its heft, does bring with it a sophisticated suspension that made easy work for Chrysler’s Street and Racing Technology team to engineer a combination of decent ride quality and tenacious grip, neither of which is a strong suit of muscle cars from bygone years (or, for that matter, of the current Ford Mustang). So, like any SRT8 product, it may be inescapably a family car in many ways, but it’s a fast and capable performance car, too.

Seriously Capable, but Where’s the Feel?

The multilink front and rear suspension is tuned for amazingly flat cornering, something vividly apparent on Angeles Crest Highway, where we flogged it left and right but watched the horizon that was the big, long hood stay level with the ground. Coupled with the sticky optional Goodyear F1 Supercar summer tires, the suspension imparted the Challenger with some pretty astonishing grip in corners. On the skidpad in Michigan, which admittedly was described as “really slippery” that day, the Challenger pulled a respectable 0.86 g with moderate understeer that can be corrected by the pedal on the right. But alas, with a curb weight of 4189 pounds, Chrysler was unable to mask the LX platform on which it’s based.

Missing from the equation was a great sense of steering feel that is somewhat slow to respond off-center despite its quick, constant-ratio rack and 2.75 turns lock-to-lock. Technical editor Mike Austin attributes the lack of steering feel, ironically, to the lack of body roll; when there’s no sense of heave-ho, set, and then bite, there is little impression of the car responding, even though it is, he explained. Then again, the lack of feel is strangely appropriate, if only for this car. “It’s an unintended throwback to the ’70s,” said Austin.

The same can be said for the brakes. Stopping a big, heavy coupe from 70 mph in an impressive 170 feet—the length of just four Greyhound buses—is no simple feat. Thank you, Brembo, for your help on each of the SRT8’s four corners. But as with the steering, feedback is another thing, and somewhat absent here, too. Our test car in L.A. had a good inch or so of pedal travel before anything at all happened, and our tester in Michigan was little better. We have to issue one caveat: These both were well-worn press cars, and not all cars at the California event suffered thusly. But here’s the obvious warning to future owners: These brakes can get worn out under constant abuse.
Unfortunately, this meant that we really couldn’t tell you whether or not Dodge’s new brake knock-back system is worth a darn. We appreciate the intuitiveness of the concept: When the g-sensor detects dynamic forces of more than 0.50 g, the brake pads are moved closer to the rotors to quicken brake actuation when ultimately called on. We’ll have to get a fresh car soon and lap a track with, say, a Dodge Charger SRT8 to see if there is a measurable difference.

Performance Features Display—Very Informative, Very Addictive

Another interesting—and seriously cool—new bit is the Performance Features display, which is part of the multi-information screen nestled into the gauge cluster. Several steps beyond the lateral-g meter available in the Chevy Corvette, Performance Features measures 0-to-60-mph, 1/8-mile, and 1/4-mile acceleration times, 60–0 braking distance, and g-forces in all four directions (either peak or real-time). At several points during our drive in California, we saw readings of 0.99 g left and right, but it’s worth noting that those were peak g-forces, not steady-state g as measured on a skidpad.

We did not have the opportunity to measure the Challenger’s readout against our test equipment for braking and acceleration, but we have verified the relative accuracy of such systems currently available in the aftermarket, so there’s no reason to believe that the Mopar system shouldn’t be accurate. A similar system is already in the Caliber SRT4, and we expect it to spread to other SRT products in the near future.

Also, expect your license to take a hit or two along what will certainly turn into a constant quest for a new personal performance best. Keep your eyes on the road. They hide in the bushes.

Oh, That Glorious Engine

Besides, they’ll hear you coming. Particularly under full tilt, the throaty, 6.1-liter engine is loud and furious. Wide-open throttle bathes all occupants in nearly 84 decibels of symphonic, mechanized glory characterized by crispness as well as volume. Around town, on the other hand, it is very calm and refined—rather quieter than we expected, especially at its 49-decibel idle.

It’s an engine that keeps on giving. Its 425 horsepower peaks at 6200 rpm, just 200 revs shy of its 6400-rpm redline. Torque is all over the place but peaks at a relatively lofty 4800 rpm. In other words, go ahead and hold that gear above where you’d normally shift in a Mustang, because there’s more power to come.

Too bad there aren’t more gears. The five-speed AutoStick automatic is a throwback to the DaimlerChrysler days, and with a shortened first gear for acceleration and a relatively tall fifth gear for fuel economy (its 168-mph top speed is achievable in fourth), the gears are simply too spread out. Indeed, on Angeles Crest and even on the track at Willow Springs, there were many moments when we wished third came a little closer to second, and fourth to third, if only so that we wouldn’t be dumped into a completely different part of the power band when shifting. At least the shifts themselves are very quick—thanks, SRT. Next year, a six-speed manual will be available in the SRT8 and R/T Challengers, and needless to say, we can’t wait.

Too Late for ’08

Speaking of next year, that’s the soonest you’ll be able to get one. Dodge is making just 6400 Challengers for 2008, all of which are SRT8s and all of which are sold. Dodge claims to have more than 10,000 orders for the SRT8, and certainly, many buyers will be willing to wait until the 2009 model year, which, incidentally is when the less powerful and less expensive Challenger R/T and SE models will join the party. Pricing is—or was—$40,158 to start, with fully loaded examples coming in around $42,000, including a sunroof, MyGIG entertainment with navigation, and the $50 summer-tire upgrade for those sexy 20-inch wheels.

We don’t expect pricing to change much for ’09, but the carbon-look hood stripes will become matte black, the orange seat stripes will become red, and the numbered plaque commemorating the first-year model will disappear.

2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Specs

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 2-door coupe

PRICE AS TESTED: $40,208 (base price: $40,158)

ENGINE TYPE: pushrod 16-valve V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, port fuel injection

Displacement: 370 cu in, 6059cc

Power (SAE net): 425 bhp @ 6200 rpm

Torque (SAE net): 420 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic with manumatic shifting


Wheelbase: 116.0 in Length: 197.8 in Width: 75.7 in Height: 57.0 in Curb weight: 4189 lb


Zero to 60 mph: 4.8 sec

Zero to 100 mph: 11.4 sec

Zero to 150 mph: 30.8 sec

Street start, 5–60 mph: 5.1 sec

Standing ¼-mile: 13.3 sec @ 108 mph

Top speed (drag limited): 168 mph

Braking, 70–0 mph: 170 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.86 g

mitshubishi lancer evolution IX wgon


A new species of wagon discovered in Japan.

This simple silver vehicle may look like an average compact wagon with a few sporty body panels thrown in to make it a bit more muscular. That couldn’t be further from the truth. With the Lancer Evolution IX wagon, Mitsubishi has wrought a comfortable five-door family car that, when pushed to its limits, would put more than a few sports cars to shame.

As the name implies, this is the wagon version of the ultra-high-performance Evo IX sedan that recently debuted. It is the first-ever Evo wagon, the Evo line having survived without a wagon since its inception in 1992. (We’ve only had Evos stateside since 2002.) In Japan, Mitsubishi has added a wagon version to the lineup for those drivers who grew up with Evolutions over the past decade but have now evolved into family men and women and can now have their cake and eat it, too.

From the outside, the wagon looks almost identical to the Lancer Sportback, now out of production. There’s a Volvo-like rear end and a chunky, heavily vented, sharp-edged Evo nose. Inside, the wagon doesn’t really differ from the sedan—grippy Recaro seats and a Momo steering wheel put the driver in the right mood. What really gets one going is the variable-valve-timing-equipped 286-hp 2.0-liter from the Evo IX sedan.

It’s the use of the revised engine that really lifts the wagon’s performance. Bottom-end torque is available earlier in the rev range (about 2500 rpm), and the engine pulls hard all the way to the 7000-rpm redline. The on/off turbo lag of the Evo VIII is largely absent, and the new car is as happy trundling around town as it is on a racetrack. There are three transmission choices for the wagon: five- and six-speed manuals and a five-speed automatic.

When most people imagine a wagon, it’s likely nothing like this one. Large 18-inch wheels fill the fender wells, the chassis is identical to the one in the sedan, and large Brembo brakes are in place. The wagon is also available with the MR package, which adds lighter wheels and Bilstein dampers that smooth out the ride considerably compared with lesser Evos.

The wagon does get the sedan’s active and adjustable center differential, but it doesn’t get the sedan’s “super active” yaw control that attempts to keep the handling safe and understeer in check. One engineer we asked suggested that the cost of the system would raise the price of the wagon considerably, but we feel the wagon doesn’t really need the yaw control. The wagon has an extra 150 or so pounds over the rear wheels that balance out the Evo’s usual front-weight bias.

Corner quickly, and the wagon turns in fast as the extra mass over the rear wheels maximizes their traction, although the front-mounted helical limited-slip differential and the active center differential pull the front end around the corner. This is quite likely the fastest-cornering wagon on the planet. The fact that you can take it through corners faster and more easily than just about any supercar out there makes you feel as though you’re Colin McRae.

Unfortunately for North America, the wagon version of the Evo will not be exported out of Japan. The 2500 or so wagons that will be built this year will all stay for home-market consumption. You can chalk up another Japanese rocket that missed the boat.

Vehicle type: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon
Estimated base price (Japan): $28,500
Engine type: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, iron block and aluminum head, port fuel injection
Displacement: 122 cu in, 1997cc
Power (SAE net): 286 bhp @ 6500 rpm
Transmissions: 5-speed automatic,
5- or 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 103.3 in
Length/width/height: 179.9/69.7/58.3 in
Curb weight: 3450 lb
Performance ratings (C/D est):
Zero to 60 mph: 4.8-5.5
Standing 1/4-mile: 13.5-14.5
Projected fuel economy (C/D est):
EPA city driving: 18-19 mpg
EPA highway driving: 25-26 mpg


Delicious—580 horsepower…in a wagon!

Power wagons have never really caught on in the U.S. Too bad, since Audi is taking the craft of wagon-roiding to an unforeseen—unfathomable, really—level with the 2009 RS 6 Avant, Audi’s most powerful production car ever.

No Excuse for Being Late to School

The RS 6 Avant is powered by a twin-turbocharged version of Audi’s Lamborghini Gallardo–derived V-10 with direct injection. We’ve heard about this mill for a long time, but now we know just how potent it will be: 580 horsepower at 6250 rpm and 479 pound-feet of torque, the latter available over what may be the fattest torque plateau in the business: 1500 to 6250 rpm.

As with every hi-po Audi, the RS 6 Avant will feature Quattro all-wheel drive, which, in this case, directs 60 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels in its basic setting. The only transmission will be a modified, quick-shifting six-speed Tiptronic unit.
Steering and suspension components, including three-stage dampers, have also been retuned to accommodate the superwag’s heightened performance potential.

So how fast will it be? Audi claims 0 to 62 in 4.6 seconds—only 0.3 tick off the last R8 we tested—with a top speed predictably set at 155 mph.

Sexy Bod, Big Brakes

The RS 6 Avant’s speed is complemented by added sex appeal. The interior is gussied up in much the same way the S6 sedan is, and the body wears numerous aero mods, including a new front clip and a diffuser-endowed rear bumper.

Each of the widened fenders is filled with standard 19-inch wheels and powerful disc brakes or, as an upgrade, 20-inch wheels around a set of those increasingly popular and fantastically fade-resistant carbon ceramic brakes. The headlamps feature an underscoring of LEDs to tell the world that this ain’t no ordinary A6.

Sedan? Yes. U.S.? No.

Yes, an RS 6 sedan will be available eventually, but not until sometime after the Avant’s European introduction in April 2008.

Want one? Pack up the family and find an EU address, because Audi has no intention of bringing either RS 6 variant to North America. To say that we’re disappointed is an understatement.