Friday, 20 February 2009

The Transit SportVan

We live in an increasingly joyless land. Stand up the Ford Transit SportVan!

The antidote to a grey, over-regulated society, it will distinguish you from the rest of the High Street pack.

For your money you get wide white bonnet stripes, twin exhaust pipes with sport trims, side skirts, wheelarch extensions and lower spoilers to the front and rear. The front one gets a bright centre section to ensure it stands out even more and Ford's captivating cargo-shifter also features a body-coloured grille and front bumper centre piece.

Boasting two colours, Performance Blue or Panther Black metallic paint finish, SportVan sits on 18in alloy wheels shod with 235/45 Z R18 low-profile tyres — Continental Sport Contact 2s on our demonstrator & mdash; that look for all the world like thick rubber bands. Don't be fooled by all these enhancements, however. Based on the short-wheelbase, standard roof, front-wheel drive 260 Transit, it's still a practical load carrier.

The SportVan is powered by a 2.2-litre four-cylinder 16-valve Duratorq TDCi intercooled diesel pumping out 130hp at 3,500rpm. Peak torque of 310Nm bites at 1,600rpm and the engine is combined with a five-speed gearbox.

The suspension uses an independent, with MacPherson struts and an anti-roll bar, while the rear set-up employs leaf springs. The same disc brakes that are used on standard Transits are fitted all round. ABS and Electronic Stability Programme are among the safety features and the steering is power-assisted.

With a gross weight of 2,600kg, SportVan can cope with a gross payload of 989kg and is capable of towing a trailer with an all-up weight of 900kg.

Load Area
Swing open the back doors and you'll find a 6.6m3 cargo area & mdash; 5.6m3 if you measure it in the way favoured by Ford, which involves filling it with blocks of uniform size & mdash; with eight load tie-down points. The total includes one above each wheel box. Fail to lash your cargo down and it will be brought to a halt if it slides forwards by a full-height bulkhead that includes a window.

As part of the SportVan package the well-lit load box is comprehensively protected against minor scratches and scrapes.
It is timbered to half its height, the wheel boxes are encased in plastic shrouds and the floor is covered by a tailored mat.
Maximum load length is 2,582mm. Maximum width is 1,762mm, narrowing to 1,390mm between the wheel boxes, while maximum height is 1,430mm. Rear loading height is 538mm. The rear door aperture is 1,370mm high and 1,540mm wide while the side door aperture's dimensions are 1,352mm and 1,030mm respectively. All the vehicle's doors are protected by remote central locking with deadlocks.

Cab Comfort
Buy a SportVan and you'll have little reason to complain about a lack of comfort. Leather-trimmed seats are provided for the driver and both passengers while the former gets to use a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob. Air Conditioning is included in the price as is a radio/six-disc CD player with steering column-mounted remote controls, not to
mention electric windows, electrically operated and heated exterior mirrors, a heated windscreen, cruise control and driver and passenger air bags. Two 12v power points have been thrown in as well. And the storage space is huge!

The storage includes a large bin in each door. The one on the driver's side encompasses a moulding to hold a bottle of water or a flask. A bottle-holder and a cup-holder can be found at each end of a dashboard that also plays host to lidded trays on both the driver and passenger side, a glovebox and a central shelf concealed by a flip-down tray with slots for a couple of cups. Sitting next to yet another lidded compartment, the gearstick is mounted on a moulding on the front of the facia but does not obstruct cross-cab movement.

On the Road
One of the big plus-points of Transit SportVan is its astonishingly good handling. It clings to the road like the proverbial limpet and its remarkably responsive steering provides ample feedback. Nor is it lacking in the performance department, with plenty of low- and mid-range grunt accompanied by some great growling from the exhaust. OK, those low-profile tyres mean that the ride is on the firm side, but it can't be described as uncomfortable.
Noise levels are well under control and SportVan comes with a high-quality gearchange.

SportVan is covered by a three-year/100,000-mile warranty plus an eight-year anti-perforation corrosion warranty. Service intervals are set at 15,000 miles.

With its big alloy wheels, low-profile tyres, body kit and striped bonnet, Ford's Transit SportVan looks a treat and is a hoot to drive while remaining a competent cargo carrier. It handles superbly and the ride, though firm, cannot be categorised as uncomfortable.

Probably mean lots of points on your licence and using a standard powertrain should help keep running costs down. SportVan gets the vote, without a shadow of a doubt. After all, if you spend more hours at the wheel of your van than you do in your own home, you're likely to want something that's a bit of fun. Remember fun?

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Ford Ranger 3.0 Double Cab Ranger

No matter whether they're at the wheel of a double cab pick-up or a car, individuals driving large 4x4s are increasingly being tagged as enemies of the people. Despite the fact that what they're doing is perfectly legal, and that they're often sitting behind a fuel-frugal low-emission diesel engine, they're viewed by the chattering classes as being wholly responsible for climate change. It won't be long before they're cast into the outer darkness along with smokers and voters who want a referendum over whether Britain should stay in the European Union.

That being the case, it's good to see that Ford are willing to defy the kill-joys and produce double cab pick-ups that stand out from the pack. So let's hear it for Ford's in-yer-face Ranger Wildtrak & mdash; a vehicle that's about as discreet and downbeat as the Jeremy Kyle Show.
Finished in Storm Black, Steel Silver, Performance Blue and Chilli Orange; it's decorated by various chrome bits and pieces and a selection of Wildtrak stickers. It's enough to give your
average muesli-eating, sandal-wearing tree-hugger apoplexy.

You only get one choice of engine, but we doubt you'll have too much cause for complaint. That's because Wildtrak is powered by a four-cylinder 3.0-litre Duratorq TDCi common rail diesel producing 156hp at 3,200rpm. Top torque of 380Nm kicks in at 1,800rpm and the intercooled 16-valve in-line lump is married to a five-speed manual gearbox.

A stumpy lever next to the gearstick is used to engage four-wheel drive and allows you to select a low range set of gears for serious off-roading. Hit a button on the dashboard to release the free-wheeling front hubs when you go back to 4x2 mode. A rear limited-slip diff is included in the price.
Independent double wishbone torsion bar suspension is fitted at the front along with an anti-roll bar, while leaf springs help support the back of the vehicle. Double-acting dampers are installed all round.
Wildtrak comes with six-spoke 16in alloy wheels shod with Bridgestone Dueler H/T 245/70 R16 tyres.
Ventilated disc brakes are to be found at the sharp end, with drums deployed at the rear. ABS comes as standard, as does power-assisted steering offering a 12.6m kerb-to-kerb turning circle.
Tipping the scales at an all-up weight of 2,985kg, Wildtrak can handle a gross payload of 1,072kg. Beneath all the external frills it is of course constructed as a working tool; something anybody wanting to criticise double-cab 4x4s should always remember. It will haul a braked trailer grossing at up to 3,000kg.

Load Area
Access to the cargo area is by means of a bottom-hinged tailgate. Released by a single, centrally-mounted handle, it can be locked horizontally or dropped down completely. With Wildtrak it opens to reveal a cargo bed protected by a plastic load tray. Rails grace the tops of the load area's sides and you'll find a couple of lashing points close to the tailboard.

For your money you get a body-coloured composite sports bar mounted just behind the cab, but you'll pay extra for the roller shutter-style lockable Armadillo load bay cover fitted to our demonstrator. It costs £750 plus VAT.
Maximum load length is 1,530mm. Maximum width is 1,456mm, narrowing to 1,092mm between the rear wheel-boxes, while maximum height is 457mm. Loading height is 811mm.

Cab Comfort
The Wildtrak theme continues when you climb into the five-seater cab over the Wildtrak logo on the chrome-effect scuff plate on the sill. Orange Wildtrak logos adorn the grey and black leather sports-style front seats with their orange stitching, with the Ranger name in orange gracing the orange-edged front floor mats. Brushed steel effect inserts decorate the facia and doors, and the steering wheel and gear knob are wrapped in leather.
A clump of dials on top of the dashboard tells you the extent to which you are tipping both vertically and horizontally when you're travelling off-road, and includes a compass. Other goodies include Air-conditioning, a CD player that's MP3 compatible and features a six-disc in-dash autochanger, electric windows all round, electric exterior mirrors with LED indicators incorporated into the housings, a 12v power point and heated front seats. Front and side airbags protect the driver and front passenger.
Stowage facilities for oddments include a bin between the seats with a lidded tray on top, a lidded and lockable glovebox, a cubby hole at the bottom of the dashboard, and front door pockets with a moulding to hold a soft-drink can. In addition you're provided with two cup-holders at the base of the dashboard — one plays host to the (semi-redundant?) ashtray & mdash; plus cup-holders for the rear passengers.
Access to the rear seats is through the doors with plenty of leg room.
Outboard passengers are secured by a lap-and-diagonal belt and are protected by headrests. The centre passenger is a lap belt.

On the Road
A hoot to drive with bags of performance on tap & mdash; especially across the middle of the rev band & mdash; Wildtrak handles remarkably well for a bulky 4x4, with plenty of feedback from the steering and surprisingly little wallowing when you push the vehicle hard through corners.
It goes about its business quietly too, with engine and wind noise both well controlled. In typical Ford style the gearchange is exemplary.
Having a useful dollop of torque comes in handy when you venture off-road. It helps Wildtrak climb steep inclines with ease and there's sufficient engine braking to hand to ensure it doesn't run away with you when you come down the other side. Ground clearance unladen is 205mm with a wading depth of 750mm.
As far as fuel economy is concerned we averaged 30mpg during the test period; not outstanding, but not bad for a 4x4 in a hurry.
The exterior bling we alluded to earlier includes a chrome rear under-run bar, an aluminium-effect lower extension to the front grille, chrome-effect mirror housings, side steps, roof rails and rear light guards. That's all in addition to grey wheelarch extensions and lower body cladding. Front fog lamps are provided too, along with rear sensors to stop you damaging your vehicle while trying to park.
Remote central locking comes as standard. Wildtrak needs a service every 12,500 miles and is covered by a three year/60,000 mile warranty, included roadside assistance. The bodywork is protected by a six-year anti-perforation corrosion warranty.

If you want to go through the world unknown and unnoticed, then don't buy a Ford Ranger Wildtrak double cab 4x4 pickup.
That's because it screams 'look at me', especially when it's finished in that lurid shade of orange the Big Blue Oval is so fond of. Wildtrak isn't all about appearance, however. Performance is top notch, the gearchange is exemplary and it handles well too and if Wildtrak irritates the local kill-joys, then so much the better.

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The New Jaguar XFR

Jaguar stunned everyone at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed by revealing the high-performance version of the XK and showing off the immense talents of its forthcoming super-saloon, the XFR.

Jaguar has secured its position at the cutting edge of automotive design with the proposal of it’s fastest-ever car, the XFR. The big news for the XFR is its engine. While the top-spec 2009 XF made do with the older, 4.2-liter supercharged V8 with 420 hp, the new 2010 XFR gets a new 5.0-liter supercharged V8.

The XFR accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds – quite literally breathtaking. The Jaguar XFR has received special attention to deliver the required V8 intake sound character commonly absent on supercharged engines. Intake manifold pressure pulsation’s are fed into an acoustic filter at the rear of the engine that is tuned to "tenor C", with the output from the filter ducted into the cabin. The Jaguar XFR is a sabre-toothed tiger of feline badness. The supercharged, direct-injection V8 is good for a jungle-canopy-shaking 510 horsepower – 125 hp up on the naturally aspirated V8, and 0-to-60 bolt that takes but 4.7 seconds.

Jaguar programmes director Mick Mohan hailed the XFR as the “ultimate Jaguar sports saloon” and said that it was the perfect showcase for the group’s cutting-edge design capabilities.

Immediately recognisable thanks to unique new 20-inch wheels, a new front end design with revised chrome air intakes, 'Supercharged' hood louvers, four polished exhaust tailpipes, an aerodynamically functional rear spoiler and side sills, the new XFR also sports discreet 'R' badging. Power comes from an all-new 5.0-litre direct-injection supercharged V8 engine delivering 510PS and 625Nm of torque. Immediately recognisable, the new XFR sports a new front-end design with revised chrome air intakes, ‘Supercharged’ bonnet louvers, four polished exhaust tailpipes, an aerodynamically functional boot lid spoiler and side sills, unique new 20-inch wheels and discreet ‘R’ badging.

And to provide true driver involvement, the 6-speed features jaguar’s lightning-quick Sequential Shift system with its steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. No matter which engine you chose, you are guaranteed a driving experience designed to be exceptional. This time the addition of a 6-speed gearbox as opposed to the WRX 5-speed. Also a nice welcome was similar headlamps which were found on the UK300 .

With lots of the modified XFR was kitted out with a modified air intake and exhaust, remapped engine control unit and a boosted supercharger. However, the internal engine components and six-speed automatic gearbox remained as standard.

We know the new Jaguar XFR is going to be fast, but how fast exactly? Well, the company has just released this video of a prototype XFR achieving 225.675mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

The Jaguar XFR is due to be putting in an appearance on a Jaguar forecourt near you in 2010 and I’m sure that the Test Drive appointments will be snapped up the moment the New Jaguar arrives, if the popularity of the Jaguar XF is anything to go by. 42,000 Jaguar XF’s have been sold since its launch last spring.

The competition? The new Jag is sure to turn heads but how will it stack up against the BMW M5, Mercedes AMG or the Audi RS6. All offer a thrilling drive with super-high performance guaranteed but the Jaguar XFR should fit somewhere between the BMW and Mercedes.

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Thursday, 5 February 2009

Edge On Motorcycling- The BMW HP2 Sport

by: Kevin Crockett

The BWM HP2 Sport is the latest iteration of the Bavarian Motor Company's foray into producing performance driven motorcycles. The quiet, staid, and lets just admit it boring motorcycles that came out of BMW in years past is history.

The HP line is BMW's new high performance, cutting edge line up. It's the motorcycle equivalent of their M line of performance cars.

The HP2 Sport is the third motorcycle in the HP line following the releases of the HP2 Enduro and the HP2 Megamoto.

The HP-2 Sport is based on the R1200S but is out and out designed for sports riders who are looking for a machine that has performance as well as endurance.

The HP2 Sport keeps some of the concepts that BMW motorcycles have become known for such as the BMW Motorrad Telelever front suspension and the EVO Paralever rear suspension. Other components have been newly developed or highly modified for use in the motorcycle.

The HP-2 Sport is powered by a twin Boxer motor that has a capacity of 1170 cc. The engine's cylinder heads were completely redesigned which allows the engine to rev as high as 9500 rpm. The engine has a 101 mm bore and a 73 mm stroke and produces a maximum of 130 hp at 8,750 rpm and 85 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm.

The bike has a close ratio six speed gear box, with first and second gear having higher ratios. This puts the gear increments closer to each other and results in less of a rev drop when progressing up through the gears.

The bike also has a gear shift assistant which allows the rider to shift gears without using the clutch. It works by sensing when the gear lever is activated. If it senses gear lever activation without the use of the clutch, it electronically reduces power to the engine which puts the engine in a low load state and makes it possible to shift without the clutch. If the rider uses the clutch, the system becomes inactive.

The riding position of the HP-2 sport can be described as relaxed. BMW has extensive experience with endurance racing and knows that for racers to be fast over a long period staying power is more important than a full racer's tuck.

The dashboard was developed by 2D Systems, which also provides analytic recording systems to Moto GP racing.

The dashboard has two modes and is switched by two controls on the left handlebar. In road mode, typical information such as speed, rpm, time, and distance are displayed. In race mode data such as top speed, circuit times, number of gearshifts and rpm is shown.

The HP2 Sport will push BMW further into the world of performance motorcycling.

Come to for a free guide on the fun, adventure and excitement that motorcycling offers. In addition hear interviews with people throughout the industry and get information that will make you a safer, more capable, more confident rider.

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Mazda BT-50 gets facelift

Mazda has given its BT-50 pickup truck a minor change and announced that the new model will help it achieve a total pickup truck sales of 12,700 in 2008, up from 11,000 units in 2007.

Produced at the AutoAlliance Thailand (AAT) plant in Rayong, the BT-50 is also exported to 130 global markets from Thailand. The facelifted BT-50 maintains its sporty appeal, with the new design adding a more dynamic and robust look.

There is a new front pentagonal grille, along with new front bumpers, multi-reflector headlights and turning lights. Meanwhile, the rear lights are larger and come with chrome trim. The side profile is highlighted by a new wheel fender kit, as well as 15-inch or 16-inch 5-spoke wheels. There are 11 colours to choose from as well.

Mazda Sales Thailand Co Ltd marketing director Sureethip La-ongthong says that the company will focus on two-wheel-drive pickup models this year. As much as 97 per cent of Mazda pickup truck sales are made up of two-wheel-drive models, while the remaining 3 per cent are four-wheel-drive models for fleet customers.

"Previously the ratio between two- and four-wheel-drive models was 85/15, but presently the popularity of thr four-wheel-drive models have grown," she daid.

Sureethip said the company will emphasize on the 4x2 2.5-liter and 3.0-liter models, with prices starting at Bt489,000 foi the standard cab and Bt541,000 for the Freestyle cab. The 4x2 Hi Racer starts at Bt602,900 and the 4-door model at Bt612,900.

Mazda is also planning to spend Bt20 million for a countrywide roadshow to 12 provinces from March to June. Caravans of the BT-50 and Mazda3 will be shown along with special activities including special stunt shows, concerts, games and prizes. Sureethip said the automobile market should finish the year at 650,000 units, and Mazda plans to sell 16,000 units, which is approximately 2.5 per cent of the market.
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MP3 Player Evolution

MP3 players are a far cry from the old walkmans of the 1980’s, the bulky so called portable tape player. Things slightly were made bigger with the personal stereo that played CD’s. But the MP3 player has brought a neat little pocket sized entertainment system that holds all your favourite tunes and is considerable smaller than the size of your wallet.

Getting your favourite tunes onto your MP3 couldn’t be easier. Every day, hundreds of thousands of MP3 music files are searched for, shared, recorded and listened to by computer and Internet users of all kinds. Either alone or collected into massive download sites, the MP3 revolution is seriously threatening the traditional ways people find music. You can play MP3 files on most players and copy them as many times as you like. There are no copying restrictions on MP3 files, and most players support the format.

If you have a lot of vinyl, cassettes or CD’s consider a player equipped with Line-in that can record directly from your existing equipment. Then you can fill up your MP3 player with music that you already have, no need to go and trawl the internet looking for tracks.

You can choose whether or not to run MP3Advance for your file searches by downloading software or via the web. Downloading the MP3Advance software only takes up 4.2MB. Songs can be recorded as different types of files (encodings). Most portable audio players play MP3 format songs. It should have all the information you need to access files and manage your music. In general terms, the larger the player, the larger the screen and the more information it will display.

Of course, we all want the most storage for the best price. However, a player’s price is directly determined by the technology it uses and its storage capacity. So if you have a lot of music that you want to store on your MP3 player, it will cost you more money. As they say – you get what you pay for.

Since then Advanced MP3 Players has continued to bring new and innovative MP3 and music equipment to the shores of the UK.

One ground breaking concept is to create a portable music device that can be worn by swimmers and other water sport athletes while keeping the impact on their athletic performance to minimum. The NU design team come up with this ultra light weight, ultra compact player that weighs only 25g with a dimension of 60 x 20 x 20mm, incorporating the latest 3D music quality with its adapted waterproof speaker. This means that you can not only use it for sports to push out that training session but also for relaxing to music in the bath with no fear of losing your player, destroying it in the wet conditions or tangling the wires.

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