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Lexus LC Coupe debuts in New Zealand

The Lexus LC 500 Coupe has launched in New Zealand, with 10 models already snapped up on pre-order.  

Two powertrain options are available on the two-door coupe, which is built in Lexus’ Motomachi factory. A 5.0-litre V8 engine powers the petrol variant and is matched to a 10-speed automatic transmission, producing 351kW of power and 540Nm of torque.

A hybrid option is also available, which contains a 3.5-litre V6 engine partnered with a 310-volt lithium-on battery for a total 264kW of power.  The hybrid engine is matched to a combined CVT gearbox and traditional four-speed automatic transmission.

Since its launch, the Lexus LC 500 has won several design awards, including the 2016 Production Car Design of the Year, and ‘best production car’ design at its launch at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The ergonomically-designed cabin also contains a 10.3-inch infotainment system and Satellite Navigation. Drivers can choose from six driving modes – ECO, Comfort, Normal, Customise, Sport S and Sport S+.

The LC 500 and 500h come with the Lexus Safety System+, which includes pre-crash safety system, autonomous emergency braking, an all-sleep dynamic radar cruise control, automatic high beams, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure alert, and vehicle sway warning.

Pricing starts at $215,000 for the glass-roof model with either the V8 or hybrid powertrain.

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Marijuana found in Ford Fusions

Investigators are trying to work out how a shipment of marijuana, worth $(US)1 million was hidden in the boots and spare wheel compartments of a group of brand new Ford Fusion vehicles.

The cars were manufactured at the Ford plant in Hermosillo, Sonora in Mexico and sent by rail to a dealership in Ohio.

The haul was packed in the spare tire wheel wells and according to Silverio Balzano, agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Youngstown office says someone forgot to pick them up on the way. “Clearly something went wrong,” he told news agency, CNN.

The July incident is not the first and in March, police in Dilworth, Minnesota, also discovered drugs packed in the spare wheel spot of a group of Ford Fusions.

“We’re aware of the situation and are taking it very seriously,” a Ford Motor Company spokesman said recently. “We are working with the FBI and Customs on an extensive investigation. We have confirmed that this is not happening at our plant or at our internal shipping yards.”

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Holden’s VXR Commodore

Holden has lifted the covers on the range-topping VXR variant of the next-generation Holden Commodore.

With a focus on dynamic handling, efficient performance and stunning traction off the line, Commodore VXR will show a different side to Holden’s performance capabilities while still using lessons learned from almost 40 years of continuous local Commodore development.

The model boasts Brembo front brakes and a unique sports set-up allowing drivers to switch between driving modes. Driver-adjustable settings include Continuous Damping Control (CDC), steering, transmission and the adaptive AWD system.

Packing a 3.6-litre V6 engine pumping out 235W and 381Nm, paired with a 9-speed transmission and adaptive all-wheel drive system boasting torque vectoring technology and a twin-clutch rear differential. Combined with the selectable drive modes, the all-new Commodore VXR blends power with control for ultimate driver engagement.

“The next-gen Commodore VXR offers a different execution of performance to the outgoing SS but make no mistake, this is a more than worthy successor,” said Holden’s renowned Lead Dynamics Engineer, Rob Trubiani.

“We’ve been involved in the development of this car from the beginning and I personally have spent significant time behind the wheel overseas and at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground.

“The V6 engine with the adaptive AWD and 9-speed transmission make the VXR a quick and smooth car to drive, even in wet conditions. Importantly we also have Brembo front brakes and Continuous Damping Control (CDC) and drivers are able to switch between three driving modes for distinctly different drive experiences.

“We can’t wait to get the car in the hands of our customers next year but for now, we’ve still got some work to do and will continue to work with the team in Europe, who are currently completing chassis development at Nürburgring in Germany.”

The next-generation Commodore VXR also adds sports styling to its ‘Sculptural Artistry Meets German Precision’ design language with bespoke 20-inch alloy wheels, larger rear spoiler, front and rear sports fascias and premium VXR sill plates.

Other highlights include next-generation adaptive LED Matrix headlights, heated and ventilated leather performance front seats, a wealth of cutting-edge driver assistance technology.

The next-generation Commodore VXR will be on sale alongside the rest of the sedan range, along with Sportwagon and Tourer body styles, in early 2018.



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Mercedes X-class launch

Mercedes-Benz Vans announced the new X-Class ute will launch in Europe in November 2017 with Australia and South Africa to follow early in 2018.

Managing Director Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia and New Zealand, Diane Tarr, said, “The high level of interest and anticipation in the lead up to revealing the new X-Class has been a reflection of just how engrained dual cab utes are in both the Australian and New Zealand culture. The fact is we love utes and we are showing a desire to incorporate this type of vehicle into our lives in more ways than we did in the past. Not just for work, but also increasingly for private use.

“The new X-Class finds the perfect balance between the stylish design expected of a Mercedes-Benz and the uncompromising robustness and functionality demanded of the category. As a result, with the X-Class, we can effectively provide a solution for trade and fleet customers, and we will find out just how far this category can evolve for private customers who need the vehicle to support their lifestyle.”

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class has been specifically developed for the changing requirements of the ute market in mind. The demand for midsize utes with typical passenger car characteristics and comfort features has been steadily on the rise for years. At the same time, the number of utes for private use is increasing. They are no longer viewed purely as “workhorses”.

There are three design and equipment variants to choose from as well as four or six-cylinder engines, rear-wheel drive and engageable or permanent all-wheel drive, a six-speed manual transmission and a seven-speed automatic transmission. It consists of a ladder-type frame, rear multi-link solid axle, front independent wheel suspension and coil springs on both axles.

Built on this platform, the distinctive X-Class design is available in three model variants to suit different lifestyles and work environments:

The basic X-Class PURE variant is ideal for rugged, functional use.
The X-Class PROGRESSIVE is aimed at people seeking a rugged ute with extra styling and comfort functions.
The X-Class POWER is the high-end design and equipment line.

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Shares down for Harley Davidson

Harley Davidson’s shares have decreased to more than a one-year low after cuts were made to its shipments.

The manufacturers shares were down by nine per cent at $47.17 on Tuesday morning and for the full year, the company expects to ship between 241,000 and 246,000 motorcycles in comparison to 262,221 in the previous year.

Due to decreased popularity, the motorcycle maker is also planning on cutting production in the second half of this year.

According to David Beckel, an analyst from Bernstein Research, the decrease in sales is related to a lack of interest in motorcycles is waning for the new group of consumers born between 1980 and 1990.

“We are downgrading Harley-Davidson to ‘market-perform’ based on increased conviction that motorcycle demand in the United States is in the throes of secular erosion,” Beckel said.

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Porsche may discontinue diesels

According to an announcement by Porsche chief executive Oliver Blume, Porsche could discontinue diesel-fuelled cars in the near future.

Blume said in an interview at the Nuerburgring motorsports complex in Western Germany, that the company was looking into the issue and had not made a firm decision either way yet.

He said that the car manufacturer would offer a mix of combustion, plug-in hybrid and purely battery-powered cars.

Diesel-powered vehicles still make up approximately 15 per cent of global sales for Porsche, while they make up 35 per cent of sales for BMW vehicles.

Meanwhile, Porsche is spending $(US)1.2 billion in overhauling its main Stuttgart plant in order to build its first battery-only vehicle. The four-door Mission E saloon is due to be released in 2019. This will contribute to a projected plan for battery-only vehicles to account for a quarter of Porsche’s sales by 2025, according to Blume.

Porsche sales rose six per cent to a record 238,000 cars in 2016 and the company may deliver another zero-emission model off the Mission E platform, at its Zuffenhausen factory in the near future. Blume told Reuters an electrified version of the top-selling Macan SUV was also possible.

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Honda debuts Accord in Detroit

Honda debuted their tenth-generation Accord in Detroit on Friday in a bid to revitalise the slumping family sedan market in the US.

The car maker promised a suite of cutting-edge technologies, and the new Accord comes with two different powertrain options. The range opens with a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, as currently seen in the Civic hatch, which generates 143kW of power and 260Nm of torque matched to a front-wheel drive CVT automatic transmission.

The next-level Accord contains a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine reminiscent of the just-released Civic Type R, producing 188kW of power and 370Nm of torque. This engine is matched to a world-first driving configuration of a ten-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.

A longer wheelbase and lower profile means an extra 7 centimetres of leg room in the cabin, Honda says. Inside the car, a 7.0-inch TFT screen and an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen offers Bluetooth connectivity, smartphone mirroring and a Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless charging.

Honda says the new Accord will also be available as a hybrid, with details of the motor to be announced.

Within the US, all models will contain Honda’s suite of driving assistance features, which include autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition.

The Accord is due to launch in the US in several months. No announcements have yet been made regarding an international release, but company director of Honda Australia, Stephen Collins, told Drive magazine the team are working to bring the Accord down under in 2018.

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Jaguar’s new SUV packed full of tech

The new E-PACE SUV has been unveiled by Jaguar, with a New Zealand launch date of April.

The E-PACE debut follows the F-PACE performance SUV and the I-PACE electric concept, and Jaguar promises it will be one of the most connected vehicles in its class, featuring a next-generation touchscreen infotainment system with app functionality, four 12-volt charging points, five USB connections and a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot.

Five different powertrains feature across the range with both petrol and diesel options. The four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel line-up comes with the choice of 110kW and 380Nm, 132kW and 430Nm and 180kW and 500Nm engines, while the 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine comes either with 183kW and 365Nm or 220kW and 400Nm, which is electronically limited to speed of 243km/h.

All engines come with the latest-generation nine-speed automatic transmission as standard, and the 110kW and 132kW diesel options are also available with a six-speed manual transmission.

Various driving assistance system utilise a stereo camera, including the Emergency Braking system, with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, traffic-sign recognition, adaptive speed limited, driver condition monitor features and front and rear parting aids.

The camera also assists the E-PACE’s blind-spot assist function for multi-lane roads, and a new forward-traffic detection system will warn drivers of approaching vehicles in times of restricted visibility.

Four driving modes which alter vehicle specifications according to conditions and preference are available – Normal, Dynamic, ECO, and Rain Ice and Snow.

The E-PACE is also the first vehicle from Jaguar to be built outside its home market. The compact SUV will be manufactured in Austria and China, with the three British Jaguar Land Rover plants either at or near manufacturing capacity.

New Zealanders can expect an arrival in April, with prices to be confirmed.

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Hyundai unveils new hot hatch

Hyundai has unveiled the i30 N overnight, which will compete against the Golf GTI and Civic Type R in the growing hot hatch market.

The new hatchback is the first car to be manufactured under the N line-up, and while it is based on the recent i30 model, the N model also contains a slew of new high-performance driving features, including electronic slip differential, electronic controlled suspension, rev matching, launch control, high-performance tyres and a lap timer.

Two engine options will be available in the i30 N – a four-cylinder 2.0-litre T-GDI turbo engine generating 184kW of power and 353Nm, and a performance option generating 202kW, with the same 353Nm of torque. Both versions have a top speed of 250kph.

Drivers can adjust the engine, rev-matching, exhaust, suspension and slip differential and stability with five driving modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, N Mode and N Custom.

“The Hyundai i30 N has been developed for no other purpose than to deliver maximum driving fun to our customers in an accessible high-performance package,” says Albert Biermann, executive vice-president of Hyundai’s performance development and high performance vehicle division.

The new i30 N is set to launch in New Zealand at the end of the year, with pricing to be announced.

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Redesigned A8 to tackle saloon market

The new Audi A8 saloon car premiered at the first Audi Summit held in Barcelona.

The 5.2 metre-long car, which compete against the Mercedes-Benz S-Class amd BMW 7 Series near the top of the luxury market, is a complete redesign from earlier models, with a new driving platform and interior.

Five engine options make up the A8 range, which opens with a V6 turbo petrol engine, producing 250kW of power, and a V6 diesel variant, generating 210 kW.

Two 4.0-litre eight-cylinder models are set to follow, producing 230kW and 338kW, and at the top of the range is an exclusive 6.0-litre W12 engine.

These powertrains all operate in conjunction with a belt alternate starter attached to a 48-volt electrical system, making the A8 a ‘mild hybrid electric vehicle.’ The technology enables the car to coast with the engine switched off, and to smoothly restart. 

A plug-in hybrid model is set to follow at a later date, containing a 3.0-litre engine and a powerful electric motor for a total 330kW of power and 700Nm of torque.

Autonomous driving features have been upgraded, and the A8 is the first production vehicle to have been developed specifically for highly automated driving, Audi claims.

The Audi AI traffic jam pilot can take charge of driving in slow-moving traffic of up to 60 kph, managing starting, accelerating, steering and braking, and will inform the driver when to take back control of the vehicle.

The Audi AI remote parking and remote garage pilots will steer the A8 in and out of parking spaces and garages independently, with the driver observing via a live display on their smartphone or tablet. 

These autonomous features will be rolled out step-by-step onto Audi vehicles once the technology has been fully approved,  and will need to be cleared for each individual market, Audi says.

Audi’s latest A8 offering will appear on sale in Germany in late spring 2017, with further release dates to be announced. 

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Toyota may bring Gladiator to the public

The Hilux Gladiator concept ute unveiled at Fieldays last month proved so popular, Toyota New Zealand is considering developing a version for the public.

“We built it as a show case vehicle for the Toyota display at the 2017 Mystery Creek Fieldays demonstrating a broad spectrum of customisation,” said Spencer Morris, Toyota New Zealand’s general manager of product. “We were thrilled at the response.”

The Gladiator concept, which began as a standard 4WD Hilux SR5 model, was built with the assistance of Retro Vehicle Enhancements, and included a suspension lift kit with offset 20-inch alloy wheels and tyres.

A specially-designed bull bar and winch, sump guard, snorkel, bolt-on flares, LED roof rack lights and sports bar with custom mounts for spare tyre and tools all matched the suspension, and the design was finished with custom Gladiator graphics.

Inside the cabin, a full red leather interior with carbon fibre trim and Gladiator branded mats finished off the look.

“Any commercially available Gladiator model will be slightly more practical” said Morris, who added that “some of the parts on the concept would need a special low volume certification.”

A previous accessorised Hilux Gladiator was a hit for Toyota, Morris said, with over 100 utes sold in 18 months, and he was confident the new model would also be a success.

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