Archive for nissan

Dream Garage #10 – Nissan GT-R

Posted in Desirable machines, Dream garage with tags , on 29/04/2011 by Alexander

I’m not one for cars that are just about horsepower and top speed and stuff like that. I think Lamborghinis, Porsches and Ferraris and the ilk are wastes of resources and time, since they’re all horrendously expensive, distastefully flashy, and aren’t really hugely different from one another when scrutinised… well, I won’t go on since I’ve already ranted enough on so-called supercars, and I’m guaranteed to do so again in the future.

But I’ll make exceptions when the said car is ball-bashingly spectacular all around or revolutionary, either when it’s insanely, mind-boggingly over-the top like a Bugatti Veyron, or when it’s some sort of upstart that puts mainstream supercars to utter shame. And the latter is definitely the case of the magnificent Nissan GT-R.

In an age where high-tech is the norm, being able to out-do competitors in this field is quite a feat. And high-tech is what the GT-R has in cartloads. Apart from the clever gadgetry that’s hidden under the car’s proverbial skin, there’s a visual manifestation of this in the form of a centre screen, that shows a lot more than sat-nav and radio presets. Apart from the usual stuff and what an on-board computer is supposed to tell you, there’s a g-force-ometer, readouts on water and oil pressure and temperature, and a host of other impressive stats I personally think should be standard on all car displays. The graphics were designed by boffins from the computer game Gran-Turismo 5‘s creative team, which rather befits a technological tour-de-force made real.

And while most other 300km/h vehicles employ V8s, V10s and V12s (exception made for Porsche with their flat-6’s), this Nipponese auto uses a 3.8l V6, and uses its displacement well enough to put to shame cars many times its price. Just look up some GT-R vs. other cars on YouTube and a host of videos of drag-races of the Nissan against super-costly competitors (usually beating them). Then there’s the blitzingly amazing Nurburgring lap-time, and a load of publications shouting out the GT-R’s magnificence.

When Top Gear did not one, but two films on the GT-R, Clarkson explained how the exquisite assembly of the car includes mounting the engine is hand-made in a hermetically sealed chamber, so the components won’t microscopically expand. And because it’s hand-made you might get more than the 485bhp Nissan says it has (an American magazine tested theirs and it turned out to have 507bhp). Each gearbox is tailor-made for that one specific engine, and won’t function in any other GT-R. The suspension struts are mounted while under pressure simulating the weight of the car, so that the geometry is absolutely perfect. The shape of the car is all worked out so that the air is all channelled to the rear spoiler, and give the car more grip.

And while many people might be reading this and shaking their heads, thinking “a Porsche 911 can do the same”, the truth is that it takes one of the more sophisticated and pricey versions to trump this Japanese coupé’s prowess (don’t ask me which one, I can’t tell one 911 apart from another, they’re all the same s**t to me).

The GT-R also has a charm that’s unrivalled by European models, at least for me, and that’s its quirky styling. It’s designers don’t shy away from its very Japanese looks, partly due to all those aerodynamic mouldings, but mostly due to its inspiration in Japanese popular culture.

Nissan chief creative officer, Shirō Nakamura, has likened the new GT-R to the eponymous giant robots of the Gundam series. Nakamura stated: “The GT-R is unique because it is not simply a copy of a European-designed supercar; it had to really reflect Japanese culture.”

Nakamura noted that the GT-R’s square lines and vents were influenced by Gundam robots. (source)

It really does remind me of a Japanese super-robot. Very fitting, since this appeals to the science-fiction fan in me, and a technologically advance car should do that to you. And what’s remarkable is how it all truly works and comes together in one very neat, high-tech and ultimately very Japanese package. Japan is very good at making very dull cars, with bland styling and zero substance, but it also proves with this car that they can do just as well or better than Europeans if they put their mind to it.

All in all, a truly desirable machine. I’d love to have a pretty black one sitting in my dream garage, ready to tempt me into the world of petrol-drinking, tire-burning high speed.


Renault Twizy – another wasted chance?

Posted in Car conception, Green Tech, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 26/04/2011 by Alexander

Electric cars aren’t a novelty. In the late to nineteenth and early twentieth century, they battled it out with internal combustion engines as the solution to powering the horseless carriage, and even though they were smoother and more efficient than early petrol-drinkers, they eventually lost to ICEs due to the longer range and easiness of refuelling with petrol, as well as the eventual drop in price of a new gasoline-powered car because of mass production. Until the 21st century, it was downhill from then on, with no convincing solution for electric propulsion amid many tries, some more infamous than others. Everyone knows what a stupid blunder General Motors committed with their EV1, and it’s been an example of how not to go about things. Had GM stuck with the electric vehicle concept, they might have developed better related technology and become the role model for the surge in interest in EVs that’s been witnessed during the past few years, thanks to the realisation that oil is expensive, polluting and is running out. Instead GM decided to moronically destroy all their EV1s, and become known as the “Company that Killed the Electric Car”. With that kind of vision, small wonder they nearly went bankrupt! But I digress.

The problem is that it would seem car manufacturers aren’t exactly hell-bent on repeating and/or avoiding previous mistakes. And where should I start? Perhaps at the beginning, years ago, when auto-makers started making a big hullabaloo about upcoming electric vehicles: the Chevy Volt/Opel Ampera and the Nissan Leaf, to name a couple. The hype gave way to an expectation-killing wait, and the announcement of prices that would make even the most die-hard electric vehicle fan baulk.

Renault has proverbially jumped on the bandwagon with their Zero-Emissions concepts, utilising their partnership with Nissan for the underlying technology. And the first model to roll off the production line is the Twizy, a two-seater quadricycle that Renault says will revolutionise the market. And forgive me for sounding pedantic, but if that’s not completely over-hyped bollocks, then I don’t know what is. If there was a revolution to be had, then the G-Wiz would’ve got there first. And that’s really all this Twizy is, really. A more stylish G-Wiz with no doors and a lower price tag. But of course that may be they key to the thing, what with other electric vehicles costing staggering amounts of money. The Twizy will cost (here in Portugal) €7000, which is nice, but then Renault slap an extra €45-per-month charge to rent the battery, for a 3-year period and for no more than 7500km a year. And that’s not counting the cost of the electricity needed to recharge it (probably every day, given its crappy range). So if you do exactly 7500km in a year (goodness knows what Renault will charge you if you go over this), that works out at €0.072 per kilometre, which sounds great. But a diesel car that does 5 litres per 100km on average will cost (at current fuel prices) €0.075 per km. Yes, it’s slightly more expensive, but only slightly more, and with considerable advantages. You aren’t limited to only 20.5km per day (7500km max limit divided by 365 days), you can go on a motorway, you can refill quickly and easily and you have doors on the sides of your car, meaning you won’t have to smell and hear everything around you, and can use your car in the rain and cold.

So let’s be honest, what sort of person will this Twizy appeal to? First off said person has to have their own garage, since they can’t park it outside (it has no doors and needs to be plugged in safely). They can live no further than 10km from their workplace and must have an enclosed parking spot there (because it HAS NO F**KING DOORS, and stray dogs can get in and have a snooze, not counting all sorts of unsavoury humans who won’t think twice to vandalise/burglarise/mistreat the innards of your car). Doesn’t sound like much of a market.

Anyway, like most electric cars, it’s been announced with a lot of fanfare, and tested by moto-journos, even though it’s only available next year. Nothing like a good, long, stupid wait to wane desires for a car that, conceptually speaking, won’t work.

2010 is gone. Welcome 2011

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Crap cars, Desirable machines, General opinions, Green Tech, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , on 03/01/2011 by Alexander

2010 was another automotive year with all the usual ups and downs, and there was nothing Earth-shaking about it. But there were some moments worth remembering:

Top 5 good things from 2010:

  • The spread of green technology
    Until recently, either having a hybrid or running your diesel on vegetable oil were the only ways to be green (driving a GPL car has been for yonks, but let’s not delve into that right now). This year saw the significant spread of cleaner engine technology, with more brands churning out more efficient engines, like PSA’s e-HDi or Fiat’s Twin-Air. It saw the introduction of all-electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and Renault’s ZE cars. Even Porsche and other traditionally anti-eco brands dreamed up their own hybrid concepts. We’re on the right track.
  • Formula 1 goes barebones
    I’ve never been one to talk about Formula 1, because it’s been a sport for the likes of Ferrari and big engine-producing to show off their crap. But no more. Next year sees the goodbye of the 2.4-litre V8 engine, and the exclusive use of 1.6l turbo flat fours. This will attract more car manufacturers and bring Formula 1 closer to what it should be: a laboratory for car-makers to test solutions in extreme conditions. With this, the solutions they’ll have to dream up for F1 cars will be more easily transposed to the cars you and me buy. That’ll mean more power and efficiency from piddly little four-cylinder power-plants. Ferrari are really pissed off by this, because they don’t use straight-fours in their road-going ostentation-mobiles, and are refusing to use them. Good riddance, shit-heads.
  • Cars keep getting nicer
    Unfortunately, the world’s recession stems from people living beyond their means, and that includes buying too many new cars. Here in Portugal, it’s heinous. Everyone complains how deep in the shit they are, but 2010 was unprecedented in terms of car sales. The upshot is that the automotive market is battling it out to make the best cars they can to attract the expanding market. Cars keep getting safer, better equipped, technologically more advanced, and even cheaper cars look nicer and nicer, as opposed to looking like coloured washing machines that they used to up until the mid-2000’s. Just sitting in recent cars makes me gawp, due to the simple fact that interiors just keep improving. A modern day supermini is just as nice to sit in as top-of-the-range four-doors of 20-odd years ago.
  • Volvo S60
    The coolest release of the year, topping the Peugeot RC Z, the Honda CR-Z and the Citroen DS3. The shape, the look, the gorgeous interior and instrument panel… wow.
  • Hummer went belly up
    Need I say more?

Top 5 let-downs of 2010:

  • The Peugeot 508
    Early in the year Peugeot treated us to two exciting new concept cars: the SR-1 and the RC Hybrid4. The former was a mouth-watering coupé and the latter seemed to show what the 407’s successor would look like. Instead of that, we got a knock-off of the Renault Fluence.
  • Citroen
    The 2000’s saw a spectacular return to form for Citroen. The C3 Pluriel, the C4, the C5 II and the glorious C6. This year, they decided to be run by the corporate morons and killed off the lovely C3 Pluriel, and introduced stuff like the Metropolis and the new C4, which both look like they were plagiarised from Audi. Awful.
  • Toyota
    I think the recalls speak for themselves. Never did I think to see this Japanese behemoth of reliability and sense be so mired by crass mistakes such as these. Amazing.
  • Fisker
    I was hoping to see the absolutely luscious Karma showing off its lines live in the metal and setting new automotive standards at the same time. Alas, ’twas not to be, with Fisker pushing its delivery dates further and further…
  • Ferrari 458
    “You-a-drive it, it-a-catches de fire!” The menstruation-coloured prancing hossie from Italy finally made a car that didn’t look crap for a “supercar”. Downside is, it goes up in flames of its own accord.

Nissan Leaf

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Crap cars, Green Tech, News with tags , , , on 03/08/2009 by Alexander

Nissan have unveiled their all-electric vehicle (EV), called the Leaf, and it’s let some journalists drive it. What’s special about the Leaf is that it’s the first mass-market EV. There’s the Tesla Roadster, but that’s a rich man’s toy, and the Mitsubishi iMiev, but that’s only available in Japan. The Popular Science article has all the normal bits you’d find in a review, but I found one of the comments, by someone signing as skillet, far more interesting.

If they really want electric cars to take off they should stop making them look like turdwagons. The environmentalists should really take offense to this. The car manufacturers are stereotyping you into a bunch of hatch-back loving nerds.

My thoughts exactly.