The spotlight has come on in the entry-level SUV or compact crossover segment. That is the podium to watch out in the affordable as well as the premium segments. Because, this is where the hatchback is getting transformed to suit the growing preference for SUVs. Honda has entered with its new HR-V and wants to make it a catching up game for others. How far ahead are they? Here is the most comprehensive review this far.
THE DIMENSIONS: 4348 x 1772 x 1605 mm Wheelbase: 2610 mm Ground Clearance: 170 mm Curb weight: 1264 – 1322 kg Boot space: 470 L
THE FEATURES: Multifunction steering wheel • automatic climate control • Smart Entry / push-button start / walk-away door locks
THE SPECS: 1.8L 16-valve SOHC i-VTEC petrol engine, 140hp @6500rpm / 172 N-m torque @ 4300 rpm, Front-wheel drive, 7-speed fully-automatic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), Test fuel economy: 11.7 km/l
THE PRICE: At the end of the review
SAFETY & DRIVER ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES: Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA®) with traction control, Driver and passenger front airbags on all grades, Side airbags and side curtain airbags on the EX Grade only, Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Hill Start Assist (HAS) and Honda’s next-generation Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure for safer force distribution in a frontal crash, rearview camera with multi-angle and wide view in EX Grade, Rear corner parking sensors in the LX and EX Grades EXTERIOR COLOURS: White Orchid Pearl / Lunar Silver Metallic / Modern Steel Metallic / Crystal Black Pearl / Passion Red Pearl / Brilliant Sporty Blue Metallic
Honda HR-V is one of the most balanced designs in the Honda range; nothing seems to be overdone, it’s hard to find a loose ounce of fat or an extra fibre of muscle. Faultfinders might say the single-plate grille looks a wee bit larger but that grin flaunted by this new compact SUV is the new Honda signature! The LED lights in front and the rear taillights with integrated LED light bars look good and even design quirks are nicely underplayed in the HR-V. Look at the rear door handle, nicely tucked away in the kink in the top corner as in the Hyundai Veloster and the Nissan Juke. The sporty bumpers are flanked by 16” alloy wheels for DX and 17” Alloy wheels for LX and EX. While there is a hint of a haunch, it doesn’t fall ironic on the engine output because Honda has sensibly brought the 1.8L engine to this region.
Cabin and Controls
Step inside to see more of what makes the HR-V stand out in the entry-level SUV segment. There is an overall sense of superiority that greets you, especially with the clean, white design as well as the bright, open space below the only panoramic sunroof in its class – interrupted only by a ridge between the part that opens and that doesn’t. In the top trim that I drove, the beige leather seats initially impress while the classy-looking soft synthetic trims too remain agreeable. The DX and LX Grade get beige fabric seats. The top trims have digital air-conditioning controls that are ‘cool’ in a minimalistic way but the array of manual controls in the lower trims make for a surprisingly good looking console!
The minimalism practised in this Japanese car adds to its premium aura. The 6.8” multimedia screen is compact yet adequate – quite like the HR-V. There isn’t a mess of on-screen functions; so radio, Bluetooth audio, etc. don’t get lost. While the slim stack of buttons on the sides was black and elegant – two of them hide the USB and HDMI ports – I kept looking for the volume button till the headlights were on and they gave themselves up. For charging a smart phone, the USB port was surprisingly fast!
The central console houses the electronic parking brake along with the automatic brake hold button before steeping into a convenient armrest and a small storage space that falls beneath it. The gear stalk looks a little frail compared with the mildly muscular look of the HR-V. For a compact SUV, folding side-mirrors are a bonus but the light switch doesn’t have an automatic setting.
A very impressive set of access feature comes in the top two trims – Smart Entry by unlocking the door without taking the key from your pocket / push-button start without having to insert the key / walk-away door locks when the car detects the key fob is no longer near the vehicle. Something to swing your key in the face of peers!
While choosing many practical features from the Honda Jazz, the new HR-V has chosen a 1.8L engine over the 1.4L boiler, ensuring enough power despite being over 200 kg heavier than the Jazz. The start does tell you that anything less than the 140 hp / 172 Nm power-pack wouldn’t have made the cut for a bright and bubbly compact crossover. The transmission is CVT and Honda has furthered the ‘feels-like-an-automatic’ game that the CVT proponents keep playing. The HR-V comes with paddle shifters designed to make you feel like you are driving a 7-speed automatic rather than a continuously variable transmission – overall, I am good with how the shifting feels like an automatic under hard acceleration though not how its name sounds (7-speed ‘fully automatic CVT)! Sticking to lower revs, however, makes the HR-V feel more refined.
The HR-V doesn’t come in an All Wheel Drive version but driving this one is fun enough. The centrally placed fuel tank contributes to a perfect weight ratio, improving driving dynamics and minimising body roll. (It also helps to have amplitude reactive dampers – ignore the jargon.) Some part of the fun comes from the easygoing traction at playtime but responsible driving would play it down while negotiating turns and roundabouts on less gripping roads. On regular roads, thanks to the low, squatting stance, the compact SUV instills confidence with its stability. Driving vision is excellent too, with side view mirrors taking care of the blind spots.
The driver information gauge kept changing colour from blue to green depending on my driving style. Even without engaging the economy switch with the green leaf icon, I ended up with almost 12 km per litre. In fact the average for the 4300+ km driven so far was 8.6L for 100 km!
The new Honda HR-V seats five, with plenty of legroom and headroom that didn’t leave my 6-foot cameraman complaining. Well, the sweep-down in the rear could graze your hair if you are even taller! The seats ride easy and unlike many compact crossovers, the cooling is efficient without being noisy.
The space in the boot is another segment-leading feature for a ‘compact’ SUV – thanks partly go to the centrally mounted fuel tank. When it seats five, it has 470 L of space, which can grow to an incredible 1456 litres! doubles when you knock down the rear seats. The boot comes with a nice cover that stops things from flying around. The tailgate could feel kinda heavy till you get used to it, but it comes with a useful stay-spring mechanism.
The ‘magic seats’ are perhaps the best thing Honda picked for the HR-V from its hatchback sibling Jazz. The rear seats can be split 60:40, and they can be folded down flat or lifted up straight to store something wider and taller than usual in the foot-well. The loading can be easily done from the side. When it comes to cargo, the HR-V provides generously, which is unlike the storage tidbits. The armrest storage is just enough and the rear storage isn’t much to write home about other than a 500 ml bottle space and the seat-back pockets. However, underneath the central console runs a parallel storage niche that comes with an anti-slip rubber pad to slip in something handy!
The Honda HR-V has a few impressive safety options. The full options get front, side and side curtain airbags – 6 in total – while the others get two each. The rear view camera has a wide-angle view too and while the image turns a bit blurry on hot and humid afternoons, the screen is sharp and clear in the night, when you need it most!
The essential Honda HR-V
In the compact crossover segment, the Honda HR-V ticks the right boxes with the right size, convenience features and the fun-to-drive quotient; it is certainly a strong contender for your compact garage space.
TRIMS AND PRICING: Starting at AED 76,900. The top trim is available at AED 86,900 inclusive of leather seats, sunroof, push start button and camera. but there are two special editions that stand above this – the S edition and the Black Edition. For AED 10,000 more, the S edition give you good looking chrome lower bumpers and solid-looking steel sidesteps, that are there to look at than step on. The Black Edition is AED 5000 more and well, it is black. If you aren’t into ‘special editions’ the one totally worth it is the top trim with 6 airbags, the widest sunroof you’ll see in the category, the leather seats and the multimedia screen.
The first look at the new F8 Tributo was refreshing. The name initially gave me a feeling that this was one of the special edition Ferraris, the unique kind that is created once in a while to pay tribute to a landmark model or to mark an anniversary. Well, I was right about the ‘specialness’ of the car but this was not a special edition – in fact it was the regular replacement for the 488 GTB in its cycle of evolution.
Watch my Intro Video about the new F8 Tributo, starting with a glimpse of four other Ferrari V8 models.
The tribute to 20 years of excellence
However, the F8 Tributo is anything but regular. To begin with, it pays homage to the award winning V8 engines of Ferrari for the past two decades. The turbocharged V8 engine of the 488 has been the winner of the Engine of the year for three consecutive years starting 2016 at the International Engine of the Year awards. In 2018, it was also adorned with the ‘best engine of 20 years’ award. F8 Tributo has gone ahead and made the tribute memorable by packing 50 cv more (49.32 hp) which brings the total power to 720 cv or 710 hp. The V8 makes 770 Nm of torque, which adds up to reduced acceleration times – 0 to 100 kmph in 2.9 second and 0 – 200 in 7.8 seconds, which is a whole half a second less than what the 4888 GTB takes. The top speed also adds up 10 km for the record and is capable of crossing 340 kmph. Just for comparison sake, the 0 – 100 time is the same for the mighty McLaren 720S while the 0 – 200 is 0.1 second better than the rival.
As a car heavily influenced by the 488 GTE track car, and pretty much with the same performance figures as the Pista (which incidentally means ‘track’ in Italiano) it is interesting to know how the F8 Tributo is cut out for the races. For this, the aerodynamic efficiency has been improved by 10% and the Tributo is 6% quicker in corners.
Click this video to see how the performance makes sense of this tribute vehicle that is poised to set the trend for Ferrari’s twin-turbo charged V8 sports cars.
Visually impressive aerodynamics
The F8 Tributo has dug out a scoop in the hood, and a wide spoiler in the rear, which are some of the visible elements of aerodynamic improvement. The twin lights are part of a rear that doesn’t leave the world split on the degree of rear end charm as the 812 Superfast does. The aerodynamics is a major chapter in the shaping of the F8 Tributo.
It is 1994 again. Well, at least the silver jubilee of that landmark year in the history of crossovers. That’s when Toyota came out with one of the earliest in the line of Crossover SUVs. Toyota RAV4 is marking the occasion with a remarkable fifth generation that has showed up in the UAE with two flagship versions – one that they call “Adventure” and the other, their first “Hybrid Electric SUV”. So, while the former puts together an exciting bundle for those who love the active life, the latter promises a balance of sportiness, practicality and environmental-friendly driving.
THE DIMENSIONS: L 4610 x W 1865 x H 1690 mm (The others are almost a centimeter less in length and height as the Adventure spec RAV4) / Fuel tank: 55L / Boot space: 1065 L
PETROL VERSIONS: 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, driven by an 8-speed automatic transmission delivering 203hp and 243 Nm of torque
HYBRID ELECTRIC VERSION: 2.5-litre petrol engine delivering 176 hp and 221Nm torque + Two electric motors: Front motor – 118 hp and 202 Nm torque / Rear motor – 53 hp and 120 Nm torque delivering power through a CVT transmission [With some weird Hybrid Maths, total horsepower is 219 hp and torque adds up to 221 Nm from engine + 121 Nm from motors] Transmission: eCVT
THE PERFORMANCE: 0 – 100 kmph: Petrol version Front Wheel Drive – 8.3 seconds / All Wheel Drive – 8.5 sec / Hybrid version – 8.1 seconds
THE GRADES AND THE PRICE: 2WD GX: AED 99,000, 4WD GXR: AED 119,900, 4WD ‘Adventure’ variant: 129,900, VXR Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV): AED 139,900
WOW FEATURES: Wireless charging and Powered boot door in Top trims, 7 airbags as standard, Traction Management Capability for Off-roading
“The all-new RAV4 is a perfect choice for those who like to explore, be it in the city or beyond, with its leading-edge technology and performance… (and) an array of connectivity and infotainment features…” said Saud Abbasi, Managing Director, Al-Futtaim Toyota. “The Hybrid Electric variant, especially, will appeal to individuals and families that are not only shopping for performance and looks, but also for an eco-friendly vehicle that reduces their carbon footprint. Naturally, the new RAV4 will also be backed by Al-Futtaim Toyota’s proven aftersales support, as well as market-leading residual values,” he added.
My First Look
The all-new RAV4 looks different all right. The grille has received a lot of rework and is more than just a timid mouth – it is an aggressive orifice waiting to grunt or growl. The ‘Adventure’ version and the Hybrid, being the top trims get differently styled grilles and arresting alloy wheels – 19” in the former and 18” in the latter. The bonnet (hood) looks higher and the shoulders look strong. On closer look, the light settings and the design lines that flank the grille have the same roots as the outgoing model but one cannot deny the fact that the summary of changes make this a totally different SUV from the RAV4 you’ve known, ready to take on the likes of the upcoming Ford Escape or the Honda CR-V. In fact, the grille styling in some ways look like a more aggressive version of the Ford Escape. Advocates of minimalism might still pick up one too many design lines but the all-new polygonal motif gives it a polished appearance combining adventure and charisma.
While the new RAV4 is based on the Toyota New Global Architecture platform, it is longer, lower and wider than before and provides greater interior room. I should add that while the hood (bonnet) looks longer with the low-profile styling, the overhangs (the part ahead of the front tyres and behind the rear tyres) are actually shorter making it easier to go off-road.
Inside, the RAV4 is more spacious and while the first two grades get fabric seats, the Adventure trim gets synthetic leather. The combination of these with some rubber-like material and orange slip-free storage surfaces even feels somewhat funky! The dashboard and door trims feel like quality hard plastic and but if they feels flimsy in a couple of places it helps in keeping the weight down too – the new RAV4 weighs 1529 kg which is 26 kg lighter than the previous model. The boot is rather spacious too, the biggest in the category that can store 4 golf bags, says the Press Release. Hmm… ‘golf bags’?
Tech and safety
RAV4 was always loved for its compact yet spacious practicality and the no-fuss handling. Well, now it is going to be admired for the tech available in this newly enhanced cabin with as many as 19 new features available. Here are the highlights.
7 airbags including side, curtain and knee airbags are now STANDARD across the range. The ‘Adventure’ name for the exclusive grade is justified by a Multi-Terrain Select that defines the SUV part of the deal emphatically. There is a turn dial – yes, like a full time 4WD should – with two options. One Mud & Sand and the other Rock & Dirt, pretty much covering all you need between them. While the top two trims of the Petrol version get a 7-inch infotainment screen, there is a new 8-inch navigation system and panoramic sunroof that is available on the top-spec VXR HEV variant. It is easy to share phone features with screen mirroring but RAV4 beats its rivals by offering a wireless charging feature in the top trim!
As for backing up the SUV, all the trims get rear parking sensors, while all except the base trim get front sensors and rear view camera, too. Downhill Assist button is reserved for the Adventure trim. Toyota Safety Sense with lane keeping and pre-collision is available but the spec sheets here don’t seem to have them – obviously to keep prices optimized in the segment.
The Hybrid Electric SUV
The RAV4 Hybrid Electric model can be driven entirely on electrical power with zero fuel consumption and exhaust emissions, or by combining the power from the petrol engine with that from two electric motors. This is a choice that the vehicle makes based on its speed and your driving style at the point. The hybrid electric batteries get continuously charged on the journey – both as the petrol engine keeps working and while decelerating and braking. So the Hybrid-Electric car works like a regular car when it comes to fuelling; doesn’t need any special fuel and doesn’t need to be plugged into a power source. This Hybrid model also employs a newly developed E-Four system to achieve the All Wheel Driving trait expected of an SUV, for example on slippery hill climbs, while achieving the high fuel efficiency expected of a Hybrid. So, the Hybrid-Electric gets a TRAIL button, which helps optimize its share of adventure; it also has the only ventilated front seats in the range!
FIRST DRIVE – Adventure and Hybrid-Electric
Toyota RAV4 has been a growing favourite among women drivers as well, thanks to its compact yet spacious size and the nippy drive. So Toyota has done everything to retain the machismo that turns men into boys – the grille looks more aggressive and the car looks sleekly muscular; an off-roading dial has been added to call in better torque management capability for diverse terrains; a new trim level that Toyota has fiercely named ‘Adventure’ features rubber and leather materials in a funky orange similar to that found in G-Shock watches!
Though quick and short, altogether just under 20 km between them, the ‘Adventure’ version and the Hybrid gave me a good feel of how they drive. While the Hybrid version is expected to be quiet while on electric mode; the RAV4 has improved its overall noise, vibration and harshness levels and makes for a more soft and comfortable ride. The 0 – 100 figures feel quicker than what the pick up feels like, but that is not to say there is ever a lack of power felt. The Hybrid uses a CVT transmission keeping with the fuel efficiency theme.
Driving the ‘Adventure’ pack, I could hear the 2.5L engine – when pressing the throttle hard. The climb is not as silent as the cabin is, especially given that the gearbox is an 8-speed one that is not in a hurry to shift. But then, some might actually like it making its climb heard – feels more adventurous! The RAV4 is agile and handles rather well – this could be a good deal due to another first – Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive with Rear Driveline Disconnect. It comes as standard on AWD petrol models and lets up to 50 percent of engine torque to be sent to the rear wheels. Sensing the ground conditions and how much of grip there is, the Dynamic Torque Vectoring can also manage power sharing between the left and right rear wheels to improve handling. The AWD can also decide when four-wheel grip is not needed and can disconnect the drive from the rear wheels as four-wheel drive consumes more fuel.
The launch press release from Al-Futtaim Toyota shares an interesting fact: They have sold over 4,000 HEV vehicles in the UAE since 2008, resulting in saving 340,000 tons of CO2 emissions and over 90 million liters of petrol. That’s roughly enough fuel for more than 600 trips to the moon and back! Even if you are not the kind that makes those weekend trips to the moon, you must be happy to know that the new Hybrid RAV-4 can take care of your Dubai – Abu Dhabi round trips, three times without stopping to fill up! Hmm.
The first Abu Dhabi Engine Week is on and as part of it are the International Motor Show Abu Dhabi and the Custom Show Emirates. The show offers a treat for all those passionate about custom cars, classic cars, one-0f-a-kind from famous collections, desert adventurers, hobby car gamers and more. Watch out for the world’s first slingshot with Pagani Zonda facelift, a 1976 Range Rover used for Falconry from the fleet of H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a Ford from 1919 propped against a fuel station, a kid’s garage where children can get their face painted or paint their names on a classic car… well you are only getting started!
Custom Show Emirates – what not to miss
Custom Show Emirates is in its 5th edition while the International Motor Show Abu Dhabi is in its the 4th and are held alongside each other from 28th to 30th March 2019 at ADNEC, Abu Dhabi, offering a convenient double for the enthusiasts.
Spread across 47,000 sqm. of indoor & outdoor space, Custom Show Emirates has put together adrenaline-spiking shows of the latest in auto customization products and services. 110 local and 70 international exhibitors are here from 17 countries, including USA, Italy, Switzerland, Russia, China, New Zealand, India, Japan and many GCC countries. Over 30,000 enthusiasts are expected to be here to enjoy 20 onsite ‘action-packed’ activities – 4×4 and Saloon Drifting, Stunt Driving, Custom Cars & Bikes Competition, Engines Battle, Bikers Build-Off, Dyno Zone, Wheelie Machine, King of Mechanics, Kids Garage and – the list is a feast for car lovers and tuning freaks. Happily enough, budding buddies haven’t been left out!
Watch out for these!
The show will also feature a dedicated area for custom sand vehicles, which is a hot favorite among the local community. There will have considerable presence of custom bike builders from Italy, Switzerland and Germany with more than 100 unique bikes on display.
‘’It is our honor to be part of the first Abu Dhabi Engine Week, which will be an international annual event featuring Custom Show Emirates, International Motorshow Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and FIA World Rally Cross Championship over a period of 10 adrenaline filled days to give tourists and residents an exhilarating motoring themed experience.’’ – Saeed Al Marzouqui, CEO, Custom Events, UAE.
‘’Funco Motorsports is excited to come back such a dynamic event. The growth since we displayed is 2017 is amazing. Custom Show Emirates is a first class show that allows us to reach a broad range of motorsports enthusiast throughout the Gulf Region.’’ – Grant George, Owner, Funco Motorsports, USA.
‘’Back for the 5th year in a row, Specialized Sports Equipment, part of the Abdulla Al Masaood & Sons Group, will this year showcase the highly anticipated Indian Motorcycle FTR 1200 S for the first time in the Middle-East. The latest Polaris Off-Road Vehicles and Slingshot models will also be displayed.’’ – Karim Kassoul, General Manager,Specialized Sports Equipment, UAE.
International Motor Show in Abu Dhabi
Regional launches and latest models make IMSAD the destination for car buyers and those who simply like window shopping. For buyers, there are exclusive ‘imsad-only’ offers and special discounts, customized payment plans, special bank and insurance rates, all on the show floor. Some of the featured exhibitors include Chevrolet, GMC, MG, Subaru, Jeep, Zotye, Mitsubishi, Yas Marina Circuit and Abu Dhabi Police.
Automotive dealers have geared up to make it worth the visitors time – like the Chevrolet dealership who promises great deals. ‘We will be launching the youth-oriented sport SUV ‘The Blazer’ and the legendary ‘2019 Silverado’ for the first time in Abu Dhabi. Also, we will be unveiling the new 2019 Camaro and 2019 Malibu.’’ – Vishal Nair, Marketing Support Manager, Bin Hamoodah Automotive, UAE.
The last entrant on a scene has the advantage of knowing what went ahead. Nissan Altima is the last model in its category to undergo a total overhauling in the past twelve months. So, has Nissan made use of this edge to stay ahead of its worthy rivals in the segment or has the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord pitched their new generation way ahead already?
What is special about the sixth-generation?
Two new engines, including the world’s first production-ready Variable Compression engine
Advanced safety features as a part of Nissan Intelligent Mobility
Longer, lower, wider and more athletic design
Spacious interior design with superior materials
Available in three trim levels in 2.5 L engine and two with the 2.0L Turbo engine starting at AED 84,000
Read what is new and find my first driving impressions at the end of this article.
Two years ago, at the NAIAS or Detroit Motor Show, Nissan unveiled its Vmotion 2.0 concept that bagged the show’s EyesOn Design Award. That concept was to be the beacon of inspiration for all upcoming sedans. Starting with the Vmotion grille and boomerang headlights, the new Altima takes plenty of cues from the show car, including the floating roof design with thin pillars celebrated in the Maxima, but has sensibly avoided the laboriously sculpted details on the flagship’s sheet metal. The new Altima comes with LED projector headlights with signature Daytime Running Lights, LED fog lights and a single panel moon-roof.
Those who love style will find many catchy changes in the Altima – The exterior colours include a deep-tinted Scarlet Ember red that changes hue with the light, and a vibrant Sunset Drift orange with a reflective pigment.
Nissan Altima have come across as the stockier one in its segment, even though a 2015 Altima and Camry were more or less exact matches in exterior dimensions. However, the sixth generation Altima is a full inch longer, 1.1 inches (2.8 cm) lower in height and 9/10th of an inch wider, with a 1.9-inch (4.8 cm) longer wheelbase. With the 19-inch rear wheels pushed further to the corners, the new model is designed to handle better with a coefficient of drag (Cd) of 0.26.
Take a look inside
The materials are superior to the sight and feel good too. Spread in front is what they call the “gliding wing” instrument panel – of course the way it looks and may be because it is lighter too – which takes after the V-motion grille design.
A 7.0-inch Advanced Drive Assist Display is standard. The seats come with Enhanced NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seat design (The principle is that in a weightless environment [read zero-gravity] the spine assumes the most favourably erect posture, avoiding the slouch that happens due to our own weight burden. This natural posture Nissan says will reduce long drive fatigue.) with dual-density foam and added bolstering for improved holding and support. The synthetic fabric looks and feels good but perforated leather inserts are available on top trims. In the new generation, the driver seat can be adjusted in 8 ways and can memorize settings. Where available, ‘remote engine start’ allows for the AC to keep the cabin ready for you and features Intelligent Climate Control.
2019 Altima is fair when it comes to connectivity – it comes with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto besides an 8-inch multi-touch colour display, Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System and Streaming audio via Bluetooth®. The top trim gets a Bose® Premium Audio system with nine speakers.
The drive gets better
There is a new all-wheel drive system and that improves traction in all conditions. The 2019 Altima range also gets enhanced suspension, steering and chassis control systems. The suspension is adjusted to improve steering feedback and vehicle response without adding to the harshness and also gets monotube rear shocks adding to the ride comfort. The chassis also has been tweaked for more comfort and confidence in controlling the car.
The steering system has been upgraded to a new dual-pinion electric power steering design – so turning the steering has become easier at low speeds while more input is required at higher speeds for improved feedback and control. The steering has a flat-bottomed shape now to match these improvements!
Some bits of the technology in Maxima have found their way into the 2019 Altima. Intelligent Ride Control (balances the up and down movement of the car when tackling bumps), Intelligent Trace Control (automatically applies brake to individual wheels to keep the driving line of the car while tackling corners) and Vehicle Dynamics Control (stability control) work together to make the drive more enjoyable and effective. The new Altima offers 16-inch, 17-inch and 19-inch wheel sizes.
Find my first driving impressions at the end of this article.
Two new engines for the Altima
This is the first time Nissan is bringing up two new engines for a model change – speaks volumes about the significance of Altima in their scheme of things.
Altima has been launched with a 2.5-liter DOHC inline 4-cylinder direct injection engine which has 80% new or redesigned parts, adding 9 hp and 4 Newton-metres to the earlier engine’s power output. The 2.5 L engine works up 188 horsepower and 244 Nm of torque. The new engine is improved with regard to noise, vibration and harshness, fuel economy and has cleaner emissions.
For the techies here are the key changes about the engine – those who want to move on can skip this paragraph. Another reason for the new Altima to be quieter is that it has a lower profile because it uses a “reverse” cylinder head with integrated exhaust manifold and low engine mounting into the new platform’s engine bay.) The engine now has a thermal-insulated resin intake port, Direct Injection Gasoline (DIG) system, variable tumble control valve, mirror bore cylinder coating, variable displacement oil pump, intake e-VTC and cooled external EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation).
Find my first driving impressions at the end of this article.
What’s coming – world’s first production Variable Compression Turbo engine
The Nissan Altima won’t have the 3.5 L V6 anymore but it isn’t going to be missed. Coming this summer is a new turbo charged engine –Nissan calls it VC Turbo, and was launched in the Infiniti QX50 as a world-first production-ready variable compression turbo inline 4-cylinder. The aim is to get closest to V6 performance but with 4-cylinder economy and this is done by seamlessly changing the compression ratio between dynamic and efficient performance settings. The engine character is balanced by how hard or soft the driver accelerates.
Compared with the previous 3.5-liter V6 engine, the 2.0-liter VC-Turbo takes less space in the engine bay and delivers 248 horsepower and 370 Nm of torque when you use premium fuel. For the V6, these figures were 270 and 340 respectively. The new 2.0-liter VC-Turbo engine is expected to improve the highway efficiency by more than 10% for the front-wheel drive models. The new VC-Turbo is earmarked for the top two grades (SV and SL) and the driver can see the changes for themselves on a gauge in the 7.0-inch Advanced Drive Assist Display.
Again, this paragraph is for techies. Interestingly, Nissan says the VC-Turbo has been in development for 20 years. The compression ratio of the new engine keeps changing smoothly between 8:1 (for high performance) and 14:1 (for high efficiency) – with an advanced multi-link system continuously raising or lowering the pistons’ reach to transform the compression ratio. If you didn’t know, while high compression ratio gives greater efficiency, sometimes there is the risk of firing too early (knocking). A low compression ratio avoids knocking by allowing greater torque. The Direct Injection Gasoline (DIG) system improves combustion efficiency and performance and enables the engine to avoid knocking at higher compression ratios, while the multi-point injection mixes fuel and air earlier, making for a more complete combustion in the chamber, for greater efficiency at low engine loads. The VC-Turbo engine is assembled in Japan and its multi-link components are made of high-carbon steel alloy.
First Look. First Drive.
The Altima looks larger and more sophisticated than earlier without the laboured design details of the Maxima. The driver assistance technology is on par with the more tech-savvy models in its segment. The multimedia screen at the centre appeared dull and grey initially; in glaring light sometimes it could be it hard to read but while passing through a tunnel the screen turned to a pleasing blue and clearly visible.
There is more space for the rear passengers and also a deep and sufficient boot compartment. The slightly wish-washy feeling that marked some parts of the drive earlier has given way to a more accurate and enjoyable one. The mission of diluting the “CVT” feeling is relentlessly on in the Nissan camp and this time the gearshift emulates a 7-speed shift – faking it is getting better with time – there is very little of the bawling climb and the shift breaks its climbing feeling momentarily before going on to feel like an automatic step-transmission. Rather unnecessary if you ask me but then this concept of CVT-hating takes time to wither away and Nissan Altima has got a step closer, again!
You can vote to choose the Car Of The Year using the link in this article, until Marcg 7th. This has been a year of some great automotive movement. Of healthy competition, raising benchmarks, self-defining technology, growing expectations and generous specifications that feed them further…
Vote right away. Click the MECOTY link below to go to the voting page.
Take the mundane midsize sedan category for example. It isn’t mundane or boring anymore. I have found exceptional pleasure in reiterating this… on these pages, on social, on radio… ever since the launch of the all-new Toyota Camry last year. Followed by the introduction of the all-new Honda Accord, until the launch of the all-new Nissan Altima in the Middle East a few days ago. As the Altima doesn’t fall within the time frame of evaluation, it isn’t part of the nominated cars. Likewise, it is the year that saw category defining entries and the start of whole new species altogether – like the Rolls-Royce Cullinan or the Aston Martin DB11 – and the rebirth of iconic models like the Bentley Continental GT that have been trudging along the path of change and then crossed through the tunnel of metamorphosis this year…
So, it is a worthy collection that awaits your stamp of approval – rather your careful pick of one to be celebrated as the Car Of The Year as decided by the public. My fellow members of the jury and I have submitted our votes by now and next month it will all be revealed.
The list of nominated cars are given above. You will also find them in the drop down menu on the page this link below will lead you to. You have 7 days to make your vote matter.
At the end of speculation and prying cameras and leaked glimpses, the first global model of the GR series was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show
It was 7 years ago that such a wave of expectation and excitement swept the earth originating from the epicenter of Toyota HQ. If it was the mild rumble of the Toyota 86, now it is the return of the knighted warrior – the Toyota Supra.
The all-new Supra was premiered last month at the 2019 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The Supra name still evokes the powerful memory of a performance vehicle that moved true enthusiasts for quarter of a century. A thoroughbred sports car from the stables of Toyota is here to quench the thirst of driving enthusiasts – when the 86 attempted to fill the gap!
Just in case you are wondering what GR stands for – it is GAZOO Racing. The all-new Supra is the first global model of GAZOO Racing’s sports car series. Ever since first competing in Germany’s 24 Hours of Nürburgring endurance race in 2007, GR has been developing its cars and people through its motorsports activities. The passion and the expertise have been funneled into revving the Supra back to life as GR Supra.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda, who is also a master driver, commented: “Back in the day, I spent countless hours driving an old Supra at the Nürburgring to become a master driver. Supra is like an old friend that holds a special place in my heart. While other manufacturers were putting the beautiful new prototypes they were going to introduce through their paces, I was driving an old Supra that was no longer in production. So even though Toyota had no plans to make a new Supra, just like a lot of other die-hard Supra fans around the world I secretly wanted to make it happen. The new GR Supra was born through testing at Nürburgring, and I can honestly say that it is better than ever.”
What GR brings to life will be the fifth-generation Supra after a silence of 17 years. The previous generation concluded production in 2002. Since its inception in 1978, all Supra models have been front-engine, rear-wheel-drive vehicles powered by an inline six-cylinder engine. As for styling, the Toyota Supra took after the Toyota Celica but it was longer and wider. Sometime in 1986, the A70 Supra became a separate entity and lost its prefix Celica.
The new GR Supra offers the option of a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four or a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine, both supplied by BMW. So, the fifth generation Supra and the next generation BMW Z4 evolved together even though stylistically they are two different beasts. The new Supra further focuses on the three fundamental elements of wheelbase, tread, and center of gravity, thus achieving handling performance befitting a pure sports car.
The more ubiquitous 3.0-liter inline 6 produces 335 hp and 500 Nm from 1,600 to 4,500 rpm and sends the power to the rear wheels through a ZF 8HP 8-speed auto. The 2.0 litre engine is now only for the Japanese market and will produce 194 hp and 255 hp in two versions. This results in a 0 – 60 mph (0 – 97 kmph) time of 5.2 and 6.5 seconds respectively, while the 3.0 L model can cover the distance in in 4.1 or 4.3 seconds as per varying reports.
Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada, who headed the vehicle’s development, said: “Rather than only working toward improving specs such as horsepower and circuit lap times, we emphasized sensitivity in performance, such as the degree to which driving could be felt to be enjoyable, with car and driver becoming one.”
The interest is apparently rising with the first production 2020 Toyota GR Supra to roll off the assembly line, ‘Global #1,’ fetched $2.1 million (AED 7.7 million) at the 48th Annual Barrett-Jackson Auction, with proceeds going to the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF). The Supra is a star of course and has actually featured on screen in games, movies and videos including the Initial D, Gran Turismo, Need for Speed and The Fast and the Furious series.
I leave the rain behind in Dubai and set off to Jebel Hafeet to give the DB 11 muscles a proper work out, up and down the mountain. Besides a taste of the brands new DBS Superleggera, it also gave me a ‘Vantage’ view of power!
Change has been sweeping the Aston Martin citadel since the turn of the century – the brand’s second century to be clearer. In their second century plan there is space for 7 cars in 7 years, which will see a whole new line up, almost unrecognizable to the brand’s last century fans! The old line up is being replaced systematically. Vanquish and DB9 have all vanished. The first of the seven is the DB 11. The Vantage featuring the new 4.0 V8 AMG engine is here, and we await more news on a new Vanquish. The next in line is the DBX, Aston Martin’s own idea of an SUV. Then there is the first ever mid-engine sports car from the British racing brand that is whispered to be here next year, and bringing up the rear are two models from the Lagonda. That laid out, now is my chance to meet the DB11 family.
Actually, I am not a stranger to the DB11 family. The V8 and I have been out on a date – not once but twice. (We even made a video together, watch it here.) But I never got to meet the V12 – ‘I didn’t miss much’ is what the spec sheet tells me. The V8 had a torque output of 675 Nm, while the V12 hid behind 25 more. It definitely must have been a more emphatic drive because all the horsepower the V8 could hand me was 504 while the V12 could produce a whole 600. Still, Aston Martin must have thought the V12 proposition isn’t strong enough to challenge its own V8 sibling (brother from another mother actually, as the V8 is an AMG engine!) to pre-eminence. So, Gaydon must have decided not to risk its homebred flagship being described as ‘somewhat better than the V8’ and decided to widen the gap noticeably. And that’s how the Aston Martin DB11 V12 AMR joined the fleet we were driving that day to Al Ain and 1200 m up the Jebel Hafeet.
AMR stands for Aston Martin Racing and the badge is immediately claimed by a performance that underlines 30 extra horsepower when compared with the V12 that disappeared before I got a chance to drive it. The torque remains the same at 700 Nm – not that there was any reason to add to it. The race credential is built in the double-flat steering, the tweaked suspensions and the black and lemon yellow livery that instantly grabbed by attention, and sent my hand up when it was time to choose my first drive.
I’m glad I did that because that meant on the way back I would be driving the DBS Superleggera which had been recently added to the fleet. Now, after having our muscles nicely worked out (the cars and mine) I was ready for an easy cruise on the way back, and the DBS proved why it was called the Super GT. That machine knows how to contain its 715 horses and 900 Nm torque when it wears the cape of a grand tourer. Yes, that is what the machine is capable of now – bumped up by 115 hp and 200 Nm compared with the original V12!
As I arrived at Jebel Hafeet and tested the three models – I got to give my DB11 V8 memories a refresh too – it was obvious why automakers always leave scope for improvement, and yet it sometimes takes a back-to-back drive to bring out the invisible shortcomings and the relative edge of one model against another. Jebel Hafeet set a scale for them to be placed on a grid of competence. There was enough ‘squeeze’ in that transmission to get the juice out from those mean machines. And yet there was enough space from perfection to make me feel good about my hand on the wheel.
The new DB11 is more of a Grand Tourer than the previous DB models, if only because it can fix two child seats, and can make space for a couple of bags and a golf bag at once! The door apertures are larger than previous DB models, front seat occupants enjoy 10 mm of extra headroom, while rearwards, a 54 mm increase in headroom and 87 mm more legroom mean DB11 is a true 2+2. The electronic command system and the navigation come from Mercedes and the Press worldwide has celebrated it as the best ever found in an Aston Martin.
The sporty and the sportier
A great music is nothing to shy away from being thankful for; coz that isn’t what makes an Aston what it is – exhaust notes are to some extent. So it was worth noting that the AMR in its Sport + mode had a raspy sharpness as it moved from sonic pleasure to sonic ecstasy. On my way back, the DBS sounded more like a the concept of a future machine gun battering air.
A top speed of 335 kmph (208mph) makes the DB11 AMR one of the world’s swiftest GT cars and the fastest model in Aston Martin’s current series production range. At its heart is a twin-turbocharged 5.2-litre V12 that now delivers 630bhp and a 0-100kmph time of 3.7sec.
The DB11 at the pinnacle
DBS Superleggera sits at the pinnacle of the Aston Martin production range. It is both a shining light expressing the most beautiful automotive art and, at the same time, a dark and menacing shadow of brutal, unequivocal strength. It is this fine blend of seemingly opposing traits that makes the DBS Superleggera the absolute Aston Martin. That is how the Aston Martin website describes the DBS.
Cool and control the machine could be the purpose, but every design element that has been added to the DBS bodywork is sheer art. If the beauty is embodied in the gaping grille and its dotted detail, the stable stance can be gauged with a track that is fairly wider than the DB11 – 10 mm wider in front and 20mm at the rear. The top speed of the DBS is 340 kmph while the 100 kmph flashes by in 3.4 seconds. The power output is 715 hp and an eye-popping 900 Nm of torque. The gearbox is a rear mid-mounted ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. The DBS uses ventilated carbon ceramic brake discs 410 mm dia. The DBS rolls on 21” wheels and gives it an ethereal stance.
The new Aston Martin Vantage wears its inspiration by the special edition Vulcan on its sleeves – and is perhaps the only surviving on road memory of the mission-built DB10. The interiors look like a nerd’s bedroom with button-cluttered console and dash as against the intuitively set out controls in DB11, the refined Grand Tourer. However, the Vantage shares its bonded-aluminium platform with the DB11 though 70% of its components are said to be unique to it. The sportier car pushes the engine as far back on the chassis, achieving a 50:50 weight distribution, and even foregoes a glove compartment for the sake of staying light. The Vantage is also the first Aston Martin production car to feature an electronically controlled differential with torque vectoring. The Vantage too uses the Mercedes-AMG engine as the DB11. The 4.0L twin turbo V8 develops 503 hp and 685 Nm, which is 10 extra bits in the torque department, while the transfer happens through a rear mounted 8-speed ZF gearbox. The new Vantage can touch a top speed of 314 kmph and gallop to 100 kmph in 3.6 seconds.
My experience of the Vantage happened between the AMR and the DBS – perfectly slotted to feel how raw the DB11 actually could be and how much further things could be pushed. Achieving near highway top speeds while exiting corners in a mountain is not the sort of thing you do with any sporty car, and that is why the Vantage is the tear-apart-the-niceness-and-get-to-business sort of car – it can leave your heart pounding.
I don’t have the Vantage on video but you can watch all three DB11 cars I got to ride during the Jebel Jais outing. All the images used in this feature are shot by Dean Smith. They are so beautiful, I decided to overlook my efforts entirely. Below is an image of the DBS. The three above are of the Vantage. Three above those are of teh DBS Superleggera and the trio at the very top is of the Aston Martin DB11 V12 AMR.
The Nissan GT-R50 by Italdesign is based on the current Nismo GT-R but is transformed in almost every inch. As the ultra limited edition woos collectors in the Middle East, the million Euro car stops by Dubai Autodrome, as part of a global tour, and we get a special sneak peek.
If you have suspected an Italian job looking at the 2003 Chevrolet Corvette Moray concept or the Subaru SVX of the nineties or the 1974 Volkswagen Golf, well you were absolutely right. Italdesign gave shape to them, besides many Italian models and many of the most beautiful concept cars ever made. Celebrating the milestone of 50 years in 2018 had to be special for Italdesign. During the same time another special car was all set to celebrate its own half a century mark with great vroom. The Nissan GT-R decided to take the shape of a limited edition at the hands of Italdesign. And thus the Nissan GT-R50 was born. I should make it clear that the car was actually designed by the European and American teams of Nissan while it was developed, engineered and built by Italdesign.
After a tour that tested the love for a GT-R ultra limited edition, it was assigned for production, with only 50 of them slotted to be built. Starting with the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England and moving through Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, Monterey Motorsports Reunion in the U.S and Nissan Crossing in Japan, the GT-R50 stopped at Dubai Autodrome earlier this week.
Lapping up the kind sunshine in the pitlane, the GT-R50 stood covered in the splendour of liquid kinetic grey and energetic sigma gold. I couldn’t decide if I were charmed more by the two-tone finish or the exotic names. While these were the colours that adorned the prototype, the customers can specify their preferred combinations on the bespoke model they reserve, inside and out.
Brute force meets European sensibility in the GT-R50
Dimensions: Length: 4784mm / 4.78 m (Standard NISMO: 4690 mm / 4.69 m) Width: 1992mm (Standard NISMO: 1895 mm) Height: 1316mm (Standard NISMO: 1370 mm) Wheelbase: 2780mm (same)
Design: a pronounced power bulge on the hood, stretched LED headlights, a lowered roofline by 54 mm and prominent “samurai blade” cooling outlets behind the front wheels. The rear for once looks more impressive. The large rear wing is mounted with two uprights and is flexible as it can lower itself close to the boot line. Custom wheels: 21 x 10 inches in front and 21 x 10.5 inches at the rear
Engine: The 3.8L V6 engine has an output almost 120 PS more than the stock. 710 hp and 780 Nm of torque is what the supercar will tear the tracks with. Changes include optimized twin high-flow, large-diameter GT3 competition-spec turbochargers and larger intercoolers; heavy-duty crankshaft, pistons, connecting rods and bearings; high-flow piston oil jets; revised camshaft profiles; higher-flow fuel injectors; and optimized ignition, intake and exhaust systems. A reinforced dual-clutch sequential six-speed rear transaxle and stronger differentials and drive shafts direct the power to the wheels.
Cabin: Carbon fiber is lavished over the center console, instrument panel and door linings in two different finishes. The seats are wrapped in black Alcantara® and fine black Italian leather. Gold accents continue inside.
Chassis and underpinnings: A revised suspension has been developed, featuring the BILSTEIN DampTronic® I continuously adjustable damping system. For braking, the Brembo six-piston front and four-piston rear brakes feature bright red, clearly visible calipers. Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires 255/35 R21 in front and 285/30 R21 in rear help harness the power.
Nissan GT-R50 by Italdesign Pricing: 990,000 Euros before taxes and options. Serious buyers may please visit www.gt-r50.nissan
The Nissan GT-R in the Middle East
GT-R has a near-cult following amidst Middle East consumers, and this is where the legendary car broke a Guinness World record in 2016, for the fastest ever vehicle drift. Driver Masato Kawabata (Japan) reached a staggering 304.96 km/h (189.49 mi/h) while driving a Nissan GT-R NISMO at Fujairah International Airport. Nissan says the GT-R is on track to doubling its share in the premium sports car market by the end of fiscal year 2018 compared with 2016.
Commenting during the launch, Kalyana Sivagnanam, Regional Vice President, Marketing and Sales, Nissan AMI and President of Nissan Middle East: “Continuing our long and proud motorsport heritage in the Middle East, we are thrilled to bring the exclusive GT-R50 to customers and fans in the region. The Nissan GT-R is one of the world’s most iconic supercars, and the GT-R50 by Italdesign is the GT-R taken to the next level, with no compromise in performance, styling or craftsmanship.”