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All-new Toyota Yaris Ativ (Vios) launched in Thailand

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios (25)

A new generation of the Toyota Yaris Ativ was unveiled in Thailand this evening and while it is known by that name there, Malaysians know it as the Vios, one of the best-selling sedans in the non-national brand segment. With this new DNGA-based Yaris Ativ, the Vios goes into its fourth generation since 2002. To date, around 3.5 million units have been sold worldwide, with a large number in ASEAN.

DNGA – Daihatsu New Global Architecture –is a platform and structure which is used for the smaller models in the Toyota Group which Daihatsu is part off (and which is also extended to Perodua since it is partnered with Daihatsu).

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios
2021 Toyota Vios
Current third generation Vios

DNGA has been developed with weight-saving approaches while the rigid structure and suspension geometry provide high standards of stability and comfort. Besides giving much attention to aerodynamics, DNGA also provides generous interior space with a quiet environment.

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios

Size-wise, the new Vios (we’ll call it that since the name is more familiar to Malaysians) is almost the same as its predecessor with 5 mm more length, 10 mm more width and an extra 5 mm in overall height. Of greater significance is the widening of the wheelbase by 70 mm to 2620 mm which will have positive implications on handling and stability and more importantly, cabin spaciousness.

For now, only the specs for the Thai Yaris Ativ model are available and the engine fitted is the 3NR-VE 1.2-litre petrol engine which is partly dictated by the need to meet the country’s Eco Car requirement for incentives. This engine produces 94 ps/110 Nm which flows through a Super CVT-i transmission to the front wheels. As is common these days, the driver can choose an Economy or Sport mode, or just leave the engine to run in the default Normal mode.

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios

It’s not known whether Malaysia will continue with the 1.5-litre 2NR-VE unit (107 ps/140 NM) in the current Vios. As the model is assembled locally, it may be possible to use the engine and if we’re not mistaken, it is produced at a factory in Negeri Sembilan. Using the engine would be important for the model to maximise its local content level and get better government incentives to help keep its pricing competitive.

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios

The suspension remains straightforward with MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam with coil springs at the rear. Some versions come with rear disc brakes as an extra selling point although most engineers will tell you that drum brakes are good enough.

As we’ve seen in the new models launched in recent times, Toyota’s design approach has become more ‘aggressive’ with a bolder appearance. Where appropriate, models are also given a sportier image and in the case of the new Vios/Yaris Ativ, the profile has gained a sleeker fastback style which brings the Cd down to 0.284.

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios
2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios

The frontal appearance, now more angular and chiseled, has hints of the larger Camry with the dominant grille. Sequential turn signals and LED headlamps/tail lamps have now come down in price that they can be offered in this class.

With each new generation, the level of quality has risen and texturing is even finer. Adjustable ambient lighting, common in more expensive models, has now trickled down to the Vios and the driver can choose from 64 colours to set the mood for each journey.

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios
2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios

The dashboard layout follows current trends with a tablet-like touchscreen display to show infotainment and navigation information. In the middle area of the dashboard are the manual controls for the ventilation and air-conditioning system, a more practical approach than having everything done by just touch.

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios
2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios

Over on the driver’s side, the digital instrument panel shows all the operating information (with variable displays) while there are switches on the steering wheel for easy setting changes without taking the hands of the steering wheel.

Depending on the version, the new Vios comes with features such as automatic air-conditioning, a PM 2.5 air filtration system and an electric parking brake. Connectivity with smartphones is easily done with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

An extensive Toyota Safety Sense package (which includes Adaptive Cruise Control) is provided to reduce drive workload as well as help avoid accidents. There’s also the Panoramic View Monitor which provides an all-round view and Toyota also has its own DVRs (dashcams) that are installed as standard or offered as accessories, depending on the version.

2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios
2022 Toyota Yaris Ativ Vios

Volkswagen eShowroom revamped for greater clarity and convenience


Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia (VPCM) has refreshed its eShowroom to provide greater convenience and clarity for those looking to purchase a Volkswagen. On the revamped website, customers will know what models are available for sale at the respective authorised Volkswagen dealers nationwide in real-time.

Loosely based on the concept of “what you see is what you get”, only vehicles that in stock at the showrooms of dealers will be featured. In this way, a customer will be able to know that he or she can have the vehicle right away (subject to loan approvals and completion of other processes related to a new vehicle registration).

Customers can browse through the website to see the models currently available and their showroom locations. They can either book a test drive, or reserve the unit online with a standard booking fee of RM1,500. After that, a representative of their preferred dealer will be in touch to assist them through the next steps to complete the purchase.

Special offer
As part of the Merdeka and Malaysia Day celebrations over the next 2 months, those who place a booking via the eShowroom will also receive an exclusive RM500 rebate on their purchase.

“Volkswagen Malaysia is always looking for ways to enhance the ownership experience for our customers, and begins at the moment of purchase. With this in view, our eShowroom is anchored on the concept of bringing a dealership right to the customer’s fingertip, and we are pleased to now bring it up a notch by introducing real-time availability. This will bring greater convenience, thus ensuring a smoother journey for our customers,” said Erik Winter, Managing Director of VPCM.

Online sales channel since 2020
VPCM was among the early companies to establish an online channel for customer to shop when the COVID-19 pandemic started. In fact, the company ‘opened shop’ for its eShowroom in March 2020, the same month when the Movement Control Order (MCO) was first introduced. It was timely as businesses, including showrooms, had to stop operating. But with the e-Showroom, they could still ‘visit’ to know more about Volkswagen products and initiate a purchase if they were interested.

The availability of an eShowroom has provided customers with another channel to obtain information at their convenience – even at 2 am in the morning! From time to time, there have been special offers for purchases made only at the eShowroom, saving money for customers.

VW Free Home Delivery
Illustration only as delivery methods may vary! But customers are assured that the new vehicle will be protected from risk of damage while being transported to their home.

With social distancing being urged to reduce spread of the coronavirus, authorised Volkswagen dealers have also been offering a home delivery service for the past 2 years. The service is available nationwide up to a distance of 20 kms from an authorised dealership serving the customer. To avoid any risk of damage, the new vehicle (which is covered) is delivered using a flatbed carrier truck right to the customer’s doorstep.

Audi e-rickshaws to be tested in India

Audi e-rickshaws to be tested in India

The sale of electric vehicles (EVs) in high volumes began 12 years ago, when Nissan introduced its LEAF. Since then, the number of EVs in use has grown rapidly and the question of what to do with the batteries at the end of their life powering vehicles is becoming a serious matter. The batteries can still be used for other purposes and some manufacturers are exploring practical ways of reusing them.

One possible second-life use case is being tested in India by a German–Indian start-up called Nunam. The aim of the project is to explore how modules made with automotive high-voltage batteries can be reused by installing them in electric rickshaws.

“The old batteries are still extremely powerful,” says Nunam co-founder Prodip Chatterjee. “When used appropriately, second-life batteries can have a huge impact, helping people in challenging life situations earn an income and gain economic independence – everything in a sustainable way.”

3 prototypes
The non-profit start-up based in Berlin and Bangalore is funded by the Audi Environmental Foundation. Nunam developed the three prototype rickshaws in collaboration with the training team at Audi’s Neckarsulm site which, in turn, benefits from the intensive intercultural exchange. This is the first joint project between both AUDI AG and the Audi Environmental Foundation in addition to Nunam.

The 3 electric rickshaws are powered by used batteries taken from test vehicles in the Audi e-tron test fleet. They will appear on Indian roads in early 2023 when the pilot project gets underway with a non-profit organization. Women in particular will be able to use the all-electric rickshaws to transport their goods to market for sale, all without the need for intermediaries.

Looking for new uses
The start-up’s primary goal is to develop ways to use old batteries as second-life power storage systems, thus both extending their lives and using resources more efficiently. “Car batteries are designed to last the life of the car. But even after their initial use in a vehicle, they still have a lot of their power,” Chatterjee explained. “For vehicles with lower range and power requirements, as well as lower overall weight, they are extremely promising.”

“ In our second-life project, we reuse batteries from electric cars in electric vehicles; you might call it electric mobility ‘lite’. In this way, we’re trying to find out how much power the batteries can still provide in this demanding use case,” he said.

Reusing e-waste
E-rickshaws have an ideal eco-efficiency. With a high-energy-density battery pack and comparatively low vehicle weight, the electric motor doesn’t have to be particularly powerful – especially since rickshaw drivers in India travel neither fast nor far. While electrically-powered rickshaws are not an uncommon sight on the roads of the sub-continent today, they often run on lead-acid batteries, which have a relatively short service life and are often not disposed of properly.

At the same time, rickshaw drivers charge their vehicles primarily with public grid electricity, which has a high proportion of coal-fired power in India. Nunam has a solution for this as well: The e-rickshaws charge using power from solar charging stations. The solar panels are located on the roofs of the local partner’s premises. During the day, sunlight charges an e-tron battery, which acts a buffer storage unit. And in the evening, the power is passed on to the rickshaws.

This approach makes local driving largely carbon-free. The benefit is that the electric rickshaws can be used throughout the day – and still be charged with green power during the evening and night. In India, where the sun shines all year round, placing solar panels on the roof is an obvious solution.

Open-source platform encourages imitators
Nunam will continuously monitor the e-rickshaws’ performance and range. The social entrepreneurs make all the e-rickshaw data they collect available to potential imitators on the open-source platform. In fact, imitation is expressly encouraged.

“Initiatives like the one pioneered by Nunam are needed to find new use cases for e-waste. Not only in India, but worldwide. So Nunam shares its knowledge to motivate more initiatives to develop products with second-life components that can drive the eco-social revolution forward,” said Audi Environmental Foundation Director Rudiger Recknagel.

And even after the battery has spent its first life in an Audi e-tron and its second in an e-rickshaw, it has not necessarily reached the end of the road. In a third step, the battery could still be used for stationary applications such as LED lighting. “We want to get everything possible out of each battery before recycling,” said Chatterjee.

Ott Tanak wins Rally Finland to give Hyundai Motorsport maiden victory

Hyundai WRC 2022 Rally Finland

Toyota has dominated the World Rally Championship (WRC) news this year with victory after victory, so it was refreshing to have a different brand celebrating its win on the podium. Ott Tanak secured Secto Rally Finland victory to give Hyundai Motorsport its first ever triumph in the event with a perfect drive.

The Estonian driver led from the second stage of the rally to finish the 4-day gravel road fixture 6.8 seconds ahead of Toyota GR Yaris rival, Kalle Rovanpera. Though enjoying a lead, Tanak did not have it easy in his Hyundai i20 N but was still able to produce top times throughout, thanks to hard grit and determination.

Hyundai WRC

At the opening stage of the Rally Finland, Rovanpera had been slow to move forward but then went on to win 5 stages the next day, climbing from fourth to second overall. He ended the penultimate day just 8.4 seconds behind after managing to narrow the gap despite the unpredictable conditions.

Dry conditions ensured further fast-paced action for closing leg, but Tanak was clearly not willing to lose his leading position. He gave just 1.8 second away to his rival over the 4 speed tests, and Rovanpera virtually resigned himself from a maiden home WRC victory.

With a strong collection of points in the bag, the 21-year was unwilling to take any unnecessary risks. Even without winning this round, he has extended his championship lead to 94 points after 8 rounds (with another 5 to go). Meanwhile, the Toyota GAZOO Racing team has a gap of 88 points in the lead in the Manufacturers’ standings with all three Yaris hybrid rallycars in the top four.

Finishing eighth overall, Teemu Suninen finished the event with what was to be his first WRC2 victory of the season. However, it was not to be as he was disqualified due to this i20 N Rally2 car being underweight.

In post-event scrutineering, the weight of the front bumper was recorded as 3,931 gms – below the minimum allowed weight of 4,510 gms required to comply with homologation.

The team did not dispute the finding and explained that the front bumper was not an original part produced by Hyundai Motorsport but a copy. It has been used as a replacement for the original bumper during testing and was fitted to Suninen’s car wrongly.

Suninen’s disqualification meant that Skoda Fabia Rally2 driver Emil Lindholm, who finished 7.7 seconds behind in the rally in a Fabia Evo, received the maximum points as category winner.

In the WRC3 category, Lauri Joona outran his rivals to secure a convincing victory in his home round. The FIA Junior WRC regular won all but 1 stage across the weekend in the all-Ford Fiesta Rally 3 category despite experiencing steering issues on both Friday and Saturday.

Already having a comfortable lead over second-placed Jan Cerny into Sunday, Joona did not let up his relentless push and took a clean sweep on all 4 of the final leg’s speed tests. His win moved him within a single point of championship leader Sami Pajari, who was contesting the WRC2 category.

After Rally Finland, the WRC returns to asphalt in less than 2 weeks when Belgium is again a WRC host country with Ypres Rally Belgium to take place on August 18 – 21.

More Hyundai XCIENT Fuel Cell trucks in use in Europe

Hyundai XCIENT FCEV truck

Even before full electrification with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) has gone mainstream in global markets, some manufacturers are already moving ahead with fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Hyundai Motor was among the first with production FCEV passenger models and is steadily growing its hydrogen fuel cell commercial trucks with the XCIENT Fuel Cell model.

Fuel cell (FC) technology is particularly well-suited to commercial shipping and logistics due to long ranges and short refueling times. The dual-mounted fuel cell system provides enough energy to drive the heavy-duty trucks up and down regions with mountainous terrain.

Hyundai XCIENT FCEV truck

“XCIENT Fuel Cell is a present-day reality, not as a mere future drawing board project. By putting this groundbreaking vehicle on the road now, Hyundai marks a significant milestone in the history of commercial vehicles and the development of hydrogen society,” said In Cheol Lee, Executive Vice-President and Head of Commercial Vehicle Division at Hyundai Motor. “Building a comprehensive hydrogen ecosystem, where critical transportation needs are met by vehicles like XCIENT Fuel Cell, will lead to a paradigm shift that removes automobile emissions from the environmental equation.”

Joint venture in Switzerland
The XCIENT Fuel Cell trucks, manufactured in Korea, are marketed a joint venture company which has Swiss company H2 Energy as a partner. The joint-venture company, Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility (HHM), offers the XCIENT Fuel Cell in a leasing deal which includes all costs, from import to technical support to the availability of green hydrogen. The big advantage is that there are no initial costs for the end customer.

Hyundai chose Switzerland as the starting point for its business venture for various reasons. One of the reasons is that zero-emission trucks do not have to pay Swiss roadtax charges. This nearly equalizes the hauling costs per kilometre of the FC truck compared to a regular diesel truck.

400 kms of range
The XCIENT Fuel Cell, the hydrogen FC version of its Xcient truck, is equipped with a 180-kW hydrogen FC system incorporating two 90-kW fuel cell stacks. With a 350-kW e-motor, the vehicle is claimed to be able to travel 400 kms on a full tank and requires only 8 to 20 minutes to fill up. Seven large hydrogen tanks offer a combined storage capacity of around 32.09 kgs of hydrogen.

To date, Hyundai has exported XCIENT FC trucks to Switzerland, where it has 23 corporate fleet clients, and more recently, to Germany where 27 units will be used by 7 companies in the logistics and manufacturing sectors.

Ford customises Explorer design just for China

2022 Ford Explorer (China)

The new vehicle market in China is the biggest in the world, having overtaken the US market in 2009. Last year, around 26.3 million new vehicles were sold, about 15 million more than the US volume. Every manufacturer would like to sell in China as even a small share of the market still means big volumes. However, apart from its own regulations, the China market also has some specific requirements which need to be met if a model is to appeal to the consumers and sell well.

And because of the potential volumes, foreign manufacturers are willing to develop models or alter existing models to meet the tastes of the Chinese customer. These tastes extend to styling and also size, with extended wheelbases being favoured.

One example is the Ford Explorer SUV which was recently unveiled in China. The model, an extremely popular SUV in America, has been sold in China since 2012 and for the latest generation, Ford has given it an appearance and features that are specifically for the market.

Designed in China for China
The Explorer for China was developed in China, at Ford’s design centre in Shanghai. The company’s sixth global design studio, the China Design Centre is a state-of-the-art facility that also encompasses a full showroom and in-house clay workshop.

Ford China Design Centre
Ford China Design Centre in Shanghai

The design team is a fusion of east and west, with 75% of the staff being local but maintaining close connections to the design teams globally. With their international outlook and local insights, this diverse group was given the task of designing the model for the Chinese market.

“Being the first time the Explorer was designed outside of North America, it was important that it continues its successful heritage of pioneering innovation and adventure whilst being modernized for the progressive China market,” said Simon Brook, Chief Designer of Ford China Design Centre. Elaborating on further differences when it comes to design, he said: “We know our Chinese customers value a high degree of sophistication, luxury and premium refinement, from exterior to interior.”

The process began with the creation of hundreds of detailed sketches to define the thematic direction. These themes were then narrowed down to strong proposals that ran from luxury to progressive to bold, to ensure that the optimum balance was achieved in the sense of strength and luxury while staying true to the Explorer heritage. High-tech solutions such as Virtual Reality and digital review tools were used to evaluate the themes from the sketch phase before committing and identifying the core design directions.

Ford’s China Design Language
Brook defines the ‘Progressive energy in strength’ mantra as being ‘all about taking Ford design heritage and that trust, and then innovating, and taking us somewhere new’. The Explorer design fully integrates the design DNA of the Explorer and combines it with modern Chinese aesthetics.

The frontal appearance of the Explorer for China (above) is significantly different from the version sold in the USA and other markets (below).

The key visual signatures of the Explorer heritage – such as the connected grille to lamps, C-clamp rear lighting signature and an open and expansive cabin – are all retained in the latest Explorer. The luxury yacht inspiration can be found throughout the  exterior design. The new 21-inch Turbine fan wheels spin like a ship’s propeller, the iconic C-pillar graphic echoes the mast of a luxury sailboat, while the front end captures the essence of a ship’s bow as it breaks through the waves.

With the luxury-yacht feel retained and established, the key to the new Explorer’s design innovations for the Chinese market were to be found by leveraging the ‘Progressive Energy in Strength’ Chinese design DNA to capture three main principles: Agile, Responsive, Commanding.

High-tech interior
The philosophy behind the main interior elements is based on three fundamental aesthetic principles: clarity in build, harmony within composition and detailed craftsmanship. Aside from the overall proportion and form language, Chinese customers pay close attention to the mastery of craftsmanship and are more willing to embrace new, advanced technologies.

Explorer for China has a very wide display screen in the middle, whereas the US version (below) has the portrait-oriented screen that is also found in the new Ranger and Mach-E.

The overall interior architecture and prominent 27-inch touchscreen both reflect the commanding presence of the exterior, giving the Explorer a ‘Masculine Presence’ while ensuring it lives up to the ‘Tech Enhanced’ demands for well-integrated high technology. That’s further heightened through the newly designed instrument panel and centre console with its strong horizontal emphasis.

Time spent within the vehicle and the overall driving experience were considerations that remained at the forefront throughout the design process, with ‘customer voices’ prominently declaring comfort to be equally as important as safety and reliability. Driving an Explorer had to remain a rewarding experience, which necessitated finding a balance between comfort and technology. This was achieved via the harmonious integration of the technology itself and its intuitive usages, combining them with experiences that stimulate the senses.

New seating
In order to improve physical comfort, and place an emphasis on ‘Premium Quality and Solidity’, Ford’s designers came up with new seating with wider seat dimensions and fuller side bolsters to enable an optimally comfortable seating posture.

A standout feature is the unique China seat material and patterns designed in cooperation with Eagle Ottawa. Via the application of high-definition technology, the design team was able to express extremely fine detailing and new innovative patterns that would not have been possible using traditional quilting techniques, resulting in a design that is immaculate in its precision without sacrificing functionality.

As expressed through the interior colour scheme, the premium brown and black theme represents a confident presence by projecting an image of strength and sophisticated adventure, while the ruby and black theme represents an exquisite premium expression combining a commanding quality suffused with elegance and a premium feel through the accent colours and selected finishes.

Counterfeit parts industry growing globally

Genuine parts

Motorists are always urged to use genuine or original parts for their vehicles as the consequences of using fake parts can be fatal. Fake or counterfeit parts are typically made of poorer materials with processes that may also be inferior, which is why they cost much less. Such parts may not last as long as genuine parts at best – and could even break up or fail, causing an accident or severe damage to the engine or other parts of the car.

While there are also replacements parts for many models which are not original parts (ie with the carmaker’s branding and packaging), these are not fake. They are made by other companies and while they may or may not have similar quality and performance standards as original parts, they nevertheless would still meet certain basic standards and would be safe to use.

Counterfeit parts are parts which come in packaging that is identical to the original item, in order to mislead the customers. They would not be sold by authorised parts dealers but are still available in the open market. In recent times, there has also been a growing trade online which worries carmakers such as Mercedes-Benz.

During the pandemic over the past 2 years, sellers of counterfeit parts increasingly used online platforms and social media channels to offer their fake goods. This may have contributed to the significant increase of 6% compared to the previous year (2020) where in 2021 alone, more than 1.86 million counterfeit products were seized in over 650 raids initiated by the German carmaker.

It requires much more effort for brand protection experts to research the online trade in counterfeit products. Counterfeit goods can be placed on online platforms at very short notice and sold with the support of social media. For this reason, Mercedes-Benz has further expanded its strategic and operational measures against counterfeiting in online trading.

It is not easy to know a part is not genuine just by looks. In the picture above, both wheels look similar but the one on the right is fake and stress testing showed it to be weaker. The brake pads pictured below look identical but the one of the left is actually a fake and likely to have poor stopping performance which could result in an accident.

The brand protection strategy comprises three pillars: Detect, attack and prevent. Mercedes-Benz has brand protection experts who can identify counterfeiters by checking suspicious offers on online platforms and social media or trade fairs worldwide. The monitoring focusses on components such as brake discs, wheels and body and steering parts, and rigorous action is taken when possible.

“The trading in counterfeit products on online platforms and social media is further increasing. Our brand protection experts have quickly adapted to the counterfeiting industry’s growing business model. In 2021, more than 126,000 counterfeit products were removed from online platforms,” said Renata Jungo Brungger, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Integrity & Legal Affairs.

“The counterfeiting industry has organised crime structures and often generates higher profits than drug trafficking. We are working closely with authorities around the world in order to curtail these structures and combat threats to road safety,” she added. “Counterfeit products are not only illegal, they are also relevant to safety and can endanger the health of road-users.”

In many cases, organised counterfeiters have their goods produced under inhumane conditions with no regard for human rights, environmental standards and occupational safety. The global Mercedes-Benz Intellectual Property Enforcement team works closely with customs and law enforcement authorities in various countries. In addition, it regularly offers training events and information material for the preventive raising of awareness among different target groups.

Recalling a case in 2021, Lita Silje Janisch, Head of the Global IP Enforcement department at Mercedes-Benz Intellectual Property GmbH & Co. KG, said that the driver of a Mercedes-Benz car was travelling at about 130 km/h when unexpectedly, the bonnet popped open and smashed the windscreen. Fortunately, nobody was injured when this happened.

Fake brake pads are likely to have poorer performance and can mean the difference between stopping safely and having a collision.

“Upon investigation, our colleagues discovered that the driver had replaced the genuine grille with a counterfeit one ordered on the internet. It was technically faulty manufactured, and prevented the bonnet lock lever from engaging properly when closing. This shows that even more ‘decorative’ vehicle parts can be safety-relevant and you have to be very careful when replacing original parts,” she warned.

Customers and road-users can also support the prevention of product counterfeiting in their daily lives and check unusual offers very carefully. Typical indicators of counterfeit products are an extremely low price, questionable product quality, or sale via dubious online sources. It is often even possible to see from the product images or designations that the parts cannot be genuine, since Mercedes-Benz simply doesn’t manufacture such items!

It’s best to buy from authorised dealers or parts stockists when replacement parts are needed.

“It’s not always easy to spot a fake at first glance. However, there are signs that may indicate counterfeiting. In the case of an online shop, one of these may be that the seller offers a conspicuously large number of different brands, or that the prices are unusually low. One should always be wary of apparent bargains on the internet or on parts forums,” Mrs. Janisch advises.

Bentley Bacalar by Mulliner project nears completion

2022 Bentley Bacalar by Mulliner

The Bentley Bacalar by Mulliner was unveiled in March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to sweep across the world. Though a model of significance, it was overshadowed by global affairs that included shutdowns of industries and businesses in many countries. Nevertheless, when introduced, it already found customers for all 12 units to be built.

This exceptionally rare car is appropriately named after Laguna Bacalar in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, a lake renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, continuing Bentley’s strategy of naming cars after remarkable landmarks which started with Bentayga in 2015.

Pinnacle bespoke project
The Bacalar represents the first in a new series of pinnacle bespoke projects that have spearheaded a return to coachbuilding by Bentley Mulliner – the oldest coachbuilder in the world. Eight units have been delivered to customers, with four more to soon be finished. Once their work is finished, the Mulliner team to focus attention towards their next project, which the carmaker says will be revealed soon.

The Bacalar also launched a new Bentley Mulliner operation, part of a new strategy that will see the division offer three different portfolios: Classic, Collections and Coachbuilt.

6 months of work
With the level of handcraftsmanship, each car has taken around 6 months to complete. Needless to say, each one is unique in more than just the colour as each customer has chosen from a myriad of options and materials. For the Bacalar, Bentley Mulliner revived its specialism in providing rare coachbuilt cars to discerning customers.

A roofless Barchetta design with all-new and highly muscular coachwork, the Bacalar has a carbonfibre bodyshell. The car sits on unique 22-inch Tri-Finish wheels, with polished faces, dark grey satin spokes and accent highlights to complement the exterior.

2022 Bentley Mulliner Bacalar

“Designing a Bacalar is an exercise in imagination, with the material, colour and finish of practically every interior and exterior surface being bespoke. Regardless of  personal style, whether it be  specifying a bold Yellow Flame exterior paint synthesised with rice husk ash, or a more subtle Moss Green that reflects Bentley’s heritage, developing personalised artisan piping, or co-creating a unique fabric blend, the Bacalar has provided all of these opportunities,” said Maria Mulder, Head of Colour, Materials and Finishes.

6-litre 12-cylinder engine
The Bacalar is powered by an enhanced version of Bentley’s 6.0-litre, W12 TSI engine. Claimed to be the most advanced 12-cylinder engine in the world, it produces 659 ps/900 Nm. An advanced Active All-Wheel-Drive System varies the torque split between front and rear wheels. It allows the Bacalar to use rear-wheel drive as much as possible during normal driving for optimum efficiency and dynamic performance.

Uniquely designed details and features in the cabin emphasise the coachbuilt character of the car, with an almost infinite number of ways for the 12 customers to express their personal taste and commission a unique interior. From the use of precious inlays and unique finishes to the driver controls, to the 148,199 individual stitches needed to embroider the unique Bacalar quilt on each seat, owners will find details and components not seen before on a Bentley.

Displayed at Goodwood Festival of Speed
One of the finished Bacalars was shown off at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed in England where it was also handed over to its new owner. The car was finished in bespoke Sunset Orange, with customised tri-colour wheels and gloss black highlights providing a bold contrast to the vibrant exterior.

The centres of the headlamps were colour-matched to the Sunset Orange bodywork, either side of a set of gloss black grilles and surrounds. The bonnet vents provided a textural difference being finished in satin carbonfibre, as were the wing mirrors. Satin carbonfibre also gave additional definition to the ‘power humps’ behind the front seats – accented with Sunset Orange brightware – along with the side skirts and rear diffuser, complemented by exhaust finishers with gloss black outers and matte black inners.

The customer chose a white and black cabin with Mandarin Orange accents, creating a striking contemporary interior theme. A satin carbonfibre technical finish encapsulates the occupants, sweeping from one side of the cabin to the other, matching the exterior technical details harmoniously. Every panel and detail of the interior was specified to the customer, through careful combinations of leather and Alcantara in white, black and orange, gloss and satin metals in black, dark tint and bright chrome finishes, and the twin usage of both gloss and satin carbonfibre.

2022 Bentley Mulliner Bacalar

Mandarin Orange leather accentuates the form of the top roll, the centreline in the steering wheel and both the door release and gear lever. This continues with further stitching details to the rear of the seats within the oval perforated Beluga piping and hand cross stitching along the door following the styling line around to the centre console.

Other fine details include the analogue clock faces of the Bentley Rotating Display provide a splash of contrast in Bacalar Blue. The carpets feature a ‘diamond carved’ pattern, with binding and stitching in Mandarin Orange, while the split line between satin carbonfibre and gloss black in the luggage area – usually unseen and hidden by luggage – was specified to be in satin dark tint.

For each customer, personalising the Bacalar was ‘a voyage of discovery’, and this too applies to other models which are configurable in literally billions of ways. The process of designing a Mulliner goes even further – with infinite combinations of materials, colours and finishes. The only limitations are vehicle construction laws and the imagination of the customer… the cost is unlikely to be a concern.

MazdaSports Academy resumes Advanced Driving courses

MazdaSports Academy

After a period of inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the MazdaSports Academy is revving up again to show Mazda owners the potential of their cars, and teach them safer and more enjoyable driving. The academy was established in 2018 by Bermaz Motor, the distributor of Mazda vehicles in Malaysia.

The syllabus has been developed by the Bermaz MazdaSports division (formed in 2016), which handles vehicle development, parts and accessories development as well as experience programs for customers.

While there are various training modules, the coming course for Mazda owners will focus on advanced driving. Participants will be shown the potential of their cars (and SUVs), especially how jinba-ittai can help them to be better drivers and enjoy driving. Jinba-ittai is a Japanese term that refers to the unity between a ride and his horse, enabling movements with precision and confidence. This quality is a key feature of every Mazda model.

While some other advanced driving courses provide vehicles for participants, the Mazda one requires them to use their own vehicles. This is actually better as they will be familiar with the vehicle, and they will also be using what they learn on the vehicle they have trained in.

Generally, most people who attend advanced driving courses feel that they do benefit from what they are taught. Some of it may seem boring – like seating position and how to hold the steering wheel – but these are important fundamentals that must become second nature. They can make crucial differences to how well the car is handled and how effectively a driver can respond to an emergency situation.

Mazda’s SKYACTIV vehicle technologies – like G-Vectoring Control (GVC) – contribute to better dynamic performance but many owners may not fully appreciate how this helps them when driving. At the course, they will be able to gain better understanding of this innovative technology that improves chassis performance by controlling the engine output. Since 2016, GVC has been improved and GVC Plus, available in some of the newer models, enhances vehicle smoothness and handling during cornering.

Such advanced courses also enable participants to experience things like skids and slides in a safe and controlled environment. Apart from knowing what these conditions feel like, they are also taught how to recover from them or to control the car on wet and slippery surfaces.

We’re not sure if this course will have it but usually, there will be a competition (like a slalom) at the end of the day and there may be prizes. Certainly, all participants would receive a certificate of participation when they complete the course.

If you’re interested in attending the course, these are the requirements and conditions:

  1. For owners of Mazda vehicles (except Mazda BT-50 and MPVs models).
  2. All participants have to use their own vehicle.
  3. Participants must be 18 years old and above, and have a valid driving license.
  4. There is a commitment/registration fee of RM100 per vehicle.
  5. Each vehicle is limited to 1 participant only. First come, first served basis.
  6. Each entry is valid for 1 day only. Participants can choose one of these dates: August 27 or August 28, 2022.
  7. The course will be held at MAEPS in Serdang which is outside Kuala Lumpur (on the way to Putrajaya). It will be held from 8:30 am to 5 pm on both days.

Registration can be done online by clicking on this link.

UPDATE ON AUGUST 13 2022: All places for the two sessions have been taken. Look out for future courses.

What if Porsche had built a Cayenne convertible?

2002 Porsche Cayenne Cabriolet prototype

The Cayenne was Porsche’s first SUV and has been extremely successful over the 20 years it has been on sale. The success of the Cayenne brought forth the smaller Macan, which has also been selling very well.

While the Cayenne has remained in its 5-door SUV form all this while, there was a period in the early years when other bodystyles were considered – a coupe, a version stretched by 20 cm with an additional row of seats, and even a convertible. And surprisingly, what might have appeared the least conventional option – a Cayenne-based convertible approximately 4.8-metres long – was not immediately discarded. In fact, it was even built.

Today, there is still a single example of the open-top Cayenne kept in storage at the Porsche Museum. It is not a roadgoing prototype, however, but what is known as a Package Function Model – or PFM for short. The designers had the roof removed, but dispensed with the body-stiffening measures necessary for a convertible. Incapable of providing a safe and stable drive, the vehicle is transported to its destination when required. Test drives were never planned, as the convertible PFM was only built to assess four criteria.

The criteria were: Is the seating comfortable throughout the vehicle when the roof tapers in a more coupé-like way towards the rear and when the windscreen and A-pillars are shortened? How practical is the Cayenne as a 2-door model with doors which are 20 cm longer? Is it possible to accommodate an elegant, high-quality soft top that can also be folded quickly? And how should the rear end be designed?

There was still disagreement on the final issue in 2002, and two different rear sections were designed for the Package Function Model. The left-hand tail light was set low on the rear of the car, while the right-hand one was noticeably higher.

Had the car reached production, a single rear design would, of course, have been settled on in the end, and the technical issues would undoubtedly have been resolved. A now-familiar soft-top mechanism was envisaged: the luggage compartment lid of the Cayenne-PFM was attached at the front and rear, allowing it to be opened in both directions. The roof would travel over the fixed roll-over bar and be ‘swallowed’ in the rear by the luggage compartment lid, which opened in the opposite direction, folding in a z-pattern.

It has worked in a very similar way to this on the 911 Targa since the 991-generation model. The mechanism never got past the computer simulation stage for the Cayenne convertible, however, and was never fully constructed. Today, the fabric top is stowed in the luggage compartment of the museum piece and must be fitted manually if required.

While the coupe idea of 2002 was later taken up again and implemented in 2019 in a production model, Porsche did not pursue the convertible idea further. Forecasts regarding profitability were not particularly promising and doubts remained as to whether the car would look as appealing as a Porsche should.

“An SUV as a convertible is a challenge both aesthetically and formally,” said Michael Mauer, who was not yet in office in 2002, looking at the concept today. “An SUV always has a large and heavy body. You combine this with a small top half and then cut off the roof – you get very strange shapes emerging from that!”

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