The all-new Land Rover Defender will have its world premiere later this year. In the past, when Land Rover was developing its new models, it would do most of the real-world testing on its own, using its own experienced personnel. Perhaps that was partly to keep details of the new model under wraps till launch.

These days, however, the carmaker must find it also useful to let outside parties check out  prototypes. This is especially so if the outside parties operate in extreme conditions and have specific requirements for the transport vehicles.

One such organisation is the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) which was visited by the team carrying out the latest stage of its global testing programme of the new Defender.

2020 Land Rover Defender

IFRC fleet experts put new Defender to the test
A prototype vehicle visited the IFRC global fleet base in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Land Rover engineers demonstrated the vehicle’s breadth of capability to their IFRC counterparts both on and off road. Then the IFRC fleet experts took to the wheel to test the vehicle for themselves on the region’s desert sand dunes and the twisty tarmac of Jebel Jais highway in temperatures over 40 degrees C. The Defender also climbed the tallest mounting in the UAE and reached an altitude of nearly 2,000 metres.

The dunes around Dubai were the perfect place to confirm that this is the most capable Land Rover ever made. It sits on tyres with an overall diameter of up to 815 mm, resulting in a very large contact patch. Coupled with a bespoke traction control system, which monitors and adjusts for a large variety of terrain, this makes the new Defender highly capable on sand and incredibly smooth on road as well.

2020 Land Rover Defender

2020 Land Rover Defender

2020 Land Rover Defender

Global partnership since 1954
The test in Dubai coincides with the renewal of Land Rover’s global partnership with the IFRC – a relationship that dates back 65 years, to 1954, when the first specially adapted Land Rover entered service in the region as a mobile dispensary.

This year marks the humanitarian organisation’s centenary as it celebrates ‘100 Years of Hope’. Over the next three years, Land Rover will support disaster preparedness and response initiatives in locations including India, Mexico and Australia.

“The Red Cross supports millions of people in crisis every year, working in almost every country in the world. We operate in some of the most hard-to-reach places on earth, often working in very difficult terrain, so our teams have to be able to cope with anything. That’s why we’re proud to have partnered with Land Rover since 1954, and to be putting their new Defender to the test, as together they help us reach vulnerable communities in crisis, whoever and wherever in the world they are,” said Ilir Caushaj, the IFRC’s Team Lead For Global Fleets And Logistics.

Land Rover testing

The session with the IFRC fleet experts complements the global testing programme which has seen prototypes covering more than 1.2 million kilometres in all kinds of conditions. Various activities have also been arranged to give the public a sneak preview of the vehicle, including a dynamic appearance at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.

Recent news reports have mentioned that our Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, has been having discussions with Turkey on providing expertise for automobile production. This offer could tie in well with the plan of the country’s President Erdogan to produce its first domestic car within the next few years.

To most Malaysians, this may seem like the first time that Malaysia is connecting with Turkey with regard to auto industry business. However, there was already a connection over 20 years ago when Proton was exporting its cars there. From official information available up to May 2001, Proton exported almost 6,000 cars to that country. The cars were well received and owners even formed a Turkey Proton Club.

Proton continues to be represented by Ulu Motor which took on the distributorship in 2004. It sells models like the Exora, Preve, Saga FLX and Persona.

M Fadil Akgunduz in 1999

Plan for a Turkish car in late 1990s
But what’s more interesting is the plan for a Turkish car, as mentioned earlier. Back in 1999, a Turkish businessman by the name of M. Fadil Akgunduz, Chairman of Jet Otomobil Pazarlama (JetPa) Holdings, was already planning to produce a domestic Turkish model by 2002. I happened to meet Mr. Akgunduz at a European motorshow in 1999 and got to know about his ambitions.

One of the companies owned by Mr. Akgunduz was the first Proton distributor in Turkey, having started importing the Malaysian cars in 1997. He saw much potential for the Malaysian cars, especially as they came from a fellow Muslim nation, and was inspired to come out with a Turkish car in due course.

He believed that a Turkish domestic model could sell well in Europe as he could count on the 400 million Turks (at that time) living in European countries, especially in Germany, to give their support. These future customers could buy up to 250,000 cars and he expected that up to 70% of his factory’s production could be for exports.

Styling of IMZA 700 prototype was believed to have been done by ex-Volvo designers.

The IMZA 700
The Turkish car was called the IMZA 700 (the number referring to the 700th anniversary of the Ottoman Empire’s founding) and a prototype had been unveiled in October 1998. The prototype was developed by CMAK Ltd (a British company then owned by Malaysia’s EP Manufacturing Bhd.) and the Orbital Engine Corporation Ltd of Australia.

The orbital engine (which had inherent issues that prevented it from being commercialized) was only for the prototypes. Production models were to have 1.2-litre and 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines.

US$2.7 billion project
The whole project, including the factory, was expected to cost as much as US$2.7 billion and this was back in the late 1990s. Mr. Akgunduz knew about Proton’s huge factory being built in Tg. Malim and wanted to do the same thing in Turkey. He envisioned a production capacity of up to a million units annually by 2012 (from two factories).

He said he had been in discussions with Proton to see if they would want to assemble some of their models at his new factory in Siirt and reciprocally, he would consider assembling the IMZA 700 at their new factory for sale in Malaysia and the neighbouring countries.

I had forgotten about the IMZA 700 and the ambitious plan of Mr. Akgunduz until the recent news about our PM offering automotive expertise to Turkey brought back memories of that meeting. So what happened to the Turkish car? From various reports in the early 2000s, there were investigations into the way funding was being obtained and German and Turkish government agencies took action against JetPa and its owner, which eventually killed the project.

What if…?

It’s a question that has dominated the history of the XJ13, a prototype built by Jaguar in 1966 in a quest to continue the marque’s legendary run of success in the Le Mans 24 Hours race. Powered by a then-new quad-cam, 5-litre V12, the XJ13 was Jaguar’s first mid-engined car – and without doubt one of the most beautiful automotive designs of all time.

Sadly, it was never raced. A combination of internal politics and a change in sporting regulations meant that it was banished to a corner of the Competition Department – virtually forgotten as other projects took priority.

Ecurie Ecosse LM69

Ecurie Ecosse LM69

If the car had been raced…
But what if the XJ13 had been developed and raced? What if this car’s immense potential had been realised? Picture this scene: one day in late 1967, members of Ecurie Ecosse – the famous Scottish race team that twice won Le Mans in the 1950s with Jaguar D-types – travel to the Jaguar factory to discuss repeating that success.

During their visit, they spot the XJ13, covered up and tucked away. But as soon as the covers come off, they know that they’ve got a potential winner on their hands. A deal is done, and work begins on a 2-year project to develop and build a car in order for Ecurie Ecosse to take on the might of Ford, Ferrari and Porsche at the 1969 Le Mans 24 Hours.

This alternate reality could have been one of motor racing’s greatest stories – just imagine if the money, not to say courage and ambition, had been invested into it. Now a team of designers and engineers have done just that…

Ecurie Ecosse LM69

Birth of the Ecurie Ecosse LM69
50 years on, the LM69 is to be launched and while remaining true in spirit and sympathetic to the style of the XJ13, its bodywork has been developed into an all-new design that has its own purposeful beauty.

The quad-cam V12 is the heart of the car, a unique signature that has been designed to evoke the experience of driving at Le Mans in 1969. And not only is the LM69 suitable for track use, it’s fully road-legal.

Ecurie Ecosse LM69

Adhering to original design details and technology
A strict brief was established from the start: the design and engineering team would have to adhere to the regulations of the time, and feature only design details and technology that entered motorsport no later than early 1969.

As the XJ13 would have done had it been prepared for serious competition use, the LM69 benefits from innovations that appeared during that exciting era. Composite materials have been used; it’s lighter than the original car, and it boasts experimental aerodynamic devices, wider wheels and tyres, and a much-improved engine.

Ecurie Ecosse LM69

Only 25 will be handbuilt by British craftsmen, in keeping with the 1969 FIA homologation requirements and to maintain its exclusivity.

Although the first regulation regarding mandatory fitment of airbags was introduced in the USA in the mid-1970s (but never actually adopted), it was only in 1980 that the world’s first airbag system was installed in a production model – the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Since that time, airbags have undergone technological advancements to increase levels of protection for the front passengers.

Initially, the focus was in frontal collisions and much development was on the two airbags at the front. Then airbags were added to the sides, either at the seats, in the doors or deploying like curtains over the window openings.

The importance of providing protection at the sides cannot be understated. Studies in Germany show that side impact collisions are among the most dangerous type of road traffic accidents, accounting for nearly 700 deaths per year and nearly a third of all occupant fatalities.

Side airbag installed externally
To enhance the existing side airbag systems installed in many cars, ZF has developed a new pre-crash safety system (still in prototype stage) which uses an external side airbag deployed milliseconds before a collision. It provides an additional lateral crumple zone, which can help save lives and reduce occupant injury severity by up to 40%.

To make this possible, ZF has networked the airbags to the vehicle’s sensor systems and developed algorithms that are capable of determining if a crash is imminent and decide whether or not to deploy the airbag.

ZF is currently the only company to provide the full spectrum of integrated vehicle safety technology – from sensor systems, algorithms, and control units to active and passive actuators. “Our deep understanding of the entire ’see. think. act.’ process enables us to conceptualize and realize integrated vehicle safety solutions such as the new pre-crash safety system,” explained Uwe Class, Head of the Safe Mobility Systems department within ZF’s Advanced Engineering team.

Recognition to deployment – in the blink of an eye
The biggest challenge in the development of this system was reliably recognizing an unavoidable collision and deploying the external side airbag before the collision takes place. The system has approximately 150 milliseconds to make the decision to deploy the airbag and fill it – roughly the amount of time it takes a person to blink.

The vehicle’s sensors first have to identify a potential impact quickly and accurately. This is possible with connected cameras, radar and lidar. Algorithms within the system software decide whether or not a collision is unavoidable and the deployment of the airbag is both possible and beneficial. If these decisions are all affirmative, the system ignites the inflators to fill the airbag.

The airbag, which has a capacity of between 280 and 400 litres (5 to 8 times the volume of a driver airbag) depending on the vehicle, then expands upwards from the side sill to form an additional crumple zone in the door area between the A and C pillars.

In a side impact collision, the occupants on the side of the impact are at particular risk of serious injuries in the chest area if the passenger cabin is severely deformed. The ZF pre-crash safety system can reduce the penetration of the intruding vehicle by up to 30%, helping to significantly reduce the occupants’ risk of injury.

AIWAYS, a Shanghai-based personal mobility provider, is poised to embark on what is believed to be the longest point-to-point drive of a prototype electric vehicle ever attempted. Its U5 battery-electric SUV will carry out a 14,231-km drive from Xi’an in China to Europe starting next week.

The initiative is part of the comprehensive test and development programme for the first vehicle of its kind to be launched by a Chinese brand in Europe when it arrives in April 2020. The route chosen is from the start of the Silk Road and has historical significance as a hub for trading, cultural exchange and communication between China and Europe.

Extreme testing to meet demands of customers
AIWAYS is subjecting the U5 to extreme conditions which will be encountered along the journey to ensure it delivers the real-world performance, reliability and range demanded by European consumers. The engineering team will also explore how simple and easy it is to live with the U5, driving and recharging as they pass through different countries where temperatures, road conditions and available charging infrastructures differ considerably.

The U5 is a mid-size SUV built on the company’s innovative aluminium-steel More Adaptable Structure (MAS) platform. It is claimed to have a range of 460 kms on a fully-charged battery pack. Its price is expected to be in the region of €25,000 (equivalent to about RM116,000).

To be built at a new production plant in Jiangxi Province, the U5 is the first of a range of electrically-powered family SUVs. AIWAYS plans to introduce one new model to its range each year. Initial production output is planned at 150,000 units a year with a second phase of expansion planned to bring capacity to 300,000 units.

AIWAYS is a Sino-German company which has the involvement of Roland Gumpert, a former Audi engineer who led the team that campaigned the Audi Quattro in the World Rally Championship in the 1980s.

One of the prototypes being prepared for the journey to Europe which starts next week.

Throughout the course of the year, Bentley Motors has been celebrating its 100th birthday, building up to a climax which presents its vision of the future of luxury mobility. That vision was finally revealed yesterday in 3-dimensional form as the Bentley EXP 100 GT. It is a physical embodiment of the future Bentley brand, reimagining Grand Touring for the future.

Designed from the inside out and taking advantage of a brand new all-electric platform, the EXP 100 GT reimagines the Grand Tourer for the world of 2035.  The cars’ presence and impressive exterior proportions are reminiscent of many of Bentley’s historic Grand Tourers but take these luxury hallmarks into the future. The result is a future vision commensurate with Bentley’s status, assuring its clientele that they will continue to enjoy superlative luxury.

Sustainable innovation
Sustainable innovation is also at the heart of the EXP 100 GT experience. The car is engineered to create a greater awareness of the world outside, with an intelligently-curated collection of materials including 5,000 year old Copper Infused Riverwood; Compass exterior paint made from recycled rice husks; 100% organic leather-like textile from wine making; British Farmed Wool carpets and embroidered cotton interior surfaces which all create sustainable future luxury, adding to the enhanced reality of the grand touring car of the future.

Made from lightweight aluminium and carbonfibre, the EXP 100 GT is 5.8 metres long and almost 2.4 metres wide. The driver and passenger doors are 2 metres wide and pivot outwards and upwards for effortless access. Fully open, they rise to almost 3 metres, adding to the sense of occasion on arrival.

For this concept car (and it is just a concept), the exterior paint colour known as Compass is created using a special Colourstream pigment that reflects a beautiful spectrum of autumnal colours and is both sustainable and environmentally friendly. The pigment is synthetically made using rice husk ash, a harmful bi-product of the rice industry, remanufactured for the EXP 100 GT to reduce the amount that ends up in landfill waste.

New benchmark for luxury interiors
Imperceptible joins between different materials such as wood, leather and wool allow an overall design motif to flow across all these surfaces. The materials are brought together by design, a seamless blend of patterns and forms, textures and colours. Glass flows into metal, into wood and into leather.

Light is core to life and in the EXP 100 GT, it is harvested from the surrounding environment via an innovative glass roof embedded with prisms that collect light and transfer it into the cabin using fibre optics. The use of harvested natural light and synthesised light offers a new approach to enhancing wellness on board.

The Bentley Personal Assistant is a centre piece of the main console and visualised using illuminated crystal. Ambient lighting can also be modified to recreate a specific mood or exterior environment, while additional effects are delivered through projection mapping onto trim panels, such as door pads.

Intelligent, Adaptable Biometric Seating can be configured in three different ways, depending on whether the owner is driving or using autonomous mode. Biometric sensors monitor temperature, passenger position and environmental conditions to deliver the ultimate in comfort, whatever the conditions.

The Air Purification System purifies air supplied into the cabin, with deployable air vents on the rear passenger shelf and static vents on the front passenger panel. The vents undulate giving the appearance that the car is breathing and alive. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide levels in the cabin are constantly monitored to maintain air quality.

As well as capturing exterior scents, Bentley has developed a unique scent for the EXP 100 GT. Created in collaboration with ethically-aware fragrance house 12.29, it builds on the rich heritage of Bentley, incorporating sandalwood and fresh moss.

Performance & Technology
Sustainable and intelligent, a battery electric powertrain, with intelligent power and charge management, will ensure that the EXP 100 GT is as powerful and exciting as its conventional predecessors. Next Generation Traction Drive will enable maximum control via torque vectoring, applying 50% increased power and 35% less mass for more effective cornering. The battery system will power 4 motors generating 1,500 Nm of torque that are projected to enable a 0 – 100 km/h time of less than 2.5 seconds, a top speed of 300 km/h.

Future battery technology is expected to offer 5 times the conventional energy density, and recharging to 80% of capacity should take only 15 minutes. By then, a range of 700 kms is likely to be possible on a fully charged battery pack.

The EXP 100 GT can be optionally autonomous. It will manage the driving experience based on the external environment and passenger well-being. This might include maximising an exhilarating self-drive across mountain roads, or disengaging from a stressful, inner-city commute.

Key to this are a range of features based on passenger well-being and comfort. These include Active Aero Wheels that dynamically adjust to deliver efficiency or maximum performance feel; Intelligent Pirelli Tyres that adapt their contact patches based on weather conditions or driver demand; Adaptable Biometric Seating that adapts to the driver mode, or swivels rearward with the steering wheel retracted away in autonomous mode.

Speaking at the unveiling of the car yesterday, Adrian Hallmark, Bentley Chairman and CEO, said: “Today, on our Centenary, we demonstrate our vision of the future of our Marque, with the Bentley EXP 100 GT – a modern and definitive Grand Tourer designed to demonstrate that the future of luxury mobility is as inspirational and aspirational as the last 100 years. Bentley has, and will continue to enhance and enrich every single journey and the lives of every single person who travels in, or has the honour to be a part of creating our extraordinary products.”

Lexus has confirmed that it will soon offer a convertible version of the LC flagship coupe. The open-top model was shown as a concept car at the North American International Auto Show in January this year to gauge its potential as a production model.

When displaying the concept model, Lexus said the design goal was to express ‘Ultimate Beauty’, and it provoked an enthusiastic response from both industry experts and the public. Like the LC itself, the concept car was honoured on its debut with a prestigious EyesOn Design Award.

In action at Goodwood Festival of Speed
The first public viewing will take place this weekend in England. Visitors to this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed will be able to see a LC convertible prototype in action when it appears on the famous hill course. Nick Cassidy, who competes for Lexus in the GT500 class of the Japan Super GT series, will be behind the wheel.

Though camouflaged, the public will be able to see that the car is long, low and lean. It will share the coupe’s athletic proportions but project its own distinct identity.

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Honda is gearing up for the unveil of its all new Insight at the upcoming North American International Auto Show that will take place in January. The unveil will be of a prototype vehicle that will serve as a precursor to the actual production version, slated for launch later next year.

Unlike its predecessor, the new Insight will feature a sedan body-style and be positioned above the Civic as a refined family car. Sporting a similar silhouette to the current generation Civic, the 2019 Insight inherits the rather handsome and front grille of the Accord but with sleeker contours.

As for the rear, the automaker has chosen a less cluttered approach to the design, fitting angular LED taillights that slightly resemble those from a certain German manufacturer. That said, the entire design, is a step in the right direction. Where the second generation Insight resembled a MPV, the new one forgoes that look for a more business-like one.

“With its sophisticated styling, dynamic stance, ample interior space and best-in-class performance, the all-new Insight embodies Honda’s approach to creating electrified vehicles without the typical tradeoffs,” said, Henio Arcangeli, Jr., senior vice president of Automobile Sales and general manager of the Honda Division, American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

“You won’t have to be an electrification advocate to appreciate the new Insight – it’s a great car in its own right, independent of what’s happening under the hood,” he later added.

Honda says that the new Insight will come with premium features and the performance that will win over the favour of many. Its two-motor hybrid powertrain will be able to provide all the benefits of a hybrid but none of the compromises.

Cars bound for the North American market will be built at Honda’s Greensburg, Indiana plant, alongside Civic and CR-V. This latest addition to the family is part of the Japanese automaker’s plan, that by 2030, two-thirds of its products will consist of only electrified vehicles.


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