Friday, November 30, 2007
Sydney: An Architectural Wasteland?

Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating has described Sydney as an "architectural wasteland" saved only by its harbor. Do you agree?

Sydney is being choked to death by cars and cut off from its best asset, the harbor, by a freeway and rail link, said architect Jan Gehl, a renowned Danish urban designer who tries to revive the city.

Sydney was an ideal size for pedestrians, taking 12 minutes to walk across from east to west and 30 minutes south to north, noted the architect's plan. But pedestrian priority was low and there was a lack of cycling facilities, in spite of the city’s superb natural conditions for a strong cycle culture.

The city is regarded as one of the most naturally beautiful around the globe and has regularly been voted as one of the top destinations in international tourist polls. But a plan to make Sydney more people-friendly by found city streets were often in shadow due to high-rises, which formed concrete and glass canyons of high wind velocity, and that its open spaces were also bland, said a Reuters report.

"Sydney CBD (central business district) was filled up to the brim with car traffic 30-40 years ago. But this situation has remained unchallenged and unchanged ever since," said Gehl’s email. "Climate challenge, oil shortages and lifestyle changes will see most Western cities change from the car orientation of the 1950s to a much more sustainable and healthy agenda."

Sydney enjoys a "distinctive topography" with its grand harbor and undulating landscape providing "significant character", said a draft of Gehl's plan.

According to the report, Gehl will present the plan to the city council, which had commissioned it, on Monday. He has prepared similar studies for London, Copenhagen, Wellington, Stockholm, Rotterdam and Zurich. He said several cities such as Lyon, Copenhagen and Melbourne had improved their city centers to make them more attractive.

"We have found great things in Sydney CBD, but mainly at the edges and other aspects are not so remarkable," Gehl told Reuters.

Current harborside development will witness a 12-km walk along the foreshore from Woolloomooloo in the east, past the main ferry terminal of Circular Quay, to Pyrmont in the west. Sydney’s infrastructure sees 150,000 vehicles passing through the center and another 80,000 through its parklands, cutting the city off from the harbor.

"Circular Quay where the city does access the water is downgraded by a bulky ferry terminal and a likewise railway embankment as well as low quality retail," the draft said. "Darling Harbor is isolated, not only by closed frontages but also by an intersecting freeway."

Gehl said there were several ways for Sydney to reach a "new balance", citing a congestion charge on cars in London and Stockhol and Copenhagen's reduction of car parking spaces. His plan calls for Sydney to develop car free streets, shift transport hubs from the city center to its periphery and develop a low cost or free lightrail the length of the city.

Additionally, Gehl’s plan also necessitates the demolition of 2 major commuter routes: the western distributor freeway and the freeway and rail link above the ferry terminal.

"San Francisco had central freeways crumbling after the (1989) earthquake. They were removed and have not been replaced. The city is happily living with less traffic in the centre," Gehl concluded.

Sydney is a pretty nice tourist destination. But I do hope the territory’s government should take into consideration dramatic improvements that could boost general welfare and economy.

posted by Car Addict @ 6:31 PM  
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Mercedes-Benz Reaches Milestone

German automaker Mercedes-Benz has been making cars which have been making heads turn for as long as we can remember. The European automaker's Alabama assembly facility recently reached a landmark when the 1 millionth Mercedes-Benz vehicle was produced at the said facility.

It took 10 years and nine months for the automaker to build the 1 millionth vehicle off of the Alabama plant. In 1997, the first Mercedes-Benz M-Class was built at the said facility. Today, there are three models being assembled at the plant and they are the new-generation M-Class, the R-Class Sports Tourer and the GL-Class SUV. The milestone vehicle was a white M-Class 350 which will be donated to an Alabama-based charity.

"Our entire organization is extremely proud of this accomplishment and the global teamwork that has made it happen," said Bill Taylor, plant manager of the Tuscaloosa assembly facility since 1998. "Alabama has provided us with an excellent workforce and this state has been committed to the success of our business. Because of that commitment to our plant, we plan to donate this vehicle to a non-profit within the state." At present, the company is still deciding on which charity will they donate the vehicle.

The first-generation M-Class which was manufactured at the assembly plant has been made available to United States auto buyers since 1998. According to the automaker, more than 570,000 units of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class have been manufactured in the Tuscaloosa plant. Half of them were sold in the United States.

This year, the German automaker has already sold 146,900 units of the M-Class all over the world. That is ten percent more than what they have sold last year for the same period showing that the M-Class is still one of the fiercest competitors in its segment.

posted by Car Addict @ 8:29 PM  
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Maserati: Now A Chick Brand
You won’t exactly call Maserati's Quattroporte a "chick car," will you?

Maserati has etched a machismo stigma. But wait, look around time has brought Maserati some Y chromosome shoppers.

Maserati Quattroporte, the $115,000-worth sedan, with 400 horses under the hood, boasts of a mix of power and prestige in chic Italian doses. But the automaker said it has seen a growing number of women coming into dealerships ready to drop more than a hundred grand for the plush ride.

Since the debut of the automatic transmission in the Quattroporte, Maserati sales have increased 49% thanks to the six-speed automatic ZF transmission and the car's idiosyncratic style.

"There are a lot of reasons a woman would like the Quattroporte automatic," said Jeff Ehoodin, a Maserati spokesman. "They are much more pragmatic and that leads them to the sedan, and the automatic transmission certainly makes it more appealing because it is easier to drive. And look at it, it's beautiful."

Ehoodin did not have numbers showing how many women have purchased the 1,718 Quattroporte sedans sold through October but said the company expects this year to sell between 2,500 and 2,600 vehicles in the United States, which represents about 40% of the automaker’s global sales.

According to Autodata Inc. the upper luxury market, cars costing at least $65,000, has grown this year 4.2%, with 125,000 vehicles sold, despite overall luxury sales dropping 5.5% through October.

The Detroit News reports:

Designed by Pininfarina, the Italian design firm that has worked with the likes of Ferrari, the Quattroporte maintains long curvy lines along its body and a hand-crafted interior. Maserati also ties other names to its vehicles that might appeal more to women. The Maserati GranTurismo has luggage designed by fashion icon Salvatore Ferragamo, who is to shoes what Brembo is to brakes.

Designer labels, however, won't make any car easier to drive, an automatic transmission will. "About 90% of the U.S. market is automatics," Brinley said."Before, if you didn't drive a manual, you didn't drive these kinds of cars."

John Henke Jr., a marketing professor at Oakland University said the automatic shifter could seal the deal, but the vehicle's exclusivity plays a more important role in catering to a growing number of women who can afford it.

"From a demographic standpoint, these people are more frequent," Henke said. "They're way up there in the economics (making more than $200,000 a year). And more women are moving into those type of positions where they have that kind of money."

In the high-end luxury segment, Maserati could be an alternative to vehicles such as the BMW 7 Series or the Mercedes-Benz S Class, said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst at AutoPacific, an automotive research and consulting frim. "But it's much more exclusive than BMW or Mercedes," she said, noting that the 7 Series and S Class have sold nearly 34,000 vehicles through October.

"Really, these kinds of vehicles are a lifestyle choice; they are sexy and exclusive." Brinley added that if Maserati is drawing in more female customers, it's because that group of buyers has so few places to turn. "It's definitely an untapped market," she said.

The increase in sales is not that surprising to some. "I would think this is a very good practical, but expensive, vehicle," he said. "It's limited edition has the cachet as being very expressive and allows the women who can afford it the luxury showing the world they have arrived." More importantly, he added, is women in this group want to pamper themselves more than brag about how much money they make.

"They've accomplished something," he said. "It's not about showing off. They can afford it, they can buy it, and it makes them feel good and self assured."
posted by Car Addict @ 5:41 AM  
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Cross Cabriolet Concept Unveiled At Los Angeles Auto Show

I've always liked Audi vehicles. The Audi R10 is currently my most favorite car from the German automaker. But this post is not about the R10 but instead about the Audi Cross Cabriolet Concept unveiled by Audi at the Los Angeles Auto Show. According to WorldCarFans, the concept vehicle looks a little like "an elongated A1 convertible".

We know what crossovers are right? Crossover SUVs are said to be the fusion of SUVs and cars. The Cross Cabriolet according to Audi is a vehicle which is a cross between an SUV and a convertible. This might sound like a wild dream but they have shown that there is a way of making a "convertible SUV". This only shows that Audi is one of the major automakers which breaks the boundaries and goes to great lengths to come up with high quality vehicles like the Cross Cabriolet.

The guys at World Car Fans though pointed out that we should not expect Audi to produce Audi A1 convertibles as the Cross Cabriolet is based on the chassis of the A4 and the A5. Said concept car measures 64.2 inches in height, five inches taller than the A4 convertible.

The Cross Cabriolet is powered by a 3.0-liter TDI engine which produces about 240 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque according to Audi. This is powered by diesel which costs less than gasoline. This is not surprising as Audi has created a name for itself in the diesel revolution. The Audi R10 race car which won the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans and the American Le Mans Series runs on diesel too. As for this Cross Cabriolet, consumers will only have to wait a short time before it hits tee market.

posted by Car Addict @ 8:08 PM  
Monday, November 19, 2007
Best Cadillac In 50 Years

American automakers are being criticized lately because their vehicles are deemed to be inferior to Japanese and European vehicles. But recently, the Cadillac CTS was named as the 2008 Car of the Year by Motor Trend. This accomplishment for General Motors' luxury brand signals the new era for Detroit automakers in terms of competing with European and Japanese rivals.

"The Cadillac CTS marks the first time in decades an American automobile has been designed and engineered with an eye on the global marketplace,” said Angus MacKenzie, the editor-in-chief of Motor Trend according to The Auto Channel. "Among its many excellent qualities, perhaps the most valuable one is that it shows Detroit can build a world class car to compete with the best Munich, Stuttgart and Toyota City have to offer. With the CTS, Detroit is officially back in the car business, not just the truck or SUV business," he added.

"The CTS’ winning attributes go far beyond a well-designed façade. It’s the star of a new GM revival, and with a base car price of just $32,990, the car is truly accessible to a wide spectrum of car buyers."

We all know that Cadillac has a long history of producing vehicles with high aesthetic value. The CTS is no exception to that with its clean lines and short overhangs. It is also not about how it looks from the outside but also what is inside and under the hood. The base model of the CTS is a VVT V6 engine which produces 263 horsepower. A 304-hp engine is optional.

To get the award, the CTS had to do battle with other truly competitive cars like the Audi TT, the Volvo XC70, and the Mercedes-Benz C–Class. "This year’s 18-car field was laden with truly significant vehicles," said Mackenzie. "We had all-new interpretations of high-volume benchmark cars that virtually define their respective categories, such as the Honda Accord and Chrysler-Dodge minivan. We had reworked icons such as the Mini Cooper, Subaru Impreza WRX and Scion xB. We had new cars with old nameplates that carried the collective hopes of an entire company, along with all-new vehicles from Mercedes-Benz and Audi."

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posted by Car Addict @ 9:16 PM  
Monday, November 12, 2007
The 2009 Toyota Matrix Is Here!

Oh yeah, it has arrived… finally! So what’s new with the Matrix? I guess the answer is… a lot! New car shoppers will definitely go crazy when they get to see this awesome ride. So before we all lose our sanity, let’s check it out!

Check out some of the standard features of the 2009 Toyota Matrix:

  • 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine•132 hp @6,000 rpm
  • 128 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,400 rpm
  • Five-speed manual and Four-speed automatic transmissions
  • 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine158 hp @ 6,000 rpm•162 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,000 rpm
  • Five-speed manual and four and five-speed automatic transmissions

  • Overall Length: 173.0 (S and XRS grades)
  • 171.9 (Standard grade and S all-wheel-drive grade)
  • Overall Width: 69.5
  • Overall Height: 61.4 (XRS and S all-wheel-drive grades)
  • 61.0 (Standard grade and S)Wheelbase: 102.4
  • Ground clearance: 5.3 (S and XRS grades)5.8 (Standard grade)

"The Matrix concept was based on blending the functionality of an SUV, the style, image and performance of a sports car with the affordability of a subcompact sedan. For 2009, it’s all that, and more. It may have the body of a five-door hatch, but it comes with the soul of a two-door sports car," says Tim Morrison, Toyota Division corporate marketing manager.

posted by Car Addict @ 6:24 PM  
Audi Grabs Gran Turismo Best In Show Award

Not all the time you grab the most prestigious awards. But when you do, it won't hurt to celebrate.

One of the remarkable wins to celebrate us the Gran Turismo Best in Show award at SEMA 2007. The prestigious award goes to the 2007 Audi TT. To note, the PlayStation's Gran Turismo is the best racing game around the globe.

Sony reports:

For the top honor, Marcel Horn's exceptional 2007 Audi TT will be immortalized as a featured vehicle in a future iteration of the Gran Turismo franchise, allowing millions of fans worldwide to race his vehicle. Last year's Best in Show award winning 1960 Chevrolet Corvette will be unveiled in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, available on PLAYSTATION3 (PS3™) in North America in 2008.

PS3 Center writes:

Also for 2008, a TT-S(S for Sport) and TT-RS(RS for Renn Sport in German, or Race Sport) are in the works, similar to the S4 and RS4 versions of the Audi A4. The TT-S will use the turbocharged 2.0 liter I4 known from the Audi S3 producing 270 horsepower, and the TT-RS will use a 2.5 liter 5-cylinder engine making 350 horsepower, both intended to compete with the BMW Z4, Nissan 350Z, and Porsche
Cayman S. An upgraded 4-cylinder TDI is also planned with output more than the current top-of-the-line 125 kW (170 hp) model.

The new TT is equipped with an enhanced rear spoiler that will automatically extend at speeds greater than 75mph and retracts again at 50mph. It can also be manually controlled by the driver using a switch on the dash. It will again be offered as a 2+2 coupe with a roadster arriving in late 2007 as a 2008 model.

Also for 2008, a TT-S (S for Sport) and TT-RS (RS for Renn Sport in German, or Race Sport) are in the works. The TT-S will use the turbocharged 2.0 liter I4 known from the Audi S3 generating 270hp, and the TT-RS will use a 2.5 liter 5-cylinder engine making 350hp.

"The 2007 Gran Turismo Awards showcases the collaboration between the automotive culture and the gaming industry," said Kazunori Yamauchi, famed creator of the racing franchise and President of developer Polyphony Digital, Inc. "We are proud to honor auto enthusiasts for their passion of cars, and to celebrate the automotive lifestyle that Gran Turismo embodies."

The individual awards for the 2007 GT Award include:

"Best European Import" - Marcel Horn; 2007 Audi TT

"Best Domestic Automobile" - Gary Cheney; 2007 Factory Five GTM

"Best Hot Rod" - Jim and Mike Ring; 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback

"Best Japanese Import" - Michael Chung; 2007 Nissan 350Z

"Best Truck / SUV" - Mike DeFord; 2007 Dodge Ram
posted by Car Addict @ 6:35 AM  
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