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Welcome arrow Articles arrow Miscellaneous arrow Motoring Report 2012
Motoring Report 2012 PDF Print E-mail

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Luxury cars have always been a significant mainstay of the Hong Kong market, and none more so that Mercedes-Benz which leads the luxury brands by quite a substantial margin.  In 2011, Mercedes-Benz and its super-luxury brand Maybach delivered around 5,100 cars to Hong Kong customers according to Zung Fu Company Limited's Michael Leung; an amazing tally when you look at some of the prices.  Says Mr Leung, "If you include Maybach and smart, it is more and in these economic times, I think that's quite impressive."

 

Supercars

Three supercars, with almost identical basic prices, have been launched recently: the McLaren MP412C, the Ferrari 458 Spider and the Mercedes-Benz SL65 all start at HK$3.9 million. That, of course, is before you start to ‘personalize' them, when prices can rise dramatically.  McLaren and Ferrari both say that the average customer - if there is such a thing - spends around $4.4m. 

They all have big engines to propel them, but the 3.8 liter V8 unit in the McLaren benefits from the addition of twin turbochargers.

Both the Ferrari and the McLaren are mid-engined, while the mighty 6.0 liter V12 in the SL65 is front-mounted, driving the rear wheels.  While it is pointless to try to compare them, they are all both exciting and beautifully engineered.  All three cars make extensive use of carbon fiber and exotic metals in order to save weight.  Some parts of the SL are produced in magnesium, but high-strength steel tubes are integrated into the A-pillars for safety reasons. 

Three vastly different machines, but all eminently desirable. McLaren is new to the game, but is already making inroads into Hong Kong's buoyant supercar market. 

The EU recently proposed new legislation that will lower the permissible noise levels of cars.  The legislation, however, contains a clause for powerful, low-weight performance cars, which will be beneficial to both Ferrari and McLaren, which channel the exhaust note into the cockpit, according to the ‘mode' setting:  race mode gives you a loud, throaty roar under hard acceleration.

One car that defies categorization is Porsche's four-door sports model, the exciting Panamera.  Apart from the Cayenne SUV, this is Porsche's first four door sports car.  Opinions vary on its styling but generally it has been well received.

The Panamera GTS features considerably more power than the standard model, upgraded brakes, a body lowered by 10 millimeters.  The power unit in the GTS is a modified 4.8 liter naturally-aspirated V8, delivering a healthy 430 bhp, while the torque output now peaks at 520 Nm.  All-wheel drive and Porsche's unique PDK transmission give the GTS unparalleled performance without any interruption in power flow.  The 0-100 m/h sprint takes just 4.5 seconds, while it will go on to a heady maximum of 288 km/h.

Active suspension and a wider rear track complete the upgrades featured in the Panamera GTS.

Porsche Centre Hong Kong's General Manager Derek Tong says, "The Panamera has been a great success in Hong Kong since its launch in late 2009. Building on this, the new Panamera GTS offers an even higher level of driving dynamics and performance, yet without compromising comfort and everyday practicality.

"Enhancements include increased power from its normally aspirated V8 engine, a more 'performance' focused gearbox tuning as well as a sportier suspension setup. It's a continuation of the GTS concept from the Cayenne GTS and 911 Carrera GTS (997) vehicles, and is targeted at those drivers who want that little more in sporting performance. Customers who have driven the car have been amazed at how much sharper the car feels. It's a great car."

Mr Tong adds that he is optimistic for 2013 sales: "We are positive about 2013, especially given the new Boxster and 911 models. On that note, 2013 is also the 50th birthday of our icon, the 911, so it will be an exciting year ahead."

It may not be possible to categorize the Panamera GTS, but it is a very impressive machine.

 

BMW M6

While perhaps not strictly coming into the confines of supercar, the new BMW M6 Convertible, which was launched in Hong Kong in early July, is a very special motor car that appears to tick all the boxes.  This is the third-generation M6 and is available as either a coupe or this stylish convertible.

The M6 Convertible will reach the benchmark 100 km/h from rest in a little over 4.3 seconds and go on to an electronically-limited 250 km/h.  All this effortless power - and torque - is provided by a sophisticated V8 engine equiped with twin turbochargers.  This unit is mated to BMW's high-torque 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.  An active differential optimizes power transfer between the rear wheels.

 

Luxury Brands

While Mercedes-Benz - and to some extent Lexus and BMW - dominate the luxury market, Jaguar is increasingly getting more than just a look in.  Its current range is in a word: superb. 

Designed by a team led by talented Scots-born stylist Ian Callum, whose CV includes such gems as the Aston Martin DB7 and the Vanquish, as well as the first aluminum-bodied XJ, this latest XJ Sport is a complete departure from Jaguar's rather staid image of the past.

Says Callum: "The XJ is much more than a limousine. Its power and potential mean it can out-perform many so-called sports cars. The new Sport and Speed Packs allow customers to enhance that sporting dynamism even further and create an XJ that looks as good as it drives."

Powered by an advanced five-liter, supercharged V8, the XJ delivers a massive 502 bhp of available power at 6,000 rpm and 625 Nm of torque between 2,500 and 5,500 rpm.  However, the acceleration from rest to 100 km/h is mighty impressive and achieved in just 4.9 seconds; remarkable for a car of this size.  Part of the reason for such a  relaxed pace is the low overall weight of just 1,915 kg, achieved by a light but immensely strong and rigid aluminum and magnesium body structure, built using the latest aerospace-inspired technology. 

The combination of this light weight and the new generation, technically advanced, supercharged V8 engine delivers sensational agility and performance, as well as outstanding fuel efficiency and class-leading emissions.  Jaguar says that when the very first XJ appeared in 1968, it was considered revolutionary; the new car had to recapture the sporting spirit of the original.

Certain cosmetic and functional additions are integral within the latest XJ Sport.  The result of extensive research in the wind tunnel and on track, the front of the car gains an aerodynamic splitter beneath the bumper to direct air beneath the car to reduce lift, and at the rear the boot lid lip has been extended to ensure a clean separation of air from the trailing edge of the bodywork.

The new XJ Supersport, in long wheelbase form, sells for $2,368,000.

 

Popular Compacts

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In recent years two reminders of motoring-times-gone-by have been introduced and - perhaps remarkably - have both become a huge success.  The MINI, launched in 2002, has gone on to be a best-seller in virtually every developed market, while the Fiat 500, although emerging later than the MINI, has similarly been extremely well received and is now sold in over 110 countries.  Fiat claims the 500 and its variants has now sold almost 1m units.  Further variants - four-wheel drive, estates and others - are planned for the future.

Fiat 500
Fiat 500

The MINI initially appeared in the guise we knew and loved in the early Sixties and Seventies; now there are numerous variants, including a very pretty convertible, a coupé and the Countryman. This latter model is built in Austria by a part of the Canadian conglomerate, Magna Steyr.

The Ford Fiesta became the top-selling model in Britain in June, and although it is not yet available in Hong Kong, the equally good Focus is and a new, performance model will shortly become available.  The 2013 Focus ST will arrive Hong Kong in Q3 this year. This limited version Focus ST, which is equiped with a 2.0 liter EcoBoost engine with 250 bhp, is in pre-order period with a retail price of around HK$350,000.  Apart from the excellent power output, the ST is very torquey in mid-range, accelerating with ease without the need to constantly downshift.

Ford Focus ST
Ford Focus ST
 

Inchcape Far East, which now distributes Ford, along with Toyota and Jaguar, says it has two  high performance MPVs - the S-Max and Galaxy - in Hong Kong.

Ford S-Max
Ford S-Max
  

The Galaxy features a 200 bhp gasoline engine, complete with turbocharger, mated to a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission.  Major features are factory-fitted leather seats, nine airbags, side air curtains and a driver's knee bag.  The Sony audio system is also pretty special with nine speakers, while there is a multi-media system in the rear.

The S-Max, similarly features the turbo two liter motor, and is pretty much the same throughout as the Galaxy.  Prices are HK$299, 900 for the S-Max and $339,900 for the Galaxy.

 

Electric Vehicles
Electric vehicles, or EVs are touted as the next-generation, planet-saving form of transport, but to date there is only one currently available on the Hong Kong market: the Nissan Leaf.  Mitsubishi has brought in a limited number of its MiEV, but the Leaf is more readily available.  The other option, of course, is a hybrid.  Toyota kicked it off in 1997 with the first-generation Prius and has continued the trend with its Lexus hybrids, the RX450h and the LS600h.  The RX450h is its superb hybrid SUV, while the LS600h is its magnificent sedan.  Recently, Toyota has added the Prius C to its line-up, a new hybrid small car.

Lexus RX450h
Lexus RX450h

The Lexus RX450h uses a 3.5 liter 24-valve gasoline V6, combined  with a sophisticated electric motor.  In normal conditions, the SUV operates in front-wheel drive mode, but if any slippage is detected the rear wheels are automatically powered by the electric motor.  Regenerative braking is incorporated, as is a complete stop of the motors at a standstill, automatically firing up the gasoline engine when the accelerator is pressed.

In addition, by linking Bluetooth technology with the multi-purpose head-up display for navigation, speed, audio streaming and climate control, the RX ultimately gives the most technologically advanced system to ensure a smooth and safe journey. There are too many features on this vehicle to list, but suffice it to say, it is one of the best around.

Managing director of Crown Motors Limited, Cedric So says: "First introduced by Toyota Motor Corporation 15 years ago, hybrid technology has become widely accepted and recognized as mature, successful and reliable. With its cumulative global sales of hybrid vehicles topping 4 million, Toyota has established its market leading position in hybrid technology development, especially Lexus which has achieved a leading position in luxury hybrid market."

The new RX450h sells for $725,400, which equates to $800,400 less a $75,000 government subsidy for an environmentally-friendly vehicle.

Recently, an electric Fiat light van has been launched in Hong Kong.  Whether it succeeds of not depends on its marketing, but it does seem an ideal solution as a local delivery vehicle only requires a limited range and can be successfully recharged back at base.

 

New SUV

Generally 4x4s are not described as sleek, it if one were it would be the new Range Rover Evoque.  Instead of the square, non-evocative lines of the majority of SUVs, the Evoque looks more like a sports car.  The rear sloping roof is unusual for any SUV but it restricts little of the headroom in the back; it in fact, the rear passenger compartment is spacious and roomy.

Power comes from a two-liter, turbocharged four cylinder engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.  Many rival brands offer six-cylinder power plants in SUVs this size, but the Evoque turns out a healthy 236 bhp, while maximum torque is a respectable 340 Nm at just 1,750 rpm.  The 0-100 km/h sprint takes just over seven seconds and maximum speed is a shade over 215 km/h. More than adequate for the roads of Hong Kong.

While few 4x4s venture off-road these days, with the majority of owners sticking to highways, the Evoque respects the original Land Rover tradition and would be equally at home in the mud or on asphalt.

According to Land Rover's official website, a leading magazine said: "Easily the best work credited to designer Gerry McGovern's studio, the Range Rover Evoque is first and foremost a design triumph. The company has demonstrated an uncanny ability to find increasingly small and sometimes tiny holes in the market and fill them with capable off-road vehicles whose style expertly complements their serious substance."

Says Joseph Lau, general manager for Land Rover Hong Kong: "The Range Rover Evoque is a great success for Land Rover since our launch in December last year. It has helped to make a double increase of Land Rover total sales for YTD June 2012 as compared to the same period in 2011.

"This Range Rover Evoque Prestige edition will create another highlight for the model. It shares the same exceptionally attractive exterior design, and combines it with unique alloy wheels, dramatic premium bright finish details as well as Range Rover's Oxford leather-wrapped interior to distinguish from other models - a unique feature of the Prestige which brings the ultimate ride comfort and luxurious experience to the driver and passenger by the sight and touch of the finest materials."

 

Mazda's MPVs

"Mid-range motor cars represent the core portion of the motor market in Hong Kong, and its volume performance does play a crucial role in the motor industry. In recent years, the mid-range market has become more competitive with an aggressive pricing strategy of European brands and the new addition of other makes in Hong Kong," says Gary Cheung, CEO of Mazda's Hong Kong distributor, Vang Iek Motors (HK) Limited.

"Among mid-range motor cars in Hong Kong, the MPV enjoyed great popularity; its sales accounted for about 20 percent YTD of the total number of private cars sold and over 15 percent growth in the MPV market.  The popularity of MPVs lies in its versatility, so in various market segments they do have their own audience. For instance, the usage is not only limited to private buyers, but can also be used for commercial, public, or even logistics purposes.

"Our two MPV products - the Mazda 5 and Mazda 8 - have been earning their popularity in Hong Kong for a long time, and will be continuing to be our signature products to compete in this important MPV segment.

"The Mazda 5 is just right for small families that want the convenience of a minivan, but don't feel the needs of a full size MPV, while the Mazda8 is a luxurious multi-purpose vehicle with a first-class cabin for eight. The Mazda8 surrounds the driver with a feeling of quality and its passengers with an experience of bliss."

Mazda Hong Kong has gone from strength to strength in recent years, thanks mainly to an excellent line-up of vehicles. The overall market sales and passenger car sales up to the end of June recorded an increase of 1,175 units or 6.2 percent and 1,257 units or 8.3 percent respectively. The passenger car segment, which comprises five categories, showed a slight improvement in sedan, MPV and SUVs.

"Hatchback sales was the only segment showed a slight sales drop. We anticipate such momentum will be sustained till late this year. The award-winning CX-5, the Mazda 3, Mazda 5 and Mazda 8 will be our signature products to compete in the market," added Cheung.

Mr Cheung commented on the future of hybrids, which most of his immediate competitors appear to be endorsing: "It has long been a motor trend that it is a requirement for greater fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions, advanced engine technologies, reduced weight and greater ‘driving dynamics'. These requirements should not be only limited to small cars but should also apply to luxury cars. Then, the next question should be, is hybrid our next step?

"Currently, 95 percent of the world uses gasoline or diesel engines and by 2020 90 percent still will. In this fact Mazda saw an enormous opportunity: if Mazda could find a way to make the internal combustion engine work better, it could make a big difference to how much fuel the world uses and how much CO2 is emitted. Mazda's  solution is the SKYACTIV-G gasoline engine, a 2.0-liter marvel that produces 10- to 15 percent more low/mid-range torque, along with 15 percent lower fuel consumption and emissions than our previous 2.0-liter engine without reliance on a hybrid system.

"We believed the SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY will be the next trend to answer the fuel economy demands without having to resort to hybridization or related battery-based technologies."

 

This feature was published in Hong Kong Business magazine in Summer 2012

 
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© 2018 Jeff Heselwood. All rights reserved.
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