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Potent RS Focus debuts in London


British Motor Show wrap-up

High-performance car fans attending the British Motor Show were attracted to the potent five-cylinder, 2.5-litre turbocharged RS version of the Focus. The car goes on sale early in 2009. With almost 300 horsepower on tap, the RS will have more power than any other European Ford.

The green-coloured show car had nothing to do with saving fuel, but was, Ford said, an update on the original green Escort RS1600 of 1970 and a tribute to World Rally Championship partner BP.

Ford assures us that the RS is not merely a warmed-up version of the ST but an entirely different car with “next generation front-drive technology” that’s so good, the car doesn’t need four wheel drive.

It wasn’t the only green Ford on show.

There was also a new Econetic version of the stylish new Fiesta. The Fiesta is an eye-catcher, and its price is actually lower than the previous model’s. The Econetic version gets aerodynamic rear air deflectors, lowered suspension, optimised rolling resistance tyres, low friction oil and higher gearing. With the 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine, the Econetic is said to be one of the most economical small family cars and the CO2 emissions of 98g/km are outstanding.

Back in hot hatch territory, Renault unveiled the formidable lightweight Megane R26R, the fastest front-drive saloon car to lap the Nurburgring.

Arguably, the best looking mainstream car on show was the new Vauxhall Insignia that replaces the Vectra. The car also provides the basis for the north American Saturn Aura. With five engines on offer, including two diesels, the Insignia is being built in hatchback and notchback versions. It will be a real Mondeo challenger.

Biggest news on the Alfa Romeo stand was the new MiTo hatch, a distinctive and individual looking supermini.

Toyota’s Aygo Crazy concept car and the supercharged Farbio GTS400 also entertained performance buffs. The Aygo mimics a Group B rally car, using performance parts from an MR2. 

Nissan launched the new British-built Qashqai+2, and Seat presented the Ibiza SportCoupe.

There was a new look Land Rover Discovery and the right-handdrive Cadillac CTS saloon to challenge BMW’s 5-Series.

At first glance the “production ready” OSM low-emission sports car concept from Honda looks like a replacement for the S2000 roadster, but the handsome open two-door is MX-5 size and a likely prospect to challenge Mazda’s sports car.

A CR-Z coupe version is scheduled to be built within two years and is sure to be offered in hybrid form.

Lotus’ new Evora stole most of the limelight. Only seven Evoras have been built yet, and the timing was so tight Lotus didn’t announce the car’s name until the eve of the show on Press day. Matchbox toy models of the new model handed out were packaged with the label “‘08 Lotus”, because the car’s name was still secret when the toys were produced. Lotus plans to build 2000 Evoras in the first year, and when the first examples arrive down under, the New Zealand retail is likely to be close to $150,000.

The 250kph car is being hailed as a British Porsche 911 and a credible rival to the Cayman. The 4.3 metre long two-door weighs a modest 1350kg (less than Cayman). The overall length is slightly shorter than a 911, yet the boot is still big enough to house a set of golf clubs.

Already the car has proved quick around the Nurburgring, and the smooth front-end styling is sure to win widespread praise. The rear end look is distinctly Lotus, with beefed up haunches and twin centre exhausts.

It will be followed in 2010 by a new mid-engined supercar flagship that will help push total Lotus car production beyond 5000 units a year.

Within two or three years Lotus is expected to introduced an open version of Evora, while a Tiptronic automatic, like the V6 engine sourced from Toyota, is to be phased in as the car goes into export markets.

Suzuki showed the A-Star three-door concept, a joint Japanese/Indian project that points the way to the next generation Alto minicar.

Land Rover showed an Electric Rear Axle Drive (ERAD) hybrid Freelander that has a lithium-ion battery pack under the boot floor; the 2.2 litre diesel motor is coupled with a dual-clutch gearbox. This ERAD system’s electric motor converts into a generator under braking, and packs a real punch. It can be applied to large and small vehicles and could lead to significant weight savings for future 4WDs. It could be five or six years, however, before this technology reaches production, but would mean using V6 powerplants instead of V8s.

An electric vehicle village at the show had more than 20 models on display, while the heritage enclosure celebrated 50 years of supercars, including New Zealand’s own Hulme F1 Champion.

The British show was held at the spacious Excel centre adjacent to the River Thames in the London Docklands. It’s a location with extensive outside areas for displays and demonstrations, including a marine show on the river.
There were 15 automotive brands exhibiting for the first time alongside another 50 other makes – including exotic names Koenigsegg, Gumpert, Spyker, Zagato, electric vehicle specialists, Quiet Cars and Tesla.

On display were great concept cars from Lexus, Peugeot, Citroen, Saab, Suzuki, and Mazda with the Furai sports racer.

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