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TopsandSeats.com :: Automotive News

Automotive News

Monday, December 29, 2008

2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible Preview

For 2009, Infiniti is introducing a convertible version of its successful G series. In 30 seconds, this four-passenger sports machine will drop its three-piece folding steel roof to let in the sun.

The Infiniti G was originally introduced to Canada in 2002, featuring the manufacturer's trademark 3.5-litre V6 motor. For 2009, the G's displacement has been bumped to 3.7 litres. Peak power is delivered towards the 7,600 rpm redline; the motor is rated at 325 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 267 lb.-ft. of torque at 5,200 rpm. Although the 2009 G37 Coupe can be had with all-wheel-drive, the convertible powers the rear wheels only.

Reinforced for both safety and structural rigidity are the body sills, front side member, and windshield pillars. Curtain-type airbags will rise from the side sills and a rear roll bar will pop up if things take a turn for the worse. Alas, structural modifications and roof mechanicals have added about 200 kg to the G37 Convertible, and the rear suspension has been revised accordingly.

Compared to the coupe, the G37 Convertible has a slightly wider rear track and larger overall width to accommodate the hardtop. To access the rear seats, the front seats electrically move forward at the touch of a button. Though the rear passenger space is smaller, the convertible has the same rear headroom as the coupe when the top is up. In this configuration there is a healthy 293 litres of trunk space that unfortunately crumbles to 56 litres when the top is down.

The 2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible has two variants that mainly differ by driveline. The Sport 6MT model lets the driver use their left foot and intuition to manipulate a proper manual transmission with 6 speeds. The other available model utilizes an advanced 7-speed automatic transmission. Though not a 'dual clutch' type, this automatic box features paddle shifters, a sports mode, and rev-match downshifts.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Sibling rivalry leads to a 1991 Infiniti M30 Convertible

Bottomley, 85, is a native Chicagoan who remembers when ice and milk were delivered by horse-drawn wagons. After living as a starving artist in Paris he got his act together at age 50, started his own company, got married and never looked back.

My sister Phyllis, who is five years my junior, and I have been enthralled by the mystique of the automobile for our entire lives. In fact, I've been told the very first word I spoke was not mama or daddy, but "CAR!"

We are both now in our 80s, and we've owned a great many off-beat cars - mostly convertibles and jalopies. Some of these models went on to become valuable classics, such as my 1935 Ford convertible coupe and her 1950 Ford convertible, but along the way there have also been an MG Midget, a Hillman convertible, a Henry J, a 1964 Mustang convertible, a 500cc Fiat and a 1931 Rolls-Royce hearse. When my wife Anne and I married in 1975, Phyllis and her late husband drove the hearse to our church with big signs in the windows reading "Til Death Do Us Part," and "Marriage Is a Grave Undertaking."

My very first car was a 1930 Model A roadster acquired when I was 17 and my sister was 12. Together we painted it canary yellow and tore around our Chicago neighborhood in great style until World War II put an end to driving for pleasure and I was drafted into the army.

In more recent years, a friendly competition sprang up between us. To begin with, right after I got married, my wife and I bought a new 1975 Fiat X1/9 mid-engine sports car with a targa top. Phyllis countered with an electric VW Beetle that she and her family built by replacing the gas engine with a giant electric motor and filling the back seat area with 12-volt car batteries. It only ran a few hundred feet but it was nevertheless amazing!

And I will never forget driving our next car, a new baby-blue 1985 Renault Alliance convertible, off the showroom floor in Oakland. It was a lovely car that began to self-destruct almost immediately. It must have been the worst automobile ever built in the history of the universe, and by 50,000 miles it had gone through starters, alternators and, worst of all, a timing belt. Phyllis had the last laugh when we had to trade that one for an ancient Cadillac. But by 2001 I was sure my wife and I had outdone her with our very sharp little VW cabriolet (the best handling car we've ever had). However one day she drove up in front of our house in just about the coolest car I'd ever seen - a gorgeous maroon 1991 Infiniti convertible. She had the top down and wore a triumphant smile. Phyllis 1, John 0.

My wife and I had to get a car just like it. First we needed the money, which came to us out of the blue when Anne got her share of a class action settlement we'd forgotten all about! The next problem was finding an Infiniti convertible. Nissan had only made 5,000 of them and they are extremely rare. However, again luck was with us and we saw one in The Chronicle for sale from a dealer in Fremont. When we spotted the sharp all-black model on the lot we told the salesman we'd come for it. "Don't you want to know the price and don't you want to try it?" he asked. "I guess so," I replied, "but my main concern is, does the top work." The top worked. I parted with $6,000 cash and it was ours.

We'd lucked out yet again. For a car its age, it has been remarkably trouble free and has given us endless hours of pleasure in our retirement. Performance is sporty since it has the same engine as the Nissan Z cars. It is 17 years old now, and people still ask us what kind of car it is and remark on its striking beauty!

Sadly my sister's Infiniti turned out to be a lemon with unfixable electrical problems, and she had to get rid of it shortly after she bought it. Her spirit was broken and she settled for a drab econobox. However, lately she's been hinting that she'll get a smart car. My wife and I love smart cars (yes, they do make a convertible), and if she takes the bait we will be hard pressed to outdo her.

SFCHRONICLE CARS is produced by the marketing department of The San Francisco Chronicle.

For advertising rates and information, contact Brian Maier at (415) 777-8956 or bmaier@sfchronicle.com.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

MAZDA5 and MX-5 Named Best Car For the Money

MAZDA5 and MX-5 have been named U.S. News & World Report's Best Car for the Money in their respective categories for 2009. Both vehicles took the top honors for their outstanding value and high critical acclaim.

The MAZDA5 won as the Best Compact Crossover for the Money, while the MX-5 won as the Best Sports Car for the Money. The U.S. News Best Cars for the Money awards recognize 14 vehicles that earn the highest marks for overall value and appeal within their respective categories. In determining the award winners, U.S. News has taken its newly released 2009 Car Rankings and combined them with total cost of ownership data provided by IntelliChoice.com.

"Given the economic conditions that we're in right now and the down auto industry, this award is extremely relevant and reflects our ambition at Mazda - to make fun and stylish cars and provide them at great value to our customers," said Robert Davis, senior vice president, product development and quality, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO).

The U.S. News car rankings provide an unbiased comparison of each vehicle to its competitors, helping shoppers identify the best cars in each category. Rankings are based primarily on the balanced, diverse opinions of hundreds of professional auto critics. IntelliChoice.com measures both the target price that consumers can expect to pay for a vehicle as well as its 5-year total cost of ownership. Combining this data with U.S. News car rankings allows different models to be compared on a very useful metric - overall appeal for the money.

The MAZDA5 is a three-row, six-passenger multi-activity vehicle infused with sports car inspiration that efficiently transports people and equipment like a large SUV. MAZDA5 demonstrates Mazda's infusion of stylish, insightful and spirited vehicles with excellent value and fuel economy. The MAZDA5 is powered by an all-aluminum 2.3-liter, four-cylinder MZR series engine, producing 153 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. The MAZDA5 starts at $17,995 (MSRP).

Award-winning, segment-saving, world's best - just a few phrases to describe the legendary MX-5. As the ultimate ride for sheer driving and ownership pleasure, the Mazda MX-5 is the world's most popular two-seat convertible sports car. The heart of the MX-5 remains a highly-responsive MZR-series 2.0-liter, 166-horsepower (at 6,700 rpm) powerplant (158 for A/T models). MX-5 is offered in an easy-to-use soft-top or a powerful retractable hard top, which opens or closes in only 12 seconds, making this the fastest power-operated retractable hard top in the U.S. The 2008 MX-5 starts at $20,585 (MSRP).


Monday, December 15, 2008

Top this! 2009 BMW Z4 gets folding hardtop

BMW will unveil its first roadster with a retractable hardtop, the all-new 2009 Z4, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.

The first complete makeover of the Z4 since its debut in 2002 features a two-piece aluminum top that can open or close in 20 seconds. It collapses into a back compartment that BMW says allows the car to maintain its traditional low-slung design and proportions. No soft-top version will be offered.

The top model, the sDrive35i, gets a twin-turbo, direct-injection 3.0-liter inline six that makes 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. The sDrive30i gets a normally-aspirated 3.0-liter straight six rated at 255 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque.

Both versions come standard with six-speed manual gearboxes. The sDrive35i offers a seven-speed double-clutch automatic as an option, while the sDrive30i has an available six-speed automatic.

BMW says the swiftest combo, the twin-turbo with the seven-speed automatic, can hit 0-60 mph in 5 seconds.

Like its predecessors, dating back the original Z3 that first appeared in 1995, the new Z4’s exterior is marked by an extended hood, large wheel arches and a long wheelbase and small overhands. The rear-drive cars have a nearly 50-50 weight distribution. A lightweight aluminum suspension can be upgraded with an optional sport pack that adds an adaptive suspension with electronic damping control. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard.

The Z4 is the first BMW roadster to get iDrive as part of the optional navigation system. Unlike the previous Z4 that was built in Spartanburg, S.C., the new Z4 will be assembled alongside the 3-series folding hardtop convertible in Regensburg, Germany.

The 2009 Z4 goes on sale in May in the United States, priced in the low $50,000s for the sDrive35i and in the mid $40,000s for the sDrive30i.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Audi R8 Spyder, V10 coupe expected in coming months

Audi's R8 sports car has by no means become stale over its short, two-year lifespan, but the German automaker will soon be injecting the two-seater with a little more performance to ensure its ongoing popularity. Moreover, a convertible version of the R8 is just around the corner.

According to Car and Driver, Audi will take the wraps off the long-awaited R8 at an upcoming auto show, most likely March’s Geneva Motor Show. It remains to be seen what nameplate Audi will affix to the sporty drop top, but it is widely believed the new model will be dubbed the R8 Spyder.

Sources seemed to be mixed on what type of convertible top the R8 Spyder will use, with reports of both a conventional soft top and a simpler targa top. However, spy shots seem to indicate the latter. The R8 convertible’s interior will carry over from its fixed-roof counterpart. Expect to see the drop top R8 in European showrooms during the second half of 2009, with U.S. sales beginning in 2010.

But perhaps more exciting than the pending R8 Spyder’s reveal is the news that Audi plans to debut the V10-powered R8 coupe at January’s Detroit Auto Show. The V10-powered car will sport a 5.2L powerplant, developing 520 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque. The V10 – which will also be available for R8 Spyder buyers – will be offered alongside the 4.2L V8, but expect the V8 to be phased out in favor of the V10 in the subsequent years.

Check back for live pictures and all the details after the R8 V10 is unveiled next month.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Audi A5 Convertible

Sleek successor to A4 soft top

Audi has released details of its new A5 Convertible, the successor to the popular soft-top version of the A4. Rather than using a metal-folding roof, Audi has stuck with a lightweight fabric roof which folds down in just 15 seconds and stows neatly under the boot cover. The three-layer hood provides excellent insulation, but for even more refinement an optional acoustic hood is available which reduces sound intrusion to the same level as the A5 Coupe. There is also a new neck-level heating system built into the tops of the seats plus solar heat-reflecting leather upholstery. Prices will start at around £30,000 when it goes on sale in February.

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