Bentley Continental Supersports to Cost $273,295

The 2010 Bentley Continental Supersports goes on sale in the US at a price of US$273,295 which includes a US$2,595 destination charge, a US$3,700 federal gas-guzzler tax penalty and US$16,500 carbon-ceramic brakes that are optional on other Continental models. While it is notably dearer on the pocket than the $203,600 Continental GT Speed, it justifies the price tag by being the most powerful road Bentley ever built.

Fitted with a 6.0-litre twin turbo W12 engine the lightweight Supersports produces a brawny 621hp (463kW) and torque of 800Nm. It runs either on regular unleaded petrol or E85 biofuel. Naught to 60mph is done in 3.7 seconds, top speed is 329 km/h (204 mph) and Bentley indicates an average fuel consumption figure of 17.3mpg UK (16.3 litres/100km). Although the car will begin selling this October, flex-fuel capabilities only arrive in North America in the summer of 2010.

The Supersports is Bentley's first attempt at cleaning up while continuing to offer customers expected levels of performance and luxury. To that end the coupe is available with a carbon fiber fascia, diamond quilted Alcantara sports seats and an optional 15-speaker Bentley sound system among other things.

Fellow motorists will spot it by its new front bumper with bigger air intake grilles, dual bonnet vents, 20-inch wheels wrapped in 275/35 ZR20 Pirelli Ultra High Performance tyres, a new rear bumper and a retractable rear spoiler.

Maruti to launch hybrid cars in 3 to 5 years

Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest car company by sales, is working on an ambitious plan to launch electric cars and compressed natural gas (CNG) variants for three or four models in the domestic market. The plan is part of the company’s broad strategy to develop small cars that run on alternative fuel technology.

“We are developing electric car technology for India. But it might take us up to the next five years or more to manufacture and sell electric cars in the domestic market,” said Maruti Suzuki Managing Director Shinzo Nakanishi.

Maruti Suzuki Chairman R C Bhargava, added, "We are working on multi-fuel variants and some models have been identified for CNG. A CNG kit currently costs over Rs 40,000 and that is expensive. Also, these cars can only be launched in 2010 or 2011, when there is a pan-India CNG filling system from companies like Reliance."

Bhargava pointed out that even Delhi lacked sufficient CNG filling systems for commercial vehicles. The company has already launched LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) variants of the Maruti 800 and Wagon R.

Suzuki Motor Corporation of Japan, which holds 54.2 per cent in Maruti Suzuki, has already taken some major R& D initiatives in alternative fuels, including developing fuel cell technology in partnership with General Motors of the US. The company is using the mid-sized SX4 to conduct R&D in Japan for hybrid technology. The fuel combination being tested is a mix of fuel cells and high-pressure hydrogen. Nakanishi did not specify if this technology was being considered for India. Earlier vehicles tested by Suzuki Japan for hybrid technology include small cars like the Wagon R for the Japanese market.

Nakanishi said the R&D unit in Japan is currently addressing two key challenges in developing electric cars for India — mileage per charge and price.

“Cars available in the domestic market can give, say, 120 km per charge. What they are implying is 120 km for a single passenger — which means the power is sufficient for the driver of the car alone,” said Nakanishi.

“If another passenger joins, the travel range per charge drops to 60 km. If a third persons sits behind the range drops to 30 km. We are trying to address the longer range of driving in our R&D work,” he explained.

On pricing, Nakanishi said, “You have Honda and Toyota, which have proven, commercially viable hybrid technology cars. But internationally, they sell in small volumes. Globally, Suzuki is known as a low-cost car manufacturer selling in large volumes. We would like to achieve that for electric cars in India.”

Bhargava, meanwhile, also said reports of bookings for the Tata Motors’ Nano (which started on April 9) has had no impact on the Maruti sales.

“We are not seeing any impact on our sales due to the Nano in April and I don't think it will have any impact this year at all. We expect wholesale sales to be good for April since retail sales in March were good and dealers have liquidated their stocks,” he said.

Mitsubishi details global iMiEV plans

Mitsubishi's big electric car announcement at the New York Auto Show was that the iMiEV would be coming to the U.S. All we could get out of Mitsubishi reps before the big reveal was that this will happen sometime before 2012.
When we got to spend a few minutes with John Koenig, Mitsubishi North America's executive vice president of operations, he said, "We've now announced that for all the global markets, wherever the left hand drive is needed, that's where it's going to be. We just can't say the exact timing when it'll be, but I would say within two years."

With Japan, the UK, and the rest of Europe due to get the iMiEV before the U.S., the question of how many of these cute electric cars Mitsubishi can produce was at the top of our minds. We asked Koenig about the reports that the company would increase its annual production capability to 20,000 units. 20,000 may seem like a too few to some people, but Koenig said that the real numbers are really even smaller. Less than 10,000 iMiEVs will be made per year when Mitsubishi starts up "full production." The limiting factor, as should be no surprise, is the number of battery packs that GS Yuasa can make. Koenig said, "Right now, GS Yuasa is our source of batteries, through the joint venture we've done with them. I think 10,- or 12,000 is the maximum volume at the beginning. We're working on figuring out a way to get greater battery production, but that's going to mean an investment in a plant somewhere to produce more. We haven't made a decision on where that plant would be located, whether that be in Japan or North America or Europe.

Ford Fiesta 5-door hatchback

For all the strength that the U.S. automakers have shown in the realm of big trucks and SUVs over the last thirty years, they are remarkably weak when it comes to small cars. However, all that appears to be about to change quite dramatically. A plethora of stylish small cars are coming to market over the next 12-24 months wearing the badges of, at least, Ford and General Motors. Chrysler may even get in the action if it can consummate a deal with Fiat and get the 500. At the moment however, the first and perhaps most exciting example is the Ford Fiesta.

Ford sold the first-generation Fiesta in the U.S. for several years in the late '70s and early '80s in the wake of the second Middle East oil crisis. Since then, the Fiesta has remained a relatively popular option in Europe, but America had to make do mostly with the Escort and Focus along with a few years of the Kia-sourced Festiva and Aspire. Ford is now in the midst of re-focusing its efforts on cars with plenty of help of Europe. The first of those Euro-Fords will be the 6th generation Fiesta which arrives here around the end of this year. We had the chance to spend some time behind the wheel of the Fiesta in Manhattan during the New York Auto Show. Find out if the Fiesta is more Fit or Festiva after the jump.

Over the last several decades, small cars from Detroit tended to be really cheap, because American car buyers with plenty of access to cheap gas had no interest in paying more for what they considered to be less car. Over the last 5 years or so, that pay per pound attitude has started to change, as appealing smaller cars like the MINI and Honda Fit have been able to command somewhat (or in the case of the MINI substantially) higher prices. At a higher price point, buyers can get better quality materials and the amenities they expect in a larger car. The Fiesta is aimed squarely at the segment of appealing small cars.

When the new Fiesta debuted in Europe last year, it took the kinetic design themes used on the Mondeo, Kuga and other cars to the B-segment. The result is a fantastic looking little car that Europeans can get in 3- or 5-door hatchback body styles. Fortunately, Americans will also have access to the hatchbacks in addition to a 4-door sedan. The production Fiestas for North America will be built a Ford plant in Mexico that formerly built F-150s but is currently being retooled for car production. The first batch of Fiestas to come here from Germany are being used for promotional programs including the social media-focused Fiesta Movement. Since they were built in Germany they are European-spec cars but the North American version will be almost identical apart from a few details.

The North American and European Fiesta will be over 90 percent common with most of the changes driven by regulatory requirements such as the lighting. The U.S.-spec headlights will look the same but use different internal elements. There are also a few changes inside the car such as the adjuster for the front seat back angle. American drivers hate the rotary knob design typically used on European cars so that will be replace by a lever like those found here. The adjuster for the rear view mirrors is also being re-located from its position on the door panel facing the center of the car to a spot on top of the panel because drivers found the location awkward to use. What won't be changing, thankfully, is the design of the instrument panel which got carried over almost intact from the original Verve concept. The soft touch materials on the dash board are also coming intact, giving the interior a high quality feel that American consumers have not been accustomed to in this segment.

When we got stuck in Manhattan traffic, a quick squeeze of the gas had the Fiesta squirting into gaps between cabs and trucks and its diminutive size made it easy to fit in. The Euro Fiesta is rated at a credible 9.9 seconds for the 0-62 mph sprint which should be plenty for almost everyone's needs. The brakes also felt solid and easy to modulate and Fiesta's will come standard with anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. Sometime in the next 2-3 years Ford will also add an EcoBoost engine to the Fiesta lineup, likely a 1.2-liter that should further improve mileage without sacrificing performance. In the meantime, assuming people start buying cars again, Americans should find themselves quite content with the Fiesta when it starts to arrive around the end this year. Pricing won't be announced until launch time, but Ford has indicated it will be competitive with the Fit, or likely around $13-18,000.