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  • UEM Edgenta, MHA, CIDB sign safer highways MoU; mechanised highway maintenance machines launched

    A tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between UEM Edgenta, the Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA) and the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) for improvement in the safety of expressway maintenance and operations.

    “The Ministry of Works will continue to support efforts to modernise Malaysia’s expressways through the adoption of innovative and safer solutions which will enable the maintenance operators to reduce its workers’ exposure to live traffic via the use of mechanised solutions and at the same time, protect road users,” said works minister Baru Bian.

    Alongside the MoU signing was the launch of new mechanisation vehicles for expressway maintenance, which is aimed at improving the safety of both maintenance workers and road users by minimising the former’s exposure to live traffic. These include the mechanised grass cutter, the mechanical road sweeper, the impact protection vehicle and the remote-controlled slope grass mower.

    There are nine road sweepers, one grass cutter, one remote-controlled slope grass cutter and one impact protection vehicle currently being trialled in Malaysia. The remote-controlled grass cutter is currently in operation on the grass slopes of the LPT2 highway, while the rest of the mechanised vehicles are operating along the North-South Expressway.

    Overall, the mechanisation of expressway maintenance work is estimated to reduce works’ exposure to live traffic by 88%, and increase productivity by 875%, according to UEM Edgenta. For instance, grass-cutting operations currently involve 18 grass cutting workers and three mobilisation team personnel, plus one one-tonne lorry and two vans per team.

    Time elapsed per shift includes one hour for traffic management (deploying and collecting of cones and traffic signage), six hours for grass cutting and one hour for break time. The mechanised format does away with the one hour required for traffic management, which is added to grass cutting hours for a total of seven hours; this comes to the productivity increase of 875%, according to UEM Edgenta.

    At the same time, the substitution of the current practice with the mechanised method requires just two workers, representing an 89% reduction in grass cutting workers, and a 100% reduction in mobilisation personnel and transport vehicles.

    Each grass-cutting worker is estimated to cover ground at a rate of 800 sq m per hour and can complete about 4,800 sq m per day over a six-hour work period. This is compared to the hydraulic arm grass mower with front and rear arm attachments, manned by two operators, estimated to cover 84,000 sq m of grass cut per day over a seven-hour work period, without lane closure required. This is equivalent to 18 man-days of output with the manual method, says UEM Edgenta.

    The mechanical road sweeper that was launched is capable of cleaning 10 times faster than the current type of sweeper used on Malaysian highways. This is the first sweeper that is effective in collecting large debris and waste items such as carcasses and retreaded tyre pieces, and emits almost zero dust, says UEM Edgenta. This has an effective sweeping width of 1,300 mm at an effective sweeping speed of 18-30 km/h, compared to the current suction machine’s capabilities of 600 mm and 5-6 km/h, an improvement of 436% and 217% respectively.

    Also featured was the remote slope grass mower which is capable of mowing grass on flat surfaces as heavy bushes, as well as on slope gradients of up to 55 degrees. The mechanised method offers efficiency improvements of 525% on slopes, and 1,328% on heavy bushes.

    The current traffic management practice for manual grass-cutting on slopes is carried out in ‘static mode’, where the maximum lane closure length is two kilometres for any one location.

    This method is comprised of traffic management and safety vehicles, where the laying and collection of cones and signages upon lane closure and re-opening consumes two hours of work time. Here, each traffic management team is comprised of one one-tonne lorry, five staff, 250 cones and 29 signages, while the safety vehicle team consists of four one-tonne lorries and eight staff.

    On the other hand, the mechanised impact protection vehicle (IPV) takes the role of traffic management in addition to impact protection, with is digital display board just ahead of the impact absorption structure. In place of traditional cone and signage deployment along with traffic management and safety vehicle workers, the IPV travels in tandem with the work vehicle ahead of it at a speed of approximately 20 km/h, whilst maintaining a distance of 30 m.

    The single IPV requires just two workers, and compared to the traditional method of safety and traffic management, completely does away with the lorries, cones and signages, along with an 85% reduction in required workforce from 13 to two. This will make for a vastly reduced number of personnel exposed to passing highway traffic and therefore, lives at risk.

  • 2019 Mazda 3 in detail – improved NVH; why a torsion beam and no touchscreen; unique sedan/hatch styling

    Mazda is entering a new chapter in its history with its next-generation product line-up, and the first model to lead the charge is the new Mazda 3 (followed by the CX-30). First revealed back in November 2018, the C-segment model features the very latest that the Japanese carmaker has to offer in terms of design, technology and ideology.

    As you are already aware by now, the new Mazda 3 is slated to be launched in Malaysia in July this year, but before that takes place, we were given the opportunity to get better acquainted with the model as part of an ASEAN sneak preview in Japan.

    There’s plenty to get into here, which is why we’re dividing this post into segments to examine some of the highlights aspects of the new Mazda 3. And we’ll begin with the basis of the car, namely the SkyActiv-Vehicle Architecture.

    SkyActiv-Vehicle Architecture and NVH – why a torsion beam instead of a multi-link?

    To develop the platform, Mazda first examined the human body’s ability to balance itself unconsciously when walking, whereby it discovered there is limited movement of the head. From its research, the carmaker discovered two important points to maintaining this state of balance, with the first being the pelvis remains in an upright position that maintains the spine’s natural “S” curve.

    Secondly, the reactive force from the ground when walking is transferred smoothly from the legs to the pelvis, which itself moves regularly and continuously.

    With these discoveries, the carmaker opted for a holistic approach that involved designing seats that meets the requirements of point number one. Not only do the new seats help to keep the pelvis upright, and in turn, maintaing the spine’s “S” curve,” they have a more rigid internal structure so that the forces from the road is transferred from the sprung mass (car body) to the human body in a straight line.

    This bring us neatly to the new Mazda 3’s body (SkyActiv-Body as they call it), which now features front-to-back connections (between the rigid front and rear damper mounts), creating multi-directional ring structures to improve diagonal rigidity. This structure, along with the use more high-strength steels rated at up to 1,310 MPa, reduces the delay in the transmission of input energy from the front to rear dampers by 30%.

    As for the chassis (or SkyActiv-Chassis in Mazda speak), the company looked at how it can make the energy transfer from the road to the body smoother over time, rather than changing the size of the energy.

    To do so, the suspension arm angles faces downward (inverted V shape) so the inertial force of the sprung mass pushes the tyres down to the ground. Mazda also considered the tyres during development, opting for softer side walls with reduced vertical stiffness for vibration absorption and damping.

    Another aspect of the suspension is the use of spherical bushings for consistent energy transmission with no slippage, which also makes it easier for the attachment of the suspension arm and link to rotate smoothly.

    Of course, we can’t talk about the new Mazda 3’s suspension without mentioning the torsion beam that replaces the outgoing car’s multi-link setup in the rear. There’s a good reasoning for it, and it involves something that has been deemed an issue for Mazda cars in the past: NVH.

    With a multi-link setup, there are a lot more moving parts and associated pivot points that can cause stray vibrations to be transmitted to the car’s body (sprung mass). A torsion beam, by comparison, is simpler with a single diagonal input, allowing it to be better fine tuned for a variety of road surfaces.

    The design of the torsion beam for the Mazda 3 is totally different from what is used on the current Mazda 2 and CX-3. The patented design sees the transverse beam expand wider from the centre, and project manager Kota Beppu explained the stamped sections near the ends help to minimise compliance-steer, eliminating rear wheel toe-in for a more neutral steering characteristic.

    There are other benefits too, as the simpler torsion beam takes up less space, allowing for more rear seat and boot space, which is certainly something that is welcomed.

    Beppu did concede that on a race track, a multi-link setup has its advantages. However, the reality is, the Mazda 3 isn’t a time attack machine but a daily driver, and the company believes this to be the ideal solution for a vast majority of its buyers.

    Mazda’s focus on reducing NVH goes beyond just the above-mentioned measures, as it also considered another aspect of the human body, or more specifically, how people perceive sounds. Through its research, it discovered that drastic changes in sounds and vibrations are unpleasant, and looked to “linearise” this by changing damping characteristics.

    As a result, epoxy damping nodes and bonds have been introduced to certain areas of the vehicle frame to absorb vibrations, taking up one less spot weld instead of the conventional four. That’s not all, as the frame has also been designed with fewer holes to minimise places where sound can enter.

    This rethinking even extends to the doors, which now lose their large speaker holes at the base, requiring the bass speaker boxes usually in that position to be placed in the front cowl – the new platform allows enough space for this to be possible.

    Katsuya Shimizu, who works in the NVH performance development department, added that there a total of 49 revisions from the current Mazda 3 to help combat wind and road noise, which examples like larger floor mats that use a finer fibrous material to better absorb sound reflecting within the cabin, along with additional/enlarged sound insulation in various areas, thicker windows, a lower wiper position, new seals, the addition of sound absorption tubes, among many others.

    Styling – sedan and hatchback get distinct exterior; driver-centric interior with new layout

    As with the outgoing model, two body styles – sedan and hatchback (live gallery here) – are being offered, both styled according to Mazda’s updated Kodo design philosophy that follows the theme of “beauty through subtraction,” as Mazda chief designer Yasutake Tsuchida explained.

    Without needing prominent creases, the Mazda 3 draws inspiration from the Vision Coupe by playing on light and shadow (utsorai) to create dramatic reflections along the vehicle’s sides. Tsuchida noted that the company decided to give each body style is own distinct character, with the hatchback being the more dynamic of the two. Beyond the bonnet and side mirrors, the body panels are different between the two body types.

    Placed side by side, you can see the differences, as the hatchback’s diamond-pattern grille mesh, curved back side reflections and strong haunches help to make a stronger visual presence. A dedicated colour – Polymetal Grey – and the bold C-pillars further add to this, and Tsuchida said this overall design of the hatchback is deliberate to attract attention and create a “love at first sight” scenario.

    Indeed, with many spectators having a thing or two to say about the hatchback’s C-pillar, the design has done its job, and you’ll either love it or hate it, but you will talk about it, which is the point. As beauty is a subjective matter, we’ll leave it to you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

    The new body also sees changes to the dimensions, with hatchback now measuring 4,459 mm long (-1 mm compared to its predecessor), 1,797 mm wide (+2 mm) and 1,440 mm tall (-10 mm). The sedan now spans 4,662 mm long (+82 mm), 1,797 mm wide (+2 mm) and 1,445 mm tall (+5 mm). Both body types also have a longer wheelbase at 2,725 mm (+25 mm).

    One aspect that is identical on both body styles is the interior, which also follows the “beauty through subtraction” approach. With the aim of reducing “visual noise,” the new layout is much simpler, with less items on the dashboard to distract your eyes.

    This driver-centric setup also sees two dedicated air vents and a widescreen infotainment display angled towards the person behind the wheel. Over on the passenger side, there are two more vents, while rear vents are available (depending on the market) for those seated in the rear.

    Attention has also been given to the centre console to promote better ergonomics and practicality, as the centre console lid/arm rest now adopts a “karakuri” mechanism that involves sliding the lid back before it is lifted up so the elbow isn’t excessively raised.

    The lid is also much larger here, and there’s more space underneath to accommodate an iPad, smartphone and sunglasses comfortably. Further up is where you’ll find the infotainment controls followed by the gear lever, covered cupholders and a small storage cubby.

    Other ergonomic changes include a telescopic steering that has a wider range of adjustment of 70 mm (+10 mm), and there’s a front seat cushion tilt adjustment to ensure the best possible seating position.

    In terms of displays, there’s a seven-inch TFT-LCD unit (with multiple display functions) in the instrument cluster, and the head-up display (Active Driving Display) now projects onto the windscreen rather than having a supplmentary pop-up screen as before.

    Finer details include unifying the car’s interior illumination, which requires Mazda to ensure every LED white light source inside the cabin illuminates according to a tight colour tolerance of just one thirds of the usual. It explains that proper light quality is important to showcase the beauty of the interior, much the same way you seek out good lighting for that perfect selfie.

    Mazda Connect and sound systems – no more touchscreen, premium audio experience

    The Mazda 3 is the first to get the seventh-generation Mazda Connect infotainment system, which has been completely overhauled as part of a new HMI interface. Kazuhiro Ikeda, who is the technical leader of infotainment development at Mazda, points out that the new system aims to reduce cognitive distraction, minimising the amount of time your mind is focused off the road.

    As a start, the controls on the centre console has been simplified with a rotary dial being surrounded by quick access buttons to the media and navigation menu, as well as the home and back button. The favourites button that was previously bundled together is now isolated, while the volume/quick mute dial doubles as a forward/previous switch as well.

    Upon first usage, there’s an uncanny resemblance to BMW’s iDrive system, including the split-view mode that is available. With the new system, the main screen now displays various functions horizontally with easy-to-read text and accompanying symbols. It certainly looks much neater compared to the previous system, which featured a row of icons at the base of the screen.

    Accessing each menu is done by depressing the rotary dial or just pushing it right, and for further functions, you’ll need to depress the button again. As an example, where the media menu of the previous system has a row of icons at the bottom for various functions like changing media sources, they are now tucked away in an additional menu instead.

    A side effect of reducing cognitive distraction is the total omission of touch interface from the display, which itself is placed further forward as a result. That means you are required to use the rotary controller for character input into the navigation system, which may put a damper on things, depending on the user.

    However, the carmaker says its new interface offers a more intuitive experience that over time, will basically be muscle memory to the user. This plays into its target of ensuring you spend less time figuring out the infotainment system, and more time paying attention to the road.

    For those who are curious, Android Auto and Apply CarPlay support is present, with Mazda acknowledging that some customers prefer these system instead. The integration extends so any media playback is shown in split-view mode, should you ever want to use the car’s own navigation function at the same time.

    To go along with the infotainment system, the Mazda 3 also gets the Mazda Harmonic Acoustics sound system as standard, which comprises of eight speakers placed strategically to “reproduce sound true to its sources.”

    As mentioned earlier, the bass speakers have been repositioned to the front cowl, which was done to prevent door rattle, improving NVH. These are joined by a pair of 2.5 cm tweeters placed at the base of the A-pillars, along with 8-cm units catering to mid-range sounds on the front and rear door cards.

    Cars with the optional Bose sound system gain two satellite speakers in the rear (C-pillar on the hatchback and parcel shelf on the sedan), plus an 8 cm centre speaker under the dashboard and an additional subwoofer in the boot to bring the speaker count up to 12.

    Mazda claims this setup provides the best sound clarity possible, and is so proud of it that there’s even a dedicated “Driver’s Seat” listening position that retimes the speakers’ outputs so the sound arrives at the driver’s ears at the same time and volume. A brief demonstration lent promise to these claims, but it’s something that has to be experienced to be believed.

    Engine line-up – no SkyActiv-X for Malaysia; two SkyActiv-G petrol engines only

    For the Malaysian market, we’ll only be getting two engines from the SkyActiv-G petrol range, which include a 1.5 litre (114 hp and 150 Nm) and 2.0 litre (162 hp and 210 Nm) unit. Both come with a six-speed SkyActiv-Drive automatic transmission as standard with drive going to the front wheels.

    These engines, along with a larger 2.5 litre unit that we won’t get, feature new intake ports and piston shape, split fuel injection, and a coolant control valve to deliver better performance and fuel economy.

    The much-hyped SkyActiv-X engine has been given a miss here (likely due to pricing concerns), and we never got the chance to sample one during our recent trip to Japan. However, we have written about the compression ignition engine at length in an earlier post you can read about here.

    A SkyActiv-D 1.8 litre turbodiesel (114 hp and 270 Nm) will also not come to our part of the world – the mill replaces the 1.5 litre and 2.2 litre diesel units previously used, and comes equipped with a single, variable geometry turbocharger and NOx Storage Catalyst (NSC) system.

    Safety advancements – more airbags and driver assist systems

    In terms of passive safety, the ratio of high-stength steel rated of 980 MPa or higher has been increased from the 3% used on the previous model to 30% for the new car. There’s also a new perimeter beam and rear side frames to create a body that more effectively absorbs energy.

    Additionally, a new driver’s knee airbag brings the total count up to seven, and Mazda stays this will be a standard fitment worldwide. The hood also adopts an energy-absorbing inner structure to more quickly absorb the impact energy from a pedestrian’s head, while the front bumper mitigates the degree of injury to the knees in the event of a collision.

    Depending on the market, Mazda’s i-Activsense suite of active and driver assist systems now includes a Driver Monitoring system, Front Cross Traffic Alert (FCTA) and Cruising and Traffic Support (CTS) system – the last item being an active cruise control system with stop and go functionality.

  • Toyota to install new engine cut-off system by 2020

    Toyota has revealed that it will begin introducing two key safety features for its 2020 models. The first system shuts off the engine if it’s left idling for too long, while the other automatically engages park mode when the driver exits the vehicle without shifting it into park (thus preventing the car from rolling away).

    According to Automotive News, Toyota will upgrade its current system, which issues a two-step alert to request the driver to turn off a long-idling engine, to one that automatically shuts off the engine at a predetermined interval with enhanced audible and visual warnings on its Smart Key system, depending on equipment. An additional warning delivered via the smartphone app will be introduced as well.

    The announcement follows days after the automaker was criticised by Safety Research & Strategies for the number of carbon monoxide-related deaths attributable to the keyless ignition system in Toyota’s vehicles.

    According to the vehicle and product safety company, at least 37 known deaths in the US have been linked to keyless ignition-related carbon monoxide poisoning. Founder Sean Kane said the numbers cited likely don’t include all such deaths.

    Following Toyota’s announcement, Kane told Automotive News that it “is a positive announcement, and we’re glad to see it happen. But with that being said, they’re late to the game and there ar eno plans in that announcement to fix the vehicles that are already on the road.”

    In response to that statement, a Toyota spokesman said: “The safety and security of our customers are top priorities, and we sympathise with anyone in an accident involving one of our vehicles. We are pleased to see the positive response to this proactive approach. We will continue to comply with all applicable standards now and in the future.”

    The second safety system, which Toyota calls Automatic Park, will either shift the vehicle into park or apply the electronic emergency brake if the driver exits the car without shifting the automatic transmission in park.

    A Toyota spokesperson said the feature is activated when the driver’s side door is opened and the driver’s seat belt is unbuckled and the brake is disengaged. Toyota did not say how long it planned to take to phase in the safety features across its line-up, and it’s unclear if the move will scale over globally.

  • AD: Jaguar Land Rover Raya Open House Weekend Sale – deals, discounts, trips to Sweden up for grabs

    A Jaguar Land Rover vehicle caught your eye lately? That’s likely, seeing how eye-catching they are on the road. Here’s the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with models such as the sleek yet bold Range Rover Velar and the sporty Jaguar F-Pace, among other JLR vehicles.

    Jaguar Land Rover retailers will be having a Raya Open House Weekend Sale event this weekend, June 22-23. The outlets – Sisma Auto KL (Tel: 03-92123106) and Sime Darby Auto Connexion PJ (Tel: 03-92123103) – will be opening their doors from 9am to 6pm this weekend, with the full range of JLR vehicles and great deals in store. Call and RSVP with your preferred outlet.

    Buyers of selected models* will get to join the Jaguar Land Rover Ice Drive Experience, which is an all-expenses paid trip to Sweden with a thrilling and memorable experience of driving JLR vehicles on snow.

    You’ll also enjoy peace of mind and a hassle-free ownership experience, as all new Jaguar and Land Rover models come with five years of warranty, five years of servicing and three years of roadside assistance**. Great offers are available for approved vehicles as well, including the Range Rover Velar.

    There’s more. Enjoy 20% off on Land Rover Lifestyle Collection and Jaguar Lifestyle Collection items and also a 20% discount on Land Rover Gear and Jaguar Gear, the automakers’ range of genuine accessories. These accessories will be covered under the vehicle warranty should you specify them with your vehicle purchase.

    Existing Jaguar Land Rover owners are welcome to join the festivities as well – there’s an after-sales promotion of 20% discount on selected serviceable parts. Head down to your nearest Jaguar Land Rover dealer for the Raya Open House Weekend Sale.

    *Promotion is valid based on availability and applicable for selected models and units only. While stocks last.
    **Based on whichever comes first. Warranty – 5 years or 150,000 km. Servicing – 5 years or 65,000 km. Terms and conditions apply.

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  • 2019 Honda CBR500R, CB500F and CB500X launched in Malaysia – pricing starts from RM33,999

    In Malaysia, the middleweight motorcycle market gets a trio of updated offerings from Boon Siew Honda Malaysia – the 2019 Honda CBR500R sports bike, the Honda CB500F naked sports and Honda CB500X adventure tourer. The CBR500R is priced at RM34,999 while the CB500F and CB500X are priced at RM33,999 and RM36,099, respectively, with all prices excluding road tax, insurance and registration.

    For 2019, all three Honda middleweights come with ABS – standard across the range – along with revised rear monoshock, assist and slipper clutch, LED lighting all round and LCD instrument panel. New for the three middleweights is a shift light that is set at 8,750 rpm and adjustable in 250 rpm increments from between 5,000 to 8,750 rpm.

    Common in all three 500s is the engine, which is a 471 cc, liquid-cooled, parallel twin with eight valves, producing a claimed 49.6 hp at 8,500 rpm and 45 Nm of torque at 6,500 rpm. Power gets to the ground via a six-speed gearbox and chain final drive.

    For the CBR500R, new bodywork is designed to give a more aggressive style, similar to the CBR1000RR superbike. Fed by Honda’s PGM-FI, the inlet, exhaust and valve timing has been revised to deliver 4% more mid-range power and torque.

    The CBR500R now comes with narrower seat pad and tail unit to improve rider ergonomics and movement with the clip-on handlebars located below the top yoke to give a sportier riding position. There are three colour options for the 2019 Honda CBR500R – Grand Prix Red, Max Axis Gray Metallic and Pearl Metalloid White.

    Honda’s naked sports middleweight, the CB500F, also comes with new bodywork and is designed to be a “do everything” machine. The assist and slipper clutch reduces effort at the clutch lever, making the CB500F and its siblings easy to ride, especially in heavy traffic.

    The battery is now located further away from the air box intake duct, improving engine airflow. The 2019 Honda CB500F comes in three colour choices – Grand Prix Red, Gun Powder Black Metallic and Pearl Metalloid White.

    Biggest change for the CB500X is the change of front wheel size from 17-inches to a 19-inch hoop in front, which Honda says will improve handling on rough surfaces, something we noted was lacking when we reviewed the previous generation CB500X. Rider seating is cut narrower in front to improve reach for riders shorter in the leg.

    Manoeuvrability has also been improved with a 3-degree increase in steering lock to 38-degrees along with a tapered handlebar. Riders can choose form three colours for the 2019 Honda CB500X – Grand Prix Red, Gun Powder Black Metallic and Pearl Metalloid White.

    Availability of the 2019 Honda CBR500R, CB500F and CB500X in authorised Boon Siew Honda Malaysia dealers will be from the end of June 2019. All three middleweights come with a two-year or 20,000 km warranty, whichever comes first.

    GALLERY: 2019 Honda CB500F

    GALLERY: 2019 Honda CBR500R
    GALLERY: 2019 Honda CB500X

  • FIRST LOOK: 2019 Nissan X-Trail – Nissan Connect with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto explored

    We’ve taken a pretty deep dive into the 2019 Nissan X-Trail facelift so far, with a spec-by-spec comparison, walk-around of the top three variants, a drag race as well as a look into the Nissan Intelligent Mobility suite of safety systems. Here, we explore the capabilities of the Nissan Connect system which features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to support iOS and Android mobile devices.

    Here, watch as our man Jonathan Lee takes us through the functions of the infotainment unit across both mobile operating systems. Of note is CarPlay’s ability to summon Siri for making phone calls or to compose messages on a variety of apps, which is a boon for safety on the road.

    The drawback of using Apple CarPlay is that it currently disallows the simultaneous use of navigation and music playback, as selecting one after another will bring the infotainment unit back to its home screen. This however should be rectified with the advent of the iOS 13 mobile operating system, which is set to enter play later this year.

    There’s a little more complication with Android Auto, as the operating system’s intended in-car usage isn’t supported in Malaysia just yet; this will required Android users to sideload the app from external sources. Here, there are shortcut commands on-screen for music, navigation and phone functions, and as with its Apple counterpart, Android Auto is set to be updated soon for better usability.

    With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support across all variants of the latest Nissan X-Trail, this makes for improved accessibility to mobile services in the Japanese SUV. Do you already own the 2019 X-Trail and have been putting the systems to good use? Let us know in the comments section below with your experiences so far.

  • 2020 Lexus GX 460 – new face; safety, off-road packs

    The Lexus GX 460, as the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado is badged and known in North America, has received a revamp starring a bigger and bolder grille, as well as new equipment. The big news is the inclusion of Lexus Safety System+ as standard across the range (like our just-launched 2019 Lexus NX 300) and an available Off-Road Package featuring Multi-Terrain Select.

    The Lexus GX first received a spindle grille in the previous facelift in 2013, but this 2020 GX 460’s updated nose keeps the ageing SUV in line with the rest of the Lexus range, from the front at least. Also helping the cause are those triple-beam LED headlamps with “tick” LED daytime running lights.

    The three-row seven-seater SUV can be had with a Sport Design Package that adds on an unique lower grille surround, rear valence, side mirrors, matte black exhaust tip, scarlet taillamps and 19-inch alloys with a Gunmetal Metallic finish.

    Inside, heated and ventilated front seats are available as a standalone option for the base model, and standard on Premium and Luxury specs. In the Sport Design Package for Premium and Luxury trims, two captain chairs comprise the second-row seating. Lexus says that the GX’s available semi-aniline leather is dyed completely through, unlike most leathers with conventional surface dyes. New for 2020, Premium and Luxury grades come with Gray Sapele wood with aluminium trim.

    The big Prado is a legit off-roader, and it comes with a full-time automatic four-wheel drive system. A Torsen torque-sensing limited slip centre differential distributes power 40:60 under most driving conditions, and changes the ratio as needed based on wheel slip. The 4WD system offers a low range for off-road driving, and the centre diff can be electronically locked.

    The two-speed transfer case with low range is supported by a range of chassis control technology. Downhill Assist Control (DAC), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), Active Traction Control (A-TRAC), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and available Crawl Control assist the SUV off the beaten path. In the city, the available Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) active dampers adjust to road conditions.

    The new Off-Road Package is available on the Luxury grade. It includes Lexus’ Multi-Terrain Monitor and Panoramic View Monitors with driver and passenger cameras; transmission cooler; fuel tank protector; Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select.

    The latter allows you to choose from multiple surfaces such as loose rocks, mud and sand and more to optimise drivability. With the Multi-Terrain Monitor and Panoramic View Monitors, front passengers can view front, rear, side, and now under (displaying terrain and tire location under the car) camera views on the navigation screen.

    Activated with the press of a button, Crawl Control is designed to maintain a slow and steady pace over demanding terrain. It automatically modulates the throttle and brakes on five driver-selectable low-speed settings, so drivers can focus on steering. Engaged when the SUV is in low range, CC also engages the front and rear “virtual” locking differentials to help reduce tyre slippage and optimise chassis behaviour.

    As for the Lexus Safety System+ suite of active safety kit, there’s Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, Intelligent High Beams and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.

    No change to the powertrain, so the proven 4.6 litre V8 with 301 hp and 446 Nm continues on with a six-speed torque converter automatic transmission. With nearly three tonnes of towing capacity aided by Trailer Sway Control, the GX is an ideal boat hauler, Lexus says. It has always been good in the rough, but the new face helps the GX do Rodeo Drive better.

    GALLERY: 2020 Lexus GX 460

    GALLERY: Toyota Land Cruiser Prado

  • Singapore switching to distance-travelled ERP in 2020

    Singapore is set to introduce a new pay-as-you-drive system for its electronic road pricing (ERP), in which motorists will be charged based on distance covered instead of the fixed fee in place now. The navigation-based system will be introduced next year.

    Motorists will have to switch from their existing ERP in-vehicle units to new on-board units (OBU), and the country’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) has said that the replacement exercise will be carried out progressively, as The Straits Times reports.

    The first replacement will be done free of charge, with the installation likely to be carried out at vehicle inspection centres and appointed workshops. During the transition period, which has been reported as being around 18 months, both old and ERP systems will be operational.

    Images of the supposed new OBU surfaced on online forums, but the LTA said that the photos were of photo illustrations from a 2016 study conducted on the project. The authority said that the new OBU was still being evaluated and not finalised. According to the report, the new OBU is expected to be larger than the current unit and will display information such as charges incurred for a journey.

  • Aston Martin Valhalla – official name for Project 003!

    It’s official. The Aston Martin AM-RB 003 project will formally be known as the Aston Martin Valhalla. Just as a refresher, the Valhalla is an upcoming mid-engined hypercar that is developed in collaboration with Red Bull Advanced Technologies.

    The name Valhalla literally means ‘the hall of the fallen’, which is an enormous and majestic hall in Asgard, one of the Nine Realms. In ancient Norse mythology, Valhalla is described as a warrior’s paradise, where souls of those who are slain in battle go to rest. These souls are chosen and guided by the Valkyries, a group of warrior maidens who gather the fallen at the behest of Odin, All-Father of Nordic Gods.

    Myths aside, the Valhalla sits below the Valkyrie (the production of which is limited to 175 units) in Aston Martin’s range of ultra high performance cars. Just 500 units of the Valhalla will be made, and most of the car will be made out of carbon-fibre. It will be powered by a hybrid V6 powertrain that makes up to 900 hp, offering performance levels close to the Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder.

    Aston Martin Lagonda president and group CEO, Andy Palmer said: “Aston Martin model names always attract a lot of attention. They do so because they invariably capture an emotion or tell a story. In following the Valkyrie we knew the Aston Martin Valhalla needed to make a strong statement of its own, yet also offer continuity and a clear connection.”

    “Norse mythology contains such powerful language and rich storytelling it felt only right that the AM-RB 003 should follow the Valkyrie’s theme. For those fortunate enough to own one I’m sure they will recognise and appreciate the name’s connotations of glory and happiness, for there can be few more hallowed places than the driver’s seat of an Aston Martin Valhalla,” he added.

  • Proton Insurance Programme provides extra benefits

    Proton is introducing a new insurance product that provides additional benefits to its consumers. Called the Proton Insurance Programme (PIP), the service is applicable for new car buyers as well as existing owners that insure their cars through the national carmaker’s panel of insurers.

    Owners who renew their insurance with PIP are eligible for a free key replacement up to RM1,000 in the case of theft, plus a RM1,000 flood relief allowance, coverage for all drivers (unless the driver is under 21 or holds a provisional or learner’s driving licence) and personal coverage of up to RM15,000 for private car owners.

    Also provided is a waiver of betterment costs for up to 10 years (provided the car is repaired at authorised Proton body and paint centres) and an agreed value coverage that guarantees a full reimbursement of the sum amount insured for the first 12 years, in the event of a total loss or theft. These benefits were already included with the facelifted Iriz and Persona, which were launched in April.

    The six panel insurers are Allianz General Insurance Company, Liberty Insurance, AmGeneral Insurance, Zurich General Insurance, Etiqa General Takaful and Zurich General Takaful. The PIP scheme is available at all authorised Proton outlets nationwide.

    “Proton is constantly looking for ways to deliver more value and with the Proton Insurance Programme, we are able to ensure that old, current and new customers alike are eligible to receive the same benefits just by renewing their insurance policy with us. The programme is backed by six of the strongest names in the insurance industry, so our customers can have peace of mind that Proton’s partners in this venture are able to deliver on their promises,” said CEO Li Chunrong.


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Last Updated 15 Jun 2019


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