- Motoring

Feb 022016

The annual Tokyo Auto Salon ended last Jan. 17 and its organizers have every reason to be happy. This year, the show saw a record 105.1 percent increase compared to previous years. In total, 325,501 enthusiasts walked through the halls of Makuhari Messe to see the newest and craziest stuff the Japanese aftermarket scene had to offer.

The show traces its roots back to the “Tokyo Exciting Car Show” with a goal of establishing a custom car culture. Thirty four years later it has grown from being just a custom car show. It has become the gauge of the latest trends in the aftermarket business where new technology or methods for tuning and upgrading are showcased, some of which, for the first time.

The Philippine STAR is priviledged to have witnessed this wacky show first-hand and while I’d like to give a rundown all 880 vehicles on display from the 450 exhibitors, I will instead be focusing on the motorsports-inspired displays of the largest Japanese brands: Honda, Toyota, Mazda, and Subaru.


Honda’s Civic Type-R isn’t for the faint of heart already thanks to its 300-hp, front-wheel drive configuration. However, for Japanese tuner MUGEN, it doesn’t seem crazy enough. They showed off a more extreme version of the Civic Type-R with the menacing Civic Type-R MUGEN.

Shown as a prototype, the Civic Type-R MUGEN gains a body kit that’s lairer than the standard Type-R. It gains a new front bumper, touring car-style front and side skirts, and a large (but lightweight) rear wing. Forged MUGEN wheels and the requisite badging complete the transformation.

Though no performance enhancements were indicated, the Civic Type-R MUGEN does swap the quad exhaust system for a large single pipe system which should at least put down more power from the already potent 306hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine.

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Toyota GAZOO Racing

Toyota GAZOO Racing showcased its past, present, and future at the Tokyo Auto Salon by unveiling three new racing car entries for the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. The three vehicles, the Toyota C-HR Racing (based on the concept but not the eventual production model), Lexus RC and Lexus RC F took centerstage all dressed in “drool-worthy” racing gear.

2016 marks the 10th year of Toyota’s participation in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring under the banner of GAZOO Racing. Initiated in April last year, Toyota GAZOO Racing united the activities of GAZOO Racing, Toyota Racing and Lexus Racing under the same roof. Commemorating this, the pavilion is filled with several of their historic and present race cars.

In addition, the Toyota FT-1 Concept and a GAZOO Racing version of the S-FR Concept were also shown.


“Be a driver” is a slogan adopted by Mazda to showcase the fun-to-drive attitude of its entire line-up. Although most were left wanting a proper Mazdaspeed version of their cars, Mazda did give racing concept versions of the MX-5 (Roadster in Japan), Mazda6, CX-3, and the Mazda2 (Demio in Japan).

The rally-prepped Mazda2 is the most intriguing one that features a stripped out interior, racing bucket seats, and a roll cage. It’s joined by the MX-5 featuring adjustable suspension and the Mazda6 and CX-3 both of which have new monotone exteriors, body kits and larger tires. These racing concepts are joined by spec-racing version of the MX-5 featuring a roll cage and tow hooks. Finished in white, it is joined at the stand by the Global Cup roadster.

Garnering the most attention at the Mazda stand though is the Mazda LM55 Vision Gran Turismo. Designed for Gran Turismo 6, the LM55 is a futuristic interpretation of the 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning 787B but now featuring both Skyactiv technology as well as the KODO design language.

Subaru Technica International

Subaru and its tuning division, STI flaunted that it is “proud of boxer” with a slew of racing and racing-inspired machines. STI also used this opportunity to outline their motorsports activities for the year.

With the BRZ competing at Japan’s top-tier racing series, Super GT, Subaru STI will continue to compete in the GT300 class with the BRZ GT300. For this year though, it will feature refinements enhancing both its aerodynamics, engine performance, and weight. Joining the BRZ GT300 is the Subaru BRZ STI Performance Concept. This tricked out BRZ features suspension and brake enhancements as well as other exterior and interior upgrades. It is a thoroughly modified car powered by a 350-horsepower turbocharged engine.

Subaru STI is also aiming to defend its class win at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. 2016 marks the ninth year for Subaru STI to participate (winning three times) and for this year, they’re using an improved version of their 2015 challenger, the VA series WRX STI.

Aside from these racing cars, Subaru and STI showed off the Levorg STI Concept featuring new alloy wheels and STI-tuned dampers. A STI tuned version of the revamped XV Hybrid was also shown with orange accents added to the new Quartz White Silica color.

Dec 152015
How to own a Rolls-Royce and a helicopter

Rolls-Royce Manila’s Willy Tee Ten, the author, her husband and Aerohub’s David Cook If you had to sit in traffic or travel great distances, wouldn’t you rather do that while sitting comfortably in a luxurious Rolls-Royce? Or why not skip the traffic and travel time by taking a helicopter? But let’s address the most important question first—how can you get a Rolls-Royce or a helicopter? The straightforward answer would be, earn millions of pesos and then go to a Rolls-Royce and a helicopter dealership. But an alternative solution is now available—one that is easier, more achievable and more practical. Last December 10, Aerohub Aviation Services together with Autohub Group of Companies, introduced their Fractional Ownership Program for Robinson’s helicopters and Rolls-Royce cars. Aerohub has an alliance with Lionair Inc., the exclusive distributor of California Corporation Robinson Helicopter Company. The Fractional Ownership Program (FOP) is the first of its kind in the Philippines. It offers the ability to acquire partial ownership of a Rolls-Royce car and/or a Robinson helicopter (R44s and, soon, R66s). A maximum of five individuals can share the ownership of one helicopter or a Rolls-Royce car, for personal or commercial use. Autohub Group president Willy Tee Ten explained that the FOP’s collective ownership arrangement enables owners to enjoy all the benefits of owning a helicopter or a Rolls-Royce, without the hassles that such type of ownership usually entail. Owners won’t have to worry about the pilots/drivers, hangar arrangements/parking, flight route, servicing and maintenance of the aircraft/vehicle. Aerohub and Read More …

Dec 152015
Ferrari 458 Italia abdicates throne for 488 GTB

Autostrada chairman and president Wellington Soong with Ferrari Far East Hub managing director Dieter Knechtel A deep roar reverberated through Autostrada Motore’s showrooms last week with the official launch of the celebrated Ferrari 458 Italia’s worthy successor – the 488 GTB. Its twin-turbocharged 3.9-liter V8 heart had emitted the sonorous growling, underlining the physicality and sheer power of the new Maranello son. Front and center, the sexy vehicle painted in classic rosso corsa emerged – dramatically peering out through a fog at the gathered motoring journalists ogling it. “The year is coming to an end, and what a way to end (it),” Wellington Soong, chairman and president of the Autostrada Motore, had declared. He and son Jason (executive director of the noted dealership of some of the world’s exclusive, premium auto brands), expressed excitement at the entry of the 488 GTB. Indeed, there is a lot riding on this particular prancing horse. In an exclusive interview with STAR Motoring, Dieter Knechtel, managing director of Ferrari’s Far East Hub, explained that the 488 GTB is in “the segment where Ferrari has the biggest available customer base.” These clients, he continued, are also the most traditional as far as expectations go. Equipped with a mid-mounted V8 that promises a stable of 670 horses (up 100hp over the 458) and 760 Nm (plus 40 percent over the same car) on tap, the 488 GTB “enhances all the purist Ferrari values, and driving pleasures we can combine in one car for everybody who is Read More …

Dec 152015
More luxury and features for less price: Nissan unveils 2016 Patrol Royale

Since it first rolled off local Nissan showrooms five years ago, the Patrol Royale has offered a new level of luxury for the large SUV genre. From its commanding design, elegant interior, and comfortable ride, the Patrol Royale marries the ruggedness of an SUV with the sophistication of a luxury sedan. Early this month at One Rockwell in Makati City, Nissan Philippines Inc. (NPI) reintroduced to the media an even more capable, more luxurious, and more dynamic Patrol Royale—giving the market more reasons to rediscover prestige with the brand. The new Patrol Royale features a sophisticated exterior that showcases the perfect combination of power and luxury. Muscular yet upscale styling emphasizes the vehicle’s commanding road presence, while still retaining Nissan’s signature design elements. The new Patrol Royale’s chrome V-shaped front grille, chrome accents on its door handles, window frame, and side air intake vents bring a more upmarket and luxurious take on the previous Patrol model. Fully integrated front and rear bumpers give the Patrol Royale a stronger yet sleeker look, while a sculpted body boasts an eye-catching design. LED headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, body color bumper, and 20-inch alloy wheels framed by subtly flared wheel arches give the new Patrol Royale an instantly recognizable look as one of the leading members of the luxury SUV class. These design cues create a more premium and prestigious vehicle while paying homage to the Nissan Patrol’s off-road heritage. Inside, the new Patrol Royale brings luxury to both driver and passenger. Read More …

Oct 202015
Levorg: Subaru’s blockbuster is coming soon

The Levorg’s front end features Subaru’s unique hexagon grille and hawk eye headlights. It has two varieties: the 1.6GT and the sportier 1.6GT-S. Blockbuster movies usually have that perfect mix of elements to appeal to wide audiences, such as the right combination of romance, action, drama or comedy.   If Subaru was a movie company, its popular hits in the Philippines (i.e., the Forester and XV, both crossover SUVs) seem to reflect a successful connection with the adventurous or sporty audience. Subaru’s newest addition to its line-up is as interestingly complex as the audience it seeks to relate with—adventurous yet practical, family-oriented yet sporty, stylish yet capable.  As with a movie, the prospect of a car that can blend these diverse qualities excited me, enough to make me travel to Taipei for its regional premier. Last October 14, Motor Image (the exclusive distributor of Subaru vehicles in the Southeast Asian region) launched the Subaru “Levorg” in Nangang Exhibition Hall at Taipei, Taiwan. Glenn Tan, Executive Director of Tan Chong International Ltd., personally unveiled the Levorg.  The unique name “Levorg” is a combination of the words ‘Legacy,’ ‘Revolution’ and ‘Touring,’ which sums up what this car is about. It’s a brand new model that combines the performance and practicality of a tourer with the stylish design and feel of a sports car. It’s also designed to be a luxurious and spacious car capable of long-distance driving. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 While the Philippine market has been very Read More …

Sep 012015
Subaru Forester goes off the beaten path

Who says crossovers can’t handle a real-life off-road trail? Subaru just proved naysayers wrong when they brought bone stock Foresters, in both turbo and non-turbo trims, to the first-ever X-Mode drive that brought their compact crossovers from  San Juan to through some rough terrain eventually ending up at the Daraitan River in Tanay, Rizal. The highly experiential activity, open to both the motoring media and Forester owners, showcases some of the leading feature of the country’s bestselling compact crossover. Chief among them is the generous 220-millimeter ground clearance and 500-millimeter water wading depth. Of course, this is joined by the 23.0-degree approach, 21.0-degree ramp breakover, and 25.0-degree departure angles. These figures are certainly are much more adept at handling off-road trails compared to other vehicles in its class. More than just the design though, the secret of the Forester is in its unique mechanical architecture that makes it a cut above the rest in handling difficult terrain. Where other crossovers fear to tread, it remains a confident vehicle thanks first to the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (S-AWD) system that reduces mechanical power loss from the engine to the wheels. Next, the Boxer engine reduces the center of gravity meaning it has a lesser tendency to tip when traversing steep terrain. The main highlight though is X-Mode. First introduced in the current-generation Forester, X-Mode coordinates the engine, transmission, AWD, and brakes enabling it to safely drive through any terrain. It also re-configures the Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC), traction control, and enables Hill Read More …

Aug 192015
Audi to unveil rival to Tesla X at Frankfurt Auto Show

BERLIN — German carmaker Audi says it’s planning to unveil an electric sport SUV concept with a range of over 310 miles (500 kilometers) — well beyond the range of rival carmaker Tesla’s Model S and soon-to-launch Model X. Audi says in a statement Wednesday its as-yet unnamed electric SUV will begin production in 2018. It will unveil the vehicle at the upcoming Frankfurt Auto Show, which opens to the press Sept. 15. Tesla’s highly anticipated new Model X SUV, the company’s third vehicle, will begin shipping in a few weeks. Audi, based in Ingolstadt, Germany, says its electric SUV will feature three electric motors powered by a large lithium-ion battery and will be its first large series electric car.

Aug 182015
The Porsche Circuit: Porsche celebrates 30 years of passion in SG

SINGAPORE – Porsche and Singapore share more than a little in common – both are synonymous with the pursuit and achievement of excellence and both enjoy the same results from decades of relentless progress and development. It is thus fitting to jointly celebrate the twin milestones of the city state’s golden jubilee as well as the 30th anniversary of Stuttgart Auto, the sole dealer of Porsche in Singapore. To commemorate these twin celebrations, a celebratory event, The Porsche Circuit, was held at the Suntec Convention Centre in the last week of July. The Porsche Circuit marked Singapore’s 50 years of nation-building, Porsche’s rich history, and Stuttgart Auto’s many accomplishments over the past three decades.  Celebrations began with a gala dinner attended by 450 guests including the media. The evening was graced by S Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry, as well as Earl Bamber, one of the winners of the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as reigning Porsche Supercup and double Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion. Two new 911 variants – the 911 Targa 4 GTS and the 911 GT3 RS, as well as two unique celebratory models – the 911 Turbo S SG50 custom-built for Singapore and the Cayenne SG50 Exclusive Edition, which is limited to 10 units for Singapore, were unveiled.  On display for the first time in Singapore is also the 911 Carrera S Martini Racing Edition, a limited edition vehicle customized by Read More …

Aug 182015
Progress and development have a price

By the year 2017, commuters to Eastern Metro Manila, which includes Pasig, Marikina, Cainta, Antipolo and other parts of Rizal province, would have the additional convenience of an extended LRT line with stations to be located in Cainta and Masinag. The P9.5-billion project would have a 4.2-kilometer elevated guideway extension from the present terminal of LRT Line 2 in Santolan all the way to Masinag. This infrastructure project would inevitably increase land values and trade and commerce in this part of the metro and most importantly further commuter convenience, but then such would have to come at a price – horrendous traffic for the duration of its construction. Started in June, the project is expected to cause peak traffic congestion in the area by the third week of September and would last in the next two- and-a-half years. Two lanes of Marcos Highway on each direction are set to be closed and those who travel through the area should expect a delay of at least one-and-a-half hours. Well, most of the time it takes some form of sacrifice in order to achieve progress and development. At least there’s promise of some good times to look forward to. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 Some practical thinkers believe, though, that before considering an extension of where the rail system goes, the government should first look into how the system presently works or how it doesn’t.   We hope this extension would not mean an extension of rail commuters’ agony Read More …

Aug 112015
Fancy footwork with Ford’s all-new Everest

CHIANG RAI, Thailand—Companies that make things like cars, computers, smartphones, or even sportswear are always out for the next big thing. Game-changers, they like to call them. They like to claim that their new car/phone/shoe will redefine the genre. Well Ford is up to those exact same word-mongering this time around. And are they putting their money where their mouth is! Never mind ABS and EBD. Those acronyms (initialisms, actually) are par for the course even for subcompacts. Let’s try Hill Descent Assist, Blind Spot Information System, Cross Traffic Alert, Curve Control, Active Park Assist, Active Transfer Case with Torque on Demand, and Active Noise Cancelation. Let’s try intelligent four-wheel drive and a cutting-edge Terrain Management System. Let’s try power-folding third row seats and a power liftgate. Add to that a fold-flat second row to add flexibility and versatility. Just a few years ago, those cutting-edge features could be found only in a Range Rover, a Mercedes-Benz, BMW or a Volvo—vehicles that cost anywhere from almost four to over eight million pesos. And it’s now on a Ford SUV that starts at a little over P1.3 million. Okay, those features are found in the top-of-the-line version costing just under P1.9 million. But that’s still one heck of a bargain considering the level of equipment—or the lack thereof—of its predecessors and its rivals.   The new Everest, which is made in Ford’s Auto Alliance plant in Rayong, Thailand, is still based on a body-on-frame construction but boasts a coil spring suspension with Read More …