THE WEEK THAT WAS

As a medium-strength summer flu struck me down, I reminisced about the happenings in automobiledom over the second full week of June 2007. What will it be remembered for?

Hyundai’s second-generation Santa Fe has been placed on the list of ‘Top Safety Picks’ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The tests performed on the Santa Fe by the IIHS are different from NHTSA, with front and side impacts as well a test which measures whiplash protection. Electronic Stability Control is a must in the sight of this institute, which is funded by insurance companies themselves…..


The completely revived company known as Aston Martin – formerly a decades-long money loser – is becoming a mainstay in endurance and sports car racing. Work to change the DB9 into the DBR9 was contracted out to Prodrive; a company that since found itself as part of Aston Martin’s ownership group. Bigger news has been heard emanating from Gaydon this week, however. The V8 Vantage racer known as ‘N24’ will be offered to British car consumers. At a cost. Of almost $200K. The racing version of one of the world’s most beautiful automobiles has a 30 extra horsepower, adjustable suspension, a roll cage to clearly mark the car out as, hmm, slightly different. The diet foisted upon the smallest Aston has dropped its weight to just 2,930 pounds. Britian’s SVA system makes the sale of this car possible, thru the addition to the race car of a hand brake, license plate lights, revised exhaust, and a steering column lock. This car is basically the equivalent of a roadgoing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, a car which does not exist…..

Hopefully this news won’t crush your dreams: if you’re still contemplating over your Bentley Brooklands vs. house conundrum, stick with the house. Deliveries of Bentley’s biggest and boldest won’t begin until next year but the first year’s production of the hand-built; 530bhp; 184mph; 774 lb ft torque monster is sold out. Sorry to break it to you – you just didn’t put your name on that waiting list soon enough…..

By the end of this decade Hyundai hopes to sell a hybrid version of the Avante/Elantra in Korea. Gasoline will not fuel this hybrid though. Aiding the electric motor will be liquefied petroleum gas….

The Japanese giant has declared that a system known as Valvematic, developed by Toyota itself, will improve efficiency by 5-10 percent while reducing CO2 emissions and adding a dose of horsepower. And get this – Toyota did not connect this news with the h-word. They used phrases like, ‘the gasoline engine’, and ‘while conventional engines’, and even dared to talk about ‘dynamic performance’. Basically, Toyota said, the system ‘adjusts the volume of air taken in by continuously controlling the intake valve lift volume and timing of valve opening and closing’. Many an automotive engineer has proclaimed that there is plenty of life left in the internal combustion gasoline engine. Toyota plans to overhaul its whole gasoline and transmission lineup within the next few years. Meanwhile, the introduction of the next Prius has been pushed back to the spring of 2009. Matsushita Electric, a working partner with Toyota, is attempting to forge ahead with a lithium-ion battery rather than the nickel-metal-hydride, but safety concerns induced a holdup……

Finally, will Lewis Hamilton make you think about watching Formula 1 racing this year? Perhaps Indianapolis tomorrow? The rookie has been on the podium for the first six races of his career. He won his first ever race in Montreal last Sunday. However, he is just 22 years old, and I ask myself why my driving skill did not develop as quickly Mr. Hamilton’s?