Dr. Iain Corness

Thursday, 27 November 2014 13:39

Honda shows off its new FCV

Honda has announced plans to build a new hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric vehicle ahead of its debut at the 2014 Los Angeles motor show.

The Honda FCV Concept is set to be a successor to the FCX Clarity sedan, featuring improved efficiency in an aerodynamic package that follows lines pioneered by the original Honda Insight hybrid of 1997.

The manufacturer says the hydrogen-powered machine has 100 kW electric motor and a range of more than 700 kilometers from a new fuel stack that is 33 percent smaller than its previous efforts.

Honda FCVHonda FCV

New packaging has made the FCV Concept the first car of its kind to combine all elements of its power train under the bonnet, leaving plenty of conventional space in the cabin and boot.

The car has room for five adults and is set to go on sale in Japan from March 2016 before arriving in the US and Europe.

The car is unlikely to come to Thailand, which currently lacks hydrogen refuelling stations necessary to run the new FCV, though anything might happen.

It offers an additional dash of practicality through a separate power exporter that should allow owners to pump up to 9 kW of energy into their home or business, reducing greenhouse emissions through conventional energy sources.

Honda says the car “can function as a small-sized mobile power plant that generates and provides electricity to the community in times of disaster or other events.”

Honda’s preview of its fuel cell car comes the same day that Toyota confirmed the name for its production-ready, hydrogen-fuelled Mirai sedan which goes on sale in Japan, the US and Europe next year.

The soon to be released Cadillac ATS-V will compete against vehicles such as the BMW M3/M4, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and Audi RS 5.

The ATS-V for 2016, features rear-wheel drive and will go into production in the spring. It will be available in sedan and coupe styles. Cadillac says the ATS-V will include a 3.6 liter V-6 twin-turbocharged engine - the first offered in a Cadillac V-Series car - and new design and performance systems to boost performance. Cadillac says the car is track-ready from the factory floor and offers a sophisticated luxury driving experience on the road.

“Cadillac’s V-Series is the best example of Cadillac’s emerging product substance - and the purest expression of the passion at the core of the brand,” Cadillac’s new president Johan de Nysschen said.

Cadillac ATS-VCadillac ATS-V

GM’s luxury brand rolled out its high-performance V-Series in 2004, and the ATS-V is the first of the next-generation V-Series vehicles for the luxury brand. Cadillac is expected to show a new CTS-V early next year.

Cadillac is offering the smaller V-Series as a niche product, but knows it is important as it works to attract younger and more-affluent buyers. CTS-V Series sales represent about eight percent of overall CTS sales.

The ATS-V’s twin-turbo is rated at 455 horsepower and 445 foot-pounds of torque. Cadillac says the engine is tops in the segment for six cylinder output, traveling from zero to 100 km/h in around four seconds and has a top speed of more than 230 km/h. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual or a paddle-shift eight-speed automatic.

Engineers redesigned the chassis, suspension and drivetrain for the ATS-V. The car includes Brembo high-performance brakes, third-generation Magnetic Ride Control and is stiffer structurally. It has touring, sport and track driving modes, an available track aerodynamic package and rides on specially developed Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.

The ATS-V will have GM’s performance data recorder available, allowing drivers to record high-definition video, with data overlays of their driving performance.

Designers changed nearly all exterior panels of the car including fascias, fenders, the lightweight carbon fiber hood with vent and rear spoiler, to support capability and aerodynamics.

“All of the design elements have a purpose,” Andrew Smith, executive director of Cadillac global design, said. “They contribute to lift reduction, enhanced cooling, reduced mass or all of the above.”

The interior features available 16-way adjustable Recaro seats in the front and cut-and-sew Cadillac elements throughout.

Analysts say the ATS could benefit from a special model to boost appeal. Cadillac rolled out its ATS compact luxury sedan in fall 2012 as a 2013 model and this fall began offering a Coupe version. But sales have stalled and are down nearly 19 percent this year through October.

“As the CTS and ATS struggle in sales, product clearly isn’t the issue,” Akshay Anand, a Kelley Blue Book analyst, said. “As Cadillac continues to undergo its brand transformation, staying in the limelight will be key as it attempts to take down German luxury marques. The ATS could really use a halo vehicle, especially since all its competitors have performance variations as well.”

On paper, this Cadillac concept looks as if it could be the halo vehicle required. My only misgivings lie with the fact that it looks too much like the Chevrolet Cruise.

Thursday, 27 November 2014 13:36

What did we learn from Yas Marina?

Well, we learned that Mercedes lost one car but won two championships, Williams secured two podiums and Daniel Ricciardo was the best of the rest.

After a magnificent start, it was obvious that Hamilton was never going to be headed, and the only question mark was going to be reliability, but it was title aspirant Rosberg whose car harvested the energy recovery gremlins, leaving him a woeful 14th at the finish.

“A great day for England,” I was told by one of the audience in Jameson’s Irish Pub, echoing Prince Harry’s, “Lewis, you are a legend. Thanks for not making the British public sweat.” And so a second World Driver’s Championship (WDC) for Hamilton.

Afterwards the mass hysteria escalated in the post-race period, comparing Hamilton to the previous British double championship drivers Graham Hill, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart (Our Nige, only won one WDC). So, did we learn something of Hamilton’s talent compared to those who went before? It is always difficult comparing drivers in different eras and in cars with different technologies. I suspect that the modern F1 cars are easier to drive than those from 30 years ago, as we see new faces in Friday practice sessions immediately up to speed, with no apparent learning curve. And let us not forget that the Mercedes cars this year have been one second a lap quicker than anything else, leaving Hamilton to only battle with one car - his team mate, who fell at the final hurdle.

However, Mercedes earned their Constructor’s championship and their WDC and are keeping their two drivers for 2015, there being no reason to change.

Surprise package for the race was Felipe Massa in the Williams, with a gritty drive to second place, besting team mate Valtteri Bottas again. Will the resurgent Williams continue as a threat in 2015? They certainly have the drivers if their designers can come up with the car.

Another satisfied driver was Daniel Ricciardo finishing fourth in his Red Bull in the race and third in the WDC, totally eclipsing Vettel who never got the opportunity to wave the finger aloft all year. He will be going to join Ferrari and have the dour Kimi Raikkonen as his partner. I cannot predict great things for that driver pairing.

The media was pushing hard to try and drum up enthusiasm for purported battles for seats for 2015, which would depend on the outcome of the Yas Marina race. Prime was the seats at McLaren, with Alonso leaving Ferrari after five years and returning to McLaren according to the paddock gossip - and ex-King Carlos of Spain who said, “He’s going to McLaren!” Of the two incumbents Button and Magnussen there is much discussion, and whilst Button has been head and shoulders above Magnussen, what must not be forgotten is what salary does each expect? Button is an ex-driver’s champion and very well experienced - but my spies would suggest that he has to decrease his salary demands if he wishes to stay. Uncle Ronster is going to announce the line-up December 1. Expect Button out and Magnussen to remain.

Force India is hanging in there, despite financial worries for its owner Vijay Mallya, and its drivers are hanging in there as well. Hulkenberg can always be relied upon, but without money for development, they will continue to be just also-rans. Other drivers and teams continue to amaze. Not for results or uncovered talent, but for the fact that they are still there, and that covers “Lotus”, Sauber, Caterham, Marussia and Toro Rosso.

2015 will be a watershed year for F1, and I am not sure that Jean Todt’s FIA has any real idea of the crisis, or what to do about it!

Thursday, 27 November 2014 13:33

Same Same but hardly different

I really wonder about auto stylists. How much original thought and design do they put into new cars, or is the time spent driving round competitor’s design studios to see what they are coming forward with? Remember the Bangle Bottom on the BMW’s? Everyone hated it, but it then appeared on the Toyota Camry and others. The origin was then forgotten.

This year’s styling cue is the sculpted body line angling up from the front wheel arch and up to the rear. Boring!

Honda City.

Mercedes Benz B series

MB CLS

Hyundai Genesis

Thursday, 27 November 2014 13:30

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what car was this? Advertised as being for “the few who own the finest” these cars had owners such as Sir Stirling Moss, Fred Astaire and Picasso. What was it? It was the Facel Vega, and correctly named by Ivar Hoyem from Norway who has the world’s largest Google bill in the world!

So to this week. What car is this? It had a side valve engine which developed 10 bhp. It had a top speed of 42 mph (67 kph). It had 4 wheel cable operated brakes. It sold over 375,000 and its designer was knighted. So what was it?

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Thursday, 27 November 2014 10:26

The Endless Summer Came to Mantra

The Amari’s Mantra restaurant presented another of their tribute events last weekend, this time being a tribute to the Endless Summer. With Pattaya’s “Beach Boys” led by Barry Upton on lead guitar, the diners were entertained with over 40 numbers relating to the heyday of the beach genre of music.

Thursday, 27 November 2014 10:15

The Monarch of the Glen comes to Pattaya

Dicey Reilly’s Irish Pub was the venue for a most interesting tasting of whisky, distilled in the north of Scotland by a family company. This was Glenfiddich, from the grey granite distillery, and one of the world’s most popular tipples.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014 17:56

Will Melanoma get you?

Shock, horror headlines in the Aussie media last year claiming that tanning beds kill 43 Australians a year through melanoma alone and are responsible for another 2600 annual skin cancer diagnoses. That is certainly attention grabbing news.

Some basis for this also comes from a team at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research that has estimated sun beds are responsible for 281 cases of melanoma each year, the deadliest skin cancer. Overall, 43 of those patients died.

While researching an item on the cancers of women, I came across the also somewhat disquieting figures that Malignant Melanoma has the second fastest increasing incidence of cancer for women. In fact, the age-standardized rates have risen by 46 percent in the last decade. Some of the apparent increase may be due to increased surveillance and early detection as well as improved diagnosis, but most is considered to be real and linked to changes in recreational or holiday exposure to UV rays (including sunlight and sunbeds), and we do get the odd bit of sunshine here in Thailand.

I remember the first time I went to a beach in Thailand and saw all these people emerging from the sea fully clothed, that I thought the Thaitanic must have gone down offshore. However, I later realized that Thai people are not silly when they go fully clothed to the beaches to swim! It is generally just the pale skinned farangs that go there to fry.

Having come from sub-tropical Queensland, I can tell you that the capital Brisbane is these days considered to be the melanoma capital of the world, and of all the skin cancers you can get, malignant melanoma is the worst. If ignored and not caught early, it spreads throughout the body and almost all of these sufferers die within 12 months. The generally accepted time between late diagnosis and death is 10 months. That is despite heroic (and expensive) treatment.

When we first began to keep statistics on the incidence of melanoma in Australia, it became quickly evident that the further north you went (towards the equator) the greater the numbers of melanomas. White skin and UV radiation did not go well together.

It did not need rocket science to see that perhaps the reason the indigenous native aboriginals did not have the same incidence of melanoma as the white settlers was linked to skin color.

However, human nature being as perverse as it is, the white folks want to be brown (which is why solariums are popular in Australia) and the brown folks want to be white (which is why whitening creams are the number one cosmetic cream sold in Thailand).

However, the Thai people, even with their naturally protective brown skin, do stay out of the sun as much as possible (standing in a line in the shadow of the telephone pole for example), and have reduced their incidence of possible melanoma. That is while we farangs, with our totally unsuitable pink one-button birthday suits, stand in the sun’s rays as much as possible. Having myself emigrated from sunless Scotland to Australia as a young teenager, I can remember my Mum chasing me out of the house to get my shirt off and get a “healthy tan”! How times and our knowledge have changed! And we can thank all those medical professionals who have kept the statistics to be used by the epidemiologists who could then impart these findings to us all. Statistics which we hopefully take on board to take ourselves out of the danger.

The bad news about malignant melanoma you have already read above, but there is some good news. Protect yourself by covering up and using a very strong sun blocker of SPF 30 and above any time you are at the beach. And re-apply after swimming each time.

However, if you have any dark colored ‘spot’ that has changed shape, color, or become itchy you should get some expert advice from our specialist dermatologists. It is too dangerous to ‘wait and see’. Catch it early enough, before it begins to spread, and you can escape!

I get my spots and dots checked each year and have had a couple removed “just in case!” I suggest you do the same.

Thursday, 20 November 2014 11:55

Abu Dhabi GP this weekend

The Abu Dhabi Yas Marina grand prix circuit hosts the GP this weekend. Abu Dhabi is the most oil-rich in the region and the 5.55 kilometer Yas Marina Circuit has been built using the motorists’ money, extracted at the petrol pumps. Roll on electric power! It was also one of the most boring race tracks in living history and has been universally christened ‘Yawn’ Marina.

Located on Yas Island, the PR blurb said the track was set to revolutionize the design of future Formula One circuits. Boasting top speeds of 320 km/h and average speeds of 198 km/h, it features nine right turns and 11 left turns and is one of the few venues on the calendar to run in an anti-clockwise direction.

Abu DhabiAbu Dhabi

It was designed by circuit architect Hermann Tilke (so need I say more?), and Yas Marina has a waterfront setting scenic enough to rival the likes of Monaco and Valencia, complete with a hotel that even changes color, but was just as boring as that former pair of venues.

All of the grandstands, including the massive hairpin seating area, are covered to protect spectators from the desert sun, whilst the state-of-the-art pit building boasts 40 garages.

As well as the waterside marina area, there are high-speed sections, tight corners for overtaking, and even a twisty street circuit-style sector. However, none of this prevents Yas (Yawn) Marina from being boring if the F1 cars cannot pass each other.

In an effort to boost the Abu Dhabi GP, our Bernie, the patron saint of dwarfs, dreamed up the concept of double points for this meeting, a system universally disliked, with even Bernie admitting it wasn’t such a bright idea!

The World Driver’s Championship is down to the Mercedes drivers Hamilton (Britain’s white hope) and Rosberg (dual nationality Finnish and German). Hamilton is ahead on points, but Rosberg can win with the double points, provided Hamilton does not do well.

If Rosberg finishes:

1st, he needs Hamilton to finish 3rd or worse

2nd, he needs Hamilton to finish 6th or worse

3rd, he needs Hamilton to finish 7th or worse

4th, he needs Hamilton to finish 9th or worse

5th, he needs Hamilton to finish 10th or worse

6th, Hamilton is world champion regardless of where he finishes

The race will start at 8 p.m. our time Sunday (also 8 p.m. Saturday for Qualifying), and I will be getting to Jameson’s Irish Pub around 7 p.m. for a bite to eat (Sunday roast is great value) and a glass or two. Come and join us for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which we watch on the big screen with streaming from the dedicated F1 channel, with no adverts after the race starts. Jameson’s Irish Pub is on Soi AR, next to Nova Park serviced apartments.

Thursday, 20 November 2014 11:51

New Volvo V60 off-roader

A boost to ride-height and some tougher touches will give owners of the diesel-only V60 Cross Country the confidence to go further, says Volvo.

Volvo has added a second trail-focused Cross Country model to its ranks with a ride height-boosted version of its mid-sized V60 wagon joining the fleet alongside smaller V40 Cross Country.

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