x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Mazda MX-5 losing weight to get back to sports car roots

Plus Porsche is set for a return to Le Mans while Saab creates three new models, free movies at Vox Theatres for Lexus owners and more motoring news.

The Porsche 911 GT1 that won Le Mans in 1998. Courtesy of Image Electronique
The Porsche 911 GT1 that won Le Mans in 1998. Courtesy of Image Electronique

Mazda is set to combine a small, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with lightweight engineering in its new MX-5, in a bid to re-immerse itself in its sports car roots.

Engineers at the Japanese car maker have been told to cut 275kg from the 1075kg weight to hit the "empty" target of 800kg.

This target is a full 155kg lighter than the car has ever been, which was back in 1989 when the MX-5 made its debut at just 955kg.

And its original weight was at a time before crash test results created the requirement for heavier body structures, side-impact bars and airbags.

Mazda engineers will have to look to save weight in numerous ways, including lightening mechanical components, adopting lightweight materials and removing features in a more minimalist spec.

If this is achieved, the lighter car will allow for a lighter transmission, smaller brakes and suspension, therefore reducing the overall weight of the car further.

Replacing the current 1.8 and 2.0L engines, the next MX-5, due in 2012/2013, will use a small direct-injection four-cylinder turbocharged engine of about 1.5L.


Porsche building car for return to Le Mans LMP1 racing by 2014

Porsche - the most successful marque at Le Mans with 16 overall victories - plans to return to racing at the endurance event.

The Stuttgart firm is to develop a works-run sports prototype race car in the top LMP1 category, with the entirely new car scheduled to make its debut in 2014.

"Motorsport was always an essential part of the Porsche brand," said Matthias Müller, president of the executive board at Porsche AG. "So for us it was only a matter of time before we returned as a factory to the top league of racing. The success of Porsche at Le Mans is unrivalled. We want to follow up on this with the 17th outright victory."

Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood claimed the first overall victory for Porsche in 1970 with the legendary 917 short-tail. The 16th, and by now last, overall win was secured by Allan McNish, Laurent Aiello and Stéphane Ortelli in 1998 with the 911 GT1.

In 2008 and 2009, the Porsche RS Spyder sports prototype won the title in the LMP2 category but this wasn't an official Porsche entry. Rather, it was campaigned by privateers with Porsche's support.


Saab in new three-car deal

Saab has announced a conditional agreement with Chinese partners Zhejiang Youngman Passenger Car Group Company and Pang Da Automobile Trade Company on the formation of a Sweden-based joint venture company for the development of three new Saab models.

Last month it was revealed that the two Chinese firms would invest €245 million (Dh1.3 billion) in Saab and this deal has now become a binding agreement.

Ownership of the three completely new Saab models - the 9-1, 9-6 and 9-7 - will be split 50/50 by Saab and Youngman.

Saab will be responsible for controlling and managing the design, development and testing process to the start of production and providing other necessary technical and quality-control support.

Victor Muller, the chief executive of Saab, said: "This joint venture offers Saab Automobile the opportunity to develop models that were not envisaged nor funded in our original business plan."

Mr Pang Qingnian, of Youngman, added: "The agreement brings together the best of both worlds, merging the industrial and financial strength of Youngman Passenger Car with the state-of-the-art technical expertise of Saab Automobile."


Supercar brand De Tomaso in comeback with new Pantera

De Tomaso is set to make a comeback next year with a new Pantera.

The famous V8-engine supercar is to preview as an all new model at the Los Angeles motor show in November, before it goes on sale in 2012.

The Italian firm is already said to be running tests on prototypes near its headquarters in Modena.

The new model is set to follow in the footsteps of the original Pantera with a Ford V8 engine mounted in the middle of the car, which will drive the rear wheels.

The original Pantera produced 330hp, giving it a top speed of 257kph, but the new model will reportedly have 550hp, meaning the De Tomaso could be a real contender with McLaren's MP4-12C and Ferrari's 458 Italia.

The car maker was founded by Argentine Alejandro de Tomaso in Modena in 1959. It went into liquidation in 2004 and was eventually bought by Gian Mario Rossignolo in 2009.

The new Pantera is expected to cost about Dh900,000.


UAE motor firm offers Lexus owners free cinema tickets

Al-Futtaim Motors, the distributor for Lexus in the UAE, has launched Lexus Gold Movies, where customers are invited to watch blockbuster films booked exclusively for Lexus owners.

Starting today at VOX Cinemas (formerly Cinestar) at Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, and Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi, Lexus owners only have to present their car registration card at the ticket booth to get two free tickets.

Saud Abbasi, the general manager at Al-Futtaim Motors, said: "This initiative takes our service to another level of personalised exclusivity. It reflects our promise of individual attention.

"Lexus is leading the way in transforming automotive luxury with technologies and products that exceed expectations. And by individually connecting to our customers, we are destined to emerge as the true benchmark for uncompromising luxury."

VOX Cinemas feature digital surround-sound and wall-to-wall megascreens.