CAR TORQUE: Cayman bites 911 again

PLUS Forester auto x-mode | Maxda CX-5 Japanese car of the year | McLaren Middle East car of the year | Kia puts a premium on cars

A long-running argument among Porschephiles is whether the mid-engined Cayman is a better driver’s car than the larger, more expensive 911.

The argument is bound to become even more heated with the launch of the third-generation Cayman, which is larger, lighter and more efficient.

As with previous models, the new one is based on the Boxster, sharing its platform and powertrains (2.7-litre and 3.4-litre flat sixes).

The Cayman has grown in wheelbase and track, yet is 30kg lighter than before thanks to new construction techniques (also employed on Boxster and 911).

New Zealand deliveries will begin in April 2013.

Forester auto x-mode
It was inevitable that the all-new Forester would have Lineartronic continuously variable transmission.

This “gearless” system is favoured by Subaru these days, even if it would seem to be less than ideal for an off-road vehicle – at least according to me.

But the Forester’s Lineartronic gearbox will benefit from an extra feature called X-Mode, designed to help the car on unsealed roads and across rough terrain.

X-Mode is activated by pushing a button: below 40km/h it controls the engine, transmission and traction/stability control systems for superior off-road ability.

At under 20km/h, X-Mode also administers the hill descent control, which automatically maintains a set speed when driving down a steep hill.

Maxda CX-5 Japanese car of the year
The Mazda CX-5 has been voted car of the year in Japan for 2012-13. All passenger vehicles with an expected annual volume of over 500 units, launched between November 2011 and October 2012, are eligible.

The last Mazda to win was the MX-5 roadster in 2005. The supervisory board of JCOTY is primarily made up of motoring journalists.

The award has been presented since 1980. Last year’s winner was the all-electric Nissan Leaf.

McLaren Middle East car of the year
Only in Dubai? The McLaren MP4-12C supercar has been named car of the year at the Middle East Motor Awards for 2012. The 12C was chosen by a panel of “automotive experts” ahead of 50 other models.

The McLaren was launched in the Middle East in November 2011 and has recorded more than 100 sales: 10% of the global total for the car.

The marque’s retail network stretches across Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Kia puts a premium on cars
Kia Motors vice chairman Lee Hyoung-kuen has told a group of top distributors and dealers that the company intends to become a “premium automotive brand” within five years.

Mr Lee said Kia would be on par with European and Japanese makers with a new range of sophisticated vehicles.

Part of this drive to the join the world’s “first-class brands” is a target of 2.21 million export units by 2017, which represents an 8% increase over Kia exports for 2011.