Excellent reviews out there, mate. Keep up the good work.
I might be blind, but how do we submit?
2018 Charge Motors Unit C5300-P - Modern Market 2
car by @DukeOFhazards
At the dealers already for almost two years, but The Exhaust Note will take a look at the top level “Charge Unit” - a bit of a name that you cannot always take seriously, if you ask us. The C5300-P is the premium 4x4 version of this pick-up truck, featuring chrome bumpers and fascia, as well as premium interior and radio, and equipped with the 5.3 liter V8 engine.
This Unit has an extended cab compared to the base and offroad versions, allowing for 5 seats, although the rear bench - despite also being in full leather - has only marginal leg room. It also loses the manual locker of the off-road oriented trim for a more smooth LSD, but is still paired to an old-fashioned 4 wheel drive system. This does mean that in everyday driving this truck is rear wheel drive.
The engine is remarkably an old truck 60° V8 engine with a single overhead cam. While producing ample power (315 horsepower and 446 Nm - or 339 ft-lb - of torque), and being virtually indestructible, it does show its age in emissions testing and fuel consumption. In this aspect the choice of Charge Motors to not develop a more suitable power plant for their premium trim strikes us as odd.
Regardless of issues, the power plant is rugged, responsible and very responsive. It is coupled with a 7-speed automatic gearbox with a low range setting that can be activated by selecting the off-road setting in the infotainment system.
The design of the Charge Motors Unit is coherent, although we feel the front fascia is lacking. Especially the front frille appears small and leaves space between the it and the bumper. Because of that, there is no real connection between the upper front fascia and the lower part. The badging in our view also looks slightly cheap, with the large letters on the rear. We are liking the daytime running lights however. They give the truck a modern, aggressive, and stylish look.
Trim details are of good quality and this premium model has good-looking 19" alloy wheels. Positives include in the inside of the truck, which is clearly premium. The seats are wide and comfortable, finished in good quality leather. The dashboard and center column is well finished with sturdy knobs and levers. Not everything screams luxury, but everything feels solid and proper.
In terms of driving, normal city and highway traffic goes smoothly overall. The gearbox is clearly designed with off-road and utility in mind, and in terms of fluidity and fuel economy, this could use an update. Fuel consumption is as mentioned before an issue. On our own test drive we averaged an anything but modern 17,7 l/100km (13,3 mpg), quite a bit above the already rather bad 13,6 l/100km (17,3 mpg) averages on the cruising tests. This coupled with the high emission readings worries us whether the C5300 Unit will still be allowed in city centers, certainly in the more environmentally minded states and nations.
High speed evasive manoeuvres make the electronic stability control work hard, and we didn’t have the chance to drive the Unit in heavy rain or snow, but expect that it might be a handful to drive outside of its 4x4 mode. In the off-road mode though, even this premium street model is impressive. While the large turning circle might play against it, we had the opportunity to test our truck on a rather demanding off-road course and the Charge Motors truck tackled it admiringly, even though this premium model lacks the ride height for the most extreme inclines and obstacles.
Overall, as you may have noticed by now, we have a number of issues with this last generation Charge Motors Unit C5300-P. We believe Charge Motors is aware of most issues, and this translates in the $41000 price tag, which we hear from good authority is more than 10 percent under production cost. It appears likely that a 2020 facelift with more modern engine and running gear is incoming. The existing platform is excellent for heavy duty and off-road purposes, but for a premium pick-up truck for everyday use it is lacking compared to the competition.
(+) excellent reliabilty
(+) impressive off-road performance for a road-oriented truck
(+) good utility
(+) well finished interior and trim details
(-) uncomfortable gearbox for daily use
(-) old fashioned engine and drive train
(-) bad fuel economy and future emission regulation concerns
(-) crash tests scores are bad to average
Final score: 10,5/20 (“coal is the fuel of the future”)
In all seriousness, if you live in an area where fuel prices and emission regulations are not an issue, this might just be a good buy as a premium truck.
That is a nice-looking truck for sure - but it needs an all-new engine, either a turbo straight-six or a naturally aspirated 90-degree V8, to keep up with the field in terms of performance, economy and emissions. It wouldn’t even be eligible for sale in certain regions otherwise.
I’d buy one!
1979 Hades Epoch - The strange, the odd, and the remarkable 2
cars by @vri404
The Exhaust Note is invited to a Hades Automobile Event. Yours truly gave up his free time to spend a number of hard working days enjoying Paris and visiting the Bugatti Circuit and the Musée des 24 Heures du Mans in Le Mans. Stars of the event are Hades Motorsport Global Display group’s 1979-1984 Hades Epoch Group 5 ‘Jägermeister’ and the 1979/80 Hades Epoch H-XX Concept based on the same platform.
French company Hades – founded by Étienne Laporte, but gaining reputation under his son, Hugo Laporte – is famous for its sport and race cars. Initially focussing on large V16 engine, the Epoch started a switch towards smaller turbo-charged V8 engines.
This is the JAGE4 chassis, a 1984 replacement of a crashed 1979 crashed JAGE2 chassis built for Group 5 racing. The Jägermeister Hades Epoch was one of two launch teams for the Epoch Group 5 programme from 1979 to 1984. The Distinctive orange pair of cars were run in the WSC and were respectful competitors when they were not failing due to general reliability issues with the engine and gearbox.
This particular car competed in the 1984 and 1985 24h of Le Mans – not the first venture of Hades there by any means, with the Hades Zariel kicking off quite a habit there in 1983; the Zariel being equipped with one of the characteristic 8 litre V16 engines – and continued racing in the IMSA until 1988. Afterwards it was stored at La Castelet, the storage and museum facility of Hades. But since 2010 it has been restored and is touring events in Europe and Asia.
The real treat we’re here for is this one off Concept car that Hades toured around the world for auto shows until 1981, and between 2006 and 2010. This H-XX Concept was built on the same platform as the Group 5 car and the design is reminiscent of the open roofed, high speed Can-Am cars of the 1960s. Now part of the Hades Motorsport Global Display group, it is being displayed internationally at major events, such as Pebble Beach, Goodwood Revival, and the Le Mans Classic.
The design of the concept follows the same aerodynamic nose of the Group 5 Epoch, which differs significantly from the limited production model. The two large, low-set headights really give it that distinctive look. In both cars the rest of the design flow follows the airflow into the mid-transversally positioned engine and over the giant rear wing – the Concept really upping the downforce over the Group 5 car.
Both of these cars are in working order, powered still by the original 3996 cc flat-plane V8 double overhead cams special racing engine. It is a good old fashioned turbo-charged racing engine, and that means it is extremely unresponsive at low and medium engine speeds, and then suddenly all 510 of the horsepowers are suddenly there – potentially blowing up the turbo or the gearbox, as has happened when these cars were racing. Innovative was the electronically controlled ignition system, which was an innovation compared to the mechanical fuel injection systems used more often at that time in racing engines, which made the Hades racing V8 cheaper to produce and maintain – read: rebuild after races.
Now driving the Group 5 car: it’s loud, it’s uncomfortable, it’s scary. We loved it! The one racing seat is just a bare plastic cup seat. At least it gives decent lateral support. The drive itself, although we didn’t go full flat out for safety reasons, is remarkably stable. Sure, the power kicks in suddenly at around 6k rpm, but it does not make the Epoch unpredictable. We found it actually a very competent car still on the track. We have heard the Concept has a stranger tuned suspension and the influence of the increased downforce is not fully balanced to the front downforce, but then again; this was a show car and not tuned perfectly to racing spec.
Am i allowed to use parts of this review (the Dione one) for my CSR 113 ad?
note: i will NOT use parts talking about the Renoir
Sure, go ahead!
1967 Tanaka C20X - Cars in History 3
car by @Aaron.W
Today, we delve into the history of one of the household brands, Tanaka Motors. The Japanese company is one of the big players on the market, with especially the Aventis and Atlantis being a familiar sight on the road, and long resisting the switch to Crossovers and SUVs. Although with the Ascent and Calgary and the upcoming Okanawa - which we are looking forward to and hope to review and compare against competition - the change in model focus appears to have been set off.
In terms of lower production vehicles, Tanaka, established in 1962, and producing cars since 1965, also has a rich history in premium vehicles and sport cars, all the way up to supercars, such as the exciting Akuma. The very first venture into all of this for the company was the spiritual predecessor to the X-series grand tourers: the Tanaka C20X.
This very car that we got to drive is chassis number n° 001 and currently in exhibition at the Tanaka Museum in Osaka, Japan. Originally unveiled in the 1966 Geneva Auto Show, it was an impressive engineering feat by the team of Mr. Haruto Tanaka, the founder of Tanaka Heavy Industries, to produce a sports car so soon after the Aventis, their first car, went into production.
The LR28DCOE-A1 engine is an adapted Aventis engine with 2 extra cylinders, turning it into a 2.8 liter inline-6. The single overhead cam engine runs extremely smoothly and produces 205 horsepower. The design is timeless and clearly already shows the sleek and aggressive lines that modern Tanaka models still use. Only 300 of these C20Xs were ever produced.
We thank Tanaka for allowing us to drive this history-laden example near the Museum around a specially closed road circuit. With only 10000km on the odometer, you would expect this car is in its original state. But in fact it was restored in the late 1990s. The owner of this particular was Mr. Haruto Tanaka himself, who sadly rolled the car in 1996, severely injuring him and leaving him unable to drive. After restoration, the car was driven on leisurely weekend outings by his son, Mr. Tatsuya Tanaka, for 2 years before the donation to the Museum.
Driving the C20X, we feel the grand tourer spirit. The car feels light with its tubular chassis and aerospace-grade aluminium panels; its leather-finished seats and high-quality radio indicate that this is not a circuit race car. The brakes are racing quality - for the time - disc brakes, which still feel very solid. Although we have noticed under heavy braking the rear feels like it wants to come round. This combined with the softer and comfortable suspension set up can lead to the occasional one-tyre-fire. We can imagine where it went wrong for Mr. Tanaka.
The C20X is an impressive sports car for a brand to produce so early in its history. It is, despite some inexperienced suspension and braking setup, a joy to drive. The engine note is enjoyable - even if slightly loud -, the 5-speed manual gearbox and clutch give an enjoyable amount of resistance making every gear change feel mechanical. The road feel and sense of speed is of the nature you can only find in these older sports cars. It is a blast.
With a 0-100 (0-60) time of under 7 seconds, the C20X is fast even by modern standards, and while not made for high-speed cornering or circuit racing, the whole machines invites you to push the gas pedal deeper and let the revs climb all the way to 6800 rpm before the satisfying mechanical clink into a higher gear. Equally mechanic in its operation are the pop-up headlights, which are raised via a crank on the left side of the steering wheel and activated separately.
The first Tanaka grand tourer can be seen as a success, even though with only 300 cars produced, it was a project made out of love for cars rather than for commercial goals. Despite some oddities in the tuning, and the strange choice for 190mm and 220mm wheels - making spares for surviving models a costly affair - the beautiful C20X has laid the ground for future Tanaka design accents, and started a line which evolved into among others the rare C30X Turbo Tanabe Racing, and the very successful late 90s V6-powered 300X.
1976 Elwood King Iroquois E - Interviews 1
car by @MGR_99
This is my new Mark II Elwood Iroquois. A beautiful piece of American engineering powered by a 488CI (7999cc) OHV-V8. This particular 1976 model painted in ‘Luring Blue’ and outfitted with all disc brakes is the luxurious King Iroquois E trim. Although an even higher trim level was sold, with experimental turbo-charged power plant and all-independent suspension, this is the classic.
My name is James K. Davis, 55 and happily divorced. I am a journalist for The Exhaust Note Magazine, and I buy and resale classic cars as a hobby - although I will be holding on to this Iroquois myself. I’ve both this particular vehicle from a nice old gentlemen in Utica, NY.
Hello! Good afternoon. Ready to talk about the Iroquois?
Good afternoon, young man. The Elwood has been with me for a long time.
Please introduce yourself, and tell me how you got the car.
Edwin Townsend, 79. I bought the Elwood - it is the 76 model year Iroquois - new in 75. I had a trading company back then, and Edith and me - she's my wife - had just moved to the suburbs.
Why the Elwood Iroquois?
She's still a looker, isn't she? Everyone and his dog - well, at least in the country club - was buying or driving Silver Yorks at the time. I wanted something else.
And you drove the car all this time?
I've been good to her and the old girl has been... - No, I am not talking about you, Edith - Where was I...? The Elwood has been good to me. We used her as our daily until the children left. It must have been '90, maybe '89, that we bought an Ardent Manhattan. I kept the Elwood though, and used it in the weekends.
It was that fun to drive, eh?
Correct, young man. She's so smooth to drive, to sit in. Even the kids always grew calm sitting in the rear. And the rumble of that big engine. They don't make them like that anymore, son.
I feel honored I can buy her of you. What made you take the big decision?
I'm getting old, young man! Edith and me are moving to Syracuse, close to the children. I have to let the old girl... - What? No, Edith... - ... I have to let her go. She is too big and thirsty for the big city.
Thank you, Mister Townsend. I shall take good care of her.
That is all I ask of you, young man. She returns the love you give her. Keep her pristine!
We took a Kumo around the Nordschleife
And we loved it! - Short Articles 1
car by @SpeedLife1
The 2016 model year Reizei Kumo Mk5 SE is currently still up for sale, even though we expect a facelift soon. The Exhaust Note team recently had the opportunity to take it for a drive around the Nürburgring Nordschleife. We also liked the looks of the Kumo we got to drive. The contrast between the pearl white paint and the gloss black alloy wheels is particularly attractive.
For those readers that do not know the Reizei Kumo, it is a Japanese light sports coupe, which we have reviewed positively in its segment in the past. The combination of low weight, a 188 horsepower 1864cc inline-4 Reizei KO5 engine, and a manual 6-speed gearbox make for a fun combination. The gearing is short, fun and spirited, and perferctly suits the rev-happy engine. You can easily let the engine go up to 5000 rpm while accelerating in daily use, which is just such a good feeling. Just imagine how great it is then around the track.
Our lap with the Kumo was over in less than 9 minutes and 30 seconds, but boy did we enjoy it. Apart from the nippy engine, the road feel at speed is great as well. The grippy sport compound tires and good weight balance of the Kumo make sure the car stays stable in the corners. And the corners are where the fun is; top speed was never a goal for Reizei in developing this version of the Kumo.
The most notable characteristics our lap throw at us were the incredibly reliable and performant brakes. We did not notice any fade whatsoever over our lap, and the temperature readings afterwards confirmed that these brakes can probably last hours at high load. The handling as mentioned before is spot on, although one needs to be careful over bumps when the load is taken off the rear wheels.
This is a nice addition to our full review, which already confirmed the Reizei Kumo as an enjoyable sports coupe that is very usable and economic for daily use. Downsides are the relatively bare interior - although by no means spartan - and the non-perfect crash test scores.
|Reizei Kumo Mk.5 SE|
|Displ.||1862 cc||Weight||1310 kg|
|Engine Type||DOHC 4V||Top Speed||208 km/h|
|Cylinders||I-4||0-100 km/h||6,62 s|
|Torque||217 Nm||100-0 km/h||35,73 m|
|Max RMP||8000||Avg. Econ.||5,3 l/100km|
|Drivetrain||RWD||Sticker Price||$ 41,329.99|
I love this. Of course, this is only the SE trim, that’s why it has a pretty mediocre interior. There is the AE-R version that has 300 horsepower and a premium interior although it costs way more than the SE.
The SE trim was great really, it did not feel like it needed more horsepower. And it was actually a joy to drive on normal roads and in traffic as well!
I mean, yeah, the point of the SE is to be easily daily-driveable and fun while the AE-R is just mostly aimed at track days. There also is the AE which is the SE but with a better interior.
Quick sidenote : The Kumo is actually going to have a new generation in 2020.
1975 Gandini Luna V8 prototipo - Interviews 2
car by @OME
Tuscany, the Savo family vineyard.
Mr. Giacomo Savo, I am happy to finally meet you, in the sunshine, overlooking this beautiful landscape and enjoying this mighty good glass of Chianti.
Thank you. Please, just Giacomo. The 2016 is a very good year indeed.
One would almost forget why we came here. We sit here on the terrace. Beneath us we the gorgeous brushed aluminium wedge shape of a futuristic concept car from 1975. The only one in existence. Tell us about the car, if you please, Giacomo.
This the Gandini Luna V8 prototipo, property of the family. We've restored it and it's been on display and occasionally touring for the last three years now.
It is an amazing vehicle! We had heard of the existence of a prototype of the Luna. There was even a sketch and some basic statistics available, but until the Savo family unveiled it, no one had seen it. How did the car came into the family?
It actually has been since the start. I discovered it myself in a barn here on the vineyard after my grandfather passed away.
Describe the moment.
It was a few weeks after he passed away. The moment when you have mourned long enough to start looking into all the non-urgent stuff. It was the plan to clean out the barn slowly and reminisce.
There was something special about the barn?
Not really, it was his place to retreat too. I only new nono Antonio as a wine maker. But he liked to tinker on all things mechanical. He would repair the vineyard's equipment in that barn.
And there was the car?
It was there, but hidden well, behind a ton of other equipment, and under a heavy tarp. And suddenly there was this fantastic looking vehicle. Bare aluminium on the outside. Those vents dotting the front and rear. The spectacular orange leather interior...
You knew it was a Gandini at that point? There are not many vehicles of Gandini Automobili left in general. The brand was quite over the top in many aspects. Many say the craziness of Marcello Gandini took the company down in the late 70s.
We could have had no idea what it was if it had not been for a bunch of documents we found inside of the car. My chin fall to the ground. It showed a side from grandfather I did not know at all. Father of course knew, but he told me that grandfather never again wanted it mentioned.
Antonio Savo, Lead desinger of Gandini Automobili. It must have come at quite a surprise indeed. And this particular car should’ve been his masterwork, the car that the world knew him by, isn’t it?
I believe so. It was in any case a huge disappointment to grandfather when Antonio Gandini pried off the Gandini badge almost immediately after the prototype was shown to him.
It is a very futuristic design, certainly when you compare it to other Gandini’s. But the whole mechanical side is probably even more impressive. A full aluminium body, a modern, small 3 litre V8 with mechanical fuel injection, also out of aluminium, like a racing engine.
Grandfather was clearly proud of his design. He wanted Gandini to drop the massive V12 engine after the oil crisis. He wanted a car that was fast, had great road feel, and was economical.
And the result was there. 245 horsepower, transversal engine giving it good balance, only 1120 kg.
On paper it was great. Only, Gandini despite it, wanted it destroyed.
So Antonio Savo, your grandfather, saved this prototype from the crusher?
That he did. He quit his job that faithful day of its unveiling. He quit his job and basically stole the car, driving it all the way to this vineyard.
It drives again now, thank to you. I’ve seen it at Goodwood Festival of Speed. This is what Antonio would like to have seen.
He watches, I can tell... (solemn silence) There was not much to the restoration as such. We took the Luna apart, cleaned and polished all that needed to be, and re- assembled the car.
How does it drive?
I shall be honest here. You can feel the speed, the potential. But the suspension was ever really optimized or tested at speed. I have never really pushed the car, but you can tell it's too soft to go all out.
But it certainly has some go behind it, we have seen it drive. On the straight lines, you dare to push the throttle. We love the deep sound of the mid-mounted V8. It is a pity that Gandini did not dare to take the jump to modern supercars with your grandfather’s design. The choice to stick to existing design and engine probably caused there quick downfall into bankruptcy and closure.
I have lost my grandfather five years ago. Five years ago, my grandfather gave me his love for cars.
love the writing!
2019 Rigore Caelum SG88 Prestige 260 S4 - Modern Market 3
car by @titleguy1
The fourth generation Caelum of the New York based Rigore has been introduced last year at the L.A. Auto show. The Caelum is the sports compact model of Rigore, a brand known for its quality cars aiming at the higher budget spectrum. While we are looking forward to the announced performance MT-R model, we are happy to have received the new current top trim model, the Prestige 260 S4 trim.
Aiming to be a competitor to mainly Japanese and German manufacturers in the compact premium sedan segment. With a sticker price for this particular car at $52,120.47 it certainly does not attempt to undercut the competition on the price front. For that money, you do get a well equipped sport sedan with all extra options, including modern park and driving assists, high quality sound and infotainment systems – we are the fan of the 11.0” screens –, as well as full localized climate control and heated and cooled power seats with power adjustable lumbar support.
Exterior-wise the Caelum is stylish without being immediately remarkable, with its Rigore grille and distinctive headlights being its main recognizable features. The lightweight mostly aluminium sedan is styled cleanly and aesthetically rather than it being an attention-grabbing head-turner. Our car was finished in Blue Jay Metallic paint, with well-fitting 19” Diamond Finish alloy wheels.
Under the bonnet; the very interesting Boxer-4 Rigore engine in use since 2011. Why reports indicate it might become a bit hot at times, reliability appears to be good. The 2.5 liter turbo-charged unit puts out around 260 horsepower, with a tune that clearly focusses on low engine speed cruising and efficiency.
And fuel efficient it is. The Caelum has been tested at 5,4 liter per 100km (43,5 mpg) – although a some more spirited driving, mixed with heavy traffic sections during our testing period resulted in 8,33 l/100km (28,3 mpg). This is still not bad for an all-wheel drive sedan that despite heavy use of aluminium in its construction still weighs in at almost 1,8 metric tons.
Spirited driving is something that this Caelum invites. We even have the idea that the 260 horsepower is an underestimation from Rigore. With an advertised 7,4 seconds to reach 100 km/h and 15,06 seconds for the quarter mile, our test car managed the 5,9 and 14,18 seconds, respectively. Top speed is limited electronically to 240 km/h.
All of this does not mean that the Caelum is at home on the circuit. Driving on twisty B-roads is a joy, and at sensible speeds the 260 S4 has excellent stability and responsiveness. However, push the car too far, and especially on braking the rear might well come round. Testing in controlled environment lead us to conclusion that the rear brakes are to blame here. We can only hope that this does not lead to any court cases.
We have to stress that the Rigore Caelum is a safe car at any sensible speed and circumstance, including repeated emergency braking tests – although we have not tested emergency braking on ice or snow. With modern construction methods and design, 7 airbags – and not even counting passive and active electronic safety systems – it scores very well on government crash tests.
The Caelum Prestige 260 S4 aspires to be a compact and sporty version of larger premium and luxury sedans and we feel it succeeds well. It’s many standard features and excellent engine and road feel justify the high price. The 8-speed gearbox feels comfortable both cruising economically in high gear as well as getting up higher in rev range. The rumble of the boxer engine is enjoyable, even with the high-quality interior damping. We also in particular like the turbo sound, including the blow off, which becomes noticeable over 4000 rpm.
We have enjoyed time with the Caelum. Comfortable cruising, small and nimble in the city, and a job to drive when the road gets twisty. We are not entirely convinced that this trim has a particularly wide audience to appeal to, and perhaps the smaller engined trims or the upcoming true performance variant fit better in their segment. Despite that, we can only conclude this is a great car in its own right.
(+) elegant design
(+) highly comfortable and very good standard equipment
(+) great driving fun
(+) fuel efficient, well-sounding, reliable and responsive engine
(+) great 8-speed gearbox
(-) steep pricing
(-) doesn’t always know whether it wants to be a premium car, a sports compact or a practical family sedan
Final score: 18/20 (if you seek something in this segment, this is your choice; only what is this segment?)
The (highly affluent) Chinese Invasion - Short Articles 2
car by @yangx2
‘Made in China 2025’ aims to reform China from the factory of the world - fast, cheap, doubtful quality mass production - to a fully fledged powerhouse of high-tech and quality products. A new arrival on the high-end luxury market shows there is potential for China to become a true world player on the luxury car market as well.
Guangzhou Honghu Automotive Co. has provided the government’s officials with domestic luxury cars since the 1960’s. Their different generations of the 88888888 have, armoured and modified, provided the official cars of the Chairman of the Party and other top level officials. It has also always been a popular choice for a number of foreign dictators and the rich but rather infamous in the Asian metro-poles.
This newest 88888888 however might very well claim its place among the established brands in the West, with its mixture of excellent styling, a great engine and opulent interior choices. We have to admit that we are a fan of the design language and the philosophy behind it. It is easy to refer to Feng Shui as a Chinese brand and get away with it. It is much more difficult to make non-Asian audiences fully appreciate the harmony and balance the design encompasses.
Honghu refers to the flowing together of the opulence of the North - imposing, opulent, yet elegant features such as the grille, the sleek sides and the chrome - with the ambition and technological prowess of the South. The impressive use of LEDs and the magnificent infotainment options embody the latter perfectly. We are a fan of the new rear lights, which Honghu describes as ‘emulating the silky flow of a waterfall’.
A result of Southern China’s huge technological development as well is the new Honghu engine. It is a 6 liter V12 – an absolute selling point in this class when much of the competition is switching to smaller turbo-charged units. This massive V12 is modernized and turbo-charged as well. Tuned more towards torque than pure power (about 380 HP compared to 750 Nm) it makes the Honghu drive extremely smoothly and silently.
Usually the issue with V12 power units is fuel economy and emissions in light of modern regulations, but with a non-power oriented tune, Honghu manages great. The average fuel economy we measured was 7,2 l/100km (32,7 mpg) and the emission scores are actually on par with the last generation of small turbo-charged three-cylinder city car engines!
We do notice some parts shared with other Honghu and Jinhe models, including the 9-speed gearbox – which sometimes struggles with the same odd sudden downshifts as in the Jinhe Albatross; the large wheels with 21” rims; and much of the base electronics and infotainment. The modern electronics of Honghu and Jinhe are yet unproven when it comes to long time reliability. However, the engine and chassis are built to be literally bullet-proof and there is no doubt that those will last you.
The Chairman’s model contains fully bulletproof glass, ballistic panels in the doors and behind the rear seats, explosives to eject the door in a crash, excess oxygen supplies, and various other survival. Though technically not included on production models, we have been told that custom orders are possible, only the signal jamming systems can be installed for customers. Prices fluctuate from $405,000 to over $1,000,000 for certain custom examples.
Driving the 88888888 is simple and enjoyable. You do not feel the huge weight of the massive car, there is an AI-based crash avoidance system, and manoeuvring in small spaces is made easier with the 360° cameras. However, the real purpose of the 88888888 is to be driven, and there it excels in comfort. The leather interior is finished with rosewood and jade trim with chrome accents in the normal production model. The front passenger seat can be folded flat and the rear seats reclined to create a bed or a lounge seat with view our of the sunroof. A large rear screen contains satellite reception for television and built-in internet access. Live maps and an internet browser are also included into the system.
While the fake peony in the glove box (a standard feature of the top trim Honghus) will confuse Western buyers, the rest of the package will be recognizable and at times surpassing expectations for those familiar with the established luxury brands. Far-reaching customization options ranging from highly expensive diamond or gold interior trim to heavy duty ballistic protection – and a company policy that is certainly more ‘no questions asked’ than your average German competitor – might make the 88888888 the transportation of choice for those with serious disposable income. Honghu might indeed be well on its way to become a standard and household name in luxury transportation, also outside of Asia. The competition has been warned.
1990 Kitsune RA1S Akagi - Retro Review 2
Car by @schultzie
The yen is high and no idea is too weird to try. That is the philosophy our Japanese friends in the car industry have made their own. That philosophy is now trickling down to the smallest and most affordable car class on the Japanese domestic market, the so-called Kei-cars. Government-regulated in terms of size and engine, with a maximum capacity of 660cc and maximum horsepower of 63 HP, these Kei cars are mainly small hatchbacks and utility vehicles. Mainly, but not all.
This Kitsune RA1S Akagi is a full blown sports car within that regulatory framework. During design it was never really intended to be exported outside of Japan, but two years into its life span, here we are. Now for sale in Australia for AUD $9999,99.
Styling and Utility
It’s a rear-wheel-drive, two-seat, front-engined sports car with a fun, turbocharged inline-three at its heart. This show in the both aggressive as well as jolly playful styling. From fake vents under the small doors and a sporty aggressive front fascia, to the rather cute rear lights and folding front pop-ups. We like in particular the lower front fascia of the Akagi, with the large fog lights and the indicators integrated into the only real radiator.
Practicality is doubtful, with a two seats and no real storage space inside of the cabin (it’s difficult enough to get yourself in or out), but at least a small usable trunk. Said trunk is not large enough to fit the two-part hard-top. At least in Australia some certainty about the weather and expected precipitation that day should not pose too much of an issue.
We love the sound and responsiveness of the engine once the turbo spools up, and it does not take long to get there. The 660cc 63 horsepower engine revs up to over 8000 rpm, meaning that in normal driving you easily go up to 5000 rpm - and the sound will entice you to do so often.
The Akagi is in design a sports car, but with the small Kei engine, it still feels home the best in the city and perhaps on calm B-roads. With a top speed just under 150 km/h, this Kitsune isn’t for highway driving. The engine starts to drone quite a bit around 120 km/h and over, although the little engine can manage for sustained periods.
In the long term, small, newfangled and complex, double overhead cam engines might have their share of maintenance issues. Correcting a repairing the inevitable should not set you back too much, although this requires sufficient Kitsune dealers or mechanics with access to spare parts to be in your neighbourhood.
Interior, Comfort, Safety, and Price
The interior of the Kitsune Akagi is straight forward. The fabric is of decent quality and the plastic dashboard has large gauges and houses a decent cassette player and radio. Comfort is not great. You can feel many a bump in the road, but the sense of speed is absolutely great.
The quirky wiper arrangement, attached in the middle and moving upwards towards each other, is certainly novel, but has the tendency to limit visibility in rain. Other passive safety features are in line with the current Japanese boom in technology and include ABS and electric power steering. Both are extremely rare on small cars produced elsewhere. The Akagi also is outfitted with a limited slip differential, ensuring great corner handling.
Small as the car is, you do not want to run into a full size sedan or truck. We would probably not recommend buying the Kitsune Akagi as a main commuter or if you take a highway a lot. As a fun weekend vehicle or for city traffic this is a car we could recommend. It is also fairly affordable, although certainly more expensive than the average small city car at under 10k.
Driving and conclusions
The Akagi is extremely enjoyable to drive at low speeds, with this sense of speed, sitting so low to the road. The cornering is excellent, with almost perfect balance in the corners. Though if you really coax the rear, it will go round. We have driven the Akagi around our test track and this was extremely enjoyable.
On the road, up until around 90 km/h the Akagi is fun yet civil to drive, with a silent engine while cruising, and that spectacular sound that you wouldn’t expect from an engine this small when accelerating.
The only real issue we noticed was a relatively long first gear, which gave us occasional issues starting uphill. Fuel consumption is great as well, with a combined economy of 6,47 l/100km (36,4 mpg), even with the engine being stressed on the highway and uphills.
In conclusion, we are impressed with this little Japanese sports car. The small and mighty come form Japan, and now you can drive them. They would be your first car, and they are an expensive hobby, but oh boy are these Kei roadsters enjoyable. They will fit perfectly your garage, together with anything you might want to put in there that actually takes up space.