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Revving up Russia

Moscow gala shows market's emergence

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MOSCOW, Russia -- The growing significance of the Russian market was only too evident at this year's Moscow Motor Show, as was witnessed by the number of world premières and the fact Audi says the Russian market, with its appetite for upscale automobiles, will soon overtake Germany in terms of sales -- an estimate of some 40,000 vehicles.

Audi revealed the facelifted R8. The changes are very subtle and key on the lighting. While there are changes in the front bumper, it's the new LED headlights that give the look zing. Visually, the LED high and low beams sit on either side of the redesigned LED daytime running lights. These LEDs also function as the turn-signal indicators by switching to an amber colour that sees the directional signal's light moving from the inside of the lamp to the outside, pointing towards the direction of the turn.

Just across the hall from the R8 was the new Bentley Continental GT Speed. It's a visually stunning car that backs up its seductive looks with a sledgehammer of a W12 twin-turbocharged engine. Now this fire-breather produces 616 horsepower and a not-insignificant 590 pound-feet of torque at all of 2,000 r.p.m. The power is relayed to the road through an eight-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system that's biased (60/40) in favour of the rear wheels.

The numbers? Mind-numbing for such a large and overtly opulent automobile: It takes 4.2 seconds to warp from rest to 100 kilometres an hour, and, if the driver has the nerve to keep the gas pedal buried, on to a top speed of 330 km/h.

Mazda's new flagship, the Mazda6, made its world première here as well. It, too, is a very attractive piece that will showcase all of the company's SkyActiv technologies, including an all-new 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine.

From its bold face to the tight tail, the Mazda6 is markedly different from the current car -- the wheelbase now measures 2,830 millimetres, which brings generous rear-seat space. The SkyActiv technology employed in the Mazda6 includes the lightweight constriction of the tuned chassis, the engines and the transmission, all of which are designed to work together to promote fuel efficiency without killing the fun of the drive.

The Mazda6 will be powered by the same 150-hp 2.0-litre engine employed in the recently released CX-5 along with the aforementioned 2.5L four -- it puts out 192 hp. There is also a very strong possibility the Mazda6 will introduce Canada to Mazda's 2.2L diesel engine. In high-output guise, it produces 175 hp and 310 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,000 r.p.m. while delivering exceptional fuel economy.

Another of the Mazda6's new technologies is i-ELOOP, a brake energy regeneration system. The instant the driver lifts off the gas, the system begins to store electricity in a capacitor. This power then supplies the car's electrical needs, which frees the engine of the alternator's load. It's a small thing but one that helps to further improve the Mazda6's fuel economy.

Kia released two new models: The 2013 Sorento and flagship Quoris. The Sorento gets an evolutionary mid-life refresh. The goal was to improve the refinement and appeal of its popular SUV. Outside, the changes are found in the new front and rear fascias and the now de rigueur LED daytime running lights. Inside, the cabin takes an enormous step forward, featuring much better materials, detailed upgrades such as chrome vent rings, brighter instrumentation and a new eight-inch touchscreen that dominates the centre stack. The powertrain lineup should mirror the current offerings.

The Quoris is Kia's all-new, rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan. It presents a regal face and wears the latest iteration of the company's signature grille -- LED headlights and daytime running lights flank it. Inside, the cabin takes Kia to new heights in terms of material usage and amenities. The leather-lined show car was packed with all the usual power items, a delightful set of gauges and, as is to be expected, all of the latest technologies including lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring.

The powertrain features a 329 hp 3.8L V6 that's teamed with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Quoris, which is the new international name for the K9 as it's called in Korea, is slated to hit Canadian roads some time next year.

The curiosity of the show was the amphibious Wamah. An eight-wheel-drive monster that features eight-wheel steering -- yes, it really does steer all of its wheels. On road, the Wamah, which is 6.3 metres long and weighs 3,900 kilograms, has a top speed of 80 km/h. Head out to sea and it putters along at seven km/h.

The fuel economy is listed as 20 litres per 100 kilometres. That, by the way, is when it's powered by a 130-hp four-cylinder diesel. Go for the more powerful diesels available and the consumption rises accordingly. For the discerning motorist that has everything and wants something just a little different, the Wamah more than fits the bill.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 7, 2012 E2

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