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Top three european cars of 2009

Top Three European Cars for 2009

It has always been the dream of every American motoring enthusiast to travel to the countries of Europe to see and drive the different variations of automobiles that are offered. Sadly, the closest us Yankees ever come to this fantasy is to look at pictures in European automobile magazines or to watch footage from European TV shows (i.e. Top Gear). These strange yet beautiful vehicles are usually faster, more fuel efficient and cheaper then most of the vehicles offered on U.S. soil, due to our government-enforced emissions and regulations. Here is a quick look at three of the best European cars for the 2009 model year. None of which will be shipped to America.

2009 Fiat 500 Abarth Edition

This little pocket rocket from Italy is the modified performance version of the award-winning Fiat 500. The Abarth division (formed in 1949) has taken the base 1.4 liter engine and turbocharged it to the tune of 135 horsepower and 152 lb-ft of torque. Abarth is also offering another version of this lightweight racecar called the SS, which will have an astonishing 160 horsepower.

Abarth has also upgraded the little Fiat’s braking and suspension, with pieces from the best manufacturers on the market. The new 500 comes standard with a beefed-up Alfa Romeo gearbox, hydraulic clutch system, big Brembo brakes, OZ lightweight wheels, and fat Pirelli tires. They even offer Abarth apparel (complete with scorpion logos) to compliment your new ride.

This go-kart-esque vehicle also features a sophisticated engine management system with three different modes to increase or decrease steering and throttle responses. It also has an option to increase engine torque levels when you hit those straight-away back roads. All this is done with a few pushes of the “Sport” button that is mounted on the vehicle’s dashboard.

All this performance and technology can be had for a measly $26,000 (converted to U.S. currency). And get this; the Abarth 500 still gets 43.5 miles per gallon! Who needs a Toyota Prius when you are driving a 2000 pound racecar for a fraction of the cost and same gas mileage?

2009 Honda Civic Type-R

Ah yes, the Civic that got away. Or at least the version that never made it to America. Honda has been building their Type-R variation cars for years and only the Integra model made it to the U.S. market. For 2009, a completely different version Civic has been created for the Asian and European performance enthusiasts.

This three-door hatchback is only offered in the European marketplace and the bigger four-door version is only offered in Japan. Neither will ever be sold in America, even though Americans buy more cars from the Honda Motor Company than any other country. Lame? You bet. To make matters worse, the new Type-R Civic is the fastest and best handling version yet.

With a redesigned 2.0 liter iVTEC engine (variable valve timing with intelligence) this Civic screams to redline with 198 horsepower and 142 lb-ft of torque mated to a close-ratio 6 speed manual gearbox. With lightened body panels and suspension bits, the Type-R weighs in at 2793 pounds, which allows it to sprint to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds with a top speed of 146 mph.

With an 8000 rpm redline and one of the quickest shifting transmissions on the market, this Type-R wins in the best-to-drive category of all compact European cars. The revised steering system and stiff Honda suspension setup makes this the closest a Civic can get to an actual racecar. Prices start at $18,000 (U.S. dollars) and the Type-R also manages an impressive 31 miles per gallon on the highway.

2009 Ford Focus RS

Hold on, the Ford Focus is available in America, right?

Yes, the boring econo-box from Ford has been available is the states for quite some time. But this is the Focus RS, and it is utterly spectacular compared to the model we are all used to. You see, in Europe they actual race the Focus models in the WRC (World Rally Cross) and these little Fords win many of the races, suprisingly. That is why they offer the Focus RS (“Rally Sport”) only in Europe, because of rally regulations, which state the rally cars must be based on production version cars.

This Focus, unlike the American version is fast, it looks good and handles amazingly. It is the best RS version yet. It features a turbocharged 2.5 liter-5 cylinder engine that produces a whopping 300 horsepower and 302 lb-ft of torque. All this power is put through the front wheels, which usually creates the infamous “torque steer”. This is the phenomenon when too much power is put upon the front wheels and the tires tend to spin upon hard cornering. But this new RS employs a “RevoKnuckle” system to split this rush of torque between the front wheels in an efficient fashion, so that handling speeds are not sacrificed.

The European Focus will also feature 19 inch racing wheels, sticky Continental tires and big vented disc brakes in the front and rear for 2009. A six-speed gearbox and hip-hugging Recaro racing seats should keep the driver comfortably-busy, during spirited drives on dirt roads and highways. All these features should add up to an all-around amazing sports car for everything from track days to work commutes. Pricing and mileage results have yet to be released by Ford, but more coverage will follow as the release date for the new RS is set of early 2009.

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Listings of New and Used Cars Information Guidelines

By the time you read this, there’s little doubt that Tata will have been announced as the new owner of two legendary, and quintessentially British, marques – Jaguar and Land Rover. At the moment, an official announcement is still awaited, but it appears to be a foregone conclusion. Nevertheless, as they say, ‘it’s not over until the fat lady sings’ – in this case the fat lady is the ailing Ford Motor Company, which is expected to announce the buyout in early 2008.

It’s a matter of great pride for our country that two Indian companies made it to the final round of bidding – Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra. M&M recently pulled out of the race citing some last minute complications.

Tata’s buyout of Jaguar and Land Rover, at an expected US $2 billion, may pale in comparison to its recent acquisition of the steel giant Corus at US $ 12 billion, but in some ways it announces to the world even more firmly that India’s time has well and truly arrived. Reason being, Jaguar and Land Rover are much more in the public eye – in fact, in the hearts and minds of people across the globe – as opposed to a faceless organization, albeit a massive one.

Both these marques have a very rich heritage and tradition. Tata will be well aware that leveraging this heritage, and maintaining the inherent characteristics of both marques, will be critical to their success moving forward.
Tata will be well aware that leveraging this beritage, and maintaining the inherent characteristics of Jaguar and Land Rover, will be critical to their success moving forward
Tata’s also fortunate to have stepped in at a very opportune time indeed, especially in the case of Jaguar. While Land Rover, as an individual entity, makes a healthy profit and is a brand held in high regard the world over, Jaguar hasn’t been so fortunate in the recent past. The company has been fighting a losing battle to wipe out its red ink, and Ford has pumped in an enormous amount of time and money to ensure its existence and revival.

It appears that Jaguar could well be on the cusp of that revival as we speak. The money that Ford has pumped into product development means that Jaguar has an exciting new model line up in the pipeline – its new XF sedan, which hints at a completely fresh approach, is evidence of this. Even before its launch, the company’s received over 3,000 bookings in the UK itself. This model has the potential to single handedly turn the marque around and lead its revival.

Needless to say, there will be huge challenges as well. In many cases, Tata Motors will have to depend on Ford’s help and active involvement in areas such as drivetrain technology, R&D for better fuel efficiency, lower emissions, etc. At the same time, for Tata Motors this means immediate access to new and cutting edge technology and international markets. They can use both these factors to further leverage their relationship with Fiat – who could benefit from the existing dealer network for the re-entry of Alfa Romeo in the US, or even some of Land Rover’s expertise to assist in developing an SUV of its own. Moreover, ownership of these marques will give the Tata brand itself greater appeal. Even if it takes them many years to incorporate new technologies into their own cars, the halo effect will begin almost instantaneously.

At the complete other end of the spectrum, Tata Motors will preview the highly anticipated One-Lakh car at the Auto Expo in New Delhi for the first time. The Expo, which has doubled in size since the last edition in 2006, is indicative of how rapidly the Indian market is evolving. Be certain to attend the show, and don’t forget to pay us a visit outside Hall 7 in Pragati Maidan.

The car in this image is a Ferrari FXX – at the time referred to as the Super Enzo – caught testing at Fiorano during a very memorable trip to Maranello, the home of Ferrari, in 2005. See our feature story for more, as well several other exciting destinations.

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