Posts tagged ‘lenspeed’

Lenspeed went on a regular stroll to shrug off the pandemic blues, and was pleasantly surprised to chance upon quite a special vehicle in electric blue hue.

This is not an Evo 6 from the factory – it is a Lancer, stripped down to bare bones and transformed to a road machine with a single-minded focus of having fun legally on Bangkok roads. Treat this as a CKD Lancer, assembled in Thailand to give it the Evo 6 treatment. Come to think of it, it does not matter if it is a CKD or CBU. It probably would have undergone a couple of overhauls at least given its age.. 20+ years and counting.

*Import taxes are more than 300% in Thailand, putting it on par on the ridiculous scale as taxes in Singapore.

We might be wondering – how can a Lancer be transformed to an Evo? What about the engine and drivetrain? How can this be legal? Are there workshops skilled enough to pull off such a project? It hit us for a moment, until the owner popped open the boot to reveal a clean 4G63 motor with no signs of it having been through 180,000km of harshness. It is only then when I realised that this is serious stuff – no LTA-related obstruction (!!) and we now had to reframe our mindset. Components that could actually be left untouched were not spared – cosmetic upgrades like rear seats were replaced, and crucial bits like the entire drivetrain underwent an overhaul. This is Thailand and, to say the least, pretty much anything is possible. They do have very skilled labour to perform these swaps with surgical precision. We are still very far from investigating the inner workings of workshop culture here but we’ll be sure to keep you updated once we dig deeper.

We were fortunate to bring it for a 20-minute spin. Jumping into the driver’s seat brought back great memories especially in the form of the 5-speed manual and analog instrument cluster. Scratches and smudges adorn the clusters, but it really didn’t matter much so long as they functioned – you would be focusing on its driving ability right from the get-go.

We were expecting some hesitation when shifting through the gears, but they were neat and precise despite its age – short gearing from 1 to 3 keeps you very occupied from standstill to 30km/h. The engine is silky smooth – probably due to a tune that prioritises linear revs over old school turbo lag. A part of me wanted to relive the moment where you had to anticipate the boost once the TD05 turbo (we have to verify the exact spec) kicks in – but honestly it is not that practical given the road and traffic condition in Bangkok. But if the owner decides to have a go in it in Northern Thailand (imagine 50km of B-roads in 15-degree fog), possibilities are endless and I bet there are not too many cars that can put a smile on Lenspeed’s face as much as a stick shift and a well tuned motor (linear yet punchy throughout the rev range).

*Special mention goes to the suspension that is well judged at high speeds, but understandably jiggly at low speeds. Not stock FD2R harsh, but 70% there!

The owner might be exploring swapping all-weather rubbers for full slicks, undergoing a couple more cosmetic repairs and perhaps a tune to understand more of its current potential. But in typical Lenspeed fashion, we will do our part and encourage him to focus more on drivability than chase numerical figures.

Stay tuned as we document more of its progress. After all, the owner is my neighbour!

*Thank you for the ride and driving opportunity, neighbour!

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By The Lenspeed Team

  1. Facelift models are called “Minor Change”

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They might be direct translations of the Thai-equivalent, but they sound pretty darn cool and exactly what most cars stand for. Not Life Cycle Impulse or “Special Editions” – just an honest reflection of what minor changes had been done.


  1. Wake up early and park for free

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Perhaps we’re too used to Singapore’s revenue-driven code of conduct, but yes, if you live in the North of Bangkok, there’s a way to park your car at this massive carpark and take the BTS down South to town. BTS Mo Chit might be more commonly known as the nearest station to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, but for the locals, it’s the place to park your cars and continue their commute via train. And this brings us on to the next point…


  1. Parking at major shopping malls are free too!

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Yes, you heard right. Mega malls like Siam Paragon and Central World allow cars to stream in and out of their basements for free, at least for the first 2/3 hours. Would you rather pay for parking, or get caught for an hour making your way out of Basement 3?


  1. New cars have to slap on red vehicle registration plates

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Cars with red plates are cars that are less than a month old (and of course, you can leave it on for as long as you like, so long as the police doesn’t come chasing after you). They can’t drive at night too, which I reckon is a way to prevent cars from leaving other states without tidying up the final paperwork on the first month of purchase.


  1. Tollways can be more expensive in Bangkok than Singapore

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ERPs are expensive, but if you hop on tollways such as the one that links Don Mueang Airport to the North of Bangkok, you have to pay a hefty 100Baht (SGD$4). That does not guarantee a smooth journey back home, too.


Next up for Lenspeed – tackling the Bangkok streets behind the wheel on prime time, perhaps?

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I recall a couple of years ago when I managed to try a FD Honda Civic equipped with an automatic gearbox, and came away thoroughly impressed by how relevant this engine/gearbox partnership was for local tarmac. Now, we sample the same engine version, but with a 5-speed stick shift – did we like it?

Given that the car is 9.5 years of age, this FD Civic feels extremely fresh, with interior trimmings and leather all well in tact, apart from understandable wear and tear from the gear knob and handbrake lever. It has clocked 162,000km – a fair figure taking into account its age. But to be honest, we weren’t expecting the motor to be as creamy as newer units. But we were wrong! Just like any other Honda engines, this R18 unit feels very eager to rev. It might be torque-lite, but its flexibility spurs you on to push the needle clockwise, and you’ll be rewarded with a purposeful, linear surge from 3000rpm.

It might be lacking in tech gizmos, but it makes up for these with an honest driving experience, which is key (for us at least!) to put a wide smile on our face. With a character so undiluted, it endorses our stand that tech-laden cars are losing its focus on the driver, and concentrating on other aspects that target the tech-savvy public. But at Lenspeed, we prefer to turn back time to be involved with less complicated, more engaging cars just like this FD Civic – an emotive tool without compromising on family practicality.

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It took us only four years to pile on a six-digit mileage, and yes, that comes as no surprise because the DS3 has always been the preferred family car of choice, even when we had the VW MkV R32. Comparatively, it’s more efficient, lighter and arguably more fun thanks to the 6-speed stick shifter.

The ownership experience wasn’t entirely smooth sailing to begin with.. a couple of hiccups with the battery and one major incident involving the high pressure fuel valve led us to call for the tow truck three times in total. It was during those “dark days” where we felt that the DS3 has serious reliability issues. But once we got it sorted, it proved to be a decent hauler – it hasn’t skipped a heartbeat for one full year. Pretty impressive!

The 100,000km servicing included an engine oil, brake oil and gearbox oil change, over and above a rotor swop and air filter change next week. The experience these four years has been bittersweet so far, but I’m leaning towards a greater liking for the car, especially when the running costs are not extravagant. It consistently managed 14.5km/l on a full tank (600km for 41 litres).

We’ll report back in for more updates!

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Thoroughly competent coupe takes to the open roads in Singapore

By Team Lenspeed

We’re huge fans of modern Volkswagens, not from a driver-centric standpoint, but we appreciate its ability to be effective on literally any type of traffic condition. Even in base-spec VWs, these force induction 4 potters produce more than sufficient punch to pull you out of sticky situations. Now, the Scirocco is the latest car in the family to utilise the 122bhp 1.4-litre TSI motor. How will this pan out for a car that sits comfortably in the Category A COE bracket, while boasting head turning looks especially in this Flash Red hue?

First things first. This is the facelifted Scirocco, and you could tell it from a couple of aesthetic changes. The headlights are largely unchanged apart from the LED contour beneath the xenon light, and the front air intakes are now accompanied by what Volkswagen label as “aerodynamic blades”. Over at the rear, you’ll notice a slightly revised rear bumper. But what’s important here is the VW emblem that now doubles as a boot latch just like the Golf – a neat touch taking into account that you had to unlock the boot from the driver’s seat in the predecessor.

It’s interesting to note how well specced the Scirocco was at least for our test unit. There’s a panoramic sunroof, bi-xenon headlights with separate LED daytime running lights and a rear view camera. And we’re told that these are only available for the “Equipment Pack” (EQP) variant for a cool S$15,500 premium (for a grand total of S$141,800). Don’t get too excited yet if you’re scrolling through the interior pictures, because the triple gauge cluster and DCC (suspension setting) is only available in the test unit. But you’re still getting the flashy 18” rims, a flat bottom steering wheel and a “RCD 510” radio – that’s still pretty well equipped for a base-spec Roc. And we reckon that this is as good as it gets in terms of equipment levels, as I’m sure the product specialists at VCS would have done their homework to fit the Scirocco into the appropriate target segments.

How does it drive, then? To be honest, it drives very similarly to other Volkswagens. The power delivery is consistent throughout the rev range, with the low-end grunt of the 1.4-litre TSI unit gathering a peak torque of 200Nm way under 2000rpm. That’s not a stratospheric figure, and it won’t set your pants on fire if you put pedal to metal. But allow the light pressure turbo to spool and you’ll be covering ground at a respectable pace. You’ll be disappointed if you treat it as an out-and-out sports car, but the Scirocco (at least in VCS-spec) was never intended to be that hardcore right from the get-go. If you dial it up a notch, you’ll find that it’s a pity VCS didn’t include DCC as standard. Because the Scirocco’s character is best suited when left in “Comfort” setting, as it soaks up bumps much better than “Normal”. The sportiest suspension would be best left untouched if you’re pottering about ripped tarmac.

We’ve managed over 400km on local roads over the course of three days, and its safe to say that we’re more surprised by its eco-friendly credentials, although it looks far from green-centric. Interestingly, the Mk7 Golf 1.4 TSI comes with a “Coasting” function that reduces “mechanical drag” by decoupling the engine from the transmission to save on fuel. Not for this Scirocco. But we’re not really complaining if it can rake up more than 750km per tank – impressive number given that its running on rather broad 235/40R18 rubbers.

There are not many competitors in this segment for the Scirocco, especially at this price range if we factor in style to accompany performance numbers. And we reckon that’s why the predecessor was such a massive hit. But the game has changed significantly over the past four years with loan restrictions playing a major factor in consumer buying habits. Would you splash the cash on a brand new Scirocco? That boils down to how much you’re willing to sacrifice practicality for a perceived increase in style. Opt for the Golf 1.4 TSI with EQP if you prefer to play it safe. But this Scirocco won’t be bad a choice either if you want a quirky touch as a daily drive.

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An increasingly rare sightingAs the industry moves towards full-fledged automation, Lenspeed laments the dying art of self-serviced satisfaction

Team Lenspeed

Manual gearboxes are an increasingly rare option in Singapore. To put things into perspective, there’s absolutely no reason why drivers nowadays should opt for the old school stick shift to go about their daily commute. It requires the coordination of two more limbs, hinders your movements when you style your hair at 50km/h and yes, it holds you back from answering the phone on the move.

Couple these with cars that are primarily fitted with automatic gearboxes as standard when we look into the local context. You can opt for a manual, but that would come at a hefty cost at point of indent. Automatic cars allow the driver to “hoon” the car faster, too. Simply put pedal to metal, and let the electronics settle the rest. And with the proliferation of smooth, fast and efficient automatic transmissions, there is no way a manual gearbox can match them – pound for pound.

So, it’s a lost cause for the stick shift, yeah? Not really. Majority of the German population are still opting for the old school approach when acquiring modern cars. You might argue that the autobahns require less shifting action than congested Singapore, but other than cost savings, the manual gearbox is the preferred choice for most Europeans – ladies included!

Why then, is a manual gearbox favoured? In my opinion, nothing can replicate the feeling when you shift through the gates, managing the clutch and biting point along the way. You can gather a deeper sense of communication with the car, too. I call this an intrinsic feel – a sensation only a traditional petrolhead can understand as those who haven’t driven a manual will only marvel at the prospects of faster, better technology. But are they necessarily more fun? I beg to differ.

Fun can be had with mainstream cars, too. An aging car with a couple of years left on the COE cycle can be more fun than a new, tech-laden car. If your sense of appreciation for the stick shift spans way beyond technological advancements, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. And this, I reckon, is the beauty behind the more traditional way of driving.

While manual gearboxes keep you dialed in the action, this can translate to the need for more concentration behind the wheel, too. And yes, having no hands for the smartphone is a good thing – even when Whatsapp is crying out for your response!

But that does not mean fun will be entirely diluted without a physical shifter. The BMW i3 focuses on the future; even the gear knob is located on the steering column, integrated with the ignition button in its bid to save space on the centre console. In spite of the tech-centric focus, there’s genuine fun behind the wheel to keep keen drivers engaged, with the chassis, tyres and battery working in unison to supply instantaneous, authentic excitement. We’d still opt for a stick shift in an i3 but that wouldn’t be possible!

The next time you’re on the hunt for a daily drive, keep an open mind and place a couple of cars with a manual gearbox on your shortlist. For all you know, you might be smiling more than ever during every commute – for the self-serviced satisfaction can never, ever be overpowered by a smarter machine.

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By Team Lenspeed

Lenspeed realises a British Racing Dream in British Racing Green. Hold on tight.

A clear vision neatly explained in a concise package. That’s what Bentley has done at Geneva a couple of weeks ago. And just by looking at press images, this has to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing concepts – a huge statement we reckon when Geneva has traditionally welcomed the automotive sector to show the world what they have to offer. If they are impressive, the marketing exposure will expand ten fold naturally compared to other motor shows – and Bentley has emerged victorious in this aspect for sure.

Standing tall in Bentley’s booth is the EXP 10 Speed 6, soaked in a very deep shade of British Racing Green. It shouts speed from ground up, and unlike its current lineup, this example features a front end that is reworked. But we can definitely feel Bentley’s need to retain their trademark quad headlights and brave mesh grille design, which is no bad thing at all.

According to Wolfgang Durheimer, Head of Bentley Motors, this concept might actually be placed alongside the Continental GT. But we’re keen to know if this will be the more performance-oriented variant in the stable. After all, the Conti GT has the firepower to match rivals, but petrol heads often claim that it lacks the out-and-out dynamic precision due to its hefty weight – it sits comfortably more than 2 tonnes!

But judging by its impressive interior, it seems that emphasis is still placed to create a premium experience for (very) wealthy buyers. It might still not be the ultimate driving weapon, but Bentley’s business model comprises of other factors such as luxury and exclusivity – and Lenspeed respects the men at Crewe for that. Theoretically, it might not wear British Racing Green as confidently on track as Aston’s DBR9 screamer, but design wise, its still a step in the right direction for Bentley. Checkmate.



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By Team Lenspeed


Hopping into the MkV R32 certainly brought back good memories. We had the MkV GTI for three years before swapping it for the FD2R. This unit comes with a Bastuck exhaust, a massive Forge intake and Sparco rims. Although we prefer to keep it bone stock, the addictive VR6 grunt aided by the catback exhaust definitely elevates the overall appeal of a Golf. It’s a left-field choice, we admit, but that’s precisely why we fell in love with it.

On the move, nose heavy tendencies can be felt the moment you chuck it hard into a corner – not unexpected considering that the VR6 takes up the entire space of the engine bay (even the battery needs to be relocated to the rear boot!)

At 1500kg, this is one heavy hatchback. You could definitely feel the heft while ploughing it through the corners. I prefer to let it waft on the freeway rather than keep it on the boil, as it can’t match the urgency of the FD2R’s K20A. What’s pleasantly surprising is the low end torque that instantly reacts to my input, a very different feeling compared to the MkV GTI where the turbo takes time to spool for it to gather serious pace. It’s not as reactive as a K20A of course, but still receptive enough to derive direct response and pleasure only NA motors can muster.

Technological progress have indeed helped turbocharged units to identify gaps in the torque curve and throttle response, but in our opinion, purists will still crave for the combination of an authentic engine note and accessible throttle response. The R32 will not be a petrolhead’s first choice primarily due to its heft, but old school ingredients are well in place for an enjoyable time behind the wheel, which is why Lenspeed is always on the hunt in the classifieds for rare finds. And in our opinion, the R32 fits our list and will be part of our staff fleet for the long haul. In-depth updates soon!

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By Gerald Yuen

Can Lenspeed’s staff car survive the treacherous pockmarked tarmac around his neighbourhood?

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It’s Boxing Day, and usually busy streets make way for cleaner, emptier roads on a wet morning. From our point of view, this is, hands down, the perfect weather to hoon any member of our staff fleet, and we kick things off with the Honda Civic Type R.

The FD2R has been rather inactive the past few months, and with increasingly intense road works around my neighbourhood to accommodate a MRT station and a viaduct, it serves as a good opportunity to understand the dynamics of this car in a familiar area, yet littered with unfamiliar tarmac conditions.

Not that we must harp on this issue again, but the ride quality in the FD2R over bumps is still far from pleasant. Amplified with resurfacing works just 50m away from home, you could literally feel the suspension “working” with minimal travel before the fluids warm up, with the harsh damping always suggesting that it should best be left toiling on track. It’s a huge pity, really, because that impedes the way I want to wring its neck once the roads are patched up (hopefully by the end of 2015!).

Even when it gets a clear sighting of open roads, slight tarmac irregularities will still hamper my urge to keep the revs hovering as high as possible. The chassis is rock solid and only works well on tarmac as smooth as salt plains – no less than that. Actual fun begins on days where I actually find a clean-shaven piece of road, allowing me to utilise the K20A without fear of losing traction. Still potent and urgent, this engine, I dare say, is still one of the most flexible 2.0-litre powerplants I’ve laid my hands on – with an addictive soundtrack to match. Impressive, considering that it has now been given proper lashing well over six figures of mileage.

For now, it seems that I’ll have to live with bumpy roads for a year at least, before getting to enjoy the car right from the get go!

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By Team Lenspeed

350km covered in two days in Singapore. Where on earth did we go?


To be honest, Volkswagen’s Polo would be an unlikely contender in Lenspeed’s fast fleet. But focusing on its driver-centric values would be absolutely ridiculous, as it’s engineering is purely based on delivering maximum miles per tank of fuel.

Neatly wedged just under the base-spec Golf, this Polo features a 1.2-litre turbocharged unit churning out 89bhp and 160Nm. That doesn’t sound like much in modern day speak. But VW has a tendency to create products that administer more than paper numbers might suggest, and this Polo is no exception.

What we like about it is the manner in which it accumulates pace effortlessly, gathering a keen sense of flow even over harsh tarmac. We reckon this primarily stems from the 15-inch tyres measuring no wider than 185mm. It’s not groundbreaking engineering – just a simple formula that made cult cars so effective two decades ago.

Narrow tyres, responsive chassis and an urgent engine were the ingredients found in a hot hatch back in the old days. This Polo will not exactly set your pants on fire, but a relatively featherweight frame and minimal rolling resistance from the rubbers is no doubt a good step back in time to deliver honest driving rewards.

Practically covering all expressways during the off-peak period, we had the chance to figure out just how efficient this Polo is. We managed to clock 22km/l over the course of 350km, with 80% covered on the highway. And we reckon it could achieve well over a 1000km with 45 litres of fuel if we extrapolate the data. Simply stunning figures for a petrol motor. VW’s BlueMotion technology still renders old school petrol engines extremely effective, even with the proliferation of electric motors. Well played, Volkswagen.

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