Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Volvo S80 SE Sport

Volvo S80 SE Sport

As a general rule, you do not buy a Volvo because you want a sleek motorway cruiser or a machine that grips like a rabbit in flight. You buy one because you have many children, and because you occasionally need to transport wardrobes.

So why, you may be wondering, have they made the car you see in the pictures this morning? An all-wheel-drive saloon car with a big V8 at the front and no space for even medium-sized furniture at the back. Have they gone mad?

No. Not really. But to understand why, you need to know a little bit about how the car industry works. It’s very simple. The car maker makes cars that are then bought by a global network of dealers. Who then sell the cars on to you and I. This is known in financial circles as “a licence to print money”.

I’m being serious. Because once you’ve decided that you’d like, say, a BMW, realistically the only place you can buy it is from the one dealer in your area. You can go to a dealer further away, of course, but don’t expect your local chap to bend over backwards if something goes wrong.

All the dealer has to do then, is offer you a small discount to make you feel good. Then he takes this money straight back again by stitching you up with a load of extras you don’t want or need. And a finance deal that is designed to ruin you, your children and your children’s children. And then he offers to buy your old car for a pound. And you accept because selling it privately is such a godforsaken faff.

All those epsilons coming up the drive, kicking the tyres and trying to fob you off with a Nigerian bank draft that they assure you is as good as gold. Yeah right. Better to be rid of it for a pound . . . and try to forget it’s going to get a polish and be sitting on the dealer’s forecourt next week with a sticker price of £22,250.

Then it’s time for a service. And that’ll be £300. Unless some work needs to be done, in which case it will be £700. I know a chap who was charged the other day for someone to “examine” the tyres on his car.

So, life as a car dealer is normally pretty rosy. Except for one tiny thing. It’s okay if you have the franchise for BMW or Mercedes or Alfa Romeo because the car you use to go home at night will be fine and swanky. But what if your dealership sells Hyundais? Sure, you’re making plenty of cash, but every night you have to go home in an Accent.

And it’s the same story with Volvo. You bathe in the milk from a honey badger. You pour Cristal on your cornflakes and you gave your wife a diamond-studded vibrator for Christmas. You even have golf clubs made from an alloy of titanium, magnesium and mink. But you have to go to work every day in a ho-hum slab of Swedish ironmongery that has the pizzazz of a dead dog.

Oh sure, you’ve got the top of the range S80 with seats made from the bosom of a fin whale and an electric drinks dispenser. But it’s still a Volvo. And you are still being laughed at by Nozzer and Ozzer at the 19th hole every Saturday afternoon.

Which is why, at the last Volvo dealer convention, you pleaded with the high-ups in Sweden to make a big V8. “I could sell thousands,” you lied. And what’s more, every other Volvo dealer in the world was saying the same thing.

So Volvo relented. And put a V8 in the front of the new S80 and now every Volvo dealer on the planet is happy. But what about you and I? The multitudes who must now buy this car if Volvo’s investment is to pay off.

I suppose we should start with the engine. I assumed that since Jaguar and Volvo are both owned by Ford, it would be a Jag 4.2 under the bonnet. But it isn’t. It’s a jewel of a thing from Yamaha: 4.4 litres, silken power, no holes in the torque curve and a gorgeous V8 snuffle when you turn it on.

Twice in a day, chauffeurs waiting with Mercs outside expensive restaurants whipped round to see what had made the noise, and both times they looked amazed. Hearing this noise coming from a Volvo is like finding a baby that opens its mouth to scream, and then sounds like an antelope.

There isn’t a bucketload of power on tap but because of the four-wheel-drive system, none goes to waste. You stamp on the throttle and no matter how greasy the road might be, the car just sits up and voom. Like it’s been electrocuted.

This is a good thing because everything else on this car is a bit slow. The gearbox, for instance. You put your foot down and you have time to get through an Ian McEwan squash game before it kicks down.

Then there’s the cruise control off switch. Of all the things in life that have to be instantaneous, this is number one. Even above a gun. But it isn’t. Push it and the car sails on at 70 for what seems like two weeks before you get control back.

And then there’s the sat nav. Not a Volvo strong point this since it steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that either the Oxford ring road or the M40 exist, but to make matters worse, it doesn’t respond to your inputs properly.

“Mmmm,” it drawls, when you push the letter “L”. Then “Mmmm” again. And then: “So, you want an L do you? Mmmm. Let me think about that.” After a while I began to think it might be on smack.

Worse than the slowness of the controls, though, is the suspension. Three settings are available “comfort”, “sport” and something labelled “advanced”.

In the comfort setting, the car glides nicely from place to place, lulling you into a dreamy and creamy sense of security. And then, when you least expect it, you run over a manhole cover and all four wheels begin to pitter-patter like they’ve been connected to the San Andreas fault.

So you put it in sport and now there’s no sense of security at all because the wheels pitter-patter permanently. Even when there’s nothing for them to pitter-patter over.

In desperation, you go for the advanced setting, which offers a combination of sports and comfort, so you end up with something that is neither. “Advanced” over what, I wondered? An ox? A druid?

The problem is that Volvo is not intrinsically a maker of luxury cars. There is no culture, as there is at Jaguar, of making a car inherently sublime. And this can no more be achieved with trick electronics than you could make Ray Charles a cricketer by dressing him in white trousers and a box.

Some of the S80 is very nice. The interior, with its linen-look aluminium (I know, I didn’t know what they were on about either, but it works) and that cascading centre console is a lovely place to sit. Spacious too.

Then there’s the safety. Warning lights illuminate when someone is in your blind spot and then, on the dash, right in front of you is a huge red light that comes on from time to time. I have no idea why. But it doesn’t half wake you up.

I also think it’s a good looking car. And at £48,150 for the SE Sport model, fully loaded with options, you have to admit, it is exceptional value for money. Mind you, you’ll lose your trousers with the depreciation.

And that’s where you can be quite cunning. Because all of Volvo’s 145 British dealers will have ordered a V8 S80 with all the bells and whistles, and in about six months they’ll be flogging them. They know that to get them shifted they’ll have to be much cheaper than rival offerings from Mercedes and BMW so you should be able to do a good deal.

And, for the first time, drive away from a car dealer’s forecourt, knowing you ripped him off.

Vital statistics Model Volvo S80 SE Sport Engine 4414cc, eight cylinders Power 311bhp @ 5950rpm Torque 325lb ft @ 3950rpm Transmission Six-speed automatic Fuel 23.7mpg (combined cycle) CO2 284g/km Acceleration 0-60mph: 6.0sec Top speed 155mph Price £39,950
Source: timesonline

Maserati GranTurismo

Maserati GranTurismo

It is a pity that there is apparently no loophole in UK law that would allow the new 4.2litre V8 Maserati GranTurismo — one of the world’s most handsome four-seat coupés — to be classed as a motorcycle, because if it was, it would not require a front numberplate. The alternative is plainly for Maserati vigorously to lobby MPs and get the Vehicle Aesthetics (Full Frontal, Particularly Maserati) 2007 Bill tabled, pronto, to make an exception for its GT.

The reason is plain to see: the new Maser’s nose is far too distinguished to carry a humdrum plate bearing a set of letters and numbers.

Yet bikers — a few of whom blatantly, shamefully and very dangerously show total contempt for the law — do not have to carry a front numberplate on their often superquick machinery. Not because it would be ugly, spoil its aerodynamics and generally upset the lederhosen brigade, but because of injury that might be caused to pedestrians involved in an accident . . . and, apparently, there is no convenient position at the front of a motorcycle to place a plate satisfactorily and legally.

For the GT, though, it is a legal requirement, with letters and numbers measuring 64mm high and 44mm wide. Of course, an owner might decide to cite the motorcycle precedent and not fit one but that, Paul Watters, an AA legal expert, says could theoretically mean a fine of up to £1,000 under Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations, 2001: “And it would rather draw attention to car and driver.” The GT is not all front, though. Its styling by Pininfarina is an impressive blend of smoothly curvaceous promontories, sharp edges and aerodynamic niceties that wrap around a plush interior with seating for four, well-fed, nondouble jointed adults — making it almost as roomy as a two-door saloon.

Sixteen feet long, more than six feet wide and weighing 4,145lb, the GT — based on the big Quattroporte but with a shortened wheelbase — has been designed to lope over long distances, although once its driver has become used to its size, it will tackle country lanes and mountain roads with cool confidence. Skyhook electronically variable active damping is a £1,721 option that enhances its handling. The driver can stab a Sport button to tauten the GT’s suspension, quicken throttle response and raise gearshift points of its six-speed automatic gearbox.

Gearbox and engine have been designed to work in close harmony and, by and large, they do. But there were moments when communication seemed slightly lacking if maximum power was demanded in auto mode, with a slight pause as if the transmission thought, “Oh, well, all right, let’s get going, then . . .” The way to beat that is to boot the throttle really hard into kick-down or, better still, to use the perfectly placed paddles for do -it-yourself assurance and really enjoy the GT’s mechanically cohesive competence and driver integration. Power output is 399bhp and the engine can be taken to 7,200rpm for full-throttle up-shifts (062mph, 5.2sec) accompanied by a stirring but well-mannered growl from the V8 and its quadruple tailpipes.

Mature, confident and sophisticated, the GranTurismo is sensible, practical and signals Maserati’s resurgence in the UK, with emphasis now on continuously improving quality. Andrea Antonnicola, the Maserati GB managing director, is confident of the GT’s success: “We already have over 450 orders for the GranTurismo, with £5,000 deposits on each. Three years ago we sold 480 examples of all our models combined; this year we expect to sell about 600 and for 2008 we just want to know how many cars the factory can supply in right-hand drive. Maseratis are bought for their exclusivity and increasingly for their quality — which is approaching that of the German marques. Residual values are very high.”

At £78,500, the new car is hardly cheap, but it is very competitive in its rarefied market sector, although metallic paint is a cheeky £552 extra and pearlescent £4,583.

But like all Maseratis, the GT is highly individual and, as with an Italian suit, shoes or shirt, it is all about style, energy and flair — even with a British numberplate hung on its nose.

Specification Car Maserati GranTurismo Engine 399bhp 4.2litre V8, torque 460Nm Transmission Six-speed auto plus paddle shift Performance 0-62mph 5.2sec, top speed 177mph Fuel consumption combined 19.7mpg CO2 emissions 330g/km Price £78,500 On sale October
Source: maserati

2009 Chevrolet Camaro Review

2009 Chevrolet Camaro
We are all excited to see the official 2009 Camaro up close and in person – but we never thought that anyone would actually get emotionally attached to it. It seems though that Bob Lutz – GM’s Vice chairman – was so excited to see the first fully finished prototype that he literally “ran over to it, and hugged it”.

“I have the photo to prove it — but of course we can’t show it to you just yet,” Lutz said. “Seeing his beloved Chevrolet Camaro as a real car…in near-final metal, glass, rubber and plastic…transformed from a visionary dream into a highly drivable reality…well, it was almost too much for him,” Lutz said of Welburn.

Lutz was also excited that he was the first one to drive it. “I got to drive it first, not only because ‘rank has its privileges,’ but because I didn’t want anyone stuffing it into a barrier before I got to drive.” He was able to give us a little insight of how well the car performs.

“I loved the response, the sound, the steering and the brakes,” he said. “There’s more work to be done, for sure, and the group knows it. They still have time for further development. The goal of the team led by Gene Stefanyshyn is to produce the finest car in its class, ever. Do I think they will get there? I wouldn’t bet against that team!”

He also noted that the Camaro prototype “looked as awesome as the concept, and the blotchy black/white camo scheme could not destroy the great stance and proportion.” Lutz also noted that quality levels appear to be high. “The body fits were already better than what came off the line a few years ago,” he wrote. “The interior had some handmade plastic parts and showed some gaps but was remarkable for the first car.”

We say congrats to the happy Lutz for getting the first drive and we envy his time with the expectant vehicle. Maybe soon we can get our chance behind the wheel and feel its addictive power.
Source: chevrolet

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Subaru Tribeca is the best crossover

Subaru Tribeca

The 2008 Subaru Tribeca was named best resale value in the crossover utility vehicle segment by Automotive Lease Guide (ALG). The Subaru brand remains an industry leader in residual value, ranking fourth overall in ALG’s Industry Brand Residual Value Rankings. ALG ranks brands and vehicles predicted to retain the highest percentage of their original price after a conventional three-year lease term.

“We are very pleased to see that ALG has recognized the Subaru Tribeca as the best in the crossover segment for residual value,” said Thomas J. Doll, executive vice president and CFO, Subaru of America, Inc. “The Subaru brand is well known for its quality, durability and overall tremendous value in the marketplace. And the Subaru Tribeca is more of what our customers love about Subaru.”

The ALG residual value awards are derived after careful study of segment competition, historical vehicle performance and industry trends. According to ALG, the 2008 awards prove once again that compelling design, high quality manufacturing, disciplined pricing and volume programs are essential to achieve the highest residual value.
Award winners are featured on and other automotive publications and websites dedicated to bringing the industry’s best-performing models into the public eye.

Residual value is not the only feature of the Subaru Tribeca that has received acclaim. The Subaru Tribeca is a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded Tribeca its 5-Star Safety Rating in both their frontal and side-impact NCAP crash tests. The Subaru Tribeca has also been recognized for its award winning interior design and is a recommended pick by leading independent consumer publications for reliability and owner satisfaction.
Source: subaru

Fiat 500 won European award

Fiat 500Fiat 500

The new FIAT 500 has won the EuroCarBody 2007 award, the world’s most prestigious prize for car bodies. The ninth edition of the Forum organised by Automotive Circle International was held in Bad Nauheim/Frankfurt from October 16 to 18, attended by about 600 experts in the development of the design, materials, processes and manufacture of car bodies.

The 600 specialists, from 15 international carmakers, gave the award to the Fiat 500, assigning it 38.33 points out of a possible 50. This enabled the “small” Fiat – the only segment A model present – to defeat the other 11 candidates from Japan, the United States, Europe and Russia.

The experts particularly appreciated the contribution made by the innovative bodyshell to the car’s NCAP 5-star rating (with a total score of 35 points), and class 11 “Insurer Impact” assessment: this is a record that puts the Fiat 500 at the top of its class in the safety field, and is even more extraordinary if we remember that it has been achieved by a car that is only 3.5 metres long.

The Fiat 500 is a car designed to reach the highest quality and safety standards, as the EuroCarBody 2007 award underlines; it is an important award that highlights the mixture of “creativity and skill” that is necessary to develop an innovative, winning bodyshell. Nor must we forget that the final competition is part of a vaster programme, that sees Automotive Circle International organising numerous congresses every year for the exchange of information and experience in the field of automotive manufacturing processes.

All international carmakers can compete, with a maximum of two cars per brand. The indispensable requirement is that they must be standard production cars, manufactured within 12 months of the official launch. For the final voting, the bodyshells must be displayed so that they can be analysed during presentations and in depth debate, and judged on the basis of 23 evaluation criteria grouped in 5 macro areas: development and application of innovative materials; innovative solutions for development and design; innovative concepts applied to the industrial manufacturing process; values that are significant for the customer, such as safety, ergonomics, acoustic comfort and quality, and, finally, the comprehensiveness and quality of the presentation of the required technical/technological content.
Source: fiat

Friday, October 26, 2007

Nissan GT-R debut

Nissan GT-R

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., and Nissan Motorsports International today announced that the NISSAN GT-R will run in the GT500 class of the SUPER GT series in Japan for the 2008 season. It has been four years since the GT-R last competed in Japan , when it won the Japan GT Championship in 2003 . Private testing is planned to start soon in Japan.

GT-R was developed with a new understanding and appreciation of the Earth’s natural forces – gravity, inertial force and aerodynamics – and translates those forces into a completely new design, maximising tyre grip and airflow.

Basic vehicle dynamics and integration with the driver have also been examined, resulting in new componentry and creating a Human-Machine Interface (HMI) never seen before in the marketplace. All of these theories have been integrated to balance “speed and efficiency,” “high-output with environmental mindfulness” and “high performance and safety”.

Taking these factors into account, Nissan created the all-new Nissan GT-R, which offers advanced high performance for secure and enjoyable driving free of climatic, road condition or driving technique limitations. GT-R offers ultimate performance for virtually every driving situation – whether it is the Nurburgring circuit, where GT-R has been developed, to snow, rain or urban areas – all manageable by the GT-R driver through advanced technology and driving dynamics.
Source: nissan

2008 Audi Q7 3.6 Hybrid Prototype

Audi Q7 hybridAudi Q7 hybrid

There’s no doubt that hybrid electric drives are an important part of the American automotive market. Though diesel technologies now encompass more than 50% of the European car market and are expected to grow in popularity here in the USA as new models become available, there’s no denying that hybrids are well entrenched as the frontrunner in green technologies in this market. Audi knows this, and is moving to make its own production hybrid models available. In fact, the company is so close in development that they’ve allowed a limited number of press to sample an early prototype fitted to a Q7 3.6 – the same car we were able to drive just last week in San Francisco, California.

Audi first started experimenting with hybrid technology in 1990 with the 100-based Duo Concept. More recently, a Q7 Hybrid Concept with production in mind was shown at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show, and just this week the company revealed the compact MetroProject quattro concept with a similar system for compact transverse engine applications.

With this sort of long flirtatious history with hybrids, it’s easy to see Audi’s continually increasing movement to embrace the technology. This movement is expected to spawn the first full production hybrid Audi, likely the Q5 and specifically for the American market, by the end of next year. More hybrid offerings are expected to follow

There may be no Q5 yet available for sampling by those outside of the restricted gates in Ingolstadt, but this prototype Q7 3.6 Hybrid was close enough to sample what Audi is doing.

This particular prototype uses an electric motor/generator placed between the engine and gearbox. An electronically controlled clutch manages interaction between the two power units.

The actual setup is fairly invisible to the casual consumer. Pop the hood and you’ll notice some differences, components clearly visible. At the rear, the Q7 Hybrid’s nickel-metal hydride battery can also be found underneath the deck lid in the trunk.

Unlike more commonly seen hybrids on the market today such as the Toyota Prius, the Audi is what Ingolstadt refers to as a “full hybrid”, having the flexibility to run on either electric power or spark ignition alone, as well as to utilize a combination of the two.

Like many hybrids today, the Audi system uses regenerative braking, which allows the car’s batteries to be charged when kinetic energy is converted to electrical power during coasting or braking that can later be used for forward propulsion.

Fuel consumption savings are to be expected. Audi benchmarks the performance of their own diesel models as the goal for consumption by petrol-based hybrids. This Q7 uses the 3.6 FSI, arguably not as efficient as the 3.2 FSI with Valvelift we’d expect to see used in the B8-based Q5 Hybrid, but the 3.6 Q7 is still reported to be 23% more efficient than its road-going non-hybrid equivalent. Audi reports 24 mpg combined for this setup – only 1 mpg less than reported for the Q7 3.0 TDI.

While driving, the system can be monitored via the Audi’s MMI screen. A diagram of the car shows the level of power stored in the battery via eight green bars while it also indicates the current source of power, be it the 3.6-liter engine or the batteries.

Our Q7 prototype also featured a German option button labeled “E-Fahren”, which alllows the driver to switch from hybrid to full-electric mode. Toggling to full electric, it’s easy to see that the Q7 wouldn’t get more than a few miles on the limited battery power it has. Experiencing stop and go traffic in the heart of San Francisco, those eight green bars disappeared quite rapidly.

That said, one would suspect a rural driver with a very short commute could travel mostly or even solely on electric power if their drive were short enough. If Audi paired this with a home plug-in module or a sunroof solar panel like that of the A8 but making use of the Q7’s expansive Open Sky setup, one might even repeatedly operate the car on electrical power with a short enough commute.

With just one motor/generator, the Q7 Hybrid cannot utilize its regenerative braking in creeping situations like our rush hour city center traffic. If the motor is being used for propulsion, it cannot also be generating. Kinetic energy is only captured when fully braking and not while creeping along with partial brake and partial propulsion.

In general, the driving experience is not far from a gasoline equivalent save the obsession with watching the car’s power management diagram – a habit that seems to afflict Prius owners as well. We did notice some roughness of transition when the car transferred from full electric power to the point where the gasoline engine would fire up. We’d guess and hope that this will be much more undetectable when experienced in a full production model.

Besides the obvious fuel savings, there are added benefits to this type of “parallel hybrid” system, where the two modes of power are utilized separately or simultaneously. Audi owners with a priority on performance will be pleased to know that the electric motor can and is used to augment the power of the Q7’s engine, making it faster than the standard Q7 3.6. The added battery power is good for an extra 52 hp under full throttle. Audi claims a 0-60 mph run for the hybrid to be 7.4 seconds. That’s .8 seconds faster than the 3.6 FSI and a full second ahead of the Q7 3.0 TDI.

Another benefit to the system’s parallel nature is the modularity of the design, meaning more flexibility on the number of models that can be fitted with such a setup. Considering what we know already based on the existence of a Q7 Hybrid and the Metroproject quattro Concept, along with the plans for launch in a Q5, one would assume Audi is close to having a hybrid drive system that could fit every model. This would include the transverse cars such as the A3, TT and upcoming A1, to the longitudinal offerings of A4, A6, A8 and Q7. Even the mid-engined R8 may not be much of a challenge to fit the hardware.

With the flexibility of this hybrid hardware combined with Audi’s core competency in diesel, one would think the natural conclusion would be for the company to produce a diesel hybrid model. In fact, Audi’s own 1996 Duo III Concept modeled just such a drivetrain.

Unfortunately, Audi executives say they aren’t considering a pairing of diesel and hybrid technologies any time soon. They point to the considerable cost of each of the two technologies that would make for a considerable premium in cost for such a model. Putting the two together in one vehicle would likely result in a diesel hybrid costing well more than their high performance equivalents.

Think of an A4 3.0 TDI Hybrid as likely to cost somewhere above the S4 and maybe closer to that of the RS 4. Granted, an augmented 3.0 TDI might not fall far from an S-car’s performance levels. Still, putting such a product into the market is most certainly a gamble and whether there is a wealthy clientele as willing to spend on being green as they are to go fast will determine if any product such as this would ever be built. For now, Audi says no, though we suspect demand by the public could most certainly help change those opinions internally. And, rival Mercedes-Benz might help cultivate that demand, having today debuted its own Bluetec Hybrid diesel concepts based on C and S-Class models and having divulged that the Stuttgart-based car company fully intended to put a diesel hybrid into production.

For now, Audis near-term hybrid plans are best envisioned by looking over this otherwise nondescript Q7. Without the graphics, the car would blend easily into traffic and motor luxuriously along with significantly better fuel economy – something we suspect green-savvy Californians would be more than happy to consider in their next car.
Source: fourtitude

Four-door Coupe by Porsche

Porsche PanameraPorsche Panamera

Take a look at what's set to be one of the most controversial cars of the decade - Porsche's long-awaited Panamera.

These renderings, commissioned for the Bulgarian edition of Top Gear magazine, give us the best idea yet of what the likely 'love it or hate it' coupe-like four-door will look like.

The last of the four pictures is Porsche's official sketch of the Panamera from a couple of years back, and you can see that, as expected, the production car will get taller and roomier on the inside while losing the caricatured low-slung profile.

Our best guess is that the Panamera will be officially unveiled at the Geneva show in 2009, becoming an obvious rival to the Maserati Quattroporte, Mercedes CLS and Aston's planned Rapide.

As you can see from the pics, the engine's up front and there's a large rear hatch with, we expect, a retractable spoiler. We know that the Panamera will be rear-wheel drive, but there's nothing official from Porsche yet on what'll be providing the power.

However, rumours suggest the Panamera will get three different engines, ranging from a 300bhp V6 to a twin-turbo V8 with more than 500bhp.

Porsche has hinted at the possibility of a hybrid model, but that'll likely arrive later than 2009, when the first Panameras are due to hit the market.

Source: topgear

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Porsche 911 GT2 Testdrive

Porsche 911 GT2Porsche 911 GT2

What is it?

The latest episode in Porsche’s turbo-nutter-911 saga: The Widowmaker, part III. Predictably, it follows part I (993 GT2: wonderful) and part II (996 GT2: not so wonderful). It also follows the same basic recipe as before –take a 911 Turbo, remove the front driveshafts and some kerbweight, then poke the motor until it produces some more shocking numbers. That means 523bhp, 501lb ft of torque, 0-100mph in 7.4sec (gulp) and 204mph.

What’s it like?

Silly fast. I was initially annoyed that Porsche had seen fit to leave the Turbo’s short gear ratios unchanged in a car with the potential for greater acceleration. Then I realised that the gearing was, in fact, longer; it’s just that the thing is so damn fast you seemingly have to change gear more often than in the Turbo.

Ignore the photos too: in the flesh and especially in the rear view mirror this car has presence to spare. The front and rear bumpers are new, the latter housing a titanium exhaust, and there are a couple of very 935-esque inlet snorkels hidden on the rear wing. There are all sorts of drag and aero claims, none of which I can verify other than to say that it doesn’t take off on unrestricted German autobahn at 180mph.

Anyone worried that Porsche has gone soft by fitting traction and stability control to this car either has testosterone issues or forgets that the 996 version had heaps of understeer applied to the chassis just to stop people falling off the road. Now the electronics can handle that particular job, the car handles far better.

The aim was to create a car that felt like a turbocharged GT3, and in most respects it does just that. The steering feels very similar (even if that wider rear track makes it respond differently) and the ride comfort on the soft damper setting is excellent.

Forced induction may bring about quite extraordinary speed – using fourth gear alone from 1200rpm to the limiter it feels quicker than a Carrera S being gunned in each gear – but also brings handling complications.

The immediacy of the GT3 is lacking. In that car, the way a driver can juggle throttle and steering to carve a line is almost telepathic, so instant are the car’s responses. But despite having virtually no turbo lag, the GT2 does have that slight hesitation: mid-corner you never take a second stab of throttle and you still have to anticipate slightly on the exit of turns.

However, this has always been the appeal of lumpy turbocharged kit, and when it all comes together, the GT2 is untouchable. The traction control is subtle, if not as clever as the 430 Scuderia’s. It is possible to have either full stability, traction control alone or the whole lot off. The last setting needs care and attention. It began to rain during my time in the car and then came a reminder that even a 325-section rear tyre (a record width for a 911, incidentally) has no answer for 501lb ft. And when it does slide, you need to be very, very quick with the steering wheel.

Other points worthy of a mention are the folding carbon buckets that allow access to the rear cabin. They’re excellent and should be available on cooking 911s soon. The ceramic brakes (380mm front, 350mm rear) are carried over from the GT3 and are superb on the road. The Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tyres are GT2-specific but will still shift standing water.

Should I buy one?

That depends. £131,070 is big beans for a 911, nearly £50k more than a GT3 and £30k beyond even the GT3 RS.

Committed lunatics will love this car, but for all the drama –and accepting that it’s far better than the 996 version – it doesn’t alter the fact that little brother the 911 GT3 remains the best car Porsche builds right now.
Source: autocar

Audi Q7 Review

Audi Q7

The Audi Q7 is a big car in many respects. As well as its physical size, it also has a big heart, which is about to get even bigger, but more of that later.

For now, the largest engine available is the 4.2 V8, which comes in both petrol (FSI) and diesel (TDI) versions. The TDI is a recent addition to the existing 3.0 TDI, 3.6 FSI V6 units and the 4.2 FSI.

The 4.2 TDI boasts twin turbochargers - one for each bank of cylinders- and two intercooler's, all helping to achieve a power output of 326PS at 3,750rpm and a massive amount of torque - 760Nm between 1,800- and 2,500rpm. It is this amazing pulling power that makes the Q7 such an exhilarating drive and gives the car the status of being the most powerful, diesel-engined SUV, that money can buy, according to Audi.

That will remain the case until the mighty but mad, 6.0-litre, V12 unit comes aboard. Developed from the V12 unit used in the Audi R10 TDI, which was the first diesel-powered car to win Le Mans. With these credentials, you would expect it to be something special and the crazy figures are testament to this - 500PS at 4,000rpm and an incomprehensible, 1,000Nm from 1,750- to 3,000rpm! The 0-62mph time for the V12 is just 5.5seconds and the top speed is limited to 155mph.

But that’s in the near future. For now the 4.2 TDI is top of the Q7 tree, with a sprint time of 6.4 seconds, which is faster than the Honda Civic Type R and the Ford Focus ST-500 and ridiculously quick for a car of this size, and the top speed is 146mph.

Where possible (and legal), this acceleration is best experienced on a motorway, where you can feel the torque taking hold. Around town, on the other hand, the Q7 has a tendency to feel lumpy and cumbersome and, at over 5 metres long and almost 2 metres wide, it is difficult to find a parking space that will accommodate its bulk. That said, when a space is found, the Q7 is reasonably easy to manoeuvrable.

All Q7s have adaptive air suspension as standard. This works in conjunction with an electronically-controlled, damping system. Under normal driving conditions, there are three different settings, selected via the Multi Media Interface (MMI). The ‘comfort’ setting is great for motorway driving but is far too soft for minor roads.
Source: carpages

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Opel Corsa GSi Photos

Opel Corsa GSiOpel Corsa GSiOpel Corsa GSiOpel Corsa GSiOpel Corsa GSi

Opel released a new set of photos of the new Opel Corsa GSi plus a more detailed press release. The Corsa GSi is powered by a less powerful version of 1.6 liter turbo engine which currently equip the Corsa OPC. SO, the GSi only has 150 hp (next to OPC’s 192 hp) and sprints from 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 8,1 sec and reaches a top speed of 210 km/h (131 mph).

The bodykit for the Opel Corsa GSi features a new front spoiler lip, rear apron lip and spoiler, side sills, chrome sport tailpipe and 17-inch alloy wheels. View the full gallery after the jump.
Source: autounleashed

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