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Friday, 29 June 2012

GREAT NEWS!!!!

GREAT NEWS!!
The New Dacia Duster is on sale in the UK Right Now!!

The basic one is only £8995 for a FWD 1.6 and the top spec one is only £14,995 for a 4WD 1.5 diesel.


You can also see it at the Goodwood Festival Of Speed.

Anyway...

Video - Always Hoon Responsibly

29/6/12, 0:40, 91 views (when posted)

I'll admit, being brought up on a balance of TopGear, Gran Turismo and Formula 1 hasn't really given me much love for American cars. The very competitive and aggressive-defensive American car fans on the internet that try force-feeding them to you don't help either, because they make you not want to like them. Nevertheless, the ones that stand out tend to be big V8 muscle cars. It's hard to ignore or resist that cartoon-character quality that a massive, stripy, shoutier-than-your-car Shelby GT500, Dodge Challenger SRT8 or Chevy Camaro SS has, and then you get the internationally-designed Ford GT40 and this, the Chevrolet Corvette. Be it a C5 or C6 generation, something about a Velocity Yellow-coloured Z06 does it for me, and this video of just such a car being shown a good time at Monaco's Grand Hotel Hairpin (to use its Formula 1 name) to explaining why.

Of course, while I like the childish appeal of a muscle car, some people are uptight enough that they just find them crass and vulgar, which to be fair is how I feel about most American cars, particularly the church-sized pickups and SUVs they have (after a point, a pickup's no longer big merely to suit a purpose), but I digress. The point is, the kind of people who turn their nose up at a muscle car are probably the kind of people who live in Monte Carlo, by the sea with a delicately-finessed Ferrari or Maserati, or "just" a Veyron. So I wonder what onlookers thought of this guy burning rubber like some ignorant hooligan tourist? Actually, some might just compare it to the other hooligans in AMGs and Koenigseggs...

Of course, technically, the Corvette is actually a sports car, but I wouldn't exactly buy one over a Porsche GT3 or a Nissan GT-R, whatever YouTubers vomit in defence about 'Ring times. I wouldn't mind one of these (or a blue C6 ZR1) for cocking about in though, like this guy is doing. It's like Homer Simpson: big, daft and bright f***ing yellow, and yet you just kind of love him for it. One thing should be made clear though - he didn't try drifting around the entire corner, he waited until the coast was clear and then slowed down afterwards (not that you have much choice about slowing down in those corners). In other words, he was hooning his very vocal 'Vette responsibly.

Weaving between lanes at high speed isn't cool. It's dumb. So is powersliding through traffic lights or street racing (unless you're 14, in which case it's awesome). This kind of thing is OK though, within reason, although any more than this and you'd better be on private property of some sort, ideally a track or car park. And so, with far more text than a 40-second video deserves, I leave you with three words: Always Hoon Responsibly.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Mazda Builds Its Last Rotary Engine... For Now?

Mazda rotary engine cutaway
While 99% of cars in recent years (leccy cars aside) have used reciprocating piston engines of some sort, the efficient-yet-inefficient rotary engine, devised in the 1920s by Felix Wankel, has powered NSUs, motorbikes, and, all the way up to yesterday, Mazda sports cars. The idea of converting pressure into rotating motion rather than reciprocating motion (i.e. pistons going up and down in a cylinder) creates a significantly higher power output per litre of displacement, so while a 1300cc piston engine in your little hatchback might make around 70bhp, the 1300cc "13B RENESIS" rotary engine in the RX-8 makes 230bhp. Because there's no huge force bouncing up and down repeatedly, it's also a much smoother engine than a piston unit, one that can rev higher and weighs a lot less, owing to its diminutive size. So what are the drawbacks? They are threefold. Not only do they not produce very much torque, but they suffer from two inherent flaws that the modern motoring world can no longer tolerate: poor fuel economy and emissions. As such, the RX-8 was killed off the the UK when the new Euro V emissions rules came in revently (the same rules that axed the 5-cylinder Ford Focuses and the FN2 Honda Civic Type-R), and has now reached its end globally due to a lack of sales. Thus, it seems somewhat doubtful that we will see them again as regular engines in regular cars. After 45 years of proudly standing by their clever and unusual engines, the Mazda rotary is dead...... right?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Just Before It All Went Wrong

16/6/12, 1:47, 35911 views (when posted)

So the Le Mans 24 Hours was last weekend. Toyota took the fight to Audi in a way no-one truly expected, even taking the lead of the race on-track, as this video shows.

Unfortunately, you know what happens next. If not, well, there's a video of it in my blow-by-blow report of the race. The video I originally used has been removed, so I found another copy of it in about ten seconds and used that one instead. The very next camera shot after the one at the end of this video is Toyota #8 deeply embedded in the tyre wall next to an upside-down Ferrari 458 Italia.

This triggered a Safety Car period in which Kazuki Nakajima hopped into Toyota #7 and later side-swiped the DeltaWing during the restart, taking the revolutionary SR71-style car out of the race and setting off a chain reaction in his own car as well, starting with a puncture and rear bodywork damage and eventually ending in terminal engine failure. Always check for signs of internal bleeding.

So one thing we can draw from this race is that Toyota could've won it on their first try, had they finished. The other thing we can draw from this and last year's race is that red GTE-spec Ferrari 458 Italias must never be fucked with. Allan McNish's huge crash in 2011? A red 458 he didn't see. Mike Rockenfeller's 200mph crash in 2011? A red 458 not moving over. Anthony Davidson? A red 458 turning in on him. Allan McNish spearing off into the walls at the Porsche Curves this year? Oh yes, he came across a red 458 mid-corner and overreacted. Man, they should really ban those things......

Aston Martin AM310 Vanquish Revealed Officially

Brown is the new Tungsten Grey
Scroll down the main page past the monowheel and you'll find revealing spy shots of Aston Martin's DBS replacement, the new Vanquish II. Actually, don't do that, because you can just look at official images of AM's new flagship - officially called the AM310 Vanquish - right here. Sadly the carbon fibre front splitter still looks tacky, and its bum still looks a little big, but to call it ugly as a result would be like calling Scarlett Johansson ugly because of a dodgy haircut. Hell, it can even pull off tan brown for crying out loud!

Curves good enough to grab
Overall the styling is sort of same-but-different-and-more, which pretty much describes the whole car. It sits on the VH platform that underpins every Aston Martin since the DB9 (except the One-77) and uses pretty much the same 6.0 V12 that has sat in every Aston Martin since the Vanquish (except for the V8 Vantage, obviously), now "heavily revised" and thus producing 565bhp and 457lb/ft of torque, 55 more than the DBS or the old Vanquish S. Weirdly though, once the updated and uprated six-speed Touchtronic 2 puts that grunt to the tarmac through 20" wheels, its straight-line performance is no better than those two cars. 0-60mph takes 4.1 seconds - 0.3s slower than the Volvo I mentioned yesterday and matching the DBS - and the top speed is a "mere" 183mph. The DBS could do 191 and the Vanquish S matched the Ferrari F40 at 201mph. Maybe top speed's just no longer a priority?

As the internet says, DAT ASS. The new tail lights are essentially One-77 tail lights that don't join up. New spoiler's proving controversial
Of course, when you're actually driving a V12 Aston Martin and not rambling about it on a blog, top speed is of very little importance. A 12-pot Aston is an unparalleled Grand Tourer (GT), designed to go fast over a long distance without giving you a cheesy bum or a sore back, even if you drive 1000 miles. Since the DB9, this has been teamed with sweet handling and steering, according to luckier folk than I. Of course, it must also sound spectacular to qualify as a "proper Aston". I suspect with a modded version of the existing V12, this will. It also has more low-end torque for added usability at lower revs/speeds.

Inside is also the same, but different, but better, once again taking inspiration from the One-77
Not wanting to sell more Cygnets than they have to, Aston Martin have also addressed the fuel economy and emissions of the trusty old V12. After making it lighter didn't work - despite lightening the front chassis and using bonded aluminium and carbon fibre in new and I'm sure very exciting ways, it actually weighs 44kg more than the DBS, although with a 50:50 distribution - they used the "Aero Duct" on the bootlid to reduce lift and some engine witchcraft. It also has a much bigger boot, at 368L (60% bigger than a DBS's piddly little luggage hole), which is nice for when you're going on holiday, taking Bond villains hostage or transporting your Premiership team mates' footballs to the training ground. The cost of all this improvement is a mere £189,995, which will most likely stretch over £200k once you're ordered to have your initials embossed in the headrests and the leather colour-matched to your trophy wife's skin. On that note, the new car also 25% stiffer than before.

But should you buy one over a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta? That can't be out-accelerated by a tweaked Volvo, you know. It also has nearly 200 more horsepowers, which is important if you're Jeremy Clarkson. Alas, it is also uglier, far more expensive and less practical. You could consider an FF instead, but that's even uglier and just as expensive as the F12. Both will inevitably have a harsher ride than this - even if it has been tested at the Nürburgring - and neither have quite the same broad appeal as a V12 Aston Martin. Some poseur can blast past in their Fezza, sure, but I ask you, is that really cool? Fun to do and cool are two different things. For instance, playing Pokémon is fun... but it doesn't make you as cool as the guy sipping Martinis in a tuxedo.

Full press release here: Netcarshow.com

UPDATE - Don't like brown? Why not choose orange? Configure the outside of you next imaginary Vanquish here!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Volvo Polestar S60 Sets Us Up For Disappointment

Polestar S60 Concept
So a couple of years ago, Polestar, Volvo's in-house tuning and racing company who builds the C30-based STCC entrant, made an odd-looking but otherwise unspectacular C30 into a 400bhp, All-Wheel-Drive super hatch and then said that Volvo weren't going to build it. Everyone got all excited at just how awesome the blue bombshell was, and how great a car it was, before being disappointed that it would never be produced. Well now, they've made a new car, the Polestar S60 (based, as it happens, on the odd-looking but otherwise unspectacular Volvo S60). I would like to think that this time, buoyed by how well received their C30 was, they would consider at least limited production to take on established performance saloons. Alas, they've said that the car you see here is a one-off made "for a special client", so I'm not even going to hope for it. You can if you want though. I might be wrong.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Video Sunday - The Greatest Stunt..... In The World

16/6/12, 1:56, 46942 views (when posted)

We've seen the AMC in The Man With The Golden Gun doing a barrel roll. We've - well, a couple of dozen people have - seen Fifth Gear do a loop-the-loop in a Fiat 500. But answer me this: have you ever seen a car do TWO loop-the-loops? I bet you haven't, unless you've already hit play and seen TopGear Live doing Exactly That at a show in Durban, South Africa yesterday instead of watching Le Mans. I think that's probably a good enough excuse.

The only question is, how are they going to top it? By using a Reliant Robin instead of what appears to be a Rage buggy? By doing two loop-the-loops at the same time somehow? Or backwards? Or by using loops that are literally On Fire? Who knows. We don't know. All we know is, this is the greatest TopGear stunt...... In The World. Probably.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

2012 Le Mans 24 Hours (Updated Periodically)

Full spotter's guide. Click to embiggen (open in another tab for 4000px).
So it's here again, and this time it doesn't coincide with Formula 1. The Le Mans 24 Hours is being run for the 80th time, and without Peugeot, it's down to Toyota and their updated TS030 hybrid (pictured below) to take down the dominant Audi team in their first LM24 since 1999. Meanwhile, the much-lauded DeltaWing-Nissan is running outside of the rules - and therefore won't be classified in any classes - to showcase a completely different way of making a racing car, featuring a 300bhp 1.6 turbo engine derived from that of a Nissan Juke and a much lower weight than the other competitors, as well as a distinctive Batmobile-esque body that's extremely narrow at the front before growing outwards at the rear (Fun Fact: The body is so aerodynamic that when ACO made them add fixed mirrors instead of cameras, it made an 8% difference to aero performance!). The name "DeltaWing" is derived from the shape, used to mean aeroplanes with triangular wings, like a Vulcan bomber or Concorde. It's certainly an intriguing proposition that qualified level with mid-running LMP2 cars, so how will it get on? Let's find out...

Friday, 15 June 2012

OMFG MONOWHEEL!!

1910 Edison-Puton Monowheel
The Cholmondoley Pageant of Power (pronounced the Chumley Pajent of POWARR) is where all things weird, wonderful and indeed powerful meetup in The North to smoke brown ale using mahogany pipes specially attached to beards using vintage-grade motor oil. Remember the Brutus that raced a pre-war Bentley on TopGear last series? Yeah, cars like that. Why doesn't it get more coverage again?

At any rate, making an appearance at the Pageant this weekend is the... vehicle you see here. It's the 1910 Edison-Puton Monowheel, featuring a motorcycle frame and a 150cc De Dion engine inside a giant wheel. It looks a little awkward to drive, what with there being a huge wheel hub in your way the entire time, and as it has to be "transported" from the Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim, Germany, chances are it either doesn't run any more or is too delicate to just fire up when you feel like it. Gyroscopic balancers stop you mimicking a tired-out hamster in a fast-moving wheel and subsequently turn this from elaborate killing machine into wonderfully odd-looking solution to personal mobility.

As you can see in this picture of it at the museum being piloted by a philosophical-looking youth wearing far too much make-up, the wheel is in fact made of wood, with a very narrow band of rubber for touching the road sitting on a raised ring of wood. That means no suspension travel at all, in a vehicle that's basically a giant wheel with steel tubes and a hard saddle for you to sit on. Comfort must not have been a word in 1910 Paris's vocabulary. It works by the engine directly propelling the outer loop (i.e. the wooden bit), and it stays upright using the same principle as a bicycle. Anchored by the engine and driver, the faster you go, the more stable it is. Alas, slowing and turning are not so pleasant, as it obviously gets harder to use as you slow down and doesn't have a steering wheel, so to speak.

As such, it makes far more sense in several ways to have two small wheels, so the monowheel is merely an attention-grabber, and an awesome one at that. I still have hope that they'll catch on, though. Otherwise, why would General Grievous have one in the future? Because he's a hipster who hates hover bikes? Now you're just being silly...

There's really not much more to say about it, but I just want you to know that it exists. Because it's awesome. Also, if you look, all the mechanisms for making a monowheel move are in the lower third of the wheel. Maybe if someone scaled the whole thing down, we could have ring-like "hubless wheels" like you get on cars in sci-fi movies? That would be pretty cool. In fact, I'm going to design it myself and make squillions of monies selling it to car companies, like SAAB, for instance, who are saved yet again.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Aston Martin's "New Vanquish" Spied (UPDATED)

Twelve seconds of porn.

Aston Martin has been rehashing the DB9 for long enough now. The DBS from Casino Royale is essentially a Need-For-Speed DB9. The AM Rapide concept was essentially a DB9 with four doors and a chess board in the boot, and the Rapide production car that followed was only set apart by being longer and having different headlights. AM then put those headlights and a new front bumper on a lightly tuned DB9 to make the new Virage. The smaller AMV8 was mainly different in its proportions (oh, and having four fewer cylinders), having basically the same interior as all the above cars. Well it's time to move on. Except that that must be difficult. How on Earth do you follow the DB9? It essentially looks (and sounds) perfect.

Well, start with the 2004 shape and modernise it. That's what they did when they came to Concourso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este - which in plain English is the poshest motor show in the world - with the One-77 two years ago, and now again with the AM310, which looks (and sounds) like this:

27/5/12, 3:41, 283834 views (when posted)

So they've added a lot more styling to it. This is dangerous, and sure enough the wavy front splitter that makes the AM310 looks like it's carrying Pringles in its mouth is not to my liking. In bright red with those wheels it looks slightly overdone. However, in the video up top, where it's a much more elegant colour and features skinnier spokes and a toned-down splitter, it looks a lot better. Below are some spy photos of what will apparently be a new Vanquish to replace the DBS.


As you can see, the Rapide/Virage headlights remain, as does the overall profile, but the waistline is now clearly defined by a flowing crease, a bit like on the Audi A5 or, more relevantly, the One-77. You can see the beginnings of the front splitter and where they've covered off the edges of the grille and windows, as they are slightly different from before. They didn't cover up the lower and taller side vent though, or the new wheels (although actually that would probably be impractical).


This side crease joins up with a very Lotus-Evora-like rear spoiler, now pointed up at a sharper angle for downforce, and a curvaceous derrière. Silver duct tape covers up the new full-width hole running underneath said spoiler. The tail lights are a more sophisticated shape, but are still a stretched half-oval of LEDs. They don't stretch as far towards the centre as they did previously, which makes it look a little wider. So yes, darling, your bottom does look a little big in these tail lights.


Little is known at this point about the mechanicals of the Vanquish, but expect it to be based on the DB9 to some degree. Mercifully, it still has a V12. What we do know is that it's being tested at......
...The Nürburgring!
James May will not be best pleased about this...

UPDATE: More recent spy shots of it at the 'Ring see it swap silver for gold. Gaudy. The splitter will become black of carbon fibre, but will probably still look overdone. WCF say it'll be on an updated version of the current platform with a 6-litre V12 making 550bhp and an 8-speed ZF auto.

Anglo-French Relations

Renaultsport Clio 182 Trophy
So Euro 2012 has gripped the televisions of homes and pubs alike. England drew 1-1 with France recently, so as a deliberately coincidental post, I've decided to do a short profile on a car that shows how England and France are level in another way: our love of hot hatches. You see, they love making them (205 GTi, Renault 5 Turbo, AX GT, DS3 Racing, Clio 200, Megane 250, 306 GTi-6, etc.) and we in Britain love buying them. In fact, in 2005, the UK was buying 50% of all Renaultsport products, and so the makers of arguably the greatest hot hatches of modern times rewarded us with a UK-only special limited edition of the Clio 182: the Trophy. Like a Cup, but more expensive, shinier and better.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

KERS & DRS - What They Are & What They're For

11/6/12, 10:48, 21617 views (when posted)

The above video is double world champ Sebastian Vettel on an American talk show hosted by an old bloke trying desperately to be funny. That's not the interesting bit of this article by any means, but in the interview - which includes an F-bomb and the mentioning of "balls" - David Letterman asks him several times at once to explain Formula 1's KERS and DRS gadgets, and makes it needlessly complicated. So, just in case you're new to the sport and/or haven't quite worked it out yet, I'm going to explain it in a way that hopefully is not complicated, because really, they're not that hard to explain. You just have to be given half a chance before some shouty pensioner butts in yet again...

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Post 201 - Ferrari F40

Ferrari F40
Why is post #201 about the Ferrari F40? Because 1) It goes 201mph, 2) it's awesome, and 3) if you somehow haven't heard of it or don't know all about it, you desperately need educating. The last road car that Enzo Ferrari was alive to see, one of only two turbocharged Ferrari road cars ever (to reflect the Formula 1 engines of the time - maybe there'll be a turbo Ferrari after 2014?) and the first road car ever to break the fabled 200mph barrier, the Ferrari F40 is a landmark in supercar history, still considered by some to be the greatest supercar ever made. That should be reason enough, I reckon.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

200th Post - Real Road Test: Fiat Grande Punto 1.2 Active

Indeed.
Amazingly, due to a six-month spike in productivity (compared to last year at least), I'm already up to my 200th blog post. That seems like a lot. All that typing, all those Google image search results that get me most of my hits (now over 30,000), the occasional pat on the back, it's great, but really I'm just enjoying having my own place to vent, report and generally say what I want without having to wait for an opportunity to say it in some comments section and get abuse from ignorant morons. I felt like doing something special or different for this one, so instead of rambling on about whatever, I'm going to road test my own car. Here goes!

[By the way, there's a search bar now, to your right. Hopefully you'll find it pretty useful]

Monday, 4 June 2012

Formula 1 - Monaco Grand Prix 2012

Circuit de Monaco
See this map? It should be engrained in your mind as a car/motorsport fan. Despite being too narrow to feature a great deal of overtaking, it is one of the world's great racing circuits. Situated in the most glamorous setting there is, the incredibly tight Monaco Grand Prix track features 19 turns in 2.075 miles, some of which - the Harbour Chicane, Grand Hotel/Loews Hairpin, the tunnel section - are among the coolest and most iconic pieces of road in F1's history. A modern F1 car takes around 1:14 to get around this short-but-relentless lap in Qualifying, the driver only travelling in a straight line for 10 seconds a lap (even the start/finish straight isn't straight) and needing absolute concentration from the braking zone of turn 1 to the exit of turn 19 if they want to get a good lap and not crash into the tall, close barriers that line the entire circuit. The only run-off areas are escape roads at turns 1, 5 and 10, as well as the insides of the two chicanes in the Swimming Pool Section (T13-16), so get it wrong anywhere else and you're on your own... until a swarm of cars turn up behind you angered that you blew their lap. It's tough, it's challenging and it's dangerous. No wonder the drivers love it so enthusiastically. It's part of motorsport's highly-prestigious "Triple Crown", along with Le Mans and the Indy 500 (the latter of which takes place on the same day).

Personally, I just love that Formula 1 still races here. If it wasn't on the calendar and you tried to get it there, they'd say "no, don't be silly, it's far too tight and dangerous", but we've had 70 runnings of the Monaco Grand Prix (including this one) because of how iconic it is, and of course because of how rich the principality of Monte Carlo is, and the subsequent business opportunities that arise there. The world's most expensive sport in (formerly, at least) the world's richest place is a showcase of why money is worth having. But enough of all that. There's a race to talk about. Chiefly, will we get an unprecedented six different winners in the first six races?