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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Gran Turismo 6 Review

Red Bull X2014 Junior (with a VERY LOUD 2.0 flat-four and no downforce fan)
My right foot is pegged as I climb one of the many hills between me and the finish line. Thankfully I tackled it at the right speed for a safe landing, but I realise mid-flight that there's a problem with my choice of direction: there's a smaller but steeper lump just ahead that I can't avoid, what with a lack of air rudders and all. I hit it and start a slow-motion backflip. My driver's-eye view spins upwards, and as I glance at planet Earth, gliding across the starry sky, I think to myself "well, shit. That's not gone well..." as I land upside down, reset automagically, then pause and restart my Lunar Mission. Again.

Welcome to Gran Turismo 6.

Michael Schumacher Is Currently Winning His Toughest Race Of All

Apparently Caterham do kit watches now...
Most children have at least two heroes. One is their dad. The other is often a celebrity. You don't choose your heroes with any particularly good reasoning at that age, though. As I grew up watching Formula 1 in the late 1990s and through the 2000s, I picked Michael Schumacher for the perfectly reasonable reason that he has the same first name as me. I liked Michael Jordan and Michael Owen for the same reason back then, but Schumi topped them by also driving a Ferrari F1 car, usually very, very quickly indeed. He was no saint though - I remember him serving a Drive-Through Penalty on the last lap of the British Grand Prix one year, crossing the line first as he cruised through the pit lane. Plus he's tried more than once to win championships using... "physical persuasion" on track, succeeding against Damon Hill in 1994 and failing against Jacques Villeneuve in 1997. But ultimately, he is the most decorated F1 driver in history for a reason, and that reason is that he is also one of history's greatest F1 drivers. Undeniable speed behind the wheel, ruthless determination at all times and an uncanny ability to be in the fastest car gave Vettel Schumacher a grand total of seven World Driver's Championships, ninety one Grand Prix victories and more points than an internet forum could make in a 100-year religious debate. All told, he holds a staggering twenty-nine records, and as former rival David Coulthard said in his moving article in The Telegraph yesterday, his three-year return from 2010-12 at Mercedes GP - while unsuccessful by his standards - showed us his more approachable, more human side.

But now, as you may have gathered, the 44-year-old father of two is in the most challenging race he's ever faced: the race for his life.

Two days ago, "Schumi" was skiing with his son on the Dent de Burgin near Méribel in the French Alps, when, after helping a fallen friend, his skis hit a hidden rock that somersaulted him through the air until he landed head-first on a second rock, hard enough to break his helmet in two. It has emerged that while he seemed OK initially, doctors discovered he has actually sustained bilateral lesions in his brain, and so he was put into an artificial coma the following day. Since then, he has had two operations to relieve some of the pressure in his brain and is improving, but he remains comatose and is not out of danger yet by any means. For a more knowledgeable explanation of his condition and what it means, you need to read Former F1 Doc's blog (here).

All I can really say at this point is that, like millions of others worldwide, I wish that he recovers fully and my thoughts are with him, his doctors and his family at this difficult time. It's time for him to show that relentless strength that's defined his life thus far as he races against forces far greater than what a V10 F1 car could ever generate. So far he seems to be winning, but it's not over yet.

Get well soon, Michael. You can do it.

2013 - A Year In Engine Sounds


A Porsche Carrera GT at Spa (not crashing). One of three Lamborghini Venenos. A straight-piped Enzo. LaFerrari prototypes at Fiorano (and the finished car at Mugello). About a dozen Lamborghinis. These are just some of the things that YouTube car pornographer Marchettino has filmed in 2013. So if you're an avid listener of Cylinder Symphonies, put your best headphones in and enjoy a 9-minute compilation of all that is good from the three great motoring continents, from GT3 to FXX. And some other acronyms.

Friday, 27 December 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAHANUKKWANZA


Don't worry, I still exist. I will be posting stuff as soon as I can tear myself away from Gran Turismo 6 for long enough. Also, as you can see to the right, this blog has reached 100,000 hits! I'm a bit of a numbers man, so I like that very much. Thank you for clicking! Enjoy whichever holiday you're celebrating, and have a happy new year.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Ferrari's 2014 LaF1 Mule Lets Us Listen To The Future Properly

Uploaded today, 1:48

Last Sunday, the 2.4-litre V8 Formula 1 engines screamed to 18000rpm for the last time ever (outside of appearances at Goodwood and such like). But what will next year sound like? Well, Renault, Mercedes-Benz and Honda - joining the fray in 2015 with McLaren - have given us soundbites already, but those are recordings of dyno runs, so aren't truly representative of the real V6 Turbo engine sounds we'll hear in 2014... however, this video could give us a much better idea.

Here we see a LaFerrari test mule at Pista di Fiorano, Ferrari's test track. LaFerrari's normal powerplant consists of a 6.3L V12 revving past 9000rpm, and a hybrid system similar to F1's KERS. But this is no normal powerplant. It's louder, rawer and full of whistles and whooshes from what must be a substantial turbocharger. Yes, Ferrari are making V6 Twin-Turbo engines for Maserati these days, but there's no way an engine that sounds like this and requires the hybrid hypercar to be fitted with a large central air snorkel is destined for a production car. It must surely be the Formula 1 V6, revving low much of the time but giving us brief moments where it sounds close to its 15000rpm limit. Reminiscent of the 1980s turbo cars, I think it sounds great, with six-cylinder harmonics and turbo whizz-bangery that keeps my ears interested.

Honda To Enter An Estate In 2014 BTCC

2014 Honda Civic Tourer BTCC (image from the factory teams' Twitter)
The climax of the 2013 British Touring Car Championship was a real nail-biter, and in the end it was won by independent driver Andrew Jordan in a Honda Civic. In 2011 and 2012, the series was also won by Honda Civics, driven by Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden respectively for the officially-backed Honda Yuasa Racing team. So, I can say with relative confidence that the 2014 BTCC will be won by...... an estate car.

Oh yes! Honda's entry next year will officially be a 300bhp Civic Tourer, only the second family wagon to enter the series after Tom Walkinshaw Racing prepared a pair of Volvo 850 T5s in 1994, which you can see getting caught up in this crash:



It also appears in this video I found, but only very briefly. I'm only really posting this one because it's fun:


Anyway, there's not really much else to say about the Civic Tourer BTCC, other than obvious things like pointing out that next year it will have been 20 years since 1994 and that the 2014 Civic BTCC is based on the newly-launched Honda Civic Tourer and is otherwise the same as a normal Civic, but with more rear overhang. Whether that extra metal out back affects the weight balance significantly, I don't know. The aerodynamics might be slightly different, too. Power will come from the same 2.0 Turbo engine, built by a bloke called Neil Brown, whom is apparently an engineering company in his spare time. Most importantly, though, having more rear end gives vengeful drivers more car to hit, which might keep Neal and Shedden on their toes...

We'll find out during the last weekend of March next year, when the season kicks off at Brands Hatch, a track you can experience in your room at home thanks to Gran Turismo 6.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

NISMO GT-R Unveiled Properly, Including 'Ring Lap Video

Uploaded today, 8:46 long, "301+ views"

Yesterday came the news that the Nissan GT-R NISMO had leaked out ahead of its official reveal at the Tokyo Motor Show today. Now that it's out properly, here's some more about it.

But first, let FIA GT1 racer Michael Krumm talk you through his lap around the Nordschleife, which only took 7:08.679, a new lap record for volume production cars (the Porsche 918 Spyder is a limited-run car, so that's a different record).

The first thing to clear up from yesterday's post is that there's no mention of any "track pack" version, so that appears to be misinformation from Car & Driver, or maybe an 'RS' version all of its own that'll come along later. That means that the car setting this time is the only version of the GT-R NISMO.

That means it's packing a 3.8L V6 Twin-Turbo producing 600PS (591bhp) and 481lb/ft, which is sent through the usual 6-speed DCT to all four wheels via Nissan's ATTESA-ETS all-wheel-drive system and is propelling a car 65kg lighter than usual (still a rather chubby 1675kg, though). No straight-line performance figures have been revealed yet, but rumours suggest a scarcely-believable 0-60mph time of 2.0 seconds. This is in part down to the uprated engine, which gains 50bhp and 17lb/ft thanks to getting the GT3 racing car's turbochargers and modified ignition, intake and exhaust systems, but it's also down to the bespoke Dunlop tyres, which are very sticky and wrapped tightly around 20" RAYS wheels with a design inspired by the SUPER GT GT500 racing car that's won three championships in six seasons (not the greatest run of victories in the GT-R's history, but still pretty good considering how competitive SUPER GT is). The front wheels on the NISMO road car are half an inch wider than the standard GT-R for more front-end grip, while the bold new aero kit generates 100kg more downforce at 300km/h (186mph) than the standard car. Not that that's a very useful figure most of the time. The suspension has also been upgraded and tuned to achieve "stunning agility, road-holding and handling finesse, without compromising refinement." To that end, the springs and bespoke Bilstein DampTronic dampers being specially tuned to "maximize grip and progressive handling response at the limit." There's also a 17.3mm hollow rear anti-roll bar. Good. The suspension has three modes: Comfort, Normal and R. Because R-Mode makes the car very stiff, Nissan recommends you only use it on the track. These changes all add up to make the NISMO a full 30 seconds quicker around the Green Hell than the original R35-generation GT-R when it debuted in 2007.

Making the foot rest look like a clutch pedal is a dirty trick...
The interior is also more serious. Apparently it retains the back seats, so even though this is a hardcore car, you can still take the kids to school in it. I bet that'll be fun! Up front you get carbon-backed Recaro seats which recline, should you be that way inclined. There's also extra alcantara trim and some red bits, as you'd expect in a car like this.

Supposedly the GT-R NISMO will cost less than $200,000 or £125,000 when it arrives in the western world a few months after its domestic release in February 2014. So if you're desperate to have one, you'll have to shorten the wait by getting a JDM one, yo.

Until then, have some pictures. Unfortunately there are none of the new Dark Matte Grey paint exclusive to the NISMO, but hey ho.

Plenty of vents on here now, some of which are trimmed in unpainted carbon fibre to make a point
The entire rear bumper has been re-profiled to improve air flow along and off it. Also note the titanium exhaust system
Here lurks 600 metric horsepower
The usual (enormous) brakes are enough to deal with the extra power, as the NISMO is 65kg lighter.
Even the little silver GT-R logo thing on the side has been reprofiled, made a tiny bit tinier to save, oh, about 30g
The headlights have been redesigned - or rather the light cluster arrangement - as has the front bumper, particularly at the corners
Interestingly, the driver's seat has a lump between the occupant's thighs, whereas the passenger seat doesn't. I wonder why?
This is what handling looks like. Sort of
Rev counter is trimmed in red, because red is SPORTY.
For the press release and a handful of wallpapers, clicketh hither. I can't wait for this to be added to Gran Turismo 6!

BMW MINI Will Probably Never Make The One Car They Should

Three BMWs and a Mini.
My favourite comment about this image is that "it looks like someone keeps pulling back the loose skin on a dog's face."
Yes, I know the whole "Oh the new Mini is too big" moan has been moaned millions of times. No, I don't care if you're jaded by it. I have cause to moan about it again. Deal with it.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Lock Up Your 911s - Nissan GT-R NISMO Leaks Out Early

2014 Nissan GT-R NISMO
Well, we knew it was coming. It was announced last year that there would eventually be a pumped-up, hardcore version of the ballistic Nissan GT-R. It's been caught testing on - where else? - the Nürburgring, going pretty bloody fast, and now, ahead of its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show this week, pictures and details of the halo model of the newly-expanded NISMO operation have sneaked between the cracks. Welcome to the ultimate GT-R.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Gran Turismo 6 Will Be Out Of This World


I've already done a preview for the Playstation 3's last hurrah, Gran Turismo 6, which is definitely being posted to my house on 6th December this year. But since that post, there has been another video and a healthy chunk of new information. So here's GT6 Preview Part II!

Usually in the lead up to a new Gran Turismo, there will be one video they release that will get me truly excited about the game and wish I could just skip a month of the year out entirely to shorten the wait. That's why I'm glad they've done six teaser trailers - or Concept Movies as they've latterly become known - and it's this final one that's really done it. It made me genuinely and deeply happy and excited in a way I rarely experience. Maybe the fact that Gran Turismo has been a part of 15 of my 21 years means that it takes me back to a happier time in my life. Maybe it's the way the animation makes the cars seem dynamic, exciting and characterful in a particular way that only Gran Turismo does. Maybe it's the rousing (if otherwise generic) rock music, or even just that little snippet at the end which also gave me the title for this post. Maybe it's all of those things. Or none. Or some of them. One thing it definitely was the first time I watched it was the cars themselves. It's just one "OMG!" moment after another! Classic Ferraris, rare concepts from history, exciting new cars for all kinds of car fan (from Audi R18 to Tesla Model S), straight-up car porn like the Aston Martin One-77 and Pagani Huayra, or car nerd magnets like the Ueno Clinic-sponsored McLaren F1 GTR '95, i.e. the car that won the 1995 Le Mans 24 Hours and the last GT-class car to win outright, possibly ever. Or the Audi Quattro Group B. Or Monster Tajima's electric Pikes Peak Hillclimb car (his 2011 car that got the first ever sub-10:00 time on the mountain is also included). And then to finish... THE FREAKIN' MOON BUGGY!! My mind was in smithereens!

Anyway, as well as the Concept Videos, there has been a burst of new information regarding content, so settle down and prepare yourself, because some of it's pretty epic.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Chris Harris Is Allowed To Drive Ferraris Again. This Is A Good Thing

Just a heads-up: this isn't the video. You can find that further down.
About two years ago, Chris Harris wrote a post on Jalopnik which was all about "how Ferrari spins". He pointed out that unlike even its fierce rivals, Ferrari makes sure that their cars get a golden review by the motoring press, not just by being really good at making supercars and sports GTs, but by... "optimising" the press cars for whatever test it was about to undergo. This included tuning engines, fitting stickier tyres (one test of an F430 Scuderia saw the car go on a rolling road, during which the tyres stuck themselves to the rollers!) and finding out which track was to be used so they could meticulously set the car up for it in advance. This has caused me to take reviews of Ferraris with a pinch of salt ever since, including this one I'm posting now. I believe most of it, but there are one or two points where the superlatives seem... empty somehow.

But what is "[drift] Monkey" Harris doing in a Ferrari press car on film? Well, it seems that time heals all wounds. Mind you, it might have helped him get off Ferrari's shitlist when he borrowed the 458 Spider press car off Jeremy Clarkson for this million-view drift fest...


...got the chance to drive an F40 and an F50 back to back and was turned into a 6-year-old by the experience (no bad thing)...


...and then collaborated with a musical friend on this very '80s tribute to a (1992) 512 Testarossa, which he owns and openly loves...


...oh yeah, and before he got the 512TR, he had a 599 GTB Fiorano for just under a year, and generally spoke highly of it. This is reassuring as Ferrari can't tweak customer cars in advance, something pointed out in that Jalopnik post.


But enough posting of other videos now. Whether these videos helped or not, Harris and Ferrari are nevertheless on speaking terms now, and that has lead to him being at the beautiful Anglesey Circuit in northernmost Wales standing in front of the mind-blowing F12berlinetta provided by Ferrari, and four sets of spare wheels and tyres. If you've watched the videos above, you know what's about to happen to them:

23/10/13, 13:48, 325388 views (when posted)

Clicked play yet? I'll wait.

OK, was that awesome or was that awesome? The dual-view full lap of fully sideways Fezza action was quite something to behold, if you ask me. I've also come to like the sound of that engine - which I used to think sounded a bit synthetic - much more, and in the year or so since it appeared, the looks have grown on me too. At the end of the day, a V12 Ferrari should be challenging in some way. In fact, no product from a company as... Italian as Ferrari should bend over for its laziest customers, and some of the things mentioned in this video reassure me that this is indeed a proper V12 Ferrari. Stuff like the interior layout and the very quick steering mean that it's the who has to adapt to the car. It forces you to engage with it. That's not to say the car refuses to adapt to you - there are multiple driver aid modes on the 'Manettino' switch and magnetorheological dampers to deal with bumpy roads - but instead of politely asking "What would you like me to do for you?" it's more like "Here I am, this is what I am, this is what I do, what are you going to do about it?"

A V12 Ferrari should be like that. It's a little bit fussy and demanding. You have to take time to acclimatise to the interior button layout that looks like they sneezed onto a picture of a steering wheel to decide where they all go, and then adapt the way you steer to match the very quick steering rack. It's the same sort of thing as an old 250GT Lusso requiring you to wait for a minute or so  the carburettors to prime after you've turned on the ignition before you can actually start the engine. This kind of mentality defines Ferrari, and admittedly it's also what's led to the whole How Ferrari Spins issue, because their Enzo-like ways can make them hard to like sometimes, whether it's the road cars and their contrived reviews or the race team and their rule-bending and/or hypocritical moaning about other teams' rule-bending. But it seems like when you get the opportunity to see past that and just drive their cars, none of that clouds your mind and you just revel in the fact that you're driving a Ferrari, something every single car enthusiast wants to do, or has wanted to do at some point in their lives. That's because there's nothing quite like a Ferrari.

I hope you enjoyed these videos.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Rental Car Road Test: Citroën DS3 1.6 e-HDI 115 Airdream DSport

No, your BMW "MINI" does not look as cool as this...
The 10th of October was a good day. Just like last year, the Uni's karting team is running an event each term for students, and the first one was a fortnight ago, once again at the Llandow Circuit, which is near Llandow in South Wales. Because none of us dare keep our cars in Swansea, we decided it would be best to rent something, like I did myself last year when I got a Vauxhall Corsa. This time, we got something much cooler, and I was driving again. So here's a 100-mile road test! I'll do it in the current Jalopnik Reviews format, because I can and there's nothing you can do to stop me.

(Disclaimer: Avis in Swansea wanted me to drive the Citroën DS3 so badly they labelled it as a THP 155 - which is the fastest and most powerful version - even though it's a diesel and THP means petrol engine in Citroënese. Actually though, I didn't get a choice of car because that was the only supermini they had at 9am. We didn't tell them they were lying about which engine it had. I bought MAOAMs and thought I'd left them in the car by accident, only to find them later.)

Caterham Seven 160 Is A-O-Kei

Caterham Seven 160 (and my current wallpaper)
In the post below this one, you will find a new small, lightweight, rear-wheel-drive roadster powered by a Japanese 660cc turbocharged three-cylinder engine that probably won't cost very much. So, to mix things up a bit, here's a new small, lightweight, rear-wheel-drive roadster powered by a Japanese 660cc turbocharged three-cylinder engine that, would you believe it, doesn't cost very much. But this one's even cooler, because it's a Caterham.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Honda S660 Set To Get Tokyo Dancing To A New Beat

Honda S660 Concept
Having failed to provide you coverage of the Frankfurt Motor Show due to being busy (and a little disorganised), let's look forward to the Tokyo Motor Show a month from now. This is obviously where Japanese car companies, still among the world's biggest, get to flex their robot muscles and show us what they're up to. It turns out, Honda's up to something very cool indeed. This is the S660 Concept, a near-production preview of a new small roadster that fits within Japanese "kei car" regulations.

You may not think of Honda as being a company strongly associated with sports cars and small roadsters - that's Mazda's game, right? - but their history is littered with them. Their first car (after establishing themselves as bike makers) was a weeny little front-engined roadster called the S500, back in 1962. Only two years after their first road car, they entered Formula 1 in 1964 with the entirely in-house RA271. This featured a 1.5L V12 mounted sideways behind the driver that was a stressed member of the semi-monocoque chassis. Revving to an unheard-of 11,500rpm, it didn't see success until it was put in the 1965 RA272, when Richie Ginther won the Mexican Grand Prix. This was the first Japanese F1 victory, and I think I'm right in saying that Honda are still the only Japanese manufacturer to have won races in Formula 1, as they've also supplied engines to championship-winning teams like McLaren and Williams. Meanwhile their roadsters grew in popularity with an S600, a hardtop version thereof, and later an S800. The numeric part of the name referred to engine size in cc, so we're talking the kind of engine that's not all that far away from their bike engines; tiny but revvy.

Top Half: Beat and NSX
Bottom Half: S2000 and S600
Skip forward through the decades and you find the Honda Beat [pictured left in yellow]. Designed by Pininfarina, no less, this Kei-class mid-engined roadster packed a 656cc 3-cylinder engine with individual throttle bodies producing the usual 63bhp (the limit for Kei engines, for some reason) at a tuneful 8100rpm. It lasted from 1991-1996, when there was a wave of Kei sports cars that included the Suzuki Cappuccino and Autozam AZ-1 (badged as both a Mazda and a Suzuki). It may not have made its mark like previous sporting Hondas, but there's a cult following, and anyone who likes light, simple, revvy sports cars can appreciate it. However, much more appreciation is shown for their other mid-engined car of the '90s, the superb NSX. I won't go on about the NSX long, partly because I already have and also because it doesn't really have much relevance to the new S660 Concept, but Honda's first and only supercar was the Japanese showing Ferrari how it's done, and when the Senna-honed supercar (an obligatory thing to point out) faded away in 2005, it left a simply-but-beautifully-shaped hole in the soul of Honda. The S2000 was similarly loved, being cheaper and more common as it took on the Porsche Boxster, Mercedes-Benz SLK and arguably the smaller, less powerful Mazda MX-5. Its absence from the current range is also sorely felt. Currently there are no rear-wheel-drive Hondas in production with four wheels, and the closest thing to a sports car they have is the CR-Z, a car that promised both a Lotus-worthy drive and Prius-worthy fuel economy in a shape akin to the old CRX, but failed to deliver on either of the former promises with its meager 123bhp and lack of an all-electric mode for cities. We did have the Civic Type-R, and there is another one coming with 280bhp and a turbo, but is a hot hatch really a sports car? Perhaps debatable.

That brings us back to the S660 Concept, a more realistic update of the electric 2011 EV-STER Concept. Honda desperately needs an image-boosting car again, and seeing as the "new NSX" is primarily being done by their American luxury brand Acura, it could fall to this car to inject some much needed fun into the H badge. As the name suggests, this Sports car has a 660cc engine - still three cylinders but this time turbocharged - which is mounted sideways behind the driver and produces the usual 63bhp that Kei cars cannot legally exceed. It won't need 8100rpm to make that power, as things have advanced since the '90s, and it ought to be very economical too, because unfortunately it's connected to a CVT dronebox with seven simulated gears, one element that doesn't pay tribute to the Beat, which had a clutch pedal and a gear stick whether you liked it or not. It's expected to weigh around 900kg, so 63 horsepower is actually not bad. If you think back to your first cars, they probably had those sorts of figures, and I certainly enjoy revving the crap out of my 64 horsepower, ~1000kg car and throwing it at some corners on a Sunday. Driving a slow car fast trumps driving a fast car slowly all day every day, and that method of driving in a mid-engined roadster would be fantastic!

I should point out that production is in no way confirmed, and it would likely stay in the Japanese home market like the Beat did, what with Kei cars not being a thing anywhere else. But considering they've taken a concept from two years ago and turned it into something production viable (the joysticks have been replaced with a steering wheel, for one thing), you'd have to assume they're serious about it. There's already a rumour that they could later export it to other markets with an enlarged engine, displacing a whopping 1000cc - a whole litre! - and producing a thunderous 100 horsepower. Steady on, Honda!

We'll find out more at the Tokyo Motor Show in a month's time, when Honda will also display some uninteresting compact SUV crossover concept and the New NSX Concept. Again. That hints at the production version coming soon. AGAIN. In the meantime, here are a couple more pictures of the cute little sports car for the masses that could just help to turn Honda's image back round again. Hopefully someone out there can find a manual gearbox for it when it does reach production...

The production version will come with a roof that folds away on top of the engine. Japanese folk know tight packaging

Honda refer to this as an "open-top sports-type mini-vehicle." Personally, I prefer "Kei roadster"...
F1-style shift lights aren't so big a deal with a CVT. I get the fuel economy thing, but fun and pretend gears don't mix...
Yes, this is my first blog post in a month. If you follow me regularly, I'm sorry, but then you're used to this kind of thing already. Sorry. Again. I have a window to do some blogging now and I'm damn well using it!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Fake Exhaust Tips Don't Get Faker Than This

Look at those fake exhausts. LOOK AT THEM.
FEEL YOUR MIND SCARRING.
Seeing as I'm angrily ranting today, someone on Kinjaloppo posted about how he's sick of fake exhaust tips, which make a car's exhaust pipe look bigger than it is to make it seem sportier to people who aren't paying attention. I read this and I was reminded that, by far and away, the worst offender for this that I've ever seen is this particular version of the previous-gen Renault Clio, which I saw one of in Swansea last year (it took me about 10 minutes to pin it down and find an image of it online, having forgotten the LE name and never taken a picture of it myself...).

There are two main issues here. One is that they are so blatantly not metal it makes my mind full of fuck that anyone would think they were. Seriously, that shit belongs on a child's toy, not a real car. But the worst bit? Easily the fact that, if you look closely, there aren't even any holes in it. The actual exhaust pipe is somewhere behind the bumper!

What.

The.

Actual.

Fuck.

Renault?

SRSLY, help me out here. If they're not supposed to be exhaust pipes, what in Stig's name ARE they supposed to be? This isn't even half-arsed. It's quarter-arsed. Nay, it's one slice of raw bacon. That's how not-full-arsed it is. I'm astounded. I'd rather eat horse pubes than be seen with this fuckery on my car. If I get hired to design cars and they ask me to do something like this, I'm flipping my desk in front of them, even if it means taking my desk to the boss's office with everything on it...

Watch The Need For Speed Franchise Jump The Shark Once And For All

OK, so it's not dead-dead, but it's pretty much dead to me...
The phrase "jumping the shark" comes from the TV show Happy Days, when the show got so desperate to keep people watching that they made The Fonz literally jump over a shark in an episode. It's now used whenever a series has gone too far or otherwise taken desperate measures to cling on to life just a little bit longer. Unfortunately, something close to my heart is readying the shark and building a ramp right now...

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Modified Saleen S7 Has ALL THE HORSEPOWERS

3/9/13 - 1:24 - 324,281 hits (when posted)

A wee while ago, I pondered over the possibility of a 300mph road car. Such a car would need to be low, aerodynamic and have at least 1600 horsepower, I reckon, and on a personal note I'd add all-wheel-drive so that you could actually control the thing and possibly grab some acceleration records on your way up to the mystical triple-tonne. Well then, perhaps this guy's modified Saleen S7 (y'know, that car from Bruce Almighty) might have the beginnings of the ideal recipe, because you see, it has a rather large engine. And by large, I mean a V8 enlarged to 10.2 litres. 10,200cc!! You'd have to look at bonkers pre-war racing cars to find that kind of displacement elsewhere. But for good measure, it's also got two turbochargers running at 25psi. In case you were wondering, that's a large amount of psi. The result is, well, you can see in the video above.

And in the screenshot below:


Yup, that says that at 7100rpm, this behemoth of a V8 was producing 2281.8bhp and 1737.4lb/ft of torque... at the wheels. What's more, it's supposedly running on "pump gas", which is an American way of saying regular, commercially available petrol (probably super unleaded rather than the cheap stuff). This is worth pointing out because many cars with power of this magnitude run on something a but fruitier than what you get at Shell or Total. The question is, can this engine sustain that kind of power for more than five minutes without exploding? If so, how fast would this car go in a long straight line?! Potentially - with the right gearing - really very fast indeed.

In 2008, The Mazda Furai Burned To Death In 8 Minutes, Hidden From Help

From TopGear's 20th Anniversary issue - some horrifying "news" from late 2008
I got my subscriber's copy of TopGear Magazine today, and it's an extra-large 20th Anniversary issue. Naturally, after hearing the tragic news that the Mazda Furai Concept burned to the ground in 2008 in the hands of the magazine, I immediately flicked through to the explanation. I won't scan or re-type the whole article because you should buy the magazine and I might get in trouble or something, but here are some choice quotes from the three-column article spread out with many tragic pictures I won't put you through the horror of looking at.

After The Stig and writer Bill Thomas had done the actual driving and opinionating (Some Say The Stig does so telepathically through a talking dog called Hubert), the camera crew had their turn to play with the stunning concept LMP car. Charlie Turner writes:

"As we've been shooting I've spotted the Furai's central exhaust spitting a thin cone of blue flames on downshifts. It's this I want to capture on our last run. [Mazda factory driver Mark]Ticehurst, duly instructed, heads off at pace, and Lee [Brimble] and I jump into the tracking vehicle and barrel after him, leaving the fire and support crews at the end of the runway. We catch the Furai over the crest of the runway (which rises in the middle) and track it down towards the far end.

As Ticehurst begins to slow for the turn and drops through the gears, things start to go wrong. The Furai is making a noise less Le Mans racer and more... fatally wounded elephant. "That doesn't sound good," mutters Lee.

As the Mazda straightens, Lee and I spot the same small lick of fire deep within the engine bay at the base of the bulkhead. Priceless concept. Flames. Ah.

"FIRE! OH GOD, IT'S ON FIRE!" I state calmly, resisting the urge to panic. Ticehurst can't hear me, so I bury the throttle to try to catch him and warn of the danger. Unsurprisingly, even a wounded, smoking Furai is faster than a people carrier.
"

Eventually they get close enough that frantic beeping and headlight flashing grabs Ticehurst's attention. They then shout (calmly) at him that it's on fire and he throws out the anchors, jumping out of the car before it was even stationary.

Where are the fire crew? On the other side of the rise in the runway, completely oblivious...

Mr. Turner promptly thrashes his unnamed MPV up the runway to get them, but they're too late. The car becomes engulfed as the wind blows the flames forwards towards the nose. They eventually get to the car, their hoses blasting shards of charred bodywork off with their force.

"One of the fire crew rips at a door to get better access to the bulkhead. Still burning, it comes off in his hand. At first, I'm annoyed at the disrespect he's showing this priceless, irreplaceable concept car. Then I realise that's like worrying the Titanic's deck chairs are getting damp."

"From spotting the first flame to staring at the soggy, scorched carcass of one of history's most beautiful concept cars has taken less than eight minutes. The Furai is dead. Dead with shocking speed, savagery and finality."

Oh, and to clear something up, I've seen a few comments that they put the wrong fuel in it. It seems this is false:

"As the ethanol burns, it's clear the game is up."

I suppose it's just the result of a racecar with a body designed more for beauty than engine-cooling getting too hot. It's still utterly tragic, though. I'm glad I got a chance to see it in the flesh when I could at the 2008 London Motor Show. What a mesmerising piece of design it is... was.


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

BRABUS Has Given The Greatest Vehicle Of All Time The Dullest Name


Almost immediately after trying to break the trend of crossovers here on SBV8, I've had no choice but to return to the genre. But if that bothers you then you'll forgive me pretty quickly, because rather than being a crossover between an SUV and a sports saloon, the car you see here is a crossover between a proper off-roader and a nuclear warhead. At the Geneva Motor Show in March, Mercedes-Benz revealed the G63 AMG 6x6, which was a hot rod version of their own land rover with six wheels and a gun rack of sorts. Well now, at the Frankfurt Motor Show, their closely-associated tuning company BRABUS has made its own version of that car (?) for people who don't think 536bhp and 560lb/ft is enough power to haul a rather substantial 3775kg.

Obviously, what a pseudo-military six-wheeler needs is a 6.3-litre V8 Bi-Turbo producing seven hundred horsepower.

And obviously, what this earth-shattering creation needs is a name, a menacing one, an intimidating moniker that tells anyone who hears it that it is capable of terminating puny humans and driving straight through buildings like they're just hippie bead doors. A name like: B63S-700 6x6. Erm......

While that sounds like the serial number for a gift card, it accurately describes a BRABUS 6.3-litre 'S' with 700 horsepower and 6-wheel-drive. Maybe 'S' stands for "Schlag" (as in the German for "smash" or "strike", not a catchphrase for Sean Connery's and Ray Winstone's lovechild).

At any rate, this... machine, with its very Germanic designation, is capable of 0-60 in 7.4 seconds. Those of you thinking that it would be as fast as an Aventador because it has the same power clearly don't know how physics works, but it's still bloody impressive that something weighting almost exactly as much as two Bugatti Veyrons can keep pace with a hot hatch or Toyobaru GTBRZ86 in a straight line. Although of course, having a colossal 708lb/ft of torque between 2000-4500rpm helps too. The top speed is similarly un-Lamborghini, as the heavy-duty off-road tyres call for a limited top speed of 160km/h, or 100mph. Still, would you really want to drive this any faster than 100mph?

The best thing about it (aside from the three year/100k mile warranty) is that while they've upgraded the engine and given the vehicle a "strategic visual upgrade" inside and out, they've left the drivetrain untouched, which means that with knobbly 37" rubber and departure angles of 52° and 54° front & rear - not to mention 6WD with five locking differentials - you can still climb every mountain and ford every stream. But with 700 horsepower going through a gearbox they call "AMG SPEEDSHIFT PLUS 7G-TRONIC" (emphasis not my own). All it needs now is a minigun mounted in the pickup bed and you can make yourself and three or four of those close to you nigh-on indestructible. Probably...

Finally, if you're not feeling manly enough for such a machine, or you don't need to worry about a zombie apocalypse, then there's good news! You can apply the same engine upgrades to the regular four-wheeled G63 AMG as well. You won't be as awesome, but hey, it's your money. Speaking of which, I don't know how much this costs, but being a BRABUS tune of an ex-military vehicle, it's probably €QuiteALot.

Side-exit exhausts can also be used to torch those who displease you or try to break in. This is a lie.
"Mastik" red leather and alcantara cover the interior, so that if one of your passengers turns out to be a traitor, the blood stains won't be so obvious to the next people to get in.
"Strategic Visual Upgrade" includes more carbon fibre and sticky-out bits like the bonnet scoop
A full big post about the Frankfurt Motor Show will appear after all the reveals are done, but I felt urged to tell you about this now.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Nissan GT-R NISMO Gets Low To Make You Get High

Nissan GT-R NISMO Prototype on the usual circuit
Aha! I know what will end the crossover spree this blog is in danger of experiencing. Spy shots from the Nürburgring a week or two ago revealed a Nissan GT-R shaped prototype undergoing testing. When we consider that Nissan Motorsport (NISMO) has confirmed that it's making a hot version of the GT-R - a car already so adept at giant-slaying it has almost become a giant of its own, fat jokes aside - these shots of a GT-R with a body kit and chunky rear wing all covered in shape-masking camouflage become rather exciting.

It's only when you obscure the bone lines and surfacing that you see just how chunky the R35 is...
Currently wearing the six-spoke wheels seen on the V-Spec and later Track Pack versions, this is the first time Nissan themselves will do anything particularly radical to the R35-generation GT-R's exterior. The big wing is self-explanatory, but the deeper skirts stretch all around the bottom of the car, lowering the ground clearance and producing a pronounced lip for aerodynamic reasons. I would say it has lower suspension, but the photographs show it going round a corner, so physics may well be tricking us here. There are also a lot more gills for the venting or channelling of air than before, near the wheels.

Why did they cover up the blacked-out A-Pillars? Does that really throw people off and make them think it's something else?
Peering through the windscreen we can see new bucket seats (oh, and a Carscoops logo, because they own the pictures). But what's under the bonnet? Well, it'll still be the bespoke hand-made "VR38DETT" engine, but experts predict that it will gain at least 30 more horses into its 542-strong stable, and all 570+bhp will still be sent carefully through all four wheels using their long serving torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system, which they call "ATTESA-ETS" and originally developed for the R32 Skyline GT-R back in the late 80s.

As well as more power, carbon fibre will apparently be used extensively to try to cut some weight from the standard car's quite hefty 1740kg. The GT-R's creator Kazutoshi Mizuno justifies that weight by saying that a ~600kg Formula 1 car makes ~1200kg of downforce in a fast corner, and that a ~1200kg GT racing car makes ~600kg of downforce in a fast corner, so by that logic a 1740kg car that makes 60kg of downforce is ideal! Alas, heavy cars aren't as fun or as agile, so I'm glad to see that they're swapping some of the mass for more downforce. The GT-R and all its techno witchcraft is already way more agile - and quite a bit more exciting - than a car that heavy should be, so one with more aggressive tyres and a better mass-to-downforce ratio (as it were) would be intense.

But there's more.

A lower weight, stickier tyres and more power will cut the 0-60 time. Again, the current car punches way above its paper figures in this respect and does 0-60 in a staggering 2.7 seconds (with Launch Control active). But the NISMO version can - allegedly - do the benchmark sprint dramatically faster than that. In fact, one alleged insider allegedly told Auto Express that it can hit 60mph from rest in as little as 2.0 seconds. Two seconds flat!! To add perspective, the AWD, 1200PS Bugatti Veyron Super Sport takes 2.4 seconds, and the current record for a production car is the bonkers Ariel Atom 500 V8 at 2.3 seconds. The word 'insane' is massively overused by internet writers, but if the NISMO GT-R can actually do that, then it would justify use of the word. I would assume that modifying the "GR6" dual-clutch transmission with shorter gearing and/or quicker changes would have to be in order for it to pull that off as well, though. The added drag from the bigger wing would lower the top speed from 196mph (as would a shorter 6th gear, although I doubt they'd shorten all the gears for a faster 0-60 time), but this could be counterbalanced by the extra power. Maybe if it's nearer 600 horsepower, we could even be looking at a bona fide 200mph Nissan...

More vents on the back, and the NISMO titanium exhaust seen on the V-Spec and Track Pack
This hardcore GT-R NISMO could well be the first fruit of the NISMO-Williams technology partnership and will appear towards the latter half of next year, quite possibly as the bang with which the R35 will go out, as Nissan has confirmed that the next-generation R36 GT-R will be released in "late 2015". Unless there's a NISMO-RS version in between like they've suggested before. While we're talking about alleged this and apparent that, there's a high chance that the R36 GT-R will be a hybrid of some sort. This may be worrying, especially if it's still a heavy car, but if it's a KERS-style hybrid like the Geneva hypercars that actually improves performance while adding eco-cred, I'm sure we'll learn to cope. Besides, the upcoming Americonda NSX is a hybrid, so it wouldn't be the alone in going hybrid if it did...

But back to the car we see here (which, like the 2009 V-Spec, is likely to cost more than £100,000 - a price that seems steep until you out-fox a Veyron with it). The Nissan GT-R NISMO "is the GT-R with which we pursue pure performance," according to Nissan GT-R and NISMO Chief Product Specialist Hiroshi Tamura in a press statement. "It is for people who search for true performance with pure motorsports flavour. Its development is on schedule, and I can’t wait to see the model introduced into the markets."

Neither can I, Tamura-San. Neither can I. In fact, I look forward to it appearing in Gran Turismo 6 as DLC!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Jaguar C-X17 "Road Rover" - Here's The Whole Damned Thing

Jaguar C-X17
Lots more pictures of this crossover concept have leaked, again via Carscoops and again showing a design rather derivative of their other models, which I suppose makes it easily identifiable as a Jaguar. This post is basically just a picture dump, because I've already posted about the C-X17 and why it exists (market trends + Land Rover's image for capable off-roaders + modular architecture demonstration). More after the jump.

Also, we seem to be on a bit of a crossover binge at the moment. That might change soon. The "IAA Frankfurt" motor show is imminent, so there'll be coverage of that. And hey, some of the cars revealed might not be crossovers!!

« tser eht daeR

Saturday, 7 September 2013

You'll Never Guess What The New Renault Espace Looks Like

Renault Initiale Paris Concept teaser
It may surprise you to learn this, but the Renault Espace full-size MPV still exists. Widely credited with inventing the MPV genre, the current generation of the car has gone largely unchanged for the last 10 years. Yes there has been a facelift here and a technical update there, but it's essentially the same car that was released in 2003. Now it's time for them to ready its replacement, and pictures of the preview concept have leaked onto the internet.

Now, here's the current Espace:

They get older from left to right, in case that wasn't obvious...
Now the opposite is true

I bet you anything that if you were to look at the images thus far in this post and imagine what the eventual Espace Mk.V - or rather the Initiale Paris Concept that previews its design - might look like, it will not look like what you'll see in the following images (aside from the headlights)...

Monday, 2 September 2013

Prepare Yourselves For JLR's Road Rover (UPDATE - LEAKED PICS)

Jaguar C-X17 teaser
As I've recently mentioned, we live in a world now where car companies all have to build fake off-roaders for Chinese people and morons. Even the likes of Bentley, Lamborghini and Maserati are preparing Sports-Sports Utility Vehicles, in their case to take on the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5 and so on. But surely, when your car company is twinned with one that exclusively makes off-road cars, you don't need to bother with such a thing, do you? Do you???

Erm, yes, apparently you do. You see, sports crossovers are biased towards the road in their suspension setup and choice of tyres and such, and while Jaguar's sister company Land Rover can make their cars ride very well on tarmac now, they have to make sure that all their cars are legitimate off-road vehicles. They have no choice because a Land Rover that can't go off-road will be damaging to their image and disgust all their fans. Even the Range Rovér Evoque n°5 Posh Spice is big and chunky (apart from the stupidly-thin windows...) and equipped with Terrain Response, a system that adapts the all-wheel-drive and suspension for a variety of different surfaces to make it an Earth-scaling adventuremobile. Totally useful for speed bumps in Chelsea...

This means that they can't make something that merely looks like an off-roader but works best on tarmac, and so, the leaping cat must get its paws dirty, hence the teaser image above. They've been warming LHD markets up for this with all-wheel-drive versions of the XF and XJ, but on 9th September, they will unveil the C-X17, which as you can see is like a Jaguar but Cayenne-shaped. Considering that the earlier C-X16 spawned the nigh-on identical F-Type (a coupé version of which is coming next year, possibly with a manual gearbox option), the 17 will probably spawn an almost-identical production car as well. It'll have all-wheel-drive, a selection of Jaguar engines - also available in Land Rovers - and it won't be much cop off-road compared to a Discovery or Range Rover Sport. Which letters they'll give it once it's no longer a concept is unknown, so let's say "XX". Of course, what it actually is is a car that normally would never exist: a Road Rover.

A necessary evil is still evil...


UPDATE (5/9/13):

It looks like this at the front. It's like an XF but fat like an SUV:

Jaguar C-X17
This image comes into to your eyes via Carscoops, and has been confirmed as legit. The concept also previews Jaguar's new modular architecture, something that seems to be appearing at every car company as a way to cut the costs and potentially lead times for new models by using the same basic platform for everything, and then scaling it up/down accordingly to build whatever new car on top they may need. So what underpins this Road Rover will likely underpin their upcoming XS, a small saloon to tackle the 3-Series and replace the underwhelming old X-Type. More will be revealed over the next week.

UPDATE (7/9/13):

Here is another shot, this time showing the side as well. It's not quite as sleek as I was hoping for, although it does at least fit the teaser...

Jaguar C-X17
It's also difficult to work out what size it is based on the proportions. It it tackling the X5 or the X3? Porsche Cayenne or its "Macan" junior that's appearing soon? We'll see...

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Mercedes Names Pointless Crossover In Honour of Lighthouse Preservation

Mercedes-Benz General Lighthouse Authority 220 Course Deviation Indicator 4MATIC, to give it its full name
Compact crossovers. Fuck 'em. They're heavier, thirstier, worse for the environment, more expensive to buy, more expensive to run, less aerodynamic, less pleasant in terms of ride quality, less fun to drive, no safer and barely any more practical than the hatchback they're invariably based on. Their supposed off-road credibility is the same as you saying you can scale mountains because you've got boots on instead of shoes, except that even they don't have boots on, because they've got big wheels with road tyres on and suspension tuned for asphalt, not Everest. Yet, for some reason, sheeple are buying them in such droves that companies who have no business making such things are making at least one of these fat bearded hatchbacks on stilts. I blame the Nissan Qashqai for this, which the ever-dry What Car? praises for its "funky 4x4 styling". Curse you, Qashqai! Because of you we now have this!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Did I Miss The Memo Saying That All UK Torque Figures Are In "Nm" Now?


A localised rant if you don't mind. Just under a month ago, I was reading a brochure for the Peugeot RCZ that I "requested" at Goodwood (TBH when someone asks I just think "yeah why not" and get a brochure for something I'll never buy) when I spotted that the torque figure was in Newton metres (Nm), with no translation to lb/ft. Remembering that a Mercedes announcer gave the SLS E-Cell's torque in Nm at the FOS, I started looking around and all European companies are at it, even British ones like Vauxhall and Jaguar. Why change a long-standing unit to something that very few people here have any sense of scale for?

I'd be OK with it if there was a translation to lb/ft, but everyone just seems to have quietly switched units and assumes that people who actually consider such figures know how Nm relates to lb/ft. I also get that it's something that started in mainland Europe, which is all-metric (like using PS instead of BHP and confusing us into thinking, for example, that a Veyron has 1001bhp when it actually has 987, or 1001PS) that's now moved over here. But again, I personally have absolutely no bearings for Newton Metres beyond knowing - thanks to AMG's mentalist engines - that 1000Nm is ~737lb/ft (foot-pounds, pounds per foot, whichever is correct). While having a nice round number like that as a landmark gives me the rough conversion rate to work it out for myself, when it's in lb/ft - as it is in all the magazines here, I might add - I can just know that a Fisker Karma has 960lb/ft and that that's a tremendous amount of rotational force. My dad also told me at a young age that you want the torque figure to be close to the power figure, but with a different unit for torque that mental balancing scale I've developed goes all out of whack, so I always have to do the conversion with an app on my phone, which is a pain in the arse.

It irks me is all. I get that it's an SI unit, but the assumed knowledge of Nm is a bit silly. The one upside is that, as they're all doing it, it is at least easy for one to compare between cars to see which has more of the stuff (so non-car people probably won't notice). Oh, and at least it's not as alien as the "Kgf·m" that Gran Turismo uses...

Gran Turismo 6 Preview

Gran Turismo 6 15th Anniversary Edition official box art, featuring a Renaultsport Megane V6 Trophy.
The tyre tread looks like a 15!!
OK, so after being sent the Gamespot trailer and going a little crazy for five minutes, here's the actual low-down on Play Station 3's great big send-off, the sixth full game in the series of Sony's most successful gaming franchise, which has sold over 70,000,000 copies. Celebrating their own 15th anniversary, which I've mentioned before, there are many things that have been announced today and it's now time to piece them together, piece by glorious HD piece.

UPDATE: There has recently been a huge amount of new information on GT6, which you can find here.

Ford Fiesta ST Mountune - The Goodwood Mini-Review

I still think the new ST cars look a bit fish-faced, but it works better in person, as usual
This was originally written shortly after the event, at a time when I was for some reason neglecting this blog, so here it is at last. For some pictures you can check out the supercar car park for a start!

For the first time, I went to the Goodwood Moving Motor Show, which is essentially the same as the Festival Of Speed in every way, except the track is only open for people who got there early enough to book free, no-pressure test drives on the famous hillclimb course with a range of cars to choose from that ranged from the Dacia Sandero to the Audi RS6, with an R8 V10 plus and Ferrari 458 & FF being used for high speed passenger rides. The event opened at 7am, and having arrived half an hour later than planned at 9am due to a backfiring shortcut, I was shit out of luck as everything was booked. No matter, I'd simply win a test drive at the Ford stand by being awesome at Gran Turismo 6.

See, there was a special demo of GT6 at Goodwood that features the hillclimb course in it, so Ford decided that if you really knew your way up in a Ford GT, and you have a driving licence, then why not give you a drive in a real Fiesta ST, thus promoting the hot hatch to hip, cool people and also me? As well as Ford, Nissan of course have a couple of game pods set up, but they were offering a far more immersive real test drive, as it was the GT Academy Wildcard event. The fastest time (initially set in the Delta Wing, no less) up the hill would win a wildcard entry into the second phase of the famous racer-making competition. Unfortunately, this was the first one I came across, and the Thrustmaster T500 RS (I swear that isn't a sex toy) for some reason had a really slow steering setting, so it took a lot of getting used to, plus it was in cockpit view, so I'd line it up for a corner and then catch the wide tail on something and crash, which sucked. I got on the leaderboard at midday but was knocked off by the end. Alfa Romeo also had one set up, in a different part of the grounds, with the TZ3 Stradale, which if you don't remember it is essentially a Zagato-bodied Dodge Viper with some Alfa bits inside. I beat the then-record by 0.003 seconds! No prize for that, though, except to have my details sent somewhere for something**. The fourth place to play it was Mercedes-Benz, where you used an AMG SLS GT3. This had the best steering settings and the best grip. I narrowly set the fastest time of the day, which put my name in a draw with the three fastest times of Friday, Saturday and Sunday to win a real SLS driving experience (in a road car). This was after I won the Ford prize that made up for me being late. Alas, I haven't heard back so I must not have won that one...

So the Fiesta ST, then. The guy chaperoning me (who's a third-party professional driver that does work with the Paul Swift stunt driving team, by the way, and has done stunt driving in TopGear Live) had to drive me out and into the motor show area itself for insurance reasons or something. We swapped over at the little turning circle about 150m from the start line that you may have seen in some videos, and the padded Recaro seats are really fantastic. They may impede on rear legroom a bit, but they really hug you without being a squeeze, and are really supportive. For the first time in my life, I drove off without putting my seatbelt on, which was odd, but anyway, the clutch bit quite suddenly and we eased along in a queue, behind a Toyota GT86 TRD Edition. At 10mph or so, it's actually quite bassy, but in a way that sounded artificial somehow. The car on display (as terribly photographed here) had a "Mountune" logo on the back, so I don't know if this one also had a trick exhaust or not.*

At the start line, I thought aloud that I never thought I'd be there, getting ready to run up the famous Goodwood Hillclimb in real life. To be honest I never thought I'd be able to do it virtually either! A nice old man with big glasses and white overalls halted me with a raised open palm, waited for the 86 to go round the first corner, and then dropped his hand like a gentlemanly Fast & Furious remake. While I did put my foot down, I decided not to red-line it in 1st, but a booth professional told me to go for it on the first straight because it's the best opportunity to do so. Once in 2nd, I revved much higher, and the engine was fantastic! While the whooshing tells you that it's definitely turbocharged, the power builds in quite a natural way, and there's almost no lag at all. It was very responsive and gave you a nice big shove in the back every time.

We got into 4th gear before braking into 3rd for the first turn, a right-hander that opens out at the end. You can get back on the throttle very early in this corner, and the front tyres just bit, so I had no issue with being at full throttle through the final part of the turn. After a short straight I was at the top of 3rd gear, lifted off for the second right-hander that's barely more than a kink, and then got back on the power again and into 4th. This engine really is addictive. Unfortunately, due to some... overzealous drivers last year, they had put in a very tight chicane about 100m after the bridge, so we had to throw the anchors out and get all the way down to 2nd to drive around some cones and a hay bale, then off again towards a low-3rd-gear left. After this was "The Wall", which is a wall. A quick right-left to avoid it only needed a light squeeze of the brake pedal and then you could get your toe down again through the left curve. It's supposedly quite scary, this bit, but that's probably much more accurate an observation when you're in a classic racing car at full pelt. By the next corner, which is the penultimate one on the course, I had caught up with the GT86 TRD and had to hold back a bit, which satisfied me that I'd driven this car quickly enough :-)

Rather than sitting at the top and then cruising back down again like the FOS runners do today and over the weekend, we went left and down some weaving little side roads and lanes through the trees, where I chatted with my chaperone about his job and my Uni course, and occasionally the hot Fiesta's engine. We weren't really meant to go fast here, as we occasionally went past campers and stuff, but I couldn't resist one more dose of turbo rush after letting the Toyota pull away a bit. I want my next car to be turbocharged now! The steering let me point the car exactly where I wanted, but didn't really grab my attention in any way aside from that. It does handle very well, though, and it's a confidence-inspiring car to drive fast.

So overall, I definitely enjoyed my little taste of the Fiesta ST. Next year I need to get there as soon as it opens and book some test drives! Those who were earlier this year had the opportunity to test this car against the 208 GTi and the Renaultsport Clio 200 EDC, thus replicating the hot hatch group test of 2013. We'll have to see what's there in 2014...

These photos of the display car were taken casually on a phone, hence their rubbishness

* As it turns out, there is a £600 Mountune upgrade now available in the UK for the Fiesta ST, which bumps power up from 180 to 215bhp, plus the 20bhp overboost that's available as standard anyway. Now that's bang for buck! It also explains the bassy exhaust, a hallmark of theirs.

**Little did I know when I originally wrote this elsewhere a month or so ago, but that Alfa Romeo time was the fastest of the day, and as second prize - because someone beat my time on a different day - I got a free Alfa Romeo teddy bear!!


Don't worry, most people are jealous. It's only natural.