Image credit: CamVanDerHorst
A factory insider has leaked CGI renderings of the front and rear styling of the next BMW M5, ahead of the car’s expected unveiling early in 2017
The BMW M5 has been revealed in images leaked by a company employee.
Full front and rear styling renderings of the car show the performance saloon’s bumper treatment. The images were first revealed to a host of ‘The Cammed & Tubbed Podcast’.
The M5 is expected to be revealed in pre-production form at the Geneva motor show in March of 2017. BMW plans to launch the car far earlier in the next-generation 5 Series’s life cycle than it has with previous generations. The model will go on sale in the following months.
Just as the 5 Series underwent a subtle styling overhaul between this generation and the next, the new M5 appears to be fairly restrained when compared with the more extreme M4. However, more significant updates have taken place under the bonnet.
Leaked documents recently revealed that the M5’s closest rival, the Mercedes-AMG E 63, will produce 603bhp and 627lb ft. It’s expected that the M5 will closely match these figures, using an updated version of the current car’s 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine mated to a seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox.
It’s also believed that the next generation M5 will be the first non-SUV M car available with all-wheel drive as an option. It is understood that BMW is concentrating on making the next M5 more driveable, with more mechanical grip and improved traction thanks to the xDrive four-wheel drive system and revised engine mapping.
The optional xDrive would add to what is expected to be a £75,000 starting price for the new M5. That figure represents a slight increase over the current car.
UK order books for Alfa’s BMW 3 Series rival are now open; hot Quadrifoglio range-topper costs £59,000
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is now on sale in Britain, priced from £29,180.
The entry-level model costs £4020 more than the base version of its key rival, the BMW 3 Series, but the Alfa comes with a larger, more potent engine than the BMW and a generous list of standard features, ensuring it should be a strong contender against its established rivals.
British buyers can choose from five trim levels for Alfa’s new saloon: Giulia, Giulia Super, Giulia Tecnica, Giulia Speciale and the range-topping Giulia Quadrifoglio. More details for each can be found below. The range-topping Quadrifoglio version of the car, which features a Ferrari-derived 3.0-litre V6 with 503bhp, starts at £59,000.
Besides the Quadrifoglio model, three engines will be available in the Giulia. These include a 197bhp, 243lb ft, turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol, which is coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Compare that with the entry-level BMW engine, a 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit, and even the base Alfa looks suitably well endowed.
Next are two 2.2-litre diesels, the most powerful of which produces 178bhp and 332lb ft of torque. It’s capable of emitting less than 100g/km of CO2 in Eco specification. The other diesel comes with 148bhp and 280lb ft.
Both engines can be had with either a six-speed manual transmission or the eight-speed automatic gearbox.
All models will have rear-wheel drive as standard, but all-wheel drive will be available on some versions. Alfa Romeo says the car has a perfect 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution and it features multi-link suspension at the rear and double wishbones at the front.
The Giulia has an unladen weight of 1374kg in 178bhp 2.2-litre diesel form.
Alfa Romeo says electronic aids on the Giulia are used only to make the driving experience more exciting. For example, the new integrated braking system mixes the traditional stability control set-up with a servo brake, reducing weight and vibrations through the pedal.
Other safety and assistance systems include autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, optional adaptive cruise control and blindspot monitoring.
Drivers can choose from three driving modes via Alfa’s DNA drive selector. In addition, range-topping Quadrifoglio models get a Race option.
The five-seat cabin features an 8.8in infotainment system, controlled via a rotary pad on the centre console. The system features compatibility for Apple and Android devices, Bluetooth and satellite navigation. Depending on the specification, the Giulia has either a 3.5in or 7.0in colour display as part of the instrument cluster.
In entry-level Giulia form, the car sits on 16in alloy wheels and has LED rear lights, a fabric interior, 3.5in TFT driver’s information screen, 6.5in infotainment screen and a leather steering wheel. Cruise control, dual-zone climate control and lane departure warning are three of several key features offered as standard.
Pay £30,880 for a Super model and Alfa will add 17in alloys, twin exhaust pipes and part-leather seats, as well as an 8.8in infotainment screen and two-tone interior trim. Add £115 to that price and the Tecnica falls into reach, bringing a rear reversing camera, privacy glass, chrome window surrounds and a cooled glovebox.
The highest-spec non-performance Giulia, the Speciale, costs from £34,150 and has bi-xenon headlights, heated front seats, a leather-clad steering wheel, 18in alloys and sports bumpers front and rear.
The Quadrifoglio range-topper gets an even more aggressive look and optional Personalisation Pack, which brings features such as wheel-mounted paddle shifters, keyless entry, front and rear parking sensors and electric front seats. There’s also an autonomous emergency braking system and blindspot monitoring to head a long list of driver assist features.
Alfa Romeo says the new Giulia “embodies the core elements which have made Alfa Romeo one of the world’s best-loved automotive brands: distinctive Italian design; innovative powertrains, perfect weight distribution, unique technical solutions and the best weight-to-power ratio.”
Alfa’s newly announced pricing ranks the Giulia above some of its key rivals, including the £25,160 BMW 3 Series, the £26,350 Audi A4, the £27,665 Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the £26,990 Jaguar XE. But the Alfa has arguably one of the strongest engine line-ups in its class and a lengthy list of standard equipment to help it fight its cause.
Tesla Model Y imagined by Autocar
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has now said a new product will land on 20 October; possible candidates include a new SUV model, a Ford Transit rival and a Model X-based minibus
Tesla will make an announcement on 20 October, with some sources predicting that it will be the arrival of the Tesla Model Y.
Originally the announcement had been scheduled for 17 October, but Elon Musk Tweeted this morning that a further three days were required for ‘refinement’.
Tesla confirmed it was developing an expanded all-electric line-up that’ll include a Model Y, an electric cargo van, a minibus and a pick-up truck a few weeks back. While these cars would normally be top of the list of potential arrivals, Musk’s suggestion that the October debut will be ‘unexpected’ means it could also be something entirely different.
Potential products include improved charging or road imaging technology. Some industry experts suspect next generation driverless technology won’t arrive for several more months, so have dismissed that as a likely candidate.
More information will be released when the mystery product is launched on 20 October.
Model Y and more to lead expanded range
Exactly when the Model Y and its new siblings arrive is yet to be learned, but Tesla founder Musk has at least confirmed that the future models will be built upon existing chassis underpinnings from the Model 3 and the Model X.
He said that the Model Y, which will be a compact SUV, will be based on the Model 3 saloon. The electric cargo van, pick-up and minibus will use the chassis of the Model X.
Musk revealed the details when British Twitter user, James Ross, questioned him about a possible Ford Transit rival. Ross had pointed out that pick-up truck use in Europe is rare compared with in the US.
Musk replied that building such a vehicle based on the pick-up chassis “probably made sense”.
Previously, he had responded to an article wishing for a Tesla version of a Volkswagen Type II by confirming on Twitter that the Tesla Minibus would be built on the Model X chassis.
During the summer, Musk revealed his plans for the future of Tesla in an article entitled ‘Master Plan, Part Deux’, which detailed product plans, autonomous technology development and intentions to enter the public transport sector. It came ten years after Tesla’s first master plan, which previewed the subsequent launches of the Tesla Model S, Model X and Model 3, as well as solar power products.
The second Master Plan outlined plans for the Model Y and two more electric vehicles – “heavy duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport”, the latter of which is believed to be the minibus. Musk said the vehicle was in the early stages of development, but that it could be revealed as early as next year.
As autonomous technology improves, all Tesla vehicles will have the capability to be self-driving, Musk said in the article. He also envisioned a car-sharing platform to more fully utilise passenger-carrying potential in cars that would otherwise be sat outside owners’ homes for the majority of the time when they’re not in use. Once self-driving cars are approved by regulators, they could be summoned from anywhere.
“Since most cars are only in use by their owner for 5% to 10% of the day, the fundamental economic utility of a true self-driving car is likely to be several times that of a car which is not,” said Musk.
Phill Tromans and Sam Sheehan
Government statement calls for customer compensation, criticises firm’s response to scandal and threatens legal action
The British government has launched a scathing attack on the VW Group for the dieselgate emissions scandal, both for its initial cheating and its subsequent efforts to fix any wrongdoing, and as a result it is considering prosecuting officials from the firm and pushing it to pay compensation to affected UK car owners.
In a response to the Transport Committee’s Special report on the scandal, the British government concluded that VW’s response had been “unacceptable”, that “the treatment of UK consumers has not been acceptable and that vehicle owners should be compensated for the inconvenience” and concluded that “prosecuting authorities from across Europe are liaising and co-ordinating their investigations. The Department is engaged in this process.”
The statement made clear the government would not go into further details on the likelihood of prosecuting VW Group officials, saying “it would be premature and potentially damaging to any prospective legal action to comment further at this point”.
However, it went on to say: “The government will continue to fight for compensation for UK consumers and continue our work to ensure that Volkswagen’s serious action of cheating type approval tests is met with the appropriate consequences.
“The government has also made clear in its most recent engagement with VW that in relation to costs incurred by the taxpayer and proposed fixes for affected vehicles, respectively, financial reimbursement and warranties are matters of high and urgent priority.”
It added: “Prosecuting authorities from across Europe have met to discuss and coordinate their investigations. Officials have been part of those coordinating efforts and continue to monitor the progress of those investigations. This is a complex area as the wrongdoing by the multinational Volkswagen Group is likely to have taken place in various jurisdictions. We understand that investigations in Germany (where the Volkswagen Group is based and the relevant engines were developed) require the review and assessment of vast amounts of material. The government wants to ensure that the Volkswagen Group faces appropriate legal consequences for its manipulation of emissions tests and is continuing to consider how best to do this. We have not ruled out opening our own investigation.”
VW has consistently denied that affected UK and European owners should be compensated, stressing that their cars will be fixed free of charge and with no performance or efficiency losses. It is also believed that the European Union legislation on emissions testing were so lax that VW could argue its defeat devices did not break any laws.
However, the British government statement continued: “The government strongly agrees that the treatment of UK consumers has not been acceptable and that vehicle owners should be compensated for the inconvenience, uncertainty and worry caused by Volkswagen’s cheating as well as for any loss in the value of affected vehicles which may become apparent.
“We also find it unacceptable that Volkswagen has avoided this issue for so long and has failed to adequately engage with customers on this matter and respond to their valid concerns. Ministers have summoned Volkswagen UK to a further meeting in order to reiterate these views and remind Volkswagen that they expect the company to treat UK consumers fairly.”
The British government statement also appeared to back owners planning to take private legal action against VW. In response to a recommendation made by the Transport Select Committee, the statement added: “The government notes the Committee’s comments regarding the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and agrees that vehicle owners may have recourse under the Act. The government is not privy to the content of contracts between vehicle owners and the relevant dealerships and so is unable to comment further.
“However the government would make clear that the Department of Transport has engaged, and will continue to engage, with consumer groups and legal firms and stands ready to provide any reasonable assistance to consumers who seek compensation directly from Volkswagen.”
VW has yet to respond to the British government’s comments.
BMW’s V8-engined E39 M5 is widely regarded as the best of its breed — and you can pick one up for as little as £9000
Even if the E39 BMW M5 (1998-2003) had never turned any of its four, bespoke 18in Chrome Shadow alloy wheels (they’re easy to kerb and about £150 each to repair), we’d still be talking about it for its exhaust note alone. Idling, the 394bhp 4.9-litre V8 with double Vanos variable valve timing, eight throttle bodies and a free-flow exhaust is full of menace. Provoked, it explodes into vein-popping rage.
Parking the Lotus Carlton of 1990 conveniently to one side, the M5 is often credited with firing the starting gun on the modern-day saloon horsepower race, whose present pace-setters include the 552bhp M5 and 577bhp Mercedes-AMG E63 S.
But as any fule kno, it isn’t how fast you go, it’s how you get there – and getting there in the E39 M5 is still, 18 long years after the first cars took to the road, a thrilling and involving experience. BMW’s M division already had a great chassis to work with, to which it added beefed-up suspension, a limited-slip differential and sharper steering (no small achievement considering it was a recirculating ball set-up), while lowering the ride height. Ventilated discs allround and, by today’s standards, a rather interventionist ESP system (some owners switch it off) completed the changes. Add a Sport button and a six-speed manual gearbox (the throw is a little long but the shifts should be precise) and the M5 was ready to play.
And to work. Which is the great thing about the M5: not only does it delight your senses but it’ll also carry your briefcase and your family (and their luggage) as it does so. A worthwhile option was through-load rear seats. The interior is as tough as old boots (rattles are rare) and trimmed in high-quality leather. It’s why you need to probe it carefully for signs of abuse, because it’s too manly to let on. You’ll want for little in terms of equipment. Most cars had sat-nav, but subsequent owners will probably have swapped it for something more up to date. Options included massage seats, a TV and rear screens.
A facelift in 2000 brought so-called ‘corona ring’ headlights, updated rear lights and front parking sensors to partner the ones already at the back. The wide M5 kidney grille, front air scoops and quad exhaust were carried over. Take these away, plus the 245/40 ZR18 front and 275/35 ZR18 rear rubber (still widely available) and you’re left gazing upon a stock 5 Series, which is surely half the M5’s appeal.
Because it sure as hell isn’t the cost of running one. ‘M’ may stand for Motorsport, but it also stands for ‘money’. For some years now, the best cars have been nudging £30,000. You don’t have to pay that, though. Around £13,000 is enough for an honest late car that, with care, should appreciate in value. You can pick them up from as little as £9000, but at that money it’s worth buying privately when you can gauge the quality of the previous owner – and the depths of their pockets.
An expert’s view…
DARREN PARKER, JAMES PAUL BMW SPECIALISTS
“The E39 5 Series was a great era and the M5 is the ultimate. It’s fantastically well built. We’ve sold around 50 over the years, but it’s getting much harder to find a decent one with reasonable mileage. If I were offered one now, I’d be all over the suspension and steering, checking for wear. Anything with an M badge on it isn’t cheap, so I’d consider general parts costs, too.”
Plastic chain tensioner is sensitive to the wrong oil. Replace it and the chains if the work hasn’t been done recently.
You need to hear the car start from cold and warm. It’s noisy if it’s failing.
Check the car had this at 1200 miles.
It lasts about 60,000 miles; expensive.
They can leak; about £1000 to replace.
It may need new front suspension and steering parts at about 100,000 miles. Discs wear and warp and are pricey.
Check behind the bumpers, wheel arch liners and the trim on the doors and windows. Inspect the bootlid seam and around the petrol filler area, too.
Check for orange peel paint finish, overspray under window rubbers, poorly fitting trim and new wing bolts.
It drinks about a litre every 1500 miles.
Check for cracks and chips. The integrated sensor for the rain-sensitive wipers means a new one isn’t cheap.
Heavily bolstered seats always suffer wear and the M5’s are no exception. The pixels in the digital dash display can vanish, but it’s repairable. There are two coolant temperature sensors — one in the radiator and another in the engine — and if they don’t agree, they’ll trigger a red warning light.
Also worth knowing…
At around 100k miles, an M5 will need new timing chains. They’re linked with the Vanos system and it’s a good idea to have that overhauled, too. “The Vanos is blamed for all sorts of noises when it’s the chains,” says Steven Lewis of specialists Mr Vanos. “Even so, a worn Vanos can lose you 60bhp.”
How much to spend…
Mix of early cars with mileages north of 120,000. An independent inspection is essential. Check claims of full service history against invoices detailing who, what and when.
Higher price is no guide, since it’s the same mix of mileagey cars. However, you’ll find some very nice ones here, with fully documented histories.
£12,000 AND ABOVE
Last of the E39s with reasonable mileage and solid history. A couple of grand more will put you in a 56-plate V10 E60 M5, still with a BMW extended warranty. It’s not the same, though…
World Rallycross has quickly established itself as one of the most spectacular forms of motor racing; we speak to its fastest driver to find out why
Few other sports can match World Rallycross for its sheer spectacle.
The speed of the cars, the frenetic pace of the racing and the amphitheatre-like circuits make for epic entertainment. A Formula 1 grand prix looks like an endurance race in comparison.
Perhaps because of this excitement, many top drivers have joined the FIA World Rallycross Championship despite its relative infancy; it has been running for only three years in its current format. This season’s favourite for the World RX title, Mattias Ekström, is one of the most experienced drivers on the grid and also one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors.
“You always have to go for full attack in a rallycross race,” says the Swede, who also races in the DTM touring car series alongside his rallycross duties. “If you don’t, you’ll look pretty stupid. These cars are fun, fast and wild. For sure, they’re the ones that make me smile most.”
Ekström, who has two DTM titles and six World RX wins under his belt, is joined by other massive motorsport names on the World Rallycross Supercar grid, including nine-time world rally champion Sébastien Loeb, 2003 WRC champ Petter Solberg and Mr Gymkhana himself, Ken Block. That’s one heck of a driver line-up.
“The racing with these guys is all heat of the moment, so you have to always be sharp and see if there’s a chance,” explains Ekström. “It’s so different [from circuit racing], because there you have a strategy, but here it’s more instant.”
Ekström’s EKS team currently sits at the sharp end of this season’s championship table. Ekström and team-mate Toomas Heikkinen drive Audi S1 quattros, and their main rivals include the Petter Solberg World RX Team and its Citroën DS3s, Block’s Ford Focus RS-wielding Hoonigan Racing Division and Team Peugeot-Hanson, for which Loeb drives his Peugeot 208.
While the cars look like modified road models, they are, in fact, thoroughbred racers with around 550bhp at their disposal. Ekström’s S1, for example, is built around the reinforced steel body of a regular S1, but the car’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and chassis set-up have been re-engineered for ultimate racing performance.
The cars are arguably more of a draw for spectators than the allstar driver line-ups. Their brutal performance mixes with BTCC-like bumper banging and F1-aping straight-line performance to create a unique motorsport concept – but it’s not a coincidence that World Rallycross is like this.
Series regulations are designed to bring the performance of the championship’s vastly different machines closer together, and so World RX enforces the fitment of air restrictors to engines.
“If we didn’t have to run restrictors, the cars would be much faster,” reveals Ekström. “The championship makes us run a 45mm air restrictor on the S1, which takes away a lot of power. Way more than 600bhp would be possible without them.”
Top Trumps players may dislike the horsepower-hampering use of restrictors, but there’s no denying their effectiveness. Despite the variable nature of the circuits, where surfaces change lap by lap as rubble and stones are displaced, lap times are often separated by hundredths of a second.
Tyres also play a big part in keeping the racing close. The World Rallycross series employs a single control tyre supplier, Cooper Tires, which provides just one dry and one wet compound at each round, removing any form of rubber advantage from the equation.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but our rallycross tyres are actually crossplies – an old technology,” says Matthew Vincent, Cooper’s development chemist.
Vincent explains that while the crossplies don’t generate the peak grip levels of radial tyres, their performance doesn’t drop off anywhere near as quickly, offering more consistency and predictability over the course of a race and therefore enabling the drivers to push to the limit for a six-lap final’s entirety.
In total, each car gets an allocation of 16 tyres, made up of eight dry tyres and eight wet, for every championship weekend. The dry tyres are so soft that their rubber feels like chewing gum to touch when hot, but this softness doesn’t mean they’re delicate.
“We had to add strengthening materials into the sidewalls to cope with the wheel banging,” says Vincent with a laugh. “Rallycross tyres have to be tough.”
Alongside the tyres, drivers and technical regulations, there’s one other race feature that sets World Rallycross apart from most mainstream forms of motorsport: the joker lap.
Each driver is required to complete one lap of their race using an extended part of the track, and at the recent Spanish round at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, this extra section of track pushed the last corner out by about 50 metres.
The joker lap feature not only mixes up the racing with varying tactics but also makes for unpredictable results. Without it, the racing would no doubt still be fantastic, but with it, there really is no guessing who will win. It’s no surprise that Ekström is hooked on rallycross.
With an enviable CV of professional motorsport experience, he could easily land a drive in another top series, but the championship-leading Swede wants to stay put.
“The competition is closer than normal and you see the support from the fans really growing,” says Ekström. “I can’t tell you how long I will stay here, but as long as I’m competitive I want to stay in rallycross. I will enjoy racing here a lot into the future. I really love it.”
Woking’s racer faces three other top models in our GT4 racing car special
You’re doing a track day in your Porsche Cayman. It’s the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit. Ahead, you catch a glimpse of a shard of automotive exotica.
As you power through Becketts, you pick out the shape of a LaFerrari. It disappears on the straight because you have 370bhp to its 950bhp, but by the time you’ve reached the exit of Stowe your windscreen is full of Ferrari once more. You nip by under braking for Vale and as you leave Club and look in the mirror again, it’s gone.
This is not a fantasy. It may be that the Ferrari driver wasn’t trying hard, but in a day spent driving the latest GT4 racers at a Silverstone track day populated not only by LaFerraris but also Radicals, BAC Monos, Ariel Atoms, Porsche 911 GT3 RSs and other apocalyptically fast road cars, nothing got a sniff of the exhausts of any of the GT4 race cars we had gathered to investigate and enjoy.
It seems odd that you can take a car like a Cayman, throw some race suspension, slick tyres and a bit of aero work at it and emerge with something that, over a lap, will humble the fastest street machines. But such is the magic of the GT4 car, an accessible and, for many, affordable formula which, along with the horrendous costs of modern GT3 racing, explains the interest it is currently enjoying around the world.
GT4 cars can be raced as part of the British GT Championship, in the Britcar championship and in a dizzying array of series and 24-hour races. Cars are mainly based on production road models with stripped interiors and the aforementioned suspension, tyres and aero. Crucially, performance between competitors is levelled by the authorities by many different Y means via the so-called Balance of Performance process, but it is usually done by limiting power through engine restrictors, adding ballast or clipping wings – which is how the McLaren 570S GT4 seen here should be no faster over a lap than the Cayman. Or that’s the theory.
More manufacturers are joining GT4 all the time, and it’s not hard to see why. Aston Martin has been in from the start and has now built 112 GT4 V8 Vantages, while there are expected to be up to 100 570Ss racing in GT4 next year.
I try the Aston first. It’s the one with which I am very familiar, as I shared an almost identical car in the Silverstone 24 Hours event last year.
Everywhere you look are signs that this is a fully developed endurance racer, from the big stuff like a proper race-spec digital dashboard and the 12 different settings for the ABS and traction control, to the tiny details, such as the little hook on the roll cage on which to hang the detachable steering wheel. For last year’s Silverstone race I was told only to look after myself, because the car could take anything we threw at it for 24 hours straight, and so it proved.
The big V8 is near enough standard and runs through the normal car’s seven-speed automated manual gearbox, but with race exhausts it thunders into life. It’s as easy to drive onto the circuit as its road-going equivalent, but until you’ve got some heat into its set of well-used slicks, it has no grip at all.
But Silverstone’s GP circuit is perfect for cars that, by normal racer standards, are quite big and heavy. They need space and highspeed corners to feel their best and make the most of their small but significant levels of downforce. And here the Vantage is a riot. Its strength is not any one of its power grip or braking but the confidence it imbues. Many who race such cars are not professionals but competent amateurs who’ll go faster in a car with viceless limit handling than in a technically quicker but trickier car. The Aston is that car. Even with tyres that made it understeer on entry and oversteer on exit, you never get the sense it’s waiting to get away from you. And I remember from the race that on new slicks it made me feel like a superhero – and is that not what such cars should do for their owners?
The Porsche comes next, so I transition from the oldest to the newest GT4 car out there. Indeed, the Cayman GT4 ClubSport is so new that the full homologation version is not out yet, but when it does appear it will be 45kg lighter and far quicker. It feels like a more standard car; it retains the road car’s dashboard and big stick shifter, and while the ABS is adjustable, the traction and stability control systems are only switchable on and off, just like the road car.
Actually, it’s a little disappointing at first. It feels slower than the Aston under power, but of greater concern is that it doesn’t feel that great under braking or in the corners. Happily, I have no shortage of laps in which to understand the problem, which is essentially one of damping control. The car porpoises under braking, causing unwelcome ABS intervention, and never quite settles down in the corners.
In time, however, it’s easy to see what a fine race car the GT4 is going to make. It has all that Cayman agility, that talent for pivoting around its mid-point that will make it a demon on slower circuits, and on brand new slicks it offers such high apex speeds that it makes other cars on the track akin to motionless brick walls towards which you are driving at considerable speed. You brake for the right-hand curve at the end of the pit straight as much to get the nose into the apex as slow the car down, then the left that follows is easily flat. Whatever the teething troubles of this particular car, next year’s fully developed Cayman is going to be an awesome device.
The Ginetta G55 is as different as can be. You’d scarcely believe it was in the same category, and there’s a very good reason for that: it’s a racing car. While all others here are developments of road cars, the G55 was only ever designed to race. It is lighter to the tune of some hundreds of kilos and, were it not for Balance of Performance rules keeping it in check, might prove not only the cheapest car here but also by some margin the quickest, despite the 355bhp of its 3.7-litre Ford V6 making it the least powerful of this quartet.
But there’s a flipside to this. There’s no cosy familiarity when you step inside, no beautifully assembled interior nor, more importantly, driver aids of any kind. ABS and traction control are provided by your right foot. Relative to the others, the car feels close and claustrophobic, and it is hellishly noisy, mainly because, unlike the others, it also has a straight-cut racing gearbox.
But my goodness, it’s effective. Even though I expect it’s not at its best in the wide open spaces of Silverstone, the G55 takes little time to show why it’s such a force to be reckoned with in GT racing. You notice its low weight everywhere, but never more than under braking. It may not have ABS, but that doesn’t stop it from being convincingly the best here at losing speed. You just brake later because there is less car to slow, which in race terms means that if you can get a decent tow down the straight from the more powerful car you’re following, it’ll be a sitting duck if there’s a slow corner at the end. It’s quite mobile in slow corners, but beautifully balanced. Short, staccato jabs of corrective lock come entirely naturally and completely in keeping with the pared back, no-nonsense, back-to-basics character of the car.
The McLaren not only looks like a spacecraft by comparison but feels like one, too. It’s actually heavier than a standard 570S because the rules require it to have a full roll cage (which is nothing like as strong as the carbonfibre tub it’s bolted to), but it still requires an engine detune from 562bhp to just 429bhp to stop it from disappearing into the distance. The interior is close to standard in a car that, like the Cayman, is brand new to GT4 racing.
To a brain dialled in to that slightly insane, artillery shell acceleration that all McLaren road cars possess, the GT4 requires a little adjustment. My fear that it would feel slow on the straights proved unfounded, because it still retains massive midrange torque, but where the road car really takes off above 6000rpm, the race version’s power delivery is more linear and less exciting. Less exciting, that is, until you reach a corner. For a car with, by ultimate standards, quite modest levels of downforce, its entry speeds are other-worldly and its stability as you brake deep into the curve simply extraordinary. And when you greedily grab a chunk of kerb at an apex, it rides over it like a Rolls-Royce.
There are bits of Silverstone’s track margins I’d never normally go near but which the McLaren soaks up with ease, making the circuit wider and therefore quicker. It’s the only car here that makes you think wizards have been at work on the chassis. It is also the one that would take the longest to get to know but which, even after only half a dozen laps, feels the most special.
There’s no first to last ranking. These are racing cars, yet Balance of Performance seeks to create parity in lap times. Given this, I was astonished by how different each felt and how clearly its place in GT4 is defined.
The bargain is the Ginetta; for those wanting the most competitive car here for the least money, it should be the automatic choice. It won’t look after you like the others and it’s rough and ready by comparison but, boy, does it get the job done.
In many ways, the Cayman is the opposite. If you’re bored with track days and want to step up to proper competition in a car that will not only prove fun and fast but also provide a safe transition from one world to the next, there is nothing better. It’s good now and in next year’s lighter, fully developed homologated form, I expect it will be brilliant.
The Aston? It’s probably the one I enjoyed driving most. It has the look, it makes the noise and is lovely on the limit. And while I might be delighted to do a sprint race in any of the others, if I were to chose one with which to go twice around the clock, common sense says it should be the Vantage, because you’d near enough know it could do it with its eyes shut.
Which leaves the McLaren. Of them all, it’s the one I’d most want to drive again. Artificial engine restriction is the only reason it does not possess performance on another level to the others; it grips like a ride in a NASA centrifuge. This is the car that feels most special and would take longest to learn but, I am sure, offer the greatest rewards in the end.
But I’m not here to crown a champion, simply to celebrate the emergence of a great new breed of racing car you don’t need to be a professional to enjoy. And more are coming: BMW has already announced a GT4 version of the M4 for next year, and MercedesAMG has confirmed its AMG GT will spawn a GT4 version. Audi is known to be evaluating GT4, although probably with a version of its existing TT Cup car rather than the R8.
Which means if this is the first time you’ve heard of GT4 racing, it probably won’t be the last, especially given that so many manufacturers are now getting stuck in and with such a variety of cars. For people trading up from track days or down from the ever-spiralling costs of GT3, GT4 offers the ideal home.
Aston Martin’s vital new DB11 delivers GT comfort and supercar performance in a very different way from the Bentley Continental GT Speed
Running fast towards my rendezvous with the Aston Martin DB11, the challenge it is about to take on is clear.
The Bentley Continental GT Speed under my right foot doesn’t feel like a car in need of replacement at all. Indeed, I’d argue the greatest trick it ever pulled is not to have lived a life this long – it’s already in its 13th year – but to have become so improved within that span as to be a better car today relative to its peers than when it was new back in 2003. Usually, cars just don’t do that.
And if it seems odd to be banging on about a rather old Bentley in a test whose primary focus is a brand-new Aston Martin (upon whose shapely shoulders rests to one extent or another the future of the company that makes it), I’d ask you to bear with me for the duration of this paragraph, because this stuff matters. If you and I are to understand the nature of the challenge, we must peer beyond the immediately evident – the respective power-to-weight ratios, looks, mass and age gap. We must appreciate that in its sense of solidity and sheer structural integrity, the Bentley has a quality as easy to appreciate in reality as it is difficult to express in numbers on a page. For customers who must value what a car would be like to live with as much as what it would be like to drive, this talent is not only compelling but, if the Aston is to win here, must also be overcome.
The DB11 sits in a lay-by at the bottom of a mountain while Autocar staffers sponge away the last of the road grime from its flanks. I know some have their reservations, but to me this is how a 21st century Aston should look: modern, dynamic, respectful to its past but not manacled to it. It looks small next to the Bentley, but it’s not, really. It’s just over 70mm shorter and less than 5mm narrower and sits on a longer wheelbase. The almost 12cm height differential is the only truly telling statistical difference between them on the outside.
Each is powered by a largedisplacement, quad-cam, twinturbocharged 12-cylinder engine and sends drive to the road via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. But whereas the Bentley motor retains its curious W formation – more easily thought of as two narrow-angle V6s sharing a common crankshaft – and directs its power to all four corners of the car, the Aston has a traditional V12, rear-wheel drive layout. Both engines can trace their lineage back years – to 2001 for the Bentley and 1999 for the Aston – but both have been so extensively re-engineered as to be regarded as new.
The Continental GT Speed appears to hold the balance of size and power, prising 626bhp from 6.0 litres and an astonishing 619lb ft of torque, compared with the 600bhp and 516lb ft offered by the 5.2-litre DB11. But once you’ve offset that against the Bentley’s immense 2320kg kerb weight, it is the comparatively dainty 1910kg Aston – if that word can be used in the context of a car that still weighs close to two tonnes – that looks far and away the most potent.
Entering the Aston directly from the Bentley fuels the narrative suggesting that for all they have in common in terms of power, price and apparent positioning, these two represent very different takes on the classic British grand touring theme. You fall so far from Continental to DB11 that you might think it was actually a Bentayga from which you’d recently arrived.
The Bentley cabin architecture, so effortlessly cool in 2003, now looks fusty in its traditionalism. Its shapes are as attractive as ever, but in its analogue dials and Neolithic multimedia system lie the most telling evidence of the car’s age.
Bentley Continental GT Sport cabin
Aston Martin DB11 cabin
It’s tempting to praise the DB11 cabin to the skies simply because an adult of above-average height can now find a comfortable driving position, the instruments are actually legible and the nav no longer makes you want to commit an act of physical violence on the car. In fact, it would have been scandalous had the DB11 not improved on these, the DB9’s very worst characteristics. But even by the standards of today, this is a good Aston Martin cabin. Its look is modern without attempting the self-consciously avant-garde, and although the ancillary control switches and main infotainment display betray their Mercedes-Benz roots too readily, they all work intuitively and effectively. Compared with the competition from Bentley and, more broadly, Maserati and Ferrari, it’s an effective solution, albeit one that’s unlikely to trouble the new Porsche Panamera, whose state-of-the-art interior architecture is likely to play a prominent role in next year’s all-new Continental GT.
Both cars have rear seating that’s close to unusable for most. The Bentley is better and has the bigger boot but, in both cases, unless those up front are of compact proportions, the area behind the seats should be regarded as additional storage space.
The Aston’s new engine is louder than the Bentley’s on start-up, but quieter by far than the DB9’s, a trait you might not like but the neighbours will undoubtedly love. While the Continental must satisfy itself with brewing up indistinct, far-off thunder under its bonnet, the DB11’s voice is sharp, layered and unmistakably that of a V12. It doesn’t sound turbocharged at all.
There will be time for ambling later, but now we must drive hard. Why? Because this is the most gently sprung Aston in history and you need to know if, despite such softbottomed settings, it still drives like an Aston should. So here is a DB11 and there is a mountain; it’s time to throw one at the other.
You may find yourself letting out a little gasp within the first five seconds and a rather larger one when you park the DB11 at the top. The first comes courtesy of the sheer speed of the thing. The stats say it’s not much quicker off the line than the Bentley, but the stats don’t know how much of the Bentley’s getaway pace is down to power and how much to traction. But your backside knows instantly. The Conti is properly, majestically quick, but the Aston at full chat will elicit small involuntary noises from its occupants, and the Bentley can’t quite do that. Nor can its unconventionally arranged 12 cylinders come close to the symphonic snarl of the Aston’s. The DB11 motor only really feels turbocharged in its slightly tardy throttle response at very low revs. The rest of the time it’s as convincing a turbo installation as I’ve tried, and I’ve driven the Ferrari 488 GTB.
The next task is to decide the best speed at which to angle some two tonnes of DB11 (with me on board) into a tricky, off-camber curve. The weight, wheelbase and spring rates all advise a conservative approach, but the confidence with which the car has addressed the road so far says something different. So you go with your gut and are rewarded by all the poise, grip and balance you could have hoped for – more, in fact, than you could reasonably expect from a car like this. By keeping it soft but abbreviating excess body movement with damper software as good as I’ve encountered, Aston’s chassis engineers have done what would have been impossible until very recently. The ride is beautiful, yet the body control at high speed in a difficult corner is superb. With steering that is quick, precise and more feelsome than you might expect of Aston’s first electromechanical system, it makes placing the car accurately an automatic process, which, on a road such as this, is probably the single greatest determinant of not merely how fast you go but also how much fun you have going fast.
That the Bentley doesn’t simply give up in the face of such an assured performance says all you need to know about how far this car has come over the years. Driving it fast is a less natural process, because you’re inclined to mentally divide the road into straights and corners rather than look at it as one organic whole. You barrel along the straights but over-stop the car for each curve, because the car is bigger and less wieldy than the Aston and it feels it. So you play to its strengths, turning in carefully but reapplying the power earlier to exploit its fabulous traction. In its own serene way, this, too, is fun, albeit less for what you’re doing and more for what you’re doing it in. But the Aston is the better driver’s car, and by an appreciable margin.
But can it cruise as well the Bentley? Yes and no. The DB11 has the best ride quality of any car of this kind I can recall, and it’s quiet enough for a 500-mile day to be relished rather than endured. The Bentley is probably a little quieter, and although its ride is much improved over that of early versions, it’s not as deft as the Aston’s. But you do feel impregnable inside the Bentley, on board one of the best-built cars on earth. There’s probably not a car out there in which you’d feel much safer or more secure than the Conti, and for all its talents, the Aston can’t do this. Even allowing for this DB11’s pre-production status and therefore forgiving the dashboard squeak and wind rustle that stalked us from start to finish, it feels assembled from components like a normal car, not hewn from solid like the Bentley.
That’s not going to snatch victory from the Aston’s jaws here, though. The truth is that against a car designed just after the turn of the century, nothing less than a convincing win for the DB11 would suffice here, and that is what has been achieved. It’s not a rout, because the Continental GT Speed remains a class act, despite its weight, ageing telematics and the ongoing awkward fact that the cheaper V8 S is a far better, more engaging car to drive.
But Aston Martin can relax for now, content that its most important product in more than a decade has passed its first test with space to spare. Sterner challenges will come, not least that posed by an all-new Continental GT based on the brandnew platform now making its debut in the Porsche Panamera. For now, however, let’s celebrate the fact that the DB11 is a better car today than was the DB9 in 2003 or the DB7 in 1994 and probably its best all-new grand tourer since the DB4 in 1959. We all know Aston Martin is heading towards a brave new world populated not just by traditional sports cars and GTs but everything from SUVs to hypercars, too. It would be hard to conceive of a better judged, more suitable steed on which to ride towards that horizon than this.
Volkswagen Group brands experienced a 7.1% increase in deliveries in September, one year since the emissions scandal rocked the world’s largest car maker
The Volkswagen Group has posted a 7.1% sales increase across its brands in September.
The figure bucks expectations that sales would drop in the aftermath of the emissions scandal.
Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) maintain that customers are unperturbed by the emissions scandal. Sales of diesel-engined cars failed to take the nosedive that was expected, instead declining slowly as sales of electrified vehicles ballooned.
A global year-to-date growth of 2.4% was supported by large gains in central and eastern Europe, as well as the Asia Pacific region and in particular China, which grew by 10.7% across the year. A growth of 3.5% occurred in Europe, including a 2.1% growth in Germany, while a 1.1% decline was posted in North America across the year.
Despite the year-to-date shrinkage in the US, sales actually grew by 1.3% compared with September of last year. The Brazilian recession bit a 36.6% chunk out of Volkswagen’s year, with a 59% decline compared with September last year.
Volkswagen as a brand bore the brunt of the backlash, with UK sales down by 14.1% on September 2015, although Audi’s sales grew by 9.4%, Porsche’s by 12.7% and Skoda’s by 10.37%. Despite the shrinkage, the Golf and Polo maintained their positions in the UK’s top 10 best-selling cars in September.
The Audi A3 become entered the UK’s top 10 most registered cars list in September, at number 10, with 33,240 registered since the start of the year. Meanwhile, the Vauxhall Mokka was pushed off the bottom of the chart, having been overtaken by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and A3.
It’s likely that the Volkswagen brand’s sales will be boosted by the eighth-generation Golf, which is due to be revealed in the first weeks of November. Skoda should also see a spike with arrival of the hotly anticipated Kodiaq SUV. A Skoda insider has revealed that ahead of the Kodaiq’s launch, it has attracted unprecedented levels of purchase interest.
Several models like the cars pictured have adopted the use of three-cylinder engines in recent years
Reports say car makers will ditch smaller capacity units for larger ones as new emissions tests expose flaws
Car makers such as Volkswagen, Renault and Vauxhall will slow the development of downsized engines and bring back larger capacity units following the introduction of new emissions tests, according to reports on Reuters.
Reuters says that the implementation of new real-world testing procedures has exposed flaws in downsized engines, which were predominantly developed to achieve low emission ratings in older laboratory tests.
New real-world data has shown that downsized units can sometimes perform worse than larger ones for CO2 and NOx output, largely because of the heat generated by their turbos, which they depend on more to develop power.
While lab tests were unable to reveal these downfalls, new real-world testing, which will come into force by 2019, shows it more clearly.
Common issues in smaller units include overheating that requires over fuelling to keep engine temperatures cool. This, in turn, results in more unburned hydrocarbons, particulates and carbon monoxide.
Pavan Potluri, an analyst at forecasting company IHS Automotive, told Reuters: “[Downsized engines] might be doing okay in the current European test cycle, but in the real world, they are not performing. So there’s actually a bit of ‘upsizing’ going on, particularly in diesel.”
According to Reuters, several car makers have already started to work this ‘upsizing’ philosophy into production models.
General Motors is said to be ditching its 1.2-litre diesel engine, which features in models such as the Vauxhall Corsa, when new 2019 architecture is launched, with the smallest diesel engine in the future range likely to be around 1.5 litres in capacity.
Volkswagen is replacing 1.4-litre three-cylinder diesel engines with four-cylinder 1.6-litre motors in smaller models, and Renault is also making a U-turn by introducing a 10% larger unit in place of its R9M 1.6-litre diesel, which itself was a downsized unit that filled the space left by a discontinued 1.9-litre diesel.
This comes at a time when companies like Porsche have employed downsizing in their models. The new 718 Cayman and 718 Boxter models have been the subject of much discussion following their use of turbocharged four-cylinders in place of the old cars’ flat-six motors.
In the future, downsizing might come in the form of increased hybridisation, rather than the shedding of cubic centimetres. Sudeep Kaippalli, Frost & Sullivan analyst, told Reuters “Downsizing will mean you take a smaller engine and add an electric motor to it.”