|28 Jul, 2017
The outgoing Rolls-Royce Phantom VII lived for nearly 14 years before
its retirement earlier this year. Now its successor, Phantom VIII, is
finally unveiled. Its exterior design is hardly new, which is probably
right to the conservative taste of its customers. The tall and blocky
shape is kept intact, only the design details and the faster rear
window distinguish it from the old car. Again the wheels are giant
22-inch items. Even so, they fail to hide the bulk of the car. At
5762mm long, 2018mm wide, 1646mm tall and 3552mm in wheelbase, the new
car is roughly the same size as the old car. Its 2625 kg kerb weight is
140 kg more than the early Phantom VII though.
The new chassis is again an all-aluminum spaceframe (without
carbon-fiber elements, unlike the BMW 7-Series of the same group), but
its rigidity is lifted by 30 percent. Rolls-Royce improves NVH
suppression further by a lot of measures, such as applying 130kg of
insulating materials, using foam-filling double-aluminum skins at the
floor and bulkheads, 6mm-thick double glazing windows and even
specially developed tires with a foam layer. The result is 10 percent
lower noise level.
The chassis rides on a new double-wishbone front axle and 5-link rear
axle. Self-levelling air suspension is standard again, but it is now
added with Magic Carpet Ride technology, which is BMW's version of
Mercedes Magic Body Control. It uses a 3D camera at the windscreen to
scan the road ahead and adjust the suspension stiffness accordingly.
The V12 engine still displaces 6.75 liters as in the tradition of RR,
but it is now added with twin-turbochargers like Ghost (whose engine is
6.6-liter). It produces 571 hp and 664 lbft of torque from 1700 rpm.
The engine is hooked to an ZF 8-speed auto which is again linked to
GPS. Top speed is regulated at 155 mph, while 0-60 mph takes 5 seconds,
which is slower than the lighter Ghost.
Access to the rear seats is again provided by huge rear-hinged doors.
The center console between the two individual seats contains a cooled
wine cabinet with Whisky glasses. Rear passengers are served with
individual infotainment systems with dedicated controls. Oh yes, the
LED startlight roof is carried over to the new car. Everything sounds
familiar to the existing owners of Phantom.
|24 Jul, 2017
Jaguar has given its long-serving, 7-year-old XJ a refresh. The new
line-up is headed by the updated performance flagship, now called
XJR575. As suggested by its name, its 5-liter supercharged V8 has its
output lifted from 550 to 575hp, while max. torque increases from 502
to 516 lbft. This state of tune is exactly the same as F-Type SVR, if
not the 600hp version of the latest XE SV Project 8. The additional
power improves its 0-60 mph sprint by two-tenths to 4.2 seconds, and
its speed regulation is lifted from 174 to 186 mph, so it is finally a
Like lesser models, the XJR575 has been given a new electric power
steering, which enables it to equip automatic driving aids like parking
assist and lane-keeping assist. Otherwise, the XJ range gets only some
minor cosmetic tweaks and an updated infotainment system. It does not
receive any more mechanical updates, as the next generation XJ is
tipped to arrive in 2019, most likely as an all-electric car.
|21 Jul, 2017
The Lotus Evora gets more and more powerful through the years, from the
original's 280hp to 350hp when a supercharger was bolted on its
Toyota-sourced V6, then enhanced further to 406hp on Evora 400 and
416hp on the Sport 410. It also gets more and more expensive in the
process, from £50,000 to more than £80,000. However, that
is not the end of the upgrade. The latest GT430 lifts the Evora further
to the territory of Porsche 911 GT3, thanks to a power upgrade to 436hp
(DIN) at 7000 rpm, 325 lbft of torque at 4500 rpm (up from 302 lbft on
the 400 and Sport 410), and its price jumps to £112,500 - yes,
the same as the new 911 GT3! This might raise some eyebrows, but Lotus
boss Jean-Marc Gales will tell you that the GT430 is a limited edition
with only 60 units to be built, although he won't tell you iterations
of similar "limited editions" will follow, and the volume Evora will
inevitably adopt many of its new parts soon.
Anyway, the Evora GT430 has a look deserving that high price. I have
never liked the 400 and 410's angular front end and rectangular
intakes, which didn't gel with the original design of Evora. Now the
new car finally rights the wrong with redesigned bumpers and aero kits.
It looks not only far more beautiful but also more like a track car.
Both front and rear bumpers are made of carbon-fiber, which partly
explains the car's elevated price, as are the aero kits (including the
high-mounted rear spoiler), the roof panel and louvered tailgate. The
front bumper incorporates channels that draw air towards the outside of
the wheels to form air curtains, reducing tubulence hence drag. The
larger diffusers, the huge rear wing and larger boot spoiler explain
why the car can produce 250 kg of downforce at top speed, a massive
increase from the 64kg of Sport 410. It needs only 90mph to match the
max. downforce of the latter.
With the 10kg-lighter titanium exhaust fitted as standard (it was
optional on Sport 410), lighter springs and dampers and rear brake
discs etc., the car is said to be 26kg lighter than the Sport 410, with
a dry weight of 1258 kg.
Lotus did not detail the changes to the 3.5-liter supercharged V6, but
you can expect conventional means like a faster-spinning supercharger
to increase boost and a remapped ECU, no space science. The V6 is mated
with a lighter single-mass flywheel and, as before, a Torsen LSD. A new
traction control offers 5 levels of slip for you to choose from.
Both front and rear tires are 10mm wider at 245/35ZR19 and 295/30ZR20
respectively, and they remain to be Michelin PS Cup 2 (what else could
be better suited to a road & track car?). The suspension is
upgraded with Ohlins (manually) adjustable dampers and stiffer Eibach
springs, and they save 10 kg combined. The AP Racing brakes at the rear
use 3-piece discs with lightweight aluminum hub, saving 2 kg.
So how fast is the GT430? Lotus claims 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds,
two-tenths shorter than the Sport 410, while top speed is unchanged at
190 mph, not bad considering its massive aero kits. Most important, it
laps the Hethel track in 1:25.8, 2.4 seconds quicker than the Sport 410
and 0.7 second faster than Exige Sport 380. This means it is currently
the fastest Lotus road car. Whether it is fast enough to rival the new
911 GT3 on track is not sure. Previously, Gales claimed the 400 and
Sport 410 offered the highest performance for their class. This time I
haven't heard such claims.
|20 Jul, 2017
Insignia GSi and Buick Regal GS: twins with different hearts
With no plan for OPC version, this GSi is going to be the range-topping
model of Opel Insignia Grand Sport. Disappointingly, it uses the same
260hp / 295lbft 2.0 turbo motor from the existing Insignia 2.0T as well
as the same 9-speed automatic transmission, GKN Twinster 4x4 (with
rear-wheel torque vectoring) and CDC adaptive damping. Therefore, its
performance is expected to be the same as well, i.e. 155 mph top speed
and 0-60 mph taking just under 7 seconds. Not exactly a performance
sedan (well, it's a hatchback actually). What differ it from the lesser
2.0T are minor: Brembo brakes, 20-inch wheels, stiffer suspension
setting with 10mm lower ride height, a hardcore "Competition" mode and
sport bucket front seats. The front and rear bumpers have been
smartened up as well.
Although the GSi loses 2 cylinders and 65 horsepower from the last OPC
, it is
160 kg lighter, thanks to the E2XX platform as well as the downsized
engine. As a result, Opel claims the car laps Nurburgring quicker than
Meanwhile, its American version Buick Regal GS is unveiled on the same
day. Outside, it shares the GSi's bumper treatment, so only the badges
differ. What makes it superior to its twins sister is the engine. It
adopts GM's 3.65-liter LGW naturally aspirated V6, with direct
injection and cylinder deactivation that leaves 4 cylinders running in
cruising. Output is rated at 310 hp and 282 lbft, identical to the
version employed by Buick LaCrosse, so the car should be a little
faster than its Opel sister.
However, the Regal GS is not the only version of Insignia Grand Sport
to feature a V6. Last December, Holden Commodore was already unveiled
with both the V6 and the 2.0T engine.
The Regal also features the same transmission, 4WD and adaptive
dampers. Its suspension setting is likely to be softer than the Opel's,
and it rides on smaller, 19-inch wheels, which is evident from the
larger wheel well gaps shown in the picture. Inside, the bucket seats
are virtually identical.
|15 Jul, 2017
The current Honda Accord is not exactly a good-looking car.
Comparatively, the new, 10th generation Accord has a sleeker shape, but
it seems to me uglier still, blame to the strange nose and headlights
that are toppled by the extensions of the chrome grille. Its proportion
isn't much better either. There are sedans and fastbacks in the
mid-size family car segment, but the new Accord seems undecided on
which way to go. The result is a fastback followed by a small boot,
which isn't easy on eyes. The side profile is equally flawed. It adopts
a banana-shape side profile that so far only Mercedes-Benz managed to
look stylish. Instead, the Accord looks fat in the middle, like an
average American man in his 40s. Yes, the Accord is 41 years old now.
However ugly it is, its proportion is sportier than its predecessor's.
Honda managed to cut 10mm from its length but inserted 55mm to its
wheelbase, extending the latter to 2830mm. Meanwhile, the car gets 10mm
wider and 15mm lower. Its center of gravity is lowered by 10mm as well.
Inside, the extended wheelbase liberates 50mm to rear legroom, so it
should be one of the roomiest in the class. By putting the front seats
closer to the center line, Honda claims some improvement to hip and
shoulder room, too, although it declines to comment on headroom.
The interior design is all-new, of course. The design and materials
look more up-to-date. The dashboard is set lower and sleeker. The
infotainment screen is now free-standing rather than recessed into a
pod, as it is now a touchscreen.
54 percent of the monocoque chassis is made of high-strength steel now,
among which 29 percent is ultra-high-strength steel. As a result,
torsional rigidty is lifted by 32 percent, while kerb weight of the car
is reduced by 50-80 kg depending on models.
Suspension continues to be MacPherson struts up front and multi-link at
the rear, but there are detailed changes. The front suspensions now use
aluminum lower control arms to save weight. They are also mounted on an
aluminum front subframe. The rear are mounted on a more rigid subframe.
All four suspensions are mounted through hydraulic bump stops for
better NVH suppression. Big news is the availability of adaptive
dampers for the first time.
The case of 80kg weight saving must be the range-topping model, because
it follows the segment trend to abandon the outgoing 3.5-liter V6 for a
2-liter DI turbo. The four-cylinder motor is said to be a detuned
version of the Civic Type R's. The turbo and intercoolers are smaller,
of course, but it seems to retain the i-VTEC system consisting of
dual-VTC and exhaust variable valve lift. It produces 252hp and
273lbft, good for its kind but in terms of horsepower it still trails
the old V6 by 26 ponies. It offers more torque, and way more at lower
rpms, but don't expect it to be quicker against the clock. This engine
mates with a new 10-speed automatic whose ratio spread is a massive 68
percent wider than the old 6-speeder yet weighs 10 kg less. The
outgoing 6-speed manual is carried over. Since only 4 percent of Accord
drivers take this option, new development is not justified.
The outgoing 2.4-liter base engine is also replaced by a downsized
turbo. It is the new 1.5-liter DI turbo found on Civic. Max. output is
192 hp and 192 lbft, both more than before. It is mated to either the
6-speed manual or a new CVT, whose ratio range is again stretched wider.
Honda said the lighter 2.0 turbo and 10-speed auto result in
front-to-rear weight distribution of 61:39, "a significant improvement
versus the current V-6
and 6AT Accord". However, my fact check from C&D road test found
the old car recorded 61.7:38.3, so it is not exactly a significant
|13 Jul, 2017
Hyundai has finally introduced its performance brand "N" on the i30. It
is supposed to capitalize on the company's participation in WRC.
However, that is more about image than content, because the i30 N
follows very much the formula of VW Golf GTi and Peugeot 308GTi to be a
practrical hot hatch rather than the equal of Civic Type R or Focus RS.
Like its rivals, it is available in 2 versions, one cheaper and another
with higher performance. Both are powered by the company's 2.0 T-GDI
turbo engine, but while the standard car produces 250 hp, the car with
Performance package generates 275 hp. These numbers are very close to
Peugeot's but more than VW. Both versions deliver the same maximum
torque of 260 lbft, and both cars are capped at 155 mph. The standard
car is good for 0-60 mph in 6.1 sec, while Performance pack improves
that to 5.8 sec. A 6-speed manual gearbox is mandatory, but it features
rev-matching function on downshift.
The i30 N features launch control and adaptive dampers. The Performance
pack brings also an electronic-controlled LSD (like Golf GTi
Performance), larger 19-inch wheels, Pirelli P-Zero tires, larger
brakes and sportier-sounding variable exhaust to the equation. The
other side of the equation is an additional weight of 29 kg.
Outside, the car features more aero kits as expected, but overall it is
not a great-looking design, just like the regular i30. Inside, bucket
seats are the most obvious change, yet they are not expecially
attractive to eyes.
What does "N" mean? According to Hyundai, it has double meaning:
Namyang and Nurburgring. The former is the location of the company's
R&D center in Korea, while the latter is the place at which it
underwent extensive testing and chassis development. Like the rest of
the range, the hot hatch is built at the plant in Czech Republic.
|13 Jul, 2017
to say goodbye
Production of Dodge Viper is finally coming to the end next month, as
its assembly plant is scheduled to shut down on 31st August. The car
will not comply with new safety regulations enforced from September
anyway. Through the first six months this year, just over 400 Vipers
have been sold. That is also why it is not going to be renewed. The
first generation Viper was born in 1992, but its formula has never
changed, so it is already 25 years old.
|12 Jul, 2017
Martin Valkyrie prototype
Aston Martin revealed its supercar AM-RB 001 this time last year. It
was designed by Red Bull Racing's star designer Adrian Newey using his
F1 know-how. 150 road cars (plus 25 race cars) will be built, each at a
cost of £2.5 million, making it even more expensive than Bugatti
Chiron. Now after one year, the concept has been developed into a
prototype, which is said to be 95 percent close to production. The car
also gets a formal name, Valkyrie.
As these pictures show, the car has underwent some big changes in
aerodynamics, mainly to increase downforce. It is said to be capable of
producing 4000 lb (1800 kg) of downforce at top speed! A figure I have
never heard for road cars. A key contributor is the massive venturis
built under the car, which is evident from the picture below.
The prototype shows the interior for the first time. The carbon-fiber
passenger cell is extremely narrow. Moreover, you get into it from the
very small gullwing doors like Le Mans car drivers. In fact, you might
just call the doors as windows, because they open up to the shoulder
line only. This means you have to climb into the cockpit skillfully. I
hope Aston will offer free Yoga lessons to help its billionaire
customers mastering that technique!
The cockpit has 2 seats but absolutely no shoulder room for both. The
seat pads are moulded into the floor to save space like LaFerrari. The
footwell seems to be seriously offset to the center line as the
carbon-fiber monocoque is shaped like F1 cars to increase air flow
passing either sides. The only luxury item is as many as 4 LCD screens
on offer, but each of them has special purposes. The one on the
racing-style steering wheel displays the driving information as the car
has no instrument pod. The one on the center console (is it a console?)
displays secondary information as well as rear view from the rearward
camera, since the car has no rear window at all. Likewise, the screens
at either sides of the dashboard replace door mirrors. The Valkyrie
takes aerodynamics to the extreme.
No technical specifications have been confirmed, but insiders said the
car's Cosworth-built 6.5-liter V12 in combination with an electric
motor will produce around 1130 hp to the rear wheels through a
Ricardo-built 7-speed single-clutch automated manual. Meanwhile, the
car will weigh around 1030 kg, so its power-to-weight ratio will exceed
Koenigsegg One:1. In addition to that massive downforce, no wonder
Aston said it will lap Silverstone circuit just as quick as an F1 car!
However, there is still a lot of work to do for the development and
testing. First delivery is not expected until 2019. Ironically, such a
lengthy development is very un-Newey.
|12 Jul, 2017
Future cancels factory
Back in January, I already said the future of Faraday Future FF 91
electric crossover was highly doubtful. Now it is closer to death. The
company has announced the cancellation of the plan to build a factory
in Nevada, USA, which was originally supposed to start production at
the year end. This means the FF 91 has to be built elsewhere, probably
by a contract manufacturer like Valmet or Magna, but considering the
company owes its suppliers substantial money, I suppose no one will be
dare to help.
Faraday Future's parent company, LeEco of China, is in deep financial
trouble. Recently, Shanghai court freezes US$180 million worth of its
assets as it is being chased by China Merchants Bank. Its founder Jia
Yueting stepped down last week as Chairman. I believe the white knight
would cut unprofitable business like the electric car operation.
|11 Jul, 2017
Mk4: high on tech, short of style.
Welcome the new, 4th generation Audi A8! Not so welcomed is its
conservative, or even dull exterior design. Obviously it is a small
evolution from the old car's styling. The key change is the wider
hexagonal front grille, but its front end looks bulkier than the old
car's, more like that of the current Q7. Sadly, this car shares little
of the aesthetic of the 2014 Prologue luxury coupe concept, which was
ironically tipped to be previewing the next A8!
The new A8 is marginally larger than the old car. In standard form it
is 5172mm long (+37mm), 1945mm wide (-4mm), 1473mm tall (+13mm), while
its 2998mm wheelbase is barely 6mm longer. The long wheelbase version
adds 130mm to the car's length and wheelbase.
In terms of technology, this car should eclipse Mercedes S-class and
BMW 7-Series to be the world's most advanced mass production car. This
starts from a multi-material spaceframe chassis that consists of
aluminum, magnesium and carbon-fiber reinforced plastics (see
illustration below). The majority of it (58% by weight) is still
aluminum in various forms, i.e. stamped, extrusion and casting, but the
places subjected to the most severe side impact, i.e. side rails, A and
B-pillars, are now made of ultra-high strength steel, which is stronger
than aluminum. Meanwhile, the wall separating passenger cell and boot
is made of CFRP, and the front suspension tower brace is made of
magnesium. Torsional rigidity of the chassis is lifted by 24 percent,
although it is an alarming 51kg heavier!
As before, all suspensions are aluminum 5-link and mounted on subframe.
They are served with adaptive air springs and damping, but now you can
specify a fully active suspension called AI active suspension. Each
corner is served with an electric motor, which can apply up to 811 lbft
of torque to the suspension through a coupling rod, raising or lowering
the suspension rapidly to react to bumps or driving needs. In case a
side collision is anticipated by the clever impact detection system, it
can jack up the suspension of that side so that the strongest section
of the body (i.e. the sills) can be positioned optimally against the
impact. The electric motor at each corner is supplied by the car's 48V
electrical system. This means the A8 is the second car in the
production world (just behind SQ7) to feature 48V system.
The active suspension needs better road-reading. This is made possible
by using a new laser scanner (mounted at the front bumper) in
conjunction with long-range radar and cameras. These hardware also
allows the A8 to be the world's first production car capable of Level 3
autonomous driving under some conditions without needing the driver to
keep monitoring. In traffic jam, the driver can activate the autonomous
driving function, then the car will follow the traffic, applying
accelerator, brake and steering automatically. However, it is not yet
developed to be fool-proof at higher speeds, so above 60km/h (37mph) it
will give control back to the driver. If he fails to react, the car
will brake to stop.
The 48V electrical system is supplied by a Li-ion battery mounted under
the boot. It is charged by a new, more powerful starter-alternator
which can recover as much as 13kW from braking. Predictably, this
allows the A8 to feature standard mild-hybrid power. You might remember
I talked about ZF's
hybrid 8-speed transmission
in AutoZine Technical School not long
ago. It contains a disc-shape electric motor inside the transmission
casing. With this transmission, the A8 can utilize electric power to
assist propulsion in coasting mode. This allows the car to coast up to
100mph with the engine shut down for up to 40 seconds. The electric
motor may also assist acceleration. The mild-hybrid tech reduces fuel
consumption by 0.7 liter/100km.
The engine range is more predictable:
- 3.0 TDI V6: 286hp / 442lbft
- 3.0 TFSI V6: 340hp / 369lbft. It is a detuned version
of the one serving S4 and S5. Single-turbo, Miller-cycle compatible.
- 4.0 TDI V8: 435hp / 664lbft. Comes from SQ7, with e-booster.
- 4.0 TFSI V8: 460hp. A development from the existing
engine, with cylinder deactivation.
- 6.0 TFSI W12: 585hp / 590lbft. Audi finally adopts
the W12 turbo from Bentley, but it is the new version of Bentayga, with
cylinder deactivation and 2 twin-scroll turbos.
The last one is e-tron. It is a PHEV combining the 3.0TFSI engine, an
electric motor and a 14.1kWh Li-ion battery under boot floor. It offers
an EV range of 50km. Again, the electric motor is part of the ZF Hybrid
transmission, but it opts for the largest (122hp) motor available.
Total system output is 449hp and 516lbft.
As expected Quattro is standard. It uses crown-gear center differential
to split torque 40:60 front to rear under normal condition. Active rear
differential is optional.
Other technologies include headlights employing HD LED matrix high
beams and laser spot (like R8 LMX), OLED taillights, rear-wheel
steering, remote parking and active noise cancellation (to deal with
What a pity it looks so boring!
|1 Jul, 2017
911 GT2 RS
Another car has entered the 700hp Club. The new Porsche 991 GT2 RS
features a revised 3.8-liter turbo engine to make 700hp and 553 lbft of
torque, which is 120hp and 37 lbft more than the current 911 Turbo S.
Compared with the last generation, 2010 GT2 RS
it is 80hp stronger.
The extra power comes from larger turbos and the addition of water
injection to the intercoolers, very simple. On the downside, the new
car weighs 1470 kg DIN, a full 100 kg heavier than the old car,
although it undercuts the Turbo S by 130 kg. As before, the car is
rear-drive, but the change to 7-speed PDK gearbox accounts for some of
the weight gain. Others include the stronger engine and the larger,
991-series chassis. Standard titanium exhaust saves 7kg, but not enough
Many of the chassis parts mirror the naturally aspirated GT3 RS, such
as the similar carbon-fiber bonnet, front fenders (with air vents) and
huge fixed rear
wing, the magnesium roof, the same
tires (Michelin PS Cup 2, 265/30ZR20 front, 325/30ZR21 rear) and
4-wheel steering. However,
the nose looks rather different, thanks to XL-size intakes. Inside, it
shares the same racing buckets with the GT3 RS as well, despite the
"GT2 RS" wording. Expectedly, the rear seat is ditched in favour of a
half roll cage.
The GT2 RS is very expensive. In the UK it costs £208,000, the
same as a McLaren 720S, which is a lot of money for a 911. If you take
the optional Weissach pack, it will add another £21,000 for a
weight saving of 30kg by means of carbon-fiber roof, anti-roll bars and
How fast is it? Porsche claims 211 mph top speed and 0-60 mph in 2.7
seconds. The former is 3 mph shy of 918 Spyder, while the latter is
merely a tenth inside the time taken by the regular Turbo S. Moreover,
many publications found the latter actually took 2.5 or 2.6 seconds to
do so. In reality, I guess the 2-wheel-drive GT2 RS will struggle to
match the Turbo S for standing start. However, once it has overcome
traction problem it will be very quick. It takes only 8.3 seconds for
0-124 mph, identical to Ferrari 488 GTB, if not quite as quick as
McLaren 720S (7.8 sec). The Turbo S needs 9.9 sec. Besides, Porsche
also hints that it will lap Nurburgring under 7 minutes.
|1 Jul, 2017
chose 53 as its new model number
As reported before, the new Mercedes 3-liter straight-six turbo engine
(with an electric charger and a large exhaust gas turbo) will produce
in excess of 400hp. Now it is known that its AMG version will make 435
hp, and it will be paired with a 67 hp electric motor for a total of
503 hp, even more than the base version of AMG 4-liter V8 (476hp on AMG
GT) ! Cars equipping with this engine will be called -53. The first
appearance will be CLS53, then followed by C53, E53 etc., replacing the
existing -43 models.