Four-seater super-GT twin test: Porsche Panamera vs Mercedes-AMG GT 63

Porsche Panamera vs Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe

These four-door performance tourers from Porsche and Mercedes-AMG set a rocking beat for all-round brilliance

The pitch is simple: these are the cars that do everything, the Gary Sobers, Kapil Devs and Freddie Flintoffs of the automotive world. 

Go extraordinarily fast? It’s a given. Make you appear suitably plutocratic wherever you turn up? Natch. Keep you endlessly entertained on any empty road? Just look at them. Carry you, your family and your luggage in hushed comfort and true luxury any damn place you want to go? I’m surprised you had to ask. 

But a pitch is one thing, reality quite another. We can see why you might think (and their creators suggest) that if any car can come close to being all things to all people, a Porsche Panamera or Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door might fit the bill better than any other. But the question here is not just to decide which gets closest, but whether either – or indeed any car – can be truly satisfactory in such disparate regards. Trying to be all things to all owners is the brief from hell, and as sure a recipe as exists for ending up with egg on you face. 

Press fleet availability means the Porsche and Mercedes seen here are close but not direct rivals, although today this actually helps because it allows us to answer another question, of which more in a minute. 

One thing both cars absolutely share besides their monstrously powerful twin-turbo V8 engines is stupidly long names. The Porsche is a Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo, the Benz an even more befuddling Mercedes-AMG GT 63 4MATIC+ 4-Door Coupé. But there are clues in these titles: the Porsche is the full-fat Panamera in both the literal and figurative senses of the word – ‘Hybrid’ signifying a 671bhp, electrically boosted power output and a staggering kerb weight of 2400kg, exactly 300kg more than the same car without the hybrid system. 

That 2100kg, incidentally, is the same weight claimed for the AMG. An ‘S’ model not being available, this poor thing has to slum it with merely 577bhp, not the 631bhp that would otherwise have been at our disposal. Yet even in such denuded form, it still posts a fractionally quicker 0-62mph time and a marginally higher top speed than the Porsche, as if such issues really matter. Any car weighing more than two tonnes that will nevertheless hit 62mph in three and a half seconds or less really is astoundingly fast. 

Before options, Porsche will charge you £139,297 for the Panamera, over £20,000 more than it wants for the non-hybridised version of the same car, which is a scant 0.3sec slower than the hybrid’s 3.5sec to 62mph. So you’re really going to want what the hybrid brings that the regular Turbo doesn’t, including through-the-floor CO2 figures with associated tax breaks, a claimed 31 miles of all-electric running (nearer to 20 in normal use) and possible congestion charge exemptions and so on. 

The Benz is less expensive at £121,350, although if you wanted to go the whole hog and get the 631bhp S, with its active engine mounts, rear electronic differential and assorted luxury additions, that knocks the price up to £135,550 and the 0-62mph time down by 0.2sec to a McLaren F1-matching 3.2sec. Finally, both cars are available with a choice of two or three rear seats. 

We start in the Panamera. You sit snug and low in a superb driving position which tells you that, for all its heft and gadgets, Porsche still wants you to think of this as a sports car. TFT screens bound the horizons, bewildering you with the information assault they mount. There’s some learning to do here, but once done it’s surprisingly intuitive, even if it still takes twice the time to perform certain simple tasks than it would with buttons and switches. 

If anything, the AMG is more sumptuous still. Its interior is more stylised (your eyes are drawn to those gorgeous turbine air vents), although its feel is more applied than designed in, as the Porsche’s is. You sit a little higher in seats that are a little firmer. Here, too, are endless expanses of screens, which are more attractive to me than those in the Porsche and more configurable but less easy to use, especially via a control pad rather than a wheel. The amount of available information is huge, surely more than any owner could need or want. If you ever wish to reconnect with your inner Luddite, there is no shortage of opportunity in either car. 

In the back there is no contest: the Porsche is just better. Indeed, having a BMW M5 along for the ride allowed the Panamera to show there is little or nothing to lose in either leg or headroom to a large executive saloon. Four six-footers would be happy to travel unlimited distances in here. The Mercedes is not cramped in the back, indeed its rear quarters are probably more in line with what you might expect from a car calling itself a four-door coupé, but there’s a little less room everywhere and if the person in the front seat has his or her seat as low as possible, it will be hard to slide your feet underneath. The cars’ respective shapes suggest the Porsche would have the bigger boot, too, and it does, although by less than I had expected: 520 litres versus 460 for the Merc. 

The drive over to the mountain road in the Porsche is informative. It rides well and, as importantly, like a Porsche: firm but never harsh. Out here, running with the traffic on all manner of roads save urban, it’s doubtful the hybrid is doing anything for the fuel consumption. I reckon it would be an unusually careful long-distance driver who got a genuine 25mpg from it. The lighter, less powerful Mercedes would do better, but not by much. 

And then we’re at our desired location, into Sport Plus mode and away. As we all know, weight is the enemy of all automotive engineering but there is a still a sense of occasion and a certain undeniable majesty to see how the powertrain picks up two and half tonnes of Panamera and Frankel combined, and flings us forward. First time out, I defy you not to laugh. There’s so much torque everywhere that the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission seems almost redundant. 

Yet everywhere you go, that mass goes too, and you are aware of it all the time. It numbs the steering in corners and challenges the dampers over crests. Grip is provided by four stupendously large contact patches, but this is not a car for chucking or even gently lobbing into corners. It needs to be guided, managed on a slow in, fast out basis, which makes it sound like a 911. But it’s not: on that road there were times it felt a little cumbersome and heavily reliant on its dustbin-lid brakes, whose incredible stopping power was in no way matched by its poor pedal feel. 

What, then, to expect of the Mercedes? Given how AMG has laboured to find the handling sweet spot in the more comfortable versions of its far lighter, more sporting and bespoke two-seat GT Coupé, possibly not that much. And yet, in reality, the car confounds expectations. 

First, even before you get to the corners, it’s even quicker than the Porsche. The difference is not great, but it’s there. It sounds better, too, at least inside. Outside I’m told the Panamera was in spectacular voice with its optional sports exhausts, but inside the AMG’s soundtrack is sharper and more exciting. And if its nine-speed gearbox – an automatic rather than a dual-clutch but with a wet clutch in place of a torque converter – is any slower than the Porsche’s ZF unit, I couldn’t spot it. 

But the real difference comes in the corners. I’m sure the Porsche’s case would have been improved had it been fitted with optional four-wheel steering (on the AMG it’s standard in the UK), but I can’t see it clawing back more than a little of the ground it loses here. The Mercedes feels better in every regard: more intimate, communicative and entertaining, while inspiring more confidence. And in cars this fast, vast and heavy, confidence is crucial. So accurate is its steering, so keen is its nose to sniff out an apex, so fluent is its damping, at times you could mistake it for a genuine sports car, which seems a ludicrous thing to write about a four-door car weighing so much. But I can report only as I find. 

The drive home gave time to ponder its other appeals. Is it as quiet and comfortable as the Porsche? Probably a touch noisier despite the Panamera’s fatter footprints, but maybe a tad more compliant with the dampers in their softest settings. But it doesn’t matter because both are unreasonably good in both regards. 

There is, then, a clear case for either car, and what’s curious is how each now trespasses on the other’s traditional territory. You’d expect a Mercedes to have more room for people and luggage and offer the better ergonomics, but it doesn’t. Likewise, you’d expect the Porsche to be the obvious driver’s choice, but it’s not. I expect the Panamera’s case would have been better served by the cheaper, lighter, barely slower standard Turbo, but enough to vanquish the Mercedes? I wouldn’t rule it out, but it is a little hard to see. 

Don’t let that detract from what AMG has achieved here: unless tax concessions and practicality are numbers one and two on your priority list (and you’re prepared to pay a substantial sum for them), the Mercedes is the better car. To answer the question posed at the start, it is an immense all-rounder, superb in many regards, deficient in none. In short, it is a clear and worthy winner.  

BMW M5 Competition

So here’s a question: why would you spend another £25,000 even buying the Benz (let alone the Porsche) when a BMW M5 Competition is just as quick, lighter still and has a bigger boot than either? 

Style is clearly a factor: the AMG and Panamera don’t look like close relatives of everyday family saloons (even if, beneath the skin, the Merc has significant amounts of E-Class architecture). Their interiors are more luxurious, their sense of occasion more palpable. 

But out there on the road? Well, the BMW is not short of pace, it too has four-wheel drive and, like the AMG, can even be rear-drive only for the pleasure of the drift merchants. And yet I couldn’t get it configured the way I wanted for that road, the damping proving too soft in Comfort but too busy in Sport, let alone Sport Plus, and I expect that’s down to the Competition suspension mods. I’m sure they work brilliantly on the track to which no one will ever take theirs, but they are far less convincing on roads such as this. 

In the end, the M5 Competition poses some good questions of these two but fails to make them look like expensive indulgences by comparison. Had we a standard – and less expensive – M5 with us, those questions might have been not only interesting but likely properly awkward, too.

Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo review

Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door Coupe review​

Top 10 best grand tourers 2019​

Source: Autocar Online

Factory fresh: driving the 300,000-mile Ford Mondeo

2008 Ford Mondeo hero front

Don’t baulk at the idea of a leggy Mondeo

You’d have to be mad to buy a car that’s logged the equivalent miles for a journey to the moon, or would you?

Generally speaking, a spaceship destined for the moon is a tiny capsule stuck on the end of a huge, pointy rocket somewhere in sunny Florida. But the spaceship we’re looking at is a family hatchback at a used car dealer in West Drayton, off the M4. 

In fact, it’s a 10-year-old Ford Mondeo 2.3 Ghia X auto that has done 293,000 miles, or a bit more than a spacecraft does on its way to the moon. It’s for sale at Trade Price Motors, a large used car lot at the end of an industrial estate. 

Be honest – would you buy such a motor? For most of us, 60,000 miles is the cut-off. Any higher and we start to worry about component life and reselling the thing. The idea of buying one that’s done 100,000 is a stretch, but one with 293,000 miles? Pigs might fly – to the moon. 

“Sixty thousand miles is most car buyers’ first sticking point,” agrees Mark Bulmer, senior valuations editor at Cap HPI. “Then it’s 100,000, but anything over 150,000 miles and condition is everything, to the extent that the price difference between a car with 200,000 miles and another with 300,000 is negligible. 

“This is because modern cars can take high mileage. In fact, doing lots of miles is better for a car than doing too few when the oil doesn’t get hot enough to circulate properly. Rust used to be the big killer, but now that car makers have fixed that problem, if a high-mileage car has been serviced regularly, it’ll be fine to buy.” 

On the strength of TPM’s Mondeo space capsule, Bulmer may have a point. Incredibly, its slotted alloy wheels, shod with matching, premium Goodyear rubber, are pristine. Its paint is original and its body is free of dents and scratches. Inside, its cabin looks as if it’s been lifted from a 3000-mile car rather than one that has done 100 times that. The ‘walnut’ trim gleams and the black leather seats look as fresh as the day they were fitted. Only the part-wood and leather steering wheel looks faded and is beginning to peel. 

Time to fire it up. Being a Ghia X, the Mondeo has keyless ignition, so I press the start button. The 2.3-litre engine settles to a quiet tickover. During a rare break in the passing traffic, I pop open the bonnet to listen more closely, expecting to hear the shuffle-shuffle of the auxiliary belt as, for the umpteenth time, it follows its tortuous path. Nothing – not even a squeak. The engine is dry but not corroded. The battery terminals have fresh grease on them. 

It’s disappointing to see there are only nine stamps in the book (all Ford main dealer), but because service histories can get a little hazy at spaceship mileages, I’m willing to believe it’s an incomplete record. 

It’s got to be worth a run up the road. I select Drive and squeeze the throttle. The big Mondeo rolls across TPM’s granite chippings and potholes incredibly smoothly. I expected to feel some looseness in the suspension and steering rack bushes, but everything feels tight. 

Out on the road, it picks up speed smoothly. The traffic clears, so I knock the gearshift into Sport and try a few downchanges. The transmission responds without fuss, although the petrol engine feels lethargic, as I’d expect with just 159bhp to give. My old 2007 Mondeo 2.0 diesel auto was much gutsier. 

The steering wheel is dead straight, the brakes pull up powerfully and the engine temperature is good. Back at Trade Price Motors, I check the dual zone climate control, tyre pressure monitoring system and parking sensors. They all work. 

Kashif ‘Sam’ Sheikh, the dealership’s general manager, rushes over for my verdict. As we coo over its condition, he says he’s putting up its price – from £1250 to £2495: “The boss was giving it away.” 

Bulmer isn’t surprised by the Mondeo’s condition. He says most Fords take high mileage exceptionally well. Not only those but Mercedes, Volvos and most Japanese and Korean cars also. Even, he says, old Land Rover Discoverys. He should know about those since he’s Cap HPI’s valuations expert on SUVs. One of his favourites is the Toyota Land Cruiser. 

“They just keep rolling,” he says. “Mileages over 100,000 are common. In fact, in the past week alone we’ve seen four with well over that figure.”

It gives me an idea… From West Drayton I nip part-way around the M25 to West Byfleet, to meet dealer Russell Baker of Baker Brothers. He’s selling something that I reckon Bulmer, a former Land Cruiser owner, would approve of. It’s a 2000 V-reg Colorado 3.0 TD – with 270,000 miles. “We’re big fans of high-mileage Land Cruisers,” says Baker. “They’re top value and take everything in their stride.” 

His Colorado has good provenance and a great service history. It had one lady owner from 2002 to 2017. She did 200,000 miles in it and had it serviced on the button by a main Toyota dealer. It’s in excellent condition, inside and out. The engine looks great. Its two batteries are still wrapped in their smart, black jackets. 

Baker himself runs around in a Mk5 Volkswagen Golf diesel that has done 288,000 miles. He bought it with 194,000. “It’s only had a new turbo and still does 60mpg on a good run,” he says, proudly. 

He also has a 2015 Volkswagen Amarok that’s done 150,000 and two 2016-reg VW mini buses, each with 260,000 miles. “Unfortunately, 100,000 miles is still a problem for many car buyers, but the fact is most cars will do 500,000 miles no problem. 

“Few owners and good service history are things to look for but condition is everything. If it looks good, it probably is.” 

High-mileage champion

It’s only four years old but we found a 2015/65 Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i X-Play that has done 260,000 miles with its one owner from new and has a full service history. “They were all motorway miles and it drives like new,” says the seller. The owner works in social services, and the car has spent its life shuttling people the length and breadth of the country. We arranged to view it, but during the intervening weekend it was sold for £3490.

Read more

Why high-mileage cars should rule the roost​

Driving a Lamborghini Murcielago with 258k miles on the clock​

James Ruppert: a cheap used car could go the distance, but should you?​

Source: Autocar Online

These are the best new vehicles of the 2019 New York International Auto Show

These are the best new vehicles of the 2019 New York International Auto Show

Enlarge (credit: Jonathan Gitlin / Aurich Lawson)

NEW YORK—On Friday morning, the annual New York International Auto Show opened its doors to the public. In stark contrast to last year—when I foolishly predicted that NYIAS was now the premier US auto show—this year’s event feels very lackluster.

The Shanghai Auto Show is partly to blame. It opened earlier this week and pretty much every automaker with something new to show chose China over the US. In fact, some brands like BMW and Volvo weren’t present at all. The Internet didn’t help either, as what little new metal there was coming to the Big Apple got shown off online in the weeks leading up.

But given that we missed both LA and Detroit in recent months, I braved Amtrak’s rapidly deteriorating service from DC to wander the Javits center and see what was neat among the vehicles that did show up in NYC. While have some other stories from NYIAS to come, we’re kicking off this year’s event with our Best Of awards.

Read 25 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Source: Ars Technica

The hydrogen fuel strategy behind Nikola’s truck dream

Read 25 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Source: Ars Technica

Ferrari face tough questions and pressing need to do well in Baku

If the Scuderia are unable to challenge Mercedes in Azerbaijan it is difficult to see where they will be able to

The Ferrari team principal, Mattia Binotto, has been a picture of considered, affable and approachable calm this season. Indeed, in that respect his leadership has been a welcome breath of fresh air at the Scuderia. Come Formula One’s next round in Azerbaijan, though, it would be understandable if some nerves were beginning to jangle behind his Harry Potter spectacles. Ferrari are winless after three races and the question they face if they cannot perform next Sunday is ominous: if not in Baku, then where?

Ferrari had looked the team to beat in testing at Barcelona but at the opener in Melbourne they could not match Mercedes. At the next race in Bahrain, Charles Leclerc had a car with the form from Spain and a win was denied him only by a mechanical problem. Optimism soared as a consequence, only to take another beating in China, where Mercedes had clear distance in race pace.

Related: Lewis Hamilton urges Mercedes to step up F1 title fight with Ferrari

Related: Ferrari defend team order favouring Vettel in futile pursuit of Hamilton

Continue reading…

Source: Formula 1

New Porsche 911 vs Audi R8 V10 vs Lotus Evora GT410

Porsche 911 vs Audi R8 V10 Coupé vs Lotus Evora GT410

The new Porsche 911 has lived up to its star billing… so far

The best just got better – but by how much? We pitch the new Porsche 911 against two unflinching opponents at either end of the sports car spectrum to find out

My, my, the Lotus Evora has changed. The latest version of this now decade-old sports car (there is only one Evora derivative on sale at the moment) is the GT410 Sport – and it’s feisty. 

It’s got one of those motorway rides. You know the type: with that collusive, delicious high-speed fidget that can only be made by a short, firm coil spring working in tandem with an expensive, belligerent Bilstein damper – and which gently insists you divert immediately from your intended errand-to-wherever to some proper driving roads. It has a supercharged V6 powertrain that demands you time your manual gearchanges well, with the proper footwork, and that picks up from 4500rpm with raw, unfiltered ferocity. It steers with the weight and feel – and kickback – of a competition racer. It really grips – once the Cup tyres are switched on. 

Lordy, this car has put on some muscle. In many ways, it could even compare to a Porsche 911 GT3: for immersive control feedback, track-ready purpose and potential for driver reward. 

And that means it ought to be a pretty stern test for the latest, all-new ‘992’-generation Carrera 4S, right? If only the sports car market was so easy to make sense of. Compared with both Evoras I remember driving three, five and nearly 10 years ago now, and with the latest Porsche 911 Carrera, however, the GT410 Sport is certainly different. And difference is your best friend when the opportunity presents to lay a challenge for a car as complete and accomplished as the new 992. Difference is what you need to crack open the lid on this new Porsche’s character and make-up – to find out what it’s gained and given up, how it’s developed and diverged. 

We could have looked for less difference among the line-up for this group test – and, for a while, we did. To tell you the truth, the Jaguar F-Type R was indisposed on the dates of our Porsche 911 welcoming party, and the Aston Martin Vantage was washing its hair. I understand the reticence. A ‘991’ Carrera GTS gave the current Vantage a thorough dusting in a group test I wrote only last year, as well as a McLaren 540C. And the differences between that GTS’s partly optional mechanical specification (Carrera 4 ‘widebody’, 444bhp 3.0-litre turbo flat six, lowered PASM suspension, PTV active rear diff, four-wheel steering) and the one about which you’re about to read? Well, you might say they’re incremental. 

So the decision was partly made for us. But however it happened, it became clear that picking starkly different opponents for the 992 might be our best route towards learning something meaningful about the new Porsche. If this is the latest version of the sports car that changed the landscape of its segment, decades ago, with its sheer breadth of dynamic talents and its unmatched usability, why not test the outer limits of its range rather than pounding away pointlessly at its He-Man-like core? 

Why not give it a really uncompromising, irresistibly simple driver’s car to measure up with on poise, agility, grip, engagement, excitement and reward, I thought; and also a really desirable, exotic, expensively engineered heavyweight German to contend with on material class, usability and everyday ownership appeal? Enter the Lotus Evora GT410 Sport and facelifted Audi R8 V10

Before we get cracking, a quick review of what’s new and different about this Porsche for those in need of one. There’s quite a lot: more aluminium-intensive construction, a longer front overhang, wider wings and axle tracks (the old Carrera 2 narrow body, which wouldn’t have featured on a Carrera 4S anyway, has been discontinued), mixed-width wheels, retuned suspension, new dampers, quicker steering, electro-mechanically assisted brakes, new stiffer engine mountings, bigger new engine induction and fuel injection systems… the list goes on. 

If you want one any time soon, you can only have a 444bhp Carrera S with an eight-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox, but you can choose between rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive (the latter works via a new hang-on clutch, incidentally), or between fixed-roof coupé and convertible bodystyles. You get a torque vectoring electronic rear differential lock and PASM adaptive dampers as standard; lowered suspension’s an option. And, because this is 2019, even for million-selling, 56-year-old iconic sports cars, you can add four-wheel steering, active anti-roll bars or carbon-ceramic brakes at extra cost, should you want to (our Carrera 4S test car had all three, plus PASM Sport springs). 

It’s a mechanical recipe that the Audi R8 struggles to better in some ways, in spite of its higher price tag, more exotic spaceframe construction and behemoth Hungarian-built atmo V10. Weighing 1660kg at the kerb, the Audi’s nearly 100kg heavier than the Porsche; and while it beats it comfortably for power-to-weight ratio, it narrowly loses out to its compatriot on torque-to-weight ratio. The Audi matches the Porsche for driven wheels, but not for the latest steering and suspension technologies. The Lotus, meanwhile, with its aluminium tub and rear-drive layout, is more than 200kg lighter even than the Porsche, and has a roofline that sits almost 100mm nearer the road. It does not have active anti-roll bars or four-wheel steering – but with physical stats like that, would you say it needed them? Nope, me neither; particularly not after driving one. See: told you they were different. 

You don’t expect the Porsche to put up much of a fight to the Audi on static appeal – material richness, on-board technology and the like – because traditionally 911s have kept things pretty simple and functional on the inside, and been all the more likeable for it. And that will probably be true right until the moment you slide aboard the 992 and begin to process the significant strides that it has made on interior design and perceived quality. 

The car’s cabin ambience is a lot more upmarket than that of the 991. The fascia looks crisp and sculptural now, with wide, wing-like surfaces up ahead of you and a smart-looking centre stack console just above the transmission tunnel. Metallic trim and gloss-black finishes are used judiciously and well, while the car’s primary switchgear feels really solid and expensive, the best of it having a tactile knurled metallic finish. The driving position is excellent: low and snug but accommodating and perfectly supported. And the way analogue and digital technologies are blended for instrumentation and infotainment is really expert. You still get an analogue rev counter, front and centre in the driver’s binnacle, but the digital screens on both of its flanks are hugely configurable. And while the car’s PCM central infotainment screen has now grown to a landscape-oriented 10.9in size, it fits into the fascia surprisingly discreetly; it’s shaded by the upper dashboard so not prone to reflections; and it can be navigated by either touchscreen or rotary dial input. 

The 992’s is the interior of a very modern and decidedly luxurious sports car, then – and it dominates even the Audi’s in so many ways. The R8’s has more leather and satin chrome within it, but it doesn’t seat you as comfortably or surround you with as much usable space; it doesn’t give you such good all-round visibility; it doesn’t feel quite as solid or expensively made; and, while Audi’s Virtual Cockpit instruments are adaptable and clear, it isn’t so good at giving you just the right information in just the right place. 

A narrower-feeling on-the-road vehicle footprint and equally good touring comfort means the 992 passes the first phase of our test pretty easily. It’s a nicer car to spend time in than the R8, and it would be quite a lot easier to use. 

So what about our second test phase: driver appeal? This is a tough one. Every bit as tough a call, in fact, as I’d desperately hoped it would be when phoning up the man from Hethel and inviting disappointment by expecting a 10-year-old Lotus to be able to show a brand-new Porsche the way home on handling. 

The Evora is no longer the car I remember falling for so deeply a decade ago. In this latest guise, it’s a considerably less rounded, supple, effortlessly poised thing than the car that popped up at our Handling Day test in 2009 and, with only 276 horsepower to its name, duly wiped the floor with an Aston Martin V12 Vantage, Porsche ‘997’ GT3, Lamborghini Murciélago SV and others. The past 10 years have made the Evora less moderate and more single-minded: quite a lot more. But, my word, it can entertain when you get in tune with it. More than an Audi R8 can and, though it’s close, more than a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S can, provided you’re prepared to accept what comes along with the bargain. 

The Lotus does a lot that will more likely wind you up and test your patience to begin with, of course, while the Porsche never puts a foot wrong. The Evora’s a much harder car to get into, and to see out of, than the 911 – and it’s much more demanding to interact with. Every gearchange in the Lotus demands a couple of well-timed dips of the clutch pedal, a firm double-barrelled shove of the gearlever and, if it’s a downshift, a prod of accelerator; and you’ll be needing plenty of downshifts, because that V6 isn’t so good at accessible torque. 

The 911’s eight-speed PDK gearbox couldn’t be more different – shifting near-seamlessly by itself and often quite unnecessarily given the torque the 3.0-litre flat six makes. The flip side of that, however, is that when you execute a perfect downshift in the Lotus and then ring that banshee vibrato V6 out to 7000rpm, you feel – just a little bit – like your name might be Fittipaldi. The 911’s powertrain is responsive, rangey, flexible, free-revving and has plenty of charm, but doesn’t excite in quite the same way. 

On outright handling agility and mid-corner poise, there’s nothing between the two cars – the 911’s clever suspension and four-wheel-steering technologies recovering a position that the car’s mass and centre of gravity suggested it might not have. In terms of outright grip level, the Porsche’s Goodyear tyres deliver a significantly more secure hold on damp Tarmac. The Lotus’s Michelin Cup 2s work better on dry roads when you can warm them through: an act that gives the Brit’s driving experience that much more involvement factor all by itself. 

But what a spectacular groove the Evora gets into when things go its way – the conditions, the road surface, the traffic level, your belief and confidence level – and what a riot it can be at its best. You get feedback galore through both chassis and steering, and enough lateral grip, handling response and adjustability to make smoother bends both tight and fast an utter delight. 

The 992’s best, by a slim but unmissable margin, isn’t quite that intoxicating; but you’ll likely prefer to live with the 911’s dynamic compromise than the Evora’s, I’d wager – and, since there’s clearly more to come from other derivatives of this Porsche in terms of outright driver appeal, you’d definitely say that the Carrera 4S is as full-on and feisty as it ought to be. The Porsche copes so much better with mixed conditions, has the ride dexterity to deal with bumps better and has light years more dynamic range bound up in its chassis. 

The incisiveness of the 992’s handling has come on quite a long way even from a like-for-like 991 – and yet that famous old rear-engined handling charisma has been retained. I first drove a 911 at the age of 22 (aren’t I lucky?) – a wonderfully under-dressed ‘996’ Carrera 2 manual – and I loved the way the nose began to bob as the chassis was really setting to work, while the steering’s weight ebbed and flowed perfectly in time with the music to allow you to keep the car online like a reflex action. Over a mid-corner bump, the 992 behaves in exactly the same way – although you need a slightly bigger bump and more speed to set it all going. The old magic’s still there – and it’s wonderful. 

So what have we learned? That the new Porsche 911 is a better driver’s car than what it replaces, and that it fully deserves the warmest recognition, and an even more revered class-leading status than we gave the old one. For me, though, it’s the strides that the car has taken in other ways and directions that really set it apart. The most accomplished, usable and widely impressive sports car in the world has just broadened its hand even further – and is now better than ever.

Buy them used

Porsche 911 997: Immensely popular new and still highly sought, the ‘997’ is the sweet spot in the 911’s development. Wonderfully capable and tremendous fun, we’d seek out a post-2009 Gen 2 version, which gained a number of improvements over the earlier cars. The S will cost more but the standard Carrera is still a wonderful thing. Budget a minimum of £20k for a good one.

Audi R8 Gen1: The first-gen R8 was a revelation, its storming performance and agility a result of its mid-mounted 415bhp V8, a rear-biased quattro driveline and a low and lightweight aluminium body. Later models upped the power and included the sonorous V10. Stick with an early V8 with the manual gearbox and expect to pay upwards of £34k. 

Lotus Evora (2009 – now): Blessed with superb handling and an uncanny ability to brush off the most brusque of bumps, the Lotus Evora is the connoisseur’s choice. Whether you go for an early car, a facelifted 400, a lightweight Sport 410 or the GT430, you’ll have a brilliant B-road hack. Early examples start from £28k, while post-facelift cars with an improved gearbox are closer to £60k. 

Read more

Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 2019 UK review​

Britain’s Best Driver’s Car 2018: meet the contenders​

Audi R8 vs Ducati Panigale: supercar versus superbike​

Source: Autocar Online

Virtual insanity: Driving Aston Martin's Valkyrie simulator

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Valkyrie simulator

Duff’s Valkyrie was 25sec quicker than that of a generic supercar

We test drive Aston Martin’s 1160bhp hypercar around Spa – from the cockpit of a simulator in Milton Keynes

Chris Goodwin used to joke that his office was the cabin of whichever prototype supercar he was developing at the time. But since moving from McLaren to become Aston Martin’s high-performance test driver, and head dynamic development on the brand’s three mid-engined cars, his workspace has become much more mundane: an industrial unit in Milton Keynes. 

Okay, so this unit is also the HQ of Red Bull Racing (RBR) – we’re not talking Wernham Hogg here – but it’s still far less exotic than Goodwin’s former haunts. His tally of air miles has stalled, too. 

“This is the first winter for years I’ve spent in England,” he says. “Gianfranco in the Riva del Sole hotel in Nardò hasn’t seen me for months. He probably thinks I’m dead.” 

Yet Goodwin is working at the cutting edge, developing the forthcoming Valkyrie in a virtual environment good enough to blur the lines with reality, one that allows Aston and Red Bull to work on Adrian Newey’s fever-dream megacar well before the first prototype is running. Autocar has been allowed to see the development simulator, and to have a first go in the digital Valkyrie. 

Goodwin has already driven 5200 miles in the simulator over 31 sessions, working through a list of test scenarios. The computer model of the Valkyrie is detailed enough – and the simulator platform powerful enough – to allow meaningful data to be extracted from it. Some 750GB has been harvested already and shared with key suppliers. 

So Goodwin’s virtual laps at Silverstone are the basis for Cosworth’s dyno testing of the prototype V12. According to James Knapton, RBR’s head of vehicle science, the Valkyrie’s Bosch stability control system will soon be running in real time, receiving the sensor inputs it would get from a physical car and outputting its decisions straight into the program. 

So what stability control is running at the moment, I ask. “None,” says Goodwin, grinning, “and there’s no ABS either.”

Teething problems

Simulators are expensive to run and my time is limited. I will get to drive around Spa with one stint in what’s meant to be a generic supercar (“a bit McLaren, a bit Ferrari”, according to Goodwin) and then one in a fully simulated Valkyrie. 

The simulator shows off its racing origins: I have to clamber into a cutout Formula 1 tub – necessitating left-foot braking – and the view on the wraparound screen is from the perspective of a single-seater, with rendered Michelin tyres on each side. There’s also a full F1-grade steering wheel, although Goodwin says I can ignore all controls except the gearchange paddles and push-to-talk button to speak to the control room. The simulator’s range of motion is limited – big systems require warehouse space – but it still moves violently enough to replicate true cockpit sensations. 

First impressions are strange, the big-boy simulator feeling somehow less convincing than the video game versions of Spa I’ve experienced. The motion actuators create a sense of cornering and longitudinal forces, but these are short and sharp rather than sustained. The steering feels real, much more so than the usual force-feedback games controller, but the brake pedal lacks resistance and anything more than gentle pressure has me locking the front wheels. The graphics are also some way short of the beautifully rendered crispness of something like Forza 7. The wraparound screen gives an impression of three dimensions, but doesn’t give a sense of depth or distance, and I find I’m either braking much too early or clattering over kerbs with excessive speeds. On my second lap, I attempt Eau Rouge at such a ludicrous pace I crash the whole simulation, ending up floating in a dark void under Raidillon. 

Eventually I string together a lap without any massive errors, but when Goodwin crouches down for a debrief, I admit the sim doesn’t feel real. It turns out it’s not meant to. 

“That’s because it’s a tool, not a game,” he says. “It’s a motion platform, but the movement is only enough to inform an experienced simulator driver. It feels completely different to the way a finished car will – all simulators do, to be honest – but there’s a parallel universe of simulator behaviour and real car behaviour. Recognising the translation between them is what comes from experience.”

On board the Valkyrie

There is no visual change switching to the Valkyrie model, although there’s now a V12 engine note in place of a generic V8 tone. But as soon as I start moving, everything feels easier. No surprise that the Valkyrie is massively quicker – the finished version will have 1160bhp and weigh under 1100kg – with even Spa’s longest straights feeling pretty short. But it is also more forgiving of mistakes with huge mechanical grip and, as speed rises, the addition of what must be huge amounts of aerodynamic downforce. It is still possible to crash, of course – I add another couple of highlights to the sim team’s blooper reel. But at higher speeds, the virtual Valkyrie feels practically painted to the road – taking the ultra-fast left-hander at Blanchimont without lifting (something I’m certain I’d never be brave enough to do in real life). 

After less than half an hour in the sim, I’m feeling sweaty and wrung-out; Goodwin often goes for five hours without a break. I’m not given any lap times – Aston doesn’t want anyone to try to extrapolate the car’s performance until it is ready to communicate just how special it is. But Goodwin does share one number, saying my best Valkyrie lap was 25 seconds quicker than my fastest time in the generic model. The difference seems ludicrous, but Goodwin insists the Valkyrie really will be that much faster. 

“I talk to customers who have paid good money for this car, and they don’t know what they’ve got,” he says. 

They are going to have fun finding out.

Read more

Aston Martin Valkyrie: 1160bhp power figure confirmed

Vanquish Vision heads up trio of new Aston Martin concepts​

Aston Martin launches new AM-RB 003 hypercar​

Source: Autocar Online

This little electric car is the coolest thing at the NY Auto Show

As we detailed on Monday, this year’s Shanghai auto show has been the place to be if you want to see car designers’ ideas for future electric cars. But not everyone chose China as the place to reveal their electric concept cars. Genesis thinks the Big Apple is a better place to make an annual statement.

In 2017 it was the GV80, a hydrogen fuel cell EV that was the first clean-sheet design for the new Korean luxury brand and a vehicle that seems a lot more plausible now that we’ve driven Hyundai’s Nexo. Last year, we got the Essentia, an electric hypercar that will almost certainly remain nothing more than a concept. Now, for the third year in a row, Genesis has stolen the New York International Auto Show, this time with the Mint, its take on a small luxury battery EV.

Forget an electric car for the masses, this one is for a niche within a niche: the city dweller who only needs two seats but still wants cargo space, plus the added drama of scissor doors and a leather-lined interior that looks like it belongs in a coachbuilt Bugatti from the 1930s. Admittedly, it’s not the biggest demographic in the world, but I count myself firmly in that camp.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Source: Ars Technica

Toyota leads $1B investment in Uber’s self-driving tech

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Source: Ars Technica

Cupra Ateca 2019 long-term review

Cupra Ateca 2019 long-term review - hero front

Is the first solo Cupra model a worthy debut for Seat’s new standalone brand? We’re finding out over five months

Why we’re running it: To assess if Cupra’s first own-branded car feels like the real deal or just a Seat made too sporty for its own good

Month 2 – Month 1 – Specs

Life with a Cupra Ateca: Month 2

Gurgles and squeaks have led to a pit stop with a dealer – 3rd April 2019

“This is an amazing engine,” said the technician looking at the Cupra’s 2.0 litres worth of turbocharged four cylinder. “I built one with 600bhp and fitted it to a Volkswagen Caddy. No modifications to the bottom end were needed – they’re really strong.”

On that basis, assuming the Caddy doesn’t blow up after 20,000 miles, there should be no reason to worry about this 296bhp version of the engine getting overstressed.

So why was a technician looking at the Ateca? Because it had been making odd noises. At first, it sounded like gurgling water, rather like a central heating system that needs bleeding. I kept an eye on the temperature gauge, wondering if there was air in the cooling system, but it never strayed. I wondered if a pool of water had got trapped somewhere under the bonnet, or even in the driver’s door, the noise seeming to come from the offside front. I also drove the Ateca with the bonnet open, slowly, in an attempt to hear more clearly, but got no closer to pinpointing the source. And then on a trip to the Lake District, the character of the noise changed, from a gurgle to a squeak. That sounded more like suspension, and the noise wasn’t going away. Time to call a dealer.

The Cupra network isn’t huge. In fact, not every Seat showroom includes the sub-brand, making the garage most convenient to me 23 miles away. But Letchworth Autoway Centre in Hertfordshire couldn’t take the Cupra for a couple of weeks – not quick enough if you think your problem might affect the car’s safety. Instead, they helpfully suggested, call the SeatAssist line.

I did, and within an hour a technician had arrived, and in less than a mile of demonstrating the squeak, he’d told me it was a rubber bush in the MacPherson strut top-mount. There was nothing to see under the open bonnet – the strut bolts were all tight – but this was when he pointed out the amazingness of the Ateca’s engine. Which was good to hear, as was the news that the noise was merely a vocal bush. The Cupra is now booked in for April, and for an overnight stay given that the entire strut assembly will have to come out. Not ideal, but it will be a chance to see what a Cupra showroom looks like.

Meanwhile, the muddy lanes where I live make the Ateca look as if it’s been on an expedition, so grimed has its paint become. There was a time when muddying your four-wheel drive was a mark of adventurous honour in mudless London, but in Hertfordshire the Cupra looks like what it is: a car in need of a bath. A jet-wash awaits.

More miles have also provided several opportunities to make use of the engine’s modest (by Caddy dragster standards) 296bhp. Using the sport mode and sinking the accelerator with commitment produces enough overtaking power that you can start backing off even as you pass the vehicle in question, which in my book is a sign of real potency. It’s a surprise, too, if you’ve merely been using the Ateca for practical and commuting duties, its turn of speed at odds with its crossover character, if not a rather sexy set of alloys.

Love it:

Passing potency As long as you’re in the right gear, truly swift and effortless overtaking awaits.

Loathe it:

Stiff-legged ride Although it’s better than the patter and bounce of a mate’s new C43 AMG Benz cabrio.

Mileage: 3984

Back to the top

Parking brake perils – 27th March 2019

Click. Thwang. This is the sound of the Cupra’s electronic parking brake button being depressed, followed by the graunchy, resonant twang of the brake shoes or pads (I’m not sure which, yet) freeing off if the Ateca has been parked up for a few (damp) days. They haven’t stayed stuck on yet, but it’s something I’ll be keeping an eye on.

Mileage: 3248

Back to the top

Potent SUV proves its user-friendliness – providing the gearbox can keep up – 13th March 2019

So I’m rewinding the last 2800-odd miles I’ve now travelled in this car, thinking about the things I most like, and what’s popping up first are the excellence of the Volkswagen Group infotainment system – a model of usability and in stark contrast to the confused controls of the new Toyota Corolla driven recently – and the usefulness of the powered tailgate, which has the handy feature of merely unlatching if you stab its centre console release button briefly. The lid only rises fully if you hold said button down to trigger the lifting mechanism. It’s a good precautionary feature if you’ve reversed into a tight spot.

Neither of these items has anything to do with the fact that this Ateca is not a Seat but a Cupra, and therefore comes with 296bhp and the potential to harpoon 60mph from rest in only 4.9sec, although there are many moments when this car doesn’t remotely feel like one with that much power to unleash. As mentioned in the car’s introduction, an indolent seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission does much to blunt its performance, with its inability to select a gear, any gear, when you mash the throttle being a source of some frustration. It’s particularly an issue when you want to overtake or need a bursting surge to blend with the traffic on a busy roundabout. The pause can be that long that you sometimes have to abort.

So the transmission, the tailgate and the sat-nav have all stood out so far, as has the continued interest in the Cupra from others. A fellow Ateca owner encountered at a vehicle dismantlers asked what it was like with nearly 300bhp. The answer is, if you’re in the right gear, startlingly swift and pleasingly smooth with it. The Cupra also feels stable and secure enough to handle the power with ease, although I have yet to drive it hard in rain.

Years ago, magazines ran long-term test cars knowing there was a fair to good chance that the vehicles would develop paragraph-generating faults. That’s rare today and so it proves with the Ateca, which had been fault-free until a week ago, when it generated a couple of sentences. I reached inside to pull the bonnet release, which did its job before coming off in my hand.

In its defence I tugged at the lever, which lives on the passenger side, from behind the wheel, and the angle perhaps caused it to come adrift. Nothing seems broken, and I’ve clipped the lever back on. The bonnet was being opened not to investigate trouble but to access the battery to jump-start another car (a long-dormant Seat Mii, as it happens).

The improving weather will doubtless yield more opportunities to enjoy those 296 horses, which run a lot more willingly if you knock the gearlever rearwards for Sport mode, or paddle the paddles. Using these techniques, it looks highly likely that this Cupra will be able to consume roads at quite some pace. The same may also apply to unleaded, which has improved from the 29mpg or so of the first few miles to more than 33mpg now. But I suspect this figure will take quite a tumble when the throttle dips deep.

Such numbers are easily gleaned from the display tucked between speedo and rev counter, with a combination of a large rocker button and a small rotary drum on the steering wheel enabling you to shuttle between different trip logs as well as the navigation map, your radio station and so on. Details like this provide light entertainment on duller roads, while radar-controlled cruise shares the load of traffic-snarled motorway slogs.

So it’s an easy car to live with, and one whose power is well hidden – although that’s an arrangement not without appeal, the character of the car changing substantially when you work it hard. It’s now due a wash, although at least for now it has an authentically rugged look.

Love it:

Impressive interface Volkswagen Group infotainment is an object lesson in ergonomic clarity. It makes you wonder how others make such a mess of it.

Loathe it:

Tardy transmission DSG auto ’box is often a real impediment to swift progress, taking too long to translate a sunk throttle into action.

Back to the top

Life with a Cupra Ateca: Month 1

Our new Cupra already has its fans but will we be among them in six months’ time? – 27th February 2019

“Who makes this car?” asked the lad at a hand car wash the other day, the strange copper-coloured badge and ‘Cupra’ lettering across an air intake providing him with insufficient clues. I explained. “Is it the first? Will there be more?”

Yes and yes: the new Cupra Ateca (don’t forget to forget the ‘Seat’) is the first of several that will include a Cupra Leon and, in time, the Formentor – an entire car bespoke to Cupra rather than derivatives of Seats.

Of course, the Cupra name is far from unknown, especially among enthusiasts, who have bought more than 60,000 cars badged thus in 40 countries over two decades. Seat’s broad aim with this brand is to give itself the freedom to develop more specialised and expensive sports models without their price being limited by the value-for-money aura of the parent marque. The relationship is similar to the Fiat and Abarth linkage and the man behind the rebirth of Abarth and birth of Cupra is the same: Seat boss Luca de Meo, formerly a Fiat marketing whizz.

That de Meo might be on to something was borne out by the first long-distance drive in this white four wheel-drive 300bhp machine. KY68 ZXZ triggered much excitement on a slow-moving section of the M6. I was asleep at the time, leaving my wife to wonder why the occupants of an Ibiza Cupra, also white, were almost leaping up and down at the thrill of seeing this latest Cupra beastie. That said, the girl in the passenger seat found her movement restricted by the box of beer on her lap, reported my wife. In fact, much of the space not taken by the Ibiza’s three occupants appeared to be filled with boxes of alcohol. Which might explain their excitement at the big-booted Ateca.

Besides a decently scaled luggage bay and some copper badging, what else does this ultimate version of the Ateca provide for £35,900? Primarily go, and plenty of it. The 2.0 TSI turbo petrol engine produces 296bhp in an SUV weighing 1540kg and all-wheel drive enables it to erupt to 62mph in a rapid 5.2sec. Our road test team recorded a 0-60mph time of 4.9sec, in fact. The power and a solid 295lb ft are channelled through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox with paddle shifts. The Ateca tops out at 153mph, which should be fast enough for most.

The Cupra’s performance package also includes adaptive dampers. Their mode is selected via a rotary knob in the centre console that alters a variety of parameters to deliver comfort, sport, individually adjustable, snow, off-road and high-performance modes, the last of these labelled Cupra.

Given that this car was only just run-in when it arrived, at 1029 miles, and that its first journey was mostly motorway, there’s been little chance to explore these six settings, although the incentive to leave it in comfort for the country lanes where I live is strong because the ride is quite firm, even in that mode. More positively, however, the car feels tautly constructed and the suspension is quiet and consistently damped over bumps that are more rounded off than absorbed.

You get a subtle hint of the Ateca’s intent in that comfort setting, then, but not much from the transmission, whose ambition in the normal mode is to score the highest ratio possible. There’s not too much wrong with that, given this will save you fuel, but it’s more of an issue when you want instant, opportunistic acceleration, the gearbox momentarily paralysed while its brain attempts to decode what you might want or, more specifically, which of the seven ratios might best deliver it.

By the time that has happened, the chance may have passed, or you surge off with absurd zeal, having pressed the accelerator still harder to provoke a response. An occasional momentary lull before the turbo charges can lengthen the pause. Choosing the sport mode helps, or you can pull on a paddle. Urgently.

But enough of these minor carpings. There’s plenty else to be pleased about when surveying this Cupra’s cabin, ranging from a virtual instrument display that can place a navigation map right in front of you to a wireless phone-charger bay in the centre console, a decently sized infotainment screen using the Volkswagen Group’s excellent control logic, suede seat facings and, rather absurdly, a carbonfibre-weave vinyl material for other parts of the seats and the steering wheel boss.

The wheel itself is a pleasant thing to clasp, and the driving position is good, but as noted in our road test, the standard seats lack thigh support and are rather tamely shaped given this car’s dynamic ambitions. There will be a bucket seat option but, at £1600, that’s an expensive solution.

This particular car has other options, though, all of them bundled within the £1930 Advance Comfort and Driving pack, which provides traffic sign recognition, lane assist, high-beam assist, a space-saver spare wheel, an electric tailgate, a Beats audio system (very good) and heated front seats to create a reasonably well-equipped carry-all delivering excitingly assertive acceleration.

Over the next six months, we’ll find out whether this, the electronically damped all-wheel-drive chassis, some styling tweaks and a fair haul of kit are enough to warrant those Seat Ibiza Cupra warriors bouncing about excitedly in their bottle-filled car.

Second Opinion

One thing the Cupra Ateca seemed to me to lack, back when we road tested it, was proper separate-entity design distinctiveness. I’ll be interested to find out if Richard feels the same way after an extended relationship, especially as his car does without the optional Design pack, which, adding copper-coloured alloy wheels and a bit more interior decoration, might have addressed that issue. I’m also keen to know if the ride wears itself in a bit. It’d be irritatingly firm and fussy for me in a daily driver.

Matt Saunders

Back to the top

Cupra Ateca specification

Specs: Price New £35,900 Price as tested £37,830 OptionsAdvance Comfort and Driving pack, including traffic sign recognition, lane assist, high-beam assist, space-saver spare wheel, electric tailgate, Beats audio and heated front seats £1930

Test Data: Engine 1984cc, 4cyls inline, turbocharged petrol Power 296bhp at 5300-6500rpm Torque 295lb ft at 2000-5200rpm Kerb weight 1615kg Top speed 153mph 0-62mph 5.2sec Fuel economy 31.7mpg CO2 201g/km Faults None Expenses None

Back to the top

Source: Autocar Online

1 2 3 891