Dyson electric car: solid state battery exec departs firm

Dyson logo

Dyson is famous for its vacuum cleaners but will produce a car by 2020

Dyson’s electric car project has received support from the Government and features former Aston Martin employees

Dyson has confirmed to Autocar that the executive behind its solid state battery technology has departed the company – a surprise twist that follows the brand’s recent announcement to produce an electric car model by 2020.

A spokesman said that “Ann Marie Sastry is no longer with Dyson”, but refrained from explaining why, stating that the company doesn’t “get into specifics on personnel matters”. Sastry joined Dyson when it purchased her battery company Sakti3 for $90 million (about £67.4 million) two years ago.

Although there remains much secrecy behind the technology it has developed, Sastry previously suggested that the company was close to bringing solid state batteries to production – a feat that could secure Dyson first place in the global race for more efficient batteries.

Solid state battery packs have a higher energy density, are quicker to charge than liquid-cells, cooler while operating and potentially more powerful. Toyota is the only manufacturer with firm plans to introduce the technology in the coming decade, while Porsche has hinted that solid-state electric vehicles are in its product plans.

It is not yet known what impact Sastry’s departure will have on progress to the Dyson car, which marks a leap for a brand that is best known for making household goods like hairdryers and vacuum cleaners.

The car’s development will be funded by £2 billion from Dyson and the project has received support from the UK Government. A team of 400 people are working on the project at Dyson’s Wiltshire headquarters.

Dyson is keeping specific details, such as performance, range and production numbers, secret, but it will not be a mass-market car akin to the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf; instead, it will be aimed at a more tech-oriented market. Dyson’s existing line of household goods are often more expensive than the competition, suggesting that the car’s market position will be firmly in the premium segment, similar to that of Tesla. Dyson also confirmed that more than one car would come of the project. 

Insight: why is Dyson launching an electric car?

There’s no definite word yet on where the car will be built, but Dyson recently revealed to Reuters “Wherever we make the battery, we’ll make the car, that’s logical. So we want to be near our suppliers, we want to be in a place that welcomes us and is friendly to us, and where it is logistically most sensible. And we see a very large market for this car in the Far East.”

Dyson has a large market presence in the Far East, so Chinese production isn’t an unrealistic prediction, although the car will be developed in the UK. No design or prototype has yet been produced. 

In the announcement of Dyson’s electric car plan, Sir James Dyson took swipes at governments’ push for diesels and the Dieselgate emissions scandal: “Governments around the world have encouraged the adoption of oxymoronically designated ‘clean diesel’ engines through subsidies and grants. Major auto manufacturers have circumvented and duped clean air regulations. As a result, developed and developing cities are full of smog-belching cars, lorries and buses. It is a problem that others are ignoring.”

He revealed that a major aim is to reduce air pollution from cars “at the source”, saying: “I committed the company to develop new battery technologies. I believed that electrically powered vehicles would solve the vehicle pollution problem. Dyson carried on innovating. At this moment, we finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together into a single product.

“We’ve started building an exceptional team that combines top Dyson engineers with talented individuals from the automotive industry. The team is already over 400 strong and we are recruiting aggressively. I’m committed to investing £2bn on this endeavour.”

Unlike other long-rumoured car projects from Apple and Google, Dyson’s car will be Dyson-badged, rather than the plans having been commuted to components of other cars, like Google’s Waymo project, or Apple’s autonomous car efforts. Dyson will go it alone in making the car, much like future rival Tesla, and is not planning to seek help from other manufacturers to put the car into production. 

Flashback: Sir James Dyson on what cars really need

The firm is famous for its vortex vacuum cleaner but has been linked to the development of a car for almost a decade, despite having repeatedly denied the project’s existence.

A Dyson spokesman previously told Autocar: “James [Dyson] did say that our new digital motor could power a car, but we are not working on, and have no plans to create, an electric car.” Dyson has been working on producing a car since the eighties. 

In the run up to announcing the car, Dyson upped the rate of development with the hiring of several high-profile figures from the automotive market. Dyson has been interested in the filtration of diesel emissions for more than two decades. 

Dyson hired Aston Martin‘s former director of purchasing, David Wyer, to become its head of procurement in August. Wyer was the second Aston Martin executive in as many years to head to Dyson after product development director Ian Minards moved to the same role at the Wiltshire-based company. 

Wyer confirmed his exit from Aston Martin on professional social media site LinkedIn, saying: “So, after 22 years at Aston Martin, today is my last day as I leave one great company to take up an exciting opportunity with another, as head of procurement at Dyson.”

The move caused a stir, as did Dyson’s hiring of Tesla communications executive Ricardo Reyes earlier this year, fuelling a resurgence in speculation around the British company’s development of an electric car.

Last year, speculation was stirred up when a government document read: “The Government is funding Dyson to develop a new battery electric vehicle at their headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. This will secure £174 million of investment in the area, creating over 500 jobs, mostly in engineering.”

Soon after, the document was altered to say: “The Government is providing a grant of up to £16m to Dyson to support research and development for battery technology at their site in Malmesbury.”

Read more: 

Insight: why is Dyson launching an electric car?

Flashback: Sir James Dyson on what cars really need

Dyson car: former Aston Martin product development director joins Dyson

Dyson denies electric car rumours

Aston Martin appoints former Ferrari innovation boss



Source: Autocar Online

Mercedes-Benz X-Class 2017 UK review

Mercedes-Benz X-Class

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class is expensive for a pick-up, but it lifts the bar on commercial vehicle comfort while retaining tough qualities

There was a time when pick-up trucks were uncomfortable and a bit ragged around the edges. There was room for two in the cab, plus a bale of hay and the obligatory Border Collie riding shotgun.But nowadays, manufacturers are producing more luxurious double cab examples, and they’re proving popular, selling at the rate of more than 50,000 per annum in the UK. The Mercedes-Benz X-Class is the latest arrival and billed as the first pick-up from a premium manufacturer.A cargo payload of 1092kg qualifies this crewcab pickup as a light commercial vehicle (LCV), so business users can reclaim the VAT. Benefit-in-kind (BIK) taxation is much lower than that of a company car too, and at a fixed rate rather than on a sliding scale.The X-Class is based on the underpinnings of the Nissan Navara, including its ladder chassis, engine, drivetrain and suspension with solid rear axle. Trim levels are Pure, Progressive and Power, of which the range-topping latter is expected to be the biggest seller.

Source: Autocar Online

First Tesla Model S Shooting Brake almost completed by British firm

Tesla Model S estate in progress as coachbuilt one-off

The shooting brake has been commissioned by a businessman who wants more space in the Model S for his dogs

A British coachbuilding company has nearly completed the build of its first Tesla Model S Shooting Brake, which it has called the P90D-SB.

The car’s exterior is now completed and it has been started and moved. It remains connected to the Tesla network and therefore retains the digital systems of the regular car.

Qwest, based in Norfolk and led by managing director Dorian Hindmarsh, has been working on the Tesla shooting brake for more than a year. It only has the interior to complete.

 

 

The bespoke rear section of the car is made from carbonfibre by a specialist car part manufacturer that usually crafts Formula 1 car components. This is bonded to the car’s aluminium chassis.

The project is the result of a conversation with an entrepreneur friend of Hindmarsh’s who wanted a car with all the qualities the Model S brings but with more space to carry his dogs. The sloping roofline of the hatchback doesn’t allow enough room in its original form. 

 

 

The conversion in its simplest form costs around £70,000 to complete, excluding the cost of the donor car. Prices for other conversions will depend on individuals’ specifications. 

No information on the aerodynamics of the car’s new rear has been given, but Qwest is aiming to set the record for the fastest-accelerating estate car. To achieve this, it’ll have to better the 3.4sec 0-62mph acceleration of the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo Turbo S E-Hybrid

Qwest is the first company to produce an estate version of the Model S, but it is not the only company working on a design. A London-based design house has also revealed its plans for a Shooting Brake variant, which will be produced in 20 examples for a yet to be confirmed price.

Read more: 

Tesla Model X review

Tesla Model S review

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Tesla Model Y: first image shows no door mirrors and aggressive design



Source: Autocar Online

Toyota to launch 10 electric vehicles by early 2020s

Toyota Mirai

The Mirai will be just one of many hydrogen fuel-cell cars from Toyota in the future

The car maker has announced its electrification plans, which include 5.5m electrified sales annually by 2030

Toyota and Lexus have announced its plans for electrification, which will include 10 pure electric models in the range by the “early 2020s”.

The two brands will offer electrified versions of all its models by 2025, which will include hybrids, plug-in hybrids, pure electric and fuel-cell hydrogen models. This is the same target as announced by its main global competitor Volkswagen Group.

The car maker also stated its intention to sell more than 5.5m electrified vehicles annually by 2030, including 1m zero-emission vehicles. In 2016, Toyota sold 10.2m vehicles. Based on this figure, just over half of its sales in 2030 would be electrified.

The firm is the latest in a long line of manufacturers in the last six months which has announced its electrification plans. Volvo was the first to lay out its targets: every Volvo car launched from 2019 will have an electric motor. Jaguar Land Rover, Volkswagen Group, Mercedes and Mazda have all followed suit.

Toyota will start its pure electric vehicle sales in China first by 2022, before a “gradual introduction” to Japan, India, US and Europe.

At the Tokyo motor show in October, R&D chief Kiyotaka Ise said he expected to start rolling out a family of electric cars from 2020 – a timetable in line with Volkswagen’s ambitious plans to launch a family of ID cars.

In part, the move was forced by the Chinese government’s plans to set quotas of EV sales that manufacturers must hit, and there are ongoing rumours that it may launch a heavily modified CH-R crossover in China in 2019 to meet the short-term requirements there. However, in order to achieve its global EV goals it announced a partnership with Mazda and parts supplier Denso earlier this year.

Toyota also confirmed today that it hoped to commercialise solid-state batteries by the early 2020s, which would make it the first car maker to do so. Other manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Volvo have hinted that they won’t introduce solid-state batteries until at least 2025. The technology, which will eventually replace the lithium-ion batteries used today, is expected to be game-changing for electric vehicles, offering around 620 miles of range.

Meanwhile, Toyota and Panasonic announced last week that it will start a feasibility study of a joint automotive prismatic battery business to produce the best automotive prismatic battery in the industry.

The Japanese company has also confirmed it will expand its fuel-cell line-up beyond the Mirai for both passenger and commercial vehicles, confirming its commitment to hydrogen alongside hybrids and pure electric models. By comparison, many manufacturers are choosing to focus on hybrids and pure electric models rather than invest in costly hydrogen vehicle development. 

It will also continue growing its hybrid and plug-in hybrid line-up. For its hybrids, there will be a more powerful version of its Hybrid System II in some models. It added that “the development of simpler hybrid systems will be implemented in select models, as appropriate, to meet various customer needs”.

Toyota has been at the forefront of hybrid vehicle sales since launching the Prius 20 years ago. Toyota sales of electrified vehicles have reached over 11m units worldwide to date.

The carmaker said today’s announcement was a “main pillar” in its goal to reduce global average new-vehicle CO2 emissions by 90 percent from 2010 levels. 

Read more

Toyota Mirai review

Volvo announces electrification plans 



Source: Autocar Online

Renault Scenic introduces all-new 1.3-litre petrol engine

Renault Scenic range introduces all-new 1.3-litre petrol engine

Scenic and Grand Scenic models gain four-cylinder unit offering 113bhp or 138bhp

Renault has introduced an all-new 1.3-litre petrol engine to its ranks via the Scenic and its larger brother, the Grand Scenic.

The Energy TCe unit is a turbocharged four-cylinder available in two specifications. The first produces 113bhp and 162lb ft of torque, while the second provides 138bhp and 177lb ft. Both versions offer a claimed 52.3mpg and output 122g/km of CO2 in the Scenic, with the larger Grand Scenic offering up to 51.4mpg and as little as 124g/km of CO2.

The 1.3-litre engine, which uses a direct fuel injection system pressurised to 250-bar, comes available with a manual gearbox or Renault’s dual-clutch EDC automatic. Like the rest of the engine range, drive is sent exclusively to the front wheels.

Scenic prices start at £22,005 for the lower power output engine, while the more potent unit commands £24,005. Buyers after a larger Grand Scenic with the new powerplant will have to spend from £23,505; 138bhp versions require £25,805.

Renault also recently used its latest Scenic range to introduce a new hybrid assist powertrain. That system mates a dCi 110 1.5-litre diesel engine to an electric motor producing 10kW (13bhp). The two models are claimed to return up to 80.7mpg combined and emit 94g/km of CO2.

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Source: Autocar Online

Land Rover Discovery Commercial launched as rugged van alternative

Land Rover Discovery Commercial

Van-like version of latest Disco mixes big storage space with proven off-road ability

Land Rover has launched a two-seat version of its latest Discovery called the Commercial that is designed to be a rugged alternative to a van.

Like previous versions of the Commercial, which have been launched with every generation of Discovery, the new car ditches the second and third row seats to create a load space that’s 1635mm long, 939mm high and 1411mm wide.

It can swallow up to 1856 litres of cargo, which is actually 600 litres less than the regular car can manage when its seats are folded down. This is due to the fitment of a strong metal guard at the front of the load section that separates the cabin and back, while also preventing objects flying forward in the event of an accident.

Land Rover Defender to be reinvented for 2019

The Commercial gets standard fit privacy glass at the rear to keep any contents out of sight and a powered tailgate for improved access.

Like the regular Disco, all four wheels are driven through Land Rover’s Terrain Response drive technology with a twin-speed transfer box. The car rides on standard fit air suspension and gets a full-size spare wheel. This makes it a considerably more rugged and able offering than most alternative load-luggers.

Optional Terrain Response 2 technology is available for buyers after maximum effectiveness in low grip scenarios. It automatically adjusts the car’s driveline to current surface conditions rather than requiring the driver to change settings manually.

Just two turbocharged diesel engines are offered with the Commercial, the 2.0-litre SD4 with 237bhp or the 3.0-litre TD6 with 254bhp. The car gets an automatic gearbox as standard.

At the front of the cabin, the normal dashboard is retained with InControl Touch Pro infotainment as standard. The regular car’s raft of driver assist features, such as autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and a heated windscreen are also thrown in.

Jaguar Land Rover managing director Jeremy Hicks said “Discovery Commercial has always been a key part of the Discovery line-up since the Discovery 1, but the latest version brings new levels of practicality, versatility and premium levels of comfort that showcase the vehicle’s hard-working DNA.”

Prices for the Commercial start £2800 above the regular car. It costs £48,695 for the 2.0-litre model, while the 3.0-litre version opens from £50,195. First deliveries are due in quarter two of 2018.

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Source: Autocar Online

Next Subaru WRX due in 2020 as 'driver's car' with electrified powertrains

Subaru Viziv

Viziv concept could preview next WRX, due around 2020

Subaru’s chief designer confirmed that reaction to the Viziv Performance concept was positive

Subaru is developing its next WRX to be a driver’s car that takes influence from the striking Viziv Performance concept and comes with electrified powertrains.

Company design chief Mamoru Ishii told Autocar that feedback had been good following the Viziv’s reveal at the Tokyo motor show, suggesting he has confidence in leaving much of the look unchanged for the final car, which is due in 2020.

“Such a car brings lots of expectation, from within the company and from our customers,” said Ishii. “What we know is that our customers’ lifestyles are changing and we have to respond to that. The question was whether we have done that in a correct way with this concept.

“For instance, we know that autonomous and connective technology are coming, and for many customers that is great, but we don’t think that is what all of our customers want. For some, driving pleasure is still very important and that is what we are exploring.”

Ishii said initial reaction had been positive and that he was eager to see design themes such as the taut body shape offset by flourishes such as the wheel arches and bonnet scoop – elements that he considered part of Subaru’s DNA. “We have built up this tradition with the Legacy, Impreza and WRX,” he said. “We want it to look fast even when it is parked.”

Although the concept features Subaru’s boxer engine and symmetrical all-wheel drive, Ishii hinted that only the latter was critical to customers.

The car sits on the new Subaru Global Platform, which will underpin the majority of its future vehicles and can, said Ishii, incorporate other powertrains and include a plug-in hybrid set-up. He explained: “Four-wheel drive is critical to the power and performance levels our customers expect, but on the engine we have more freedom.”

Related stories: 

Subaru WRX STI review

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Source: Autocar Online

Britain's Best Driver's Car 2017 – the winner

Britain's Best Driver's Car 2017 - the winner

Starting with 11 of this year’s best driver’s cars, we’ve whittled it down to just one. The winner is…

Just five marks, then, out of a possible 200, separated first place from second, with two judges placing the McLaren first and two of us placing the Porsche first. Handily – given I’m the judge writing this bit – I’m one of the ones who placed it first.

In my eyes, there’s still nothing that can quite touch the 911, and this 911 in particular, for sheer entertainment on both road and circuit. That a 720S is faster isn’t in doubt. That it steers magically, rides brilliantly and is ergonomically set up ideally for fast road and circuit driving is beyond question.

But that the Porsche is better than it as a driver’s car by all useful yardsticks is also, to my eyes, ears, hands and feet, obvious. While the 720S is busy trying to be the supercar with hypercar pace that you can use on a bumpy circuit and road, the 911 is unencumbered by trying to (a) create and (b) deploy the 217bhp that separates them, and I suspect that helps make it better.

For a start, short of two cylinders and two turbos, the engine stays where it has always been. In the totally wrong, but absolutely right, place, in the rear, where it allows superb visibility, compact packaging and minimal weight. Don’t underestimate these qualities in a road car. The roads around the mid-south are tight and twisting and have cambers and gradients gifted to them by ancient hedgerows, but they’re true to the kinds of roads you’ll find anywhere in the UK and throughout much of the rest of the world. To drive them at middling speeds, speeds at which bystanders might note you’re having a nice time but don’t think you’re being an idiot, is a joy in the 911.

You could go faster but you don’t need to: that’s not where the magic, necessarily, lies. At any speeds, at all speeds, the 911’s ride is composed, the steering deliciously communicative and yet free from unwanted feedback, and the engine, transmission and brakes entirely intuitive. You want a given response? You input the necessary command, and the 911 obliges. I’ve written it before but I’ll write it again: no other car presents the depth of its engineering to you, as a driver, and asks you to feel it, and experience it.

And on a circuit? It’s a 911 GT car. It is pure. It is linear. It is all kinds of ‘183 points out of 200’ wonderful.

Lap Times

Our Castle Combe lap times were recorded over two days in changeable conditions, with the GT R and i30 N saddled with the most slippery track. The difference wasn’t massive: a few greasy apices and braking areas versus almost bone-dry tarmac. Nevertheless, it was present, so we’ve attempted to compensate in a ‘corrected’ times column that reflects how the cars might have compared in like-for-like conditions.

Subjectively, the McLaren felt by far the quickest car on test and likely would have gone on to lap even quicker if our test schedule had allowed the time. But the big surprise was courtesy of the brilliance of the 911 GT3, which set a time within half a second of the 720S despite being at a 217bhp disadvantage. The Porsche was also the only car to appear among the top three recorded speeds at all of our speed traps.

The off-camber Old Paddock Bend was a great test of confidence level – and that the Civic was quickest of all through the apex speaks volumes about the grip its chassis generates.

 

Read more: 

Part 1 – The contenders

Part 2 – the final three

Not had enough yet? Have a look at last year’s full proceedings: 

Britain’s Best Driver’s Car 2016 – the contenders

Britain’s Best Driver’s Car 2016 – the final three

Britain’s Best Driver’s Car 2016 – the winner



Source: Autocar Online

Britain's Best Driver's Car 2017 – the final three

Britain's Best Driver's Car - the final three

And then there were three: the McLaren 720S, Aston Martin DB11 and Porsche 911 GT3 are our top three driver’s cars of 2017

The Aston Martin DB11 V8, McLaren 720S and Porsche 911 GT3 are assured of podium finishes. But on which steps?

The sense of solace was palpable at the end of the first day of our Britain’s Best Driver’s Car test. As darkness descended on the pit lane, the majority of the serious driving and judging was over, and we breathed a collective sigh of relief at our good fortune in the gathering crepuscular calm.

Britain’s Best Driver’s Car 2017, part one: the contenders

The conditions had been bad all day, and appalling in parts. Every driver had discovered, if they didn’t already know, how treacherous and unforgiving a circuit Castle Combe might be in the wet if you don’t respect its bumps, cambers and shaded slippery expanses. And yet somehow our day had been incident free, ending with exactly as many undamaged cars – and prides – as it had started with. And nobody could claim they hadn’t learned – and often learned very quickly – what separates the very best driver’s cars we’d gathered from the rest.

So what difference did the rain make? For a while, we wondered, as four judges dissected and decoded their impressions of the best and worst performances they’d witnessed. The slippery conditions were certainly a levelling influence, making a secure, predictable front-driver such as the Golf GTI Performance feel like a fine refuge from the eye-widening, poweron snap oversteer you might have encountered immediately beforehand in anything from the GT R to the M4 CS.

A dependable, judiciously tuned traction and stability control system certainly did more for a car this year than it might have ever before in a Britain’s Best Driver’s Car contest. But in the end, the same qualities that make a car impress at the limit of grip in the dry – communicative controls, good close body control, a dexterous well-tuned ride, a powerful and linear powertrain, and a finely balanced chassis that mixes stability with adjustability in just the right proportions – also distinguish one when the heavens are well and truly open.

We had decided well in advance that only the top three cars in the test would go forward to be covered in greater detail here. And yet it also became clear that, for everyone present, three cars had really stood out from the rest of the pit-lane crowd – while one or two others had passionate but more lonely advocates. I, for one, was sorry to find out that the Civic Type R hadn’t upset the odds and forced its way into our final round, because the tactility and honesty of its driving experience seemed to me to shine so brightly. Prior thought the Giulia Quadrifoglio deserved a podium finish, not least because of this 500bhp rear-drive car’s endearing approachability. Prosser, meanwhile, argued that the Seven 420R Donington Edition should have made the cut on account of it being so communicative, trustworthy and drivable in testing conditions. All were worthy shouts.

But two judges out of four scored the podium exactly as it is represented in the final combined order that you’ll discover later – and therefore constructed it, in no particular order, out of the DB11 V8, the 720S and the 911 GT3.

If you knew nothing about the particular circumstances of our test and were asked to pick from the grid full of metal on the opening pages the three cars likely to rise to the top on subjective driver appeal, you’d have stood a decent chance of guessing that trio, I reckon. But now ask yourself if you’d still have bet on a 710bhp mid-engined supercar, or a circuit-special 911 on Cup tyres, at five minutes to nine on a rainy Tuesday morning, with nothing but grey cloud in every direction and the on-track puddles already settling in for the day? My money, for what it’s worth, would have stayed dry.

The DB11 V8 might have been worth a last-minute punt, granted – but even here, you’d have got decent odds. In 28 of our annual Britain’s Best Driver’s Car meetings, Aston Martin has yet to score an overall win. The DB11 V12 didn’t even make it into last year’s list of contenders for the prize when we chose instead to admit Gaydon’s rather more ‘expressive’ Vantage GT8 – complete with a V8 engine that must have been audible from Anglesey’s Trac Mon all the way across the Irish Sea in Dublin.

But the DB11 V8 is quite a different car from its bigger-engined brother, as we’ve already written on a couple of occasions. Thanks no doubt to more relaxed suspension rates than much of the rest of this year’s BBDC field came armed with (as well as a substantial engine up front, where its mass may be a positive influence on handling stability, and an overarching dynamic character suited to a modern sporting GT), the Aston took to the doused circuit better than almost anything else. It found grip where others didn’t. Through the patches of standing water and over the shinier, more foreboding-looking stretches of tarmac, it stayed assured and true to its course where others slipped and skidded.

Throw in Castle Combe’s more savage bumps on top of the bad weather and you’ve got a challenge with which many chassis in the running simply couldn’t cope, without deflecting off line or leaning heavily on their electronic control systems; but not the DB11. Supple riding, stable up to impressive speeds and ever predictable thereafter, the Aston attracted praise from all corners for the imperviousness of its composure. Frankel called it “perfectly set up for a relentlessly grim track, with the ideal wheelbase, the heft, the tyres and the linear steering response”. Prosser called it “friendly and fluid, without feeling like a barge” and Prior noted that it was “one of few cars which I’m prepared to mess around with in just about any corner because it’s so faithful and dependable”. When plenty of cars felt a touch frightening, the DB11 felt like fun.

But while the DB11 coped as well as anybody hoped it might with the worst that a November day in Wiltshire could throw at it, the 720S was busily confounding expectations in a way that was almost as effective. Like the Aston, the McLaren took to Combe on factory-fit performance road tyres that actually dealt with the rain very well indeed. But only a mid-engined chassis of rare brilliance could have made driving this 700-horsepower machine so easy, in conditions you might have thought almost certain to render such a car practically uncontrollable at much more than pootling speeds.

The worst of the weather certainly neutered the 720S’s bid for total dominance of this contest, at least for a while, inasmuch as it made it impossible to use all of the car’s titanic performance – and therefore for the McLaren to set about blowing its competition into the weeds for sheer mind-melting excitement. But it was remarkable how much of the car’s potency could be used – and how finely that exchange between tarmac and contact patch could be managed through a carbon tub and rear subframe that felt stiff enough to transmit longitudinal forces in supreme precision.

Although the McLaren was very closely and effectively supervised by one of the better traction control systems in the pit lane, the thing was the 720S really wasn’t scary – even with everything turned off. It was balanced and agile, but not nervous feeling; adjustable, but as secure as ever it needed to be. And also unerringly accurate and consistent in its responses to another half inch of accelerator, another quarter pound of brake pedal pressure or a 10deg steering correction. Frankel was “gobsmacked” by the car’s benign drivability, praising its “immense turn-in” and “first-class” steering and brakes. Others had similarly gushing praise.

But how, do you suppose, did a rear-engined Porsche on Cup tyres fend off the challenge of the rest of the field and secure a spot in our top three? It was one of three cars in the running shod with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber – and a few laps in either of the others (the GT R and M4 CS) wouldn’t have given you great hope for it. But where the Mercedes-AMG and BMW felt as if on tiptoes out on the track, the GT3 had the directional stability to begin working and warming its tyres – and what a difference that made.

Moreover, the Porsche had what so many GT-series 911s have had for the past two decades: the communicative gifts to make clear exactly where the margins of its grip and traction lay, and the confidenceinspiring controllability to let you explore those margins as much, or as little, as you chose.

I climbed into the 911 after what felt like quite a long and occasionally torrid morning driving what I expected to be great-handling cars in conditions regrettably unsuited to many of them. When I did, I already knew the track was slippery and, but for the good work of some very clever ESP engineers, I would probably have fallen off it more than once.

But within three laps in the GT3, Castle Combe was coming at me completely afresh. The fast bends, chicanes and braking areas that had seemed uniformly treacherous now had texture: grippy lines and paths to avoid, hollows and cambers left and right, and bumps and quirks that nothing, save the McLaren and the Caterham, had really even begun to make me aware of. The 911 GT3 is like a 500-horsepower prism to all of these things, capable of classifying them all and filtering them just a little bit through its vivid, singularly feelsome steering rack; through its suspension, capable of reading the topography of any stretch of road with intimate closeness; and of injecting drama, vigour, poise and speed into everything it does.

Prior decided that “everything else might as well just go home” because the Porsche “steers superbly, its engine is fabulous, it’s massively tied down and it always lets you know what’s going on”. Prosser called the GT3’s engine “outrageous” and its drivetrain “out of this world”. That, in short, is how a Cup-shod 911 defied the odds and scythed its way towards the sharp end of one of the most testing, rain-soaked Britain’s Best Driver’s Car fights we’ve had in years.

But then – wouldn’t you know it? – on what remained of our Britain’s Best Driver’s Car shootout, Castle Combe began to dry out. Just before it was too late to count, the circuit quickened. There was decent scope for lap times where we feared there would be none; a chance, albeit fleeting, to approach the limits of what these cars were capable of, and to build what we learned into the fullest verdict possible on our champion driver’s car of 2017. All of a sudden, the shackles were off. Where the Aston had excelled in the wet, in the dry it suddenly began to feel more like a big, heavy GT car – albeit a very good one. Meanwhile, a fascinating duel for outright laptime supremacy developed between a McLaren of staggering thrust and composure and a Porsche, with a sublime 9000rpm redline, that simply wouldn’t throw in the towel. Click the link below to see how that duel played out – and to read our final affirmation for Britain’s Best Driver’s Car of 2017. 

Check back across the weekend as the second and third instalments of this year’s Britain’s Best Driver’s Car hit the internet: 

Part 1 – The contenders

Part 3 – the winner

Can’t wait that long? Have a look at last year’s full proceedings: 

Britain’s Best Driver’s Car 2016 – the contenders

Britain’s Best Driver’s Car 2016 – the final three

Britain’s Best Driver’s Car 2016 – the winner



Source: Autocar Online

Review: The Stelvio is Alfa Romeo to the very core

Enlarge (credit: Marlowe Bangeman)

In 1995, after years of declining sales, Alfa Romeo stopped selling its 164 sedan and said goodbye to the US market. Fans of the Italian automaker—and I count myself among them—were crushed. I’ve owned a pair of Spiders—a 1973 and a 1982—and was once a card-carrying member of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club. American Alfa fans watched from afar as the company continued launching new vehicles in Europe, hoping that the iconic badge would cross the Atlantic once more.

Those hopes came to fruition a few years ago when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which owns Alfa Romeo, began selling the 8C Competizione and a new 4C Spider. But if you want to crack the American market, you’re going to need more than a pair of pricey roadsters.

Earlier this year, we reviewed the Giulia Quadrifoglio, Alfa’s performance sedan, which my colleague Jonathan Gitlin reckons is one of the best cars he has driven this year. Convincing the folks who usually shop at Audi, BMW, and Lexus dealerships to take Alfa Romeo seriously requires more than a sporty sedan, however. That’s where the Stelvio comes in.

Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments



Source: Ars Technica

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