Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bluetooth connectivity is getting better all the time. No longer content with just connect your phone, new systems also allow you to wirelessly stream music to your car's speakers. Volkswagen is working on a system which takes the idea of pairing a phone to your car, and brings it to a whole new level. The system, called Terminal Mode, allows VW's touchscreen display to become an extension of the your smartphone – weather, GPS, music, phone and text messaging are right at your fingertips in a highly visible location.

Currently, the system is still under development and promises to get better as Volkswagen upgrades its infotainment screens. The current units use resistive touchscreens which can be slightly slower to respond compared with the capacitive units, which will make their way into VWs in the near future.

The Terminal Mode system opens up a potential Pandora's box of opportunity. Developers could build a whole slew of apps designed for use in automobiles and phones could be built with this integration in mind. There are many pluses to this concept, however this easily falls into the distracted-driving discussion.

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New Volkswagen NMS renderings released


These three renderings just posted to Volkswagen's Facebook page may look an awful lot like the 2011 Passat that just debuted at the Paris Motor Show, but be advised – this is something completely different.

If you haven't heard yet, the 2011 Passat will not be sold in North America. An all-new vehicle that Volkswagen is simply referring to for now as "NMS" (New Midsize Sedan) will take it's place. Will the Passat name carry over when the NMS launches? Hard to say, but remember that the 2011 Jetta was referred to only as NCS (New Compact Sedan) before its launch.

We also don't know exactly how much of the NMS' architecture and mechnicals will be shared with the new Passat, though we should find out closer to the car's debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January.

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Audi e-Tron Spyder revealed with video


Audi has introduced the e-Tron Spyder concept at the Paris motor show today.

The e-Tron has grown since it was introduced at the Detroit motor show earlier this year. This Spyder variant is 13 cm (5 inches) longer than the original e-Tron Coupe concept and 3 cm (1.2 inches) wider. The overall dimensions of the e-Tron Spyder are 406 cm (13.32 ft) long, 181 cm (5.94 ft) wide and 111 cm (3.64 ft) tall.

The e-Tron Spyder also sports the road-going credibility of being more of a realist than the previous e-Tron Coupe. Whereas that concept model was an all-electric vehicle, the e-Tron Spyder is a hybrid that features a mid-mounted (rear) twin-turbo V6 TDI diesel engine with 300 PS (221 kW) and a hefty 650 Nm (479 lb-ft) of torque powering the rear axle only to be complimented by an additional 64 kW (87 PS) and 352 Nm (260 lb-ft) of torque from the two electric motors fitted to the front axle. Add that to a 1,450 kg (3,197 lbs) curb weight distributed front to back in an even 50:50 ratio and you have some impressive handling and performance figures.

0 to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) takes 4.4 seconds, top speed is an electronically-limited 250 km/h (155.34 mph). More impressive than that is the fuel-economy for such a raging supercar. 2.2 liters/100 km (106.92 US mpg) and CO2 emissions of just 59 g/km (94.95 g/mile). A fill-up of diesel on the 50-liter tank will get you a range of more than 1,000 km (621 mi).

Driving in zero-emissions electric mode, the e-Tron Spyder has a range of up to 50 km (31 miles) and reaches a top speed of 60 km/h (37 mph) adequately suited for urban driving.

This concept e-Tron Spyder appears to look pretty road-ready.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Audi quattro concept: First look with video


Audi has unveiled the quattro concept at the Paris Motor Show.

Built to celebrate the 30th anniversary of quattro, the concept is based on the RS5 and measures 4.28m (14.04 ft) long, 1.86m (6.10 ft) wide, and 1.33m (4.36 ft) tall. It rides on a wheelbase that spans 2.60m (8.53 ft), which is 150mm (5.91 in) shorter than the donor car. Furthermore, the concept features knock-out styling with an aggressive front end, a carbon fiber diffuser, and center-locking 20-inch wheels.

Unlike traditional Audis, the quattro concept has a rather plain interior. There's leather, of course, but everything is a no frills affair - on the surface at least. A closer inspection reveals a digital instrument cluster (which doubles as the MMI display) and an innovative multimedia system which can stream internet radio from your cellphone.

Under the hood, power is provided by a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine with 300 kW (408 PS / 402 hp) and 480 Nm (354 lb-ft) of torque. It enables the 1,300 kilograms (2,866 lbs) coupe to accelerate from to 100 km/h in a staggering 3.9 seconds.

As you've probably guessed, the concept also features the latest generation of quattro all-wheel drive. This particular setup has a crown-gear center differential which "can vary the distribution of power between the front and rear axles over a broad range, enabling the quattro drive system to react within milliseconds to coax the maximum of fun and safety out of every last bit of torque."

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New 2011 Volkswagen Passat - Unveiled


Volkswagen has unveiled the 2011 Passat model at the Paris motor show.

The most distinguishing design feature of the new Passat, which Volkswagen is calling the 7th generation of the model in its press release, is a resculpted front face very similar to that of the German automaker's flagship Phaeton luxury sedan.

Typical of VW, the new Passat is being offer with an array of 10 different engines ranging in power from 105 PS (77 kW) to 300 PS (220 kW). The entry-level diesel, the 1.6 TDI with 105 PS and 250 Nm, delivers improved fuel-economy, now with a rating of 4.2 liters/100 km and CO2 emissions of 109 g/km, thanks to the stop/start system becoming standard for diesels in all trim levels.

The eco-numbers are similarly competitive, if not the benchmarks of their class, on the petrol side, with the 1.4 TSI with 122 PS (90 kW) with BlueMotion Technology (also including a stop/start system) rating at 5.8 liters/100 km and a CO2 value of 138 g/km.

The Passat will continue to feature the same three equipment levels - Trendline, Comfortline and Highline. New equipment offerings on the model include Dynamic Light Assist, first introduced in the new Touareg, which can use high-beams for better road lighting while avoiding glare for oncoming drivers through the use of a smart camera which tells the lighting system to adjusting the direction of the light.

Also new is the XDS electronic transverse differential lock - seen first on the Golf GTI - which helps improve traction in the curves.

The new VW Passat goes on sale in Europe starting in mid-November.

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VW Details Future U.S. Plans


- VW will launch four new or refreshed models next year, including a Passat replacement, Beetle, Eos and Tiguan, followed in 2013 by Golf Blue e-Motion.
- For model year 2011, it has introduced the new Jetta and a redesigned Touareg.

Volkswagen executives are trying to pump up the company's 700-plus North American dealers, sponsoring a drive in the redesigned 2011 Jetta, a tour of the company's new Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant and a peek at several future models, including the 2013 Golf Blue e-Motion.

VW also confirmed that it will launch four new or refreshed models next year in North America, including a Passat replacement dubbed NMS (for "New Midsize Sedan"), as well as updates of the Beetle, Eos and Tiguan.

For model year 2011, it has introduced the new Jetta and a redesigned Touareg.

The automaker will start assembling the 2012 NMS next year at the $1 billion Chattanooga plant and recently announced it will build a $550 million engine plant in Silao, Mexico.

VW said the Golf Blue e-Motion "is completely new and designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle." It will have a range of 100 miles when it hits the market in 2013.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2011 Volkswagen Touareg Gets Hybrid Engine


- 2011 VW Touareg will be available with a supercharged hybrid V6 as well as diesel and gasoline choices.
- The Touareg gets VW's first global hybrid application.
- EPA estimated highway fuel economy is 25 miles per gallon for the Touareg hybrid.

Volkswagen is set to release the second generation of its Touareg, featuring a new look that has resulted in a weight loss of 350 pounds. The real news, though, is VW's first global use of a hybrid engine. The automaker gave details on the 2011 Touareg ahead of the 2010 Paris Auto Show.

For 2011, the Touareg is available with a 3.0-liter V6 TDI clean diesel that makes 225 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, a 3.6.-liter FSI V6 gasoline engine making 280 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, or the 3.0-liter TSI supercharged V6 hybrid that pairs the engine with an electric motor and a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. The Touareg can go up to 30 mph on electric power alone. The hybrid engine offers combined horsepower of 380 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque — as VW puts it, "V8 power with better fuel efficiency than a V6." All three engine choices are combined with an eight-speed transmission and 4MOTION all-wheel drive.

Appearance-wise, the 2011 Touareg is shorter and wider, with a longer wheelbase for more cabin space. More curves, fender flares, a chrome accent strip and shaped chrome exhaust tips are among the exterior changes for what VW calls a more "muscular" appearance. The Touareg also gets LED running lights and bi-xenon headlamps.

The tailgate automatically opens and closes, with controls inside the vehicle, at the tailgate and on the key fob. Sport, Luxury and Executive trim levels are offered, with wheel and tire sizes from 18 to 20 inches. The hybrid model has the 19-inchers. The panoramic sunroof is substantially larger than the outgoing model's; it's standard on all models but the Sport level.

The interior gets the expected electronic amenities including a touchscreen navigation system with an 8-inch screen, DVD/CD player with MP3 and satellite radio, a 60-GB hard drive and 3D navigation display. An improved head restraint system, standard electronic stability control and anti-slip regulation are among the safety features.

EPA estimated highway fuel economy is 25 miles per gallon for the Touareg hybrid, in part thanks to regenerative braking and a standard stop/start system. The diesel Touareg offers EPA estimated 19 city/28 highway fuel economy, while the gasoline-engined Touareg offers 16/23 mpg, which is a 19 percent improvement over the previous gas-engined Touareg, VW says.

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Audi A8, R8, and TT U.S. prices announced


A8 - The 2011 A8 sedan will start at $78,925, a significant jump of $3,550 from the 2010 A8, which started at $75,375.
The long-wheelbase 2011 A8L climbs even higher, to $84,875, which is an increase of $5,650, or more than 7 percent.

Audi also is raising prices on the 2011 R8 4.2 Quattro, which goes on sale in late 2010, and on the 2011 TT, which goes on sale in early 2011.

R8 - The 2011 R8 will start at $115,475; R8 4.2 Quattro Spyder, $128,925
TT - The 2011 TT will start $39,175; TT Roadster starts at $42,175

All prices include shipping charges, which also have been raised for 2011.

The redesigned A8 is being offered in standard and long-wheelbase variants. The A8 and A8L go on sale in the U.S. in late November.

Audi said the 2011 R8 4.2 Quattro will be joined by the R8 4.2 Quattro Spyder, which is priced starting at $128,925. The 4.2 V8 engine now delivers 430 horsepower, up 10 hp from 2010.

The 2011 TT Coupe and Roadster get several midcycle improvements, the company said, including a boost in output to 211 hp and torque to 258 pound-feet. Base prices on both models will rise $550, with the TT Roadster starting at $42,175.

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Porsche Winter Driving Program


Porsche is actually concerned its customer get carried away with the capabilities of their sportscar and cause themselves troubles, specially as the winter is approaching fast! So they are offering a wide range of opportunities to test Porsche vehicles in extreme conditions. From January to March 2011, sign up for Porsche winter driving courses at the Porsche Sport Driving School and the Porsche Travel Club.

During these courses, you will improve your driving skills in extreme conditions under supervision of professional instructors. In three sequential training levels – precision, performance and master – participants will learn how to better master their vehicles by driving in icy, yet controlled conditions.

The Precision Training Camps in Austria and Finland offer an ideal platform for beginners. In the performance and master level training courses, advanced drivers will go to Finland where they will learn to handle a Porsche in icy and snowy conditions on an ice race course. These drivers will practice correct steering and braking as well as reacting to load changes for safe cornering, among other skills.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Wimmer RS releases "Red Devil" package for VW Golf R


With 478hp this RED DEVIL kit for the Volkswagen Golf R comes from tuning house Wimmer RS.

Thorsten Wimmer and his team were on a mission to make a fast Golf R to race, and stable enough for daily driving.

Starting with the ECU tuning program and a fully complete engine overhaul from top to bottom. The Golf R goes from 270 hp to 478 hp with 610 Nm of torque.

With all that power comes bigger brakes. Wimmer RS uses a high performance brake system that applies most of it's braking up front.

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Porsche Baby Cayenne possibly to be named Cajun!


In a recent interview with Volkswagen’s CEO Dr. Martin Winterkorn he revealed a new Porsche model is on it's way. A new SUV and little brother for the Cayenne might be named the "Cajun"

The new model is set to debut on the market in late 2014 as an early 2015

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Porsche 911 GT3 Hybrid: Render


After all of the speculation, one of the members at Teamspeed decided to try rendering the rumored 911-ending special edition GT3. They're calling it the Porsche 911 GT3 "Hybrid." We're calling it a really good educated guess.

The reason they're calling it a "Hybrid" is because they believe strongly this new Porsche will likely have KERS, and Porsche might decide to call it a "Hybrid." You know, for the marketing and stuff. Although they've got no idea when it will come out, but I'm guessing towards the very end of the 997's life.

Teamspeed members have had a pretty good track record of rendering the past few variants of the ever-expanding family of 911s — including some spot-on renderings of the new Speedster. So although we'll take these new renderings with a grain of salt, it's a much smaller grain of salt than we'd normally include.

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Audi S1, Audi RS3, Audi RS7: Intel



The year 2011 is dedicated to the Audi Sport models. This begins the A1 1.4 TFSI, Already on the Paris Motor Show 2010 (presented October 2 to 17). Visually, the Sport-A1 differs from the base by an S-Line sport package with modified front spoiler with enlarged air inlets, roof spoiler, 17-inch wheels and a rear apron with diffuser look. It takes over from the technology platform brother VW Polo GTI. The 1.4-liter TFSI in Audi However, 185 hp (180 hp Polo). The standard seven-speed DSG transmits power to the front wheels. The A1 1.4 TFSI sprints in 6.9 seconds from 0 to 100, the maximum speed of 227 km/h. Prices start at €24 250, launch is late 2010. Later, the S1 with two-liter turbo from the Golf GTI and about 220 hp will follow.


At the Geneva Salon in March 2011 celebrates the top model of the A3 Premiere. The RS3 differs from the A3 by a lot, thick fender flares and two exhaust pipes. It is powered by the five-cylinder turbo engine with 340 HP from the TT RS. Four-wheel drive is standard. The RS3 is to sprint in less than five seconds to 100, the top speed is electronically limited at 250mph. Additional cost 280 km/h are possible. The top A3 will cost around €49,000 for mid 2011.


The new sports model from Audi will take the four-liter V8 Bi-turbo. It is due with cooperation from Bentley with 550 hp. The prices of RS7 will start at around €110,000 with a market launch in late 2011.

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Only a handful of years ago, the prospect of lining up a £112,500 mid-engined Audi sports car against a Ferrari, a Porsche or even a range-topping Jaguar would have seemed absurd. Yet such is its profit-fuelled ambition and relentless product strategy that Audi is fast becoming the world’s most elastic brand, with model ranges that will ultimately stretch across every niche and sector from city cars to supercars.

With ten cylinders, 518bhp, 390lb ft of torque and an 8700rpm red line, there’s no doubt the R8 Spyder’s 5.2-litre FSI direct injection engine possesses some compelling vital statistics. Coupled to quattro all-wheel drive and, in our test car, a six-speed manual transmission, that’s sufficient to see 0-62mph in a claimed 4.2sec, 0-124mph in 12.7 and a top speed of 194mph. At 1720kg it’s not as light as its aluminium construction might lead you to expect, but before we’ve even turned a wheel it’s clear the £143,320 Ferrari California, £113,467 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet and £78,400 Jaguar XKR Convertible have their work cut out.

I collect the Spyder from Audi’s stunningly futuristic ‘Forum’ in Chiswick, west London. In Brilliant Red with black nappa leather interior, it looks absolutely superb, every bit as good as the coupe. Unfortunately the 250-mile journey to Conwy in north Wales isn’t exactly on my list of great drives, and it’s even worse when you leave the capital at three o’clock on a Friday afternoon. Sure enough it’s a five-hour motorway grind, but the drive is at least useful in proving the Spyder can cope easily with the more mundane end of the motoring spectrum. Its supple ride (thanks to the standard-fit magnetic dampers), smooth clutch, torquey motor and light gearshift make easy work of the often stop-start crawl.

Of course, when the opportunity arises, that V10 catapults you down the road, and when you’re just cruising the tremendous Bose hi-fi is more than a match for the combined effects of road, wind and engine noise. The Spyder also gets a ton of attention; proof that a car’s badge needn’t be a barrier to supercar status if all the ingredients are there.

Next morning, while we’re waiting for Roger Green to join us in the California, we head into Denbighshire for a full-on day of driving and photography. I decide to stick with the R8. Partly this is because I feel like I’ve earned it after yesterday’s slog through the traffic, but also because, of the three cars present, the Audi is the most compelling sight.
You sit low in the R8, surrounded by the swoops and curves of the high quality interior. The driving position is pretty much perfect, although despite its shallow waistline and decent visibility you do get the impression the Spyder is a broad slice of exotica. The V10 fires with a bang, then settles into a raucous idle until the engine begins to warm and the exhaust bypass valves close. It’s a proper supercar soundtrack; less gritty and shouty than its cousin the Lamborghini Gallardo, but brimming with attitude and potency.

Even in the first few miles you can tell the R8 Spyder shares the Coupe’s beautifully engineered feel and responsive-yet-progressive feel to all the major controls. The manual gearbox is one of the sweetest around, sliding between the alloy fingers of the open gate with rare delicacy and satisfying precision. With the magnetic dampers in their default ‘normal’ setting, the ride is impressively supple at low speeds, and while it’s accompanied by that tautness and sport-biased swagger typical of any high-performance car wearing fat, low-profile rubber, the Spyder is a comfortable car.

Tickle the throttle and the V10 snorts and bellows with proper big-capacity fire and brimstone. A few layers of sharply tailored canvas barely dissipate the noise, so even with the roof up you’re fully aware of the engine’s throttle-controlled mood swings. Drop the roof – a brilliantly theatrical process that’s completed in just 19sec and can be done at speeds up to 31mph – and you’re treated to the full Dolby 7.1 surround-sound experience.

Up on the fast, open section of the fabled
‘evo triangle’ the Spyder is sensational. Raw speed, of course, is a given, but through the cruel mid-corner compressions, tightening radii corners and nasty cambers that define our favourite test route it is brilliantly composed.

It feels a little softer than the V10 Coupe, but to be honest that’s no bad thing. The front end is nicely responsive, but the steering stops short of being hyper-alert, so you can push the car hard into a corner with a solid quarter-turn of lock and lean on the available grip. With practice you can use the tail’s compliance to help keep the front end tucked into the apex, and the Spyder settles into a neutral or slightly tail-led attitude depending on the level of provocation and whether you’ve got the ESP on or off. Though it never feels all-wheel drive, traction is rarely an issue, while the brakes – cast iron (ceramics are a £5K option), drilled and vented, 365mm front and rear – have terrific power and silky progression. After one of the best drives I’ve had in a long time, it’s clear the challenger has thrown down the gauntlet in some style.

With all-wheel drive, 493bhp, a six-speed manual gearbox, claimed 193mph top speed and a power-to-weight ratio of 305bhp per ton, the 911 Turbo Cab is the R8 Spyder’s closest on-paper rival. Yet as I’m about to discover, on the road the contrast in style, hardware and execution couldn’t be more different.

After the occasion and spectacle of the Audi, climbing into the Porsche is a bit of a non-event. Of course it has always been thus with 911s in general, and there’s nothing wrong with the quality, comfort or packaging. It’s just, well, a bit dull and lacking in imagination. Porsche would do well to sprinkle a bit of the Panamera’s interior design magic in the 911’s direction.

Like the R8 Spyder, the Turbo is an easy and approachable car to drive on first acquaintance. Indeed, so long as you don’t stray into the zone where all 493bhp and 479lb ft of torque are unleashed, it’s a spookily docile beast. Switchable dampers (PASM this time) again impart an impressively rounded low-speed ride, while the 911’s tighter dimensions make it easier to thread through tight traffic than the low-slung Spyder. We’d do without this car’s optional ‘sports shifter’, which has succeeded only in making the manual gearshift feel uncomfortably heavy. The roof isn’t quite as mesmerising to watch as the R8’s as it folds itself into the tail, but it’s quick and neat and doesn’t seem to make the car look quite so hunchbacked as before, although this could be due to the fixed rear wing on the engine cover.

Despite its lack of cylinders there’s real character to the Turbo’s engine, even though Porsche has softened, smoothed and massaged the power delivery of this new direct-injection motor. You get a real sense of it filling its lungs and then there’s this terrific, dragon-like roar as it exhales, which is quite different to any other 911 in character and delivery. Because the car feels small and wieldy you tend to drive it in a more attacking manner, to the point where you use it almost like a gun, aiming it into the corner then using the monster torque and stumpy gearing to fire it down the straight.

In my mind the 911 Turbo has always been the supreme Jekyll and Hyde character: happy to mooch or do the motorway thing, yet uniquely visceral and hot-headed when roused. This Gen 2 car does the humdrum stuff as well as ever, and it’s also ridiculously rapid, but the boost zone is now broader and more linear, so that addictive whizz-bang explosiveness has morphed into a sustained and ever more insistent s-q-u-e-e-z-e of acceleration.

There’s no denying it’s quicker than ever as a result, but there’s now a degree of remoteness and isolation from the process of making the Turbo go quickly. The numb and slightly glassy steering doesn’t help either, for it separates you further from the action, as if to suggest the Turbo simply requires you to sit still and shut up. There remains something undeniably awesome about this surreal, almost disdainful delivery, but it’s impossible not to conclude that after the R8 Spyder the Turbo Cabriolet feels like a supremely quick fairground ride.

Swapping into the Jaguar is a huge culture shock. The XKR is a big car, and at 1800kg pretty chunky too, yet from the moment you press the starter and the supercharged V8 crackles crisply into life it exudes a far more sporting character than your preconceptions about Jaguars may have prepared you for.
Initially the light steering, silky ride and torque converter auto ’box build a picture of calm, assured but ultimately soft-focus performance, yet with familiarity comes speed, and with speed comes a growing sense that the XKR is something of a concealed weapon. The 5-litre supercharged V8 is a mighty engine with 503bhp and 461lb ft of torque, and while it doesn’t rev like the Spyder, it is smooth, responsive, expressively vocal and tremendously muscular. So far as this graceful convertible is concerned, looks can indeed be deceiving.

The auto ’box has an intuitive sense of what gear you want, not to mention a satisfying ability to execute rev-perfect throttle-blip downshifts, so the XKR is a keen and responsive partner. Using the steering wheel paddles brings another level of control, and when used in conjunction with Sport and Dynamic modes the Jag really comes alive.

Up on the challenging moorland section of the test route, the XKR’s poise pays dividends, soaking up the punishment without being deflected from its trajectory, and carrying great speed without ever feeling ragged. What’s really impressive is its ability to maintain its composure, yet also display tight body control and sweet progression.

With such power and torque and only the rear wheels to transmit it to the tarmac, traction can be at a premium in the Jag if you get back on the gas early. But far from feeling untidy, or spinning an inside wheel, the XKR (complete with electronic ‘diff’) shifts seamlessly into the most natural oversteer. Not a big-armfuls-of-lock showboating powerslide, but a poised, balanced and exploitable stance that needs subtle correction and feels brilliant.

The brakes, though unimpressive when viewed through the spokes of the 20in rims, work extremely well. There’s slightly more initial pedal travel than in the Audi or Porsche, but for road use the feel and progression are first rate. So while it’s true the Jag can’t quite match the Germans for outright pace, and it doesn’t have the iron control and incisive responses of the Spyder in particular, for sheer fun and dynamic expression the XKR is an absolute blast.

The last piece of this puzzle is the California. A softcore sports car that moves Ferrari into previously uncharted territory, it is a real departure for the Maranello brand, and consequently very hard to pigeonhole.

With a high-revving, 453bhp, 358lb ft, naturally aspirated V8, it is the least potent car here. At 1735kg it is lighter only than the XKR, yet thanks to Ferrari’s new twin-clutch paddle-shift transmission it is a match for the 911 Turbo from a standstill to 60mph (3.8sec in case you were curious), and comes within an ace of matching both the Spyder’s and the Turbo’s vmax of 194mph. That’s mighty impressive.

The California’s exterior is bulky and rather awkwardly proportioned, but the interior is a real event. Pale cream might not be the most practical colour, but there’s no denying that the soft leather, strikingly designed instruments and adventurous cockpit architecture make it a special place to sit.

Press the red button on the steering wheel
and the V8 starts with a flat-plane blare much like that of a 430 or 458, while a stab of the throttle reveals razor response. The steering is light and quick-witted, as is the modern tradition at Maranello, and this is matched to an equally keen front end. An array of rim-mounted shift-lights completes the picture.
So far, so sporty…

At low speeds the California delivers on Ferrari’s promise of a supple, less demanding open-air GT, and on gently curving sections of the A5 it flows with an easy, relaxed style. There’s not a huge amount of feedback or connection through the steering wheel, but you simply learn to trust in the grip from the P Zeros and soon settle into the Cali’s refreshing take on Ferrari motoring.

There’s a surprising amount of body roll though, and as our speed increases there’s a growing sense that the rear end in particular is under-damped. It squats under the effort of keeping pace with the front end and the weight falls onto the outside rear wheel, as you can clearly see in the cornering shot on page 71. There’s so much grip at the front that understeer is never an issue, which would be great if only the rear was in harmony. Instead what you get is a car that’s oddly disunited front to rear. The result is a curious sensation of turning in, then almost immediately counter- steering to settle the tail. Ferrari will doubtless shudder at the comparison, but it reminds me of an early TVR Tuscan, which also had super-responsive steering, zero understeer and an under-damped tail.

This lack of body control manifests itself in other ways, most obviously through compressions, when assorted bits of underfloor aerodynamic addenda noisily grind themselves into plasticky swarf on the coarse Welsh tarmac. That none of the other cars skimmed the road shows the softness of the Cali’s chassis set-up.

It’s an unfathomable situation given that Italy, and Modena in particular, is home to some of Europe’s gnarlier and more challenging roads. It’s also hugely frustrating, for the vocal, rev-hungry, front-mid-mounted V8, super-snappy transmission and carbon brakes are a compelling and memorable combination.

When the roads suit it, the California’s potential is abundantly clear, but I simply can’t believe that you buy a Ferrari – even a softcore Ferrari such as the California – just to use it on ordinary roads. Yet when you inevitably stray from its comfort zone and drive it quickly, it feels all at sea.

That the California finishes last in this test is as disappointing as it will doubtless be controversial. Ferraris are built to be adored, and in my experience are almost impossible to resist. But after 500 miles in the company of the Audi, Jaguar and Porsche, on roads topped by the wide open space of Denbighshire and tailed with the city streets of Liverpool, it’s clear that this particular Ferrari can finish no higher.

The 911 Turbo is next to fall. Despite being awesomely fast, crushingly capable and everyday-useable, there’s something remote and detached about the driving experience. Given Porsche’s ability to build 911 models of spectacular ‘rightness’, the Turbo’s lack of connection is proof that, Motorsport models aside, even Porsche can sometimes miss the mark when it comes to the black art of tactility.

There’s no question the Jaguar has been the big surprise of this test. That nothing here comes close to the smooth, soothing way the XKR makes progress is far from unexpected, but it’s when the road opens out and the pace increases that the Jaguar is a revelation, delivering freely given pace and natural, fluid poise of a kind that exposes the failings of both the California and Turbo. It’s a peach.

But despite the Jag’s strong showing, the R8 Spyder is a convincing winner. There aren’t any quirks or traits to forgive, no dynamic flaws to gloss over. Everything about it feels spot-on and it looks and sounds sensational. Right now it’s the best open-air sports car money can buy.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Porsche Cayenne "Coupe" by Merdad


British tuner Merdad announced that his highly anticipated 3-door Porsche Cayenne 902 Coupe will finally debut at the 2010 MPH The Prestige & Performance Motor Show powered by Shell V-Power featuring Top Gear Live. That car which is expected to become a hit is the main highlight of the show, but they also display a tuned version of the regular 5-door model as well.

Apart from the deeply modified body, Merdad’s Cayenne Coupe also gets tuned engines with power ranging from 550 ? 750 BHP. The details of the car however won’t be released until the car in unveiled at the MPH show, apparently they’re scared someone will copy them or something!

Founder and creator Merdad commented: “We are very proud that this creation has brought together many British engineers and designers who have contributed to bringing this fantastic beast to the table.

“We now feel the time is right to unveil the Merdad Cayenne 902 Coupe and the Merdad 5 door to the world at MPH and are excited to see what the visitors to the show think of its unique design and unbelievable power will truly set the show and the rest of the world alight.”

MPH The Prestige and Performance Motor Show powered by Shell V-Power featuring Top Gear Live will take place at Earls Court from November 4-7th and the NEC in Birmingham between November 11-14th.

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2011 Audi R8 GT - First Drive Review


We’re not quite sure the world needs an even faster, lighter, and more powerful Audi R8, but Stephan Reil, head of development at Quattro GmbH, the company’s performance division, thinks it does. “More and more customers are demanding high-performance sports cars suitable for track days and club competition events,” he explains. “Also, we want to bring some of the Audi R8 LMS race car’s technical features to the road.” What he doesn’t add, of course, is that Audi will make some serious coin out of building its run of 333 GTs: Each one carries a price premium of about $50,000 (U.S.) over the R8 V-10’s base of $151,750 (U.S.)

The basis of the R8 GT is the R8 5.2 FSI. Changes to the 5.2-liter V-10’s engine software increase output to 560 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque, up from 525 and 391, respectively. The R tronic automated manual is standard. In place of the 5.2’s ­magnetorheological shocks with a cockpit-adjustable sport setting, the GT gets conventional coil-overs that can be manually ­lowered 0.4 inch. And there’s additional ­negative camber at both the front and rear.

The focus here is less on power gain than nimbleness. Audi says it has trimmed 220 pounds from the 5.2’s mass. Exhibits A, B, and C: A thinner windshield, a polycarbonate engine-compartment bulkhead, and a polycarbonate rear window save 19.8 pounds; a carbon-fiber engine cover trims 14.6 pounds over the stock aluminum piece; lightweight seats with fiberglass-reinforced plastic shells shave another 69.5.

Externally, the GT has distinctive, forged aluminum wheels, a fixed rear carbon-fiber spoiler, a double-lipped front air dam, and a rear diffuser. Inside, it gets white gauges with red GT logos, additional carbon-fiber and aluminum trim parts, and Alcantara everywhere. The car we drove was further outfitted with a race-package option that includes a full roll cage, a fire extinguisher, and four-point seatbelts.

Despite the racy ambience, the engine sounds a bit disappointing; the V-10 doesn’t have the same raucous bellow that it does when installed in the Lamborghini Gallardo Supperleggera, but it’s louder and more mechanical than the regular R8’s V-10. Audi says the R8 GT is 0.3 second quicker to 60 mph than the 5.2, which suggests a time of 3.1 seconds based on our previous results. And the GT’s top speed is 3 mph higher, at a claimed 199 mph.

But the main difference between the GT and the 5.2 is that the lighter car drives with more precision through fast corners. It’s also more neutral than the 5.2, a car that is prone to understeer and whose push inhibits fun on a track but isn’t such an issue on the street. Ultimately, this is a refined sports car endowed with instant reactions as well as a forgiving demeanor at the limit.

The car will be sold in North America, to 90 Americans and 25 Canadians. But don’t waste time calling your Audi dealer—the limited series has already been spoken for.

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Audi A1 S Line and Competition Kit available


After the news that Audi will present its new Audi A1 1.4 TFSI model at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, it seems the new Audi citycar is really taking off with the A1 Competition Kit and S-Line packages also now available. The Competition Kit focuses on changes to the exterior body work totalling 1,865 euros and the interior comes second at 670 euros of new accessories.

Starting on the outside, there will be a new front spoiler, side skirts, chrome exhaust and rear extractor, while the inside features new air outlets for the air conditioning, changes to the central console and door handles and embossed car mats. The Competition Kit is clearly about aesthetics but not without reason - it’s inspired by the Audi quattro model driven by Walter Röhrl.

The Audi A1 S-Line package costs about 1,900 euros extra and has 17-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension and exterior logos. Internal finishes are slightly different including grey stitiching for the seats, steering wheel, gear stick and handbrake, imperial black dash and three spoke sports steering wheel in leather. The new 1.4 TFSI will clearly be available with a either six-speed manual gearbox or the automatic DSG transmission.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Official: Volkswagen confirms new engine plant in Mexico


Volkswagen has officially announced plans to construct a new powerplant facility in Mexico. Designed to crank out a total of 330,000 engines a year, the Silao plant will cost the company $550 million (U.S.) to build and will bring around 700 jobs to the area. VW says that the new factory is key to its strategy for expansion, and it will help provide engine components for both the new Jetta, which is built in Puebla, Mexico and the company's New Midsize Sedan (NMS), which is slated to be built in the company's Chattanooga, Tennessee plant starting in 2011.

The new facility also underscores the VW decision to redouble its focus on the American market. The manufacturer says that the new plant is part of its plan to create vehicles that are more tailored to American tastes in a quest to go after a larger market share.

In addition to having an ample work force, the 60-hectacre piece of land already features transportation options and had been previously developed.

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Porsche 911: Interior spy shots of next generation


There's some carpeting on the dash and a sticker over the tach, but overall, this is the clearest interior shot on a 2012 Porsche 911 you can really hope for.

Porsche is taking the 'bring the buttons all the way to the driver's butt' approach they used with the Panamera to the slightly more cramped 911. Also stolen from the Panamera is the company's new, larger, higher res Nav screen. This particular 911 is fitted with Porsche's PDK auto-clutch manual, and has proper down-on-the-left up-on-the-right paddles instead of the silly thumb push buttons. Paddles were a $490 option on the 2010 911 Turbo on top of the $4,550 that PDK already sets you back over a traditional manual.

2010 Porsche 911 Turbo interior below for comparison.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spy Shots: 2012 Audi S7 caught


First glance at these spy shots show an Audi A7 with the optional S Line bodykit. But, upon further study we see a rear view that tells a different story. Specifically, the quad-tipped exhaust system.

What we're looking at is the first Audi S7 prototype which, according to earlier reports, could debut as early as next week at the Paris Motor Show.

If it does, we can expect a slightly lower ride height over the standard A7, upgraded brakes, wheels and tires, and a set of deeply bolstered buckets up front. But what's under the hood?

Initial speculation suggested that the 4.2-liter FSI V8 found in the Audi R8 could be the engine of choice, but the latest intel floating around involves a new twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 outputting upwards of 450 horsepower and a healthy amount of torque.

Hopefully, all will be revealed in just over a week, but before then, scope out the S7 mule.

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First Drive: Audi R8 PPI Razor GTR 10


Audi's R8 changed the sports car landscape and is, quite simply, brilliant. The V-10 powered Audi R8 5.2 FSI Quattro in particular is a rocket. It's perhaps the finest car in its class, and has snatched the everyday supercar crown away from the Porsche 911. But the R8 could have been faster, harder, and tougher if Lamborghini wasn't in the way, and if Audi was more brazen Italian hussy than conservative German. But that's what tuners are for...

We've seen some truly immense R8s in recent months, but this one might be the maddest of the lot. This is the PPI Razor GTR 10, and it looks like it rolled off the set of the new Batman film. This 599-horsepower monster is that extreme -- and more.

PPI is a relative newcomer to the Audi tuning fold. U.S. heart surgeon and wannabe car designer Benjamin Abraham hooked up with engineer-turned-kite-surfing-instructor Ronald Heubach to create the firm, which initially specialized in styling kits for lesser Volkswagen Group products. But when the R8 hit the market, Abraham bit the bullet and bought a development car. The firm is fast moving into the upper echelons of Audi tuning, and recently celebrated its fifth birthday with this $430,000 R8 V10 monster, along with an equally impressive Q7 it also developed. (A V-8 version of the R8 is also available.)

But it's the Razor that has garnered most of the headlines, and with good reason. It's mighty impressive.

Every panel, bar the doors and roof, has been replaced with lightweight carbon fiber, and the interior has been stripped out and re-dressed with PPI's lightweight Alcantara. Race seats have also been re-trimmed in house in an effort to shed even more pounds.

The end result is a simply epic 500-pound weight savings, about twice as much as any other tuner has managed. That brings the Razor's weight almost in line with the Lamborghini LP560-4. And with 599 horsepower courtesy of a new air intake, ECU remap, and exhaust, it has way more power. For a relatively minor power boost, there's a hell of a lot of cooling work going on, too, from the roof scoops that blast air into the engine bay, to the cut plastic rear screen that helps reduce the temperatures by 40 degrees, to the engorged side intakes that help force cold air into the engine.

There's big science going on here. It's no surprise that PPI is looking into more power, and a supercharged V-10 could be on the way.

But even as it is now, this is no longer a machine that even compares to the Porsche 911 Turbo. This car is more in line with the Enzos and Zondas of the world -- which is good, because PPI is asking hypercar money for the Razor. So can it possibly be worth it? Yes, it really is. This isn't just a tired old argument about exclusivity and individuality. You can feel every cent spent in every fiber of the car.

Working with such limited numbers of cars, PPI could afford the extravagance of pulling apart each Brembo brake set on the base car, drilling it out 2 millimeters, and increasing the performance by 20 percent. That's the attention to detail that's going on here.

And how does it feel? Plain violent. There's no way to prepare for the raw acceleration of this car. It blasts through the 60-mph landmark in 3.5 seconds and hits the 206 mph mark even with the additional drag of the aero parts, according to PPI. The reduced weight is obvious here, as the car piles on revs and scorches through the gears so fast there's barely time to register the outrageous number on the speedo. It doesn't even feel related to the R8 on a hard charge, and with the sound-deadening material cast aside, every rev ricochets through the cabin like a bullet in a prison cell.

The suspension has been thrown away and replaced with a set that drops the nose dangerously close to the deck to help the aero changes take effect -- there's almost no room for air under the car. There's a 60-millimeter lifter kit for around town driving and speed humps, but dropped down there's almost no travel in the suspension, and it feels racing-car stiff in the bends. Of course there's a payoff. The ride quality isn't Audi-like at all, but then the owner wanted a super sports car, and that's all part of the package.

The steering is now telepathic. And with aggressive Michelin Pilot Sport tires, the intrinsic strength of the R8's mid-engine set-up, and arguably the best rear-balanced four-wheel drive set-up in the world, you can swing it into bends, safe in the knowledge that the car will pull through.

There are a lot of tuned R8s out there, but this is one of the finest examples we've ever seen. That huge weight savings, the attention to engineering detail, and the aero package combine to create a monster of a car that we suspect could show a clean pair of heels to pretty much anything this side of a Veyron.

PPI has helped the R8 shake off its shackles of German conservatism and created a car at the razor's edge and then some. With a supercharger, it might take PPI to greatness, and the already superb R8 to a whole new dimension. The elegant R8 has become a blatant hussy in PPI's hands, but, then, dirty fun can be the very best kind.

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New Porsche 911 Speedster pays tribute to original 356


Porsche has just made choosing a 911 even harder by adding yet another variant. Only a few days ago they introduced the new 911 GTS, and now behold the 911 Speedster. This car pays homage to the legendary 356 Speedster and therefore it’s limited to 356 units. Mercifully though, it only gets the 356’s name and not its horrid handling! The new Speedster is based on the GTS and has the same 408 hp engine.

Also like the new Porsche 911 GTS, the Speedster will be unveiled at the 2010 Paris Motor Show and will go on sale in early 2011. The car features classic Speedster styling cues such as shortened windscreen and sleek tail, and comes with a 60mm lowered and raked windscreen and the characteristic ‘double-bubble’ hardcover for the manual soft top.

These bubbles might look a bit weird, but they will distinguish your car as a Speedster, and that’s cool! For the maximum look-at-me effect, it also features Carrera 4 wide rear axle which is 44mm wider than normal models.

As mentioned it comes with the 3.8-litre flat six, that has been tuned to deliver 408 hp (300 kW), 23 hp more than in the 911 Carrera S. With average fuel consumption of 27.43 mpg (10.3 litres/100 km) (NEDC), the new Speedster uses no more fuel than the standard 911 Carrera S Cabriolet – a consequence of Porsche Intelligent Performance.

It also features the seven-speed Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) gearbox and a limited slip differential as standard. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) are also standard. Being a drop-top car, it also gets a special roll-over protection system.

Porsche 911 Speedster also inherits some of its details from the other limited edition, the Porsche 911 Sport Classic, chief among which are the Fuchs classic wheels. The sporting flavour is enhanced further by the ‘Pure Blue’ exterior colour that has been developed exclusively for the Speedster, and which provides an intriguing contrast with the tinted front lights, black headlight surrounds, black windscreen border and other black decorative designs. It also features a bespoke front spoiler, specific side-skirts and a distinct rear apron. You can also order it in Carrera white at no extra charge.

So, as you see this car has many awesome features and if you want a 911, it’s gotta be this. But before you rush to the showroom we have to point out that because it’s limited and all, pricing starts from €170,730 with no plans for the U.S.

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