Babes - Fast Cars

Blog about the car industry and other related car news

Infiniti G37 Coupe Sport

An Infiniti G37? Isn’t that just a posh Nissan 350Z? Yes and no. A lot of the G37’s basics are 350Z-derived, but this is far more than just badge engineering – the Infiniti is a very different beast to the Nissan it’s based on. But to fully understand this car, first we need some context.

In America, Infiniti is Nissan’s premium off-shoot, much like Lexus is to Toyota. Late in 2008, the Infiniti brand will be gradually rolled out across the UK with a four-model line-up: G saloon, this G coupe, EX35 (think BMW X3) and the X5-rivaling FX45. Right now, engineers are fine-tuning the UK-spec G37 Coupe, so this American G37 6MT Sport gives us a first taste of things to come.

  • It looks kind of familiar
The G35 coupe – featuring a smaller capacity engine – has been around in the US for a while and looks very similar, although the G37 styling has been substantially tweaked. It’s also been on sale in Japan as the Nissan Skyline, and a few have been brought in to the UK as personal imports.

Previously, Nissan’s Skyline range encompassed a four-door saloon and a two-door, rear-drive coupe (see where this is going?) as well as the range-topping GT-R. This autumn, the new GT-R drops the Skyline tag to become a standalone model but there’s still plenty of shared DNA between the G Infinitis and the soon-to-be-released GT-R – just look at the afterburner clusters hidden away in those rear lights. We’d call that provenance.
  • How does it drive?
The G37 debuts a revised version of the 350Z’s VQ engine, enlarged to, yes, 3.7 litres. Press the starter button and the V6 awakes with its familiarly hollow warble before settling to a surprisingly rorty burble. The clutch bites aggressively and the gear change – although improved over the 350Z's thanks to a revised six-speed ’box – still has a rubbery notchiness and needs to be strong-armed into action, leading to sometimes clumsy progress in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
But up the speed and the G37 comes into its own. The aluminium pedals are consistently weighted with a pleasingly sticky resistance, heel-and-toeing is easy and throttle response instant. The light steering might lack for outright feel, but there’s a consistent weighting from the straight ahead that gives a reassuring sense of what’s in store come the first big input – something lacking in, say, the new M3.

Strangely, the larger capacity V6 feels less noticeable than when the 3.5-litre was previously revised with a higher rev limit, but the extra urge does make the charge from 4000rpm onwards more intense.
  • And the ride and handling?
The Infiniti’s ride quality is firm and driver focused (suspension settings are currently under review for Europe), but even California’s worst roads couldn’t force it into a chaotic mess. Plus the pay-off is worth it: chuck the G37 around on smaller, twistier roads and it’s incredibly rewarding. The nose resists understeer at everything but suicidal speeds, turn-in is immediate and the ample power allows for a neutral to oversteer-led bias through turns.

We haven’t tested the optional four-wheel steer system, but can’t see the need for it. The differential disappoints (a viscous set-up that, like the 19 alloys, comes as part of the Sport package), taking too long to respond once the 245/40 ZR19 rear Bridgestones’ ample traction diminishes. We’d prefer a mechanical alternative. And after a very hard, 10-minute charge up a snaking mountain pass, the brake pedal did lose its bite.
  • Don’t tell me: the interior is a letdown
Actually no. Inside, the Infiniti feels very high quality. The heated, electric memory seats are snug and deeply padded (the lower and upper bolsters can be electronically adjusted for the perfect fit), the buttons feel light and precise and aluminium trim lifts the ambience.

An instrument binnacle that tilts when you adjust the steering wheel is a nice touch and we also liked the intuitive digital display and the Premium Package’s entirely voice-activated Bluetooth phone set-up and iPod interface – the dashboard’s central screen effectively turns into an iPod display, controlled via the car’s own rotary dial. Most importantly, ticking the Premium box bags you a brilliant 11-speaker Bose stereo. We'll have to wait for optional extra prices to be confirmed for the UK.

The plastics generally feel to be of a decent standard, though rear-seat passengers and those fondling the car’s lower reaches will spot quality declining in less obvious places. The plastic covering the boot sill also came adrift on our first prod and the leather surrounding one seat adjustment switch fitted poorly – though Infiniti is working on resolving these last two niggles for UK models, we're told.
  • Is the G37 practical?
It’s good, but not perfect. Headroom is surprisingly tight for those six-feet and over - because the roof peaks ahead of the driver and falls away thereafter, so the taller you are the further back you sit and the lower the roofline as a result. Legroom in the back is reasonably generous thanks to cleverly sculpted seats backs, but the sloping roof means you’d have to be a pretty odd shape to make the most of it.
The boot is a generous size (you’ll get two golf bags in there, claims Infiniti) and you can fold the rear seats almost flat for larger loads – though there is something of a bottleneck.
  • Verdict
We really like the G37. It looks great, offers a high-level of standard specification and delivers a genuinely BMW-rivalling driving experience. If you’ve ever driven a 350Z and longed for more refinement and extra practicality, look no further.

The Infiniti will go head-to-head with the BMW 335i at 330i prices, meaning around £31k and a £2k to £3k saving over the equivalent 335i. But while the G37 is an extremely good car with a generous standard specification, Infiniti needs to undercut BMW by a more significant margin to knock the 335i off its perch, we feel. But then a significant reduction will no doubt prove impossible for fear of eating into 350Z sales.

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BMW to build Concept CS, X1, Mini 4x4, more Rolls

BMW today held a press conference where it outlined what chairman Dr Norbert Reithofer called ‘a fundamental strategic realignment’ of the brand.

It’s not as drastic as that sounds, but BMW is having a product shake-up to make sure it stays ahead of the game (read Audi on the warpath and a rejuvenated Mercedes). And part of this shake-up involves expanding its current model line-up, while ruling out any acquisitions of other brands. In other words new Minis, BMWs and Rolls-Royces are on the way.

  • So what exactly is on the way?
BMW has planned ahead as far as 2020, but only confirmed the cars that will be in production by 2012. That means within five years we will see a Mini SUV. There'll also be a Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe based on the 101EX (above), and a baby Rolls too.
Under the BMW brand we will see an X1 SUV, a four-door Gran Turismo based on the Concept CS, and a PAS.

No, not power-assisted steering, but a Progressive Activity Sedan – and we’ve already scooped it.

Together that means BMW hopes sales will break the 1.8 million per year by 2012. That of course means production expansion, so BMW’s Spartanburg plant will expand to 240,000 units and Mini’s Oxford Plant will be able to churn out 260,000 cars.
  • So BMW won’t buy Volvo then?
Nope. Reithofer said that BMW had evaluated the acquisition of another brand but nothing fitted with its vision. Nevertheless Reithofer also said that ‘in principle, we will keep acquisitions on our agenda’. That’s why BMW recently bought Husqvarna as part of their aim to double motorcycle sales to 150,000 units per year by 2012.

BMW is eying the BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India and China) for expansion, with China and Russia holding the most potential for growth, officials said.
  • So why has all this happened?
Money. BMW has enjoyed unprecedented increases in its sales recently, despite Chris Bangle's controversial ‘flame surfacing’. But profits have actually been slipping recently, so BMW has been forced to do something about it to restore faith in the blue and white propeller.

And combined with all sorts of issues like the rising cost of raw materials and increasing environmental concerns, BMW has had this major rethink. Bring on 2012.

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Mazda Ryuga

Mazda Ryuga: is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, but it’s inspired by nature – including birds – and it’s as smoothly surfaced as any jet fighter. Rather, the Mazda Ryuga is a honey-sweet concept car that is probably the best-looking thing at the Detroit show.

It’s part two of new Mazda design boss Laurens van den Acker’s quartet of concept cars that preview the forthcoming new design language. Part one – the Nagare – was shown at the Los Angeles show a few months back.

Part three is unveiled at Geneva in March, then the climax comes at the Tokyo Show in October.

  • So does it preview a new production car? A small coupe for instance?
Not exactly, though don’t be surprised if a forthcoming RX-8 successor shares many of the design genes. Van den Acker’s design philosophy is based on ‘flow’ (Nagare is Japanese for ‘flow’ and Ryuga apparently means ‘gracious flow’).
It’s all about movement and distinctiveness, and is based on natural shapes and phenomena. I know this sounds a bit mother earth-ish, but the unusual side textures were inspired by peaceful ripples caused by a breeze over a pool of water. The headlamp shape resembles the flow of morning dew dropping from bamboo leaves. Flowing lava inspired the tail-lamp design.

Put into plain language, Laurens says: ‘I want Mazda to be the equivalent of the prettiest girl or boy in the room. We haven’t got a noble heritage and we haven’t got rich parents. So design is what’s going to set us apart. It’s not about aggressive design. Rather, it’s about beautiful elegant design.
  • Anything else of interest?
The cabin is also funky – a curved sofa rear seat, deep front buckets and a ‘floating’ centre cluster. Don’t rule out the possibility of Mazda one day launching a small hard-top coupe using Ryuga DNA. Nobody knows how to make commercially successful sports cars better than Mazda.

Mazda is doing some good designs right now – the 3, 6, RX-8 and MX-5 are all pleasingly different. If the Ryuga is anything to go by, the company’s design distinctiveness may be about to move up another notch.

Gavin Green

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Ferrari Dino and F430 successor

Despite repeated denials, that the Dino will be reborn at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show in March. Developed under the codename F149, the new Dino is front-engined, and features a two-piece folding hardtop.

Our artist's impression reveals how the new Ferrari could look; it's known to be a more comfortable GT style car than the hard-edged F430 and its ilk.

  • A new Dino... so will it look like the 246 GT of yore?
The first heavily disguised Dino prototypes have been caught on film by our spy photographers - and its compact proportions leave no doubt about the true nature of the vehicle. We hear it will have its engine sitting up front and its shape does indeed echo that of the original 246 GT, with a cab-backward design reflecting the engineering layout.

Does the Dino retain the transaxle configuration of the related Maserati Quattroporte? We don't know yet. But we were told by several suppliers that production will start next summer and that the car is scheduled to put in its first appearance at the Geneva show next spring.
  • What's this about Maserati? Is the new Dino related?
It certainly is. The Dino's roots are born in the the car Maserati was going to build alongside the Granturismo - but could not fund. Instead, the Trident brand is now developing a straightforward open-top version of the full-size coupe, while Ferrari has taken over the smaller car for the Dino project.
Insiders are adamant the Dino will be a true Ferrari though, and witnesses who've seen the car on the roads around Maranello - and there have been numerous readers who've spotted it - confirm it sounds like a genuine Pracing Horse.

Will it look anything like these images circulating on the internet? They purport to show a Dino styling buck, but we're not sure if they're the real McCoy or some design school project. One reader, 28crash, reckons these styling clays are from a company in Portugal called Retroconcept, which is planning a re bodied Lotus Elise sports car.
  • What's this about the F430 replacement? What do we know about this car?
It's known in house as the F142 and is an all-new design, unlike the current model that's an evolution of the F360 built between 1999 and 2003. Expect to see the newcomer in late 2009 or early 2010.

The big news is it will follow the Mille Chili concept (above) - as a more compact and significantly lighter than the model it replaces. Like the Dino, F142 will no longer be available as a soft-top Spyder. Instead, you can pay extra money for an ultra-quick, ultra-light and ultra-compact power operated top which consists of a perspex center panel and a secondary element painted in body color.
  • Smaller, lighter... I like the sound of this. How light will the next 430 be?
Lighter still than the 430 Scuderia, which tips the scales at 1250kg. Which is good news. The mid-engined newcomer won't need a massive investment in cylinders and displacement to deliver the goods. Our sources suggest a turbocharged small displacement direct-injection V8 will provide the excitement.

Also on the cards are semi-active aerodynamics, brake energy tapped for torque loss compensation during upshifts, a pushrod suspension and a so-called ballistic valve train for that extra high-end grunt. Whereas the Mille Chili (above) is styled as a junior Enzo, project F142 will have a new look of its own, evolving the 355/360/430 design language to the next level.

Make no mistake, it's going to be an exciting car. But it's also going to be quite a bit more expensive than its predecessor. Which makes sense, considering there is the Dino waiting in the wings, as the entry-level car in Ferrari's line-up.

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Jaguar XF

It's been a long time coming. Eight years late, some would say. For it was in 1999 that Jaguar launched the S-type, its new mid-sized executive saloon to battle the Teutonic might of the 5-series/A6/E-class. From day one, the S was saddled with yesteryear looks that owed more to Jaguar's 1950s past than the new millennium marketplace it was joining.

Sensibly, Jaguar has gone back to the drawing board with its successor, unveiled today. The XF marks such a departure for the Coventry firm that it's ditched the old-world name to reflect the next chapter of Jaguar design. And this is a radical change. Out go the S-type's awkwardly retro nose, saggy bottom and unhappy proportions, to be replaced by something immediately different, more modern. Some insiders call it a Marmite design - one whose flavor you'll either love or hate. Be sure to tell us what you think by clicking 'Add comment' at the bottom.

  • It looks more like a Ford/Aston Martin hybrid from up here!
Be prepared to be surprised - shocked even - when you first clap eyes on an XF. It is different to any Jaguar you've seen before. The boot no longer tapers down at the rear, as Jag saloons have done for so long - it's a edgy, rising lid-line, to the benefit of aerodynamics. Note also the steep rake of the front and rear windscreens - the back window is as steeply angled as that on an XK coupe, incidentally. Small wonder it cleaves the air so efficiently, with a drag coefficient of just 0.29.

There's more sharp edge and wedge everywhere, and less of the rounded radii that made the S-type look out of date before it had even gone on sale. Is there a hint of the Ford group's Mondeo around the rear haunch (above)? Maybe, but the slick and modern rear three-quarters is one of the best angles on the new XF.
  • Wooah. That's a very different front end!
It certainly is. As trailed on the C-XF concept car shown at the Detroit show in January 2007, the XF has a distinctive new snout: an upright rectangular grille frames the company's growler badge, and it's flanked by unusually wide flowing headlamps, with just a whiff of Jaguar's traditional round lens in its outline.
The sides, too, have a lot of form, with two signature lines - a strong sewage line and a subtler crease halfway up the doors - providing flowing movement in the flanks. Notice, also, the vertical gill just ahead of the front doors, fast becoming a Jaguar signature flourish.

Jaguars are designed from the outset to wear the biggest wheel/tire combination in each marketplace; the XF sports rims between 17in and 20in in diameter (an inch bigger than rivals, claims Jag) for a purposeful stance.
  • But the XF's interior is even more radical...
The exterior might raise some eyebrows, but the XF's cabin is perhaps its crowning glory. This is no stuffy Jag interior of old. It's designed to appeal straight to the young and middle-aged execs this car must attract if Jaguar is to reverse its fading fortunes.

Step inside and you're immediately struck by its simplicity. There is no gear lever or handbrake to clutter the center console. Nor are the air vents visible (they swivel open like eyelids when the ignition is fired up). And there isn't much wood, either, the designers preferring a metallic strip that stretches the full width of the fascia. Tree lovers can of course specify veneers, and there are three choices: American walnut, burl walnut and dark oak.

The early car previewed, prodded and poked was a Supercharged V8 and it felt roomy and well made. Quality is one area Jaguar has already cracked, its products regularly scoring highly in the JD Power reliability surveys on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • Jaguars with gadgets! Whatever next?
Online was the first outlet in the world to scoop Jaguar's new transmission selector. And, yes, it is essentially a gimmick, albeit one that we think will go down well with customers. It works like this.

The Jaguar Drive Selector replaces a conventional gearstick. Sitting flush with the center console, it rises electrically when the ignition is turned on. It's a metallic rotary dial (not dissimilar to BMW's iDrive control) that twists to change gear on the standard six-speed automatic box, rotating easily between P, R, N and D. We've tested it and its action is pleasant and seamless. Importantly, it frees up oodles of extra space on the console. Jaguar Drive Selector is standard on every XF and they all come with paddles behind the wheel, too. The change is claimed to be quicker than on the XK sports cars and we reckon buyers will quickly adapt to the new gear lever. It's pretty cool and blessedly simple to operate.

It doesn't end with a novelty gearstick, either. There are proximity interior lights; waft your palm near the cabin lights and they switch on. And the dial lights, door trims and transmission selector have cool blue LEDs built in, casting a modern, technical glow across the cockpit at night.
  • And how will it drive?
The refreshingly modern XF body is wrapped around an architecture pilfering bits from across the Jaguar range, especially the outgoing S-type. Which is no bad thing. For all its old-fashioned looks, the one thing the S does really well is drive. However, one thing the XF misses out on is Jaguar's world-class aluminum technology - and that's a shame.

It's built predominantly from steel (albeit with some alloy suspension parts) and won't win any weight advantage over its mostly steel-bodied rivals. The lightest XF, the 3.0-litre V6 petrol, weighs in at 1679kg (at least a hundred kilos heavier than a 530i or A6 3.2), ballooning to a more substantial 1842kg for the supercharged V8 (another 100kg over an E500).

Blame Jaguar's cash-strapped finances. Developing an all-new aluminum platform is an expensive business and the bean counters decided early on that it was preferable for the XF to use conventional steel pressings, and invest the money saved in design and technology. Was this a wise decision? We'll reserve judgment until we've driven the XF...
  • What's the XF's mechanical spec then?
The body shell is bang on the class norm in size. Its length stretches to 4961mm, it's 1877mm wide and a slinky 1460mm tall. Jag claims it's the stiffest car in its class (but then they all say that, don't they?).

Being based largely on a lot of carry-over S-type mechanicals, it's obviously front-engined and rear-drive. Although some of the pressings of the monocoque are the same, the suspension is largely new, borrowing know-how from the aluminum XK's set-up, and every model comes with an auto transmission; no manual option will be offered on the XF.

There's a deployable bonnet, that pops up in a fraction of a second in a frontal accident to provide a cushioning gap to protect pedestrians' heads from the unforgiving engine block below the hood. And Jaguar has surpassed itself in the lengthy alphabet soup of safety acronyms with which to bamboozle the casual buyer in the showroom: there's EBA, EBD, ABS, DSC, CBC, EDTC and UCL... some familiar, others less so. The latter, by the way, is Understeer Control Logic - which trims the brake and throttle settings to avoid any unseemly hedgerows.
  • What engines does the new Jaguar XF have under that long bonnet?
Four engines will be offered in Europe. Unsurprisingly in this carbon-obsessed age, the diesel will be the big seller in Europe, whereas the V8 petrols will be the only option in the US at launch:
  • 3.0 V6 petrol, 238bhp, 216lb ft, 249g/km CO2
  • 4.2 V8 petrol, 298bhp, 303lb ft, 264g/km
  • 4.2 V8 petrol, supercharged, 416bhp, 413lb ft, 299g/km
  • 2.7 V6 turbodiesel, 207bhp, 320lb ft, 199g/km
There's something for everyone, from a brisk diesel (0-60mph in 7.7sec) to the devilishly fast supercharged V8 (the same benchmark in a Porsche-worrying 5.1sec), a car that just breaches the magical 100bhp per liter mark.

No mention of the R yet, but the supercharged 4.2 debuts in the SV8. Jaguar has considerable success with its performance brand, and the engineers are busy fettling the XFR; expect more power, a honed chassis and meaner looks for Coventry's M5 challenger.
  • Hmmm, so it's a question of new clothes, old heart?
It's true that Jaguar has decided to concentrate on the cosmetics with the XF. And why wouldn't it? After years of criticism for dull designs holding back fine dynamics, it's surely wise to make sure the XF looks fresh and modern and family-friendly to lure buyers away from the usual German suspects.
That's why there's so much attention paid to the modern interior with its funky air vents, slick dials and novel lighting packages. The glove box even opens automatically when you hold your hand nearby. (Engineers already admit a fear that customers may get clonked knees, though!).

It'll even be practical, with a 500-liter boot (540 with the space-saver spare, and a huge 960 if you tip the seats forward), and Jaguar promises a generous spec, with leather-trimmed wheel, eight-speaker stereo standard on every model.
  • Verdict
First UK sales start in March 2008 when all four engines will be available. The XF will be a four-door only, for now at least. Jaguar is toying with the idea of an estate and coupe version, but times are tight and they're unlikely to appear for a long time, if at all. Prices will be competitive for the class, kicking off at £33,900 for either V6, rising to £45,500 for the V8 and £54,900 for the supercharged SV8. Three trim levels are Luxury, Premium Luxury and SV8.

Would we buy one? Hell yes. The XF is a refreshing bolt in the arm for a company that's currently in commercial crisis, as potential buyers circle now that Ford has announced its intention to sell off Jag and Land Rover.
Sometimes people produce their best work when backed into a corner and we suspect that you could say the same about Jaguar. The XF is the product of a company forced to make urgent changes. And on first experience, it has worked a treat.

The only disappointments are the XF's burgeoning weight and the focus on gadgetry over meaningful technology such as hybrid clean-fuel solutions. And the looks? We'll let you decide that one. Click 'Add comment' and tell us what you think.

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3 Best cars on Frankfurt Auto Show

Today we present you news from the Frankfurt Autoshow. We pick three best video presentations of new showed cars in Frankfurt Auto show. First place goes to Ferrari F430 Scuderia, second place to Farbio GTS and third place goes to Aston Martin DB9.

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Subaru Impreza STi

Now that’s a proper hot hatch. This is Subaru’s Impreza STi and unlike your Golf GTI or Renault Megane R26 hatchback rivals, this is four-wheel drive. And it’ll knock the Audi S3 into touch as well; where the Audi musters 261bhp, the new Scooby has close to 300bhp.

We caught the Impreza STi almost undisguised at the Nurburgring. It’ll be officially unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show next month but it won’t go on sale in the UK until March 2008. We’ve snapped the car before but these are the clearest shots yet.

Looks aggressive above and beyond the regular Impreza the STi has massively flared and squared wheelarches. There are also big alloys but thankfully Subaru seems to have foregone oversized rims.
When we drove the regular Impreza we gave it four stars and said it had a ‘unique range of attributes ideally suited to UK back lanes’. It should do, with its conventional six-speed manual, wide track, and technical innovations to the four-wheel drive system.

  • Are those quad exhausts I spy?
They are. Subaru showed a WRC Concept at Frankfurt earlier this month that was claimed to be 90 percent true to the production STi.

So remove the decals from that car, give it production wing mirrors and rear spoiler, add a few more exhausts and that’s what you have in our pictures. And check out the rear lights - now with ultra-cool LEDs.
  • So what’ll it do mister?
Is 0-60 in 4.5 seconds quick enough for you? Running a 2.5-liter flat four engine, and with a turbocharger to help things along, the STi will have close to 300bhp.
Add in four-wheel drive and a driver-controlled centre differential and grip should be second to none. It’ll also keep accelerating all the way to 160mph, speeds it was well on the way to attaining during this Nurburgring training run.
  • How much will I have to pay for the Impreza STi?
Around £27,000. We know that’s steep but the new Mitsubishi Evo X won’t be cheap either.

And one other detail: check out the air extraction vents in the sides of the front bumper.

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Porsche 911 C2S Powerkit

The Powerkit is a genuine factory-fitted Porsche tuning package offered only on the Carrera S that lifts power from 350bhp to 376bhp. You can order it on any two- or four-wheel drive Carrera S with the coupé, targa or cabrio bodies.

As well as that 26bhp power hike there's a gain in torque too, from 295lb ft to 306lb ft although the torque peak now moves up 900rpm to 5500rpm.
  • Chip and exhaust job is it?
It better not be for £8241. In fact it's a pretty comprehensive affair and includes modified cylinder heads and exhaust manifolds, a carbon fiber air cleaner housing, aluminum intake and, yes, a sports exhaust system and revised ECU.
  • And how does it go?
The differences aren't colossal on paper or on the road. Porsche's own figures say that the kit chops the 0-62mph figure down 0.2sec to 4.6sec and adds 4mph at the top end allowing the kitted car to touch 186mph. The 0-100mph times show a more noticeable improvement, the kitted car knocking nearly a second from the standard model's 10.7sec effort but the in-gear flexibility numbers don't show any improvement at all.

That's mostly how it feels, too: noticeably peppier, harder edged and a slightly more vocal, but not hugely different from the standard car. If you've got the Sport button depressed to take advantage of the sharper throttle response, the sonic bellow kicks in at around 3500rpm. If not you'll have to wait 1500rpm longer. Either way the real grunt doesn't arrive until the needle is half way round the centrally mounted 8000rpm taco although it actually feels fractionally stronger low down than before too, allowing you to lazily surf the low rev torque when you're not in the mood for a thrash. And when you do wind it up, it kicks even harder.

Our came without the optional PCCB carbon brakes. The steelies are still great (nice firm pedal, loads of stopping power, stacks of feel) but the PCCB definitely has the edge in every area, though probably not enough to justify the £5349 option price.
  • How much more does the GT3 cost?
Smart thinking. A basic GT3 with the C2's comfort seats rather than the more radical buckets that come with the Club Sport package would set you back £80,660, just £3669 more than a powerkitted C2S.
Ok, so that's still £3669, but it is buying you an extra 33bhp again over the Powerkit (409bhp in total) and an engine that zings to 8200rpm and can trace its ancestry to Porsche's '98 Le Mans winner. For the number junkies the GT3 hits 60mph in 4.3sec and manages 192mph all out.

On top of that you've got the peachy chassis (with brilliant two stage dampers making it genuinely usable on road) and various bits of GT3 jewelery like the front splitter, rear wing, yellow marked instruments and Alcantara wheel.

Sounds like you're less than impressed with the Powerkit.
Not so. We think the C2S is brilliant and the extra performance offered by the Powerkit makes a great car even better. But it's not worth over £8000, not when the GT3 is within reach.
Now that the GT3 has evolved into such a civilized road car, there's simply no reason for those wanting a more powerful 911 than the Carrera S not to go for it - unless they really need rear seats.

And we're sure some do want those back seats because the 911 is an incredibly practical car. Young children fit snugly in the rear or you can fold down the backrests and use the rear of the cabin as an extra luggage compartment.

The 911's compact dimensions and the great visibility mean its no liability in town, the control weights are perfectly matched, the body control excellent and it still steers like nothing else in its class.
  • Verdict
Great fun but too expensive. If the only GT3 available was the £96k RS, the Powerkit for the C2S would make more sense and this would be a five star car.

You couldn't accuse the standard CS2 of being affordable but it's not horrendous value at £65k either and is one of our favorite cars. But if we wanted more go and could stretch to £80k we'd go for the the GT3 which is even more fun and barely less practical. Which makes the powerkit a very likable option for the C2S that just doesn't make financial sense.

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Farbio GTS

This is the Farbio GTS, another British attempt at a sports car and it’s yours from £59,925. It’s already in production, though ‘near Bath’ doesn’t have the same ring to it as Maranello.

Nevertheless Farbio doesn’t appear worried, declaring the GTS the

definitive British sports car.
  • With a price to match the 911, and being 911-sized is it taking on the 911?
Of course. It even shares its name with a Porsche, albeit the Cayenne GTS.

At 4215mm long, 1940mm wide and 1170mm high, it’s shorter, wider and lower than Porsche’s iconic car. However, the GTS is only a two-seater as this car is mid-engined.
  • So if it’s taking on the 911 what powers it?
Er, a Ford V6. Not that glamorous is it? (Although the Ford V6 has powered numerous low-budget sports cars in the past). Your basic naturally aspirated £59,925 car only has 262bhp. A standard Carrera will set you back £61,620 and for that much cash you get 321bhp.
However, cough up £71,675 and Farbio will bolt a Rotrex supercharger to the Ford engine to give 384bhp. That bests the Powerkitted 911 Carrera S by 8bhp. Things are looking up then, and even more so when you consider that that Porsche is £76,991.
  • So apart from the power, why should I get one?
The weight, or lack of it. The supercharged car weighs just 1066kg, and the standard car is even less. That’s down to a full carbonfibre body so the forced-induction car will apparently run to 60mph in 3.9 seconds.

Factor in fully adjustable suspension and touch-screen sat-nav and the Farbio even starts to look good value. Now if only they could guarantee Porsche build quality…
  • What else should I know?
You also get exclusivity with the GTS. In 2006 Porsche churned out 37,415 911s. Farbio probably won’t approach triple figures.

Brakes are by AP with 350mm discs at the front, 328mm at the rear. The boot will take 220 liters of whatever you choose.

Leather is £1950, but don’t go near the £900 19-inch split-rim alloys. They ruin the whole look of the car.

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Porsche 911 Turbo facelift

Porsche never seems to stop fettling the 911 and although it’s only been just more a year since we drove the Turbo, Porsche is already working on a facelift.

As with most updates these days there’ll be more power, more torque, better fuel consumption, and lower emissions. But the biggest news is that the Turbo should finally have Porsche's new twin-clutch gearbox. Unfortunately, you’ll get none of this until 2009.

  • More power and torque, but greener too… how come?
Three reasons. To start with the Turbo will be the first of Porsche’s sports car to get direct injection. Having already made an appearance on the Cayenne, the Turbo should benefit from a ten percent cut in emissions and ten percent better fuel consumption. The 3.6-liter turbocharged flat six should also get a power increase to just shy of 500bhp.

Porsche will also tweak the VTG (Variable Turbine Geometry) system. And finally there’s a strong possibility that the Turbo will inherit the GT2’s ‘expansion intake manifold’. Longer intake pipes mean cooler air enters the engine. The air is less dense but by upping the boost pressure the volume of air entering the engine remains the same. However, lower temperatures bring more efficient combustion. So it’s cleaner and more powerful - the holy grail of sports car makers at present.
  • What about changes we can see?
Porsche is continuing its evolutionary styling with the facelifted 911 Turbo. The only obvious changes are at the rear with curvier lights. This is in line with tweaks being made to all of Porsche’s sports cars, from 911 to Cayman, via Boxster.
The other changes are a tidier rear bumper and exhaust outlet giving the Turbo’s rear a more cohesive look.
  • Anything else new on the 911?
We know Porsche is working on a DSG-style gearbox. It’s been a long time coming, but the twin-clutch gearbox should appear on this revised Turbo, confirming the car as Porsche’s technical showcase.

Porsche is also working on stop/start technology for all its cars, as previewed by the Cayenne Hybrid. Unfortunately, it’s not a priority as the aforementioned engine tweaks can make more of an impact on fuel consumption and emissions figures, engineering sources tell us, and it’s cheaper too.
Don’t expect this facelifted 911 Turbo to appear until 2009 at the earliest, probably at the Geneva Motor Show.
  • What else is coming from Porsche?
The message is: greener, cleaner cars. Oh, and a stocking great super saloon. Chairman Wendelin Wiedeking spent the whole Porsche press conference at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show telling the world’s assembled journalists how clean and green Porsche is going to be over the coming years.

Wiedeking also announced record sales and turnover in the 2006-07 financial year. It sold 97,515 vehicles - and a record 37,415 of them were 911s, making it the most popular model ahead of the Cayenne. It wasn't all good news though; US sales dipped ten percent.

All helped no doubt by the Panamera, which will appear with V8 and turbocharged V8 power in mid-2009. But fret not, because they’ll also be V6 and V6 hybrid versions.

Words: Ben Pulman

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10 Beast Car Ads

It's a collection of some of the best, funniest and cheesiest UK car adverts out there. I hope you like it. If you have some other favorite car ad, please write me a comment.

  • Ford RS2000
The boys from Essex let a Rocky-inspired advert sell their new RS2000. 'Adrian!'

  • Nissan Almera GTi
Nissan sends up The Sweeney to promote the Almera GTi. Shut it!

  • Austin Allegro
Austin's new Allegro is taken for a test drive in a quarry. And all the wife can think about is what colour she wants.

  • Vauxhall Calibra
Who would have thought that Vauxhall could kid themselves into thinking that the Calibra was 'car of the decade'.

  • Ferrari's F1 history
A glorious celebration of the blood red Italian cars. Sit back, turn up the volume, and enjoy.

  • Noel Edmonds and Austin Rover
Noel Edmonds sells his soul as he declares the Montego estate 'the most stylish estate car ever designed'.

  • Peugeot 405
Peugeot does its bit for global warming by setting fire to a crop plantation, all in the name of the 405.

  • Ford Puma
Steve McQueen is back from the dead to promote a small, front-wheel drive Ford: the Puma.

  • Honda Accord 'Cog'
The Cog. Three weeks and over 300 takes for the Honda Accord Tourer.

  • Saab 900
Saab plunders whatever aircraft heritage it may have to promote the 900.

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Fiat 500 Abarth SS

We scooped Fiat 500 back in August. Fiat 500 has also a Abrarth version. But this isn’t a 500 Abarth. This is the super-hot Super Sport version with more power and a few mods to make it a more serious performance hatch. Dubbed ‘SS’ this car is still over a year away, but it’ll be proper pocket-rocket when it arrives.

And expect the full list of customisable options to be available too, letting Abarth owners personalise their new toy.

  • So just how quick will it be?
There are no official figures yet, and Fiat officials aren’t even being drawn into talking about the regular 500 Abarth. But we do know that the regular Abarth will run a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine turning out around 135bhp.

These spy shots show the SS's larger front bumper and two additional air intakes to help cool the higher-powered engine. In the Grande Punto Abarth the same engine has 150bhp, and in the SS version it’s good for 180bhp. Expect somewhere between 165bhp and 180bhp for the hottest 500.
  • What else is new?
These pictures show the 500 Abarth SS has a distinctly jutting front bumper, much larger than on the regular 500 Abarth. And through the disguise you can make out the larger radiator needed to cool the higher-power engine. Also visible are the deeper and less-rounded side skirts.
This prototype is being used to test the engine rather than the suspension: that's why it runs regular 500's wheels.
  • What are the other clues that this is a Fiat 500 Abarth SS?
Those tailpipes. Both the Grande Punto Abarth and 500 Abarth run twin tailpipes but only on one side of the car. The Grande Punto Abarth SS and the 500 Abarth SS shown here both have two separate pipes positioned on either side.

Oh, and FYI it’s not a Fiat either. Fiat says that no Fiat badging will appear on the Abarth cars.
  • So does that mean the Abarth brand is being re-launched?
Spot on. It’ll start with the launch of the Grande Punto Abarth in October next month. That’s for the Italian market, but we won’t get it in the UK until summer 2008.

Fiat is on a roll. A few years ago it was all-but-bankrupt and having a messy divorce from GM. Now it’s back on track and building some of the best small cars on the market. Let's hope the sportier 500s perform as well as their more mundane, cheaper siblings.

Words: Ben Pulman

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