Name: Carlton Boyce
Web Site: http://www.cmotoringjourno.com
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This is why you need a Range Rover Sport in your life:
That is all.
Article by Carlton Boyce
The Subaru BRZ, eh? Like the Toyota GT86, it’s a car that everyone has an opinion on. You do too, don’t you? Let me guess: you’re thinking drifting, easy oversteer, wide B-road blasts; dammit, you’re wondering how much the finance is, aren’t you?
Well hold on cowboy, because I’ve just spent a week with one and it wasn’t quite the week I was expecting…
Yes, it oversteered. Yes, it even drifted. It has no tiresome torque steer and a lovely exhaust note. In that respect it does exactly what it says on the tin. So why do you detect a hint of reservation?
It was disappointing.
There, I’ve said it. And I’m heartbroken. I’m a Subaru man. I’ve had a Legacy Spec B, possibly the most underrated performance car of all time. I’ve owned a Forester too, and a Forester XT is on the horizon. As is an Impreza Turbo when I can find a nice, low-mileage early one. So I wanted to love the BRZ. I wanted to be seduced. I wanted to have found my forever car.
But I didn’t.
The interior is crap and uses some of the lowest grade plastics seen outside the USA. The engine is too noisy, which means you can’t use the aftermarket-quality Bluetooth stereo to make or receive a call on the move, even if you schlep along at 50 in lane one. The rear seats are a joke.
And it’s slow. Man, it’s slow. The top speed of 140mph sounds OK but 62mph takes a glacial 7.6 seconds. Overtaking is a lottery and it’s usually easiest – and safest – to hang back and not bother. That isn’t a thought process that any driver of a ‘sports’ car should go through.
It’s not as if the power that is there is accessible, either. You get bugger all below 4,000rpm and not much more after that. You have to change down at least one gear lower than you would have to in any comparable car and then all you get is a lot of frantic thrashing and a lot of noise; accelerating in the BRZ is like having your leg shagged by a Jack Russell.
The brakes also feel more powerful than they are, the initially firm pedal promising stopping power that the discs can’t deliver. Not that this is a problem, because you won’t be going that fast anyway.
If the BRZ/GT86 was the only game in town none of this would be a problem; you’d just dial Tune-a-Ru and order a big box of go-faster bits, some bigger brakes, and you’d be sorted.
Except you don’t need to do that. All you need to do is to buy a BMW 135iM and you’ll have a faster, more comfortable, and more rewarding car that you don’t need to ‘tune’ to get it to do what it is supposed to do in the first place. It only costs £60-odd quid a month more, or about the same if you buy a nearly new model.
And instead of having your leg shagged by a Jack Russell you’ll be having dinner with Keira Knightley.
Price: £24,995 OTR
Maximum power: 200bhp
Peak torque: 150lb ft
0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
Top speed: 140mph
Fuel consumption: official: 36.2mpg, actual: 34.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 181g/km
Thanks to James Neale for the image.
Article by Carlton Boyce
Crossovers, eh? Too bloody tall, too long, too expensive. Bought because you want an SUV but haven’t got the bottle to actually pull the trigger and buy one.
Sweeping generalisations? Probably, but you get the point; the hatchback, upon which most crossovers are based, is generally the better car. It’ll be lower, so it will handle better. It will be smaller, so it will use less fuel. It is less of a fashion statement, so it will be cheaper. The only real drawback is that the hatchback is less profitable for the manufacturer.
But now I’m going to have to eat my words, because Peugeot has demolished my objections at a stroke with the 2008, the first crossover I’ve driven that I actually prefer to the equivalent hatchback.
How has it done this? Well, the 2008 handles as well as the 208, upon which it is based and is almost as fuel efficient. The interior design is (stupidly small steering wheel aside) a visual and tactile treat. But none of this is worth a damn in the real world where cars are bought because of image and practicality – and the finance package.
So we’ll address the latter point first; Peugeot’s ‘Just Add Fuel’ lumps together the leasing fees, VED, insurance, roadside assistance, and servicing. The cost, especially for younger drivers for whom insurance is becoming an intolerable burden, is surprisingly low: the 2008 range starts at £219 a month.
Now we have established that you can afford one we need to talk about why you need one. The answer is simple: Grip Control.
Grip Control is, like Fiat’s Traction+, a deceptively simple way of improving traction in conditions that are less than optimum. By braking the driven wheels when they spin forward progress can be maintained even when the surface underfoot is too slippery to walk on. Are you catching a hint of marketing hyperbole? Shame on you.
Peugeot took a bunch of us to an indoor ski slope and invited us to try and drive a 208 up it. We got about ten metres and floundered to a stop. We then jumped into a 2008 equipped with Grip Control and Goodyear Vector 4Seasons tyres and drove straight to the top, turned round, and came down again under complete control. It also has settings for sand and mud and is so competent that it renders four-wheel-drive redundant for 90 percent of drivers. Remarkable.
So there you have it: a crossover that is genuinely more useful than the hatchback. Yes, it’ll cost you about £800 more than the equivalent 208 but it’s worth it for the Grip Control alone.
I know; you’re still worried that you’ll look like a fashion-obsessed pillock who has bought a crossover because you don’t know any better. Fear not. The cognoscenti will understand – and everyone else will get the message as you breeze past them in the snow this winter…
Article by Carlton Boyce
It should be easy to dismiss the unfashionable Jeep Grand Cherokee. It is, after all, a 5-metre long, four-wheel-drive leviathon in an age of small, nimble eco-friendly cars. No itsy-bitsy, cute-as-hell electric power for this baby, just good old Detroit steel forged into an V6, just as the Good Lord intended (now he’s reneged on the original V8-deal, leaving Lucifer in charge of the eight-cylinders-and-counting Skunkworks division). Hell, the only electric motors in the Jeep are the ones in the seats, and heating system, and tailgate, and door mirrors, and … (Yes, we get the idea. ed.)
So this is not a car for metrosexuals, or couples, or, indeed, anyone who doesn’t at heart think that the NRA might just have a point. No, the Jeep is for red-blooded carnivores who shoot their own lunch and cut their own wood while listening to Springsteen. And the engineers and marketing guys at Jeep understand this demographic perfectly, so they give the Grand Cherokee’s toys proper names, like ‘Quadra-Lift’ (for the very effective air suspension), ‘Quadra-Trac II’ (for the primitive-but-gets-the-job-done four-wheel-drive system), and ‘CommandView®’ (a bloody great sunroof). This is a Good Thing.
It’s not just marketing, though, it’s in the execution too. The handle for the rear load blind is big enough to get your whole hand in; the rear seats fold with a chunky lever (an action that causes them to drop like a gundog to shot); and the handbrake is a footbrake that you stamp on. These are all fine, manly interactions in a homogenised low-fat world. These things matter. They really do.
How does it drive? Well, you might not think it is overburdened with power – and if you’ve just read the spec of the 6.4-litre V8-powered Grand Cherokee SRT you will almost certainly have qualms about downsizing this far – as the dinky little diesel engine only develops 237bhp, which might not be enough if it didn’t also churn out a gargantuan 400 lb/ft of torque. Driven with gusto it’ll hit 62mph in 8.2 seconds and surge on to an acceptable inter-continental cruising speed shortly thereafter. That barn-door shape must be more aerodynamic than it looks because it is very quiet at speed, the only noise coming from the dashboard as it beeps and flashes “BRAKE. BRAKE. BRAKE” when it thinks you are arriving at a corner a bit too fast. This is, of course, too sensitively calibrated in these risk-adverse, litigation-heavy days; I only chirped the tyres once by cornering too quickly and only then to see what happens. (Understeer, if you are interested.)
Cornering is a matter of attempting to bisect the two angles the Jeep alternately describes around a bend. It is all a bit scary at first but confidence is a wonderful thing and let’s face it, you will walk away from just about any crash. Besides, the Jeep does have decently high levels of grip, so after a while you just sit back and relax; it’s quite good fun watching drivers’ faces turn pale when they see you wallowing towards them at speed…
This makes it sounds like a hooligan’s car, which it is. With bright red bodywork and 20-inch alloy wheels we weren’t going for subtle and wherever I went I drew huge amounts of attention, mainly, I have to confess, from men walking around sporting poor-quality tattoos and a pitbull. (The polite Middle Classes just looked at me as if I’d farted in Waitrose.) It’s all very NASCAR-meets-Range Rover, which is a middle-aged man’s wet dream, surely?
It is a practical car, if practical means towing stuff and carrying Big Things in the boot. It’s a bugger to park, of course, and it does take some careful manoeuvring in supermarket car-parks (a process made harder than it needed to be by the far-too-sensitive parking sensors. Litigation again, y’see?) but other than that it’s an easy car to live with. There is enough rear leg-room to enable you to ferry pro basketball players around in comfort and more front seat adjustment than any human being needs. The seats are super-supportive too, and look as good as they feel. The steering wheel is round and has three-spokes, which is how a steering should look. (As my wife said, when faced with a flat-bottomed steering wheel in an Audi: “A steering wheel has only one function. To be round.” She was right.)
The Land Rover Discovery is, obviously, a much, much better car. It’s more modern to drive, nicer inside, has the benefit of seven seats and is just, well, more 21st Century. But if you hanker after simpler days when our enemies were more obvious, our desires more crude, and our needs more easily met then the Cherokee might just be your portal back. It is terrific fun, easy to love, and far better than you think.
Still undecided? If you love Sky TV and surfing the Internet obsessively then buy British. If four channels was enough and you’d rather be out there living a life and not reading about it, then buy American. Which is what you suspected all along, wasn’t it?
Price: £46,465 OTR
Maximum power: 237bhp
Peak torque: 405lb ft
0-62mph: 8.2 seconds
Top speed: 126mph
Fuel consumption: official: 34.0mpg, actual: 30.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 218g/km
Article by Carlton Boyce
Hoonary isn’t just the preserve of the young; membership of the VSCC – which positively encourages their members to take their vintage machinery out for a damned good thrashing on a regular basis – is flourishing.
It has to be said that the average age of their members is nearer 70 than 17, but these old guys have more skill and bravery and enthusiasm and stamina than we can imagine. Not for them a quiet retirement; they are pounding their ancient cars around racing circuits, up muddy tracks, and along leafy lanes every weekend of the year.
They are, of course, clinically insane (how else do you explain cars with drum brakes being fitted with aeroplane engines?) but we salute them, if for no other reason than they are living proof that there is life after the family saloon…
They’ve got a great sense of humour too – which you’ll need if you ever compete with them. The Measham Rally, for example, single-handedly proves the old adage: “if you can’t take a joke you shouldn’t have joined.”
Article by Carlton Boyce
When I became a motoring journalist, a whole new world opened up to me. I’ve travelled the world first-class, eaten in the finest restaurants, and slept in some of the best hotels in the world. I’ve driven hundreds of cars over thousands of miles, met a lot of fascinating people, and seen things that I can never, ever write about. (If for no other reason than you would never believe them.) I am, in short, a very lucky man.
And I have never been luckier than to be at the MP4-28 Formula 1 car reveal at the McLaren Technical Centre last week.
I’ve been there a few times before, yet the sense of drama and theatre never lessens. The white walls, inch-perfect floor tiles, and the multi-million-pound back catalogue proudly displayed conspire to convince you that the McLaren Group take obsessive engineering to a whole new level, which is a healthy thing when you are playing with forces that even the Almighty doesn’t fully understand…
After coffee and McLaren-branded cookies, the unveiling started with a video. No corporate bullshit here though, just a hefty dose of nostalgia with a side shot of emotion:
Marcus Söderlund, the Swedish director, said of the video: “This is Bruce McLaren’s film. I love that Bruce McLaren is revisiting his crash-site, like an angel from a Frank Capra movie. The script for this film made me shiver and I wanted to recreate that feeling. I wanted to fill the film with emotions. I am obsessed with gestures. These things that reveal who we are and the physical spaces that we inhabit.”
The most intimate gesture, and the one that started me crying, is when Bruce touches his gloves to the back of his neck (about 2-minutes in) after inspecting pieces of his McLaren M8D that have been strewn along the track following the catastrophic loss of the ear bodywork. Christ.
At this point, with cheeks still moist and hardened hacks complaining they’d got something in their eyes, McLaren cranked it all the way round to eleven. Yes, even a video as evocative at that serves only as an amuse-bouche in Woking…
The sight, sound, and smell, of a McLaren M8D being whipped into The Boulevard at speed was enough to reduce the stalwart, dry-eyed minority to crumbling wrecks. The poignancy of seeing THAT car, so quickly after watching Bruce’s ghost, was too much. Muttering rotters, never the most loquacious of folk, were glancing round at each other, whispering wildly and grinning ruefully, their ‘been-there-done-it-seen-it-all-before’ countenance long gone.
The iconic M23, devastatingly effective MP4-4 (which won 15 out of 16 races in 1988), Le Mans-winning F1 GTR, Championship winning MP4-13 and MP4-23 would surely feature on any Formula 1 fan’s Top Ten, and served as a delicious hors d’oeuvre to the main event. (Note the duct tape on the floor marking each car’s parking space is in McLaren’s own font.)
Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez drove a 12C Spider past the lake and into the MTC, closely followed by Jenson Button in a P1. Seen moving for the first time, the P1 looked even better than it did in Paris (I’d also seen one leaving the MTC as I arrived; why is it that cars always look better in the wild?) and sounded brilliant, especially in reverse gear. Why reverse? Well, it’s fitted with an electric motor to go backwards, so is utterly silent…
The MP4-28 unveil was almost an anti-climax but it looks great and if Button and Perez have only driven it in a simulator so far, that didn’t stop them talking in wildly optimistic terms about its handling. Button, in particular, was effusive about the car’s instantaneous turn-in, complaining that last year’s MP4-27 tended to “wash out” in tight corners. (Heh, everything’s relative…).
But, to return to the Can-Am cars, to which this article’s title alludes. I have long maintained that a decent 1:18 model of a car provides most of the pleasure of the real thing at a fraction of the cost; a miniature collection of the cars McLaren wheeled out would about £1,000, depending on how accurate you like your replicas. Yes, a grand is a lot of money, but probably only represents around six-months’ depreciation on your family runabout and don’t forget that it would be impossible to buy the real cars, no matter how wealthy you are.
Or is it?
If 1:18 models don’t rock your world a company in Germany, LMP Engineering, has recreated the McLaren M1 - and they’ve started work on the iconic M8 too. Both will be eye-wateringly expensive, wildly effective, and effortlessly cool.
And with rumours that the limited run McLaren P1 has sold out these might just provide solace for those wealthy enough to be able to afford them.
Article by Carlton Boyce
We’ve just come to the end of the first full year of Motoring Journo, and I’d like to thank each and every one of the 11,366 people who came to say ‘hello’.
The most popular nationality of my readers was the United Kingdom, closely followed by the United States of America. Next was Canada, Australia, and then Germany. In total, 126 nationalities were represented, although honesty compels me to point out that the sole Zimbabwean reader exited after precisely 0 seconds of reading. Obviously a very discerning chap.
However, on average, you looked at nearly three pages each, spending about one minute on each piece. Is that good? Hell, I don’t know but at least someone is reading what I write apart from my mum…
Talking of which, in the past twelve months I’ve written about everything from a safari bus in Kenya to the McLaren P1 in Paris via sheep shearing in Wales – but you don’t want to read about what I’ve written, do you?
No, what you want a funky infographic that shows all those lovely words, don’t you?
And here it is:
Next, I suppose you’ll want to know what the most weird search terms that people used were. Well, apart from “wide swapping in Magaluf” (and yes, I did use that exact phrase…) people generally searched for the usual stuff: “future classic cars” was the most popular followed by (of all things) “alain de cadenet“. (No, I don’t know why, either.)
The Audi A1 was the most searched for car, even if my Subaru Forester v. Skoda Yeti comparison test was the most popular review – for the second year running.
But you want more funk, don’t you? Well, here they are, the 16 weirdest, most bizarre, and downright hard-to-fathom ways that people found me:
Can I wish you all a (belated) Happy New Year and ask you to raise your glass to all the crazy folk that make the world as interesting as it is!
Article by Carlton Boyce
Last year comprised a series of exclamation marks that punctured an otherwise uneventful twelve months. In times of recession industry hunkers down to protect what it has, and in a double-dip recession the temptation becomes even stronger; financial meltdown is an ever-present threat for the meek and bold alike with mass-market manufacturers feeling the pinch especially keenly; the squeezed middle is a very unhealthy place to be at the moment and so some sought a move into the rarified (and relatively safe) atmosphere of the Premium Car Manufacturer, a move that none made as adeptly as Volvo.
Audi continued its assault on the executive market and demonstrated that no niche is too small to be exploited, something that the enthusiast might regret but the accountant rejoices in. And a couple hid away to lick their wounds and all but disappeared from the motoring journalists’ radar…
Most became wonderfully adept at massaging the New European Driving Cycle to the extent that fuel consumption figures have now become unreliable to the point that they must be disregarded altogether. (Our best advice remains to buy a small turbo-diesel hatchback on the secondhand market and drive it as economically as possible – and if you must buy new then buy something with a small petrol engine and accept slightly higher fuel consumption in return for a significantly lower initial purchase price.) What Car are to be applauded for challenging this with their True MPG pages, a bold move that is likely to become more commonplace as consumers become more and more disillusioned with “official” figures that they will never achieve.
It wasn’t all gloom and cynicism, though. A few displayed an admirable willingness to explore the ridiculous in search of new answers to old questions, often turning them into sublime vehicles – see the BMW i8 and Nissan DeltaWing for more details. Others rode the fiscal wave of the super-rich and expanded their product line to meet the ever-present need for the wealthy to spend their money in new, and unique ways; bespoke cars and one-off designs like the McLaren X-1 are likely to become, if not common, then less rare in 2013 than they were in 2012.
Here then, are my personal highlights from last year:
Most Exciting New Car
The most exciting new car of 2012 wasn’t even a new model, but a concept, albeit one that it expected to go into production pretty much unaltered. The McLaren P1 is a simply astonishing car that places the driver right at the centre of the driving experience. I have been privileged to be able to work closely with McLaren Automotive this year on a couple of projects and have been stunned by the thinking that has gone into the P1. I cannot say more at this point, but rest assured; the hype from my colleagues and fans doesn’t come close to the reality.
(And before the cynical among you draw a causal link between my work with McLaren Automotive and this award, I must explain that I will only work with companies that have enough integrity to allow me to recommend them; none of them could pay me enough to compromise what I write. I declined another, similar offer, from another car company this year because I didn’t have sufficient confidence in their product. My accountant might not have agreed with my decision but at least I can sleep at night.)
Best New Car Launch
Audi is renowned for the quality of its car launches, and that of the Audi RS4 was no exception. Faultless organisation got a bunch of disorganised hacks to Germany where we toured the R8 factory before overnighting in an old hunting lodge where we ate, by common consent, the finest meal of our lives.
All was merely a prelude to a storming drive across Europe that saw 600 miles covered in eight hours at the wheel of the RS4. Sure, the ride is harsh at times but it is an intoxicating and guttural brew that made me wish that motoring journalism paid more than it does. The only sour note of the day was the fact that Audi’s PR wouldn’t let us turn around and do it all again…
Best Real World Car
The best car I drove in 2012 was the SEAT Ibiza 1.2 TSI. No car charmed me, or helped me to enjoy a humdrum 250-mile cross-country dash, more than the diminutive Spaniard. The DSG gearbox is a must-have feature but other than that you should keep it basic and revel in the sweetest engine/chassis combo on sale today.
Meeting Your Hero Award
I was a child of the 1980′s and grew up to the off-beat thrum of Audi quattro’s skating through wet norther forests. Group B was the beginning and the end of rallying for me so when I had the chance to take a passenger ride in a Metro 6R4 I didn’t hesitate for a second.
Despite a spin that left us perilously close to some very solid-looking roadside furniture I enjoyed every moment of it and still play the soundtrack I recorded from time to time. A very special day that might only be eclipsed if I ever get into an Audi quattro Sport…
Most Out-Of-Step Review of 2012
Consensus might be over-rated but the wisdom of the group has a solid foundation in evolutionary science as well as common sense, which is why so many motoring journalists agree on what constitutes a good (or bad) car. So it’s rare for one of us to break ranks, not because we’re sheep-like in our sycophancy but because a good car is universally identifiable. Which makes it even more surprising that I absolutely hated the BMW 320d.
From the broken seat adjustor (that a colleague reported as broken weeks before) to the bling interior I just didn’t get it. I tried, God, how I tried, but when I resorted to using my 15-year-old Mitsubishi L200 in preference just to avoid having to drive the sodding thing I knew that it was a lost cause.
I’m a lone voice, I know, and I don’t expect BMW to lend me another car…
Biggest Surprise of the Year
The Volvo V40 earned my only ten-out-of-ten score of the year when I reviewed it for carbuzz. I loved the seats, the driving position, the engines, and, most of all, the sublime damping. If you are considering a Ford Focus then the Volvo V40 will probably suit you far, far better.
Photographer of the Year
I worked with a number of photographers in 2012, but none impressed me as much as the award-winning James Neale. His ability to create stunning images quickly and under less-than-ideal conditions amazed me and I recommend him to you without reservation.
He’s generous with his time and experience too, agreeing to write a guest post for us that turned into How to Photograph Your Car Like a Pro.
Most Consistent Car Manufacturer
The most consistent manufacturer of 2012 was SEAT by a country mile. Every car that I drove was a delight, from the Leon to the Alhambra by way of the Mii. Fun, cheap, nicely-specced, and rewarding to drive I would be very happy to drive any of them as a daily driver and may well invest my own money in a secondhand Leon shortly.
Go on, guess what the most popular car review on motoring journo is. No, it isn’t the Bentley Continental, Jaguar XKR-S, the Subaru BRZ, or even our guide to becoming a motoring journalist (although all of them did astonishingly well).
No, our number one review is, by a huge margin and for the second year running, the Skoda Yeti v. Subaru Forester comparison test. Who’d a thunk it?
Most Bizzarre Route to MotoringJourno.com
Someone found their way to motoringjourno.com using the search term “wife swapping in Magaluf”. I don’t know who was the more surprised; him, when he discovered that he’d found this website, or me to discover that I had, indeed, used that very term in an article…
Article by Carlton Boyce
Modern cars are more reliable, safer, faster, and more fuel efficient than ever before. Part of this improvement is because of improved materials technology, some of it is down innovative thinking, but a substantial part is due to comprehensive testing of components on pre-production prototypes. These ‘mules’ are fitted with the new car’s engine, drivetrain, chassis components, and electrical systems and their role is to test them under a series of strictly controlled conditions to ensure they will continue to work under a variety of environments. This explains why prototype cars are tested in the Sahara, the Arctic Circle, across German autobahns, and in the rolling English countryside; laboratory testing is all very well, but there is no substitute for real-world use.
Motoring journalists and car magazines have a long and, for the most part, distinguished, history of playing cat-and-mouse with the major manufacturers to try and scoop new car, with both becoming ever more sophisticated. Journos are equipped with lens the size of bazookas, which they deploy strategically thanks to insider contacts while car firms develop intricate and highly effective camouflage patterns that disrupt the car’s profile and make accurate rendering of the car’s shape all but impossible.
They also test in out-of-the-way places and have access to specialized test facilities where cameras are explicitly banned and the penalties for breaching confidence are high. Millbrook, a top-secret test track in Bedfordshire, is familiar to every car writer, but we leave our cameras at the gate and accept that the price of doing business there is that we can’t report on what we see. Frustrating, but fair.
Public roads are a very different matter, though. The sight of a black-and-white striped car sends a shiver of anticipation down the spine of even the most jaded car hack. It sends us groping for our DSLR and telephoto lens as we frantically try to place it and mentally record those small details that the manufacturers are trying to stop us noticing.
In my own case the sight of a prototype on public roads is serendipity. I don’t keep a loaded camera on the passenger seat – except when I’m out on a car launch, because you never know when a good photo opportunity will arise. This explains how I managed to catch two Range Rover prototypes on public roads in recent months.
The first was in the Cotswolds during the launch of a new Audi when a colleague and I spotted one parked up in a lay-by. We paused and as the driver noticed us and took off at speed, we followed. We gave up and held back when we hit 60mph on a congested country lane and yet he continued to accelerate and overtake. I’d estimate his speed at 90mph+ at times as he made his ‘getaway’, including a blind-overtake on a long, sweeping bend, helped, no doubt, by the 5.0-litre petrol engine that was fitted to the vehicle he was driving. (Speculation? No. Anyone can check that sort of stuff online via the DVLA.) He was, to use the vernacular, driving like an idiot.
My second encounter, the one that angered me enough to prompt this article, happened in Europe a few days ago. And, again, it featured a Range Rover being driven aggressively and at high speed.
We were pounding along in lane 1 marvelling at European lane discipline when my colleague – who was driving the Audi RS4 we were bringing back to the UK from Germany – drew my attention to a camo’d, British-registered Range Rover Sport coming up in lane 3 at high speed. I picked up my camera and took a few snaps as he passed us, which drew a withering glare followed by hard acceleration. (At this point I can confirm that Land Rover’s three-litre diesel engine provides the new Range Rover Sport with quite a lively turn of speed.)
At this point the traffic was light, the road conditions good, and we thought it would be good to have a few close-up shots of the car. And we were in what is probably the world’s best chase car.
Which didn’t mean a thing. Four hundred-plus bhp, quattro drive, and ceramic brakes mean nothing when you are following someone who appears to have no understanding of what constitutes safe driving or the consequences of his actions. We kept up at sane speeds but when the traffic became too heavy to be safe we hung back to let him get away. This didn’t stop him continuing to bully his way through slower traffic. As a display of astonishing arrogance and incivility it was peerless. It would also have been dangerous were it not for the willingness of the local drivers to move over promptly and selflessly.
High-speed accidents involving prototype cars on public roads are, mercifully, very rare, but they happen. Perhaps I’m being unfair in singling out Land Rover/Range Rover for attention in this way, but you play the cards you’ve been dealt and the only two that I’ve ever seen being driven badly are theirs. With every other manufacturer I’ve only ever drawn a rueful smile, maybe even a thumbs-up, while they tolerate a couple of shots, after which I leave them alone. After all, we’re both pros trying to do a job, aren’t we?
How do we stop prototypes being driven dangerously? Well, step one might be to stop testing them in places like the Cotswolds when a bunch of muttering rotters with cameras are around. (In fact, stop using the Cotswolds altogether. It’s just too crowded to give any sense of privacy, even an illusionary one.) And, seriously; how secret is your car if you’re taking it out on public roads in the first place?
And second, accept that people will see you, people will take photographs and people will shoot video – and the world will keep turning, you won’t lose your competitive advantage, and nor will you lose sales. Because one thing is certain; a high-profile accident involving a test driver and prototype vehicle will draw far more adverse publicity than a grainy, long-range shot that doesn’t really show anything anyway…
Article by Carlton Boyce
The McLaren P1 is, without doubt, the star of the Mondial de l’Automobile 2012. Unveiled by Ron Dennis, executive chairman of the McLaren Group, Antony Sheriff, managing director of McLaren Automobiles, and Formula 1 pundit Lee McKenzie, it was greeted with cheers, whistles, and loud, enthusiastic clapping by a stunned crowd.
Pre-Paris, I’d seen the incredible teaser video (which literally made my heart beat faster) and drooled over the pre-release studio shots (which added sweaty palms and a dry mouth to the tachycardia) but nothing (nothing y’hear) prepared me for how low the P1 is, or how beautifully detailed, or how damned, drop-dead-gorgeous it is. I’m not normally a hypercar fan, but a kidney and a couple of limbs would be a small price to pay to wake up with one in my garage.
Frank Stephenson, McLaren’s engaging design director, was on hand and talked me through the design process, much of which I can’t report on here I’m afraid. Rest assured though, the P1 takes the twenty-year-old McLaren F1′s performance and significantly improves on it; top speed won’t be dramatically better (what, 240mph or so ain’t enough for ya?) but handling and road-holding will be, literally, leagues ahead of anything we’ve seen on the road before, as will braking, cross-wind stability, everyday usability, and acceleration.
What is in the public domain is dramatic enough; how about 600kgs of downforce at “well below the car’s maximum speed” for starters. Or a rear spoiler that extends by up to 300mm for added stability, and which retracts at high speed when the car is travelling in a straight line to cut drag, much like an F1 car’s DRS (and which is only fully deployed when the on-board GPS notices you’ve arrived at a race track, if Paris Motor Show gossip is to be believed). Power is widely touted as getting on for 1,000bhp, courtesy of a much modified MP4-12C V8 engine fitted with a KERS system for instantaneous punch at the press of a button. Oh, and it’s light. Very, very light. Carbon fibre – left black to illustrate the aerodynamically-important bits – isn’t used just because it looks nice. Nor is magnesium, titanium, or gold foil…
Enchanting details abound, and it’s hard to know where to look: McLaren-branded Pirelli tyres are an lovely touch, and if they aren’t road-legal the fact that McLaren bothered to commission them, even though most people will never notice them, speaks volumes; the brackets for the dihedral doors that were described to me as “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”; rear air intakes that are the same shape as the McLaren logo; rear lights that, well, aren’t there most of the time.
Be under no illusion. The P1 is just as dramatic as the F1 was twenty years ago, and is, if anything, even more radical. It’s a stunning vindication of the engineering prowess that lurks within McLaren – and, of course, the confidence Ron Dennis has in his staff by unleashing them in this way.
Images: all ©2012 Carlton Boyce
Article by Carlton Boyce