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DRIVEN ➤ Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde

4.8 – 5.0 : By Wayne Gorrett, West Yorkshire

A trembling digit prods the ‘stop’ button as a deafening silence floods the cabin.
My ears are ringing, my wrists are numb and my forearms ache.
Excess adrenalin converts my body into a sack of maris pipers.
On the ragged edge of legal velocities deep in the Yorkshire Dales National Park,
I’ve just spent the final few hours of a great week with the best Alfa Romeo ever made.

> > >   *   < < <

As much a mouthful as it is a handful, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde–to give it its full name–is an utterly brilliant car. However, that it saw the light of day at all is a minor miracle.

The Backstory

With the debatable exclusion of the 4C, there has been much to disappoint from Alfa Romeo in recent years, fuelling the near-demise of the Italian brand. It has offered a series of dull Fiat-sourced front-wheel drive hatchbacks that have failed to tempt the Alfisti. As for attracting new buyers to the brand, the current Mito and Giulietta are as appealing as a caravan of stoats in your underwear. Consequently, there is a lot resting on the Giulia’s shoulders.

It’s the first model in Alfa Romeo’s ambitious renaissance, which purportedly involves a cash dump from parent Fiat to the tune of €5 billion and an army of over 800 designers and engineers whose sole brief is to develop an all-new Alfa Romeo model range in the coming years. Whether or not those plans reach full–or even part–fruition, there is no doubt that Alfa Romeo is in dire need of long overdue regeneration.

The Giulia was subject to extended gestation and several delayed launch dates, reportedly due to several designs being unceremoniously returned to the drawing board by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO, Sergio Marchionne.

Development of the Giulia was overseen by Ferrari 458 creator Philippe Krief. It was designed at the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo and is built at FCA’s Cassino plant north of Naples. It rides on an all-new, longitudinal-engined, rear-wheel drive platform developed by Ferrari for Alfa Romeo. Production of the Giulia started in April, 2016.

There are five trim levels in the current Giulia model range: The standard Giulia, Super, Speciale, Veloce and the range-topping Quadrifoglio Verde as tested here. Core to Alfa’s racing heritage is the four leaf clover badge, displayed proudly on all Alfa Romeo’s QV performance models.

Engine, Drivetrain & Performance

The hardcore Giulia QV was designed and engineered to deliver uninhibited driving enjoyment. Should it happen to transform BMW’s M3 to gelding status along the way, then so be it.

The level of sex appeal expected of an expensive, high-performance Italian car oozes from the Giulia’s sculpted curves. The Quadrifoglio Verde upgrade piles on the testosterone with an angry-looking front bumper underlined by an active front aero splitter, a massive rear diffuser straddled by Ferrari-like dual exhausts and a bonnet and roof made from weight reducing carbon fibre.

The Giulia’s technical and mechanical hardware also arouses. There is a sophisticated torque-vectoring differential, a twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 with strong Ferrari lineage and the sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsas deliver gut-wrenching, white knuckle grip.

That twin-turbocharged V6 is a potent power plant. You won’t hear Alfa Romeo admit it, but it has the same bore and stroke as the V8 in Ferrari’s 488 GTB. The Alfa’s V6 is pretty much the same thing only with two cylinders lopped off. Performance from the engine is staggering, generating more power at 503bhp than the M3’s 437bhp and also more torque at a whopping 600Nm. It sends that power exclusively to the rear axle, via an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Off the line, 62mph arrives in a blistering 3.9 seconds and will peak at an unshackled 191mph.

On the Road

The test car was fitted with optional carbon-ceramic brakes and carbon fibre Sparco buckets in the front. As I set off, the brakes felt alarmingly soft on a cold Yorkshire morning and continued to do so until I could get some degree of useable heat into both them and the fat Pirellis. Fortunately, I was heading for the Dales where stupendous roads and little traffic awaited. However, until I got there, conditions gave me an opportunity to drive the car ‘normally’.

On most so-called performance cars and SUVs, driving modes such as ‘Eco’, ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’ do little more than make the steering and throttle response feel more aggressive–largely at the expense of balance–while creating a perception of performance gains. Not so, on the Alfa.

The standard Giulia offers a choice of progressively more relaxed ‘Dynamic’, ‘Natural’ and ‘Advanced Efficiency’. However, on the QV you also get ‘Race’ mode.

These modes actually–and dramatically–change the ride quality, driving characteristics and soundtrack of the car, switching between a comfortable and liveable executive saloon, to a vicious, track-ready M3 muncher at the turn of a dial, all in the same car. This genuine versatility and almost schizophrenic range of character is perhaps what impressed me the most.

As I left the valley floor behind and made my way up through the foothills of the Yorkshire Dales, I clicked the drive mode from ‘Natural’ to ‘Dynamic’. With some heat in the engine, brakes and tyres, it was time to see what five billion euros and 800 engineers and designers felt like.

The acceleration is so hard that each lightning fast upward shift from the deliciously oversized flappy paddles felt like a mule kick in the back. The twin turbos wind up 35psi of boost and it’s not until second gear that it rushes in proper. Suddenly, it’s time for third, fourth, fifth, sixth as scenery screams by. Along a half-mile straight, I brace and slip into ‘Race’ mode. I feel the ‘all change’, but I don’t have time to analyse it. I’m busy.

Ahead looms several black and white chevrons indicating a sharp turn to the right. Fortunately, I have clear line-of-sight to its exit as the road sweeps left, upward and away. Just ahead of the chevrons, I stand on the brakes, double shift down and ease in the power mid-S, air kissing the dry stone walls as I straight-line the bend. Not so much as a fidget from the Alfa.

As I scrambled through the tightest corners gaining altitude, it became clear to me that this was different from the M3. The Beemer felt harder, firmer, more planted…but in a rather coarse way. The Alfa is just as nimble, equally adept but slightly more agile, changing direction without the Beemer’s raw aggression and with considerably more collective composure.

The front aero splitter is active in that it lowers at speed to create additional downforce for faster cornering. I’d like to report that I felt the difference, but like I said, I was busy.

So, what didn’t I like?

Niggly nagglies include excessive road noise, but the set of Pirelli rubbers can take the blame for that. Thick A and B pillars render front and side visibility far from perfect and the indicators often refused to cancel out. But these are small things and you soon get used to them.

It is fortunate for the Giulia QV that it looks fantastic and drives brilliantly, because the interior is the sole reason it doesn’t receive a full five stars. Sure, there’s probably the most perfect driving position ever, plenty of space for passengers and their luggage and a plush, leather-clad interior.

It’s just a pity that some of the switchgear feels Fiat-cheap and the non-touch infotainment unit a bit below par on a car that costs upwards of £60,000.

Other stuff

Being the nature of the twin-turbo V6 beast, the Giulia QV is a thirsty creature. Official (combined cycle) fuel consumption is 34.4 mpg, but during the test week, I covered 584 mixed miles and achieved 28.8mpg. Average speed over that distance was 36.2mph.

Emissions are a reasonable 189g/km CO2 which is no worse than many of its rivals. Being a high performance car, it’ll cost a few pretty pennies to keep on the road. (Personally, I’ve never spent so much of my own money refuelling a test car.)

Residual values are unlikely to be as sharp as its Germanic rivals either, although a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating suggests it’ll be as safe as them.

SUMMARY – 4.8 / 5.0

Decibellisimo! Alfa Romeo has finally delivered. The Quadrifoglio Verde is a worthy flagship for the Giulia range, which just happens to be the best Alfa Romeo in a generation. It’s not perfect, but that feeling, that exhilaration, that magnificent drive is all that really matters, particularly on a car so indelibly splattered with Ferrari fingerprints.


 

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in Driven

 

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AUTOLIFE ➤ Grandad’s ’48 Jaguar drives full circle

A classic 1948 MkIV Jaguar sports saloon, first owned by Arthur Whittaker, the deputy chairman of Jaguar Cars, is snapped up at auction by his granddaughters who, after 67 years after he parted with it, get take it home.

 

During a recent ‘Historics at Brooklands’ classic car auction, Whittaker’s four granddaughters – Lucy, Sally, Sarah and Charlotte – who discovered the car’s impending sale purely by chance a fortnight earlier – fought off rival bidders to make it their own, settling on £70,000 for the jet black classic.

It will return to the eldest granddaughter Lucy’s family home in Kenilworth, just miles from the former Jaguar factory in Brown’s Lane, Coventry where it was originally manufactured 69 years ago.

“Once we discovered grandad’s Jaguar was for sale, we just had to go and see it”, said Sally. “We had no intention of buying it, but sitting in it before the sale brought back so many fond memories of family outings in his cars that we decided we just had to bid for it,” she continued.

“We’d never bought a thing at auction before, but were determined to take it home if we could afford to,” added her sister Lucy. “It was all a bit of a whirlwind and suddenly, the hammer came down and it was ours.”

After Whittaker parted with the car in 1950, it passed through the hands of a number of owners before a complete, meticulous restoration started in 1982 by the owner of the day. Twenty two years later the car was finally completed, latterly by classic Jaguar specialist, David Davenport, returning it to its spectacular condition that remains today.

A supreme tourer in its day, Whittaker’s car was one of the last to be produced. It was specially trimmed in pigskin hide, complementing the stately burr walnut dashboard and fittings and left the Brown’s Lane production line complete with a rare sunroof.

Powered by a silky smooth 3.5 litre six-cylinder engine, the Jaguar Mk IV is revered for its graceful lines and magnificent presence, dominated by huge dinner plate headlamps flanking the imposing chrome radiator.

Will it become a museum piece? Not if Whittaker’s granddaughters have their way. “It’s just too lovely to leave locked away. The plan is to share enjoyment of the car amongst all our families, including grandad’s seven great grandchildren. I’m sure that’s what he would have wanted too. All we need now is the picnic hamper and a bit of sun!”

 


 

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2017 in And finally...

 

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FIRST DRIVE ➤ BMW M2 Coupé manual

By Wayne Gorrett
First published on CARS.co.za

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On the ragged edge of legal velocities somewhere deep in the English countryside, I spent a thrilling few hours piloting the 6-speed manual ‘boxed version of BMW’s sensational M2.


As I park up, my wrists feel like numb stumps on aching forearms, fingers still grip the steering wheel like frozen bear claws. My skull rides blancmange-like atop my spine. What remains of my innards have morphed to mush and the pounding of my racing heart could awaken the dead. I’ve never felt so alive in my life!

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Some cars should only be sold with stick shifts – BMW’s fabulous M2 is one such car and in 6-speed manual guise, is stupendously the better for it.

Manufacturers sing the praises of their automatic gearboxes, with some dual-clutch systems able not only to shift faster than a human ever could, but return marginally better fuel economy figures too. I don’t have an issue with that as that’s the way technology should advance…on a VW Passat.

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Some brands hardly bother with manuals at all; Ferrari doesn’t sell a single manual model and news that Jaguar was to offer a manual ‘box in the F-Type was considered quite a big deal not that long ago.

BMW’s M2 occupies unusual territory in the automotive market. As the German automaker has evolved, filling its line-up with gargantuan crossbred models, single-purpose performance vehicles mean nothing to the brand’s luxury buyer base. However, to the shrinking yet vocal group of BMW traditionalists, the M2 embodies hope for the future of driver-focused engineering.

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The M2 differentiates itself from the rest of BMW’s line-up with a ‘less is more’ philosophy. Though it’s possible to add a number of safety and convenience features to the M car’s interior, the standard-issue M2 is relatively fuss free. Instead of a massive infotainment screen, massaging seats, and semi-autonomous technologies, drivers engage with a 6-speed manual transmission, a thick-rimmed steering wheel, and sport driving modes.

The beauty of the M2 is in its agility, responsiveness, and precision. Extracting these elements requires driver finesse and attention; Unnecessary ‘amenities’ tend only to muddy the experience.

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While the BMW M2 may pretty much only be a 1-Series in an inflatable Feltz suit, its flared wheel arches (4cm in the front and 7cm over the rear), and stretched low profile rubber look the business. Its short wheelbase adds purpose and aerodynamic front styling oozes menace.

With an output of 370 bhp at 6,500 rpm and maximum revs of 7,000 rpm, the three-litre V6 engine in the BMW M2 fires a warning shot across the bows of its rivals in the high-performance compact sports car segment.

Fuel consumption with the six-speed manual gearbox is a reasonable 33.2 mpg, while the CO2 emissions are tagged at a tree-felling 199g/km. However, it’s the Germanic efficiency of the engine’s peak torque that really leads the way here; a thumping 465 Nm is on tap between 1,400 and 5,560 rpm, with the overboost setup increasing this by 35 Nm to 500 Nm between 1,450 and 4,750 rpm.

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From a standing start, 62 mph arrives in just 4.2 seconds with the speed topping out at an electronically limited 155 mph.

Along with most performance cars of this calibre, it’s often about the noise. The soundtrack of the M2’s stirring six-pot was engaging but not overstated, with only a whisper of turbo plumbing evident: the mechanical serenade and rousing quad-outlet exhaust dominated the on-road orchestra.

The six-speed manual gearbox stands out with its compact design and low weight. Throws are perfectly short and the gates are narrow. The use of a new type of carbon-fibre friction lining enhances shift comfort. An engagement speed control function, which blips the throttle on downshifts and lowers the engine’s revs on upshifts, makes urgent gear changes smoother and affords the car greater stability during hard driving.

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The lighter manual ‘box balances the axle load distribution to nearly 50:50, enabling the car to give more neutral and stabilised driving characteristics in pretty much every situation. When the argument in favour of the stick shift is based on how much fun it is, it’s undeniable.

 

So, finally…let’s get out on the road.

It’s the M2’s cornering tenacity that stands out on the road. On occasional broken and greasy surfaces, the M2’s grip and communication saw its electronic nannies rarely disturbed.

At a recent McLaren track day, a pro racer advised me to ‘trust the grip, Wayne. Just trust the grip’. Such sage advice is all well and good when proffered around a track with forgiving run-offs, but our narrow British roads are an entirely different story. They’re policed for a start!

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The accurate and perfectly weighted steering is brilliant, allowing the front-end to cleanly telegraph its intent to my hands, while the perfectly executed throttle-blip during manual downshifts made me appear rev-perfect. Thanks BMW.

Pushed to its limit in corners, the BMW M2 can generate 0.99g of grip, about the equivalent of being tackled by a tight-head prop with toothache. In its element on a winding road, the M2 ushers its nimble body through corners with unending confidence. Its athletic handling stems from M’s suspension tuning mastery, plus the sticky rubber which measure a chunky 265mm wide at the rear.

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Though the M2’s Sport+ driving mode dials in a bit of tail-happy compliance, skilled drivers can choose to turn off the M2’s stability control system entirely. While some cars transform into widow-making machines without electronic policing, the manual M2 breaks away in calculable precision. Rear-end rotation can therefore be used as a tool rather than a scare tactic.

At present, the only direct rival to the BMW M2 is the redesigned Audi TT-S. While the Audi is truly a magnificent blend of performance and technology, it simply can’t match the power and precision of the M2. BMW’s migration away from bare-bones performance machines raised doubt that its M division could still churn out a no-frills sports car, but the M2 has resolutely silenced the naysayers.

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While blisteringly quick, the M2 was surprisingly comfortable in the ride department, considering the standard set-up may best be described as firm. It’s a very liveable hard charger, but was slightly let down by excessive road noise from the front-end and poor attenuation of tyre noise on all but the smoothest surfaces.

The manual-geared M2’s performance is thankfully still analogue in nature – a product of driver manipulation, not computer-actuated manoeuvres. It doesn’t politely ask for driver co-operation, it demands focus, skill, and precision to extrapolate the depths of its ability.

When discovered, the overwhelming sense of satisfaction is immense. I quickly came to terms with the fact that far smarter men than me have designed the car to make me feel like a world-class driver, rather than building a car that only a skilled driver could make the most of.

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Anyway, feeling has returned to my wrists, my fingers have reassumed their natural shape and my stomach and heart have finally stabilised, so I’m off for a well-earned cup of tea, two biscuits and a bit of lie down.

Because you’re this far, thanks for reading.

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Posted by on February 19, 2017 in Driven

 

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DRIVEN ➤ Fiat 124 Spider : Bellissima Italiano!

By Wayne Gorrett

Yay      Superb Italian styling: Few achieve retro as well as Fiat.
Yay      Confident chassis, flat cornering, fun-revving engine.
Nay      £2,500 premium over the MX-5 at entry-level.

Backstory: The original Fiat 124 Spider was first revealed at the 1966 Turin Auto Show. Penned by Tom Tjaarda (Ferrari 365 California, De Tomaso Pantera), at the revered design firm Carozzeria Pininfarina, production started later that year at Fiat’s Turin facility. It was eventually made available in the UK, but only in left-hand-drive configuration.

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For its final three years of production, the European model wore a Pininfarina badge and was renamed the ‘Europa Spider’, as the design house took over both production and marketing of the car until 1985.

In 2015, its spiritual successor – with a generous sprinkling of Japanese DNA running through its underpinnings – was presented at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

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What is it?

The 2016 Fiat 124 Spider is a front-engined, rear-drive, two-seat roadster. Designed at Fiat’s Centro Stile facility in Turin, the car takes inspiration from the 1966 original, not only in terms of its proportions and stance but also in terms of its detailing.

The new Fiat 124 Spider started life as an Alfa Romeo roadster, but Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne was adamant that, for the new car to wear an Alfa Romeo badge, it would have to be built in Italy. And so, the Fiat 124 Spider was born.

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Based largely on the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 roadster and manufactured alongside it at Mazda’s Hiroshima plant in Japan, the Fiat 124 Spider shares the Mazda’s platform, some nether mechanicals, much of the interior, the manual soft-top mechanism and the windshield. However, it features Fiat’s own turbocharged 1.4-litre MultiAir four-cylinder engine, unique exterior styling and increased length and cargo capacity over the MX-5.

Let’s face it, if you want to include a nifty sports car in your model line-up these days, your starting point need be no further than the best-selling two-seat sports car in the world for the past 26 years.

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Trim Grades and Prices

The Fiat 124 Spider is available in three trim grades; Classica, Lusso and Lusso Plus.

Standard equipment on the entry-level Classica trim grade includes 16-inch alloy wheels, DRL’s, LED rear lights, leather steering wheel with audio controls, 3-inch display radio with Bluetooth, USB port and AUX-in, cruise control with speed limiter, manual air conditioning, four airbags and ‘keyless go’ with engine start button. The 124 Spider Classica starts from £20,995.

Mid-range Lusso ditches the smaller alloys for a set of 17’s, chrome double exhaust pipe, silver roll bar covers, silver windscreen frame, heated leather seats, automatic climate control, fog lights and rear parking sensors with camera. There’s also an upgrade of the infotainment system to a 7-inch touchscreen DAB radio with multimedia control knob, navigation system with 3D maps, wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity, dual USB ports and AUX-in. Lusso models start from £23,745.

The top Lusso Plus specification (as tested) adds a quality BOSE® audio system which has four of its nine speakers integrated into the headrest, LED headlights and DRL’s, adaptive front-lighting and rain and dusk sensors. Lusso Plus models start at £24,995.

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The Style Factory

While the Fiat 124 Spider may well be a ‘reworked’ MX-5, every exterior body panel is different and the Fiat looks nothing like the Mazda.

The Spider’s front end sports an elegant version of the original’s flattened hexagonal grille and the headlights are carved into the bodywork, much like the ’66 classic. The dual bulges on the bonnet lid also remain, but are now largely cosmetic; the original bulges were designed to facilitate the dual-overhead-cam engine underneath.

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In profile, the 124 Spider doesn’t have the Mazda’s descending front end. Rather, it extends roughly three levelled inches further than the Mazda and the rear boot lid is also a couple of inches longer. The additional five inches affords the Spider a classier, ‘squared-off’ and less aggressive stance all of which is very reminiscent of 1960’s Italian styling. An extrusive crease line that begins behind the front wheel arch and runs into the door handle pays homage to the original Spider.

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The Inside Line

Given the Spider’s compact footprint, it is no surprise that the interior may best be described as cosy. But, as ground-hugging sports cars go, getting in and out isn’t too difficult thanks to the narrow sills and shallow seat bolsters. Head and leg room will be scarce for those gifted with excess elevation and elbows are likely to meet without prior arrangement while the removable cup holders remain in their respective slots at the very rear of the centre console.

The leather-clad steering wheel is comfortable and satisfying to hold, but still only adjusts up and down, not in and out. Also, there remains no dash-mounted glove box, rather a storage bin in between the seats.

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Fiat changed the instrument gauge faces, added a few soft-touch materials, reworked the door panels, and screwed on their own squared-off gear shift knob. Fiat also specified its own seat fabric and padding and the seats themselves are comfortable and materials feel high-quality.

Good quality, soft-touch plastics cover the majority of the interior and feel good to the touch. The manual HVAC dials are simple and easy to use, as is the Mazda-sourced touchscreen that is the center piece for the dashboard. The interface’s menus are intuitive and require little attention from the driver to operate successfully. It is otherwise controlled by a rotary dial poorly located just below the gear shift which requires frequent visits of an elbow to the aforementioned cup holders.

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The non-electric convertible top is unchanged from that deployed on the Mazda. It is light and very easy to use, taking around four seconds to open or close. Requiring the use of only one hand from inside the cabin, simply unlatch the locking mechanism above the rear view mirror, pitch the top over your shoulder and push down to click-lock in place. Raising it is just as simple and painless. The roof is very well insulated and keeps things reasonably civilised inside once it’s up by suppressing road, traffic and wind noise from outside.

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Due to the nature of the beast, both Mazda and Fiat’s engineers main focus was on making this two-seater roadster a car that looked good and was fun to drive. At a meagre 140 litres, the Spider’s boot is quite small by sports car standards. But, it’s a deep, practical shape and is well up for a few weekend away bags, or the weekly shop.

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Engine and Transmission

Fiat is offering only one engine and gearbox on the 124 Spider…the same four-cylinder, turbocharged 1.4-litre MultiAir found in other current Fiats, including the feral 500 Abarth. On the 124 it delivers 140 bhp and 240Nm of torque from a useful 2,250 rpm. It is paired with Fiat’s own six-speed manual ‘box, which is a delight to use.

The engine is assembled in Italy and shipped complete to Japan to be installed during final assembly.

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Maximum turbo boost pressure peaks at 2.94 bar and winds up quickly but some lag is present. This is easy to mitigate by keeping the revs above 2,000 rpm. Despite more horsepower and torque, an increase in size and weight makes the 124 Spider a little less spirited off the line than the MX-5, though the exhaust note adds to its thoroughly enjoyable Italian flair and fits squarely with the character of the original 124 Spider which, at the time, was every poor man’s take on a Ferrari.

On-Road Cred

The Fiat 124 Spider certainly has a sporty Italian character; but instead of begging you to seek apexes, it yearns for elevated sweeping mountain passes and a more genteel Grand Touring pace. It’s less edgy and more compliant that the MX-5 – kinder, relaxed, gentler, if you will.

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Still, the 124 Spider is a tremendously fun machine, offering a stiff and well-balanced chassis and plenty of power to tackle any road. Engine and road noise appear to have been reduced in the 124 Spider, compared to the Mazda, and the suspension feels slightly more forgiving.

The manual transmission is excellent in everyday use, and the pedals are well set up for effortless heel-and-toe shifting for those that prefer it.

Driving the 124 Spider is a cinch. The precise steering and rear-drive layout offer plenty of confidence when entering a corner at high speeds. The compliant suspension dampens road imperfections and harsh impacts, making it suitable for extended B-road stints. Also adding to its long-distance ability is the 124’s increased amount of sound-dampening material compared to the Mazda.

MPG, running costs and CO2

The Fiat 124 Spider is quite a lightweight sports car that should be relatively cheap to run, as is its donor, the Mazda Mx-5. Its 1.4-litre engine is quite economical and doesn’t need to be worked too hard which would impact on fuel consumption.

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The combined cycle 44.1mpg from the 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine is good for a sports car and CO2 emissions of 148g/km are reasonable. Road tax will cost you £145 a year and it falls into insurance groups 25 and 26.

During the test week, I achieved 43.9 mpg over 249 miles, at an average speed of 31 mph.

The 124 Spider has a three-year 100,000-mile warranty like other new Fiats, with the first two years being provided by Fiat UK and the third year by your Fiat retailer.

Service intervals for the Fiat 124 Spider are 9,000 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first. Servicing costs are likely to be relatively low, and a fixed-price servicing package from Fiat will means budgeting for maintenance should be easy.

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Additional 124 Spider models

Both spinoff models from the Fiat 124 Spider are via Fiat’s in-house tuning arm, Abarth:

Abarth 124 Spider: There’s more power (+30hp), a more focused chassis, more aggressive looks, more delightful noise and, more significantly, another £7,800 over the Spider Classica.

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Abarth 124 Spider Rally: Four decades after the original Fiat 124 Abarth Rallye competed in international rallying, the Italian firm turns up the wick of the new 124 Spider to produce a motorsport version. It’s powered by a 1.8-litre turbocharged engine that is capable of pushing out 300 horsepower to the rear wheels via a six-speed sequential-shift gearbox and a mechanically locking rear differential. The only caveat is that you can’t buy it, at least, unless you’re keen on taking it rallying in this year’s FIA’s R-GT class. Approximate price: £127,000. I know.

SUMMARY 

five-stars

The Fiat 124 Spider is a brilliant, five-star sports car: it looks great, is tremendous fun to drive and is reasonable value for money. It’s a very decent ride and our testy British roads do little to negate its enjoyment. The turbocharged engine gives it the flexibility to be fun for longer trips too. Overall, it’s more comfortable, powerful and quieter than the Mazda upon which it’s based, but adds to Mazda’s sense of adventure and fun.

An insider at Mazda EU told me that without the Fiat partnership for the 124 Spider, the fourth-generation MX-5 might not have happened. So, all hail an important global tie-up that everyone who loves to drive should go out and celebrate.

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Having driven both the Mk4 MX-5 and the 124 Spider recently, I fully understand why someone might actually prefer the feisty Italian. I do.


Essentials : Fiat 124 Spider

* Price: £20,995 – £24,995.
* Engine: 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol.
* Power: 140 bhp @ 5,000 rpm.
* Torque: 240 Nm @ 2,250 rpm.
* Transmission: Six-speed, manual gearbox.
* Chassis front: Double wishbone with stabilizer bar.
* Chassis rear: Multilink with stabilizer bar.
* 0-62 mph: 7.5 seconds.
* Top speed: 134 mph.
* Fuel consumption: 44.1 mpg (official combined cycle).
* Fuel tank: 45 litres (9.9 gallons, theoretical mileage: 435 miles).
* CO2 emissions: 148 g/km.
* Luggage capacity: 140 litres.
* Kerb weight: 1,050 kg.
* Insurance groups: 25 (Classica), 26 (Lusso and Lusso Plus).
* Annual VED: Band F – £148 from Year One.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Driven

 

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REVIEW ➤ Jaguar XF 3.0 s/c V6 S – Roaring to go!

By Wayne Gorrett (first published in Beautiful South magazine)

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➤ Remarkable handling for a sizeable car.
➤ F-Type steering wheel and instrument binnacle.
➤ Punchy 3.0-litre 375bhp supercharged V6 engine.

These days it would be safe to say that Jaguar is on a roll. Today, the British premium manufacturer is producing quality car after quality car and Indian parent company Tata Motors is happy as Larry to leave designers and engineers doing what they’re good at – designing and engineering stylish, sought-after cars with exceptional handling. The new Jaguar XF is one such car.

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Launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2007, the original XF (project code X250) was a product of Jaguar’s Whitley design and development headquarters in Coventry. It continues to be built at the firm’s vast Castle Bromwich assembly facility near Birmingham and of the 292,566 first-generation XF saloons and estates sold worldwide, 89,081 found UK homes.

The second generation XF (X260) arrived in UK showrooms towards the end of 2015. Understanding its continuing popularity is not overly taxing…it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.

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The day before flying off to its September 2015 launch in Spain, I arranged a couple of hours in the outgoing XF around the New Forest to re-engage with it. The next morning as I set off from Bilbao airport, it didn’t take long to notice the XF’s weight loss and new-found agility.

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The 2016 Jaguar XF features an all-new architecture, one that’s better in numerous ways compared to the structure around which its predecessor was built.

The new platform is approximately 75% aluminium. The switch to aerospace-grade metal helps this flabby tabby shed some unnecessary obesity. Rear-wheel-drive only models have lost around 59kg – a healthy reduction. Variants with the added mass and complexity of all-wheel-drive have shed even more weight, dropping some 118kg.

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Making the XF’s weight loss more notable is the fact that its structure is 28% stiffer than before, which greatly improves driving dynamics and refinement and crash safety.

The wheelbase of the new Jaguar XF has grown by a little over five centimetres, bringing its total span to 2,959mm. Much of this stretch was shifted rearward to the benefit of rear-seat passengers and even those vertically gifted will enjoy ample leg and headroom.

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Despite its hub-to-hub expansion, the XF’s overall length is shorter by 8mm. Part of the reason for this reduction is that designers shortened the car’s front overhang for a sportier look.

Inside the Jaguar XF 3.0 s/c V6 S variant tested, the cabin is airy and plush, with the leather upholstery and wood trim expected of a top-end British vehicle. High-quality materials are used throughout. Pragmatically speaking, the Jag makes life easier by implementing knobs and buttons for basic climate and audio settings instead of those annoyingly distracting all-touch controls.

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On the road, the 3.0-litre XF displays suitably cat-like reflexes, staying true to its spirited beast. Accompanied by a deliciously throaty soundtrack, this large sedan feels keenly athletic on the road, with nicely weighted steering, perfect brake-pedal feel and more than enough power from its 3.0-litre supercharged V6 engine (375bhp/450Nm).

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Summary

The 2016 Jaguar XF is all new from the ground up. It’s lighter and stiffer, better equipped and more luxurious than ever before. The end result of all these enhancements is a compelling luxury British saloon that is a delight to drive, especially in this 3.0 s/c V6 S guise as tested. It’s more of a driver’s car than the current 5 Series, more stylish than the E-Class, and more prestigious than the A6.


 

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2017 in Driven

 

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REVIEW ➤ The Zenos E10S : Decibellisimo!

By Wayne Gorrett, Silverstone.

Update @ 24.03.2017: The future of Zenos Cars, which went into administration in January, 2017, has been secured as the administrators have found a group of buyers for the company’s assets, thus securing a future for the marque. The new owners will be an ensemble of investors, a few of whom are also backers of another British sports car manufacturer, AC Cars. 

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In the fifteen occasionally turbulent years since returning to the UK from Zimbabwe, I continue to be buoyed by our entrepreneurial ‘Made Great in Britain’ spirit.

I can’t recall a country so hardboiled in its ‘can-do’ attitude when it comes to business start-ups. I’ve been involved in a few since 2001 and to be honest, I’ve even been one or two in my efforts to re-invent myself during the past decade and a half.

For dogged, can-do spirit, we need to venture off-piste to the niche end of Britain’s sports car industry; BAC, Noble, Ariel, David Brown, Caterham, Westfield, Radical and Grinnall and other lesser-known lights. But one – our newest – already has its nose slightly ahead of the pack.

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Zenos Cars is Britain’s newest light sports car company, formed in September 2013 and based in Wymondham over in Norfolk, just five miles from the Hethel-based facilities of Lotus.

Its first production car – the E10 – had its world debut as a concept at the Autosport International Show at the NEC in Birmingham as recently as 2014. It was squeaky bum time to get the E10 ready for its debut as, with less than 24 hours until the show’s doors opened to visitors, the show car was still languishing in the Zenos paint shop.

Such heart-in-mouth moments highlight the grit and determination of an elite team of ex-Caterham and Lotus engineers, headed by company co-founders Ansar Ali and Mark Edwards, formerly CEO and COO of Caterham Cars.

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With an invitation wedged firmly in my back pocket and, with what felt like a swarm of butterflies in my stomach, I met up with the Norfolk outfit at Silverstone late last year to try out their latest offering; the E10S.

Construction

The Zenos E10S is a turbocharged, lightweight, ‘drop-in’ mid-engined two-seater which offers a driving experience on both track and road. To facilitate that dual purpose, Zenos engineers adopted almost fanatical detail to weight control.

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The result is a featherweight structure of the E10S, which uses a central extruded aluminium beam (above) and a flight deck made from recycled carbon fibre and a thermoplastic honeycomb core for lightness and rigidity. Saddle-like, the cockpit sits astride the car’s backbone (below) and creates a cabin that’s reassuringly protective yet refreshingly exposed to climatic elements.

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Engine, Drivetrain & Performance

Thanks to an agreeable arrangement in powertrain supply with Ford UK, the E10S deploys the mid-mounted 2.0-litre turbocharged, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine. It develops 250bhp at 7,000rpm and 400Nmt at just 2,500rpm and weighs only 725kg, ensuring the E10S reaches 62mph from nada in a less than four white-knuckle seconds, culminating in a sinus-clearing top speed of 145mph.

That power is transferred via an open differential to the 17-inch rear wheels (16-inch up front) through the standard but VERY close five-speed manual gearbox. There is an optional six-speed ‘box and limited-slip differential priced at £1,495.

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The E10S’s suspension features a double wishbone setup at each corner with inboard Bilstein dampers in the front. All four tyres are supplied by Avon with ZZR 195/50ZR16 rubber in front and ZZR 225/45ZR17 at the rear.

Other technical options include road-tuned springs and dampers with adjustable platforms and uprated front discs and calipers.

The Inside Story

Make no mistake, frills and soft-furnishings on the E10S are as absent as musical (or any) talent on a Kanye West album. This car is all about the drive and nothing else.

As a token nod to the avoidance of bug-splattered teeth, the diminutive ‘aero screen’ fitted as standard maximises the intensity of the driving experience. However, better sense would be to opt for the detachable and functional full-width windscreen to minimise the threat to dentistry from suicidal pheasants and the like at cruising speeds.

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The cockpit is kept intentionally fuss free and spartan. All you’ll find inside are a pair of lightweight composite seats, inertia reel lap belts, a 12V power socket, a cockpit light and a centre console multi-function TFT and separate driver display. It is spartan to say the very least.

Interior options include twin-skin composite seats by Zenos, heated front seats, four- and six-point race harnesses, quick release steering wheel, ‘get home’ storable hood, storm cap, premium or customisable coloured wings.

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Track and aftermarket accessories

If you intend to enjoy regular track days in your E10S, you might want to consider the following…

Competition steering rack, oil cooler, uprated master cylinder, battery cut-off switch, plumbed-in fire extinguisher, catalyst bypass, sports exhaust, re-packable silencer, third high level brake lamp, windscreen with actual wipers and a flat-floor set-up at the factory.

And that, as some classics would have you believe…is that.

On the Road

On public roads, the Zenos E10S is a phenomenal car to drive. The excitement is unadulterated and the car’s predictability is just about discernible. It is utterly brilliant fun and more physically engaging than I had anticipated (my racing days are 35 years behind me). It takes physical effort, severe concentration and a dollop of self-levelling fear from the first gear change.

Because the car sits so low on the road, coupled with a cockpit more exposed that your average Kardashian, there is a thrilling sense of being in a real racing car.

The steering is lightning fast when underway and its every minute movement results in a blistering bite from the front end. It handles sharply and the ride is of course very firm yet remarkably pliant. The Alcan brakes are brilliant and the pedal delivers fantastic sensations.

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The Zenos E10S is very quick. With a kerb weight of only 725kg, it can’t fail to deliver thrills galore. It’s very easy to drive and the raised, short-throw gear-lever is super slick.

But crikey, it’s loud. Even under a snug helmet and a fireguard balaclava, it’s astonishingly deafening. But, it isn’t the engine that creates those atmospheric tsunamis, it’s the turbo induction roar with its whistling and screaming chatter – all going on just inches behind your head. It’s bloody brilliant!

The noise won’t, of course be an issue if, like most Zenos owners, you take in on the track from time to time…

On the Track

If you’ve been lucky enough to have raced cars before – and no I’m not talking about the odd track event where health and safety rules supreme and the overly-cautious pro co-driver insists on grabbing your steering wheel the moment you eclipse every apex, thus screwing up your oversteer power slide and the entire raison d’être for being there in the first place…[and breathe].

No, I’m taking about actual racing, when there’s several other attitude-laden cars entering the chicane at the same time as you. Yeah, that. That’s what the E10S feels like…a real racing car.

On track it’s a beast and every one of the fast laps were glorious. The acceleration and straight line speed is raw and exhilarating. And loud. Every gear change was deliciously thrilling.

It feels very capable and stable on circuit and your confidence increased with every additional degree of heat acquired in the tyres. Its track talents are surprisingly forgiving. The car doesn’t require buckets of track skills or excessive bravery to enjoy each and every gear change.

SUMMARY

If you can secure a drive in the Zenos E10S you must grasp it with both gloved hands. The 250bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged Ford engine (as deployed in the Focus ST) makes this a quick and fun car but there are buckets of advanced engineering expertise poured into safety, aerodynamics and handling too. This is the kind of car that’s perfect for a track day but it’s equally as fun on country lanes – lots and lots of them.

At the end of the day and before I dragged my jellied knees from the paddock at Silverstone, the Zenos support crew were putting the finishing touches to a glistening, brand new E10S painted in ‘Soarin’ Blue’. The customer had requested a trackside handover…at Silverstone…how about that?

I know, I know…haters gonna hate.

Takeaway nuggets : Zenos E10S

* Price: From £32,995
* Engine: Ford’s 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbo-charged 4-cylinder, mid-mounted
* Power: 250 bhp @ 7,000 rpm
* Torque: 400 Nm @ 2,500 rpm
* Transmission: Five-speed manual (six optional), rear-wheel drive.
* 0-62 mph: 3.96 seconds
* Top speed: 145 mph


 

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2016 in Driven

 

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