Archive for the ‘modern cars’ Category

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Press your red trousers, internet, because concourse season is upon us. Which spurred Mini to team up with legendary coachbuilders, Touring Superleggera, and create this one-off EV speedster… thing.

But unlike most concepts, which have loosely tangible purposes like previewing styling ideas, the Mini Superleggera Vision seems to have been built for absolutely no reason beyond some lawn ornamentation at Villa d’Este. A bit like those retrogasmic efforts from BMW we got excited about last month.

So, the facts. The Vision’s been put together like a proper superleggera (translation: superlight). That means that there’s an alloy spaceframe (lots of thin alloy tubes) chassis, which is covered in large hand-beaten alloy sheets – that explains why there aren’t any panels gaps.

Louis de Fabribeckers, Head of design of Touring Superleggera, says: “In this car all unnecessary equipment or decoration is sacrificed, as performance is gained through lightness and efficiency of the bodywork and interior. The Italian touch is in the proportions and the typical waistline.”

Though, you could argue that the rear lights are both decorative and unnecessary. BMW-owned Mini’s keen to hammer home its Britishness, which is manifest in the Union Jack LED light clusters. And the Union Jack bracketry in the doors. Very subtle…

Much like its engine note. Which is entirely absent. And while Mini hasn’t told us what it’s packing under that long bonnet, we suspect it’s spun off the Mini E setup, That means 0-100kph acceleration of eight seconds, top speed of 153kph, and 200-kilometre range on each charge.

Look closely, and you’ll see some slightly more familiar Mini-ish sights. In the middle of the vast, naked aluminum dashboard – which is made out of a single sheet of metal – there’s the new car’s centre console. It’s been extended to include a touch-sensitive control element and two circular instruments with metal surrounds on the right.

Look on the far right and, as well as a wantonly analogue clock, there’s a little button that activates a camera set between the driver and front passenger seat, which, as BMW has it, “captures those particularly worthwhile moments on the road.” Hmm.

OK, so it’s extremely frivolous, and slightly cringey, but you would, wouldn’t you?

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Last month, Top Gear revealed that the Hennessey Venom GT hit 435.31kph at the Kennedy Space Centre. The highest speed ever recorded by a production car.

This feat of engineering – and demonstration of sizeable gentleman vegetables – earned the company a Guinness World Record, but not for the fastest production car (Bugatti still has that one). The GT’s officially the fastest roadgoing, four-wheeled production thing to hit 300kph.

Time to celebrate, then. Which Hennessey has by building a triplet of “World’s Fastest Edition” Venom GTs. Each costs Rs 7.54 crore, and gets special red, white and blue stripes. No power upgrades though – not that you’ll need any, because it’s still packing the same 7.0-liter, twin-turbo V8, which churns out 1244bhp and kicks the GT to 300kph in a record-breaking 13.63 seconds.

Hennessy CEO, Don Goldman, says “We’re thrilled about what we achieved at Cape Canaveral with the Venom GT,” said Hennessy CEO Don Goldman, “and now the World’s Fastest Edition is a living, breathing celebration of that record achievement.”

Want one? Too bad. All three of the World’s Fastest Editions are so fast they’ve already sold out…

 Bugatti having problems selling the remaining 40 Veyrons


All of them are convertibles

Bugatti is having major problems in selling the remaining Veyrons which are worth no less than 62.5M EUR (about 85.6M USD or 51.2M GBP).

The Bugatti Veyron coupe was introduced back in 2005 and its production was capped to 300 units which were sold over a course of five years. Bugatti planned an additional 150 units of the Grand Sport roadster of which they still have 40 units and can’t find buyers.

These 40 unsold Veyrons amount to around 62.5M EUR and Bugatti hopes that through its Dynamic Drive Experience program they will be able to shift some of the remaining units. The program gives prospective buyers the possibility to test the Veyron Grand Sport in the United States both on open roads and on a closed airport runway. Bugatti says this program is now being offered for 20 to 25 potential customers each weekend.

The company estimates all remaining cars will be sold within 12 months but don’t expect a successsor immediately after that as Bugatti Sales Director for the Americas John Hill told Bloomberg “I wouldn’t expect an announcement for a couple years down the road.”

So – now we get a real look at a 2014 F1 car and more specifically that nose and, like Cyrano turning to face Roxanne for the first time, it’s hard not to be shocked. That is one hell of a conk. Don’t blame the design team at Williams, they are only responding to the rule changes and it’s expected that by next Tuesday — by which time we will have seen all but one of the new cars — the F1 paddock will resemble a colony of proboscis monkeys.

The nose of the Williams-Mercedes FW36, which will be raced by Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas this year, is a response to a rule that simultaneously obliges the lower edge of the front bulkhead (the front of the monocoque) and the tip of the nose to be lowered — the tip by over 360mm.

The aero team, however, still demands as much air as possible goes under the car, hence what designers call ‘a finger’. Caterham’s Cyril Abiteboul said yesterday: “It does remind me of Alien…with something coming out of the mouth and whatever. It’s not very nice. Kids should be dreaming when they see a Formula One car. I don’t know what sort of dream or nightmare you will get when you look at those cars. It is going to be ugly.”

But back to the new Williams, the successor to last year’s terrible FW35 and the first to use Mercedes power now Williams have split from Renault. They were two years which only very occasionally evoked memories of the partnership’s success in the eighties and nineties. Now under the technical direction of Pat Symonds, the FW36 is Williams’ first turbo-powered car since the Mansell era, and Symonds is candid on the challenges packaging the heavier V6 turbo and its two energy recovery systems: “The build has gone remarkably smoothly, but it’s been a challenge to get the car down to the [690kg] weight limit,” he has said.

The computer generated image of the Williams-Mercedes FW26, along with yesterday’s image of the Force India-Mercedes VJM07, do give us the beginnings of a feel for F1’s new turbo-hybrids. This morning’s shot especially shows us the lengths aerodynamicists will need to go to now the extreme left and right of the front wing has been moved inwards (by 75mm each side) and effectively inboard of the front wheel. The trick will be to turn the airflow inside the front wheel and not just for aerodynamic reasons — those massive sidepod intakes are the first look we’ve had at all the extra cooling the turbo-hybrids require.

Tomorrow at noon we see the McLaren MP4-29, and let’s hope McLaren gives us a look at the back. There are big changes both to the exhaust (which can no longer blow the rear diffuser) and to the rear wing itself, which can no longer sport the lower beam wing. Together the changes mean a lot less drag but also a lot less downforce. Which is just what you need for a powertrain that promises to deliver great lumps of torque…

New Skoda Octavia vs Hyundai Elantra

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Skoda’s new Octavia is an important car. Not just for the Czech carmaker, but for consumers as well who’ve been restricted to just a handful of saloons at this price point. Hyundai’s Elantra has been dominating this segment for a while now and is the car to beat. This feature-packed saloon has consistently averaged about 350 units per month over the last year and though the number is small in relative terms, it’s ahead of the rest. It’s good-looking, well-equipped and quite spacious – all the ingredients that make it a best-seller. The Laura (which is actually the second-generation Octavia) has always been a solid car but it managed to clock just half of the Elantra’s figures over the same period. Now, back with its original name, the new Octavia is an impressive car and we reckon it has all the makings of a best-seller. So, how does this next iteration compare with the segment best? We spent some time with the manual diesel variants of both and this is what we discovered.



When it comes to their design philosophies, these cars are like chalk and cheese. The new Octavia is minimalist, and quite reserved in its design when compared to the bold Elantra. Its clean-cut looks are inoffensive yet appealing. But, you may find the car’s rear a bit too similar to that of the cheaper Rapid – diluting a bit of the car’s premium feel. On the other hand, of all the Hyundais, the Elantra wears the brand’s ‘Fluidic’ uniform the best. The bold coupe-like design entails nicely proportioned bulges and creases that are well proportioned, and the Elantra looks striking from all angles.


The new Octavia is a marked improvement in quality over the Laura. And while the cabin follows a similar layout, the bits are all new. The dual tone finish with a near-white shade of beige, the plush seats, faux-wood on the door pads, just the right amount of chrome accents, piano black surfaces and a soft-touch dashboard, all contribute in making a very well executed cabin.
In terms of kit, the Octavia fares well and there’s all the equipment you’d expect from a car at this price point. You get dual-zone climate control, parking sensors, remote locking and a media input port. Also, the well-damped glove compartment lid conceals a six-CD changer and an SD card port. Design-wise, the cabin is clean and simple and the additional display systems are easy to read and operated by large buttons. If you’re a smartphone user, the central touchscreen will feel quite intuitive. It uses smartphone-like swipe gestures to cycle through the main menus and isn’t overly complicated either. Also, just like your smartphone, the air-con has profiles where you can club a bunch of settings together– giving you quick access to your temperature preferences. There are a fair number of cubby holes to stow away your music player, phone and coins too. Most important, though, is the rear bench. The longer wheelbase has liberated a lot of space and the seats themselves are comfortable. Thigh support is a bit limited but leg room is plenty. Even with a tall driver upfront, you can expect about 2.5-3 inches of clearance between your knees and the front seat.
The Elantra’s USP is the sheer amount of features it packs and you definitely won’t feel short changed. For starters, you get cooled front seats –that were exceptionally helpful in battling Mumbai’s sweltering October heat. Then there’s cruise control, a powered driver’s seat and a reversing camera, apart from all the other standard set of features you’d expect. That being said, it lacks the large multimedia screen and finer touches such as the one-touch up and down operation for all the windows (present on the Octavia). Using the audio interface isn’t very intuitive and since the directional commands are embedded into the power button, you may find yourself, often accidentally switching-off the unit. Also, you may get a sense that the company has gone slightly overboard with its snazzy styling and may have compromised function for form. This is most evident on the hourglass-shaped centre console, where the air-con and music system buttons are scrunched up in a small area. Also, the relatively often-used mute button on the steering wheel isn’t within easy access. Fit and finish while decent, lacks the final bit of finesse when compared to the Octavia’s.
On the plus side, the chauffeured will appreciate the spacious rear bench. There’s plenty of legroom here and the bench itself is comfortable too. The seat squab is about 3cm longer than the Octavia’s and this improves thigh support here. However, the swooping roofline eats into headroom and the sharply rising shoulder line limits visibility from the back seat. Also, older folks will find ingress and egress a bit more difficult here – owing to the lower seating position.


Engine and Drivability

Here, the Octavia has a decisive edge. Despite its 65kg disadvantage over the Hyundai, the extra 400cc of the 2.0-litre diesel motor makes it a much quicker machine than the Elantra. For instance, 0-100kph is dispatched in 8.54sec that is a good two seconds ahead of the Elantra’s time. And it’s not just flatout performance either, the higher torque coupled with a wider spread means that you don’t have to fiddle with the gearbox too much (not that it’s a bad ‘box). The 32.6kgm of torque comes in from as early as 1500rpm and propels you forward with a nice linear pull till about 3200rpm, after which it gradually trails off. The gearbox has very well defined gates and the clutch is relatively light too. On the highways, the tall sixth gear takes full advantage of the wide powerband, making the Octy a great long distance cruiser. And if the mood takes you, the Skoda is more than open to some enthusiastic use. On the downside, the engine retains its gravelly character from the Laura and the drone doesn’t let you forget that the motor feeds on a diet of diesel. Another irritant is the fact that you need to give the car a few revs while taking off, since it has a propensity to stall.

The diesel Elantra, on the other hand, uses the same 1.6-litre 126bhp, variable-geometry turbo (VGT) engine as the Verna, but with shorter gear ratios. Compared to the Octavia, the engine demonstrates a fair bit of lag under 2000rpm and that makes you use the throttle more liberally at lower revs. City driving isn’t as effortless as we would have liked, as this smaller engine simply doesn’t have the low-end grunt of the 2.0-litre Skoda. Moreover, the heavy clutch and very noticeable vibrations at idling further dent the city driving experience. To enjoy driving the Elantra, you need to be on a highway. Once the boost builds up at 2000rpm, there’s a nice surge of power and the saloon moves forward with more than adequate gusto. Cruising at about 120kph in 6th gear keeps the engine spinning silently at about 2000rpm (the meat of the engine’s powerband) and here, the car responds almost immediately to part throttle responses. On its own, the Elantra isn’t weak in its overall performance but when compared to the Octavia, it just can’t match up in terms of tractability and outright performance.

Ride and Handling

The new Skoda Octavia’s MQB chassis is significantly stiffer than the Laura’s old-generation A5 platform and this has allowed Skoda to get away with a softer suspension setup. Unlike the multi-link rear suspension setup on the petrol Octavia, the diesel variant does with a more traditional torsion beam. While this isn’t as sophisticated as the multi-link mechanism, it does its job quite well. On the highway, the Skoda feels rock solid and it flattens lumpy bits with ease. On the other hand, the ride in the city isn’t the smoothest and the suspension is a bit noisy too. In terms of handling, there’s nothing really to complain about. The steering is quite accurate, well-weighted and the front wheels offer plenty of grip as well. What may take a bit getting used to is the brakes. They have an aggressive bite towards the initial bit of their travel and you need to be a bit more conservative with the pressure you apply.

The Elantra’s soft suspension is ideally suited to tackle potholes and patchy bits at slower city speeds. And here, it does its job very well, absorbing the bumps with a nice damped feeling and more silently than what the Octavia manages.  But, gather some pace and the car feels loose and the damping isn’t as consistent as it is on the Skoda. While a boon in the city, the excessively light steering wheel has a sort of floating feel around the straight-ahead position and this unsettled feel, does induce a bit of nervousness at very high speeds. Braking isn’t very impressive either. After the strong brakes on the Octavia, the Elantra’s four discs feel relatively weaker and just lack the bite present on the Skoda.


The Elantra’s USP lies in the fact that it offers a plethora of equipment in a package that is bold and attractive to look at – all of which can be had a competitive price of Rs 15.16 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). The 1.6-diesel engine has decent overall performance and the cabin is spacious too. Many of you will also appreciate the light steering and gearbox that makes driving in the metros especially easy. But, there are some drawbacks. It doesn’t have the finesse one expects from an executive saloon and the over styled cabin may be a bit too tawdry for some. Also, the engine isn’t best suited for city driving and while it does a good job on the highway, the car’s dynamics let it down here, making it a master of none.

Conversely, the new Octavia is conservatively styled and isn’t as handsomely kitted as the Elantra. It isn’t very cheap either. At Rs 16.55 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the top Ambition manual variant, it is a good Rs 1.5 lakh more expensive than the Elantra and that, in itself, may steer away many buyers. But at the price, you do get a lot of car for your money. The engine is fantastic in the city or on open roads, the ride quality is good, the cabin is plush, grown-up and ergonomically sound and there’s a cavernous 590-litre boot as well. But most importantly, it is a car that is as inviting to drive as it is to be chauffeured around in – thanks to its great dynamics and a comfortable rear bench.

All told, picking one depends purely on your priorities. If you’re looking for a car that’s stylish, packed with features and will spend most of its time in the city, the Elantra is a perfect candidate for the job. What could also tilt the Elantra in your favour is that Hyundai’s after sales service is generally better too. On the other hand, if you enjoy driving, want high quality ambience and a saloon that is elegant and understated, the new Skoda Octavia is nearly impossible to beat.