Driving Torque

Articles, reviews and opinions about cars and all things automotive

Archive for the month “July, 2010”

Preaching to the non converted

audi-R8-spyder in red

Audi R8 Spyder

In a recent episode of BBC’s Top Gear, Jeremy tested two of my favourite cars on sale at the moment, the Porsche 911 Turbo and the Audi R8 V10. They are both frighteningly fast, extremely expensive and combine exotic looks with build quality typical of the Fatherland. Unfortunately, both cars had been ruined before they even left the factory by one common problem – no roofs. Let me make myself clear here, I’m not against convertibles per se. I just feel that there is a certain type of car which lends itself beautifully to being scalped and others which, well, don’t.

I appreciate that the sensation of open top driving is pleasant, with the wind in your hair, the sun on your back and generally feeling closer to nature. But let’s be honest, a large proportion of convertible buyers are simply wanting to be seen by as many people as possible in their status symbol, posers in a word. One car which fits the bill for these people is the BMW 320Ci. It’s certainly not made to break records at the Nurburgring yet the image and the badge combine to make the perfect ‘look at me, I’ve got expendable income’ mobile.

This brings me on to my issue with the likes of the 911 Turbo cab and R8 cab. They are both designed in hard top form in order to push the boundaries. They must be the quickest, nimblest and shoutiest in their class otherwise they have failed miserably. Engineers work tirelessly to push output higher, weight lower and chassis’ stiffer. We adore seeing covert spy shots of the new models being pushed to their limits around ‘the Ring’, talking in hushed tones about rumoured performance figures. Buying the likes of these cars will hopefully provide a driving experience like no other, setting us aside as a true admirer of automotive engineering.

So what do you think it says about the person who opts for one of these exquisite cars and then chooses the one with no roof? I’ll tell you what it says, it says that the owner would like everyone to think that they are a driving god but when it actually comes down to the nitty gritty, they care more about being seen in the car than actually driving it. This therefore makes them not only a poser but a poser and a fake.

By Ben Harrington

OAP (Old Age Pest) Should driving tests for the elderley be introduced?

abe simpson in his car Sir Stirling Moss has recently voiced his opinion that a refresher test should be introduced for all drivers aged either 70 or 75 and I couldn’t agree with him more. Now, I’m not saying that all drivers of this age are bad – Sir Stirling could still teach me a thing or twenty. I’m fairly sure however that most OAPs on the road don’t possess the necessary reactions and awareness to deal with modern day traffic. I recently read that over 70’s are responsible for a mere four percent of accidents that involve injury in the UK and to be honest, I find that a terrifying statistic. Four per cent may not sound like much but when you consider the tiny percentage of drivers over 70 on the roads at any one time, their accident rates are astonishing. Another frightening statistic is that drivers aged over 70 are three times as likely to be killed on injured in a road accident as drivers aged between 40 and 65. Both of these statistics only look at more serious accidents involving death or injury, what about the more common every-day accidents which may not result in injury yet push up insurance premiums nonetheless.

Please don’t think me naive. I’m more than aware that drivers at the opposite end of the age scale are an insurance company’s worst nightmare and with good reason, a combination of over-confidence and a lack of skill do not good bedfellows make. In 99 per cent of cases though, these bad traits are ironed out as everyone has to start somewhere. As the old saying goes though, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

By Ben Harrington

Lotus to expand their horizons?

new-lotus-esprit in white

New Lotus Esprit

Lotus’ owners Proton have recently revealed that they are planning to move the brand  upmarket. Their aim is to produce cars to compete with the likes of Porsche and Ferrari, priced between £80 and £110k.  Put simply, this does not sound like a good idea to me. Colin Chapman’s original ethos was ‘lightweight and simple’, a theory perfectly demonstrated with the Elise and Exige, both of which could easily embarrass cars twice as powerful and twice as expensive. That’s the whole point of Lotus – leaving a 911 for dead and picturing the owner consoling himself by lowering his electric windows or admiring his carpets. Lotus definitely have a reputation for building small, lightweight cars with clever chassis but Porsche et al are a step too far because of one word – Toyota. You see the plan is to develop these expensive supercars whilst still utilising the engines from Japan’s automotive giant. The best way I can explain my issue with this is as follows:- When I first sat in a DB9, I was so disappointed to recognise switchgear from my wife’s ’96 Escort. Imagine then, having just spent £110k on a supercar and constantly being reminded that the engine was made alongside the engine in a 1 litre Yaris. I’m not saying it would be a bad engine, it would probably be extremely reliable but where’s the excitement in reliability? When you see or hear a Ferrari, the racing heritage goes hand in hand with the sometimes temperamental nature, making it almost a treat to complete a journey. If you want an expensive Toyota, buy a Lexus LFA, that’s laughably expensive.

Please Proton, realise where Lotus’ place in the world is. To give us the most bang for our buck.

By Ben Harrington

New Porsche 928

New Porsche 928 picture

New Porsche 928

Hold the press! There are strong rumours abound that Porsche may be in the late design stages of a new model – and it’s not pig ugly! Recent attempts from Stuttgart i.e. the Cayenne, Cayman and Panamera appear to have been taken from the ‘Only their mother could love them’ collection, with their strong sales figures simply highlighting how powerful the Porsche brand is. However, this 928-style coupe’s initial sketches are very promising. It will apparently use the Panamera’s platform and front end, with the rear end taking some styling cues from the 911. Unlike the 911 it will be a front engined V8, making it a GT in the truest sense of the word and allowing it to compete with the likes of the Aston Martin DB9 and Ferrari 599. If this car is as pretty as initial impressions suggest, global domination for Porsche may be yet another step closer.

By Ben Harrington

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