Driving Torque

Articles, reviews and opinions about cars and all things automotive

Archive for the month “September, 2014”

Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible – Driven and Reviewed

Bentley_Continental_V8S_Side_Monaco_YellowA 21bhp hike in a more ‘normal‘ car, say a Fiesta ST, would represent a decent dollop of a power increase that could potentially change the whole car exponentially. This isn’t a ‘normal‘ car though. This is the ‘S’ version of the much-lauded V8 Continental Convertible that I heaped praise on earlier this year. The question is, then, just how much difference can 21bhp make to a car weighing over 2.5 tonnes that’s already stuffed full of 500 snorting thoroughbred  horses in, ahem, ‘standard’ guise?

Well, in pure performance terms, the straight answer is a drop of 0.2 seconds to 4.5s in the sprint to 60mph and a rise of 4mph to 191mph in terms of maximum, flat-out speed. The battle for extra speed against physics does get pretty ugly when you’re up in what is really super-car territory. But this wouldn’t be telling the whole story of the ‘S’ at all, oh no, there’s far more to it than that.

Looks wise, it’s not that dissimilar to the rest of the Continental fleet we’ve become so accustomed to these days. There’s the 8 shaped exhaust tips that are found on all Bentleys with this (co-produced with Audi) V8 under the bonnet. There are a few, purely cosmetic highlights on the ‘S’ that make it stand out from the V8, such as the gloss black door mirrors and brake calipers in bright red, unless of course you opt for the highly advisable carbon-ceramic brakes that our test car came with; they might be a touch pricey at over £10K, but they work beautifully and I’m delighted to confirm that they lose most of the squeakiness I’ve previously reported, once they bed in a bit.

Bentley_Oil_CapThis is where the V8 S really comes into its own though; any other changes over the V8, visual or not, are there to add to the whole driving experience, and you can really tell. There’s the new gloss black lower sections of bodywork such as the sills, front splitter and rear diffuser, coupled with a 10mm drop in ride height – these might enhance the look of the V8 S, but their real purpose is to aid handling and high-speed stability. On a completely invisible level, the suspension and steering have also been tweaked to make the GT more responsive. So, just what do all of these relatively little changes add up to, you ask? Well, the answer is – a hell of a lot……

At this point, those clever engineers at Bentley should give themselves a rather large pat on the back. They were given the task of stiffening up a car that wasn’t renowned for its jelly-like nature in the first place, whilst keeping a firm hold of that all-important Bentley ride quality, and they had to accommodate a power-hike – just to unsettle the car a touch more.

The result is a car that’s still very obviously not lacking in the size department, but that’s lost a lot of the slightly unnerving feeling you get when you try to throw a huge piece of metal (and leather, and walnut) around our weaving, typically British B-road system. The nose is far happier to change direction than any other Bentley I’ve driven and the ever-present 4WD system does its usual job of keeping the rear end from attempting to overtake the front. It’s almost as though the whole car’s been shrunk to fit more appropriately down our country roads, with none of that usual sensation of attempting to thread a Bentley-shaped camel through the eye of a needle.

Bentley_Continental_V8S_Black_InteriorThat said, it’s not perfect; the front wheels still have a tendency to wander slightly around high-speed bends, and if the dampers are left in their most rigid setting, certain bumps and potholes send something of a crash through the unforgiving 21” wheels, all the way up into the chassis, leaving a kind of scuttle-shake sensation in the steering wheel. The simple answer, of course, is to adjust the dampers to one of their other four settings and reserve super-stiff mode for those occasions when you may feel inclined to throw your £152K convertible around a race-track – in which case you hopefully wouldn’t have to contend with bumps and potholes anyway. I left my test car in the 3rd most rigid setup for 90% of the time, and I’m pretty sure that the levels of grip and responsiveness on offer will satisfy most.

Whichever Continental GT you’re lucky enough to find yourself piloting, the sheer performance is nothing short of breathtaking, and it’s no different in this V8 S. Shift the consistently impressive 8 speed ZF ‘box into ‘S’ mode, and the slightest growth spurt of the nail on your right foot’s big toe will result in a kind of  ‘Millennium Falcon’ effect – trees and bushes become a blur and the horizon gets very close, very quickly.

Bentley_Continental_V8S_Front_Monaco_YellowIn fact, the only aspect of the V8 S that trumps its performance is the cacophony of noise that accompanies it, especially if you opt for the sports exhaust, which could literally be the best £1,860 you ever spend. Ever wondered what it must feel like to run across the Serengeti Plains, whilst 5 feet behind you’re being chased by a particularly loud and hungry lion, whose very keen to get to grips with his main course of raw human, once he’s emptied his mouth of the kilo of marshmallows he had for his entrée? If so, get yourself a Continental V8 S, put the roof down, and floor it – the way the wall of noise emanating from the rear end grows in volume and tone will send a shiver down your spine, plus you get the added bonus of not being gored to death by 250kg’s worth of Simba when you slow down.

The Continental may have been around for some time now, and a total revamp is probably not too far in the future. Bentley obviously aren’t quite done with this version yet though, and when they keep improving on the recipe, as they have done with the V8 S, why fix something if it’s not broken?

By Ben Harrington

All pictures courtesy of Neil Shearer Lswpp – http://www.neilshearerphotography.com

Specifications; Bentley Continental GTC V8 S, Engine – 4.0l twin-turbo petrol V8, Transmission – 8 spd auto, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 521 bhp, Torque – 680Nm @ 1700rpm, Economy – 25.4mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 191mph, Emissions – 258g/km CO2, Acceleration – 4.5s 0-60mph, Price – £152,900 OTR, £192,205 as tested.

For full details, go to: http://www.bentleymotors.com

Mitsubishi ASX 4 2.2l Diesel 4WD – Driven and Reviewed

mitsubishi asx 4 sideIt took me a while to realise where I’d seen the basic shape of the ASX before, and then the Yen dropped. That prominent nose, disproportionately small rear end and minimal glass-housing aren’t a million miles away from the Range Rover Evoque – high praise indeed, also the Dodge Calibre – high praise……er……not-so-much. I can’t help but like the ASX’s gaping trapezoidal nose and I’m under no illusion as to why; in a range that offers the likes of the Outlander and the Mirage, the ASX (Active Sports Crossover……..erm – ASC?) is the only ‘car’ in Mitsubishi’s fleet that bears any resemblance at all to the sadly missed Lancer Evo – a car I always found appealing, even if it was in a brutish kind of way.

mitsubishi asx 4 frontThe ASX  is unashamedly a crossover, competing with the likes of the Qashqai and the Yeti, so it obviously comes complete with the compulsory elevated ride height and chunky wheels, and this only add to its appeal. Keeping glazing to a minimum also does a great job of keeping the whole look of the ASX compact – less like a minibus. It’s only really the rear-end of the ASX that lets the car down. Look on Mitsubishi’s own website and you’ll not find one picture of the ASX’s rump, and that’s because the car’s designers seem to have run out of either imagination or inclination when they got to this point. I appreciate that the slightly snubbed silhouette is due to Japan’s length based tax system, but they don’t tax pretty cars more than plain ones. It’s a shame really because the competition in this sector is fierce and I’m inclined to think that looks are a major deciding factor for crossover buyers. So to put such effort into 90% of the ASX and then leave the rear as some kind of afterthought doesn’t do it justice.

mitsubishi asx 4 rearIt’s a similar story inside the range-topping ASX 4; there’s many nice touches, with decent materials and some obvious thought put into the design, but they’re sadly let down by certain elements that are as confusing as they are annoying. Buttons and switch gear are haphazard in their placement, drinks are strictly forbidden in one of the cup-holders and the most tactile place in the whole car – the steering wheel, is made of a grade of plastic that develops a palpable tackiness after prolonged contact with human skin; If you’re going to use a pleasant, soft-touch material anywhere, it’s a good idea to start with the steering wheel. The theme continues throughout the ASX cabin; there’s a fashionable ‘Stop/Start’ button, but this means that you can’t wind down windows or listen to the Kenwood multi-media unit without the engine running, and even with it working, the Kenwood unit stubbornly refused to play music from my iPhone.

mitsubishi asx 4 boot

442 Litres of boot space

Room inside the ASX is more generous than you’d warrant, with plenty of space for five proper adults and a boot which I’m sure would suffice for anyone using it for the usual shopping/dog carrying trips. Visibility is excellent, thanks to the relatively short overhangs and lofty driving position, and parking is made even more simple thanks to the reversing camera which comes standard in the ASX 4. Another peculiarity within the whole ASX range though, is the unavailability of front or rear parking sensors which are glaringly absent on the options list. It may not be the most colossal car in the world, but parking any vehicle can only be aided by sensors – it may seem a small issue but it’s a strange omission that could ultimately sway potential buyers towards the opposition as they’ve grown accustomed to what is a commonly available feature these days, and they really don’t want to risk damaging their new pride and joy.

mitsubishi asx 4 badgeASX 4s all have selectable 4WD, ASX 2s are all driven by their front wheels, and in-between, there’s the ASX 3 – this might seem confusing but Mitsubishi always use numbers to identify their differently specced models. If  geography or lifestyle dictates that your ASX simply must be a 4×4, it’s Diesel only with a choice of a 1.8l 16V, or the 2.2l 16V unit we have on test here. The differences in performance between the two are negligible (118mph vs 115mph, 10.8s vs 10.6s 0-62mph in 2.2l and 1.8l respectively), where the 2.2l comes into its own is in terms of torque available (360Nm vs 300Nm), so if your ASX would be used as a towing vehicle, or if you must have an auto ‘box, I’d be tempted to plump for the larger engine. On the other hand, if you’re just after something with 4WD capabilities to guarantee that you’ll get to the top of the hill you live on in mid-January, I’d go for the 1.8 – it’s cheaper to run, cheaper to buy and is possibly a little more refined than this slightly gruff 2.2l.

mitsubishi asx 4 dialsOf course, if it’s just the looks and safety aspects of a crossover that floats your boat, there’s plenty of 2WD models available in both petrol and Diesel guises – they might not get you up the Eiger but they represent a big financial saving and are still generous in terms of standard kit.

mitsubishi asx 4 noseThis 2.2l Diesel might not be the most cutting edge power-plant in the world, a fact highlighted by its lack of stop-start technology, but the automatic gearbox that it’s mated to is fairly sweet around town, and shifts through its ratios with the minimum of fuss. Considering it’s relatively small wheelbase, it’s odd that the ASX possibly feels most settled when it’s eating up motorway miles. The ride that can feel a little firm over our typically scarred roads just seems to iron out any imperfections on the motorway, and you’d be surprised at how relaxing a long distance trip can be.

mitsubishi asx 4 rear and sideThe ASX is a slightly strange fish that should be given merit for standing out from the crowd. It does many things well, but unfortunately seems to do almost as many things wrong, and with no apparent reason. The problem with this is – the crossover sector is one of the most competitive in today’s market, and there’s plenty of alternatives that either look, or drive better than the ASX, and a few that do both.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Mitsubishi ASX 4, Engine – 2.2l DOHC Diesel, Transmission  6 speed Auto, Layout – Front Engine, 4WD, Power – 147bhp, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 10.8s, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Torque – 360Nm, Economy – 48.7mpg combined, Emissions – 153g/km CO2, Price – £24,649

For full details, go to: http://www.mitsubishi-cars.co.uk

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