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Archive for the tag “Aston Martin”

Cholmondeley Pageant of Power 2013

Lamborghini LP570 Superleggera CPOP

Lamborghini LP570 Superleggera

So, last Sunday represented that time of year again. A time for card makers to rejoice and all the dads of the world to enjoy breakfast in bed and other such pleasantries – it was, of course, father’s day. There is a slight element of irony then, in the fact that I spent most of last sunday at the mother of all pageants – the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power.

Now in its sixth year, the format continued in the same vein as previous events with copious amounts of fossil fuels being sacrificed in the air, on the water and on land, all in the name of competitive entertainment. The main focus of the Pageant (CPOP) is the many millions of pounds worth of automotive exotica, split into various classes and all racing against the clock around a twisty, hay-bale lined, 1.3 mile section of Cholomondeley Castle’s very own driveway.

Fortunately for me, the rain that blighted the first two days had very much dissipated by the time of my arrival on the Sunday. The sunshine is always a very welcome sight at CPOP, not only for raising the spirits of the ever-increasing crowds, but also to keep the action on-track moving without delays for puddle removal. Previous years had also seen heavy rain causing issues off-track, with certain areas of the grounds descending into a bog-like state as it was trampled underfoot. Not this year though; tell-tale grooves across the estate were obvious signs of just how much work had gone into improving drainage and the results were impressive with very few areas of mud.

Racing Truck jumps over bridge CPOP

Truck + 1000bhp + Narrow Bridge = Very brave driver

Some of the cars competing around the track are, quite literally, priceless and it’s hardly surprising that many owners want to take it a little steadier than others, particularly when negotiating the first bend that, very inconveniently leads straight onto a bridge over the mere – it certainly looked narrow from where I was standing!

Then there’s the other type of driver – the ones who harbour that competitive instinct that just refuses to die. The likes of Justin Law, always looking to win at not only CPOP but Goodwood too, in his family-owned collection of Jaguars that include XJ220s and an XJR15. Special mention must also be given to David Jenkins who piloted his 1000bhp, Man TGX truck around the fairly narrow track without letting up for a second – a very brave man.

Ford Fiesta R5 Rally car

Elfyn Evans shows that half the cost can equal twice the fun!

This year saw the arrival of Wales Rally GB at CPOP and they had their own village section with a wide selection of rally cars from the ’70s, 80’s and 90’s on display, including a couple of WRC cars driven by a certain Mr McRae. This November will see the forests of Wales festooned with a new breed of rally cars including the Ford Fiesta R5. Rallying has been hit with financial issues in recent years and this new breed are roughly half as costly as WRC cars of the past. If you’re under any illusions as to how this will affect the appeal of rallying, I can assure you that these cut-price cars are just as exciting as their predecessors and their drivers seemed to be determined to show off the new machines’ capabilities around the CPOP track.

Aston Martin and Lamborghini have been celebrating this year as they are 100 and 50 years old respectively. Both marques were displaying models past and present at CPOP, possibly most notably being the first public appearance in the UK of Lamborghini’s all new, 700bhp Aventador LP700-4 Roadster.

Robbie Kerr Wins CPOP in Radical

Overall winner Robbie Kerr flying through the air on his way to a record lap

Overall winner around the track went to racing driver Robbie Kerr in his Radical RXC. Not only did he win the event overall, but he smashed the previous circuit record by 6.6 seconds with a blistering 55.29 lap, racing through the speed-trap at 129mph.

Cholmondeley Pageant of Power 2013 – Overall Race Results

1. Robbie Kerr, Radical RXC – 55.29 seconds

2. Scott Mansell, Caterham SP/300.R – 56.53 seconds

3. Gary Thomas, Force PC – 58.59 seconds

4. Christian Iddon, Husaberg FS 650 Factory – 59.40 seconds

5. Jordan Witt, Chevron GT3 – 60.71 seconds

6. Niki Faulkner, Ariel Atom 3.5 – 61.18 seconds

7. Oliver Webb, BAC Mono – 62.15 seconds

8. Tim Marshall-Rowe, Lamborghini LP570 Superleggera – 62.64 seconds

9. Richard Blakeman, KTM 450 – 62.89 seconds

10. Chris Hodgson, KTM – 62.95 seconds

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Cööl βritannia – Jaguar, Aston Martin and Bentley fly the flag

Jaguar F-Type rear light cluster

A close up snapshot of the upcoming Jaguar F-Type

For a city with a reputation for nose-to-tail gridlocked traffic, the New York 2012 Motorshow has yet again given us some interesting focal points, not least of which are the Land Rover DC100 and the Jaguar F-Type – undoubtedly the highlight of the show. The attention lavished on both of these cars confirmed something for me that I’ve suspected has been emerging of late, British automobilia is once again leading the way in the ‘cool’ stakes. For a while I feared that I was allowing myself to be swept away on the wave of hype surrounding the Olympics and the Jubilee but now I’m not so sure. Think about it, Bentley and Rolls-Royce can’t produce cars quickly enough, especially to satisfy the demand in the cash-rich Asian and Middle-Eastern markets. Jaguar and Land Rover have well and truly disposed of their stuffy, tweed jacket images and seemingly have the Midas touch with every new model they conjure up and Aston Martin are regular victors of the coolest brand in Britain competition – that’s not just automotive brands by the way, it’s every brand on the planet!

Rear view of the BMW 5 Series GT

BMW 5 Series GT

Contrarily and for the first time that I can remember, the previously untouchable über-cool German marques look a bit lost. Their pedestal looks shaky at best and they appear to have resorted to attention grabbing party tricks in an attempt to regain some of the limelight. Top of this list of tricks is undoubtedly the ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ niche market trick. BMW and Porsche seem to have followed Mercedes down this well trodden path, apparently working on the theory that if you make enough variations on a model, there must be one to suit every need.

Now I know what you’re thinking, the only reason that many British car brands still exist is due to massive inputs from across the globe, even Germany and you’d be right. It took our friends from the Fatherland to show us how to build Rollers and Bentleys properly but they seem to have been so preoccupied with rebuilding our houses, their own have been sorely neglected. The same can hardly be said of Jaguar Land Rover‘s new owners though can it? Their owners –  Tata  seem to have revolutionised the management procedures of the company but left the important bits like how the cars look and feel up to us Brits.

Bentley Continental Convertible with roof down

Bentley Continental Convertible

The USP of the German marques for years was, of course their build quality and I’m not saying for a minute that they’ve forgotten which end of a screwdriver is which but it was somehow inevitable that, given enough time, money and help from VW and BMW we were going to catch on eventually. The problem the likes of Audi have now is that their USP is no longer unique and, worse still, the lowly British brands that they used to deride have re-discovered their USP in abundance. Amongst other things, its called style; it simply oozes from every pore of the current crop of British marques. From Astons to Range Rovers, from their interiors to their wheel nuts, British cars have once again got that certain something that makes them stand out from the crowd and the Germans seem to be floundering in their attempts to recreate it.

Unfortunately, one plucky Brit appears to be stuck in the stalls and that’s Lotus. It’s still early days in their master- plan and I really hope that everything comes into fruition but as it stands, they’re really lagging behind the competition. They undoubtedly make some of the best driver’s cars on the road but in these days of frugality, that simply isn’t enough. When people spend tens of thousands of pounds on top-quality items, they demand just that – quality, a car must not only get them from A-B in style but be able to recreate that feat on a daily basis. Without some serious re-jigging of their priorities, Lotus will continue to be a flashback to the days of British car manufacturing when the notion of quality-control was a mere pipe dream.

By Ben Harrington

Geneva Motor Show 2011

Well, the doors haven’t yet been opened and already we have a fair idea of some of the new models set to wow us at next month’s Geneva motor show. Below are a few titbits I’ve selected which may be of interest.

BMW alpina b5 in white

Alpina B5

Alpina B5 Touring. This 500bhp, 188mph monster may possibly be the quickest way to ferry four adults and a large dog around in sumptuous comfort. Alpina may well be onto a winner here as BMW have already announced that the next gen M5 will not be available in estate guise. Something tells me this may change if the B5’s sales figures rocket!

Subaru coupe

New Subaru Concept

Subaru have used a clear, plastic body shell to showcase their ‘Boxer Sports Car Architecture’ concept. This will be a rear drive coupe which will undoubtedly be beautifully built, handle like a dream and be capable of embarrassing some expensive exotica. If some of Subaru’s recent designs are anything to go by (Impreza, Tribeca etc, etc), they may be wise to consider offering this new model with the concept’s transparent panels as standard.

aston martin virage in orange

Aston Martin Virage

Aston Martin have revived a name not seen since the ‘90s – the Virage. Looking suspiciously like every other Aston in the range, it will be available as either a coupe or a convertible and will be priced from about 150k to £160k. Aston Martin hope the Virage will fill the ‘huge’ gap between the DB9 and DBS models.

Lotus Elise Club Race in blue

Elise ‘Club Racer’

Geneva will see the launch of a new, track day orientated Lotus Elise, the Club Racer. Boosting power output by 5bhp and stripping the Elise of its few creature comforts will make the car even more focused, even more precise. It may also transform a car that already offered an uncompromising ride into the world’s fastest iron maiden.

Jaguar XKR-S in blue

Jaguar XKR-S

Jaguar have fired another warning shot across Aston Martin’s bow with the XKR-S, the latest hardcore version of the XK. With 542bhp and 0-60mph time of 4.2 secs, it is the quickest XK yet but at £85-90k, also the most expensive. Purely for comparison’s sake of course, Aston’s V12 Vantage achieves 0-60mph in 4.1 secs but would set you back £140k.

Rolls Royce 120EX Powered by lithium ion batteries

Rolls Royce 120EX

Rolls-Royce are displaying an all electric Phantom, codenamed the 102EX, the world’s first electric ultra-luxury model. Sources at Rolls-Royce are apparently unsure whether the Phantom could achieve an acceptable range in extreme weather conditions using electrical power only. Surely in a car as powerful as this, uranium rods would be a more appropriate power source than lithium-ion batteries.

mini rocketman concept in gray

The Mini ‘Rocketman’ concept

Finally, a Mini that isn’t in danger of contradicting its own name. This ‘Rocketman’(!!!) concept is highly likely to see production in the upcoming 2013 range of new Minis. Whether neat styling touches such as the Union Flag etched roof and retro exterior door hinges make the final cut is anyone’s guess.

And most pointless exhibit on display goes to……

smart forspeed in white

Smart Forspeed

morgan threewheeler in green

Morgan Three Wheeler

The Smart Forspeed. I was originally going to give this award to the Morgan Threewheeler but the order books are full for this little oddity so, who am I to argue? The all electric Forspeed however, has no windscreen or roof, no rear seats and very little range. It is essentially the lovechild of an Ipod and a mobility scooter. Oh dear!

By Ben Harrington

All New Maybach

2014 Maybach

All new Maybach

Readers of a nervous disposition should probably do themselves a favour and not focus too hard on this picture of the forthcoming Maybach, due for release in 2014. See what I mean? – I did warn you!

Since Mercedes revived the Maybach brand and released the imaginatively titled 57 and 62 in 2002, they have been terrifying young and old in wealthy neighbourhoods across the globe and this one looks certain to follow in that tradition, a sort of son of Frankenstein if you will.

According to one Mercedes spokesman, they are keen to use the Maybach ‘as a technological showcase’ for the rest of their line up, a move which seems very sensible; after all, if you can’t use a £500k Limousine as a showcase, what can you use? From customer feedback, they have also determined that keeping the traditional three box design is essential, especially for existing Maybach owners whom they hope to tempt out of their now ageing models.

I’m fairly sure however that when carrying out their customer feedback, they will have received very few, if any forms stipulating that the new model must be, without question, the most hideous looking car to have ever made it into production.

It’s not just me is it? I appreciate that Maybach’s most obvious competition – the Rolls-Royce range are ostentatious, perhaps even vulgar but they are at least distinctive, you at least want to look at them even if you ultimately decide you wouldn’t want to own one. This new Maybach pulls off the wondrous feat of being ludicrously expensive and yet appearing to have been designed on a shoe string.

I find this car strangely reminiscent of the pictures we regularly receive from China. You know the ones – where you sort of recognise the car in point but then realise that it’s actually just a rip off of a premium European brand e.g. the stunningly awful Geely GE seen below.

Geely's blatant copy of the Rolls Royce Phantom

Look familiar?

Sources close to Aston Martin are reporting that they could be involved in the manufacture of this new Maybach. Just a shame that Aston weren’t given the reins when the designs for the exterior were being drawn up!

By Ben Harrington

Who’s an ugly duckling? The Aston Martin Cygnet

 

English: Aston Martin Cygnet at AutoRAI Amster...

English: Aston Martin Cygnet at AutoRAI Amsterdam 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many months ago, Aston Martin announced plans to produce a ‘luxury micro car’ in the UK and Europe, it’s based on the super frugal Toyota IQ, prices will start at around £30k and it will be called the Cygnet, not really a name to set the pulse racing, is it?

Having checked it wasn’t April 1st, I, like many others set about creating all manner of insults and jokes about what appeared to be the mother of all sell-out jobs. Of course, there had to be more than met the eye and there was. The EU in their infinite wisdom had invented a new set of emission regs to be enforced from 2012. They basically stated that each car manufacturer’s models in production must on average meet specified emission targets. The end of the supercar you may think but not necessarily. You see, marques such as Ferrari and Lamborghini are owned by parent companies i.e. Fiat and Audi and they produce economical little city cars in much higher numbers which will counter balance the likes of the 599 and the Gallardo, thus meeting the targets. This presented a minor problem for Aston though, no longer owned by Ford, they had no counter balance and were facing something of a dilemma.

I recently had the pleasure of a chat with a bona fide AM mechanic and inevitably the subject of the Cygnet came up. I expressed my disproval and he told me tales of the outright disgust many AM owners had displayed on the topic, many worried about  the brand being cheapened and some even contemplating abandoning Aston altogether. For some reason, this hit a nerve with me and I now feel an irresistible urge to defend the poor little thing.

It doesn’t take an expert to see that Aston Martin are reacting to an unwanted situation with this car. They’ve been backed into a corner by the EU and are coming out fighting, in my eyes, in a very clever way. The Cygnet is a necessary evil, a means to an end so why waste precious millions on it’s development when the same end can be achieved by sticking your badge on a product that someone else has thrown millions at? And don’t worry Mr Merchant Banker, the cleaning lady is unlikely to turn up in one as AM are only offering them to existing customers to allay your fears of the brand being irreparably cheapened

Unless they’ve been living on Mars for the last two years, even AM owners must have some inkling that the planet’s finances aren’t quite what they should be. In these days of cuts and deficits, ever increasing numbers of people will look upon the supercar as a vulgar, even grotesque display of opulence and wealth. That companies such as Porsche are posting record profits must only go further to nurture feelings of resentment against groups deemed responsible for the economic downturn i.e. bankers etc. I feel enraged that these people who are lucky enough to own the likes of AM are concerned about cheapening the brand when they should actually be thanking their lucky stars that these luxury car makers exist at all anymore.

So put simply Aston man, the Toyota IQ will sell itself, day in day out. Without some help from the Cygnet, your DB9’s, Rapides and Vantages will disappear forever. Think about it.

By Ben Harrington

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