Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “cabriolet”

Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air – Driven and Reviewed




The Adam’s been a huge success for Vauxhall since its release in 2012 and has sold especially well here in the UK. A huge part of the car’s modus operandi was based on personalisation, with over 1 million combinations of options apparently available. This thrust it into the highly competitive area of the market that’s also occupied by the ubiquitous MINI and Fiat’s 500. Brave move.

A Little Fact

Here’s a little Vauxhall Adam based fact for you; it’s the only model in the current Vauxhall range that doesn’t end in the letter ‘A’. Feel free to use that the next time you’re on a first date or you really want to impress your mates down the pub. Alphabet based nuggets of information aside though, what is this new version – the Adam Rocks Air all about?


vauxhall_adam_rocks_air_sunroofRocks Air?

This Rocks Air is a quasi-SUV version of the Adam, complete with a little rise in ride height (15mm) and some rufty-tufty bits of plastic splashed liberally about the place. That explains the ‘Rocks’ part of the new title then, but what is the ‘Air’ bit all about? It’ll come as no surprise that it refers to the full length fabric sunroof that every Adam Rocks comes with. Don’t worry if you didn’t really want a soft-top though; it doesn’t impede rear visibility when it’s folded back like some similar models do, and the added noise it creates is barely detectable.




They might only be for show, but I feel that the visual additions to the Adam Rocks really set it apart from the base model and give it far more road presence. I’m not sure what the extra 15mm ride height will achieve in terms of off-road ability, but where the Adam could get lost in a crowd, the Adam Rocks stands out, especially with the 18” ‘Twister’ wheels that our test car was shod with.

vauxhall_adam_rocks_air_door_handleRide Quality

These enhanced looks do come at something of a price though, and I don’t just mean financially. The whole setup has been adjusted and tuned to accommodate the loftier height and it’s left the Adam Rocks jittery on uneven surfaces; any bumps and potholes are felt throughout the whole car, irrespective of which wheel encountered them.

This particular Adam Rocks is powered by the same 1.0l, three-cylinder engine that so impressed us in the New Corsa recently, proving to be competent and refined in equal measures. It works just as well in the smaller Adam, as you’d expect, and when it comes down to triple-cylinder units that are so de rigueur at the moment, it really puts Vauxhall up there with the best.

vauxhall_adam_rocks_air_goldIt combines the best qualities of a three cylinder engine – decent economy and bags of character, with a useable torque curve and just enough restraint in the sound department to not be intrusive. Plus, it gets this Adam Rocks Air to the 60mph mark in a not-too-shabby 9.9 seconds


Simply press the Griffin, et voila…..

Luxurious Touches

Vauxhall as a brand aren’t really renowned for their luxurious little touches but that’s precisely what’s so satisfying about the Adam range as a whole.

Take, for example, the exterior boot release; not an element I usually get over-excited about but I feel it deserves special mention in this case. There isn’t a button or lever as such, one simply presses the boot’s entire Griffin badge and the bodywork depresses slightly, opening the boot.

Some of the prettiest dials I've encountered

Some of the prettiest dials I’ve encountered

The basic design and materials in the cabin are satisfying both in terms of aesthetics and quality. The rubber-look eye level plastics, user-friendly Intellilink infotainment system (£275 option) and large, circular air vents put the Adam Rocks ahead of much of the competition, but it’s the fabulous dials that seem to take inspiration from both the aviation and nautical world that pleased me most. A tiny spotlight glows behind the dials, following wherever the needles go, and when the stop/start kicks in, the tachometer needle doesn’t just drop to zero like most cars – it goes to an ‘Auto Stop’ position, leaving ‘Stop’ solely for when the ignition’s turned off. It’s these little touches that add an ‘air’ (excuse the pun) of exclusivity.

vauxhall_adam_rocks_air_interiorAt What Price Though?

The Adam Rocks Air’s premium look and feel does come with a premium price tag however; this exact car would set you back a whopping £20,335. It doesn’t have to be this way though; even with this highly desirable engine option that does suit the car so, the basic price is a far more reasonable £16,695. Or, if it’s just the show you’re after and the go element isn’t a priority, you can spec your Adam Rocks with their 1.2l unit, dropping the base price to £14,695.

There’s obvious flair, and equal amounts of care that’ve been put into the Adam Rocks Air’s design – both inside and out; show some restraint with the options list and you can end up with something that’s got enough taste and refinement to put any MINI to shame.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air, 1.0l 12v Direct Injection Turbo , Transmission – 6 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 115PS, Torque – 170Nm, Emissions – 119g/km CO2, Economy – 55.4 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 121mph, Acceleration – 9.9s 0-62mph, Price – £16,695 OTR, £20,335 as tested

For full details, go to; http://www.vauxhall.co.uk/vehicles/vauxhall-range/cars/adam-rocks-air/overview.html

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

Citroën DS3 Cabrio DSport – Driven and Reviewed

Citroen DS3 Cabrio DSportCitroën’s DS3 has been on our roads for an almost unbelievable four years now, and this cabriolet version has been allowing us to maximise our enjoyment of the sporadic British sunshine since 2013. Just prior to this article being published, Citroën announced a slight midlife refresh of the model including new headlights and a few new, ultra-efficient engines, two of them being Diesels.

That news may encourage some buyers to hang on a while so that they can get the most bang for their buck, but the fact remains that if you like your DS3 Cabrio to perform and sound as well as it looks (I don’t believe in Diesel cabrios – it’s something of an oxymoron, IMO), and you’re not prepared to shell out the somewhat lofty sum of £30k for the DS3 Racing – this 155bhp petrol model is the one you’ll most likely opt for.

Gotta love the fin. Although I'd opt for a lighter body colour to make it stand out

Gotta love the fin. Although I’d opt for a lighter body colour to make it stand out

The DS3 might be four years old but the look is still very fresh and I challenge anyone to say that shark-fin doesn’t continue to raise a smile. Speaking of ‘the‘ fin – I was initially worried that the release of this cabrio model would do away with this most pleasing of features. Thankfully though, Citroën opted to give their soft-top just that – a soft top. This means that the roof frame stays in tact, as do the rear side windows and the cloth section simply slides rearwards, kind of like an enlarged sun-roof. Not only does this mean my favourite bit of the whole design stays in tact – yes, the dorsal – but the structural rigidity of the car only required a bit of strengthening where the parcel shelf used to be, in order to maintain the taut feeling of the hardtop. Kind of a win-win situation really as it only adds 25kg to the overall weight, too.

Citroen DS logoCitroën were always very keen to distance the DS sub brand from their mainstream models, even selling them in DS-only dealerships in some countries, and they’ve achieved this aim with aplomb. There are Citroën badges on the DS3, obviously, but they’re subtle and require some searching for. In their place are the modern, slightly cryptic DS logos that are splashed around the whole car in various formats. In fact, the only double chevron I found on the whole car that was actually combined with the Citroën name was a diminutive blanking piece in the cabin – it’s no accident that this could easily be missed.

It’s not just the look of the DS3 cabriolet that’s separate from the Citroën hoi polloi, though – the way the car drives and feels is quite different too. The flamboyance and character of the DS3 is quite French, in so many ways. Contrarily though, the soft, accommodating ride you’d normally associate with cars of this origin, especially Citroëns, is dismissed in favour of an altogether harder, more focused approach. This is obviously something of a double-edged sword as the DS3 Cabrio’s handling is precise, with hardly any roll to speak of, but when your primary concern isn’t kissing apexes, and you just want to get home in comfort after a tough day at work – the DS3 Cabrio’s ride could jar a little, especially over our typically pot-holed roads.

Citroen DS3 Cabrio interiorIt’s a tired old cliché that French cars aren’t built very well, and a tag that’s not as relevant as it used to be. If you need some convincing – just drive this DS3 Cabrio for a while – the build quality feels excellent and everything has a solid, chunky air about it. Put the roof up and the sensation of calm and quiet could easily embarrass some drop-heads that cost twice as much. You could of course argue that for nearly £20k, it shouldn’t be anything other than screwed together properly, but it’s not just money that’s been thrown at the DS3 Cabrio, the imagination and flair that’s especially evident in the cabin comes from ambition, not a chequebook.

Roof up......

Roof up……

.....going down.......

…..going down…….

.......and it's down

…….and it’s down

When discussing practicality, cabriolets often crop up in the same sentence, usually accompanied with the words ‘a distinct lack of’. Because of the way the DS3 Cabrio has been developed, the soft top doesn’t impinge on the boot space as such, it just leaves you with a letter-box style aperture to access said boot. But negotiate that and you can easily fit a decent sized fortnightly shop in – trust me, I did it. The counter balance to this, though, is that if you retract the two-stage roof all the way back, your rear-view is reduced slightly. Actually, it’s annihilated, it’s probably a better idea to keep the roof at its first stage which keeps the rear window in its correct position. The slight revamp of the model I mentioned earlier does include the option of a reversing camera – I think it’s a must if you go for the cab.

Not the best access, but at 245 litres, far bigger than the competition

Not the best access, but at 245 litres, far bigger than the competition

The DS3 Cabrio uses the four-cylinder, turbocharged engine that, until recently, was found in various MINIs. The fact that BMW have opted to go down the tri-cylinder route shouldn’t reflect badly on this Citroën developed engine as it’s still really rather good. Yes, it can be a tad frustrating and a little gutless at low revs, as you wait for the turbo to wake up and do its stuff, but once you get going, it’s a sweet unit that suits the DS3 well, especially with the clunky, satisfying gear changes from the six-speed ‘box. My only real complaint with this engine is that the turbos stifle the sound too much, but get the roof down and drive through your favourite tunnel and it’s just loud enough to keep you coming back to do it again.

The Citroen DS3 is one of those cars that remains affordable, whilst offering a certain element of quality to make it stand out from the crowd, much in the same way as the Fiat 500 and MINIs do. The difference with this, though, is that it’s not some retro-mobile, cashing in on past glories, it’s ultra modern and the first of its kind. This DS3 Cabrio model stands apart from the soft-top competition due to its increased levels of practicality and comfort. Opt for this 155bhp engine, and it’s a hoot to drive, too.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Citroën DS3 Cabrio DSport THP155, Engine1.6l petrol four cylinder turbocharged, Transmission6 speed manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 155bhp, Torque – 240Nm, Emissions – 137g/km CO2, Economy47.9mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 132 mph, Acceleration – 8.2s 0-62mph, Price – £19,845 OTR, £21,490 as tested.

For full details, go to: http://www.citroen.co.uk/DS3

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