Driving Torque

Articles, reviews and opinions about cars and all things automotive

Archive for the tag “Ferrari”

For Richer or Poorer – Are our cars an accurate reflection of today’s society?

The rich are getting richer and the poor are helping them get there. For a few years now, the headlines have been dominated by global, double-dip recessions and credit being crunched beyond all recognition and yet some small pockets of society seem to be  immune to these awful afflictions. On the contrary, certain, more affluent members of the population are reeking of their own grotesque prosperity, seemingly oblivious to the general mood of the masses.

Multi Millionaire - Premiership Footballer Carlos Tevez

Carlos Tevez – laughing all the way to the bank

Footballers are one such group that spring to mind. You can’t blame them; combine the prospect of a short career with an IQ smaller than their (sponsored) boot size and a parasitic agent who doesn’t even have the decency to work up a sweat for his money and who wouldn’t take every penny they could get?  Of course, the irony is that without us plebs trying to enhance our humdrum lives by cheering on our team of choice every week, no-one would go to football matches, pay Sky to watch football matches or buy replica shirts for easy tribal recognition and where would the footballers be then? The world of finance shares similar ironies, every week new reports surface from the seemingly failing banking world, detailing the inflated bonuses being received by the head honchos, on top of their already inflated salaries. If my memory serves me correctly, this whole mess was kicked off by these same bankers irresponsibly lending money to people who quite obviously couldn’t afford the repayments.

Car manufacturers have by no means been immune to this worldwide recession with automotive giants such as Ford and GM staring into the precipice of permanent oblivion, holding onto their lives by the skin of their teeth. Some long-established marques such as Saab have gone by the wayside but hopefully we’re on the better side of things and the car industry as a whole can go onwards and upwards, back into profit.

The Bugatti Veyron L'Or Blanc - Highly Exclusive

Bugatti Veyron L’Or Blanc

How different manufacturers have gone about this seems to fall into two categories. Some of the traditionally more luxurious marques have taken a huge gamble and made their products even more exclusive, even more out of reach of the masses whereas the other 90% of cars on the road are apparently made to be as cheap to run as possible. Take Ferrari for example. Thankfully, no-one on the board at Ferrari has ever sat down and announced that their products are just a bit too shouty and maybe they should look into the practicalities of an MPV. On the contrary, Ferrari have obviously realised that if you can afford to pay a lot for a supercar, you can afford a lot more and so that’s how much the price of their mid-engined supercars has risen in the past five years. In 2007, an F430 would have set you back £128,000. Today, if you can find one, the F430’s replacement – the 458 Italia would set you back upwards of £160,000. That’s an increase of  25% but has it deterred buyers? Has it heck, supply can’t keep up with demand because when you’re in the market for a new Italian supercar, an extra £32,000 makes little to no difference. Maybe this is partly due to what I call the ‘Veyron effect’. When Bugatti unleashed this hyper car on the world it came complete with a mind-boggling array of huge, impressive numbers. 1,000 horsepower, 0-60 in 2.5s and a top speed of over 250 mph. The one fact that everyone remembers though is the list price of $1,000,000. All of a sudden there was a car being manufactured that was out of the reach of your everyday lottery winner, this one set the rich apart from the super-rich at a time when the rest of the world was worrying about job security and mortgage payments. The likes of Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce and Porsche must have thought all their Christmases had come at once, they could add a few thousand pounds to the list price of their entire range because they knew that they had a ‘get out of jail free’ card – compared to the price of a Veyron, all of their products cost peanuts.

Of course, every action must have a reaction and in the real world that 99% of us live in, the way in which we buy cars has also altered. In the past we would gauge our opinions towards the cars we drove in various ways but they would usually  involve either how quickly they got us from A to B or in how much comfort, that was it. These days, no matter what, the first thing someone will think of when they consider a particular car is what MPG it can achieve and which tax bracket it will fall into. It’s become a national obsession and when you think about it, it’s bordering on the ridiculous. Just because the world’s finances are in a bit of a mess, why can’t cars that are made for the general population be interesting instead of just frugal?

Ford's 1.0l Ecoboost Engine

Ford Ecoboost Engine

Take Ford for example. They’ve recently announced that the Focus will soon be available with an all new engine. Through wizardry and witchcraft, this five door, family hatchback will be powered by a 1.0 litre unit, it’s block being smaller than an A4 sheet of paper. Whether this will result in the Focus becoming the most terminally boring car on the planet to drive or not hasn’t been mentioned, probably because Ford don’t really care. As long as the emissions from the exhaust are lower than their competitors, that’s all that truly matters as that’s what sells cars.

The world of used cars has also suffered from this phenomenon and their value can vary dramatically dependant on how much the annual tax bill will cost, even if a far cheaper model is only £50 a year more expensive to tax. £50! That wouldn’t even pay for a meal for two in a half decent restaurant and yet many people will dismiss a perfectly good automobile on the basis that it’s less powerful, less luxurious sibling will save them this paltry amount once a year.

What I think I’m trying to say here is that if the makers of luxurious marques for more affluent people want to charge what they want and can get away with it, good for them. But to the manufacturers of the majority of the world’s cars- have the nerve to go back to letting the quality and driving experience of your products be what sells the car. Let owning a car return to being the pleasurable experience it once was for all of us instead of simply trying to make car ownership seem like one expensive chore that the masses can little afford and could do without.

By Ben Harrington

Advertisements

An Idiot (hopefully) Aboard – The Bucket List (cars to drive before you die)

Having been recently inspired by the hilarious second series of ‘An Idiot Abroad’, I’ve decided that it is my duty to draw up a bucket list with a difference. Instead of a predictable procession of things to do before you die, I feel that what would be far more interesting (to those of a petrol obsessed nature anyway) is a list of vehicles I feel I must own before I die, or the DVLA revokes my licence due to 90% blindness – whichever comes first. Obviously this list is by no means exhaustive and will be updated when I see something else that takes my fancy.

Just to clarify, this is by no means a wish-list of unobtainable, ridiculously priced automotive rarity. Only vehicles which are realistically affordable to the average person are permitted, although I can’t be held responsible for any astronomical running costs that may be incurred.

1. FordCapri280 Brooklands                  Current Purchase Price – Circa £7,000

Ford Capri 280 Brooklands

Ford Capri 280 Brooklands

Having been brought up on a strict diet of various Capris, I can’t even look at one now without going all misty eyed and nostalgic. The sleek Mk111 has always been my favourite, its ultimate incarnation undoubtedly being the limited edition 280 Brooklands. Only 1038 were made, all in metallic ‘Brooklands’ green and signalled the end of the line for  the capri in Europe. Even as a child, I recognised that these were the Capris to own and begged my dad tirelessly to buy one, but unfortunately to no avail. I feel I must right a wrong.

2.  1968 Dodge Charger                            Current Purchase Price – Circa £25,000

1968 Dodge Charger in black

1968 Dodge Charger

Possibly at the limits of my realistic ambitions this one, 12mpg from a 7 litre engine is enough to worry the most committed of petrolheads but, oh my, does that V8 snarl sound tempting. The Charger just edges the Ford Mustang for the title of my ultimate muscle car but it’s got to be a ’68 and it’s got to be black. Slim hopes of actually owning one are only kept alive due to Mrs Harrington also wanting one, although she would insist on it being bright orange with a confederate flag on the roof, can’t possibly think why!

3. Harley Davidson Fat Boy                      Current Purchase Price – Circa £15,000

Harley Davidsom Fatboy Motorbike

Harley Davidson Fatboy

There’s nothing quite like a Hog for fulfilling those Route 66 fantasies and the Fat Boy is the most fantastic. Arnie riding one down a storm drain in Terminator 2 was enough to sow the seed for me and I still can’t hear that distinctive air-cooled, V twin sound without yearning to own a Harley. Fitting a 1.3 litre engine to a motorcycle may seem excessive to us Britons but surely that’s the whole point of an All American Fat Boy – excess.

4. Volkswagen Karmann Ghia                 Current Purchase Price – Circa £10,000

1960's Volkswagen Karmann Ghia in blue

Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

Here’s a little tale for the romantics amongst you. Back in 2002, I was left in no doubt that I had met the future Mrs Harrington when a conversation I was having with my girlfriend got onto cars. Being a devoted lover of all things Volkswagen and air-cooled, I was left awestruck when she told me, without prompting I may add, that the car she desired most was the Karmann Ghia. That’s right, not the latest Range Rover or the most expensive Mercedes sports but the relatively unusual, chirpy coupe from VW. We promised ourselves there and then that we’d buy one but in the end opted for a more practical Type 2 instead. Got to have one someday – it’s our destiny!

5. Jeep Wrangler 4.0                                   Current Purchase Price – Circa £4000

4.0 litre Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler

I think that my passion for no-nonsense engineering is aroused by the notion of owning a Wrangler. They’re so simple and in some ways antiquated yet undoubtedly a design icon that’s never been bettered. Ok, so the 4 litre – straight six can’t exactly be described as frugal and the ride quality may be a little pony and trap but who cares? This car costs peanuts, typifies the American dream and yet has the steering wheel on the correct side and a main dealership in Stockport.

6. Ferrari 355                                               Current Purchase Price – £35,000 min

Ferrari 355 in Red

Ferrari 355

This one’s really pushing my ‘available to the average man’ rule, I know but their purchase prices are creeping down all the time so maybe with a little windfall, this could be a realistic purchase. Running the thing would obviously be a different kettle of fish, more of a money-pit than a kettle if I’m honest but personally, I’ve got to hold onto the dream. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the last truly beautiful car to have rolled off the Modena production line. Its graceful angles and purposeful stance are such a visual treat that I couldn’t really care less if it drives like a complete dog, which of course it doesn’t.

7. Ducati 916                                                 Current Purchase Price – Circa £7000

Ducati 916

Ducati 916

When it comes down to motorbikes, my knowledge is, shall we say, sketchy at best. Sure, I admire some of them, I even own one (sort of) but at 31 I’m still a beginner when it comes down to controlling one and when it comes down to superbikes especially, I’d have to look for the manufacturers badge in order to pick one out of a line up. Nope, when compared to the cars, my emotional attachment to bikes is miniscule. All except that is, for the Ducati 916. As a teenager, our neighbour had one and if he were to start it up in his garage, I swear our house used to shake. Visually, it’s typically Italian – audacious yet delicate. Acoustically, it initially gives you a little shock on start-up but turn the accelerator round a fraction and it gives you the fright of your life. Like all the best Italian operas, both overwhelmingly beautiful and crushingly dramatic in equal measures.

8. 1977 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II                Current Price – Circa £10000

Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II

Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II

I don’t care that I’d either look like a dodgy second-hand car dealer or I was transporting the bride to her beloved. I don’t care that the ancient 6.75 litre engine would struggle to achieve over 10mpg yet only provide a somewhat pathetic 189bhp. I don’t care that the wallowing suspension is bound to bring on sea sickness. I don’t even care that many of them were sold in delightful colours, the most popular shades being Costume Jewellery Gold and Angel Delight Brown. What I do care about is that for me, the Silver Shadow is the archetypal Rolls Royce. Yes, it’s still as subtle as a sledgehammer but it also has a certain grace that was lost on later models – it’s slightly round at the edges –a look Rolls Royce have reverted to with their recent land yachts. I honestly can’t think of a more rock and roll car.

9. 1987 Porsche 911 Carrera                                 Current Price – Circa £15000

1987_porsche_911_carrera_26864627

1987 Porsche 911 Carrera

I know I’m forever prattling on about Porsche, this model in particular but no bucket list of mine would be anywhere near complete without this car. Flawed in almost every aspect of its design and constantly looking for new and exciting ways to launch its driver into the nearest large oak tree but still, every inch an icon. Ultimately, mine would be black with a red leather interior although I can be swayed on colour. What is an absolute must however is the oversize, whale-tail spoiler that must protrude from the Porsche’s rump. I’ll even play nothing but 80’s power ballads on the stereo.

By Ben Harrington

Frankfurt Motor Show 2011

Ferrari 458 Spider

Well well well, the Frankfurt motor show opened its doors to much fanfare on Tuesday and I’m delighted to say that it appears to have on show some of the most interesting new models I’ve seen for years. There really is a plethora of eye-catching cars, not always for the right reasons but hey, it wouldn’t be a motor show without the weird and wonderful, would it?

‘All new’ Porsche 911 991

To name but a few of the headline grabbers on display, Porsche left us all dumbstruck with their, ahem, all new 911….wing mirrors.

Ferrari’s decided to take their styling cues from Renault these days by emulating the very clever folding hard top as previously seen on the Wind. Joking aside however, this is one of those very rare occasions when I’m prepared to admit that a car looks better in convertible guise than hard top.

Land Rover DC100 Concept

It was inevitable that this day would come eventually. Some poor soul at Land Rover has finally been tasked with replacing the iconic 67 year old design of the Defender. Re-inventing the wheel seems preferable to me as you’re only going to upset millions of purists, however good the replacement may look, drive or feel.

Ford Evos Concept

Having been brought up on a staple diet of Capris, I was very excited when Ford unveiled their latest design concept, the Evos. As usual, Ford were keen to deny that this would go into production and even more keen to distance themselves from the Capri name. Why Ford, why? Embrace this much loved icon and do us all a favour by dispelling the memory of, I can barely say it, the Cougar!

Jaguar CX-16

Undoubtedly the star of the show for many people, myself included is this car, the Jaguar C-X16. I know I keep saying it but the way Jaguar has been turned around of late is nothing short of staggering. If it performs anywhere near as well as it looks, I can honestly say that if I was in the market for a car of this genre, I would march straight past the Porsche 911’s in their showroom and place my order for one of these, and that’s saying something.

Bugatti Veyron L’Or Blanc

One for those of you who were reluctant to invest in a Veyron due to its abhorrent lack of porcelain, this one’s got it in abundance, inside and out. There you go, your prayers answered. I did say that not everything was in good taste!

By Ben Harrington

Ferrari 458-: Prancing Pony or Braying Donkey?

One of the many qualities we possess as human beings is the scarcely believable yet inescapable truth that all 7 billion of us are individuals. Inevitably this equates to every single one of us having our own unique viewpoint on any given subject, even if the differences in our opinions are sometimes miniscule. Thankfully, in Western society we value the right to free speech and thought very highly and are quick to chastise oppressive regimes who seek to silence their adversaries.

Ferrari 458 Italia in yellow going around a track

Ferrari 458 Italia

I’m now going to fully exercise my rights and voice an opinion that I feel will be both unpopular and fairly unique. It relates to Ferrari’s 458 Italia, the latest 200mph, mid engine creation from Maranello. It possesses an astonishing V8 engine, capable of producing 562bhp and, oh I’m just avoiding the point I actually want to make here – IT IS NOT A PRETTY CAR!

There, I’ve said it and I feel much better for it, thank you. Now, before I’m hanged from the nearest suitable tree, please grant me the opportunity to quantify my argument. When one envisages Ferrari, the two words that I imagine would materialise for many people are ‘speed’ and ‘beauty’, not necessarily in that order.

I’m fairly sure that the reason for Ferrari’s enduring popularity is less to do with Formula One and power stats and more to do with the universal acceptance that their road going offerings hold the same overwhelmingly attractive visual qualities when static as they do on the red line at 202mph.

For decades, children and adults alike have placed pictures of Ferraris on their walls, ranging from the sleek lines of the 250 GTO to the elegance of my personal favourite, the F355. Endless women who openly admit to having little automotive passion still can’t help but glance yearningly if a Ferrari should come into view and I just don’t feel that the 458 lives up to its more attractive predecessors.

Mclaren mp4-12c Orange

McLaren MP4-12C

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not been fortunate enough to drive one and I’m not doubting for one minute that it is stupendous fun from behind the wheel. Every single review states that this is a real tour de force for Ferrari and the opposition may as well pack up and go home. One review I read recently though really confirmed my fears regarding the 458’s visual appeal. The review in question was assessing the Italia’s abilities when put against a close competitor – the McLaren MP4 – 12C. The result was astonishingly close it terms of speed and agility but what I simply couldn’t draw myself away from was how similar the two cars looked.

Now, McLaren have either made or contributed in making some of the finest driving machines ever, fact. Their engineering prowess is unquestionable and much of the technology they develop for their F1 cars then appears on their road cars, this can be no bad thing when your primary objective is getting quickly from point to point. What McLaren are not renowned for however is producing beautiful machines. I’m not saying they’re ugly but function over form is evidently their mantra, I mean, even the name MP4-12C sounds functional, kind of like a washing machine.

Ferrari 458 front view in red

Ferrari 458

McLaren MP4-12C in white front view

McLaren MP4-12C

If you place the 458 Italia and the MP4-12C next to each other, their similarity is evident for all to see and this is my point. A Ferrari has always been instantly recognisable, take away its badges and most people would successfully pick one out in a line-up. The 458 however seems to have somehow been born lacking some of this Ferrari-ness and the world can only be a far more wretched place when you take away Ferrari-ness.

By Ben Harrington

News

Ferrari 458 Italia on Fire

Flaming Ferrari 458 Italia

Following several internet reports of Ferrari’s latest model, the 458 Italia being involved in fires, the Modena based firm have released the following official statment -: “The company is currently investigating the particular incidents in which cars have apparently been involved in a vehicle fire, and it is currently treating these as separate incidents.”

Thankfully no people have been killed or injured in these fires but Ferrari’s acknowledgement of the problem surely indicates that they are worried.

The 458 has been received with critical acclaim and is widely regarded as Ferrari’s greatest achievement for a long time. Let’s hope the bubble isn’t about to burst (into a ball of flames) as it would be a shame for this magnificent car to be tarnished by such a potentially dangerous problem.

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

Post Navigation