Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “V8”

Jaguar XFR-S – Driven and Reviewed

Jaguar_XFR-S_side_blueWith the release of the Mk11 in the late ’50s, Jaguar could easily be credited with the invention of the Q-car – otherwise known as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The XF is the spiritual successor to the Mk11, and this XFR-S is not only the fastest XF, it’s the sprightliest saloon car Jaguar have ever made. A Q-car it ain’t though. Just look at it; this is a wolf at a wolf-pride march, wearing a “CANIS LUPUS” T-shirt. With matching hat.

Gen-yoo-ine carbonfibre

Gen-yoo-ine carbonfibre

Potential buyers shouldn’t be put off by the rice-rocket-esque rear spoiler, though (it is carbon fibre, by the way), a far more subtle affair is a no-cost option. Our test car’s ‘Ultimate Blue’ hue might not be to your taste either, fear not – a traditionally discreet black can be ordered with the deft click of a mouse.

Matching bright-blue piping is available on the inside of the XFR-S, if your heart desires. But again, if it’s the more sombre side of owning a Jaguar that floats your boat, it can all be toned down to suit. The carbon fibre theme also continues with aplomb in the cabin, and that can’t be changed; it’s on the fascia and the pattern’s even stitched into the seats – not my taste, personally, but it’s dark enough to fade into the background.

Jaguar_XFR-S_side_badgeThe base XF’s interior was one of the class-leading aspects of the car on its release in 2007, with its cool-azure lighting and swivelly air-vents. That was over seven years ago though, and that’s plenty of time for the competition to catch up. The infotainment system looks a bit lo-res these days and we’ve become accustomed to moving knobs and buttons in this class of car – the vents just don’t wow like they used to. 

Jaguar_XFR-S_wheelThe Meridian sound-system that comes as standard never fails to impress, however. I’m occasionally underwhelmed with the ‘premium’ stereos that cars are fitted with – they just don’t seem to be set-up properly. Not so in this case. Loudness is nothing if the clarity and quality don’t match, but every aspect of this 825W Surround Sound system is impressive. A word of warning though; don’t be overly eager with the volume knob – you might just miss something very special………..

Beware, all who dare enter.....

Beware, all who dare enter…..

……….’What?’ I hear you cry. Well, the ‘heartbeat’ start button that could be considered something of a gimmick in lesser XFs becomes slightly more pertinent in the XFR-S; press it and the whole car comes to life with a jolt that’s reminiscent of a heart attack victim being jolted back from the light. The bark and crackle from the quad performance pipes is more Modena than Midlands, and I challenge anyone with a modicum of petrol in their veins to ever tire of finding a long tunnel, opened the windows and dropping down a cog or two.

Jaguar XFR-S bonnet louvreSo, what is the XFR-S like to live with? Well, let’s cut to the chase; one aspect that can’t be toned down, not that you’d want to, is the 550bhp, supercharged V8 that lurks underneath that power-bulged bonnet. This is one hell of an engine. Linked to the hugely popular ZF 8-speed ‘box that’s been peppered up a bit for the R-S, acceleration is life-affirmingly brutal, even in everyday ‘D’ mode. Put it in ‘S’ and the realisation of just how 550bhp feels with precisely zero delay between order and delivery may take you by surprise, as the instant surge towards the horizon is like no other car I’ve ever driven.

This car will spin its wheels for fun, and if the surface you’re on is anything less than sahara-dry I’d think twice before planting the loud-pedal. With no lag to consider, what you ask for is what you get and a hasty exit from a junction could result in some snaking and the unmistakable smell of burning rubber. There is, of course, a trade-off for this very useful performance, and that’s economy; with all eight cylinders and a supercharger constantly working, even Jaguar’s official 24.4mpg combined seems somewhat optimistic.

Jaguar XFR-S grilleThe good news is that this V8 beast’s drivetrain is fully prepared for what the engine can throw at it and it reins things in in an instant. Even in non-dynamic mode, the rear end steps out slightly but then comes back into line before you know it, leaving you looking and feeling like something of a hero.

What your waiting for?

What you waiting for?

Handling is point-to-point fantastic, especially in Dynamic mode, and you’ll soon forget that you’re in what’s ultimately an executive saloon on steroids. What’s quite surprising is how civilised the ride is when you’re not setting lap-times and you just want to get home in comfort. The revised suspension is a fairly considerable 100% stiffer than a standard XF, and those 20” wheels don’t look like they were designed with wafting in mind, yet the R-S is no bone-shaker and even negotiating speed-humps doesn’t result in the grimace-inducing sound of bodywork on tarmac that you might expect.

In a company with a history of fast saloons like Jaguar, the title of ‘fastest ever’ holds a large volume of water. At a shade under £80K, it’s not cheap – over £6K more than the more powerful M5. The question is, would the M5 make you smile as often as the R-S? Somehow, I doubt it.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Jaguar XFR-S, 5.0l V8 Supercharged, Transmission – 8 spd auto, Layout – Front engine, RWD, Power – 550bhp, Torque – 680Nm, Emissions – 270g/km CO2, Economy – 24.4 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 186mph limited, Acceleration – 4.4s 0-60mph, Price – £79,995 OTR, £81,795 as tested

For full details, go to; http://www.jaguar.co.uk/jaguar-range/xf/xf-models/xfr-s.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

Bentley Continental GTC V8 – Driven and Reviewed

Bentley Continental GTC V8 frontOf Continents – Just take the name of the Bentley Continental in its literal form, and one gets an undeniable sense of the ethos behind this large GT, which has been a massive success story for Bentley since its launch in 2003. Things have changed a little though.

Having developed an all new V8 in conjunction with Audi, prospective customers have had the option for a couple of years now to opt for a 4.0l, twin-turbo engine under that substantial bonnet, as an alternative to the 6.0l W12 available since launch. But why bother? Yes, it’s a very clever engine, seamlessly sending four of its eight cylinders into ‘sleep’ mode when not required, and yes, it’s a whopping 40% more economical than the full-fat derivative, apparently able to return a not-too-shabby 26mpg on the combined cycle. But, admirable as they are, I can’t see either of those reasons being sufficient to tempt someone with £140K + to spend on their GT, to forego the W, and opt for the V.

V8 models are distinguished by their '8' shaped exhaust tips

V8 models are distinguished by their ‘8’ shaped exhaust tips

But maybe they should; You see, what the V8 loses in displacement – 33.3%, doesn’t correlate directly with the power at the driver’s disposal – 500bhp vs 567bhp. Consequently, performance isn’t found lacking either; 0-60mph is still dispatched in 4.7, losing just 0.3 seconds, and top speed drops from 195mph to 187mph – anyone who says they genuinely need that extra 8mph is lying.

Hang on a minute here though; The V8 GT doesn’t need anyone to make excuses for what it loses to its big brother, that’s not what this review is about; what the V8 gains over the W12 is what’s important.

GT3 upgrade not yet available for road-going models.....shame

GT3 upgrade not yet available for road-going models……..shame

Bentley announced in 2013 that they would be entering the Continental into GT3 racing, a series generally graced with some noticeably more lightweight offerings from the likes of Porsche and Ferrari. Stripping weight is obviously the name of this particular game, so no prizes for guessing which engine Bentley opted to equip their racer with – a modified version of this road-going V8.

Bentley V8 engineI’ve been known to champion the ‘less is more’ school of thinking for sometime, and I’m convinced that this Bentley tows the party line. It’s not exactly featherweight but the reduction in nose-weight the V8 offers over the W12 is undeniably noticeable, especially when it’s guiding a 3 tonne car around some typically British B-roads. The whole sensation is somehow less intimidating, with the car feeling more inclined to encourage pushing on through the bends, not backing off. Slip the ‘box into the inevitable ‘S’ mode and things get even more stimulating; if you don’t fancy changing gear yourself, via either the chunky paddles or sequential-style stick, the ZF 8spd will hang onto gears for longer, keeping revs higher and therefore response from the accelerator more instant. Less GT, more weekend toy.

Bentley Contintental GTC roof upThe more observant amongst you will have noticed that this model is the GTC (I won’t explain what the ‘C’ stands for), and, if anything, it lends itself even more to the V8 than the coupe does. Bentley were evidently concentrating on road-manners and handling when the GTC was conceived – whichever engine one opts for comes complete with the accolade of being the stiffest convertible in the world. Coupled with the fact that this, like 99% of Continentals, sports permanent 4wd, it surely makes sense, therefore, to take advantage of this torsional rigidity and grip, and grace it with a lighter, more useable engine.

It’s a well-known fact that Britain is one of the most prominent consumers of convertibles in Europe and I think I may have just worked out why; It’s certainly not to take advantage of the glorious weather we’re blessed with – maybe we’re a nation of petrol-heads who relish the opportunity to hear the dulcet tunes coming from our car’s exhausts. If that sounds like a theory you could subscribe to, you’ll just love this Continental. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the song the W12 plays, but even in a Bentley, nothing beats the drama of a big V8. Coupled with the optional sports exhaust (£1,860), it reverberates and bellows in a way that the slightly woofly W12 can only dream of. Anyone who opts for the GTC V8 will be praying for balmy weather, if only to grace their own eardrums with this distinctive chorus.

Carbon Ceramic brakes: Squeaky

Carbon Ceramic brakes: Squeaky

Speaking of optional extras and the noises they make, that brings me round conveniently to the carbon ceramic brakes, a £10,405 option on our test car. I understand entirely why this could prove to be a popular option on the Continental GT; at nearly 3 tonnes, it’s not exactly flighty and at the kinds of speeds it’s capable of, you’re going to want all the stopping power you can get, without the dreaded fade. Just be aware though, there’s no escaping the fact that until they’re up to temperature, carbon brakes are noisy, and not in a good way. This isn’t a problem at all for the inhabitants when the roof’s up, but drop it down to soak up some rays and the characteristic squeals and squeaks soon become something of an irritant. I’ve driven this car with the standard, silent brakes and I don’t recall any buttock-clenching near misses because it failed to slow down; I’d therefore give some serious consideration as to whether you absolutely need the upgrade, or whether your £10k would be better spent elsewhere on the voluminous Bentley options catalogue.

Bentley Continental GTC interiorUltimately, there’s no escaping that the Continental is a Grand Tourer, whichever roof or engine it comes with, and it’s therefore essential that it fulfils the criteria that this tag warrants. If you want your touring to be done with the wind in your hair, you may have to pack a little lighter than in the fixed-head model as boot space isn’t as cavernous as one may have hoped (235 litres). The rear seats could also prove a tad on the small side for adults if some significant mileage is attempted, this is all due to the space being taken up by a 90l fuel tank, a 4wd system and the need for somewhere to stow a roof.

Bentley Continental Diamond stitch seatsOn the other hand, the levels of comfort on offer from the front seats are second to none. Even with 21” wheels filling the arches, the ride is never jarring, whichever one of the four suspension settings is selected. The seats are what you’d expect from the likes of Bentley; neck warmers are provided for our potentially disappointing climate, and they’re infinitely adjustable. A feature that stands out for me, though, is the massage function. Normally just a source of irritation, the way one’s back is kneaded and manipulated is genuinely pleasurable, I can honestly say I’ve never said that about this function before.

Bentley Continental GTC V8 sideWith the Continental GTC, Bentley have created a car that has little in the way of competition and when this happens, complacency is an easy trap to fall into. By adding the V8 to the range, they’ve not only increased the time between trips to the pumps, they’ve offered another dimension to the whole driving experience.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications;  Bentley Continental GTC V8, Engine – 4.0l twin-turbo petrol V8, Transmission – 8 spd auto, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 500 bhp, Torque – 660Nm @ 1700rpm, Economy – 25.9mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 187mph, Emissions – 254g/km CO2, Acceleration – 4.7s 0-60mph, Price – £152,900 OTR, £195,270 as tested.

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


Jaguar XKR-S Convertible – First Drive

Jaguar XKR-S Convertible in Red

Jaguar XKR-S Convertible

121mm, or 4.73 inches in old money if you prefer. That was the average rainfall in Britain for April 2012, nearly double the expected monthly amount.  The more mathematically minded amongst you will have already calculated that this equates to 4.033mm per day, doesn’t sound like much does it? I can assure you that this insignificant sounding amount felt like a monsoon as it pounded on my windscreen whilst I was wending my merry way southwards on the M6, cursing my luck and fervently glancing skywards, searching for that small shaft of light that might result in some slightly less inclement weather.

The reason for my unrealistic optimism was that on this particular day, I was being given the opportunity to road-test the all new Jaguar XKR-S Convertible, better still; I would be able to perform a back-to-back test with its fixed roof sibling to gain a true insight into what differences exist between the two.

Jaguar XKR-S in blue

Jaguar XKR-S Coupe

Having driven the XKR-S hardtop previously, I deemed it only fair that I give the convertible the first chance to deliver that ‘wow’ factor that rarely fails to be administered when driving cars of this nature and it didn’t disappoint. Aside the obvious lack of a metal roof on one model, the interiors are identical. A blend of traditional high grade leather, huge swathes of carbon fibre and some tastefully designed ultra-modern switchgear  are the order of the day on both cars but the convertible has the privilege of encouraging a large grin to appear across my face first. There are many neat little touches in the cabin that are comprehensively overshadowed by these car’s performance but someone, somewhere will have put a lot of time, energy and money into them so they shouldn’t be overlooked. Not least of these features is the ‘stop/start’ button that senses when the key is nearby and emits an eerie, blood red glow to the rhythm of a heartbeat. What better way to cross the divide between an inanimate lump of machinery and a living, breathing creature than to actually give it a pulse?  Interestingly, the XKR-S differs from much of the Jaguar range by persisting with traditional mechanical dials, I assume that this is either a weight saving measure or a way of reinforcing the very nature of the model, function over form.

Having depressed the irresistible start button, the 5.0 litre, supercharged V8 awakens with a somewhat startled yelp that settles into a deep, mellow thrum. Audibility is a large part of the attraction of a performance car for me and although the XKR-S convertible isn’t exactly quiet, I’m almost disappointed that the high quality fabric roof does such an impressive job of keeping noise intrusion to a minimum. In fact, the majority of engine noise is not entering the cabin from roof level, it seems to be coming from below, giving the definite impression that the active exhaust system is routed through the base of the driver’s seat, not an approach that I’d be averse to if I’m honest.

Driving Torque drives the Jaguar XKR-S Convertible

Jaguar XKR-S Convertible – roof down

Time to get reacquainted with what 550bhp and 501lb ft torque feels like and as I tentatively pull out onto a drenched B road, it all comes rushing back, literally. Even left in ‘relatively sane’ mode, the acceleration is brutal with a claimed 0-60mph time of 4.2s, all being driven by the rear wheels as they competently scrabble for grip on a very unhelpful surface. The 6 speed ‘box is so subtle between gears that when coupled with such oodles of torque, it’s really anyone’s guess what gear you’re actually in but when corners are approaching as quickly as they do in this car, you have very little time to ponder such issues.

Just as I’m giving up all hope of ever getting the roof down, I have a ‘hallelujah’ moment and the rain
eases as I approach a convenient layby. The Jaguar takes 16 seconds to rid itself of its roof but unfortunately, this is a long time in British weather and by the time we’re topless, an annoying drizzle has commenced. I ponder for a while just how much of the £103,000 list price would be obliterated if the leather interior got a little soggy and then decide to throw caution to the wind and go for it. That £6000 price hike over the hard top is instantly forgotten as the engine note escalates into a satisfying bellow with nothing to mute the noise between exhaust and eardrum; it isn’t too long before that pleasure is taken away though. It obviously doesn’t take much time to reach 50mph in this car and as I accelerate on past it, my aural joy is replaced by a very normal buffeting wind noise. Even with the wind deflector deployed, it’s a strain to hear the exhaust and the whole experience becomes paradoxical: More speed = Less pleasure!

As the drizzle intensifies, the sensible side of me takes over and I spot another location up the road to weatherproof the Jag. As the speed decreases and the gearbox follows suit, something magical happens that could easily justify the extra premium of the convertible on its own. In complete contrast to the XK range’s somewhat gentlemanly image, the clever exhaust pops and spits pockets of fuel, resulting in a hugely satisfying cacophony, reminiscent of an old-school American V8. This noise should definitely not be muted by a roof.

In full sport mode, coupled with dynamic settings on and manual gear-changes selected, this car initially feels as fast and direct as anything I’ve driven, including its hard top sibling. It’s only after a few minutes that I wonder whether it’s just my imagination or has something been lost in the translation from fixed-head to drop-head? On such a precise piece of machinery it’s hard to detect any slightly rounded edges at all but thankfully I’m in the coupe next to draw a true comparison.

Jaguar XKR-S Convertible in red

Jaguar XKR-S Convertible – roof back up!

According to the facts and figures, this XKR-S coupe that I now find myself in should present exactly the same driving feel as the convertible I’ve just exited. They somehow both weigh the same and, according to Jaguar, the performance doesn’t alter even a smidgen from one car to the other. The way a car actually feels bears little relation to its facts and figures however so the only answer is to get hands on in the coupe.

That glorious V8 howl is still very noticeable with a solid roof, whether this is done on purpose or is simply a by-product of removing sound deadening in order to lose weight, I don’t know. Either way, it encapsulates the cabin and unlike the convertible, it shows no signs of abating at higher speeds due to wind noise.

Out on the open roads the XKR-S coupe initially feels absolutely identical to the convertible which truly is testament to the engineers at Jaguar as they battle with the laws of physics to eliminate the flex that naturally occurs when a car loses its roof. It’s only when the coupe’s settings are turned up to the max that physics begins to win. The car is so beautifully balanced and just seems to respond immediately and exactly to the driver’s every whim, inspiring previously unknown confidence as you  point that long bonnet in the direction you want to travel and the rest of the car follows – very, very quickly. It’s barely noticeable at first but after a few quick corners, it becomes more apparent that this car was designed from day one with a roof in mind and unfortunately, some changes in weight distribution must occur if this vital piece of bodywork is dispensed with.
It’s obviously no slouch but when faced with this competition, the convertible’s miniscule flaws become apparent. But let’s be straight here, when I say miniscule, that’s exactly what I mean. Unless you actually owned both cars and planned on driving them back to back, the experience of driving the convertible would satisfy even the most enthusiastic of drivers, day in, day out, come rain or shine.

By Ben Harrington

XKR-S Specifications                                       XKR-S Convertible Specifications

Cost – £97,000                                                        Cost – £103,000

Engine – 5.0L V8 Supercharged                      Engine – 5.0L V8 Supercharged

Power – 550bhp                                                      Power – 550bhp

Torque – 502 LB FT                                               Torque – 502 LB FT

Economy – 23.0mpg                                             Economy – 23.0mpg

Emissions – 292g/km                                            Emissions – 292g/km

Acceleration – 0-60mph 4.2s                            Acceleration – 0-60mph 4.2s

Top Speed – 186mph                                              Top Speed – 186mph

Weight – 1753kg                                                       Weight – 1753kg

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