CarDealer. Issue 21 | December 2009 | CarDealerMag.co.uk | £3.50
[ SALES FIGURES: October’s new car registrations p65 ]
Driving the future of the motor trade
RoadofTest 2009 the
Mitsubishi EVO X
Ford Focus RS
Jaguar XFR Nissan GT-R
Audi R8 V10
Our favourite cars of the year HEAD-TO-HEAD FOR THE FIRST TIME
I n a s s o c i at i o n w i t h
Bangers 4 Ben II Runners and riders for our annual charity extravaganza
2009 Ewards results special Are you among the winners?
Road Test of t h e Y ear By James Baggott and Richard Aucock
Ford Focus RS Price: £26,395 Engine: 2.5-litre turbo 5cyl Power: 301bhp, 440Nm 0-60mph: 5.9s Ins: 19 CO2: 225g/km
Mitsubishi Evo FQ-400 Price: £49,999 Engine: 2.0-litre turbo 4cyl Power: 403bhp, 524Nm 0-60mph: 3.8s Ins: 20 CO2: N/A
22 | CarDealerMag.co.uk
Jaguar XFR Price: £59,900 Engine: 5.0-litre V8 s’charged Power: 510bhp, 625Nm 0-60mph: 4.7s Ins: 20 CO2: 292g/km
od Christmas, if there’s one event in the calendar we look forward to more than any other it’s this: Our Road Test of the Year. We use it as an excuse to gather together the cars that have set our world’s alight in the past 12 months and pitch them head to head in an attempt to find our favourite. Some of them we’ve all driven, some just one of us has experienced before and others were victors in road tests we’ve produced in the past year. But all of them are here because we love them – and because we couldn’t pass up another opportunity for a blat around Wales in them. So, to our picks of the year. Firstly the superstar of the pack – the Audi R8 V10. The 5.2-litre engine is the jewel in its crown, producing 518bhp and 530Nm of torque. It’s a slightly detuned version of the same unit used in the Lamborghini Gallardo and sounds incredible. Costing £99,580, before you’ve added extras, it’s the most expensive car here by quite some margin. But it’s not the maddest. No, that accolade rests on the shoulders of the Nissan GT-R. Packed with more technology than NASA, the first deliveries of the incredible machine were made by a select network of Nissan dealers this year. Yes, it was only March
that the first cars found their new homes – it feels like it’s been around ages. Its twin turbo, 3.8-litre V6 packs an almighty punch with 485bhp feeling more like 1,000bhp. It’s clever like Carol Vorderman but extremely scary too. Jaguar’s XF-R is the stately offering in our five-some. It might look somewhat reserved in this company, but don’t let that fool you. Those cuts and grooves in the bodywork and the fact it has ‘Supercharged’ emblazoned on pretty much every surface reveal there’s something rather sinister under the bonnet. That being a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 producing 510bhp and an incredible 625Nm of torque. This is one angry Jaguar, that’s for sure. WITCHCRAFT Then there’s the £50,000 Mitsubishi Evo X. Yes, that’s right, £50k – but this isn’t any old Evo. This is the one that’s had the turbo turned up all the way to 11 – the FQ-400. We all know what the FQ stands for by now, but it’s never been more accurate than when it was stuck on the back of this carbon-fibred beast. Somehow, probably by witchcraft, the maker has squeezed 403bhp out of the 2.0-litre turbo-charged powerplant. That’s enough to make it the second
fastest car to 60mph here after the GT-R – completing the sprint in just 3.8 seconds. And lastly, there’s one of our stand-out cars of the year: The Focus RS. In the summer it saw off the Subaru Impreza STI and Megane R26.R in our triple test, so we had to get it back again to take on the big boys. It might be the slowest here on paper, but the 301bhp 2.5-litre turbo-charged lump is by no means pedestrian. What’s more, on the twisty Welsh B-roads, it’ll be more than a match for some of the more powerful cars here. Our test takes place over four days in late October. Based at the stunning Best Western Falcondale Mansion Hotel near Lampeter, the plan is to venture out each day and enjoy the cars – swapping as we go so we each get as much time in them as possible. Helping out at this year’s event are deputy editor Richard Aucock, who has helped to write this test, the mag’s commercial manager Duncan Chappell, and old friends who you may remember from the first Bangers4BEN rally, Dan Harris and baby Baggott, Will. Five cars with a combined 2,217bhp, five drivers with an average reading age of 12, and four days of Welsh roads. Could be messy… >
Audi R8 V10 Price: £99,580 Engine: 5.2-litre V10 Power: 518bhp, 530Nm 0-60mph: 3.9s Ins: 20 CO2: 327g/km
Nissan GT-R Price: £59,400 Engine: 3.8-litre twin turbo V6 Power: 485bhp, 587Nm 0-60mph: 3.5s Ins: 20 CO2: 298g/km
CarDealerMag.co.uk | 23
Audi R8 V10
Lamborghini drama, but German reliability – it’s got to be the thinking man’s supercar
lip road on to the M27, and it’s my first chance to mash the throttle. In an instant the sound changes. Gone is the gentle thrum from the V10 as the revs rapidly rise. This is an Audi like no other – with an engine like no other. The following pack is caught unawares as the R8 digs in, hunkers down and attacks the horizon. It’s the start of a special relationship Tony Blair would be proud of. At every given opportunity it’s a necessity to make that V10 sing – junctions take on a new meaning, every chance to stop is a pleasure. Why? Because it means pulling away again – and the chance to ignite more petrol behind my left shoulder to create a soundtrack that’d win the X Factor. Hands down. The R8 is totally intoxicating. The 518bhp powerplant – a detuned version of the same V10 that makes an appearance in the Lamborghini Gallardo – is a masterpiece. It’s a hugely flexible lump, on gnarly country lanes it’ll pull hard in fourth, meaning you can be lazy with the gearbox. Not that you’d want to be. Our test model came with the six-speed opengate manual shifter, that adds to the supercar drama. Just slotting the car into first is an occasion, and as you click-click your way through the box the supercar feeling is cemented even further. The gearbox is great to use too; direct, slick, but with a solid mechanical feel it’s preferable in my eyes to the S-tronic auto option. Long motorway slogs are a surprising pleasure in the R8. The seats are comfortable, the driving position relaxed and the V10 flexible enough for rapid overtakes without dropping a gear. But where the R8 really excels is when the roads get silly-string wiggly. Our route was dictated by a TomTom sat nav unit that was wayward at best. This meant routes could take dramatic unforeseen turns for the worse – from well-surfaced dual carriageway to cow strewn single lane C-road in an instant. That being said, it had an uncanny ability to find entertaining stretches. The best was the last road to the hotel. The A482 out of Llandovery was a stunning stretch of Isle of Mann TT-esque national speed limit goodness, that made the last 16 miles of every day an event. And it was here where the R8 really shone. Dancing on the autumnal damp mulch that littered the route, the Audi found grip where the others span, conjuring up get-up-and-go that saw its LED headlights pierce through the forest well ahead of the others. For a £100,000 supercar to be this easy to drive is testament to the achievement Audi has made with its range-topper. It’s no more threatening than a TT, just as manageable and oh so capable. But make no mistake, performance is devastating: 60mph is reached in 3.9 seconds; that’s the third fastest here to the benchmark, but you’d never know. Not once is the Audi left trailing. The cars on RTOTY are so closely matched in the performance stakes – in our mere mortal hands none are getting away from one another any time soon. But the area where the R8 really is head and shoulders above the competition is in the looks department. At least in my opinion. It might have been around since 2006, but it’s still a true head turner. Fellow RTOTY drivers weren’t all convinced – it seems the silver slab sides still split opinion. But from every angle the proportions are perfect, the glass-topped boot lid that exposes the beautiful V10 is a killer feature, and the rear end is one of my favourites ever to grace the roads. I spend most of the first day playing in the R8 and soon realise the rest of the team are going to struggle to prise the keys out of my hands any time soon. Unless of course I’m swapping them for the GT-R… [JB]
DEALER VIEW Steve Russell Poole Audi, operations director The R8 V10 has only strengthened the appeal of the R8 range. Every test-drive has impressed, and the extra power and specification of the V10 has attracted some customers from the Ferrari/Lamborghini market to look at
24 | CarDealerMag.co.uk
the car in a new light. Customers genuinely have been clamouring for it. We could have sold our demonstrator several times over. And there’s yet more to come. The R8 has been a fantastic addition to the Audi range – but we can’t wait for the Spyder next year!
‘Dancing on the autumnal damp mulch that littered the route, the Audi found grip where the others span.’
DEALER VIEW Richard Stokoe Benfield Nissan Newcastle Customers are generally blown away by the car. It has totally exceeded their expectations. Our demonstrator is right at the back of the showroom, so people have to walk past plenty of cars. As it tends to be businessmen who
are buying the GT-R, we’ve sold quite a few other Nissan models to them in addition – they see the models, and reckon they’d be canny cars for those working for them, too. Since April we’ve delivered 50 GT-Rs, and will put another five on the road in November alone. Our next big batch arrives in January – we can’t wait…
Computer game fantasy turns real world dream car, but dare we ask, is the mighty Nissan too much?
irst stint in the Nissan and it’s wetter than an otter’s pocket outside. There’s so much rain lashing the Brecon Beacons, rivers of water are running across the tarmac, making the going frankly treacherous. And to be brutally honest, I’m scared. The Nissan GT-R is ridiculously fast. It’s like riding a high powered superbike, but with four wheels, comfort and spades more safety. Acceleration really is comparable with something like a Suzuki GSX-R1000. With a 0-60mph sprint time of 3.5s, it’s easier to draw comparisons with twowheeled counterparts than most cars. The rush, the feeling in your stomach as the turbos kick in and the speed at which scenery melts into a Salvador Dahli blur in your perhipheral vision is akin to every motorbike I’ve ever ridden. It’s this awesome power that’s hard to fathom. Your brain simply needs reconfiguring to a whole new world of fast when you take your seat in the GT-R. Yes, the Evo and R8 here aren’t giving away much on paper – but when you’re sat at the top table issuing the orders in the GTR it feels another planet quicker than its rivals. It’s the first car in months that has actually made me utter expletives out loud, uncontrollably, the first time I initiated full throttle. Which is, in actual fact, unadvisable. You see in the Nissan there are very few places you can actually give it full beans. You seem to be constantly feathering the fast pedal, instead, never really using all its reserves of power. Stirring emotions you didn’t know you had is a 3.8-litre, twin turbo-charged V6. It produces 485bhp and 587Nm of torque. It sounds utterly savage as the revs increase, but it’s not dramatic or as Hollywood as the Audi. This car is about purpose, and there’s a single one of those – getting you places fast. Steering is wonderfully precise. It’s weighty too and the chunky wheel is great to grip. The paddle shift semi-auto gearbox is incredible. In auto mode it fires up the box in seconds – potter around town and you’re in sixth by the time your reach 60mph. But flick it over to self-shift mode and start using those paddles and it comes into its own. Cogs are swapped in the blink of an eye, only adding to the sense of drama as the world goes all melty. There’s little doubt the GT-R is clever. You need a degree in button pushing to work out exactly what everything does in the cabin. Frankly I found it all a little overwhelming. But the display, which cycles through everything from lateral G-force to the graphs showing your use of throttle and brake, is captivating. There are a huge number of variations you can choose from that’ll display all sorts of data, that owners can bore their mates with in the pub. ‘Do you know I’ve spent exactly 11.25 minutes at 12 per cent throttle for the duration of the last 5.78 miles?’ Really? Shut up and get the beers in… The bore factor of this car is massive. If you can tear yourself away from the buttons and data for a second, and simply sit back and enjoy the ride, the GT-R is mind blowing. Drive it sensibly, or even half sensibly, and it’s devastatingly quick even when you don’t intend it to be. Once you’ve got over the sheer size of the car – it’s 5-Series big, and wide too – it’s capable in a way you could never imagine. Treat it with respect and it’s enjoyable, but you can’t help but get the feeling you’re only half of the picture. Driving aids are countless and sophisticated. And I can testify to that – on wet Welsh roads, knowing there was a Stephen Hawking-rivalling brain doing the saves for me was good to know. So how do I rate it? Well, for the money – £59,400 in the Ultimate Black Edition spec we tested – there is nothing that comes close. The GT-R is as exciting to drive as a Caterham R500 yet as comfortable as a 7-Series. It’s more practical than a 911, it’s one of the fastest road cars in the world and it doesn’t have to be used like the weapon it is all the time. The only problem I can see is it lacks drama. The looks are understated and although it attracted some attention on RTOTY, it doesn’t have the head-turning appeal of a Porsche. That being said, it could be one of the reasons many people will buy one…[JB] >
CarDealerMag.co.uk | 25
Is a 510bhp supercharged model enough to shake off the tweed jacket image?
4AM start to meet the boys over in Wales for RTOTY. It was dark, cold and miserable. Hard? Nope – I had a Jaguar XF-R outside to do it in. Indeed, I’d enjoyed it all weekend. And was so seriously in love, I didn’t even bother cooking toast. Coffee in a travel mug, banana, and on it. This car really does do it all. It’s posh, great-looking, flash and a head-turner. It has a genuinely lavish interior, packed with character. It rides well, is near-silent when you want it to be, and cruises with nothing short of brilliance. The stereo is properly incredible. Seats, superb. Dials, works of art. The ‘R’ in its name was already for ‘Richard’ when I fired it up early doors. Light, the light, we’re losing the light, I knew the photographer would cry. That was my excuse for getting there as quickly as possible. Welsh roads then, and no traffic: my goodness, the Jag just kept on getting better. It’s blindingly fast, this 510bhp, 155mph supercharged 5.0-litre warrior. All the fives? Not if you’re talking 0-60mph. That takes just 4.7 seconds. The supercharger means it responds instantly, with utter effortlessness. It’s ridiculously desirable. Sounds cultured like you wouldn’t believe at high revs, too – which you hit imperceptibly, courtesy of a gorgeous six-speed auto. Easily made it, with plenty of time: what’s more, it went on to tailgate everything there, without fuss. Forget the rear
26 | CarDealerMag.co.uk
doors: this thing is a coupe at heart. The spec sheet suggests good things, with its CATS active dampers, grippy 20inch rubber and the purest drivetrain layout on show here. But what it can’t reveal is the incredible finesse that’s gone into development. No, the firm instead leaves the promotional shots of the car to this: every other one shows it going beautifully sideways. Such is the trust, faith and warm feeling it instills, it’s not hard to see why. I drove the GT-R. Went back to the Jag and was even more staggered by its crisp, responsive steering, its fine balance and remarkable ability to seemingly generate the grip of the GT-R despite driving two wheels less. From the Audi to this? It wasn’t feeling any less special. Evo to this? Really, there’s no comparison… Spending most of the time in the XF-R gave me an outsider’s view of the event, from what I’d already decided was the best seat in the house. It’s a ‘me’ car, this ’ere Jag, and Lordy, how I was reluctant to give it back. Bold, British and brilliant, Jaguar has created a masterpiece. [RA] > DEALER VIEW Max Izen RA Creamer & Sons Building on the success of the current XK model, the XF is key to Jaguar’s strategy going forward. We will, incidentally, see the next phase of this strategy in the months ahead with the launch of the eagerly awaited new XJ.
We have seen a large spike in conquest business from competitors BMW, Audi and Mercedes Benz. Why wouldn’t we? The diesels are proving popular – but for some, only the XFR’s 5.0-litre supercharged petrol engine will do. More and more customers are coming out of the M series BMWs into the XFR and it’s easy to see why.
Turbo turned up, carbon-fibre liberally applied and huge subwoofer in the boot – it could only be an Evo...
heard the Mitsubishi coming before I even saw it. What’s that – the booming exhaust? The tish of the turbo? The bombastic, brutal bwroarp of its 403bhp 2.0-litre turbo hand grenade (aka engine)? No. It was the clatter from the steering when you put it on full lock. Yes, this particular model had seen a hard, hard life. And is it any wonder. Ignoring the ridiculous wings and spoilers, I stepped into the four-door saloon, merely grunted in acknowledgement of the proper race car style seats, didn’t even give the plain dash a second glance, and turned the key. Then, swore, took it out, reset the immobiliser and tried again. Result? Pure… roughness. The sort of roughness that, how shall we put it, after a night on the beers, sounds just the job. No commitments, no emotional connections, just get on and do it. The Evo ain’t gonna win any TV singing contests, but for some Xrated motoring enjoyment, it’s proper pfwhoar. Everything is no nonsense: the ride, the gearchange, the engine response, the turn-in, the way you drive it. Wonder why these things always get driven pretty quickly? It’s because there seems to be no other way once you’re gripping the firm, well-shaped steering wheel, double-taking at the silly speeds the silly speedo dial scale compression hides. It’s stupidly fast, of course. All this chat of the GT-R and R8, yet all the time, there was a blimmin’ four-door saloon stuck to their rears. Like them, the Mitsubishi is four-wheel-drive, but here, the tuning is very much on a rally car
28 | CarDealerMag.co.uk
driver’s thinking. So, whereas they track neatly and grippily through corners (well, fairly neatly, in the GT-R’s case), the Mitsubishi just begs to be chucked in and chuck you sideways. It’s got yaw control, permanently-shuffling four-wheel-drive distribution, space-age sensors and the mindset of a nutter. C’MON THEN! Think you’re hard? Prove it? C’MOOOOOONNN!! Take me on! So, you do. Hold me shirt… Thing is, this is when the bad boy reveals its sensitive side. There’s an unlikely delicacy to the steering, for example, which is jam-packed with feel and has precision measured in millimetres, never mind inches. That’s not all. Like discovering Grant Mitchell collects stamps, you also discover truly impressive rough-road suspension absorbency, a real talent for finding forward traction in situations where the GT-R’s tail is wagging – even the engine, noisy and booming as it is, delivers its power in a pleasing way. The classically-trained raver, Mitsubishi’s monster has more depth than you may think. Still wasn’t enough to make it our favourite, but we respected it nonetheless. And when there was a need for a quick dash to the chip shop, to get some greasy fried stuff to satisfy, it really was the only choice… [RA] >
DEALER VIEW Dave Fox Grosvenor Garage Kent All buyers of the Evo are interested solely in the performance – it’s their foremost reason for buying. Customers buy into the name, as they know it means searing acceleration and handling. To be honest, they know more about
the car than we do sometimes. Enthusiasts forums help foster great loyalty in the cars; the information flow means dealers really have to keep on their toes. They’re certainly all aware of the FQ-400’s existence… Enthusiasts will buy the cars and use them hard, rather than frequently chopping them in for the latest line.
‘The classically-trained raver, Mitsubishi’s monster has more depth than you may think.’
CarDealerMag.co.uk | 29
Ford Focus RS
Winner of our triple test earlier this year and curse of the editor who bought an ST, here’s why the RS deserves its place on our Road Test of the Year
ames’ youngest brother Will helped out on driving duties for Road Test of the Year. Naturally, as the youngest, he was given the lowest-powered motor. Just 300bhp for you then, Will. Short straw? You wouldn’t have been saying that if you’d have been me, 200bhp to the good, struggling to keep up. Dunc would say it’s because I’m a girl. I’d say it’s because the Focus is so amazingly good. Even in this exalted company, it was not shown up – indeed, on the right road, it could even trade blows with the brilliant Audi. Front-wheel-drive, for example, was barely a shortcoming, such is the mastery of those who tuned it. It points sharply, it turns in, it grips, and it puts its power down well. And then it explodes forward again. Our good editor felt genuine pain every time he drove the RS – because he owns the ST version of the Focus, which also uses this engine. In that, it puts out 225bhp, for more than enough power. You’d think. But the way the RS pushes out 301bhp really is something else again. Okay, the seats are a bit high. The dashboard a bit too 1.6 TDCi 90 Style. The rear vortex thing in the bumper a bit too loud. But otherwise the Focus RS is a sure-fire winner – with the added benefit of being the most practical car of the lot, too. On Road Test of the Year, you tend to have a lot of kit to lug about. You stand no chance in the Audi, struggle in the Nissan, and even see compromises in the saloon duo
30 | CarDealerMag.co.uk
Mitsubishi and Jag. No danger in the fantastic fast Ford. Fold the rear seats, chuck it in, and you’re away. All ready to chuck away all the broken bits you’ve destroyed with cornering G at the end. It likes a drink along with the rest of them, but which supercar boasted the biggest car dealer network, the most far-reaching aftersales support, the full insight of appearing on systems, networks and listings the country over? None other than the best-selling car maker’s best-performing new car. We always like to put in a bargain choice, to keep our feet on the ground. Trouble is, the Ford is so good, keeping its wheels on the ground became the bigger challenge. You could get four of them for the price of the Audi – perfect. That’s one each, then, and wee Will in the passenger seat of his bro’s, in time-honoured tradition. If only we could find him. Will? Where’s he gone? Hang on: Isn’t that a flat-out five-pot blare I hear, bouncing off the Welsh mountains… [RA] > DEALER VIEW John Clapp Vospers Ford Exeter I’m not that big a fan of front-wheeldrive in performance cars, but I’ve never experienced one as good as this. The drive is fantastic, so very capable – I was taken out on a high-speed passenger run at a circuit, and was amazed at how tenacious it was. It’s extremely well engineered and special.
I’d say 40 per cent of the customers for it are coming from the ST model. They appreciate the bits that you can’t see that help make it so good. It’s not just all about wings and spoilers: Ford has worked on every detail throughout the RS to make it so able. There’s been no compromise. If the ST is a dolphin, says Ford, this is a Shark. That’s not marketing babble, but sums the car up really well.
The Verdict P
Which of our five-some would we want on our drive? icking a winner is simple. It’s the most obvious choice and the most obvious for a reason. The Audi R8 is brilliant. In ‘standard’ V8 guise it’s a mind-blowing performance car, but with that soul-stirring V10 tucked in the back it’s a supercar to mix it with the very best. At close to £100,000 it’s the most expensive here by some way, but compare it to the supercar glitterati it should really be mixing with and it’s a relative bargain. And worth every single one of those pounds. The Nissan takes second place. It’s an amazing piece of engineering, stupidly quick and exciting to drive – but for some it might be a little too much. Its £60k price tag is certainly attractive in bang for buck terms though. The Jaguar takes third. The XF-R is powerful and involving, but still statesman
like in ride quality and luxurious in feel. The XF really does move the game on for Jag and with a performance halo car like this at the top of the tree, things can only get better. Now all we want is for them to put a new E-Type into production… The Focus RS battles its way into fourth – and not just because the editor wishes he bought one. The fact it was the least powerful here with 100bhp less than the Evo and 220bhp less than the Audi, but still impressed on the country roads is testament to the achievement Ford has made with the hot hatch. It’s a great car to drive, well built – but just a little juicy! And that leaves the Evo in last. But don’t think of that as a bad thing. Our RTOTY isn’t really a like-for-like comparison test – more of a collection of our favourite cars – and if the FQ-400 was up against its contemporary from Subaru it’d win hands down. It’s just that in this company its raw driving experience, slightly tired appearance and feel saw it slip to the bottom. So there you have it, our completely unscientific, but hugely enjoyable RTOTY. See you same time, same place, next year… [CD] Thanks to... Best Western Falcondale Mansion Hotel (01570) 422910
CarDealerMag.co.uk | 33