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LIFE WITH CARS

Turning Japanese GTR unleashed › Evo X FQ-360 on track & FQ-400 road trip


WORDS & IMAGES: PHIL ROYLE & WILL HOUGH

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ROAD Ed ,P GT-R ou hil Royle takes t of its c age for the evil badboy a blast i n the UK


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last drove Nissan’s technofest GT-R at the Race Academy, around the Nürburgring. This was a brilliant marketing idea – giving new owners the chance to drive their chosen beast from the east, on the glorious roads through the Eifel forests and around the track; to see just what sort of special animal brand they’d bought into. And, boy, was the new GT-R special... demolishing the GP Circuit, with consumate ease, wild G-forces and frankly insane speeds. And, yet, just like it’s target (almost twice the price!) rival, the Porsche 911 Turbo; whilst being supersonic on circuit, it was also civilised, comfortable, fun and easy to drive on the road – giving it the Jekyll & Hyde appeal the Nissan engineers had worked so hard to achieve. It was brilliant – setting a

new benchmark in affordable supercar performance, and trick technology, as well as that incredible 7:29.03 Green Hell lap time. The Skyline name may have been killed off, but the GT-R certainly lived up to, ney beyond, its heritage. Godzilla was back – bigger, and better than ever. The ‘Anyone. Anytime. Anywhere.’ aggro marketing campaign by Nissan summed it up perfectly. Here was a everyman, affordable (£56,000-£60,000) supercar, that could do it all; fast road, chillaxed continent crossing and banzai track action, perfectly. It was right in poncy Porsche owners’ faces – forcing them to justify why they’d spent a load more money, for a badge and an out-dated, aged Beetle. Sure, the 911 will still be the bankers’ choice, and

the purists’ paradise. And no doubt they prefer buying into an exclusive club, and paying more for the ‘privilege.’ But even they can’t deny the GT-R is a C21st superhero – with a Nordschleife lap time to match, massively updated technology (namely the C-F prop feeding into the GR6-Type dual Clutch gearbox, arguably the world’s most advanced ‘ATTESA ET-S 4WD system with its patented independently-mounted transaxle, intergrating transmission, differential and 4WD transfer box, not withstanding that monstrous 3.8-litre, 485PS, 588 Nm twin turbo V6) and genuine thrills, spills and bellyaches. A hero is born. Yay Nissan! “More important than the absolute power, is the manner in which it’s delivered,” said chief vehicle engineer, roadmagazine.co.uk


“The Nissan GT-R: Anyone. Anytime. Anywhere.”


roadmagazine.co.uk


Kazutoshi Mizuno. “The engine is very tractable and that means it’s very easy to drive, a key quality of the Nissan GT-R.” And that was the one factor – above all else that was deeply impressive; from the brilliant Bilstein suspension, three driving modes (R; high performance, Sports; normal and Comfort; road driving), 100% rear-bias 4WD, bi-

onic Brembo brakes and the stylish, Star Trek interior, with Playstation-esque multi-multi-function display screen and sounds system – that wowed me the most: It’s sheer ability to do everything brilliantly, especially the full chat stuff. Big fun. Some folk have criticised the GT-R (as they used to the Skylines) for ‘doing it all for you,’ but that’s balls.

On its limit, it’s an animal, demanding real driver skill to keep up with it. It’s a real challenge; a car you could spend years mastering – and always enjoy. I drove home from Der Ring in awe of the GT-R, and what it had done for the world of performance cars. It’s way ahead of its time, therefore, inevitably, misunderstood by many – mostly


Porsche owners, in its time. The one thing I didn’t know was how it would be to drive such a bionic beast on the cramped, Gatsoand-misery-filled roads of Blighty: Confined on a tiny island full of traffic jams and fun-sapping folk, looking at you through green eyes. The GT-R still looks great – better, meaner and moodier with time actually. It still

drives amazingly smoothly. It still impresses with its zen technology. It’s insanely fast. It handles wonderfully. It’s special everytime you charge up that muscular V6 and feel the unique propulsion from it’s magic drivetrain. It’s everything you’d ever want from a supercar, and it’s at least half the price of most of them – which presumably explains

why more and more of them fill up the paddocks of race meets; replacing the sea of 911’s of old. Despite this, I wouldn’t buy it... in the UK. There’s just no point. Germany – with the best circuit in the world and its de-restricted Autobahns – is the only place I’d live with one: Where you can unleash the beast, care-free. Shame. roadmagazine.co.uk


“Some folk have criticised the GT-R... but that’s balls”

roadmagazine.co.uk


WORDS & PICTURES: PHIL ROYLE

EVIL EVO

ROAD Ed, Phil Royle, takes the Evo X FQ-360 over 1,300 miles across Europe, to two of the best circuits ever built – Spa-Francorchamps and the Nürburgring Nordschleife, with ace, premier track company, www.RMAtrackdays.co.uk


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he Nürburgring and Spa-Francorchamps, over three, gloriously sunny Spring days, and over 1,300 miles of cross continent demolition, with the Evo X FQ-360 – life doesn’t get much better than this, does it? Not in my book anyhow. The road trip itself – going out Harwich to Hook of Holland on the overnight Stena Line ferry (see box out at end of feature), carving through Holland and across Germany, and returning Sea France Calais-Dover – is enough of an adventure, break from drab UK life and freedom and fun in itself... But, throw in three days

“Life doesn’t get much better than this, does it?” of wonderfully organised track day action on two of the world’s greatest tracks, alongside some of the best cars you could imagine, courtesy of track day supremo, Graham Clarke of the RMA, and I challenge anyone into their motors to say this is not nirvana. I’ve been attending Graham’s RMA Ring and Spa annual trips since 2006, and have always, always had an amazing time; come snow, hail, rain, or sunshine – like it was this year. They are a collection of some of the best cars, and nicest track roadmagazine.co.uk


“Out on the Green hell and Spa... it’s a real hoot to drive” day folk you could ever imagine – not withstanding the fabulous tutors RMA bring along for the ride, like Ring queen, Sabine Schmitz and mental Ring rental supremos, Jaco Velders of www. jacos-paddock.com and Ron Simons of www.rsrnurburg.com: Knowledgeable, friendly and fun. Perfection. Mitsubishi kindly loaned ROAD the Evo X FQ-360: £35,499 of Evo X, breathing more than 64 ponies than the base model, at 354 bhp and with a gutsy 363 lb ft of torque, available from 3500 rpm – netting 0-60 mph in a frightening 4.1s and ploughing on to a limited 155 mph, with its unbelievably tall fifth gear. Turbonuttertastic. Out on the Green Hell and at Spa, it’s this enormous

fifth gear and bonkers grip levels that make it a real hoot to drive. And the rear bias 4WD; encouraging turn-in-lift-off-nail it fourwheel drifts on tap. Nice! The FQ range has created some ballistic turbo nutter barges, and this 360 X is one of the best of the new breed: Instantly accessible grunt, genuine pace, fabulous steering and an astonishing ability to hunt out – and hit – apexes, time after time. The Brembo brakes and Eibach suspension tried and tested FQ combo is solid too. And the HKS/ Ralliart engine mods work a treat. The only negatives are the LCD display, which falls out with curb abuse on track and the rampant fuel consumption. Still, BIG fun. roadmagazine.co.uk


The Skelta – with its supercharged Honda Vtec and spaceframe – made it’s international track tests with RMA at Spa. And the mix of cars on track with RMA is phenomenal… as this collection shows: Gemballamodified 911 600, retro classics like this racing E-Type, a heavily re-worked Mini, a genuine 911 RSR, Ford GT40, Carerra GT, Ariel Atom S/C and Jaco Velders’ race-prepped 325i; available to hire. Track day heaven.


Getting there I took the Evo X FQ-360 two routes, by romantic sea, for this Ring and Spa road trip, to make things interesting. On the way out, I went Harwich to Hook of Holland overnight on Stena Line, www.stenaline.co.uk/ferry. The service was excellent, cabin clean showers hot, food decent (if a bit pricy), and the staff helpful. It was good to arrive a few miles north and see more of Holland too, rather than the usual blast across northern France and through Belgium, past Brussels, with its hideous traffic. On the return, Sea France offers up to 15 return crossings daily on the Dover-Calais route, on its three modern and spacious superferries. Online fares for a car and up to five passengers start at just ÂŁ25 each way. Visit www.seafrance.com or call 0871 22 22 500 to book. roadmagazine.co.uk


WORDS & PICTURES: PHIL ROYLE XXXXXXXXXXX: XXXXXXXXX


Power house

The most powerful Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution yet – the X FQ-400 – has some eyewatering figures: 403 bhp (201.7 bhp per litre!), 387 lb ft, 0-60 mph in 3.8s, 155 mph V-max and a scary £50K price tag. So, it deserved a good road and track test... to the testing rally roads of the Lake District and onto Oulton Park with Opentrack.co.uk


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he most powerful, and most be-spattered in ducts, vents, big rims, spoilers, splitters, subwoofers and carbonfibre Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution has landed – the FQ-400: All £49,995 of it! Crikey! To celebrate its epic launch – some eight years after the first special-stageeating monster Evo 1 was released, launching the turbo nutter barge rallybred revolution – ROAD thought the big, bad FQ400 deserved a decent test, over 1,000-miles from the flatlands of Norfolk, to the stunningly epic highlands of

the Lake District, returning via Oulton Park – for a track day with www.opentrack. co.uk. Perfect. First impressions upon delivery of the Evo X FQ-400 are iffy. Or is that chavvy? It looks like it’s had every possible appendix added to it, in order to justify it’s massive price tag and differentiate it from ‘regular’ FQ’s, if such a thing exists. Opening the boot, to throw in the weekend break luggage breaks my heart... there’s a massive Rockford Fosgate ‘sub’ in there. Oh. My. God. NO! Surely not? Aren’t cars like this sup-

posed to be about performance, not bass lines? The space-age, obligatory in all Japanese pocket rockets these days, LCD cockpit display is just as bad... displaying such useless (and massively inaccurate) information, such as an altimeter (sure, it’s FQ, but, it doesn’t actually fly) and a frankly baffling array of graphic equalising. At least the Sat Nav works well though, and the trip computer – displaying your depressing fuel ‘economy’ figures and range for you to cry about real time – is painfully accurate.


Moans aside, the overlogo’d bucket seats are not only comfortable, but essentially supportive. This, as we found out on the awesome A684 Northallerton to Kendal via Sedbergh uberroad and Lakes cult classics, like the A592 Kirkstone Pass, epic Nordschleifeesque A5074 Lyth Valley road and A593 and A5084 alongside Lake Coniston, is darn useful – given the manic levels of big boost thrust and cornering Gforces this bionic FQ-400 brutally delivers. There is no doubt this is the fastest Evo to date, and

arguably the best handling, thanks to its 20mm extra track width and 30mm ride height drop on Eibach suspension. The handling is sublime... offering deadly sharp, accurate turn-in, brain-swilling cornering forces and bionic grip levels; still with a lovely Evoy rear-bias to the 4WD and a brave geometry set-up. Good stuff Mitsubishi. The thrust from the modified turbocharger (matched to motorsport, massive fuel injectors – a world record – and uprated pump) and Ecutek/WRC Developments re-mapped ECU is pretty

darn massive: A huge surge of boost on spool-up and unrelenting tidal wave of torque. Sweet. But, inevitably due to the enlargement of the turbine, it’s mildly more laggy than other FQ Evos. As such, the FQ-400 needs some getting used to, relative to the others in the FQ range – with their almost lazy, instantly accessible torque curve. It does take a bit more to get it going, but, when it does, it really storms along. And, when you engage the hugely tall fifth gear, you’d better be sure you want full throttle and all that boost... as the roadmagazine.co.uk


scenery blurs, FQ-ly. Naturally, with a car with performance like this, blast it on the road, and you’ll soon be banned. So, we decided to join www.opentrack.co.uk for their open pit lane track day at MSV’s brilliant Oulton Park in Cheshire, on the way back to Norfolk from the Lakes. Opentrack tutor, Mike Wilds, who’s driven pretty much everything and raced everywhere, took it out for the familiarisation laps and was as confused as I was about the FQ-400. He agreed it goes well, on boost. And it handles, grips

and stops really well – with an exciting feel to it. But, sadly, we couldn’t give it a proper run. On it’s first full bore lap, whilst passing pretty much everything out there, bar the Radicals, the clutch started to slip. Maybe the 387 lb ft is too much, even for the beefed-up transmission? Who knows, but it was frustrating not to find out just how good it really is. And worrying, if I owned it... and paid £50K for it! On the plus side, this is undeniably the fastest Evo to date, and possibly the most exciting/precise be-

hind the wheel. It’s also the best handling to date, with almost perfect handling and damping (the ride quality is also surprisingly good), phenomenal levels of mechanical grip (aided by the semi-slick Toyo R1R’s) and even now a great engine noise at full chat, complete with wicked back pops, which have been sadly lacking from previous sewing machine Lancer engines. Sadly, the FQ-400 looks like it’s been driven through Halfords by someone with a whopping bank balance questionable taste levels. The ludicrous drainpipe


exhaust drives you totally mental with an utterly mind-numbing drone on the motorway. It’s so precious it needs servicing every 5,000 miles. And, worst of all, it costs £10,000 more than the already excellent, and just as quick in the real world FQ-360; which has less OTT bits and bobs attached. Go figure... Worst of all, there’s practical downfalls too, like the utterly abysmal turning circle, where the massive rims catch on the wheel arches on full lock; making parking a nightmare (added to by the lack of rear visibility,

caused by that OTT rear wing). Also, the very expensive C-F front splitter catches on most road objects, which is totally annoying. This – along with the subwoofer, over-use of tacky plastic logos (and the utterly horrible steering wheel) and the LCD-screen – totally detract from what FQ cars are surely about: Demolishing A, B and back roads, getting airborne over crests and sliding sideways in and out of “cut” corners; rallying basically. Let’s not forget, this is what this was built to do, first and foremost. The FQ-400 might have

unreal stats, is a technical achievement, handles brilliantly well and goes like a rocket, but it’s too far from its original DNA for my liking, as a special stage lover. And, I’m pretty sure you could modify a secondhand Evo VII, VIII or IX, to handle and go as well as the FQ-400, for a lot less than £50K... and it’d be more fun too. That’s what I’d do. Or buy an M3 or RS4 for the same money, and have an air of quality and class this FQ could never match. Evo X FQ-400: Impressive, expensive and frustrating in equal measure. Doh! roadmagazine.co.uk


Pub perfection

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estled at top of ‘the two valleys’ in south Lakes – the stunning Lyth and Winster valleys – a stone’s throw from Lake Windermere, lies the best pub in the UK, in my opinion. It’s the Mason’s Arms (www.masonsarmsstrawberrybank.co.uk), and has been a Mecca of chillaxing for me for decades. It’s pure pub perfection. Diane and John Taylor took over the pub (owned by www.individualinns.co.uk) six years ago and run it brilliantly. Their staff are welcoming and efficient in equal measure. The food, designed by head chef, Dave Gribble, is fresh (most of it locally supplied), wholesome, really tasty and perfectly cooked, and presented. And the range of beers and wines, something the pub has been famed for decades, is breath-taking... all of them crackers. Throw in the incredible atmosphere in the low ceiling, flagstone floor, heart-warming, fire-lit main bar (or upstairs in the light, airy, new restaurant), and the amazingly wellequipped, comfortable and stylish self-catering accommodation, and you have the recipe for the perfect pub. Call them on 015395-68486: You’ll have a perfect mini-break. roadmagazine.co.uk


LIFE WIT

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Fun Cup › Paul Rica


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– Out & About

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SPECIAL OFFER Anglesy International Circuit, Friday 6th August just £135 (regular price £235)

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Road 4 - Turning Japanese  

We unleash the technofest, paradigm-shifting GT-R on UK roads. And there's an Evo-fest, with the FQ-360 at Spa and the Green Hell, and the b...

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