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Japan Part II

2011 GT-R › 2011 WRX STi › Mazda 3 MPS › Subaru Legacy










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he Japanese Special issue, Part One, which we ran in 2010 was so popular... it’s back! Welcome to Part Two, featuring: The full story on the return of “Godzilla” – Nissan’s iconic GT-R, revised for 2011, three years after its momentous launch onto the automotive scene. If ever there was a performance car for the C21st, this paradigm-shifting beast from the east is it. And now it’s faster (0-60 in 3.0s dead!), more powerful, better equipped and sexier than ever. Also revised for 2011 is another Japanese import icon, the Subaru WRX STi – one of my favourite cars. We test drive the new WRX STi (not Impreza anymore) in four-door form, on roads it was designed for... the hills and vales of a damp Lake District: Perfect to test its legendary A-B pace and AWD ‘Subaglue’ levels of grip. It’s the fastest WRX STi to date. Speaking of quick... Mazda has revised the 256bhp 3 MPS, which staff snapper, Neil Denham puts to work on the roads and forest tracks of Northumberland. And we also look at the town and country abilities of the brilliant Subaru Legacy Outback – a truly fabulous AWD Japanese car. Enjoy your second dose of the rising sun.




Nissan’s iconic GT-R is back for 2011 – faster, stronger, sexier & more desirable than ever. Road takes a good look at the latest improvements to an already nighon perfect, practical performance, paradigm-shifting legend


When it was launched just over three years ago, the Nissan GT-R was heralded as a benchmark offering supercar performance at an affordable price. It won award after award and unstinting praise from everyone lucky enough to drive it. It would have been easy to sit back and rest on our laurels... but we don’t do that at Nissan. Welcome to the 2011 GT-R, the best GT-R yet. The GT-R has rewritten the supercar rule book again,” says Nissan Motor Company’s Vice President of Products, Andy Palmer. Confident stuff!


Alterations for the 2011 GT-R are all encompassing, and make for impressive reading: There’s a 9% hike in power (up to 530PS from 485PS) and 4% increase in torque (612Nm from 588Nm) from the VR38DETT 3.8-litre twin turbo V6, meaning 0-60mph in an astonishing 3.0s dead (R: Launch Control mode), and a top speed of 196mph. And fuel economy is up 35%, with emissions down. Aerodynamic improvements have created an extra 10% downforce and a lower drag co-efficient (now 0.26Cd). Suspension tweaks have resulted in better handling and traction, tested on the Nordschleife. The raft of

bonkers electronics that make the GT-R so effective have been re-mapped for greater control. The brakes have been beefed up. There’s new bespoke Dunlop Sport Maxx GT 600 DSST CTT run-flat rubber, filled with Nitrogen, over 20inch super-light 10-spoke alloys. The Buck Rogers interior has been overhauled, adding greater comfort and more PS3-style gizmos. The cooling systems have been revised, elongating track use. And the styling has been updated. The GT-R now also comes with “comprehensively equipped grade” two trim finish options: Premium or Recaro Black.

Best of all, the GT-R’s affordability is still excellent, with models starting from £69,950 – that’s one hell of a lot of bang for your buck. “A new raft of superlatives is needed to describe the 2011 Nissan GT-R. Every aspect of the car has been enhanced to the point where the high standards set by the original have been surpassed at every level. The GT-R is a truly remarkable machine,” adds Andy Palmer. And how right he is. The original car was a revelation in performance cars, and this 2011 model will raise the bar higher still, giving the all-new 911 a lot to think about. Porsche must be worried...


The key to the GT-R’s massive success, aside from its excellent value for money, is mass appeal. It flatters drivers, with its immense strength in depth, as Nissan’s Chief Vehicle Engineer, Kazutoshi Mizuno says: “Supercars have traditionally been aimed at drivers with advanced skills, but the GT-R supercar can be driven fast and skillfully by just about anybody in just about any road condition.” Some people see this easy-access performance as a weakness, but it’s not. Other Japanese icons – Lancer Evo and Subaru WRX STi – used this weapon to a lesser degree, and it proved a success... and

there are few supercars that bite these days anyway: It’s what the market, and safety laws dictate. The GT-R is at the pinnacle of this modern supercar movement. “Right from its launch, the GT-R has combined a remarkable blend of performance and practicality. Where conditions permit, it has breathtaking performance and exceptional levels of grip... yet is as docile as a family hatchback in town. The 2011 GT-R builds on that base, extending its performance parameters still further, yet remaining as compliant in the city centre as it is spectacular on the Nürburgring,” say Nissan. The 2011 GT-R is nothing

short of brilliant – picking up the mantle from the original car, which took the world by storm, and taking it to the edge... while retaining its key elements: Big thrills, value, accessibility and phenomenal technology. Nissan should be applauded for the GT-R’s constant and across-the-board development. At one end of the scale, their full electric Leaf is pushing the new frontier of motoring, while the GT-R does the job representing the ultimate petrol performance car, at the end of a era. We should all enjoy it... while it’s still here. One things is for sure – the GT-R will go down in the annals of automotive history.





The new 2011 WRX STi four-door saloon keeps all the old Subaru special stage Impreza charm, A-B pace, all-weather grip and poise, but now comes with a large dose of sophistication, interior quality, understated good looks and even economy...




his new model is the quickest-ever incarnation of the WRX STi, so we thought we would test its cross country capabilities, taking this lovely deep blue four-door saloon from the flats of East Anglia, to the wild wilderness, moors and hills of the Yorkshire Dales and beyond to the sodden Lake District. First things first, this is no longer an Impreza. That legendary tag has been dropped by Subaru. This is a WRX STi, in new (after a three year absence) fourdoor saloon form (joining the five-door hatchback version): Looking more like a muscular BMW or Audi every day, oozing style and sophistication now, as well as pace, power and poise. Interesting.

First visual impressions are excellent. It looks very good indeed in the flesh. Far better than the press pictures alluded to: Thank God. I had been worried one of my favourite turbo nutter barges had been ruined! Other breaking news is that the new WRX STi has been given a major handling upgrade, based around new ‘Spec C’ suspension – which should mean even more grip, balance, A-B ability and all-weather capability. 0-62mph is quoted

at 5.2 seconds (but it feels faster, working the meaty, slick, mechanical six-speed ‘box hard and switching the ace Si-Drive to ballistic Sport Sharp setting, and the centre differential to your chosen level of lock/rearbias – default is 41:59). And the top speed is a claimed 158mph (four-door), which I can well believe. It is a flyer – neck-snappingly-so in the lower three gears, and scenery-blurringly-so in the top three. Impressive. The interior has been fash-

ioned from much improvedquality materials too – now feeling fab, as well as looking and working excellently. The bespoke Recaro bucket seats are ideal, offering perfect positioning and poise. Best of all for die-hard Impreza fans: The evocative flat four boxer-engine ‘burble’ is back! This WRX STi sounds amazing from idle to full chat, wastegate fluttering, exhaust rorting away. Yet it is remarkably civilised on cruise and pottering around town now too.


This is the first time the four-door saloon and fivedoor hatchback versions have been sold in the UK together, priced at £32,995 (OTR) and Subaru obviously want the brand to grow up, adding real refinement to the feel, and drive of the 2011 WRX STi. Subaru tested this car extensively under a wide variety of weather, traffic and road conditions, ranging from slow, congested city driving and rapid Broad sprints, to extreme ‘hot

laps’ around famous racing circuits – including the notorious Nordschleife at the Nürburgring in Germany... and it shows. Ride quality and handling prowess are perfectly matched, seemingly in all environments – thanks to the Spec C setup, which is just marvellous, the lighter wheels saving unsprung mass (sharpening the STi quick rack steering further) and the now stiffer shell allowing greater suspension travel. And the ECU mapping, in

“A four-wheel drift is just a prod of the loud pedal away”


all three Si-Drive modes is phenomenal: ‘Intelligent’ mode is now just that, with a green triangle flashing subtly on the dash suggesting the optimum point to change gear, for maximum fuel economy – making a run of over 32mpg a real possibility in the WRX STi now. Wow! ‘Sport’ mode is that bit sharper, but still not too thirsty, with a subtle swell in torque and power. And ‘Sport Sharp,’ is the full beans, make no mistake,

and is a thrill a minute – especially with the traction control switched off, when a four-wheel drift is but a prod of the loud pedal away! The 2.5-litre Subaru boxer 16-valve turbo engine with Dual Active Valve Control produces 300PS at 6,000rpm and massive torque – with a peak of 407Nm at 4,000rpm, now in a more accessible curve than the outgoing WRX STi EJ25 engine. Significantly, the revised engine is much cleaner, and

successfully meets Euro 5 exhaust emissions standards. Eco-friendly STi? Huh! As you can see, exterior styling has been extensively revised, with new bumpers, enlarged rear quarter panels and a lower ride height giving the car an even more muscular presence, but also

a look of its German rivals I think, which is sure to be a successful move. The new WRX STi is all grown-up, like the old Impreza owners. This is a much more mature motor than its was – with added refinement and quality, luxury even... but it’s still a mental oriental, offer-

ing the best of everything: Practicality, pace, power and enough room for the wife and kids, who won’t moan its too loud or bumpy now either. Clever. Standard equipment is mighty generous too now and includes keyless entry, push-button start, front log


lamps, hill start assist, climate control air-conditioning, remote central locking, electric windows front and rear, an all-new radio-CD unit with a 10-speaker audio system, AUX and USB input jacks, hands-free Bluetooth速 system and cruise control.

On the long, boring motorway run up to the North country, the WRX STi settled into an easy comfortable cruise and all the interior toys worked a treat. Christ... it was even economical, for a 300PS rocket ship, averaging 32mpg. Practical too. Then, cut loose on the

Yorkshire moors and into the Lakes, it was entertaining, fast, fun and ferocious in Sport Plus mode, TCS off and diff open: More surefooted and faster than ever, and now with added style, panache, quality, economy and grace in its armoury. The WRX STi is a class act.



Road Staff Snapper, Neil Denham takes the most powerful front-wheel-drive hot hatch deep into Northumberland, to test its abilities on some of the UK’s most challenging roads. Is all that FWD grunt useable on your classic British back road?



azda’s 3 MPS has been around in this second generation format since 2008, and has rather polarised opinion. People like it’s undeniable power and pace. But folk are in disagreement whether it can handle the 256bhp through its wrong-wheeldrive platform, and divided on its looks. One thing everyone seems in agreement with is that it’s a lot of practical performance hot hatch for the money: £23,155, or, utilising the current special offer via Mazda dealerships at the moment, just £22,155 (36 monthly payments of £399, £7791 deposit). It’s extremely generously speced, that is for sure, coming loaded to the gills with a fine 2.3 MZR DISI Turbocharged engine, delivering 256bhp at 5,500rpm and 280lbft from 3,000rpm and offering 0-62mph in just 6.1s and a top speed of a quoted 155mph (although when I tested one in Ger-

many, on the Autobahn, it ran well over that figure, tested on a Racelogic PBox). And it’s not too thirsty either, in Mazda terms (never the most economical of performance car manufacturers), delivering as near as damn it 30mpg. The slick six-speed gearbox, with sweet ratios helps here, as does its Limited slip differential (LSD) for eaking out traction, to make the most of that grunty engine. Outside, the 3 MPS comes with 18-inch rims, dual sports exhaust and the MPS styling kit (and an optional Aero package is available also); featuring MPS sports grille, Aero front and rear bumpers, side skirts, roof spoiler and Impreza-ofold-style “power bulge” in the bonnet. It also has automatic bi-Xenon headlamps with Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS) and sporty fog lamps. Plus, those gourdy rear lights, which look like the sort fitted “af-



termarket,” but seem to be all the rage at the minute in mid-size, mid-price hot hatches. Mmmm... But inside, the generosity continues, with a BOSE 6-CD, 10-speaker sound system, sports-style bucket front seats (heated) with half-leather trim, aluminium foot pedals, tyre pressure monitoring system, leatherwrapped steering wheel (with cruise control & CD controls), automatic dualzone climate control air conditioning, rear parking distance sensors, combined

Bluetooth® phone and mobile MP3-player control system, satellite navigation system with integrated 4.1” full-colour and “turn-byturn” display, Multi Information Display (MID), autodimming rear mirror and, best of all, an LED boost gauge. It all works well, is where you want it to be, and feels good quality too. On paper and specification-wise, one can not fail to be impressed by the 3 MPS. But whether it’s “the beauty of the beast” as Mazda’s marketing team like to call it

is a debatable matter. From an engineering point of view – with its undeniably powerful, lush sounding and torquey engine, quality sports suspension ride and handling and LSD seeking out grip – it also reads well on paper. But what’s it really like to live with on testing, wet British roads, and does it excite? We sent Road staff snapper, Neil Denham out into the wilds of Northumberland to find out... “My first impressions were that this is indeed a very quick car, with a very nice


driving position (so often overlooked and got wrong by manufacturers, so well done Mazda!). And, after a while of blasting around the back roads near Kielder Forest, I would say it’s a much better car to live with, and more dynamic than the Ford Focus RS: It rides better, puts its power down better, is better made and a lot more understated too. It really is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Neil says the 3 MPS coped with the blind crests, negative cambers and chewedup-pothole-filled-tarmac of the Northern hills extremely well. He did report it was a bit heavy of fuel though... but that could have been

down to his heavy right foot action! Go on son! I’m not surprised by Neil’s positive verdict. I have driven one of these to and around the Nürburgring, and it impressed me in all areas: Motorway cruising comfort and pace and poise on-track. And it is incredible value for money. Only its odd looks let it down, but we can live with that. But don’t take our word for it. This very car has done an 8m39s lap of the Green Hell, which you can see here: com/watch?v=Xuyaojwoa7M If you don’t respect the Mazda 3 MPS after that... you don’t know your onions. Fast, cheap and cheerful...


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Subaru’s Legacy Outback is a Jack of all trades, and master of them all too – there’s simply nothing it can’t do: Stylish, well-equipped, practicality oozing from every panel and with beautiful on and off-road manners and ability. Genius!



ubaru’s high-riding Legacy Outback has been with us since 1996. And in those 15 years, it’s gone through four generations – each evolving it gently from classic “farmer’s choice” status to a highly desirable, very capable, great value, loadlugging, off-roading, luxury cruising and eminently spacious BMW X5 or A4 All-road Avant SUV ‘crossover’ alternative choice. The new 2011 Outback is based on a brand new platform, and is wider, taller and longer than its predecessors, with more interior space as a result. And build quality and design, inside and out, are both much improved, making the Japanese Subaru Outback a match for its more expen-

sive German rivals, in terms of looks and specification. There are three choices of engine available for the new model – all the acclaimed Horizontally-Opposed (Boxer) format: A 2.0-litre, 150PS/258lbft diesel, 2.5-litre, 167PS/168lbft petrol and a range-topping 3.6-litre, 260PS/258lbft petrol stealth weapon. Naturally, all come with Subaru’s excellent symmetrical AWD (All-WheelDrive) system – the manual diesel with centre differential coupled to viscous LSD, the 2.5i with active torque split system and the 3.6R with variable torque distribution system. All are first rate grippers, as you would expect from Subaru. Transmission-wise, the 2.0 D oil-burning SE’s come


with a six-speed manual, the 2.5i SE petrol models are available with the ‘Lineartronic’ CVT transmission (the model tested and shot here) and the 3.6R’s come with a five-speed automatic. Both the 2.0D SE diesel and 2.5i SE petrol start at £27,995 and come in two specifications, peaking at £30,295 and adding: Full colour touch screen SatNav,

built in reversing camera with on screen guides, keyless smart entry and a push button starter system. The 3.6R is available in only one fully-loaded specification, priced at £36,795. Based on a long drive of the diesel non-Outback Legacy Estate to – and around the Nürburgring – I’d have chosen the Boxer diesel, on paper. It’s mas-

sively economical for an AWD car, has a lovely direct six-speed manual ‘box, rides and handles superbly and was shockingly quick on a wet Green Hell, passing Porsches effortlessly! But that was before I drove the 2.5i petrol, with CVT. No turbo. Less torque. And with a flappy paddle semi-auto gearbox. It worried me... but preconceptions are so often



wrong, as was certainly the case here. The 2.5i is really lively. It wants to rev and has a great mid-range surge, if not being either desperately powerful, or hugely torquey. But, thanks to perfectly-matched gear ratios by the CVT, it fair flies along, smoothly, quietly and efficiently (although not in the same 50+mpg fash-

ion of the diesel). It sounds good too – offering a fruity exhaust note on full throttle, accompanied by pleasant normally aspirated Boxer noises from the engine bay. On paper, it’s marginally slower than the diesel to 60mph the dash in a pretty slow 10.4s (D is 9.6s and R is 7.5s), with a top speed of 120mph (D is the same, R is 140mph). But, thanks to its slightly lighter frame (1535Kg Vs 1573Kg for the D, R is 1589Kg), and its perfect gearing-engine revs CVT talents, it feels faster, when its rolling. Motorway cruising (which

I did lots of on this 1,000 mile road trip to Edinburgh) is effortless. And comfort levels are first rate. The (heated) seats and driving position are brilliant and the switchgear is practical, easy to operate and functional. It’s a great place to munch miles – made by the Outback’s 100mm jacked-up ride height and excellent visibility: Perfect for soaking up the views as the miles drift by effortlessly. Part of the driving pleasure comes via the brilliant ride and handling. The Outback – with its long springs, matched to perfect

ing and with its fat tyres – soaks up every little imperfection in the road. And, it’s incredibly capable offroad too, ploughing through mud, up and down slippery grass hills and in and out of fields, ney bother. This is not a style-only SUV. It really does get down and dirty. And grip levels from the AWD chassis and diffs are the usual high ‘Subaglue’ standard, even if the raised ride height adds a bit of body roll... it sticks, and sticks like a limpet, in all weathers. Brilliant. After the long, fun, pleasant drive and off-roading shenanigans, we arrived in the chic city of Edinburgh, 500 miles later, refreshed and ready to party. And the Outback was just as happy, just as chilled, just as stylish parked up in the uber modernity of the Quarter Mile. The Outback simply fits in anywhere, goes anywhere and does everything you ask of it. It’s a true town and country gentleman. I simply can not recommend this Subaru enough. It’s possibly the most underrated vehicle you can buy today.

A Legacy in the Tyrol I

t was a great opportunity for us – to drive a Subaru Legacy for a few days to our beloved Austria, writes Dick Furber. This was my first drive in a Boxer diesel, of which I had heard and read so many good things. Getting acquainted with the keyless start/stop was interesting – and took a little time. But, once underway, we were impressed with the road holding and quietness of the car compared with my normal drive – a Mercedes C-Class 220 CDI. The Boxer certainly bore out all the good reports – quiet, gutsy and economical! Our first day’s journey took us from Belgium to the Hotel Lamm near Stuttgart – about 400km. Sadly, my plans to test the top speed on German autobahns came to nought – a combination of heavy traffic and almost continuous road works slowed us down! But the Legacy showed itself to be nicely sporty and capable of good acceleration, even in 5th gear from 100 km/ hr. The outside temperature reached 31 degrees at one point – roasting! - but the excellent air conditioning kept us fresh as Spring mountain air. After a good meal, a few glasses of local wine and a good sleep, we made a leisurely start next day and arrived at our destination, Gasthof Grosslehen in Fieberbrunn, in time for a nice cold beer! The road from Kufstein climbs quite steeply through the Eiberg and has some in-


teresting curves before it levels out in Scheffau. It was a super feeling to have the AWD pull us effortlessly around them all – even our black lab, Beauty was happy! So, the ride and grip must be first rate! She’s most discerning! The weather was great, so we were made good use of the electrically operated opening glass roof – almost like driving with the top down! We drove some real alpine roads – climbing from the village at 800 metres to the Lärchfilzhochalm at 1400m, up some really steep gradients and narrow tracks! We had no problems getting to the top – arriving with the car evenly coated in white dust and marked under the wings with reminders of the cows that graze the Alps in summer. The journey back down to the village tested the braking system well, which did good service in keeping us in control despite the local drivers’ best attempts to run us off the mountain side! On our return drive, the heavens opened, putting 10cm of water on the roads! No problems for the AWD Legacy though – it held the road as well as ever, with no fear of aquaplaning. Our return to Belgium was plagued with traffic and roadworks, so our arrival back home was later than we wished – but we arrived fresh and fairly relaxed after covering over 800km with only two stops. Overall we used about 6.4 litres of diesel per 100 km – about 44 miles per gallon – not bad for an AWD car, and with all those steep hills! Would we want to own a Legacy? Yes! We liked the space, the power and the general feel. A better cover and baggage net in the luggage area would help, as would an automatic lighting and rain sensor – maybe these will be rectified in the new model! Thanks Vera Joris at Subaru Benelux


Profile for Road Magazine Blog

ROAD 13: Japanese Special, Part II  

Following the success of the first Japanese special in 2010, we offer you part two – featuring the full story on the iconic 2011 Nissan GT-R...

ROAD 13: Japanese Special, Part II  

Following the success of the first Japanese special in 2010, we offer you part two – featuring the full story on the iconic 2011 Nissan GT-R...