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Future cars // motorsport // gadgets // people // car culture // opinion //

AGENDA the month’s biggest stories from the world of cars

top storiEs

FF For vEry FAst v12 grows from 5748cc to 6262cc and gains direct injection from california v8 (above). power climbs from 533bhp to 651bhp, dropping the 0-62mph time by three tenths to 3.7sec and making this the first four-seat ferrari to top 200mph. a hybrid ferrari is still three years away.

FlAvio MANzoNi ferrari’s new design boss joined last year from vw, replacing donato coco, who moved to lotus. he’s credited with the up and bluesport concepts, the current golf and polo.

18 our green karting gp

22 bmw’s showstopper

26 maserati’s suv revealed

thE First Four-whEEl DrivE FErrAri longitudinal four-wheel drive uses a second prop running from the ’box to the front axle – but the ferrari has a rear transaxle for optimum weight distribution (53% here). so, the ff’s front wheels take power directly from the front of the engine. it’s nominally 100% rear-drive, but can shift 30% to the front. ‘we tried other 4wd cars but they just understeered. ferraris are about oversteer, not understeer,’ says felisa. ferrari’s solution weighs half as much as rivals’.

thE busiNEss END ff’s dashboard is a blend of california and 599 plus the steering-wheel-mounted indicators and light switches from the 458. a triple-hooded binnacle houses rev counter and twin digital displays. fun optional tweak is a digital display above the glovebox showing road speed and engine revs to passengers. might not want to tick that box if your wife’s a nervous passenger.


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why FErrAri’s builDiNG A shootiNG brAkE to us, the ff looks like a clear attempt to design a car for the emerging markets in china and russia, where newly-monied businessmen are more interested in luxury than conventional supercars. ‘not necessarily,’ argues ferrari ceo amedeo felisa. ‘this is a car for the whole world. the average age of our customers in china is 30, and the 458 is our best-selling car there.’ even so, these are the markets that are growing, and fast. ferrari sold 300 cars in china last year, up 50% on 2009, and plans to launch in india this year. they hope the ff will sell around 1000 units a year globally, up from the 700-or-so annual figure for the 612. ‘with this car and the california, the brand stretch is complete,’ felisa says. what, no dino? apparently not. we’ll just have to settle for another enzo instead.

A FErrAri For Four wheelbase stretch yields an extra 20mm of legroom, but the biggest gain is in headroom. even six-footers can fit in the ff, and there’s a rear-seat entertainment package to while away long journeys. other key change is a stunningly soft natural leather option with a very visible and tactile grain. ‘the old leather was like plastic,’ manzoni admits with a grimace.

b i g

s t o r y

Ferrari’s 4x4: The audacity of it! Chris Chilton

assistant it’s just us, the most editor shocking ferrari yet and the men who made it. alone in a room. here’s what happened

pEElING bACK thE curtains at the Planet hotel across the road from the iconic gates and eastern-bloc architecture of the Ferrari factory in maranello, I see thick flakes of snow spiralling gently earthwards. I check left and right, even up for a hollywood snow machine, but no, it’s real. how the Ferrari top brass waiting for me across the road must be rubbing their hands. We’ve been invited for a one-to-one unveiling of the new Ferrari FF, the £220,000 651bhp GT that will replace the 612 Scaglietti. The FF badge (oddly the same as Jensen’s conceptually similar all-wheel drive Interceptor of 1966) stands for four seats and four-wheel drive. It’s the first Ferrari ever to task the front wheels with duties besides steering the car. The FF is inside the atelier room, a small studio near the front office, to which Ferrari invites special customers. Paint swatches abound, hides of different hues hang like towels from hooks. and there, on a turntable in the middle of the room, cloaked in a silky red sheet, is the car. Even covered, it’s immediately obvious that the FF has the squared-off estate back the spy shots suggested. With me is Ferrari’s chief executive officer, amedeo Felisa, A prActicAl FErrAri product marketing man luggage bay is a useful 450 litres, incredibly Nicola Boari, and new design 31 litres bigger than a saab 9-3 sportwagon’s. director Flavio manzoni, and just like a proper estate’s, the rear seats fold flat, nearly doubling space to 800 litres. formerly creative design head just imagine the look on those scenic drivers’ at Volkswagen, and the man faces when you pull up at the local rubbish tip in this bad boy and unload a mangy old mattress. who designed the FF in4

CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK i march 2011


AGENDA

18

m o t o r s p o r t

We slug it out on UK’s first carbon-neutral go-kart track can car ’s unlegendary racIng pedIgree overcome the eerIe sIlence to trIumph In a battery-powered Indoor shootout?

Chris Chilton assistant editor

marK FaGELSoN

whIlE f1 is still dragging its heels on the green tech issue, there’s one form of motorsport that’s embraced it: karting. TeamSport, Europe’s largest operator of go-kart tracks, and owner of nine circuits in the UK, has just opened a new indoor site near London’s Tower Bridge running not petrol, but electric go karts, and invited us to have a go. If you’ve driven a petrol kart before, the lack of noise, smell and vibrations of these £6000 eco machines is eerie.

Tom, Alex & Chris had the best karts ;)

They’re no milkfloats: top speed is around 40mph and all that instant torque means a different driving style is needed. You can’t just jump back on the power exiting the tighter corners or you’ll wheelspin power away. We have a couple of brief practice sessions where, swapping between karts, it’s clear that they differ markedly in grip and power. But the circuit is brilliant. The straights aren’t long but the two-tier element is the making of it. Taking the fast, falling left-hander at speed demands precision and commitment. Speedy designer alex starts the race in pole, followed by motorsport editor Tom clarkson, tech ed Jesse, Pulman, me, Phil, Tim, Greg and Sarah. I barge in front of Pulman at the first corner, and pass Jesse (in an obviously slow kart) on the start-finish straight, then get into a great scrap with alex and Tom. ‘No-contact,’ we’re told at the

briefing, but rubbin’ is racin’ as far as I’m concerned, and I muscle past Tom into second place and spend the next minutes glued to alex’s tail. Further back Tim and Phil are squabbling away and poor old Greg, hobbled by an even slower kart than Jesse (and by lack of talent and a few stone of ballast – ed), is languishing at the back. meanwhile I fail to defend the inside line at one corner and clarkson nips past me, the three of us scrapping like dogs until the killjoy red lights come on indicating someone’s had an off. Pulman has managed to flick the kill switch on his kart, and is stranded. By the time the marshals have restarted him, our time is up. alex has retained his lead but Tom has set the fastest lap, a blistering 54sec. Good clean fun, but over so fast. We’re now scraping together £40 per head for our next trip.

CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK I march 2011

h o w

i t

w o r k s

ANAtomy of A silENt Go-kArt

‘No contact,’ we’re told at the briefing, but rubbin’ is racin’ as far as i’m concerned, and i muscle past tom

manufacturer BIZ Karts sourced specialist expertise in Li-Ion technology to design the electric motor, battery pack and power controller. Brushless motors used in electric cars are too expensive and complex, so the karts are powered by a single, brushed motor. max torque of 21lb ft is available from 0rpm. at 150kg the karts weigh only about 20kg more than the equivalent 200cc petrol machine, and could run for 45min, but to prolong battery life, are run in eight-minute driving sessions.


Future cars // motorsport // gadgets // people // car culture // opINIoN //

f o r m u l a

19

o n e

cAGiNEss, olD cArs, brEAkDowNs… let’s hope the new f1 season Is more excItIng than the bIg test In valencIa. by tom clarkson

Alonso refused to confirm or deny that his car is, in fact, red

motor ‘Pancake’-style, brushed electric motor is derived from electric racing bikes and drives the rear axle directly by a toothed belt. Doesn’t need lubricating.

battery Battery packs are tucked away in pods on each side of the kart with the driver in the centre for even weight distribution. Threephase fast chargers are used.

control Power controller manages the flow of power to the battery taking its signal from the fast pedal. Together with the motor, it gives some regenerative braking.

with last year’s car. lap times were irrelevant, even though they’d tried to adapt the mp4-25 to this year’s regs, so the only conclusions to be drawn were in regard to Jenson and lewis. both seemed on great form; they looked fit, were witty in interviews and were clearly relishing the start of the new season. renault (sorry, lotus renault gp) won the prize for innovation, having come up with a novel means of using exhaust gases to increase performance. Instead of exiting at the rear of the car, the exhausts on the r31 extend forward and exit low down at the front of the sidepods. this speeds up airflow under the car and gets the front wing working better. ‘It seems to be working well,’ said robert Kubica. ‘but I don’t want to say too much at this stage.’ other tech bosses were indifferent about the concept, but we have to assume the gains are big because there were many problems to be overcome. packaging, heat dissipation and passing the fIa’s severe side impact protection tests are all compromised by this layout. elsewhere, the williams fw33 is a neat looking car. Its rear end is tiny, the result of it using the smallest gearbox in the team’s history and pull-rod rear suspension. team lotus’s t128 is a looker as well, but power steering problems spoiled its week. at this stage? It’s red bull or ferrari…

Renault exhaust. Ban it!

SUTToN, LaT

formula one’s polished veneer was nowhere to be seen in valencia. the first test session of the year was the sport at its crudest: mechanics burning the midnight oil; engineers left baffled by the idiosyncrasies of their new cars; drivers exploring the limits of the new regulations. fernando alonso summed it up best when he gave this assessment of his rivals: ‘the red bull is the same colour as last year, the renault is not. what else can you say?’ more than that, fernando. more than that. with three different tyre compounds available from pirelli and fuel levels ranging between 10 and 150 litres, the pace of the cars was difficult to read, but there were plenty of observations to be made. red bull’s new rb7 was quick and reliable straight out of the box. the car was finished at 5am on the opening day and world champ seb vettel placed it at the top of the timesheets with his first flying lap. the team are not into showboating, so this will have sent a shudder through their rivals. ferrari’s f150 is less sculpted around the rear than the rb7, mainly due to its more traditional push-rod suspension, but it too was quick and had bulletproof reliability. alonso completed more than 200 laps in two days – more than any other car. these two cars made the biggest impression, but what of the others? mercedes’ wr02 looks pretty, but it was blighted by reliability problems – mostly in relation to Kers. they’ll overcome the teething problems, but the loss of track time has hurt their preparations. mclaren ran at this first test


44 FIRSt DRIvES i MERCEDES-BENZ CLS63 AMG

mercedes-benz cLs63 amg hhhhh Lavishly equipped, fiendishly fast, the CLS63 AMG is the ultimate performance saloon bar none, says Ben Pulman Price I £80,605 engine I 5461cc 32v V8 twin turbo, 518bhp @ 5250rpm, 516lb ft @ 1750-5000rpm TransMissiOn I Seven-speed auto, rwd PerfOrMance I 4.4sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 28.5mpg, 231g/km weighT/Made frOM I 1870kg/steel On sale I June 2011

DOWNSIZING IS a relative term. To me it means Fiat’s trick 875cc two-pot, Ford’s Ecoboost 1.0-litre triple, VW’s turbo- and supercharged 1.4. To the madmen at AMG it means ditching their naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 for... a 5.5-litre V8. A 5.5-litre V8 boosted by twin turbos. With the new engine slotted into the CLS (Mercedes’ sleeker, sharper ‘four-door coupe’ version of the E-class) it’s a pre-emptive strike against this autumn’s BMW M5. The (economy) figures are stunning. Thanks to direct-injection, lightweight parts and stop/start tech this big bent eight records 28.5mpg and 231g/km. Okay, so sub-30mpg isn’t going to save the planet, but CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK I MARCH 2011

the old CLS63 could only manage 19.5mpg and 345g/km, meaning 46% and 33% improvements. Still not convinced? Then how about the fact that a Ford Kuga 2.5T is as thirsty, and a Range Rover Sport TDV6 dirtier, than this supersaloon. Opt for the £6495 AMG Performance Pack – boosting power by 32bhp and torque by 74lb ft thanks to an increase in boost pressure from 1.0 to 1.3bar – and you’ll still get 28.5mpg and 231g/km. The CLS63 performs outside the laboratory, too. Around San Diego it shutdown at every traffic light. Unlike any other stop/start system mated to an auto ’box I’ve ever encountered before, you don’t have

to keep it in D with your foot on the brake either: you can slot P, put the handbrake on, and smugly grin at everyone around you. And at the end of the day, when we cruised back from our blast in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the CLS63 returned 37.6mpg at an average of 65mph. My jaw’s still on the floor. The 518bhp standard output is the same as E63 AMG buyers enjoy, but the peak has been pegged back so a) S63 and CL63 buyers still have bragging rights, and b) existing E63 owners don’t feel short-changed, now or when the hottest E adopts the same engine later this year. Ignore what’s on paper though: maximum bhp might be produced

at 5250rpm rather than the 6.2’s 6800rpm but, up against the E63’s 464lb ft at 5200rpm, the new engine offers a gut-churning 516lb ft from 1750rpm all the way through until there’s 5k on the rev counter. Downsides? The new M157 engine weighs 20kg more than the old M156 6.2-litre, and it’s a bit taller. That’s it. Of course, the new engine still drives the rear wheels, and the link between it and the back axle is the company’s seven-speed MCT auto. At dinner the night before, AMG boss Ola Källenius practically begged us to use its Race Start function, so photographer Mark Fagelson and I pull over on a short but well-sighted straight. The rotary controller for the transmission is twisted to Manual, a quick press of the ESP button selects Sport, then its onto the brakes, twist the gearbox dial once more to RS, flick the right paddle to confirm that you do indeed want to shag the transmission’s internals, build the power, sidestep the left pedal, and hold on.


45 Only royal corgis get more creature comforts

Even tastier – and 40% lighter - rims are optional

Launch control helps fling you to 62mph in 4.4sec

Electronics juggle engine outputs against the grip of 285-section Continentals, then the CLS goes, squirming a little, traction control light flashing, up-shifting for you, and beginning to get into its stride. Fagelson’s busy trying to video the whole process and I only get glimpses of the rev counter climbing to its redline, then dropping as we change gear, then climbing again, and all the while the speedo’s needle keeps arcing round. We pass 90, 100 – still no let-up – 110, 120 – the digital speedo still isn’t counting in consecutive figures – 130, 134, 137 – suddenly the crest at the end of straight is approaching very fast –139mph. BRAKE! Caterhams might be quicker to 60mph, but I love that feeling of relentless urge, that 1870kg can be so easily shrugged off, and the knowledge that pinning the throttle at 100mph-plus will induce more acceleration than most cars serve up below the national limit. Simple stuff, but it makes you smile. Against

the 6.2? It’s faster, but it feels slower because there’s no ferocious top-end crescendo, just a huge, digger-sized dollop of torque at almost any rpm. No, it doesn’t sound quite as good as the 6.2 in full redline war cry mode, but any fears that forced induction would silence the engine 911 Turbo-style are unfounded. It barks like the SLS supercar on start-up, burbles and rumbles when you give it a little gas, and growls a sophisticated tune towards the rev limit. How did AMG do it? With lots of hard graft, say the engineers, and apparently there’s no reason why all turbocharged engines can’t sound this way... Weight savings and some Affalterbach magic make sure it corners too. The engorged front wings (which hide a 24mm wider front track), bootlid, parcel shelf and newly creased bonnet are all made from aluminium, as are the doors, which are 24kg lighter than their steel equivalents. In the standard settings the ride is4 MARCH 2011 I CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK


70 Cover story i DRIVING THe NeW McLAReN

Jenson Button rolls firmly onto the throttle and, just as the 12C starts to descend the slope leading from pits to track, the McLaren’s twin blowers ignite. The power delivery is much more measured than the all-or-nothing kick of a Porsche GT2 RS but, even so, it’s a shock when it arrives with barely more than 2000rpm on the dial, the wave of torque pounding me into the passenger seatback like Marty McFly plugging his guitar into Doc Brown’s jumbo amp. I thought this was a Ferrari 458 rival? In terms of thrust it feels more like a Veyron. I’ve circulated enough tracks in the company of racing drivers on product launches to know when they’re going through the motions, fulfilling the tedious requirements of their contracts and no more. But two corners in, it’s obvious that the 2009 F1 champ is loving every minute behind

CArMAGAZIne.Co.uK I MARCH 2011

the wheel of this very late pre-production 12C. The 2.95-mile Autódromo Internaçional do Algarve in Portugal is superb, a proper roller coaster circuit featuring more ups and downs than a motocross track and several pairs of corners that look very similar as you approach, but turn out to be very different on the exit, a matter made more complicated by the fact that several are unsighted. Very Nordschleife. Jenson’s speed doesn’t surprise me, but other things do. He doesn’t left-foot brake for instance, leaving the left of his McLaren-spec Reeboks on the dead pedal. And he’s far more aggressive than I’d expected given his reputation as one of F1’s smoothest wheelmen, although some of that must be down to the fact that the tyres are snatching at the patchy track that’s greasy in places and dryish in others.

About the only thing likely to leave you feeling a more inadequate driver than being taken round a circuit by an F1 champ in a new supercar before you drive it, is being taken round afterwards. But I’ve waited four years for this launch, ever since CAR sneaked some spy shots of the original styling model out of a supplier. What makes this car so exciting is that we have absolutely no frame of reference for it. Go to the launch of the latest Golf and you’ve a fair idea that it’s going to feel pretty much like the last one, only perhaps 15% better. But McLaren hasn’t built a car to its own design since the F1 of 1994. No-one outside of Woking’s glass cathedral knows what to expect of this car when it comes to steering feel, ride comfort and body control. And with so much technology at play, there are so many questions to ask. Will the throttle 4


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No-one outside Woking’s glass cathedral knows what to expect of this car Just 30 of the world’s journalists were invited, three of them from CAR

MARCH 2011 I CArMAGAZIne.Co.uK


74 COvER INSIDER StORy PORSCHE THEFIGHT NEW MclAREN i VW AND i DRIVING

Jenson Button on the 12c ‘I H AV e A R e A L pRo BLeM W I T H RoA D CA RS…’ ‘get most supercars on a track and you’ve got to be so patient with the front end,’ says Jenson Button as he tips the 12C’s nose into a tight left so late that a squeally mess of understeer is the only possible outcome. It never materialises. ‘But this is totally different.’ The man should know. He’s driven and owned plenty of road-going supercars, including a Bugatti Veyron,

CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK 2011 2009 CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK II MARCH DECEMEBER

and has plenty to say about the McLaren’s superiority. ‘I have a real problem with road cars. When I hit the brakes the ABS kicks in and you can feel the pedal shaking and moving away from you. With this car the ABS is there, which is good because the everyday user really needs it. But you’ve got real feeling with the brake, you know that if you’ve gone a bit heavy on them you can then modulate

the amount of pressure. The throttle response is good too; better than I thought it was going to be.’ But isn’t this all a bit busman’s holiday? It’s not like he’s going to be queuing up for an evening slot at Bedford Autodrome after work. ‘No, I’m mostly going to be driving on the road,’ the 2009 F1 world driver’s champ confirms, before suddenly becoming animated on the subject of ride comfort.

‘Have you done the driving route up the back alleys yet? It’s incredible. Instead of dodging the potholes you find yourself aiming at them to see what it can take.’ But before he can do that in his own 12C, Jenson still has to hammer out a financial deal with Ron Dennis, who is adamant Button must pay for his ride. ‘Then all I’ve got to do is decide whether I want ceramic brakes or not.’


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video

E xC lUS IvE

go onlIne To

www.CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK TO SEE IN-CAR FOOTAGE AS jENSON BuTTON lAPS THE 12C WITH CHRIS CHIlTON

‘The throttle response is good too; better than I thought it was going to be’ MARCH 2011 I CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK


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Just think how cool trafямБc jams will look in future

CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK 2011 2009 CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK II MARCH DECEMEBER


DRIvInG vW’s 313MpG futuRE i GREEN CAR 93

313 mpg?

313 mpg?

313 mpg?

313 mpg? 313 mpg?

At least, that’s what VW claims. XL1 has a one-litre engine, weighs just 795kg and emits 24g/km CO2. Looks pretty cool, too. Best of all, it will go into limited production in 2013. We have the first drive Words: Georg Kacher I Photography: John Wycherley & Ingo Barenschee MARCH 2011 I CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK


98 INSIDE INDuStry i goodyear’s r&d lab

CArMAGAZINE.CO.uK I march 2011


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Words: Jethro bovingdon I Photography: mark Fagelson

quiet! tyre revolution in progress In 2012 every new tyre will carry a consumer-friendly rating. Great for us, bad for the industry? We go inside Goodyear Dunlop to ďŹ nd out

march 2011 I CArMAGAZINE.CO.uK


ArNIE AND ME We might not have taken up VW’s tough challenge to cross the US for $100 in a Golf Bluemotion. But then they told us Governor Schwarzenegger would be in LA to meet us… Words: chris chilton I Photography: Greg Pajo

CarMaGaZIne.CO.uK I marcH 2011


across america for $100 i adventure 105

marcH 2011 I CarMaGaZIne.CO.uK


120 OUR CARs i mini countryman, infiniti g37s coupe

OUR CARS This month we have mostly been hitting… kerbs. Well, only in the Renault Wind, BMW M3 (twice) and the Jaguar XJ. Hopefully our new Mini Countryman will remain as pristine as our Skoda Yeti, to which we (very reluctantly) bid farewell. Plus: Jethro goes racing in a Nissan 370Z

blog

E xC l U s I vE

go online to

mark fagelson

www.CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK to read what the whole car team thinks of our long-term cars

n e w

a r r i v a l

Mini Countryman by Mark Fagelson Ups I Finding the interior still has that Mini magic Downs I The exterior is a bit monstrous price I £19,875 as testeD I £26,430 miles this month I 1120 total miles I 2035 oUr mpg I 41.0 official mpg I 57.6 costs I None fUel this month I £151.50 the mini coUntryman is, it’s fair to say, an odd-looking motor car. I recall viewing early photos of this new Golf-sized Mini with shock and disbelief. As a past Mini owner I have an affection for the marque, but this is being tested as time goes by. The multitude of variants spawned, from a pram-roofed convertible to a pointless ugly estate, are in danger of diluting the much-loved British brand. The new car is more than a mere CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK I march 2011

variant however. It’s a whole new package: wider, higher, longer, with five doors, a biggish boot and the option of four-wheel drive. This is the car that BMW wants you to buy when you have outgrown your regular Mini. I should be the target market for this car – mid thirties, stylish (really? – ed), baby, dog, etc – and have replaced our much-loved Golf GTI with the Countryman. First impressions are mixed. The looks

may grow on me in time but there are too many touches that ape the current Mini for the sake of forced familiarity. The dead front angle is the only one that works for me, with a big aggressive snout and huge, angular headlights. The colour doesn’t help either: to get our Countryman as quickly as possible we plumped for a pre-ordered press car, hence the dull and dreary £385 Royal Grey paintwork. And the rest of the exterior is strangely lacking customisation, bar white indicator lenses (£70), bi-xenon lights (£590) and electric mirrors (£215). A white roof or white wheels? Nope, just body colour for the former and standard silver for the latter. If the exterior leaves me a little cold, the interior more than makes up for it. The £6500 of options on top of a £19,875

base price has mostly been lavished on the obligatory £2490 Chili pack, which includes an improved stereo, climate control, more mood lighting, an onboard computer, a multi-functional wheel, plus bigger 17in alloys, fog lights and lots more besides. The Chili pack also adds part-leather sports seats, but we’ve gone a step further and upgraded them to full leather – for £675. Then there’s sat-nav (£995), voice control (£250), a cargo net for the boot (a preposterous £145) and a first aid kit and warning triangle for fifty-five quid. Finally there’s a heated front screen and heated seats, £345 and £250 respectively, but with the recent snow and ever-present frost I’m already getting good value out of them. I’m still weighing up whether to read


14 cars on the fleet. edited by ben pulman

Mini Countryman p120

Infiniti G37 Coupe p121

Skoda Yeti p122

Renault Wind p123

Nissan 370Z p123

BMW M3 p124

Alfa Romeo GTV p124

Jaguar XJ p125

Audi A8 p125

Megane RS250 p126

Mazda CX-7 p126

Nissan Cube p127

Mercedes E63 Estate p127

SNAPSHOT

Cabin is a real delight. Cream leather looks great and it’s packed with toys and clever tech, some of which I can actually work

You can’t see his expression, but trust us it’s smug Parked behind a Cooper S, just like I used to own. Similar, but oh so very different. How much less ‘mini’ can a Mini get?

Infiniti G37S Coupe by Ben Whitworth Ups I Winter tyres, grunty performance, soundtrack Downs I Dipsomania, the long wait for diesel power price I £40,545 as testeD I £41,595 miles this month I 2805 total miles I 6264 oUr mpg I 24.8 official mpg I 26.7 costs I None fUel this month I

Not much to look at, very nice on the inside the owners manual or just mess around in traffic with the Countryman’s multitude of toys. My wife was impressed by a choice of six colours for the interior mood lighting, while I have managed to get the hands-free Bluetooth phone gizmo working and can even make the radio come on by simply pressing a button and saying ‘radio’. Cabin space is great and the rear seats slide back and forth, making five adults in this Mini a viable proposition. But I’m a photographer and my car boot is a place of work on any photoshoot. I like my boots large and flat and unfortunately the Countryman seems to disappoint on both counts. More on that, and whether this four-wheel drive diesel Mini can match the driving excitement of its smaller siblings, in the coming months.

Call that a boot? What a let down! It’s not flat or square enough, but at least the rear seats slide forward to create more room

Countryman arrives! Big and new and shiny. Baby Biba looks on and wonders if her pram will fit. With that boot I’m wondering too

Bye bye GTI. A sad farewell to the imperious Golf, which proved to be fast, fun family transport. Big shoes to fill…

with impeccable timing, Infiniti UK whisked away my G37 Coupe to fit it with Pirelli winter tyres. The results are quite incredible. The standard Pirelli rubber coped pretty well given the wayward combination of 317bhp, wintery roads and rear-wheel drive, but even on damp blacktop the traction and stability controls were constantly on high alert, flickering even when passing traffic on wet motorways. The winter tyres feel much grippier – they cling on much harder than I expected even in tight corners, understeer has been all but banished and braking distances shortened. Okay, this winter’s been harsh, but if you can stomach the initial outlay, I reckon a set of winter tyres is a sound investment. The Infiniti’s 3.7-litre V6 engine is now feeling a lot looser and revvier. It’s a seriously brawny lump, delivering a powerful, both-barrels kick that makes short work of slower traffic and reels in empty miles with a deep-lunged ease. It sounds superb, too. Start it up on a

cold morning and it sounds all guttural and grunty and, once warmed through, it soars round to the redline with a serrated howl that’s hugely addictive. Which might explain why it’s downing a gallon of unleaded every 24.8 miles. Expensive. Now that Infiniti and Daimler have forged an engineering alliance, I can’t help wondering how long we’ll have to wait before Merc’s superb 265bhp V6 CDI ends up in the Coupe’s engine bay. Searing mid-range punchy, top-drawer refinement and 40mpg? Yes please… Looks harmless. Is, in fact, grunty

march 2011 I CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK


584 - MARCH 2011 - CAR magazine - The New McLaren driven!