Friday, 14 December 2012

Watching Someone Hoon A Rolls-Royce Is Oddly Satisfying

13/12/12, 1:49, 3436 views when posted

Rolls-Royce is the epitome of luxury, opulence and excellence. To own a Phantom is to say either "I've made it" or "I was born into a stupendously rich family". It's the last surviving "land yacht", massive, smooth, massive, exceedingly comfortable, and also quite massive. It's supposed to glide from place to place in a stately and calm manner, only leaving tarmac to use an unnaturally-even gravel driveway, perhaps with a huge fountain to drive around before arriving at a set of stone steps leading to marble pillars.

However, if you had a lot of your own land, a newly-facelifted 2012 Phantom and too much time to kill, you might be tempted to loosen your tie and see if you can make the butler dance. That's what this anonymous person decided to do, anyway. While it's completely ungentlemanly - and therefore inappropriate - to do this in a Rolls-Royce Phantom, it's also oddly satisfying to watch, and must've been more so to do. You see, while this whole millionaire lifestyle thing is all very classy, it's also rather snobbish. Eventually, anyone living such a life who still possessed a soul would get bored of it all and want to have fun with it, or just be comfortable with themselves for a change. I don't mean something tasteless like go to a black-tie party in a t-shirt with a tuxedo print on it and start being an arse to people, but just that thing of dropping pretensions and getting over oneself. Whether the driver is the chauffeur, outright owner or perhaps even a sneaky valet, they've decided to take an automotive monarch and have it do something silly and out of character. Hoonage - however pleasant its background piano music is - is not classy or proper. But it is pretty fun, especially in something with a V12 and rear-wheel-drive.

At least, I hope that's what's going on here, and I'll continue thinking that. It could always just be some lottery winner who doesn't give a shit......

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

12 Reasons 12 Is The Best Number

OK, so it's 12/12/12 today. Unless you write out the entire year, it's the last completely repetitive date of the millennium. So let's stick with the number 12, because when it comes to engines, it's probably the greatest number of them all. Here are 12 reasons why 12 cylinders gets 12 out of 10 from me. Twelve.

1 - Matra MS670 Le Mans

This is perhaps my favourite engine sound, an early-mid 1970s 3.0-litre, 450bhp V12 from French company Matra (back when France was still a major force in motor racing). The MS670 it sat in won Le Mans three times in a row between 1972 and '74. It also makes the kind of noise you just don't get from modern engines, even modern V12s.

2 - McLaren F1

(Skip to 4:07 if you just want engine noise)

The McLaren F1 is one of the top 5 greatest cars ever made, and many would argue that it still edges into the top 1. One of the many reasons for this is the BMW-sourced, gold-lined BMW 6.0-litre V12 that makes around 640bhp and propels it to a top speed (with a raised rev limiter) of 240mph. A long-standing record that has only been beaten by forced-induction cars (Koenigsegg CCR/CCX, Bugatti Veyron, etc.). So this is still the fastest-ever car with a naturally-aspirated engine. That will probably remain true for a very long time yet.

Either skip ahead to the business, or watch the whole video for an explanation of what it's like to drive and own.

3 - Ferrari

Of course, Ferrari have been championing the V12 engine since the 1960s, and never have they been lacking in the way of aural sex (if you'll excuse the racy pun). My personal favourite is quite possibly the 5.9-litre engine in the Enzo. There's something about deep-sounding 6- and 12-cylinder engines that just does it for me. It's very menacing while being far more interesting than some big V8. TVR Speed Sixes are a good example of a six-pot engine that has the same effect. After the Enzo and 599, the current-gen V12 just sounds a wee bit synthetic in comparison. Perhaps you prefer something a little more classical, though?

This isn't actually the best video for sound, but there's some pretty heroic driving in it!

4 - Aston Martin

Aside from the V8 Vantage, every Aston Martin since the Vanquish in 2001 has used the effectively the same engine, with various tweaks and updates along the way. It's a Ford-derived 6.0 V12 that has perhaps the most glorious sound of any road car. Frankly, in my books, the Vanquish was the best-sounding car for ten years, until the screaming Lexus LFA came along. If V10s or £300,000 Toyotas don't float your boat though, then revel in this British orchestra.

5 - Lamborghini

(unfortunately the original HD version of this appears to have been taken down...)

When it comes to supercars, though, nobody does exciting like Lamborghini. A whole range of theatrical sounds come out of that V12, developed from the original Miura right up until the above car, the 2010 Lamborghini Murciélago LP670-4 Super Veloce. Between those two cars, there was also this Countach, which sounds, well... like that.

The Aventador again sounds slightly less genuine than its forbears, but it is somewhat reminiscent of the McLaren F1...

6 - Pagani

Pagani may not be as historical as the other names on here, but in less than ten years since it started in 1999, they've managed to make themselves an established name in the supercar club with the Zonda, which for most of its life sported a whopping 7.3-litre made-by-AMG V12 engine making anything from 500-650bhp or more. The early '00s C12 S is deeper, whereas the subsequent Fs, Cinques and the astonishing Zonda R all had a higher singing range.

Sadly the 6.0-litre Huayra that replaced it this year is less operatic, being as it is muted by a pair of turbochargers. Perhaps the best blend of all the Paganis is the Zonda 760RS*, one of which was given a manual gearbox instead of the 7-speed sequential 'box and renamed "760LH" for a certain Formula 1 driver...

*your ears want you to skip to 7:52.

7 - Ferrari Formula 1

Speaking of F1 drivers, anyone my age will say that Formula 1 cars should have a 3.0 V10 equipped, and I tend to agree, because it's the sound I grew up with, but before the size and cylinder count was standardised, Ferrari ran a 3.5-litre V12, and it sounds like this. After pressing play, you will not need it explained.

What would a modern equivalent sound like? Perhaps a raspier, slightly higher-pitched version of the FXX and 599XX.

8 - Honda RA272

Long before Ferrari screamed in two or three different pitches at once, Honda made the RA272. In only their second year of existence they decided to take on Formula 1, using a 1.5-litre, water-cooled, horizontally-mounted V12 revving up to a then-unheard-of 14,000rpm. The innovative engine - a stressed member of the chassis - gave the RA271 and later 272 noticeably better acceleration than its rivals. After an unsuccessful opening bid, a year later in 1965 Richie Ginther drove a pole-to-flag victory at the Mexican Grand Prix to score the first ever win for a Japanese car. It also sounds great.

9 - Rolls-Royce Merlin

The following video contains sixteen Spitfires. The Merlin V12 was used in fighter planes and tanks, and pretty much saved our bacon in the 1940s.

10 - Auto Union Type D

To balance things up a bit, here's a dominant German machine. In 1930s Grand Prix racing, the "Silver Arrows" of Mercedes and Auto Union (now called Audi) dominated all.

11 - Jaguar XJ13

I almost forgot about this car, which I shouldn't have, what with how good it is in Gran Turismo 5. The 5.0-litre, Dual Over-Head Camshaft (DOHC) engine was mounted behind the cockpit for the first time in Jaguar's history, as they mounted a challenge on the Le Mans 24 Hours in the 1960s. Sadly, by the time the utterly gorgeous XJ13 was ready to go, it was already out of date compared to the Ferrari 330P3/4 and Ford GT40, so they canned it. Happily, the one car they did make still exists, and gets brought out for some fun once in a while. Yet more aural sex.

12 - Top Secret V12 Supra

I bet you can't tell me what the only ever rear-wheel-drive V12 car Japan has ever made is called. It's a Toyota, but not a Supra. It is in fact the second-generation Toyota Century! In that very Japanese-looking luxury car, the 5.0-litre engine is making a measly 280PS (276bhp) to conform to a now-defunct Gentleman's Agreement between Japanese car companies not to exceed that power figure. Well, not officially, anyway! A man called "Smokey Nagata", the boss of tuning company Top Secret, decided this engine needed to be put to better use, so he lifted it out of the sleepy limo and dropped it into a Mk.IV Supra. While the Supra's engine bay is designed for a straight-six, and is therefore long enough to accept a V12, the front end was reworked and, perhaps controversially, restyled. No matter, because when it's working you'll only see the back of it; the Top Secret Supra's V12 was, of course, heavily modified, now boasting twin turbochargers and 950 horsepower. Yeah, that should be a decent amount of power I think. The torque figure given in the above video is 100kgfm, which is 723lb/ft. This shove is enough to apparently reach a tremendous 420km/h, which is 261mph. Whether this is to be believed, who knows? It is nevertheless Japanese tuning's main contribution to V12s, and one hell of a bonkers car!

Here's another video of it revving up a bit. Like the Pagani Huayra, the twin blowers seem to have muted it a little...

So there. V12s are great. Long may they continue to survive against the urge from some car companies to replace them with smaller, turbocharged V8s or V10s. Happily, the long-serving masters of V12s, Ferrari and Lamborghini, are standing firm and saying that turbochargers and smaller engines in their flagship models will have to wait until at least next decade. Hurrah!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Bugatti Makes Veyron LE, World Carries On As Normal

2012 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse Bernar Venet Edition
Just a quick post to say that Bugatti have just unveiled what is by my calculations the twenty-fifth limited-edition Veyron. Based on the Grand Sport Vitesse - the 1200PS convertible version - the Bernar Venet Edition features special paint (shocking!) by eponymous French artist Bernar Venet, featuring black, orange and some mathematical symbols, presumably because this car generates volcanic heat - nine radiators will do that - and is full of science and maths. OK, so the colour scheme is actually, no, wait, that's actually what it's about. The numbers thing, that is, not the heat, although his normal artwork, which this references, is normally made of bits of bronze welded together. It will cost more money than you will ever have and disappear from view as soon as it's sold, only to be brought up again when reeling off a list of all the Veyron Special paint jobs Editions there have been...

You can read the artist saying boring stuff (and see more pictures) by clicking here.

One of these is actually the equation to calculate the speed that the window rolls down. Not really.
"I just like to watch you work, father." Artificial Intelligence probably won't prove to have been a good idea...
For all the other Veyron LEs, just check the Wikipedia page. They're all there except this one.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Formula One 2012 - We Have A Winner

Anyone else get the feeling Schumi farted just before this was taken?
So, that was a pretty epic end to a pretty epic season finale, wasn't it? The man to beat gets tangled up with a local to make it look like the underdog would seize the title, only to come back through the grid, overcoming difficult conditions as changeable weather saw panic pit-stops and slithering sideways (as well as very nearly seeing a highly unlikely winner to the race) to get into sixth place, enough to clinch the World Driver's Championship by just three points. A more apt number of points to win by this season, there isn't. Sebastian Vettel is the youngest ever Triple World Champion, as well as only the third in history to win three in a row. This in a season when Red Bull also won the World Constructor's Championship for the third year in a row. I may have doubted how much of SebVet's success was down to him before, but after the Brazilian Grand Prix he had, and given the above stats, it's pretty hard to doubt him now. He joins a list of greats be becoming a triple world champ, one which includes Nelson Piquet, Jackie Stewart, Jack Brabham, Niki Lauda and, of course, Ayrton Senna, whose record for the youngest ever entrant to this elite club was snatched by the German Merman (a name I have made up because he's swimming in victory champagne).

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Porsche Puts A Roof On Its Prettiest-Ever Boxster, Makes Prettiest-Ever Cayman

2013 Porsche Cayman and Cayman S
It's no secret that to make a Cayman, you simply add a roof and 10 horsepower to the Boxster. However, the stiffer chassis that results, and perhaps a few other changes we don't see, have lead to the Cayman being considered as the benchmark sports car in its class/price range (which is also true of the Boxster anyway). But since the 2009 refresh of the Mk.1, or 987 Cayman, which added a Limited-Slip Differential, people have started to ask whether the Cayman S is actually a better deal than a 911 Carrera, something Porsche tried hard to avoid at the start, but seems to be OK with now, as the two cars appeal to different types. Those who want a 911 will still buy a 911, whereas people who aren't as picky will still spend plenty on the Cayman or Cayman S. Now we have a Mk.2 Cayman, and seeing as its Boxster sister has apparently come of age, this is going to be one exceptional mid-engined sports car. It also looks great, fixing the dodgy roof of the Mk.1 and getting a less smiley, more serious "face" than its topless twin.

Engines are the same as the new 981-generation Boxster, with a 2.7-litre or 3.4-litre flat-six on offer, but they make 10 more horsepower, at 275 and 325bhp respectively for the base model and the S. Because Porsche are cool, a 6-speed manual will be offered alongside the 7-speed "PDK" flappy-paddle 'box. Expect it to cost a bit more than the equivalent Boxster and get glowing reviews in every road test you read about it. Prices and other stuff will be added here when they publish it. UPDATE: Microsite here (with more colours!) and a press release here.

But I know what you're saying already. You're saying that it looks the same as the outgoing Cayman, and that Porsche's designers are lazy. There always has to be someone...

OK, because the Cayman is basically the Boxster with a roof and 10 more horsepower, let's compare Boxsters first. The 987 was designed around plain old 911 doors, like the original 986 from the '90s was. That means the sides are plain in general, because of Porsche's smooth, clean aesthetic (for its sports cars, at least). The key difference in the 981 is that the Boxster was granted its own doors, so with that freedom they deeply embedded the main air intakes, giving it the gradual dip into the car. They also made the characteristic rear arches a little more curved and pronounced in profile, while adding the double-decker headlights, à la 918 Spyder and updating the three front bumper grilles to fit with the new shape(s) better, giving clearly defined "cheek bones" in the process. Of course, my favourite touch is the rear LED lights, which have the pop-up spoiler arching down into them at the ends to make the reversers, which looks very smooth and very cool. The roll hoops are also chunkier and more shaped, possibly for aero reasons but I don't know if that's really why that is.

To make the Cayman, they added a fixed roof - which is now more 911-shaped in that it arches down more smoothly to meet the waistline at the spoiler, rather than having that dip in the middle of it where the rear window ended - and a reprofiled front bumper with less smiley/more aggressive Down-the-Road Graphics (DRG), or "face". As with the 987, the rectangular foglights have been replaced with a dot in the bumper grilles for the hardtop model.

So there. Just because it's evolutionary rather than revolutionary, doesn't mean they aren't trying. You just have to be paying attention for about two or three seconds. Here are some more pictures, because it looks great. The mostly-subtle changes really make a difference in my opinion.

The S version has a twin-pipe exhaust, whereas the standard Cayman features a single oval tailpipe, much like on the Boxster.
It would probably look better in a colour other than acid yellow though...
That's more like it.
The rear window no longer dips in at the bottom, making it smoother and, I think, prettier. Also, DAT SPOILER.
The question is, with only 20 fewer horses, about 50kg less weight and what Porsche's configurator reveals to be a £22,660 price gap, would you buy this over a 991 Carrera? Hmm......

Thursday, 22 November 2012

21 Years & 50,000 Hits - A Collection Of Thoughts

Pic unrelated.
Well, it's about time I wrote something here. Considering this blog has received 50,000 hits and it is/was my 21st birthday, I'm practically required to write something by unwritten laws, some of which I have set myself. I'm told the best writing is impulsive, so with a completely random picture chosen from my HDD, let's see what results of the next half hour or so. 2:14.

Well, first of all, there's the 50k views. Actually no, FIRST of all there's the fact that I've only gone and turned 21. I know, it was careless, I don't know what I was thinking, but it's happened now and I can't change it. My first birthday away from family is a weird one, although they did keep me feeling connected with them, so it was good as I could possibly hope for in that respect, plus I'm going home at the weekend to see them in person (and get more presents!), at which point I shall rejoin the Punto in the dance between man and machine that only a car or motorbike can provide. A motorbike is a closer, more physical dance, like Salsa, and such raunchy dancing isn't really my thing, as exciting as I'm sure it is, so it'll always be cars first for me. So that'll be fun. I'll have to choose my roads properly this time to get the most out of it, as well as see how Wokingham has evolved in the last month.

Click to embiggen.
Second of all, thanks for clicking. Whether you got here because you're on Jalopnik/Oppo+ or because you Googled your way here, hits are hits, and it's something I've been keeping track of out of habit. In fact - can I admit this? - every 1000 hits, I screen-cap the Total Page Views and save it. Yup. How thrilling is that? There's still stuff I've been meaning to do, some of which is now a little out of date, but I'm sure I can write around that. For example, barrel sprinting a Toyota GT86. How I've not pasted that across my blog and linked to it seven times, I don't know. I guess moving out interfered.  Not uploading a 2012 Goodwood FOS Mega-Gallery from July, however, is somewhat inexcusable. Regular readers - all 2 or 3 of you - may also have noticed that lack of Formula 1 posts of late. That's not because I've stopped bothering or stopped paying attention to the season. They'll be back after the season finale this weekend, with both a recap/summary and, for most of them, a lap-by-lap account to support it. Consider those posts as something to do when you get withdrawal symptoms over the winter period.

Speaking of F1, what a fucking season! It's been unbelievable, hasn't it? 7 winners in 7 races at the start while people scrambled for a solution to the blown diffuser ban and an understanding of the updated Pirelli tyres, the latter of which they do not stop going on about, and then Red Bull kicked their car until it worked as well as last year's, leading to four victories in a row for Sebastian Vettel (all at Asian GPs, as it happens). After leaving Asia for hotter places, Kimi Räikkönen finally won a Grand Prix after returning to the sport. That said, he might have been a little pissed off that the one race he won in his comeback year was in one of the two out of nineteen countries used that don't drink alcohol, which he expressed by swearing at David Coulthard on live TV. Lewis Hamilton suffered two excruciating failures in Singapore and Abu Dhabi Doo that saw him retire from a clear lead. One could thus argue that he should have 50 more points than he does, and be in the hunt for a championship, but then the same argument could also be levelled at Vettel in 2010, and of course the German merman (so-called because he's basically swimming in podium champagne by this point) has suffered the same fate this year too, at the European GP in Valencia which is mercifully being removed from the calendar next year due to Spain not having enough money for two races anymore.

But I digress. Lewis Hamilton, who is of course leaving McLaren for Mercedes next year. Why leave a team he's been with for 14 years in some form or other? Well, you don't marry your first girlfriend, or grow old in your parents' house. Not if you're normal. What's more, Mercedes-AMG have been touted as being the fast ones in 2014 when the rules get shaken up and we get V6 Turbo engines, KERS 'n' TERS (like surf 'n' turf for "flybrid" technology), simpler aerodynamics with enforced low noses and no doubt something else thrown in to slow Red Bull down. We saw a change in aero rules mix the field up in 2009, with Brawn GP rising from the ashes of Honda Racing and dominating up until a Newey-lead Red Bull hit their stride. Lewis and global mainstream brand Mercedes-Benz will be hoping for the same thing two years from now. Until then, wait, I've digressed again...

Coming back to 2012, Hamilton's luck finally turned around as he hoped to do something special with McLaren in the closing stages of their relationship. That thing was winning the first United States Grand Prix since the 2007 race at Indianapolis - a race he also won - and the first ever GP at the much-publicised Circuit Of The Americas, making him the first person since his idol Ayrton Senna to win the US GP in two different locations (Senna's being street circuits at Detroit and Phoenix). The track itself is a sort of Greatest Hits of Grand Prix Circuits, featuring the classics and some of their newer stuff. The first turn of all was a brand new one though, with a 40-metre ascent up to a tight hairpin, and then a rollercoaster-style drop and twist into the esses section reminiscent of Maggots and Becketts and Church at Silverstone, or perhaps the esses of Suzuka. The multi-radius lefts and rights then straighten out into pointier corners and some long straights, like modern "Tilke tracks", before going into a smaller, wider version of the stadium complex of Hockenheimring (which just looks fiddly) and winding through a mirrored and slightly diluted US spinoff of the many-apex'd Turn 8 at Istanbul Park Circuit, taking the drivers into Turn 19, which drops downhill just as you want to get the power down. This lead to many spins and slides wide, to the point where there was just as much rubber on the run-off area as the main track! Turn 20 rounds it all off basically just by joining it all up at the end, like the last turn of an improvised Scalextric track. Thank goodness they had the right piece left over for it...

Not my image. Don't hit me
So yes, well done Americans. You can be proud of that circuit. Not that you wouldn't be anyway. In fact, you seem to be pretty damn proud of everything you've ever done sometimes. This comes back to cars. At the moment there's plenty of hubbub about the upcoming C7 Corvette, as well as the new Cadillac ATS and Dodge SRT Viper SRT-10. Now, I have no reason to deny that Caddy and Dodge have done a great job with these two, and that they mark a big and important step forward for American cars and stuff, but the hype and pride gets annoying. By all means be proud, I don't mean they shouldn't give a fuck, but hype from US journos (at least the ones at Jalopnik) and the subsequent assumptions from readers that they're suddenly the best cars of their entire genre is too much, and people pushing Corvettes and Mustangs on you when you might like European or Japanese equivalents, while throwing around price tags and Nürburgring lap times and "FUCK YEAH" and "SUCK IT" in an overly competitive way is just a turn-off, in the same way that being forced to learn the violin makes you hate the instrument with an unbridled passion. They're even doing it with the Ford Focus ST, whose only truly American component as far as I'm aware is the badge. You can't force something on people if you want them to a) like it, or b) take it seriously themselves. If I say that I want an American saloon or sports car over a European one now, it'll feel like they've "won" somehow, as silly as that may sound. Also, whether it's as quick or not, a Mustang is not an M3, and the minute it becomes one is the minute it stops being the proper Muscle Car it's supposed to be - the M3 is serious, whereas a Mustang or Monaro or Camaro or Challenger should be more fun and crazy. Save the sports car stuff for the 'Vette, because that's what it's meant to be.

The reason I like muscle cars (when no-one's looking) is because they're like cartoon characters in real life. That's their appeal. Make them drive, look and feel like sports cars and they'll have lost that appeal. It just turns from cartoon to yet another live action flick, perhaps with more colours. Mercedes-Benz's AMG department know what's up. They make the C63, which is a normal car with a HUGE V8 that loves going sideways and sounding like a NASCAR car in a thunderstorm (although not quite as well as the SLS does that). That's a muscle car, despite being German, and the Coupé Black Series enhances that further with MORE POWER and more angry bits on it. Ford should rival AMG with the next Mustang, not M. Oh, and if I get an angry rebuttal from someone saying that the same thing happens here, then that's not me, and I don't like over-hyping regardless of nationality.

But anyway, angry blogger mode can wait until I need to vent about something and pick on something like stanced cars for making no sense to me whatsoever.

Ok, that took more than half an hour.

Friday, 16 November 2012

The Toyota Supra Will OFFICIALLY Return In 5 Years!

Toyota Supra Twin Turbo (Mk.IV)
It's a good time to be longing for automotive comebacks. First the AE86 gets a spiritual successor, then the Honda NSX is announced to return (as a hybrid...), then Alfa Romeo-- wait a minute, didn't I already write this?

Yes I did, when it was announced that the Mazda RX-7 will officially return in 2017. Well now it's happened again! Tetsuya Tada, Toyota's sports car boss, is making sure he has things to do other than the brilliant GT86, as an order from above - namely Toyota CEO and petrolhead Akio Toyoda - stated that they must make a successor to the legendary Supra "as soon as possible". Tada-san also said that "The 86 needed five years to develop, so at least five years is required for the others. A normal passenger car about two to three years. But sports cars need special parts, so it's five years."

So there you have it. '90s Japanese sports cars are back. GT-R, NSX, RX-7, Supra, all will exist along with the everlasting Nissan Fairlady Z and Mazda MX-5 by 2017. Who knows what else might return? The Nissan Silvia and Honda Integra as GT86 rivals, perhaps? Also, it's worth noting that Tada said "at least five years for the others." The same interview revealed that the 86 is in the middle of what will eventually be a three-car sports car range. So perhaps we could see a new MR2 underneath the 86, or a new Celica. Earthquakes cannot stop the Japanese!

So anyway, what do we know about this Mk.V Supra? Well, nothing concrete whatsoever, so we can only speculate. Given the 1992-2002 Mk.IV Supra (pictured above) was benchmarked against Porsche and the Honda NSX in the '90s, I think it's reasonable to consider this new car as a rival to the BMW M3, because Porsche's most comparable car from then, the front-engined 968, doesn't exist any more, and the current V8-powered M3 is the benchmark for front-engined luxury sports cars. Why not a rival to the perennial 911? Well it could rival the Carrera I suppose, but they won't beat it. The M3 is a better target.

Speculative rendering based on the FT-HS.
Engines? Well, it won't be as rigid a tribute to the previous model as the RX-7, as the legendarily modifiable 2JZ straight-six almost definitely won't be making a comeback. Only BMW really bothers with straight-six engines these days, because a V6 is easier to package, not requiring such a long bonnet. That said, the current 'E92' M3 ironically has a V8 rather than an I6, although all evidence points to its 'F30' successor having an I6 with no fewer than three turbochargers. Toyota could do a V8, as the Lexus IS-F features a 5.0 Yamaha-tuned unit producing 417bhp, but the reason the next M3 will have a turbo six instead of a bigger V8 is because of the trend for smaller turbocharged engines that combine power with much better fuel economy, so a twin-turbo V6 is more likely in the new Supra.

Actually, that's a thought. If the Supra went after the BMW, wouldn't it be trampling on the IS-F somewhat? If Toyota wanted to do that they'd make a coupé IS, which they sort of are except that it could be sold as a new model (see the LF-CC). So maybe I've got it wrong here...

Perhaps this will start out as a rival to the 370Z, Z4, TT, SLK and Boxster/Cayman instead, with around 300 horsepower. They'd have to make sure it didn't get caught up by the GT86, but then maybe that's why the boxer-engined car only has 200 horsepower. Could they have planned this out from the start? Who knows. But they could start with a 300 horsepower V6, perhaps based on the 276bhp 3.5-litre V6 used in the Lotus Evora, which is also available in 345bhp Supercharged form. They seem to prefer superchargers to turbos in sports cars as they continue to deny a turbo 86 and grin at suggestions of a supercharged one. So the Supra Twin Turbo may be replaced by the Supra SC, which could have 350 horsepower or perhaps even more.

But of course, it's not just about power, as the GT86 proves. They also have to get the chassis and suspension just right if they want to succeed. To do that with the 86, they needed help from Subaru, but the rally legends have no real experience with cars like Supras, so Toyota may have to team up with someone else, or even find the money to do it themselves. But who? And will we see it bogged down with hybrid technology or simply given KERS to reflect their TS030 endurance racer? It's all up in the air at the moment. We'll have to see how this one plays out, and it could be very interesting......


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Toyota's Rebellion Against Nanny State Banned By Nanny State

Watch this advert by Toyota, showing a man tired of the dreary, censored world he exists in finding a GT 86 in the back of a chandelier collector's shack. Watch him escape the monotony and live at last in the real world behind the wheel of "The Real Deal", which you should definitely buy by the way.

Does it make you want to drift through traffic during a police chase on real public roads as large bollards rise from the ground at random? Does it make you want to go 80mph on a 30mph road and drive through enormous pixellated barriers? Well the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), having been prompted to re-review the ad by a whopping two people, decided that it obviously does make you want to go full Niko Bellic through your town/neighbourhood/CGI world. Therefore, they've banned the ad in the UK and slapped Toyota on the wrists, presumably because it was a slow day in the office and they felt like doing something other than dismissing TopGear's continued efforts for a blood-thirsty Scirocco TDI ad, after a pair of Ned Flanders' kindred spirits complained to them that the GT 86 ad glamourised speed and promoted dangerous driving.

There are a number of reasons why this is bullshit.

First of all, Toyota know how hard it is to advertise a fun car, and told the ASA that it payed very close attention to the highway code when designing the advert, meaning they made sure it didn't glamourise or promote irresponsible driving. What's more, it's clearly set in CGI, not using a real man in a real Toyobaru until it's in the real world travelling non-driftily (which is now a word) at not-dangerous but still brisk pace along a road in the middle of nowhere that can only be empty, because there's a huge dimensional barrier on it rendering said road somewhat useless to other cars. So all the weaving in and out of sentient bollard creatures is fake, as fake as a video game like Need For Speed or Grand Theft Auto (OK, it may actually be more fake than GTA). The equally-computer-generated driver is also in control of the car at all times, which would be surprising given he's only ever been in auto-assist cars, until you remember he's not real and neither is his environment. Not even the car itself was real until it broke the barrier, which is actually somewhat ironic, come to think of it.

Oh, and heaven forbid that car fans - whom both the car and the ad are squarely aimed at - should see galmourisation or celebration of speed on British TV screens! It's not like we've had a one-hour show all about fast and exciting cars on our screens for over ten years or anything...

Finally, when it comes down to it, the point of this advert is not to tempt people into street-hooning what they can't handle. The point of this is that the GT 86 is the escape from monotony the modern man needs. We live in a world of front-wheel-drive hatchbacks with high, round front ends and small turbocharged engines and, increasingly, flappy-paddle gearboxes with only two pedals and numb electric power steering. The motoring world cried out for exactly the car that Toyota (with help from Subaru, lest we forget) subsequently gave us in the form of the GT86. Showing it breaking away from monotony of econoboxes and driver aids - which Toyota arguably started and definitely contribute heavily towards with the rest of their range - is exactly what a GT86 advert should do, in fact everything this ad does is right for this car. It depicted the rear-wheel-drive coupé with its low pointy nose and high-revving naturally-aspirated engine as something fun, something with some feel to it, which is precisely what motoring journalists have praised it for in-between blasting B-roads and taking tracks sideways with shit-eating grins on their faces. It's just you, the car and the road.

Unfortunately, feeling something in a car isn't allowed to be depicted in adverts. Movies and TopGear, yes, but 30-60 seconds in-between mind-numbing programs, no. Not in the apparent nanny state that will let a trigger-happy censoring agency ban a commercial by one of the world's biggest corporations after just two complaints from a population of around 62,641,000 people. Tens of millions are fine with it or don't care, but two stuck-up oversensitive people say no and that's it? What the hell?

I don't like that a car can't be advertised as fun or exciting for the driver. It can be depicted as stylish, roomy, economical, clever, luxurious, award-winning, trendy (although people who proclaim themselves to be cool never are - it's a rule) or capable of invisibly slapping onlookers in the face, but not as something you will enjoy driving. When the car you're advertising prides itself on that, what can you do? Drive it at 30mph along Calfornia's Highway 1 in a big daft cliché? Rapidly cut between shots of design details and a smiling model while blasting catchy pop songs? Yes, but those aren't good adverts. This was, and now it's banned in the UK. I guess we are not so far away from the dreary nightmare initially depicted after all...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Mazda RX-7 Will OFFICIALLY Return In 5 Years!

2002 Mazda RX-7
It's a good time to be longing for automotive comebacks. First the AE86 gets a spiritual successor, then the Honda NSX is announced to return (as a hybrid...), then Alfa Romeo Duetto/Spider is confirmed to return with a Mazda MX-5 chassis and Italian styling and power, and then the Alpine brand is confirmed to be revived by Renaultsport and Caterham in the form of a small lightweight MR sports car within the next three or four years. And now we have it from Mazda's sports car chief that the gorgeous rotary-powered RX-7 of the '80s and '90s will be back with us - and still sporting a peculiar Wankel engine - in 2017. Hallelujah!

But wait, wasn't there an RX-8? Shouldn't this be the RX-9? Well you'd think so, but Mazda probably want to use the name people remember fondly to draw a few more people in. What's more, the RX-8, while a very interesting car, wasn't the best-loved RX model ever, with its lack of turbo and extra weight from the addition of rear seats (and consequently those suicide doors) making it slower than the car it replaced. They can also chew through engines like nobody's business, an unfortunate potential drawback of rotary power. So RX-7 it is, then, to reassure you it's not an evolution of a flawed car. Well hey, if Porsche can replace the 997 with the 991, why can't Mazda go back a number?

People remember the RX-7 fondly because its light weight and unique high-revving engine made it an exciting sports car, and in the 1992-2002 FD generation it was one truly beautiful machine... right up until it's modified mercilessly by Vin Diesel or a drifting enthusiast. An earlier generation also entered Group B rallying in the '80s, and sounded like a swarm of hell's own bees. Finally, the car gained widespread popularity along with all the other Japanese sports cars when Gran Turismo swept the gaming world in the late '90s and the '00s. Some will love it purely for the oddball rotary engine, while others just want more affordable sports cars in the world (not that the RX-7 was the cheapest Japanese sports car around).

But what can we expect if they were willing to replace the 2002 FD RX-7 with a four-seater? Well, not a four-seater. This is a 7, not an 8, so it must be a light, two-door, two-seat sports coupé. We can however expect it to use Mazda's 16X engine, which I've rambled about before (fifth paragraph). It's basically an attempt to fix the flaws of the long-serving 13B rotary engine - low torque, unreliability and such like - as well as adding direct injection and a special catalyst that will mean it passes the strict Euro VI emissions rules that will come into effect in 2017, the year this car will appear. However, while the cons will be lessened, the pros will remain; this small, light, high-revving naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre engine will make a good 300 horsepower, which in a car set to weigh around 1250kg (the same as a Toyobaru GTBRZ86 and lighter than the last RX-7) should be plenty to be getting on with. Mazda sports division chief Nobuhiro Yamamoto says that a turbo version may come along later if necessary, although sharp throttle response and linear delivery are the aims for this engine, two things a non-turbo engine is best at. The weight figure will be obtained by extensive use of aluminium (sitting atop a stretched and modified next-gen MX-5 platform) and the joyous lack of a hybrid system or KERS, because Mazda sports cars are about purity. We can also expect a manual gearbox for that reason, I say, although a paddle-shift option wouldn't be surprising.

While it may weigh the same and could be roughly the same size as the Subarota FRBRZ-S86, it won't cost the same. The RX-7 was meant as a competitor to Porsche - and not just because they had originally copied the 944 for the styling - with the price reflecting that aim. While this "FG" RX-7 won't be chasing the 911, it's more likely to rival the Nissan Z, BMW Z4 and other such cars in the £30-35,000 range. Any more and badge snobbery would deny them success, I reckon, although it is meant as a premium product.

Mazda, you have five years to get this right... and I have five years to start saving up for one.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Renaultsport + Caterham = Alpine Awesomeness

From top-left to bottom-right: Alpine's Dieppe factory, Caterham's previous joint venture, a LOUD concept and all these things together.

If you haven't been brushing up on your '70s motorsport history and/or obscure French brands, and haven't played Gran Turismo 4 or 5, you can be forgiven for not knowing about Alpine. Despite being around from 1955 to 1995, they didn't really make a global impact on sports car building. Founder John Rédélé started out in the early '50s by using Renault 4CVs in road races and rallies like the famous Mille Miglia and Coupes Des Alpes (Alpine Rally), getting class wins in those and many other events besides. He went on to make special versions with performance upgrades like a 5-speed manual transmission to replace the 3-speed auto, and custom aluminium bodywork to save weight for his trips to Sebring and Le Mans (which, along with rallying, was something his car company would go on to have success in, but that's not our focus here). This lead to the Michelotti-styled Alpine A106 in 1955, which was moderately successful and spawned a convertible version later on. This evolved into the sleeker A108 in 1959, which I would find more information about if it wasn't superseded by the A110 in 1961, which is the Alpine sports car you need to know about. Largely because Caterham and Renaultsport are bringing it back (sort of) with an A110-50 Concept-based mid-engined sports car.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Proof: A 290mph Veyron Über Sport Is Possible

Performance Power Racing Ford GT and a Jet Fighter
Just one post ago, I mentioned that Bugatti might be making a Veyron Super Grand MacDaddy Sport R with 1600 horsepower and 1600kg combining to make a 2-second 0-60 run and a suspected top speed of 288mph. Those performance numbers may seem far-fetched, but if you really don't believe that a car can go that fast, then I would like to point you in the direction of this Ford GT, whose 5.4-litre V8 has been extensively modified - not least by having the supercharger system removed for a twin turbo setup - and now produces a simply staggering 1700 horsepower. That's a hundred more than the Veyron Possibly Bullet Edition might have, and enough to warrant a parachute instead of some poncy hydraulic airbrake. What's more, its creators Performance Power Racing have just set a world speed record by getting their maddeningly powerful GT up to 283.22 miles per hour. I can't possibly imagine what that feels like, or even looks like!

But here's the clincher: It topped 283mph using just one mile of runway.

To put that into perspective, you need at least five miles to max a Veyron. In fact, if this PPR GT can go that fast within a mile, the question must be asked: how fast can it actually go? Did it really reach its terminal velocity in just one mile? Or can it go faster?

Either way, there are of course a few problems with taking a road car engine and making it over three times as powerful as it was designed to be. First of all, it won't last nearly as long before needing a complete rebuild, and is more likely to overheat or otherwise bring the party to an end early, and if that happened when you were edging closer to 300mph, it would feel rather...... unpleasant. What's more, the overall car won't feel as refined and harmonised as something equivalent made by the manufacturer (although it does cost less to do, perhaps because of that). But there is no equivalent of this. There's no production car close to 1700bhp. The nearest one is the still-in-development 1350bhp SSC Tuatara, and that figure's probably just a target until such time as it's finished and ready to go.

But here's the thing: in 2001, when VW decided once and for all to start making the Bugatti Veyron, there were no 1000-horsepower production cars. There were tuners like the JUN R33 GT-R will a millennium of horses, but again, those were extreme one-offs based on road car engines not designed for that level of force. The 2003 Koenigsegg CCR got close-ish with 806bhp, but that was about it. Then the Bugatti came out with an engine that not only made 1000 horsepower (they say the 1001PS/987bhp figure is nominal, and that it's probably a tiny bit more in reality), but was designed and (over)engineered to last for a decade of doing long journeys and a few annual top speed runs. It was a major jump, and it's helped pave the way to even madder cars like this.

But here we are again, in exactly the same situation but with even higher numbers now. Can VW/Bugatti really engineer a 1600-horsepower W16 to last for ten years of sometimes doing 290mph? Honestly, I believe they can. We have Underground Racing Lamborghinis that can withstand 1900 horsepower however briefly, so I believe that the finest German engineers in the world can beef up their 1200-horsepower Veyron SS engine by another 33% somehow and make it last long enough to be a valid road car engine, and then set about making sure the All-Wheel-Drive, the brakes and the chassis can withstand it all as well to make an all-round road car and Grand Tourer that just so happens to be able to blow away 99% of all the world's cars at will.

For the time being though, here's the 1%. More pics of it (at least one other of which involves a jet fighter) can be found here. Also, they say this car is docile enough at low speeds - when you're using about 1% of the engine - to be used on the school run! Now that'd be something...

Monday, 29 October 2012

Bugatti Reportedly Developing a Veyron Super Duper Sport

An 8-litre Quad-Turbo W16 with 1001PS is so passe now, apparently.
Take a legendary old moniker from the pre-war years and turn it into your halo of halo brands. When you already own Lamborghini, Bentley, Audi and Porsche, you need a brand as outrageous a Bugatti to overshadow them all, and while the Veyron isn't as elegant or as front-engined as the pre-war cars that made the name famous, the sheer opulence and level of finish and engineering stands up to Bugs of old. However, it seems that VW Group considers the idea of joining together two 4.0-litre Twin-Turbo V8s into one almighty beast of an engine making 1001PS (987bhp) and then dropping it into a car designed to do more than 400km/h (248mph) as being so 2005. We've already seen them turn the wick up on the four turbochargers and beef up one of the nine radiators/intercoolers to get another 200 horsepower out of it for the Super Sport, and now - just when you thought that, because the limited production run is reaching its end, the Veyron was soon to take a bow - they're reportedly planning to get twice as much again out of that monstrous W16 in order to edge closer to the next great speed milestone: 300mph.

Hello Again, Punto

I came home from Uni this weekend after seeing TopGear Live on Saturday with my dad. The show itself was as awesome as usual, although the ending wasn't quite as climactic as it normally is despite it being a world first (well, it was a world first the first time they did it, which was Thursday lunch time). Typically it's The Stig sliding around fighting monsters with explosions and stuff. They did come up with a new game though, which I shall post a terrible phone video of later (among others and some less terrible pictures).

At any rate, after that, I came home and have spent the weekend here. Despite it being a month since I was last here, in some ways it only feels like a few days now that I'm back, however it did feel like it had been a month since I'd driven a car - with my only wheel time in that gap being in a rain-soaked go-kart - so I decided to get reunited with the Punto. It was like meeting up with an old friend for an hour. There was some catching up to do, as it were; the pedals and steering felt weird and I discovered a mystery scratch on the left side of the front bumper, which neither my mother nor my brother are taking responsibility for. The steering initially felt light and a little bit rubbery - but then it's always felt over-assisted - and the pedals, well, I just needed to remember where the clutch bites and to calibrate my braking foot for something much more sensitive and potent than a go-kart brake, which didn't take long.

In fact, it didn't take more than about 10 or 15 minutes for me to settle back in, and then it was just great to be driving again. I picked a couple of choice roads that I hadn't used on my last blast before moving out, which included corners lined with trees or banks, that changed radius, swept over a small hill or were otherwise blind and narrow, because there's a lot of that around here if you know where to look (and I made sure to start looking as soon as I could drive!). Oddly, I had to get used to travelling that fast on a road again as I've only ever walked or occasionally taken the train since moving. Even 40mph felt a little quick the first time. But overall, the feelings involved in driving were satisfying to feel again, and it became natural, like we were communicating in harmony with eachother doing the good old thing once again. I made sure to wring its neck just a little bit once I'd got back in the swing of it! Sadly, I now have to wait again until my birthday in a month or so, and then Christmas before I can drive again, unless I go mad and hire a car after turning 21 next month.

I might have to do more go-karting in the mean time...

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Porsche 918 Spyder Production Car Leaked

Production 918 Spyder
When you can't count on an embargo breaking, you can always hope for a brochure leaking. The Porsche 918 Spyder was always going to go into production, but now we can see what the difference between concept and reality really is. Thankfully, the changes are merely in the details, and this car is in no way watered-down.

For the 918 of you lucky rich fuckers that are buying one, the base price is €768,026, which translates directly to £620,992 or $995,976 (although local taxes and such will not make those the actual prices in the UK or US). That's without the optional Weissach Package - including more carbon fibre, titanium and ceramic parts to shave a somewhat measly 35kg off the 1700kg kerbweight, as well as magnesium wheels and the removal of leather, the air conditioning, the stereo, interior door handles, centre console, armrests, glove compartment and all the carpeting, and finally removal of the wiring for the quick-charging system - which, weirdly, will set you back another €71,400 (~£57,745/~92,589). Porsche: The Masters of Charging More For Less.

UPDATE (26/10): US pricing can be found here.

But what do you get for your big pile of money? Well, the production car (pictured above) is pretty much the same as the concept car, with the only exterior changes being mirrors instead of cameras - will they ever actually make it to a production car? - and the side-exit exhausts being moved to a slightly unusual position, behind the tiny rear windows. This saves weight with short pipes, and ensures that this hybrid is no silent disappointment. And it is still a hybrid; along with a 4.6-litre Direct-Injection V8 making 580bhp and 370lb/ft, there are two electric motors, one on each axle. Their 116 and 129bhp (front and rear respectively) combine for a maximum total output of 795bhp and a meatier 575lb/ft of torque, the latter of which is available between 1000-4000rpm. The motors are fed by a 6.8kWh Li-Ion battery pack and a 3.6kW onboard charging system (although an external 'universal' charger will do the bulk of the battery charging).

I couldn't possibly tell you how that all works together, but there's going to be Electric Torque-Vectoring tying them all together for massive grip and All-Wheel-Drive below 146mph (235km/h) - I guess the electric motors run out of puff shortly after that speed - as well as Stop/Start and a "Sailing" fuel economy mode that presumably lets the motors do the work when the engine isn't really trying. When the engine is trying, it's sending power to the rear wheels via Porsche's 7-speed PDK transmission, and works together with the rear motor. Somehow. All this and we haven't even got to the stunning looks, ultra-modern interior or the fact that this hybrid system will be capable of fuel economy figures which put a Toyota Prius to shame. Although, they haven't actually mentioned the official MPG figures yet...

But why, you might ask, does the world need a hypercar to care about fuel economy? Is the significant added weight of the batteries and massively complex drivetrain something this car needs (it weighs roughly 320kg more than the V10-powered Carrera GT of 2004)? Well, you could look at it as a supercar bogged down with responsibility, or you could think of it as having your cake and eating it. Assuming you can spend a million dollars on a car and don't have many bags or passengers, you needn't buy a silly little economy car, because this one - this 800-horsepower, Nürburgring-shredding beast - is so frugal that you could use it every day and not spend more on running it than you would on something half as powerful. How can I say that without official economy figures? Because the prototype I've mentioned on here before was managing around 3 litres per 100km of fuel consumption in the most economical mode, which translates to a staggering 94.2mpg (UK, or 78.4mpg US). Of course, that figure was given with a '~', so it's not 100% accurate, but even being within 90% of that is amazing for a V8 supercar. Now do you see why it costs so much? You're paying for the future. Also, if you pay a little more (OK, €59,500 more), you can make the future look like the past:

I need say nothing more. You must surely want one now! The 918 will go on sale from 18th September, which using the American date system is 9/18. If you're still unsure about a hybrid hypercar, you're not alone. See below:

2/10/12, 14:58, 208,626 views (when posted here)

Personally, I can't wait for this car to be out and about. It's the best sign of the times I've seen yet, and may well remain so until times change again.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

TopGear Mk.II is Ten Years Old Today

For those who haven't seen the '02 series, the fat bloke in blue's not James May, he's used car guy Jason Dawe, who lasted one series.
Precisely a decade ago (well, it was precisely so at 8pm GMT), BBC2 broadcast the first episode of the newly rebooted and completely overhauled Top Gear, after the original show - which started way back in 1977 - had petered out at the end of the century. Rather than effectively being a televised magazine, the show was to feature celebrities going balls-out in a Reasonably Priced Car, around the same purpose-built, Lotus-designed airfield test track that supercars would prowl around on at the hands of tall man Jeremy Clarkson, short man Richard Hammond or mysterious and (usually) tame racing driver, The Stig. Oh, and there was another guy there, too. There would also be road tests of the cars that either matter or are surprising in some way, and some of the magazine-based consumer advice and news would stay in as well.

Fast forward to today, and TopGear is a global phenomenon with around 350 million viewers, multi-millionaire hosts and an annual world tour of their explosive live show (which starts next week in Birmingham) drawing in thousands of fans of the BBC show, or maybe even one of the two spin-offs from the colonies. There are also a lot of supporting books and some silly merchandise like a V8 pencil sharpener. Despite its almost constant political incorrectness and celebration of speed and joy behind the wheel, it has continued to be on television, entertaining and enthralling car fans of all ages, even though it has more or less stopped informing them of anything. So Happy Birthday, you mad, mad fools. The world loves you for being what no other show would dare to be. Long may you continue..........

..OK, about that last part. I'm supposed to finish a piece of writing about the tenth anniversary of my favourite show with "here's to the next ten years" or something, but I don't honestly believe that all ten of the next ten years will contain new episodes of TopGear. I'm sorry, but I don't.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Video - Wanted for Assault and NiCd Battery

16/10/12, 2:28, 302 views (when posted)

OK, I'm aware that I haven't been posting as much of late, and that's because I've been settling in to university life (I now know where the nearest corner shop, pub and chippy are, so I'm all set). To make up for this, and partly as filler before I write other stuff I've been meaning to write, I give you a healthy dose of awesome, with a car chase that follows every car chase convention, but pulls it all off. You'll see why when you press Play.

One other thing I can write about now, which isn't quite big enough for a real post, is that I tried out for the University's Cheerleading Karting team last Thursday. To do so I had to go not to the local indoor one in Swansea (a very different and much hillier place compared to Wokingham) but to the other side of Port Talbot and the Llandow Circuit. This was outdoors. In Wales. Of course it was pouring with rain all day. Apparently there's more comment on sunny days than rainy days in Wales, as they're rarer. Nevertheless, there was racing to be done, so I put on some gardening gloves, a motorcycle helmet and a boiler suit. I'm pretty sure that's what Jenson Button wears when he goes racing too.

Despite slick tyres, cornering wasn't difficult in the cold shower karts we used. The harder part was seeing where you were going when following someone, and the hardest part was the braking, especially when you get confident and start braking late and hard. The final corner was a hairpin, which along with a three-part chicane book-ended a long back straight. You see, a go-kart doesn't have brakes, it has a brake, and it's on the rear axle, so if you slam on the left pedal, the rear wheels will stop turning, which is basically the same as pulling the handbrake up at speed. Much opposite lock was required when it got really wet! Even the experienced guys were caught out at various stages of the final hairpin, although I'm pleased to report that I only spun once, and it was in my first race. What's more, the one time after that when I wasn't stuck with the lethargic #3 kart, I came a close second behind someone who does this all the time and has his own Mercedes GP overalls (because he's rich, not because he's the next Lewis Hamilton). I'm pretty happy with that, despite not making the team, although the next round of the Uni Championship for Non-Team Folk is at the indoor circuit, so I'm planning to do a lot less losing next term...

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Stop Saying That Cars Look Like Other Cars

Of course, the Paris Motor Show is upon us, which means that many new models and concept cars have been unveiled to camera-wielding journalists and subsequently (or even prematurely) sent onwards to the internet. When that happens, everyone who sees pictures of said cars becomes a styling critic, one that can often be impossible to impress because they just sit there comparing them to all the other cars out there and deciding that any coincidence regardless of magnitude makes a car's styling "lazy" or a "rip-off". This is something that's been increasingly getting on my nerves...

Take the new Jaguar F-Type as a prime case-in-point. This is a very good-looking car. I've mentioned before that I'm not keen on all the air intakes on the front bumper, but aside from that it's got the proportions and general shape of its spiritual predecessor, the monumental E-Type, combined with some well-placed modern touches and shorter overhangs for a more taut, aggressive look. Those who have seen it in person call it a stunning car. But the internet? Well, while some are smitten with it, others would have you believe that it's basically just a Nissan 350Z Roadster that's reversed into a BMW Z8. I hate that. Why can't it just be a good-looking car?

The thing is that, in the 51 years since the E-Type Jag, car stylists have done pretty much everything. We've had tall headlights, narrow headlights, pop-up headlights, swiveling headlights, LED headlights, square ones, round ones, square ones with rounded corners, eye-shaped ones, ones shaped like a company logo or a number (the daytime running strip in the left headlight of the Audi R18 LMP is meant to look like a 1 to commemorate all the winning they've done of late), the list goes on. So when car design genius Ian Callum put vertical almost-rectangular headlights on, the chances are that it never, on any level whatsoever, occurred to him that there are six or seven cars that have already done that, with one of them being a Nissan. And who's to say that, when styling the BMW Z8, Henrik Fisker wasn't inspired by the E-Type himself? It is, after all, one of the most beautiful shapes in history, to the point where it's been on display in art museums. The narrow horizontal red tail lights on the German car are pretty similar to the ones on a Series 1. So when Callum took inspiration from the same car, it's only natural that he will also have skinny horizontal red tail lights on his car, except that they're actually bigger and more interesting than the ones on either of the other two.

My point is, it is pretty much impossible in 2012 to design a new model that doesn't in any way look like any other car.

The French have tried oh-so hard for decades. Citroën, for example, smoke their favourite thing and just go mad with shapes and lines and angles to make something truly weird and wonderful. In their history, they've actually succeeded in being unique, with cars like the DS and SM. Nowadays? There's only so much they can do. Some people even accused the utterly bonkers GTbyCITROEN made-for-Playstation concept as looking like an Audi R8 crossed with a Lamborghini. Er, isn't that what a Gallardo is? Besides, the only remote similarity is in the headlights (again), with a low-set strip of LEDs. If anything, Lamborghinis like the LP560 and the Aventador have subsequently  gained the huge air intakes in the front corners that angle upwards into the main part of the nose in the middle. But look at this from any other angle and surely it only looks like itself? What else has huge chevrons cutting into the engine cover (well, fuel cell cover), or that tail end meant to look like the "whoosh lines" a child draws on a car going really fast? Or those crazy carbon fibre snakes they call mirrors? Nope, sorry, it's just an overstyled R8, apparently. Because of the headlights. I haven't even mentioned the swooping copper-laden interior...

The mainstream market is the toughest area for this kind of thing, though. With designers getting ever more creative with the traditional body shapes - hatchback, saloon, estate - mainstream cars have suddenly become very style-heavy - compare the current Ford Fiesta with the previous one for a stark contrast. What's more, when a particular car is praised for its styling and goes on to become a big success, the rest of the market notices and tries a version of the same thing because they know that that particular thing works and will sell well. Even Citroën are guilty; notice the DS3's BMW "Mini"-style "floating roof" that doesn't appear to be connected by any pillars. Retro was a big thing for a while after the Mini and New Beetle (the latter despite just being a slightly worse Golf) became a hit at the turn of the century, although thankfully the trend's starting to die out. Still, this phenomenon happens, and it doesn't just happen in the motoring world. Reading this on your iPhone-shaped smartphone?

Unfortunately, in defence of the couch critics, there are instances where following the herd starts to take over a bit. Take this for instance, the Vauxhall Adam. Named after the founder of Opel (er, yeah, Vauxhall being twinned with Opel and having to sell something named after Adam Opel is a bit awkward for marketers), it features a short, tall, round front end like Fiat 500 or a (non-)Mini. The roof may have pillars, but they're still floating and come in a small range of their own colours, like with a DS3 or, again, the BMW Mini. The very short tail with a round-ish tailgate is reminiscent of a Mk.1 Ford Ka if you squint, and it has the big mid-mounted fog lights of a Nissan Juke. Or indeed a 500. The side creases are fine though, as they're taken from other Vauxhall/Opels.

That said, there's a difference between derivative and coincidental. Sometimes other decisions lead you to a similar conclusion on a particular element.  Nevertheless, it's hard to avoid the fact that if we look at some staple segments, a common shape starts to appear. Compare the Ford Mondeo and its rivals, for instance. But it's not design teams that are to blame, it's the air. Aerodynamics have long been known to improve a racing car's high-speed cornering ability, but a low drag coefficient also improves fuel economy (oh, and top speed, but if we're honest that's neither here nor there). Enter streamlined profiles everywhere you look, and similarly-shaped noses. In the end, all the designer can do is apply their (or the company's) styling philosophy to a shape largely pre-defined by aerodynamic research and peppered with little spoilers and things to cut drag further, such as on the new Honda Civic diesel (EU) which has little bits of plastic under the tail lights to make air leave the car more smoothly, and plastic lining the wheelarches to lessen the gap between tyre and body. Every little helps. In some cases - particularly with platform-shared or badge-engineered cars - this just means putting your own grille and lights on something, and making the grille big to establish which brand it is.

So there are many reasons why cars tend to look similar to eachother, and as for people saying that modern cars all look the same? Pre-war cars all look the same, with huge running boards and round headlights. '60s cars all look the same, with chrome on each end and the same proportions. '80s cars all look the same, with lots of straight lines everywhere. Every decade has defining styling characteristics. Just because it's not the one you grew up with and/or know all about, doesn't mean it's any different in that respect. So get over it. Unless something really is a shameless rip-off and looks like a particular car from every angle, stop looking for other cars in a new model and just look at it in isolation. Does it look good? Does it make you want it? Is it otherwise aesthetically pleasing? That's all that matters. You're not big or clever for noticing any similarities. Similarities of some sort are inevitable.

I can't moan too much about the critics themselves, because I used to do it too, but frankly it's become all-but inevitable. I think the best way I can explain it is with music. Hundreds of years ago, classical musicians could blow people's minds with all sorts of clever techniques nobody had thought of. As genres like Rock 'n' Roll and Punk appeared, people's minds were blown all over again, and so it goes on. But now, you'd be hard-pressed to blow people's minds. Every musical trick has been done. Every chord progression, modulation, guitar effect, key, instrument line-up, everything. You can only hope to write something that's not exactly like somebody else's songs, and failing that, try to put your own spin on the same four-chord progression everybody else uses. Or give up and just sample other songs for your own monetary gain. Frankly, the best anyone's been able to do in recent years is come up with new electrical sound effects, and seeing as that has lead to Skrillex existing, I'm not sure it was worth it...

So stop complaining already. It doesn't matter. If you spot a true rip-off, it was probably intentional, and by all means poke fun in that case. Otherwise, think of something else to say about a new car instead, or grab a pencil, some paper, a rubber, a ruler and a compass (coins also work if you can find the right sizes), and try to do better. I bet you can't.