Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Road Taster: Jaguar XF 3.0 Diesel S Premium Luxury

Our driveway rarely looks so small...
I sometimes get the impression that, in a small way, I was destined to be a petrolhead. Wherever I look, an enthusiasm or involvement with cars is in my family. My dad was and is an avid follower of Formula 1, one family member was a driving instructor, one (RIP) engineered parts of the 1960s Comet commercial jet, another was a traffic policeman for a long time. Cars family members own include a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth and XR4x4, Audi S4 Avant (B5), and formerly a Honda Fireblade, which is an unusual two-wheeled car featuring leather human trim. Then there's my Grandma and her Jaguar fandom. I like to think I was the trigger for this; during a visit to our house many years ago, I'd just got a model of a then-new S-Type, and was looking at it on the table when she walked in and immediately took an interest.

A while later, she'd test driven one and found she had to scale down to a then-new X-Type (2.0 Classic). The car community may scoff at the Mondeo-based X-Type, but as it was her first Jag (replacing her second Rover 820 liftback) it didn't bother her in the slightest, especially as (almost) everything one saw and touched felt very Jaguar-ish. After that she wouldn't look at another car brand for long, and enjoyed the occasional looks of bemusement from onlookers seeing a woman driving a Jaguar, not to mention the local dealer letting her take other models for a spin once in a while. A couple of years later she got the S-Type she always wanted (a 3.0, no less) and loved it, nicknaming it "Lady Jane". Alas, changing from a 2.0 four-pot to a 3.0 V6 was always going to make a difference to fuel economy, so a manual-equipped Fiat Panda Eco acted as grocery-getter (thank you scrappage scheme for not letting that be a grey Vauxhall Astra Mk.III). The S-Type was a beloved companion for longer than the X. But you know how it is. Sometimes you feel like doing a spot of window shopping. Maybe you even get to test drive the replacement model. And maybe everything about it's lovely...

Saturday, 27 April 2013

An Anecdote Regarding Enzo Ferrari's Favourite Car Design

I've seen hundreds of pictures and seen the E-Type in person maybe a dozen times, but when I was at college a year ago (as in the bit before Uni), I had to go to the V&A museum for an exhibit about British Design. It was all interesting enough, but not particularly so. I rounded a corner and entered the second room, and there it was sitting right in front of me, an utterly immaculate metallic grey Series 1 coupé, seemingly out of the blue.

I stopped in my tracks. An involuntary grin upon my face, I made that hot breath "oooh" sound. I had to. It was utterly mesmerising. I spent what must've been 10 or 15 minutes just walking around it, drinking it all in, looking at every detail (it was Italian-registered). When I eventually urged myself to look at the other exhibits I would always try to catch another glance across the room.

Aside from my previous familiarity with E-Types, I can't help but imagine this must've been the effect it had in 1961, when nobody had seen it before. When you don't expect to see one and you're presented with such an example, you are a goner, mere putty in its hands. If a woman ever invokes this reaction, I would be too nervous to talk to marry her.

Happily, the internet has pictures of all the things. The effect is better in person!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Formula 1 2013: So You've Had The Intro...

The first corner of 2013
So, after a long wait, the Formula 1 season came back for a fortnight before disappearing off again for three weeks. If you don't actively keep up with F1 news, then there may have been many confusing things at these two races. Where are those white cars that always come last? Why is Lewis Hamilton now Mexican and Michael Schumacher now a mixed-race Senna fanatic? How come some of the cars don't have stepped noses like last year? And who are these new people I've never heard of? Fear not and settle down, for to make up for the lack of a season preview, I shall answer your bewildered questions now.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Things I Could've Written For April Fools' Day

Toyota ProAce BTVC Entries. Not

I'm back. To be honest, I was planning to be "back" sooner, but, well, I wasn't. That's pretty much how I roll. Anyways, I was going to write a joke article for April Fool's Day, but seeing as that was over a week ago, it would be rather pointless now and you would actually believe me. Car companies had fun, though. Toyota pretended it was entering its Proace van in the new British Touring Van Championship (which I'm sad to report does not exist at all), Subaru pretended to say "fuck it" and build a twin-turbo diesel hybrid convertible BRZ to satisfy the internet, and - get this - Tesla said it actually made a profit for once!! Shockingly, that last one's actually true thanks to the new Model S selling above expectations in spite of recent bad press regarding the car's range.

I could've pretended to do many things - except praise the Toyota Prius C, which I already did - so here are some half-finished and half-baked ideas below:

I Have A Confession To Make
In which I would've come out as the new Stig, confirming and denying rumours thereof.

Chevrolet Decides To Build A Car Just For Jalopnik Readers
In a bold move to attract dozens more in sales, one of the biggest American car companies in the world is planning to release a new luxury sports GT shooting brake. Priced to cannibalise the Camaro and Corvette simultaneously, it will be available with three engines and only one gearbox option. To your six-speed manual transmission you can attach a twin-turbo 3.5-litre inline-six diesel "because they keep begging for a freakin' diesel!", a 6.2-litre naturally-aspirated 'LSX' V8 or a 6.3-litre supercharged 'LS9' unit from the outgoing Corvette ZR1, which has been uprated to produce 700bhp and 675lb/ft, leaving a nice big gap to the 560bhp LSX version. Chevrolet says that this yawning chasm between the two engines allows for "Wrench-it-yourself" tuning packages to be introduced without the performance gains impeding on the top-of-the-range model. "The most expensive one will give it 699bhp and 670lb/ft," adds a project engineer known as Medium Dave. Curiously, despite this consideration for avoiding variant overlap, the diesel actually makes more torque than the LSX, at a thundering 550lb/ft, a 50lb/ft advantage. All variants will be available with either rear- or all-wheel-drive and will weigh just 1000kg (2200lbs) despite being useable as a daily driver, thanks to use of a new material known as Magic Fibre.

Engines aside, a clever function of this new model is that it can be turned into a pickup reminiscent of the El Camino of yesteryear. With the rear bench seat folded flat and all the rear windows rolled down, the roof panel - which has a 33-66 split - drops down onto the flat floor created by the seats to turn the shooting brake into a pickup, with the shorter roof section remaining fixed in place and housing a front bench seat. The tailgate is hinged at the bottom and features a pillarless sliding rear windscreen. A sunroof is a free optional extra and despite there being no centre console, thanks to the bench seat, Chevrolet claims it still managed to fit in a full 12 cupholders, all big enough to hold Starbucks' biggest cup securely. There are no armrests and a "Track Pack" option also deletes the horn and cupholders while adding 25 horsepower and shedding 200lbs of weight by adding carbon fibre doors and lids.

All these features seem like they should make the car hideously expensive, especially considering projected sales figures of around 400-500. Medium Dave recognises this; "Frankly we're going to lose a shit heap of money on this, but if it shuts them up then we're all OK with it here at Chevrolet." The one problem with selling a $40-60k car to internetters is that not all of them have real money. It's estimated that roughly 35% of the 1.2million commenters saying they'll buy a Subaru BRZ have actually bought one. Luckily, pre-registering cars provides a solution. "Because almost nobody else will buy one, it will depreciate like a used bag of shit, so maybe it will reach a price that will make these guys actually go out and buy one instead of just talking about buying one and teasing us. If that doesn't work, we may have to introduce one with a 3.1-litre V4 engine that has a lower starting price, or just release it in Forza 5 and arrange to get royalties every time somebody downloads it."

The name of this car? The Chevrolet Grand Touring Family And Camino (it's likely they'll abbreviate it). Colours include Shiny Primer and Pussy-Magnet Yellow.

I guess snide and/or moaning internet forums have an effect after all.

Designer Admits Ripping Off A Design
"I honestly couldn't think of anything, so I just sorta put two different cars together, styled it out and put our corporate 'face' on it." - Alan A. Designer

Bernie Ecclestone Reportedly Considering Giving Vettel F1 Title In Advance
The F1 owner and serial troll wants to apply an innocent-until-proven-guilty style principle to the world title, saying "well, he won the last three in a row and he's still driving a Newey-designed car under the same rules, so we might as well just cut to the chase." Sources close to the 812-year-old say this definitely has nothing to do with the fact that they are bestest best friends, honest, now get out and ask Sebastian about team orders.

And so it goes on.