Friday, 29 November 2013

Ferrari's 2014 LaF1 Mule Lets Us Listen To The Future Properly

Uploaded today, 1:48

Last Sunday, the 2.4-litre V8 Formula 1 engines screamed to 18000rpm for the last time ever (outside of appearances at Goodwood and such like). But what will next year sound like? Well, Renault, Mercedes-Benz and Honda - joining the fray in 2015 with McLaren - have given us soundbites already, but those are recordings of dyno runs, so aren't truly representative of the real V6 Turbo engine sounds we'll hear in 2014... however, this video could give us a much better idea.

Here we see a LaFerrari test mule at Pista di Fiorano, Ferrari's test track. LaFerrari's normal powerplant consists of a 6.3L V12 revving past 9000rpm, and a hybrid system similar to F1's KERS. But this is no normal powerplant. It's louder, rawer and full of whistles and whooshes from what must be a substantial turbocharger. Yes, Ferrari are making V6 Twin-Turbo engines for Maserati these days, but there's no way an engine that sounds like this and requires the hybrid hypercar to be fitted with a large central air snorkel is destined for a production car. It must surely be the Formula 1 V6, revving low much of the time but giving us brief moments where it sounds close to its 15000rpm limit. Reminiscent of the 1980s turbo cars, I think it sounds great, with six-cylinder harmonics and turbo whizz-bangery that keeps my ears interested.

Honda To Enter An Estate In 2014 BTCC

2014 Honda Civic Tourer BTCC (image from the factory teams' Twitter)
The climax of the 2013 British Touring Car Championship was a real nail-biter, and in the end it was won by independent driver Andrew Jordan in a Honda Civic. In 2011 and 2012, the series was also won by Honda Civics, driven by Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden respectively for the officially-backed Honda Yuasa Racing team. So, I can say with relative confidence that the 2014 BTCC will be won by...... an estate car.

Oh yes! Honda's entry next year will officially be a 300bhp Civic Tourer, only the second family wagon to enter the series after Tom Walkinshaw Racing prepared a pair of Volvo 850 T5s in 1994, which you can see getting caught up in this crash:

It also appears in this video I found, but only very briefly. I'm only really posting this one because it's fun:

Anyway, there's not really much else to say about the Civic Tourer BTCC, other than obvious things like pointing out that next year it will have been 20 years since 1994 and that the 2014 Civic BTCC is based on the newly-launched Honda Civic Tourer and is otherwise the same as a normal Civic, but with more rear overhang. Whether that extra metal out back affects the weight balance significantly, I don't know. The aerodynamics might be slightly different, too. Power will come from the same 2.0 Turbo engine, built by a bloke called Neil Brown, whom is apparently an engineering company in his spare time. Most importantly, though, having more rear end gives vengeful drivers more car to hit, which might keep Neal and Shedden on their toes...

We'll find out during the last weekend of March next year, when the season kicks off at Brands Hatch, a track you can experience in your room at home thanks to Gran Turismo 6.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

NISMO GT-R Unveiled Properly, Including 'Ring Lap Video

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Yesterday came the news that the Nissan GT-R NISMO had leaked out ahead of its official reveal at the Tokyo Motor Show today. Now that it's out properly, here's some more about it.

But first, let FIA GT1 racer Michael Krumm talk you through his lap around the Nordschleife, which only took 7:08.679, a new lap record for volume production cars (the Porsche 918 Spyder is a limited-run car, so that's a different record).

The first thing to clear up from yesterday's post is that there's no mention of any "track pack" version, so that appears to be misinformation from Car & Driver, or maybe an 'RS' version all of its own that'll come along later. That means that the car setting this time is the only version of the GT-R NISMO.

That means it's packing a 3.8L V6 Twin-Turbo producing 600PS (591bhp) and 481lb/ft, which is sent through the usual 6-speed DCT to all four wheels via Nissan's ATTESA-ETS all-wheel-drive system and is propelling a car 65kg lighter than usual (still a rather chubby 1675kg, though). No straight-line performance figures have been revealed yet, but rumours suggest a scarcely-believable 0-60mph time of 2.0 seconds. This is in part down to the uprated engine, which gains 50bhp and 17lb/ft thanks to getting the GT3 racing car's turbochargers and modified ignition, intake and exhaust systems, but it's also down to the bespoke Dunlop tyres, which are very sticky and wrapped tightly around 20" RAYS wheels with a design inspired by the SUPER GT GT500 racing car that's won three championships in six seasons (not the greatest run of victories in the GT-R's history, but still pretty good considering how competitive SUPER GT is). The front wheels on the NISMO road car are half an inch wider than the standard GT-R for more front-end grip, while the bold new aero kit generates 100kg more downforce at 300km/h (186mph) than the standard car. Not that that's a very useful figure most of the time. The suspension has also been upgraded and tuned to achieve "stunning agility, road-holding and handling finesse, without compromising refinement." To that end, the springs and bespoke Bilstein DampTronic dampers being specially tuned to "maximize grip and progressive handling response at the limit." There's also a 17.3mm hollow rear anti-roll bar. Good. The suspension has three modes: Comfort, Normal and R. Because R-Mode makes the car very stiff, Nissan recommends you only use it on the track. These changes all add up to make the NISMO a full 30 seconds quicker around the Green Hell than the original R35-generation GT-R when it debuted in 2007.

Making the foot rest look like a clutch pedal is a dirty trick...
The interior is also more serious. Apparently it retains the back seats, so even though this is a hardcore car, you can still take the kids to school in it. I bet that'll be fun! Up front you get carbon-backed Recaro seats which recline, should you be that way inclined. There's also extra alcantara trim and some red bits, as you'd expect in a car like this.

Supposedly the GT-R NISMO will cost less than $200,000 or £125,000 when it arrives in the western world a few months after its domestic release in February 2014. So if you're desperate to have one, you'll have to shorten the wait by getting a JDM one, yo.

Until then, have some pictures. Unfortunately there are none of the new Dark Matte Grey paint exclusive to the NISMO, but hey ho.

Plenty of vents on here now, some of which are trimmed in unpainted carbon fibre to make a point
The entire rear bumper has been re-profiled to improve air flow along and off it. Also note the titanium exhaust system
Here lurks 600 metric horsepower
The usual (enormous) brakes are enough to deal with the extra power, as the NISMO is 65kg lighter.
Even the little silver GT-R logo thing on the side has been reprofiled, made a tiny bit tinier to save, oh, about 30g
The headlights have been redesigned - or rather the light cluster arrangement - as has the front bumper, particularly at the corners
Interestingly, the driver's seat has a lump between the occupant's thighs, whereas the passenger seat doesn't. I wonder why?
This is what handling looks like. Sort of
Rev counter is trimmed in red, because red is SPORTY.
For the press release and a handful of wallpapers, clicketh hither. I can't wait for this to be added to Gran Turismo 6!

BMW MINI Will Probably Never Make The One Car They Should

Three BMWs and a Mini.
My favourite comment about this image is that "it looks like someone keeps pulling back the loose skin on a dog's face."
Yes, I know the whole "Oh the new Mini is too big" moan has been moaned millions of times. No, I don't care if you're jaded by it. I have cause to moan about it again. Deal with it.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Lock Up Your 911s - Nissan GT-R NISMO Leaks Out Early

2014 Nissan GT-R NISMO
Well, we knew it was coming. It was announced last year that there would eventually be a pumped-up, hardcore version of the ballistic Nissan GT-R. It's been caught testing on - where else? - the Nürburgring, going pretty bloody fast, and now, ahead of its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show this week, pictures and details of the halo model of the newly-expanded NISMO operation have sneaked between the cracks. Welcome to the ultimate GT-R.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Gran Turismo 6 Will Be Out Of This World

I've already done a preview for the Playstation 3's last hurrah, Gran Turismo 6, which is definitely being posted to my house on 6th December this year. But since that post, there has been another video and a healthy chunk of new information. So here's GT6 Preview Part II!

Usually in the lead up to a new Gran Turismo, there will be one video they release that will get me truly excited about the game and wish I could just skip a month of the year out entirely to shorten the wait. That's why I'm glad they've done six teaser trailers - or Concept Movies as they've latterly become known - and it's this final one that's really done it. It made me genuinely and deeply happy and excited in a way I rarely experience. Maybe the fact that Gran Turismo has been a part of 15 of my 21 years means that it takes me back to a happier time in my life. Maybe it's the way the animation makes the cars seem dynamic, exciting and characterful in a particular way that only Gran Turismo does. Maybe it's the rousing (if otherwise generic) rock music, or even just that little snippet at the end which also gave me the title for this post. Maybe it's all of those things. Or none. Or some of them. One thing it definitely was the first time I watched it was the cars themselves. It's just one "OMG!" moment after another! Classic Ferraris, rare concepts from history, exciting new cars for all kinds of car fan (from Audi R18 to Tesla Model S), straight-up car porn like the Aston Martin One-77 and Pagani Huayra, or car nerd magnets like the Ueno Clinic-sponsored McLaren F1 GTR '95, i.e. the car that won the 1995 Le Mans 24 Hours and the last GT-class car to win outright, possibly ever. Or the Audi Quattro Group B. Or Monster Tajima's electric Pikes Peak Hillclimb car (his 2011 car that got the first ever sub-10:00 time on the mountain is also included). And then to finish... THE FREAKIN' MOON BUGGY!! My mind was in smithereens!

Anyway, as well as the Concept Videos, there has been a burst of new information regarding content, so settle down and prepare yourself, because some of it's pretty epic.