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Thursday, 17 September 2015

IAA Frankfurt 2015 - Production Cars of Interest

2015/16 Ferrari 488 Spider being unveiled
Wacky concept cars are great, really they are, but the more serious part of an international motor show is the unveiling of cars you (or someone richer than you) can actually buy some time soon. We've seen topless version of the Ferrari 488 and Lamborghini Huracan, crossover versions of basically everything and the new Prius, which is the ugliest car ever designed, to such an extent that it makes a Ssangyong Rodius look bland and a Pontiac Aztek look innovative and stylish. I am not showing you the new Prius in this post. Either you will vomit and blame me or you will think it's actually not the worst after all, in which case I don't want to know your opinion. I hate it, and this is my blog, dammit.

So, instead, here are some real life cars for real life people with money that are actually interesting.

2016 Porsche 911 Carrera (Turbocharged Facelift)



"OH NO!!" the purists say. Porsche have altered the recipe of the 911 again! With the mid-life refresh of the current '991' generation comes a significant difference under the mostly identical skin, in the form of turbocharged engines. The head says that it makes perfect sense to follow the widespread trend and replace the big atmospheric engines with smaller, lighter turbo ones to save fuel while also adding performance. The heart says that the revvy, highly responsive and iconic-sounding engines these new ones replace are more enjoyable for the driver, and a quieter turbo with a less rewarding top end will subtract from the 911s character. Obviously, nobody's driven it yet, so any effect on the driving experience is just speculation. Besides, the Ferrari 488 had to deal with the same problem when replacing the 458 Italia, and that seems to have turned out pretty damn good. Meanwhile, the new Carrera is thankfully still available with either a 7-speed manual transmission or a "PDK" paddle-box for lazy/impatient people.

The new 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six engines boast an extra 20 horsepower and 44lb/ft of torque over the old 3.4 and 3.8-litre units, with the Carrera getting 370hp & 332lb/ft and the Carrera S (featuring upgraded turbos, exhaust and ECU over the base model) getting 420hp & 369lb/ft. Taking full advantage of the new compressors, the peak torque output is now produced from 1700-5000rpm in both versions, with the redline a still-quite-high 7500rpm. They are also 12% more fuel efficient than before and cut the 0-60mph time of each version by 0.2 seconds. The cheapest, slowest 911 now tops out at 183mph, while the S stretches up to 191mph, almost the same as a 997 Turbo. In fact, a Carrera S with the PDK gearbox and all the go-faster toys does the sprint in 3.9 seconds, the first Carrera-badged 911 ever to do so. The base model takes a wearisome 4.2 seconds.

There have been tweaks to the chassis, suspension, interior and electronic systems, but the other big headline is that you can now have all-wheel-steering as an optional extra, à la GT3, 918 or Turbo. Yes, the 911 Turbo is still called the 911 Turbo, despite the 911 Carrera now also having a turbocharged engine. This is not to be confused with the 930 Turbo Carrera of the late 1970s and '80s, which was known outside the US just as the 911 Turbo. But hey, maybe they'll rename the Turbo the Very Turbo or something......


Ford Focus RS Mk.3




Why would Ford use the Frankfurt Motor Show to make a big deal out of their new global hot hatch? Simple. This car is made in Germany. It was largely developed in this neck of the woods, too, by Ford Europe. To be fair, nobody does hot hatches quite like the Europeans, Civic Type-R aside, and the new Focus RS is looking to get right up the nose of the VW Golf R and Audi RS3, not to mention the front-wheel-drive Civic-R and RS Megane 275. The all-wheel-drive Ford is packing 345bhp at 5900 rpm and 324lb/ft of torque at 2000-4500rpm from a 2.3-litre inline four (a tuned version of the Mustang EcoBoost engine). If that's not enough torque, however, then you can spend up to 15 seconds in Overboost mode to add another 23lb/ft. As if it wasn't going to be good enough at overtaking already! With a top speed of 165mph you can also outrun pretty much every single German performance with a limited top speed by a heady 10mph.

Making the corners exciting is a new torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system with a rear-biased "Drift Mode" (that's actually what it's called) as well as the typical Normal/Sport/Track modes that all alter exhaust loudness, throttle/steering response, damper firmness and AWD system behavior. For the straights, there's also a Launch Control function. Slot it into 1st gear in gloriously manual fashion, prime the accelerator and take your foot off the clutch. The car will do the rest until you either hit the 6800rpm limiter or respect the 5900rpm up-shift light. 0-60mph takes 4.7 seconds, just narrowly quicker than a paddle-shift Porsche Cayman GTS but 0.4 seconds off the ballistic Audi RS3. I predict that you'd have a million times more fun in the Ford than the Audi, though, even without going all Ken Block and engaging Drift Mode.

But, to quote Mr. Clarkson, I haven't even got to the best thing yet: the price. An Audi RS3 is £40,000 before you add optional extras. For a hot hatch, this is a stupid price. Ford evidently agree, because the comparably fast Focus RS starts at £28,940. That's also £2000 cheaper than the slower-accelerating Golf R and Honda Civic Type-R, and a bit of a bargain. If you're in Europe you can order one now. If you're from America you can order one soon. I just wish there was a sleeker 3-door version.


Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport




Since the 20th anniversary of the Golf GTI back in 1996, there has been a special edition of the evergreen hot hatch icon every five years. As next year will be the 40th anniversary of the original, VW have brought out a special "Clubsport" edition. While some people may associate that term with something lighter and more hardcore, in this case it seemingly just means it's got more of everything. More power, more special trim and more aerodynamic body adornments like the black sideburns and rear spoiler extension. There's a whole 40 horsepower or so more than the GTI Performance Pack to make 260bhp overall, although if you hit the accelerator right to the floor, you get even more power for around 10 seconds as the overboost gives you 285bhp. 0-62mph takes 6.0 seconds (5.9 with the paddleshift gearbox) and the top speed is the usual 155mph.

To make clear that this GTI has sporty intentions, there is liberal use of red stitching, along with alcantara trim, "Honeycomb 40" seat trim on the folding leather bucket seats - which you can just see at the bottom of the third image - a gear knob that looks like a golf ball (get it?!) and on the outside, a black side stripe to reference the one on the 1976 Golf GTI, along with snazzy 19" alloys and bigger, shinier tailpipes. Sporty! Intentionally so!

The intended price for all this sportiness hasn't been revealed, but the normal GTI is about £27k here, so it'll probably be more than that but less than the £31k Golf R. So in other words, about the same as the much faster Ford Focus RS. Oops...


Renault Megane GT (all-new Mk.4)




This is the all-new Renault Megane, built on Renault's all-new "Common Module Family" platform. While the styling graphics (lights and such) take inspiration from the all-new RS01 racing car, this is primarily a rival to the normal Focus and the normal Golf and the normal Civic. There's a 1.2 turbo four or a 1.5 turbodiesel four and there are 1.6-litre turbo engines as well, with power ranging from 90 to 205 horsepower with both manual and dual-clutch automatic transmissions on offer. Later on there will be a diesel-hybrid version allegedly capable of over 90mpg. Inside there's an 8.7" touchscreen infotainment interface, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, speed limit warning, auto-dimming high beams and a reversing camera. There's even something called Easy Park Assist, where the car will do the steering for you when you need to parallel park. Y'know, if you're terrible at parallel parking or something. It's 64mm longer but has shorter overhangs, meaning a 28mm longer wheelbase and thus more interior room. It's also 25mm lower, probably for a lower drag coefficient, and 47mm wider to give it a more broad-shouldered stance.

There is currently no Renaultsport version, so car reviewers can't get all tight in their trousers just yet. Give it a year or so, I reckon. Until then, there's a "warm hatch" version called the GT which has at least had the chassis looked at by the performance division... I think. It can be had with either a 1.6-litre, 165bhp turbo diesel engine or a 205bhp turbo petrol engine of the same displacement. A 7-speed paddleshift transmission from the RS Clio (lesser Meganes get only 6 speeds) is included as standard, with a function that allows you to hold the left paddle down while braking hard to make the gearbox change down multiple gears until it's in the right one. Just like in a Ferrari 599 GTO! The GT version also gets a head-up display (just like a jet fighter!) and "4Control" all-wheel-steering to improve maneuverability at low speeds and stability at high speeds, just like a brand new Porsche 911! Or, y'know, the 1989-2002 Nissan Skyline GT-Rs. It's not a new invention. There have even been "GT" models from Renault with rear-steer before, but never on the Renaultsport version, so it will be interesting to see if it appears on that later. The eventual RS version had better bloody well have a manual gear box like the hot hatches above, too...

The fourth-generation Renault Megane will go on sale in Europe next year with a range of engines, trim levels and prices. Really though, we're all just waiting for the Renaultsport version.


Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde




As I have mentioned before on this blog, Alfa Romeo's hasn't made us wait for the performance version of their all-new, all-Italian (seriously, there's no Chrysler interference here at all) performance saloon, the Giulia. In fact, it's the only version for which you can currently place an order. If I had €79-95k to spend on a car, I'd be fairly tempted by this, despite it being very difficult to predict how good it will actually be to drive. The ingredients are extremely promising, though. The 3.0 twin-turbo V6 is related to the Ferrari-built engine Maserati use, and produces 510 horsepower with 442lb/ft of torque to shift just 1524kg. That's 70kg less and ~70bhp more than a BMW M3. It also has a 0-60mph time 0.4 seconds faster, at a nutty 3.9 seconds, and a higher top speed at a nuttier 190mph. Despite all this prodigious straight line speed, it emits just 198g/km of CO2, lower than any comparable car. There's also a carbon fibre bonnet, carbon fibre seats and optional carbon brakes. So the hardware lives up to the relatively exotic looks.

But wait, there is another sensational statistic! The Giulia QV is allegedly a full thirteen seconds faster around the Nürburgring Nordschleife than the M3. Its 7:39 lap time is equal with a Ferrari F430 Scuderia, a mere second off the Lexus LFA and a shade faster than any 997-generation Porsche 911 GT3. It's not like this car is packing GT-R levels of tech, either - while the lesser, non-QV Giulias will be available with all-wheel-drive, this is rear-drive only and comes standard with a manual gearbox. It does have a torque-vectoring differential, to be fair, along with "the most direct steering on the market" and active aero in the form of a retractable front splitter to help generate 100kg of downforce at 186mph (not that you'll go that fast on the 'Ring). All this, plus the best power/weight ratio in its class and perfect 50:50 weight distribution in the true Alfa style. When you're not going mind-bendingly fast, you can enjoy the 3D sat nav, or all the infotainment and vehicle information you can look at on the 8.8" TFT display.

The Giulia QV will be on sale late next year in the UK/Europe and the USA, along with normal versions with normal engines for normal people. More images and videos here.


2016 BMW M6 GT3 Racecar




But of course, if we're going to talk about performance versions of cars, nothing tops a full-fat racing version. The current GT3 regulations have proven extremely popular with racing teams/drivers and manufacturers alike, to the point that there are now more sports car manufacturers with GT3 programs than without, with the likes of Jaguar strongly rumored to join soon as well. This is BMW's latest take on the rules, replacing the Z4 that's raced successfully (and sexily) since 2010.

As an aside, I actually had a hard time choosing which three images to lead into this one with. Not because it's ugly - after the previous-gen 6-Series this is refreshingly pleasant all-round - but because I had to choose from an excellent photo gallery of press images, and couldn't decide which angles best highlighted the big curvy flares or the bigness of the big rear wing. Go look at the rear wing again. It's a BIG WING. If you disagree with my choices, then you can see said excellent photo gallery hither and choose for yourself.

Anyway, the car. The slightly dubious thing about the Z4 GT3 was that it used a V8 engine, whereas the production Z4 has never once had one in its range. I would've quite liked to have seen/heard an angry straight-six in there myself, but hey ho, a V8 probably fits behind the front axle better. There is no such problem with engine choice in the M6, the road version of which sports a 4.4-litre 552bhp twin-turbo V8 that has been race-tuned for the GT3 car including dry-sump lubrication. The power output will be slightly different depending on which series it's entered in, as some series use restrictors to balance the performance between different cars, but the highest output will be 585 horsepower, with more torque and better fuel economy than the old car. It sends its power to a rear-mounted six-speed sequential transmission operated with paddles on the wheel. Because the four-seater M6 road car is much bigger than the Z4, the wheelbase is a lot longer too, not only improving stability but allowing them to put the driver's seat centrally between the front and rear axles (although it's still on the left-hand side). The added size hasn't made it too heavy, however, at just under 1300kg. Besides, between the SLS, GT-R and Continental GT, there are a few big-boy GT3 cars out there at the moment. The M6 will fit right in! Of course GT3 cars are customer cars, so BMW not only assure gentleman racers of "a driving feeling unparalleled on the racing scene" but state that BMW's works drivers have been taking part in an extensive testing programme on multiple circuits to make sure the baseline setup of the car is sweet. This is still being finished off while the show car here shows off its MASSIVE REAR WING.

Prices start at €379,000 including factory support and spare parts. If you can't afford that then there's always the M6 Competition Edition road car, featuring the same stripes and a full 600 horsepower but none of the actual racecar bits... and no rear wing. Like, at all. Instead it's full of luxury toys and fancy trim. Because NOT racecar. Here it is, followed by a direct comparison between road and race versions:




Crossovers I Don't Care About

Oh yeah, and there were some big fat brand bastardisations too:



WHAT. EVER.


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