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Old 05-29-14, 12:20 AM   #31
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FERRARI LAFERRARI: REVIEW
http://www.pistonheads.com/news/defa...?storyId=30047
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Harris can finally share his impressions of TheFerrari; hold on tight

Until recently, there wasn't going to be a media drive event of for the Ferrari LaFerrari - the silliest named supercar of them all. I can quite understand why this was almost the case. Imagine selling your house, completing the deal, watching the cash land in the bank account and then inviting three more prospective buyers, with no more cash to offer, to view the property. It's pointless. All 499 examples of the Enzo's successor were sold immediately. And I strongly suspect many of those who bought them would quite like to see the machine kept away from the great unwashed like me anyway.

However, building a petrol-electric 963hp hypercar does leave you with the small issue of marketing your technological expertise, and so it was inevitable that Ferrari would need to let the world know that it had taken a technology used to create the hideous Prius and somehow fashioned it into the most impressive new piece of go-faster hardware since the invention of the exhaust driven turbocharger.

This was my first trip to Maranello for a while. I had with me a man to taste food for poison and a small security ensemble in case of violence. The programme was briefings, followed by a brief road drive and then some laps of Fiorano. I had less time in the car than the P1.

You already know the basic details of the LaF's technical specification, so let's try and understand it in the context of its closest rival, the P1. There are two key differences between the two - the Ferrari uses a naturally aspirated V12, where the McLaren has a twin turbo V8, and the LaF has regenerative braking, whereas the P1's middle pedal does braking and nothing more.

In simple terms, the LaF's V12 is the same as the F12's but running new intake and exhaust systems to give 800hp. Obviously the powertrain's hybridity takes all the headlines, but the constantly variable length intakes are straight from an F1 car and pure pornography for people like us. The motor revs to 9,250rpm, peak power is at 9,000rpm. For all those people who can't understand why a car of this type might benefit from any electric assistance I enclose a picture of the motor's torque curve - it's straight out of a race car; a perfect horizontal line. Left to petrol power alone, the LaFerrari would be as peaky as a 500cc two-stroke GP motorcycle.

The extra 163hp comes from an electric motor powered by a high voltage battery pack located as low as possible in the chassis and is, in effect, part of the chassis because it's housed in a carbon frame that is a stressed part of the tub. The total weight penalty for the hybrid system is 146kg. The tub itself is 20 per cent lighter than an Enzo's and 27 per cent stiffer in terms of torsional stiffness; 22 per cent in bending. The centre of mass is 35mm lower. There is 60mm extra headroom because the driving position is more reposed, and that means you can wear a crash hat, something you struggle to do in an Enzo.

Braking is by massive Brembo carbon ceramics and the gearbox is essentially the same Getrag dual-clutch as you'll find in an F12, but electrically powered.

The driving position is something of a masterpiece. The door swings wide and high, and because the chassis is so narrow, you simply fall into the cabin. There is no seat, simply some padding fixed to the carbon tub and a wheel and pedals that move to meet you. The most complicated Ferrari of all time borrows a key design theme from a Marcos. You sit low, with the wheel pulled into your chest and the floor-hinged pedals spaced where you ask them to be. Ahead of you are two electronic displays that can be configured in a zillion different ways - the coolest being a track mode that shows a rev counter beginning at 5,000rpm. The steering wheel is a visual abomination because it is almost square, and the buttons are no different to those of a 458. For a million large I'd quite like something a little different to grip. But that's the last time you really bother moaning about the steering wheel because, once you've driven the LaFerrari, you struggle to find much that's wrong with it. For the business of going faster than your body feels is reasonable and, far more importantly, involving the driver in the process, this car is much more than I'd expected.

We'll start with the track performance. That lower C of G gives the car startling agility. There are no spherical bearings in the suspension, but being bolted into the tub gives a genuine sense of connection, For the first few corners you think "Jeepers, this is a mid-engined 1,000hp accident waiting to happen." And then the first time you dare to push that long-travel throttle pedal into the carpet you simply cannot compute the notion that four laps later you'll be grabbing the thing by the scruff and letting the back axle slither about. But you will, because once you get your head around the fact that the straight bits of Fiorano seem quite a bit shorter than you remember, this is a very approachable car.

Power delivery is just otherworldly. Ferrari has all sorts of graphs demonstrating crazy response times, but the reality is even more impressive. You can judge the amount of throttle with great accuracy too - building thrust as each radius opens. Is it faster than a P1? I couldn't sense any great difference - they're both bain-frazzlingly rapid, but the Italian V12 makes the finer noise. I don't think I could ever tire of hearing this car, either from inside or outside.

With all the systems switched on in Race mode the chassis is plain superb. Front axle grip is massive, and here's the interesting bit - the steering is way more communicative than in a 458 or an F12. So you can build the speed with a greater knowledge of what's going on, peel away from the throttle mid-corner and the car neutralizes; and all the time the electronic rear differential is helping trim the line and the traction control is working hard. It'll allow a few degrees of slide before calmly reducing engine power and, in extreme cases, applying some brake.

Driven like this the LaF feels like a very fast 458 - and I mean that as the ultimate compliment. Where the LaF goes in a slightly different direction to the P1 is in simplifying the unfathomable complexity of what's underneath for the driving experience - and that's not to suggest that it's been expurgated or sanitized. There's no manual DRS or Boost button. Just two pedals, a wheel and a car that feels quite analogue, despite the vast amount of processors trimming the powertrain and chassis at pretty much all times.

The acceleration never becomes ordinary. Terrible though it sounds, after five laps, a 458 feels pretty slow around Fiorano. You exit turns on full throttle and live with the frustration of wanting more power to shorten the following straight; to punch you harder in the back. But in this car you never crave more. The traction control is often working into third gear and through the fast S on the back of the circuit it triggers in fourth. On a dry, warm surface.

The brakes are in isolation both a masterpiece and powerful enough to mean the optional race harness is necessary for any kind of track work. I really wasn't aware of any compromise in pedal feel as the regeneration kicked in. On the main straight you hit around 170mph and pin them from about 120m. The ABS fizzes and somehow you lose 120mph before turn one. After four fast laps they were very hot and very smelly, but pedal was still there. What I will say is that they lack the same sense of sheer omnipotence the P1's Akebono brakes offer - the McLaren feels like it brakes harder and would do so for longer before overheating the rotors. But you'd need to run a back-to-back to prove as much.

The P1's shape-shifting Track mode is also unmatched by the Ferrari. Further emphasising its role as a simple driving device it doesn't have an answer to the McLaren's crazy drop in ride height and massive aero increase. With all of its trickery deployed, I don't doubt that the British car would be the faster of the two over pretty much any given lap. Yes, the Ferrari's active aero is constantly working on the front and rear bodywork, but its influence on downforce is far less than on the British car's.

Switch everything off and you can feel the full effects of all that power and torque, and have some idea just how hard the systems have been working to maintain sanity and some rear tread depth. In second gear, a quarter prod of throttle sends the car into a lovely, controllable slide, anything more and you'll probably rotate. In third gear, half throttle will do the same - the torque delivery is just monumental, but not wholly unnatural. You just have this sense of instant urge, regardless of crank speed, and your brain adjusts accordingly. Best of all the power builds with the revs and from 7,000 to 9,000rpm the periphery of your vision becomes just a little soft-focused. And noise just keeps building.

You can play with angles in this car - you can revel in the fact that all the extensive ESP calibration isn't protecting the driver from some feral, snappy chassis. It's a complete joy. I found myself transfixed by the simplicity of the messages it sent back to me - I was trying to over-think what it was doing when in fact all it wanted me to do was get in and drive. Drive it straight and neat with the systems on, destroy the tyres with them off; it didn't matter which because both came naturally.

It was very difficult to test any of the charging claims at Fiorano, we were only running four fast laps at a time (ample for one's stomach) and the charge indicator level never dipped below full. Would it run a full lap of the Nurburgring without dipping back to a mere 800hp? I'm told it would.

Would you have one over a P1? I've promised myself that I wouldn't answer that question until I'd driven both on the same day and under the same conditions. The Ferrari is the more straightforward personality, in many ways the more complete product because it feels like a very fast version of a normal series production Ferrari. I love the styling, especially the pinched area behind the front arches, and I still can't believe how accessible they've made 963hp in a rear wheel machine. Have they over-sanitised it? Not at all. The first time you run it full beans in third gear, with the vague sensation that the front wheels want to lift off the ground, you concur that this is one of the most outrageous cars ever made. A Veyron is sliced-white by comparison.

And despite this, the P1 feels even less like it belongs to this planet than either. The styling is even more outrageous, the extended wings are madness and it can probably do things on track that lift it to another level. It can't match the Ferrari's perfect sounds, nor to my eyes its unfussy beauty. And it isn't a Ferrari, which to many people will mean it loses from the start.

I haven't done enough road driving in either to really call a difference. On the narrow streets near Modena the LaF is comically over-endowed, but visibility is very good, especially from those insectile wing-mirrors. There's even a bumpy road button to soften the dampers. I haven't mentioned the transmission because its so damn good you hardly know it's there. A shame for those who crave a manual, although there are some decent wallops in the neck under full power in race mode. Around town you just drop it into D and mooch. It couldn't be simpler.

The terminally cynical will probably be amused to learn that Ferrari's hypercar feels sensational around Ferrari's home circuit. But it's a superbly finished product with an operating window much wider than I'd expected. It is everything a limited series car from Maranello should be; that it happens to use electricity is immaterial because it is untraceable other than in ways which make your smile even broader. I'd like one on black.
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Old 06-02-14, 09:25 AM   #32
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FERRARI CALIFORNIA T: REVIEW
http://www.pistonheads.com/news/defa...?storyId=30096
Quote:
Ferrari's GT has gained two turbos and some much needed style. Harris delivers the verdict

Not one but two Ferrari launches in the space of two months, eh? Those Italians must be paying me even more money now. Although the California T did leave me with something of a conundrum because in theory I viewed it as the launch of an engine. For those of you asleep at the wheel, this is Ferrari's first turbocharged motor since the F40, and it will form the basis of the engine in the 458 replacement. In many ways it signals the death of the normally aspirated performance car engine, because if Ferrari feels it has to switch to forced induction, you can assume pretty much everyone else will have to follow suit. Assuming they haven't done so already, which most of them have.

But what about the rest of the car? Before the Geneva Motor Show, I needed persuading of the California possessing any redeeming qualities - it truly was the worst car I drove in 2009 - but I thought the facelift was actually very good. And when a company can renew a gopping, whale-mouthed monstrosity like the original California into the T, I always reserve the vague hope that the same might be possible with the vehicle dynamics. The original California had the body control of a inexpertly set jelly.

So I went along ostensibly to experience this new dawn of Modenese turbocharging, but also with a lingering hope that Ferrari's SL rival might have become a proper Ferrari. Oh, did I mention that Ferrari has sold more than 10,000 Californias, making it the most popular production Fandango of all time? Proof, as in the case of National Socialism, that popularity is a poor denominator of quality.

Let's begin with the engine. Ferrari began the process of replacing the current naturally aspirated V8 back in 2008, spending much time and cash trying to create a turbocharged motor that would replicate the response, sound and free-revving nature if its atmospheric engines. Witchcraft, in other words.

The result is a 3,855cc V8, running 9.5:1 compression and two twin-scroll turbos. Nothing especially new there, and the turbos sit snugly on the sides of the motor, unlike BMW's clever positioning within the vee for reduced pipework length and therefore improved response.

There's some real trickery in the actual header and exhaust pipes though - they're all of equal length, to a tolerance of a few mm, and the turbine is sandwiched between three special castings that are then connected and bolted to the engine. It doesn't look cheap. But then again, there's nothing revolutionary here.

That comes in the engine calibration work. This motor is clearly capable of producing more torque than the rear axle can handle, but Ferrari has seen its best chance to replicate the feel of increased power and performance as the revs increase. We're now accustomed to people limiting the torque of these new turbo motors in the lower gears, but Ferrari has gone a step further and mapped each gear with its own individual torque curve. When you ask the team how long it took, they instinctively look into the double espresso to their right. Especially when you consider how connected the powertrain is to the complicated electronic differential and stability control systems.

So this really is some trickery - artificially limiting the performance available in lower gears to give the sensation of needing to rev the motor out above 6,000rpm to enjoy peak power. It sounds a bit contrived because they've actually shaped the torque curve of every point in every gear to give the feeling they're looking for. The conundrum came in the higher gears, where they've chosen to let the turbines properly breathe, leaving the car with potentially similar roll-on acceleration in several gears.

To give the sensation of really hanging onto a gear, the ratios are much longer than before, with sixth now matching the old seventh, of course there's now enough torque to support such legs and the mapping allows surge to build as per a normally aspirated engine. The California T is just one great confidence trick, which had some of my colleagues in something of a froth, but if the results on the road make for a great drive, and the throttle response is good and the noise is proper Ferrari, I don't really see the problem.

There are other benefits. This motor is very compact with the crankshaft 110mm lower within the overall depth of the engine compared to the old N/A unit, and it sits lower too, the cumulative effect being a 30mm reduction is the centre of gravity of the motor. That's quite a lot. The claimed efficiency gains are 15 per cent in overall consumption, now up to 26.9mpg. I firmly believe that people who buy these cars don't care so much about consumption as they do range. The tank remains 78 litres and the test drivers say 300 miles between fills is about right.

Moving away from the engine, the T carries a comprehensive list of modifications. Every body panel apart from the roof mechanism (which is carried over) is new. Spring rates are up, the adjustable dampers are new, the carbon ceramics are the latest spec, as are all the chassis electronics. Quite a big change to be summarised with the letter 'T'. Mind you, last time Ferrari added the Tango moniker it moved a V8 transversely in the back of a Mondial, which probably wasn't the work of a single afternoon. T must denote 'tossing hard graft'.

Is this new motor the work of the devil? It's quieter on start-up, certainly. The exhaust parps, but less than in the old car and far less ostentatiously than in a 458, but it immediately sounds like a flat-plane V8 and that's all good for me. As I've said many times, all this start-up racket is too much for me, and this car's supposed to be a more refined GT anyway.

Pull the right lever to grab first and you roll away with minimum fuss. One day soon I might stop marveling at the way these dual clutch transmissions have revolutionised slow progress in the fast cars, but for now I'm still in awe: 560hp and it's really no more difficult to drive than a piddling hatchback. But that's what everyone expects these days. The market assumes the sales explosion at the very top end of the market is down to increased global wealth, but is it also partly attributable to ease-of-use? Ergo, is the DSG, DCT a notable part of the sales funnel? For going fast and slow, this is a masterful transmission - right up there with the Porsche 991 GT3.

I digress, and we mooch out onto some Tuscan roads with the all important 'bumpy road' button pressed for soft damping. But with the little Manettino switched to Sport for faster throttle and gearbox response, the soft damper mode is actually harder than in the comfort Manettino mode. But not as hard as full Sport damping. Capiche? Me neither.

Five minutes later, assuming like me you have a good working knowledge of the old California, you'll be pretty amazed by what they've done here. The chassis is miles better than before. Set to soft, the dampers are supple and good up to around eight tenths, whereupon the car loses some dignity and begins to lurch a little and kiss the suspension stops - but for me that's about right in an SL rival. In the stiffer mode, you lose a good deal of the comfort and gain support at higher speeds, but you really do have to be driving like a loon to find those limits. I left it in bumpy road mode.

Can you tell the car is turbocharged? Yes, but only if you demand absolutely immediate throttle response in an almost unnatural, repetitive manner. It feels linear, is receptive to very small alterations in throttle position and the mapping strategy just works. Initially I was unsure because the car felt a little lacking in mid-range in second gear, but then I switched all the chassis gubbins off and had a glimpse into what the next generation of fast RWD cars will be like. Because in the Cali T, torque has been mapped not only for subjective feel, but to match available traction. It feels entirely natural as the rear begins to move around a little and much more delicate and therefore easier to balance than, say, an SL63 which just dumps most of its torque into tyre smoke.

And the noise is just fine. I say just fine because post-355 I've never been that into the Ferrari V8 noise - search beneath the fancy exhaust valves and it's more four-cylinder than V8. So the starting point for me is quite ordinary, and adding blowers doesn't do much damage. It's a little quieter than before, but boss-man Felisa admits that the company's GT cars probably need to be a little less raucous because the customers find them a touch noisy. Expect a more subtle sounding FF sometime soon - I'm in favour.

The longer gearing and controlled torque-release really works in second and third because you feel like you can hang on to a gear and let it rev out to 7,500rpm - although peak power is actually at around 6,000rpm. The charade is exposed when you snick up into fourth at low revs and push the right pedal because subjectively the thing feels just as potent as it did in third. Likewise in fifth as yet more torque is allowed to work. You can either view this as unholy and evil; or an engine that can play fast, revvy and responsive in the lower gears and then pull like a monster in higher gears with little effort. In this car, it works brilliantly.

But how will it work in a car like a 458? You'll miss the razor-throttle much more. The high gear torque will seem more unnatural, and the noise will be much more of an issue. But you just get the feeling that this first turbo experiment is a stepping stone and the engineers will deliver a further step for the new mid-engined car. There are rumours of 4 litres and, in testing, power figures reaching 750hp. Expect less for production, purely to give the more expensive V12 cars a chance.

Back to the Cali - the faster steering is still aloof, but not as much of a problem as I'd expected. Roof down, there's more buffeting than in an SL, but it's still a great cruiser and the cabin is covered in very expensive former cow. The two rear seats are now standard because so few people opted for the rear bench last time. The roof goes up and down, not much more to say about it than that.

So I went to sample perhaps the most important shift in Ferrari powertrain philosophy in the company's history, and came away not remotely worried about the future. But I pre-judged the California as being the same non-Ferrari as its predecessor and was quite wrong. If I couldn't stand the last one, taking into account the fact that I now really like the way it looks, it's now a properly fast car (0-125 in 11.2sec) and can play the cruiser when you want, it's the best facelift I've encountered. It even has a couple of spots in the back for the school run, knees-on-chest. God, I could quite like living with one.
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Old 06-02-14, 01:36 PM   #33
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It's amazing to me - it's electric gizmos everywhere. Electric steering, massive stability control computers, etc. etc. and now even electric gizmos to artificially limit and adjust torque to make a turbocharged engine feel like a naturally-aspirated one.

Whatever happened to just making a great engine?
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Old 06-06-14, 12:03 AM   #34
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In the premiere episode, /DRIVE on NBC Sports: Monaco, hosts Chris Harris, Matt Farah and Mike Spinelli, embark on an epic adventure, sprinting across Europe to the Principality of Monaco in three, Formula 1-inspired supercars from F1 constructors Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz AMG and McLaren, to discover the glitz, glamour and racing history surrounding the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix.
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Old 06-11-14, 10:49 AM   #35
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LE MANS 2014
http://www.pistonheads.com/news/defa...?storyId=30136
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Of course taking the old M5 was the right plan ... or was it?

It probably won't have escaped your attention but there's a 24-hour race going on this weekend somewhere in France. On site and back at base we'll be bringing you all the stories, be that from the campsite (Garlick and the boys) or sharp end of the Carrera Cup support race (that man Harris). Keep in touch with the action on Twitter and share your own Le Mans moments via #PHLM14 - we'll be showing them on the site - and keep in touch with the blog updates too.

So long gone are the days when you trundled the UK leg of a European drive and then opened the taps from Calais onwards that I’ve almost forgotten the way the world used to be. Dare I say it – the Blighty bit is the faster section these days. The fear of a cavity search and a confiscated car seems to slow me down.

The M5 appeared to enjoy its trundle from the West Country to the Tunnel – cruising effortlessly but retaining the kind of high speed engine braking reserved for machines with the aerodynamics of the Natural History Museum. It’s a strange feeling and can leave you slightly out of sync in a fast moving convoy because the E28 shape loses speed much more swiftly on a trailing throttle than a modern car.

But what a way to travel – motorsport six blaring away, my Belkin radio iPod thingy communicating surprisingly successfully with the Blaupunkt Bremen (which is three years too young to be in the E28, a fact which I find very irritating). That bolstered seat pinching the right parts of your body and the once-weird driving position now feeling completely natural. The pedals seem way too close at first, and the wheel too far away – but within a few miles all is somehow correct. Weird. It’s a small car too – you can steer it onto the Tunnel train with one hand, unlike a modern M5. When there’s a train ready to depart, of which there seemed to be a lack yesterday.

French side, things continued well. The ultra-smooth surface uncovered some slight vibrations – I’m inclined to agree with the clever types in the forum posts, it feels like front suspension play. It’s a little wobbly at 80mph, much smoother at 95mph. Er … why is it I always start a journey in France at 80mph and finish it a little bit quicker?

Now, I was due to sign-on for the Carrera Cup race by 3:30pm, but due to a cancelled train, that was looking a bit tight, and all hopes of being on-time were dashed south of Rouen when the A28 was completely shut. This reminded me of the freedom I used to so enjoy pre sat-nav on foreign drives. I would just follow sign posts and hope for the best. For a brief time I relived that freedom, grinning at the silly pace this car has for something so ordinary looking. Then I realised I was completely lost and piled into the data roaming bill. This bought me back into a large queue of other divertees – and that’s when I noticed the water temperature gauge. It was well beyond the vertical.

It rose and then fell back as the car sat idling. And then the power steering belt made a screech and my thoughts turned to the Ferrari FF that was sitting back in the UK – the one with the steady water temperature and silent power steering. We made it to Le Mans with a shrieking belt and the temperature gauge heading near the red zone. I was a bit sad – this car is normally a rock. But sitting stationary for eight months is not the ideal preparation for a decent road trip.

Once I’d signed-on, gawped at the amazing small town Porsche has erected for this race, resisted mounting my own racing car for the week (you have to see the rear wing, it’s perfect) I went for a fiddle under the M5’s bonnet. The power steering belt was slack – as expected - but all else seemed fine. Befuddled, I called Barney at Classic Heroes. He knows a thing or two about these old sheds.

He talked me through the bits and bobs. A seized water pump was discounted and then he mentioned the viscous coupling for the fan. “You can see the nut on the front of that top pulley?” Only I couldn’t. He thought I was bonkers, I could see a fan on the front of the engine, but not where he said it should be. How do you lose a fan? I sent him a photo. “You don’t have a cooling fan on your engine Chris, that other fan is for the air-con.”

I had a new radiator fitted in 2007. The car has run without a cooling fan since then. How is that possible? It never uses any water, and this time it didn’t actually get that hot. What a legendary motor the M88 is. Imagine a modern car engine doing that in 28 degrees and standing still?

Barney said he had the viscous bit and a spare fan, and the bloody bolt that should have been there in the first place. They should arrive Friday, just in time to use the car all weekend, when I’m not riding the Brompton.
We don’t practice until 8:30pm (I’m writing this at 9:30pm and there’s just enough light) so there’s time to go and beg a friend to help me fit new belts as well. Neil Yates of Rally Prep, who built the M3 rally car, might find his fun weekend at Le Mans with the boys slightly curtailed.

I’ve left the M5 at the circuit and borrowed a Cayenne – pleasant but somewhat lacking in cool factor after the Bimmer. On the way back to the hotel the Mulsanne was open to traffic – it’s pretty alarming to think I was doing 175mph down it in a 1959 Lister this timelast year. I stopped and had a wander. The Cup cars are running an extra Gurney strip to slow them down on the straights at this event; it’s cheaper than lengthening the gearing.

There’s something very exciting about seeing a section of public highway that will tomorrow be closed to the public to allow racing cars to travel at over 200mph. Nowhere has quite the aura of Le Mans, not Spa, not even the ‘ring. The melding of public road and racing course is compelling and breathtaking.

First lap into that first chicane will be life-affirming and terrifying in equal measure.

Chris
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Old 06-22-14, 05:53 PM   #36
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Old 07-04-14, 09:19 AM   #37
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June saw 15 drivers compete for Aston Martin at the 2014 Nürburgring 24 Hours, with the iconic blue and yellow Bilstein-liveried #007 V12 Vantage GT3 achieving a deserved top five finish, with three further class podiums as all four Vantages completed the grueling race.

Watch exclusive footage from behind the wheel of one of our race-prepared V8 Vantage N430s as it's guided around the Nordschleife by British journalist Chris Harris...
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Old 07-04-14, 07:25 PM   #38
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That race prepped V8 N430 is aural bliss
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Old 07-22-14, 10:12 AM   #39
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BMW M235I PERFORMANCE
http://www.pistonheads.com/news/defa...?storyId=30495
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Two sets of tyres in and Chris is very much still enjoying the M235i

Here's how the automotive media actually works - on an extremely superficial and unimportant level. I asked BMW if I could run an M235i for a few months, it said "yes". I then added it might be fun to take a look at the M Performance options, especially the optional locking differential. It said "Sounds like a plan". I then added that none of the cosmetic stuff interested me, in fact it would probably actively annoy me, but BMW Germany still sent a lovely chap over to adhere the most dreadful stickers to the sides of the car. I duly said they were foul; BMW wasn't happy. I suppose I should just tear them off, but I watched dear Toby apply them with such love that I haven't the heart.

Funny old world.

But I really can forgive the stickers, because this is one hell of a machine. It will do battle with the new Golf R on video soon (yes, we're coming back!) but in isolation it's everything I could want in a small rear-wheel drive coupe. BMW is still considered the master of naturally aspirated high-performance six-cylinder motors, but it has seamlessly transferred its skills to turbocharging. Yes, it's not a full M-car, but for response, outright shove and music, this blown-six makes a compelling case for being one of the best engines on sale.

It hits hard from 2,500rpm, sings all the way to 6,500rpm and is connected to a very slick six-speed manual and now a locking rear differential. For me, that's the perfect recipe for fun. Other rivals in this fast emerging sub-M3 performance category are faster point-to-point, but none gives you that delicious feeling of adjusting cornering line with your right foot, or fills the cabin with straight-six sonics. Again, I like the fake-ish noise, but then I'm a Human League fan.

Isn't it strange how a gearlever can make a gearshift feel quite different? The optional, stumpy M Performance item somehow gives the sensation of a more direct shift - and I've grown to like the look of it too. Would I pay £172 for it? Of course not.

Likewise much of the interior Alcantara and carbon trimmings which are actually very tastefully executed but sadly do nothing for an aesthetic-vacuum like myself. I suppose I can only sanction wasting money on visual tat if I feel I've exhausted the spend on stuff that adds to the driving experience. So the differential is a must, but the upgraded brakes are actually no bigger, so I can't really see the point. If I was BMW M Performance, I'd have left the rears standard and offered a big steel, vented rotor to fit behind a 19-inch wheel.

I do however love the silly steering wheel and its illegible readout and controls that caused me to invent new swear words during a shoot earlier this week. It's the definition of a cool gadget, and I'd probably waste £1,250 just for the way it looks and feels in the hand.

If I happen to think the stickers look like a dog's dinner, the population under the age of 30 appears to disagree. Neil bought the car along to the Nurburgring 24-hour and ended up being folk hero for the weekend, a role I suspect he quietly enjoyed. The Germans just loved the bodykit and the M Performance logos and the fruity exhaust burble. For me, colour plays a big part - BMW Cardiff has an M235i demo in black, with all the same body mods as this car, but without the stripe and with bigger 19-inch rims. It looks the conkers.

We're up on 7,000 miles now - there has been no request for a slurp of oil, the brakes have taken a beating but do not judder and I can't really comment on tyre wear because two video shoots meant beasting two sets of rears. As a dual-role tyre that allows you to drive on the road in any weather, but then tolerate hard track use, I think Michelin Pilot Super Sports are flipping brilliant.

I remain an iDrive sceptic. The interface just doesn't work for me, and the new track-pad simply adds to the confusion, but the counterpoint is Neil who simply adores it. What I do enjoy is stepping inside the car and immediately having it Bluetooth to my phone and music. But then all modern cars seem to do that these days.

Where BMW manages to just raise itself above the competition is making the cabin feel more driver focused than the others: the dash is canted toward the driver, just like in Bimmers of old. And the seat, wheel, pedals relationship is spot on. Those few remaining three-pedal performance cars (god I hate writing that) seem to have no understanding of the importance of the height of the brake pedal in relation to the throttle - in the M235i, rolling onto the accelerator for downshifts couldn't be more natural. It's a small point, but one that I enjoy countless times even on the shortest drives.

Fuel consumption fluctuates wildly according to how it's driven, but I see mid 30s on longer journeys and can suppress that in to the mid 20s whenever the mood takes me.

I suppose the last point of discussion is size. Small coupes are now what we used to call big coupes, but this remains a car you can thread with confidence on UK roads. It's the key ingredient in making it a great car over here. Take that engine, the fun chassis, the sheer performance and then allow the driver not to worry about width and you have something very special.

With or without stickers.
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FERRARI FF
http://www.pistonheads.com/news/defa...?storyId=30509
Quote:
A rather melancholy Harris looks back on a fantastic but fleeting stint with the FF

Buy a car with the express intention of using it as regularly as possible and it will sit motionless in the garage most of its life; do the same and expect to add mileage sparingly and you won't quite believe the speed with which the odometer adds numbers. For this and more besides, we thank you Mr Murphy.

Beyond all the compliments I want to lavish on the FF, the one that perhaps says the most is that I simply have to sell it. So happy have I been sat behind the massive V12 that I have raced through and beyond the mileage I was always going to allow myself. And I really had no idea I was using it so much - with over 11,000 miles now showing, it's covered nearly 6,000 miles in four months, and much as I'm a strong advocate of using cars the way the development engineers intended, the threat of seismic depreciation always lurks in the background.

There are not many people in the UK who would buy an FF to use everyday and accrue mileage in the conventional sense. I know of one on the continent that has covered 50,000km, but I couldn't afford to cover 30K miles in this car over one year and bought it in the knowledge that I have several other cars of my own and assorted test cars to help spread the mileage burden. But this proved to be a flawed strategy. When you have an FF outside the door, you tend to use the FF. An unsurprising discovery in hindsight.

This is the first FF trick - it makes all journeys special. It barks from start-up, the V12 sounds indescribably expensive even when it hunts for a clutch to engage first gear and from then on it just makes me smile. It seems many PHers couldn't understand why anyone would buy a four-seat Ferrari over a 458 - the answer is children. I have many of these creatures and I love the fact that I can share the whole Ferrari thing with them. The opportunities to go and drive on my own for fun are limited to weekdays, and frankly I much prefer the front-engined Ferrari species anyway.

That I happen to think the FF is one of the best looking cars on sale makes many people laugh in derision, but such is life. Without ever knowing it I seem to have contracted some kind of 'bread-van' fetish: 145 Cloverleaf, M Coupe, FF - the truncated **** does it for me.

The FF certainly sits on the outer limits of how large a performance car can be before it is rendered unusable. I never just climb into it and don't consider its sheer width. The first few miles are always spent adjusting to the fast steering and gauging your road positioning. Once there, I'm completely happy, but you never have to acclimatise in a CLS 63 or an RS6. Some will find this process part of the car's 'specialness' - I can see it both ways.

The very-fast-German-estatey-thing comparison is valid in the context of the used FF. It is now quite possible to spec one of those machines from new to £120K, and the cheapest FFs are now within £30K of that figure. Once Ferrari Financial Services (or Beelzebub, as they're known at chez Harris) get involved with a tasty residual, the cost of purchase is surprisingly close. The Germans are larger, more practical and cheaper to run, but as objects to own and enjoy they just don't come close. And I'm not convinced they'd be any cheaper to run either. And to reiterate, I'm talking about used FFs - dropping £300K on a new one is liable to result in some moderate depreciation (coughs for effect), but once a very rich person has swallowed that loss, the pickings are very appealing.

Reliability. Yes, that old Italian chestnut. In my care, the FF failed to complete two journeys, which is an un-stellar performance from a car of this type. Both events appear to have been the fault of the fuel system losing pressurisation- the second took several days to fix but all the work was covered under warranty. I suppose each time I pop the bonnet I'm struck by just how many sensors and widgets there are to potentially go wrong. Factor in the immense heat that the V12 generates against the fact the car spent several days in sub-zero temperatures and you have a very harsh environment. Still, it's the same for all carmakers. Why I feel so sanguine about the FF needing an off-games note for a couple of days, where I'd be livid if a new M5 did the same can probably be explained by quoting Jules from Pulp Fiction's explanation of the pig. Personality goes a long way.

On the recent California T launch there was a bizarre 'meeting' arranged for some journos with Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa. The Papal audience was about as unrelaxing as you could imagine, but The Boss was surprisingly open with his thoughts on Ferrari's GT cars. He agreed with me that the FF's exhaust is too loud on start up and under full load when the valves are open. He also agreed that the tyre noise at the rear axle made travelling in the back a little more wearisome than was strictly ideal. But he offered a rare grin when I said I thought it was a very special car and outrageously fast for a four-seater - he just nodded: "I know."

I also told him that I though the fuel tank was too small and its positioning spoiled the load space. "What do you think of the new California?" he replied, looking into the space over my left shoulder, giving me the clearest indication possible that he'd had enough of my FF feedback.

Great satisfaction comes from knowing that I've really used this car to the fullness of its abilities. It's cruised beyond 180mph with people sat in the back and the boot crammed full of luggage. At those speeds, it's the most stable car I've driven. It's carted muddy mountain bikes, mewling children and several loads of shopping. In TDF blue it always looked perfect to me and its departure has left a rather sad hole in my life that is only compensated by the fact that I no longer have to give FFS £1,500 every month for the pleasure of keeping it (I know the PH finance police won't sanction any suggestion of ownership with just £45K of equity!)

So, to anyone considering something spacious, conventionally German and super-heated, or maybe a 991 Turbo, I'd implore them to try an FF before making a purchase. It has space for four adults (but not all their luggage) and it looks, feels and drives like a £300,000 car. Because it was a £300,000 car which you can now own for a little more than half the original asking price.

It isn't perfect. The double DIN sat-nav thing is a bit crap in a £20K Fiat, the fuel filler thing is pants and occasionally bits of trim make a break for freedom, but who cares?

It's miles better than my old 612, and I haven't once thought about the 599 since I took delivery.

Better to have loved and lost, and all that.
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Old 07-29-14, 10:40 AM   #40
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First episode: La Ferrari.
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Old 07-30-14, 09:47 AM   #41
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Chris Harris explains how to drift with the new BMW M235i.

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Old 07-31-14, 07:33 AM   #42
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An FYI for fans of Mr.Harrs ...

He is moving his full length videos content to a subscription only youtube channel, Drive+. He explains and provides, I think, a compelling reason to pay for the content here which to date has been free to all. In his article, he explains the former ad revenue model with youtube along with costs. He and his small team make great videos while providing good information to car fans, as one of them, I hope you'll take a look and consider a subscription.
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Old 07-31-14, 11:29 AM   #43
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Originally Posted by KristaP View Post
He is moving his full length videos content to a subscription only youtube channel, Drive+. He explains and provides, I think, a compelling reason to pay for the content here which to date has been free to all. In his article, he explains the former ad revenue model with youtube along with costs. He and his small team make great videos while providing good information to car fans, as one of them, I hope you'll take a look and consider a subscription.
I plan on subscribing. They do quality work. http://www.youtube.com/DRIVEplus


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An explanation for how to consume /DRIVE content.
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The Ferrari LaFerrari, testing on the road and track with Chris Harris in Maranello Italy. After after a few minutes on the road, he decides to take it around Ferrari's private race track in their backyard, the Fiorano Circuit.
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Old 07-31-14, 12:03 PM   #44
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impressive work (i hadn't seen any until now). hope their /drive free/paid model works!!!
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Old 08-01-14, 07:36 AM   #45
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impressive work (i hadn't seen any until now). hope their /drive free/paid model works!!!
IMHO, Chris Harris is in his own league of automotive journalism.

Had I dreamed that you'd not seen his work, I would have immediately moved to rectify the situation and shared some favorites
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