Category Archives: Cars

Mars bar and cheese twisty aerodynamic efficiency testing

On Sunday Brendon, Josh and myself decided to test the aerodynamic efficiency of a mars bar and cheese twisty on the roof of the Exige. We felt it compromised high speed stability slightly and reduced the power-to-weight output of the car also slightly, but we noticed if we breathed out for long periods we could counteract this but then began to loose vision.

We did run into the risk that several hungry men in taller vehicles (basically anything on the road) were temped to reach out and grab our test food products when we stopped at Red lights.

The Snakata cheddar flavour on the central roof section didn’t last long, we ate them.

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Thanks to the assistance of Brendon’s dog for applying the scientific Blue tape.

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From Elise to Exige – a sad story, a happy ending and a road trip in-between

There have been a few emotional speed bumps to my Lotus ownership experience over the past 6 months, here’s how it all came about, so if you’re sitting comfortably I’ll begin.

Back in December 2009 me and friend Ash swapped cars for a short afternoons drive. His was a 2 week old new BMW M3 and mine the recently supercharged and one of the quickest series 2 Elise’s in the country. We took the cars to crystal car wash to get waxed and buffed and enjoyed a quick beer in the pub next door.

What we didn’t know was the lovely Indians at crystal car wash gave a good liberal serving of ‘back to black’ tyre shine to the rear wheels of the Elise. Ash had only jumped in the car for a 2nd time and made 100metres from the car wash before the back of the Elise lost traction, skidded along 3 parked cars on the left side of the road, before doing a 180 and stopping in the lane of oncoming traffic.

It could of been a lot worse but the conditions were good for other drivers to see the wreck. After much damage accessing by the experts, the chassis had a small crack in the front left suspension area and the little Elise which was my pride and joy for 2.5 years was a write-off.

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Sad sad graveyard for the ‘Little Loti’

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Chassis cracked (unrepairable) near join to front left lower wishbone

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Rest of damage to car was superficial and repairable (with deep enough pockets)

So insurance paid up in full, and I hunted for my next car. I knew it had to be another Lotus, there just hasn’t been another car I’ve driven as rewarding to drive that didn’t have a $200,000+ price tag attached to it.

I didn’t want another Elise, that itch had already been scratched and to be honest I didn’t  want to replace what a perfect owning experience I’d had with a Elise already. So the logical step was an Exige, essentially the slightly harder slightly more track focused version of the Elise.  I knew I also wanted something the same age if not newer than my 2007 Elise.

So the hunt started, phone calls to ad’s and recommendation from friends all came and gone until I found this Black Exige S in Melbourne by a seller named Blair. He wanted close to $90k which was too much but the spec of the car Sports pack & Super sports packs was a perfect match of the rawer edged car I wanted.

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The original advert on Carsales.com.au

I did have a mid bargaining fling with a slightly older and much higher km’s car that I even went to auction and bid for. In chrome orange and at my max limit of $55k it was a bargain, but I stuck to my set limit and I was outbid and so it just wasn’t to be for me.

Back to the Black Exige S in Melbourne and after 4 months we came to a good deal! Over the weekly emails back and forth with Blaire, we built up a bit of a relationship and it was agreed to seal the deal, 2 bottles of Penfolds Grange wine at a cost of $1100 we in order. Fine by me as it was still a deal even with that inclusion and anyhow, how many car sales have been done with bottles of Penfolds Grange exchanging hands, arguably some of THE best wine in the world!

Over email the deal was done, so good friend Brendon agreed to join me for the trip to Melbourne and if I didn’t buy the car after the test drive, he would pay for the flights back for both of us “but that’s not going to happen is it!” he said ๐Ÿ™‚

Down to Melbourne on a 6:30am flight (I don’t do early mornings well) and we met Blair in the Airport as he was returning from visiting a mate in NZ. We got to his beautiful house in Richmond and took the car straight out for a test drive in the wet wet rainy cold Melbourne weather. The car was a perfect example Exige S, only 14,000km’s and very tight and solid, it honestly felt like new.

All the paperwork and insurance was done and the Penfolds Grange  was handed over in a ceremony (ok not really) which was accompanied with a Penfolds book I was given when purchasing the wine.

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The two beautiful bottles of Penfolds Grange 

I wrote a short note to Blair in the book:

To Blair,

The title of this book (The Rewards of Patience) couldn’t describe our negotiation for the sale of the Lotus any better! It will be going to a good home and I hope you enjoy your Grange in the many years to come. Keep in touch.

Best Regards Mark Bedford

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The handing over ceremony! (ok just handing over the cheque) 

The air was a bit emotional as Blair kind of air kissed the car away as we drove his old baby away.

We had plotted a recommended route via the snowy mountains thanks to Robs son Alex to take in some great driving roads and a night was booked in Thredbo in Robs shared ski lodge there. If you have driven through the snowy mountains before you will know there are a LOT of stones on the alpine roads, so Brendon intelligently brought some Blue tape to protect the nose and sides of the car.

Well that was what we started to do, but we got a little carried away being egged on by the local car wash guys who came to watch and offer advice like ‘you should do that bit’ ‘and that bit’ ‘don’t forget to do the wiper!’.

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You can never have too much Blue tape on your car! 

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Paying attention to Blue striping the details 

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To just Blue strip the car is amateur, you have to blue stripe the drivers too! 

Leaving Melbourne in the pouring rain and the tape was holding up at motorway speeds ‘just’ and proved to entertain passersby ๐Ÿ™‚

Getting closer to the mountains and the NSW border on a long clear motorway and Vic police decided to ping me as I slightly ventured over the 110kph limit whilst checking our location on the map. I was only just over the limit but Brendon straight away said ‘Vic police have zero tolerance, they’ll book you for sure’ and sure enough they did.

Wasn’t a bad experience though, the copper, a older guy, was professional and to the point. We did have a giggle out of it though when he asked ‘what’s with all the Blue tape’ well I said ‘well there’s a lot of stones between here and Sydney’. With that I saw him eyeing up the bits of Blue tape on the roof and said ‘not that bit, that’s just for show’ which resulted in him smiling and a laugh, we left on happy terms.

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Victoria Police do not like Blue tape ๐Ÿ™

The weather for the whole drive was just ABYSMAL. We left the last town before the snowy mountains ski resort of Thredbo very late with a young girl we bought some supplies from telling us in few words we were CRAZY to drive to Thredbo this late and in this weather. If she knew we were doing it in a Supercharged Exige with semi-slick tyres that run like butter in any standing water, well she would have phoned for the ‘men in White coats’ I’m sure.

We did get to Thredbo safe and sound around 9:30pm, about 4 hours after dark. Highlights of that part of the drive were a short ‘Blare witch project’ style video we made during a stop in the middle of nowhere and when 4 deer were spotted on the verge just as we were on them with me nearly browning my pants.

Thredbo was COLD minus degrees through the night and as it was summer in a ski resort, everything was closed, dinner was 2 packets of crisps, a chocolate bar and a bottle of Shiraz wine to share.

In the morning the car started perfectly from the cold and amazingly all the Blue tape was still there! Still raining hard we took a bit of footage on the video camera and soldiered on towards Sydney.

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Blue Tape ‘just’ about holding up after 500km’s + in heavy rain

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Even sitting out in the rain near freezing all night
the car started beautifully in the morning

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The driver wasn’t starting so beautifully though
in the damp cold alpine morning air

Driving home the car performed flawlessly and it was nice to have the Lotus traction control there to catch the wheels when you pull away with a couple of cm’s of rain on the road.

After arriving to Brendon’s home just south of Sydney, we pepped ourselves up with a hot coffee at his local favourite coffee shop and pulled off all the Blue tape for the last 80km’s back to mine, our thinking was to allow the rain to blast off some of the tapes glue residue. 

Arriving back at mine in central Sydney and the cars trip counter had passed the 1000 km mark and gone back to 45km. What a great drive and eventful trip we had, the conditions were not suited to test the cars driving dynamics out, but we tested it in many other ways in some terrible weather conditions. Thanks Brendon for sharing the experience with me.

iPhone Pictures 0018 Washing the grime off after a long 1045km drive

Next up is to personalise the car a little as my own, no that doesn’t involve me leaving my scent in there! Maybe some stripes, some carbon fibre body panels, maybe a supercharger upgrade could be some of the options on the menu, I’m sure you’ll find out.

Cheers Beddy aka ‘Beddo’

A suicide ride

I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to be in the right place at the right time with the right equipment last week.

One of the Lotus club members and a local friend had just rolled his new highly anticipated project, the fully carbon fibre bodied, Audi S3 engined, highly modified S1 Elise/Exige out onto the street for the first time, literally scraping its mm’s high carbon body work on the pavement in the process.

I edited this short video together over a couple of evenings to try and share the frightening experience.The video is in HD 720p (currently YouTubeรขโ‚ฌโ„ขs highest) make sure you click the little ‘watch in HD’ link on the lower right of the clip when it opens.

Click the video below to play.

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The whole engine bay fizzled and popped as if it was going to explode, a sign of its very high tune. It as the first time I was glad to climb out of a car.

My first car review published with an on-line magazine

I feel a teeny weenie bit proud of myself today as my first car review was published to the on-line car magazine TheMotorReport.com.au yesterday. I have been doing a bit of part-time work for the team at ‘TMR’ as the team refer to themselves internally, for past 2 months, and some of that work paid of with this article being published yesterday.


myTMREliseReview.jpgI wrote this car review towards the end of last summer, in fact if you look through this blogs archive you will find the previous un-edited version here. Now it has finally been picked up by an on-line magazine and has been published on-line yesterday as my first published car review. I’m hoping this will lead to more work in the future when I’m allowed to and I find time to do it from ‘the day job’ (always the problem) but I thought I’d share it with you.

 

For me personally I found it an interesting process how the article goes through the editorial process by the magazines editor, then a photo shoot, then it goes through the Art department to get ‘jazzed’ up and then finally goes to be published.

 

I hope you find it an interesting read as I found it to work with the team on the article:

 

http://www.themotorreport.com.au/11055/lotus-elise-r-road-test-review/

Review – Lotus Elise R

6 SP Manual

This review was written during the summer of 2007.

Countless worldwide press articles state that the Lotus Elise/Exige family are the best handling sports cars in the world even going as far as being compared to the handling of a Ferrari, what a bold statement, now I could possibly be starting to agree………. The Elise R is the newly re-badged re-optioned listed Elise 111R for all intense purposes and although much hasn’t changed it’s been a refinement trip at Lotus UK HQ, Hethel, England more than anything.


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The ‘Turnip famers’ (as Jeremy Clarkson lovingly refers to Lotus) of Norfolk have gone as far as making items such as air-con and other modern luxuries as standard for the Australia models for the first time, something all Aussie cars have enjoyed as standard for a long time so let’s gets stuck in and see what has been the results of this refinement.

Interior –

The first thing you notice compared to previous Lotus Elise models is they really have tried to fit the interior out with some nicer materials, trying to I guess broaden the appeal of the Elise further away from the likely buyers of a Westfield or Caterham from the track day car market. Moving more towards the buyer who would happily drive their car for longer distances, day-to-day driving and to and from the track in comfort.

This particular Elise car is fitted with the optional Touring Plus Pack which adds lots of sound-deadening panelling and roof lining, Leather interior in parts including the gear knob, leather handbrake gaiter, Embroidered carpets, Auxiliary front driving lamps and an up-rated flashy Alpine stereo with iPOD connectivity. Not that you’ll hear much in the way of your favourite Britney Spears MP3’s with the roof off.


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There is also fitted the optional Sports pack to this Elise which add’s for a first time, the switchable Lotus Traction Control System, a electronically controlled Limited slip differential, Bilstein dampers and Eibach springs, twin oil coolers (specifically an addition for the Australian climate) and some rather sexy looking 18″ 7-spoke ultra lightweight forged alloy wheels in Black straight from the Exige Racer.

Weight has gone up a little from the old model especially with the optional Touring Plus pack but with a power to weight ratio packing 164 kW/t (220 hp/t, 223 PS/t) the little Elise R is still a featherweight that can punch with the big boys. Indeed when compared to the equivalent member of the Porsche family the Porsche 911 S (997) is only 10 kW/t greater in power, and when we look at weight it’s a whole different story, 860kg for the little Elise versus 1,820Kg for the Porsche.


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Lotus really have invested some money in their seat design of late, they have formed up with an external consultancy company to design the new ‘Pro-bax’ seats and compared to the hard alcantara seats found in the older Elise’s they are a dream of snugness to sit in. Other sensible additions to the Elise’s interior include a rear stowage net just behind you between the rear seats handy for maps and CD’s, a drinks holder just in front of the gear lever and some trinket tray dividers to stop items from sliding around on the dashboard on those tight corners.

Everything inside the snug cockpit really looks and feels like it was designed to be strong and lightweight from the designs beginning, from the lightweight well fitted leather bucket seats you sit low to the road with to the lightweight extruded aluminium pedals and even the passenger footrest which has holes cut into it to save that little bit of extra weight, it almost makes you feel guilty for eating that big lunch.

Exterior –

This is the first 07 spec Elise in the country and indeed the 2nd Lotus in the country to show the new for 07 ‘Polar Blue’ paintwork off, the first being a Queensland customer owned Exige the Lotus dealer explained. The colour shows off the smooth curves of this lightweight sports car beautifully, it’s such a unique design in its looks the Elise with its function design as a sports car built to absolute lightness and function governing its exterior shape so much.

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The front of the car forwards of the driver contains the radiator cooling, oil cooling and steering system so there are large gaping apertures to channel air for this. This allows air to enter the car, do its cooling work and then exit passing over the car providing less drag at the same time as cooling, a design enjoyed by rear/mid engine race/sports cars for many years. The large air intakes on the sides of the car allow more cooling air to the rear based engine and also to allow the air-intake to suck in some cool air. Lots of vents on top of the engine bay allow any hot air to escape easily without hindrance, this car seriously knows how to stay cool.

The body work is a glass fibre composite developed with the objective of being as lightweight as possible which also allowed the easy forming of the smooth curves found in the bodyworks design. The roof is a manually removable type affair that quite easily unclips and then rolls up and is placed into its own zip up bag that fits in the boot. I found the roof quite simple to put on and take off once doing it for a few times, just don’t forget and leave it at home and store it in the boot!


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Ah the boot, not the single largest selling point of the Elise. I found in practice that although the aperture that you have to squeeze your bags through into the boot is fairly small, the Elise could surprisingly swallow up quite a lot of luggage if you used more smaller bags instead of a couple of larger bags. Easily enough for a long weekend away for sure but not something you’ll be using to get to the golf club, take the sensible car.

 

Under the hood –

The engine nudged up behind your back is a Toyota sourced 1.8 VVTL-I, VVTL-I? That would be Variable Valve Timing and Lift. The extra lift cam that kicks in at 6100rpm feels simular to a small turbo and means that to keep the engine on the boil you have to keep those gear changes up between the 6000rpm and 7500rpm to use the produced 141 kW (189 hp) to its full potential and to hit it’s impressive 0-100 km/h in 5.2 seconds. Fortunately when you are above 6000rpm the usually un-interesting exhaust note changes to a metallic shriek and seems to jump up 20 db in volume sounding simular to the metallic shriek you get from an M3 on full chat which is quite rewarding.


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With slightly less power the Elise S model is available which features the same engine but with some of the more clever trick technology not included, namely the variable lift part. This removes the cam switch at 6000rpm and so lowers the power output to 100kW (134 hp) but with the little Lotus Elise S’ weight, it still delivers an impressive performance of 0-100 km/h in 6.1 seconds, a still extremely impressive figure, and the best bit is it’s a lot cheaper to buy at $69,990.

As an option to this Elise R the Limited Slip differential is fitted which Limits velocity difference between the driven wheels to transmit torque more efficiently for improved traction. It’s an Ideal addition for low speed, high acceleration driving around tight corners as experienced usually on a tight twisty set of roads or alternatively on those spirited drives around your local muti-storey car park.


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Worth a mention under the skin is the clever design of the Lotus Elise’s chassis which was the first car ever to use an extruded and bonded aluminium chassis. This is glued and pressed together and amazingly is as strong as a normal welded chassis but even better at coping with twisting and flexing forces and weighs in at only 68kg’s.

 

On the road –

Today im test driving this latest model from these Turnip farmers of Yorkshire, England on the roads of Sydney and the Royal national park coast road to Woolongong in the South. As we pass through the inner city roads out of the city the first thing you notice is just how much attention a Lotus gets over your more common sight of a BMW, Mercedes or other Bavarian  designed beauty in the city. You just don’t see the likes of a Lotus around very common, a Sydney Dealer quoted to me that there are more Ferrari’s in Australia than Lotus’s so the sighting of a Lotus puts you keen in everyone’s interest of, ‘what’s that?’


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The suspension is certainty firm but supple enough not to have you running to the dealers with your chiropractor bills! I have the feeling that this firmness will be a sure sign of great things to come when we hit the twisty national park roads. The only negative point I have so far is the un-interesting exhaust note. The standard exhaust on Elise’s has always had a reputation of being a tad ‘bland’ and un-interesting and this one is the same. There’s no rumble of a sports car’s like exhaust note rumbling to hit your ears. No wonder the first thing on most Lotus owner’s options list is the fitment of a Lotus Sport exhaust or a 3rd party exhaust like the Larini.

Moving out to Sydney’s Royal national park and off the freeway, travelling along the motorway in 6th is actually in such a small car you wouldn’t expect is really comfortable indeed. I have an idea it has something to do with the great seats im supported in and the 6th gear ratio isn’t set too low with the ratio of 0.815:1, equates to 3500rpm at 110kph. The twists and turns of the national parks roads are now showing me what this car is really about, where the time and effort from the engineers and the countless years of racing pedigree of Lotus has gone into building the fabric of the car.


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The power train is handled by a 6 speed manual gearbox with a short throw action that is so precise you would swear the cogs were directly under the gearstick itself at times, definite track day material this is. There is no power steering on this baby of light-weightness meaning the turns that keep coming flowing from corner to corner feed information straight to your hands. There is no power-assisted servos getting between you and the feedback from the road, allowing positive and negative camber turns to be taken at speed with confidence and with ease.

 

The setup of the Elise R’s weight distribution is 40% front & 60% rear, the front tires are a smaller width of 195 versus the rears of 225. With this setup the car naturally understeers when taken to the limit of its cornering G. It was chosen by Lotus to set the car up in this manor to allow less experienced drivers to be able to recover more easily from the limit than the beginner’s panic stations situation of an over-steering car as the back wheels swing wide as you approach the limit of cornering G. In this setup it encourages you to push harder exploring the limits of its corning ability and I have to say, when I’ve heard people say ‘this thing corners like it’s on rails’, I am now agreeing.

 

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So we know this car is an absolute hoot to drive near the limit, but what about its everyday driveability. It’s fuel consumption, not that an average person buying a performance car matters so much what the Johnny Howard campaign are doing to the fuel taxes but this car delivers a Combined Fuel consumption of 8.8 l/100km. Let’s compare that to our previous example the Porsche 911 S (977) which returns a rating of 17.9, that’s near as dammit 10 litres difference.

Price, safety and options –

The additions of everyday items we take for granted in other cars such as air-con, full leather interior, fully fitted carpets, ABS and traction control are all now included making this car more comfortable to live with on a daily basis. Safety updates to the Elise now include LED rear lights that are 36% brighter and illuminate quicker than the old conventional bulb using rear lights, dual airbags both for driver and passenger, side impact protection bars in the doors and like in previous Lotus models, the use of the Lotus crash structure crumple zone technology in the nose of the car for frontal crash situations.


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The options list for the Elise R is pretty substantial, there is the ‘Touring Plus Pack’ as previously mentioned which adds a Leather interior, Full embroided carpet set, Noise insulated roof and panelling, Auxiliary front driving lamps, a Interior stowage net and a Up-rated Alpine CD/MP3 stereo which includes an iPOD connector. The ‘Sports Pack’ includes the Lotus switchable traction control system, stiffer sports suspension (front 12% rear 8%), Twin oil coolers and fits ultra lightweight 7-spoke forged alloy wheels in your choice of Hi-power Silver or Black.

The last option pack is the ‘Super Sports Pack’ for the serious track day enthusiast, this includes fully adjustable suspension, adjustable front auto-roll bar, strengthening to the rear suspension for continued hard track use and lastly front and rear wider street-legal Yokohama competition tyres, the same found on the Lotus Exige and Exige S. The last tick you could put on this very long list is the available Torque-sensing Limited slip Differential (LSD).

 

Conclusion –

With the little added refinements now fitted to the modern Elise like we have seen here, comfort levels have not risen to the likes of the Porsche Boxster but it certainly would be a more comfortable car to live with on a day to day basis compared to previous Elise models. If comfort levels did rise to the level of a Porsche or simular, you have to ask yourself, would it still be a Lotus? Would it still be that raw performance through lightweight philosophy that Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus always strived for all his life?

I feel that Colin Chapman should he of been with us today, would be proud to see what the Elsie has evolved to in the present day in this modern market where we demand more luxuries but the Elise R has still remained common to its key design as a raw sports car. As I drive back into the city I am happy in the thought that the Lotus boys have produced a car that is capable as a overall good daily driver and is still an absolute hoot to drive on the more demanding roads when you want to come out to play for that spirited Sunday drive or that track session you’ve promised yourself, and still one of the world’s best sports cars sensible levels of money can buy.

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Summary –

Spec as tested: Elise Touring Plus Pack, Elise Sport Pack, Lotus Traction Control, LSD, Metallic Paint option.

Base Price: $94,990
Price as tested: $120,000

Positives: Best road & track car bang for your buck, Lotus Road handling and dynamics
Negatives: Un-interesting Exhaust note, a little more power.

Rating of out five: 5

 

Words and photography by Mark Bedford

Lamborghini LP560-4 Australian Launch event

Tonight I was luckily enough to be invited to the launch of the new Lamborghini LP560-4 Australian Launch event at Lamborghini’s Sydney showroom on William St. I was excited to attend as this was the first official motoring industry launch I’ve been invited to and also as it was a special brand unveiling a new car, Lamborghini’s latest model of their baby supercar the Gallardo. 
 

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Managing Director Andrew Smith discusses the LP560-4

After 45 minutes of drinks and buffet food with a bit of smoozing with various people I seem to keep bumping into at these type of events, we were presented with the unveiling and offical first look of the car in Australia.

As its name implies, this replacement Gallardo is now sporting 560 hp from its new, direct-injected 5.2-liter V10 simular in design to the one from the new Audi RS6 just missing the twin turbos of course. Chopping off 20 kilos from the weight of the car allows the LP560-4 to rocket its 0-100 kph speed down to 3.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 201 mph, while increasing fuel efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions by some 18-percent.

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The more angular and larger nose ofthe LP560-4 is revealed

These new weight and performance figures now allows this replacement Gallardo model which slots in as the new base model for Lamborghini, to match the same performance and pace of the previous hardcore Gallardo Superleggera.

Exploring the interior, I notice its design hasn’t been touched at all from the previous model with the cosmetic changes seemingly all focused on the new front Xenon & LED lights combination and the new sleeker cleaner rear end, also sporting LED lights technologies.

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The rear of the cars look much cleaner improved subtlety I feel

The up-rated and more fuel efficient direct fuel injection V10 seems to be where the design money and main improvement has been spent by Lamborghini for this model. Looking into the engine bay with the glass engine cover raised, I notice there does not seem to be the theatre of exposed engine and exhaust parts like a modern Ferrari engine bay does. For example a Ferrari F430’s engine bay, see the 2 photos I’ve put together below for a comparison, see what I mean?

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Comparing side by side the more business like Gallardo
engine bay to the Ferrari F430’s

I spoke to the head of Lamborghini Australia for 5 minutes, as he crouched down I sat in the car and discussed some of its changes over the previous model. He explained the new quicker gear changes are a major change differnce once you get it out on the road, with the shifts now feeling smoother but also quicker at the same time. He was also hoping that this only example of the car in Australia so far would end up as a demo car that will live in the Sydney showroom for the time being. Lets hope I can twist the arm of one of the Sydney Lambo guys for the keys some time soon ๐Ÿ™‚

On the search for some good shots of this new baby Lambo I came across this great gallery with some beautiful shots I recommend having a look, Autoblog.com LP560-4 Gallery.

Photos: Beddy

Review – Ford Falcon XT Wagon

4 SP Auto

This review was written for the website caradvice.com during the summer of 2007.

The Ford Falcon has always been the dependable car to the everyday Australian family, a part of the modern car legacy of Ford Australia, and when there’s dependability and sensibility for a large practical car to be found the Ford Falcon has always filled that space very well. The Ford Falcon, that was designed, developed and built in Australia has been in our market for over 6 generations now.


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The very first generation that was released in 1960 and now we are up to the current generation that was unveiled in October 06 known as the BF. The BF generation Falcon is what we are looking at today in the wagon format which is quite possibly one of the most useful cars you could own in practically terms certainly if carrying lots of things around and a full family in tow is just the name of the day.  

Interior –

The interior of this model isn’t the most exciting Ford you could ever be in but it has to be one of the most practical and dare I say it, very comfortable. The dashboard and interior look designed along the brief of clean and simple lines, nothing too fancy but all still functional and reachable. On looking at the dashboard you notice un-interesting Silver plastics are mixed with black rubber and other hard wearing materials with a medium sized LCD screen in the middle for heater and radio display controls. A very large steering wheel grabs your eye instantly, it feels easy to grip and features all your handy radio and cruise controls within easy reach and are easy to find.

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The radio and heating controls all feel solid enough not to come to foul from over the years of use and are all easily reachable from the passenger side to use also. The radio itself is of a good enough volume and although not up to the level of quality Bose systems found in more premium cars nowadays, it is easily good enough for listening to music on a good volume at motorway speeds.

The auto gear box fitted to the Wagon model is a standard 4 speed affair as found in the previous generation car which originally came from the 1980’s design. It has 3 modes Adaptive automatic mode, Performance automatic mode and Sequential Sports Shift manual mode. This is an area which could have been updated in design but was left alone without improvement I don’t know why. It features the standard gear stick operated steptonic operation by shifting + and – through the gears when in this mode by moving the stick forwards and backwards.

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Electric windows are found in the front but manual winders in the back, that’s an option, if you want electric windows in the back as standard then these are found on the slightly more option fitted Falcon Futura Wagon model. The instrument cluster is again another functional and designed to the point part of the car. It’s clear enough and gives basic but useful trip computer readouts such as Fuel range, Fuel consumption, Trip distance, Trip remaining details e.t.c. There is an absence of an outside temperature gauge which I find strange in a modern car designed for our climate.


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The seats are more suited alike to comfortable armchairs than car seats, I’m looking for arm rests as I find myself sinking into the seats which I found very comfortable for long journeys just perfect. For the rear of the car the back seats fold-down to give a massive 1254 Litres of luggage capacity that’s so large you could nearly get a full double bed in the back, the days of packing a tent for car camping are over!

Exterior –

This is one huge car which you really enforce the fact when you stand back and look at the thing. It gained the nickname of ‘Tank’ during its time with me and at 506 cm’s long I’m not surprised it did. It also gained the nickname of ‘Taxi’ being in White in this example, the same colour and look of all Sydney taxi’s. This resulted in a couple of people trying to ‘hail’ me before realising I was just another White Falcon, this brought a sly chuckle when it happened as I was driving around the Sydney CBD. The cars very wide too at 186 cm’s and its height coming in at 148 cm’s, this thing is BIG.  


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The shape isn’t the most interesting but it doesn’t need to be this is a practical car. From the midway forwards it’s the same as any other Falcon but the rear jets back with the long flat roof to give you that massive interior boot space. From the front with the car driving dead towards you, you would think this would be any other falcon, it’s only as the thing gets closer and starts to turn you notice its longer back and that it’s the wagon before you. The rear styling of the car is again just functional with the taillights being on the far sides of the rear to give a huge opening rear door to allow easy access to that rear boot.

The wheels are 16″ with full wheel covers that come as standard on the Falcon XT Wagon, Alloys are not included on this workhorse of a car, if alloys are a purchase deciding choice for you then the Falcon Futura Wagon comes with 16″ 9 spoke Alloy wheels as standard as well as a few other luxury’s. To maximise the practicality of the car a towbar can be fitted as an option, this is rated to 1600kg towing capacity at a cost of $509 or a super heavy duty towbar that is rated to a 2,300kg towing capacity can be fitted for $1,722.

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Looking at the huge optional extras list for the falcon range there is no rear full wing spoiler from the Falcon XR6 & XR8, it is not an option for the Wagon, there goes the P platers’ sales! Unfortunately bright modern Xenon lights are not an option that can be fitted to the BF series Falcon currently. Items such as a roof rack, a bike carrier, Canoe/kayak carrier and a roof luggage box are further exterior options, but the options list goes on and on.

Under the hood –

The Falcon wagon can be fitted with either the Ford Australia produced Bara 190 4.0-litre in-line 6 petrol engine or the super economical E-Gas engine. The Bara 190 you can tell from the name produces 190kW of power and at 5250rpm,although not the most modern of designs it does now use variable cam timing know as DIVCT, Dual Independent Variable Cam Timing. This helps the engine produce more torque and fuel economy from its 6 cylinders and is the most economic petrol engine in the Falcon range producing a claimed 10.7 L/100km. Maximum Toque is very impressive from a naturally aspirated inline 6 with 383Nm from as low down as 2500rpm.

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The engine is made from in parts semi-modern materials with the cylinder heads made from aluminium but the engine block is made of cast-iron. There are 4 valves per cylinder running from a chain driven system and the compression ratio of 10.3:1 allows petrol as low as a 91 octane to be used. The petrol tank is a large 69 litres in size which allowed long journeys on the motorways finding myself the driver running out of steam a long time before the fuel tank ever did.

On the road –

From when you start this car up you notice how much sound deadening there is as you really can’t hear much in the way of engine noise and external noises at all inside, very good for conducting hands free mobile calls being nice and quiet inside. Slot the 4 speed Auto into D or S for sporty if you’re in the mood and your away nice and easy. The inline 6 Bara engine generates so much torque down low it pulls the 1.8 ton car from a standstill with ease. Acceleration from down low is also easily taken care of and the 4 sp auto box changes though the gears at fairly low RPM’s just simply as it doesn’t need high engine speeds to generate its power.

If you put the auto box in S mode so it changes up later on the red line, you plant your foot on the gas and it doesn’t really feel like it pulls any harder as you go through the rev range bottom to top. As you accelerate It feels pretty linear in its power output, just pulling strong. As you rise up above the 100 kph mark it still feels strong and pulls further and further, not feeling like it will taper off until you reach license loosing speeds.

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The main difference between the Falcon Wagon and the rest of the range except the Ute under the skin is the use of a live rear axle instead of the Independent rear suspension. This ultimately affects the road holding ability of the rear of the car over bumpy roads but allows the rear boot of the car to carry very heavy loads independent suspension couldn’t cope with. The suspension does employ a Ford technology, ‘Ride Assist Springs’ though which helps even the game up a little.

This works by allowing the main suspension springs strength to be reduced to give improved ride and comfort as you are driving straight down the road and moderate cornering. Then as more wheel travel is required on larger undulations and heavy cornering, the spring rate can be progressively increased with the use of the ‘Ride Assist Springs’. In real life, actually driving the car with an empty load and 2 passengers it feels very comfortable and has a confident road holding ability with the weight of the car keeping it firmly planted on semi twisty roads.

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When you venture onto tighter roads you do find the size of it car limiting you on your speed though the corners but it’s still great fun to drive as it does feel so well planted from the weight. I found it at times fun to push the car a little, leaning on the throttle and the engines torque as you come out of the corners it pulls through nicely. Brakes feel solid and strong as they need to be with a car of this size and weight, looking down at the brake pedal looks large enough to be able to stop an aircraft carrier it seems so big at times.

Price, safety and options –

Aussie Fords have always been affordable cars and the Falcon Wagon is no different, for the RRP of $37,720 you are getting a lot of car for your money. The options list can be reeled off over many pages, but just some of the options are, Alloy wheels, roof racks, Weather shields, Towbar packs, Bonnet protectors, window shades, a Fridge even and a Disabled drivers kit offered as a very commendable no charge option if ordered at the time of purchase with the car.

Safety technologies are a plenty fitted to the modern Falcon range affording all the luxury of a large car. These technologies include dual stage inflation airbags, which activate as needed, front seat belt pretensioners which reduce any slack and energy management seat belt retractors that limit the amount of force on the occupant during a crash. Also fitted are front crumple zones, a reinforced safety cell, collapsible steering wheel and more, all working towards offering its occupants a safer driving experience.


FalconXT10jpg.jpgABS is fitted as standard as found on all modern cars now but a system called Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) is also fitted. This works in tandem with ABS, and adjusts the braking force to the rear axle depending on the rear load conditions. For example, EBD takes into account the number of passengers the vehicle is carrying and adjusts the braking force accordingly. Unfortunately Falcon safety systems such as Side airbags, Dynamic Stability Control and the Reverse Sensing System don’t make it onto the Falcon Wagon model.

As a further safety option for the Falcon Wagon you can have a clear polycarbonate screen for $606 or a steel wire mesh $400 fitted between the rear boot area and the rear seats. This can help stop heavy items sliding into the cabin space and the driver during emergency braking or during a crash where several deaths have resulted from this happening in the past.

Conclusion –

This car is primarily designed to be the workhorse of the family or business, to move the kids around, for the holiday away when you take everything with you and for generally being handy in its carrying capacity at all other times. It’s for this reason you’ll probably be everyone’s friend when they are moving house, you can just fit so much in it! For what it was designed to do in this sense, it’s a perfect car.

It has the Ford robustness that you’ve come to expect, not in good quality materials and brushed aluminium you’ll find in European cars I mean in the quality that things don’t usually break and if they do, you know the part from the dealer will just cost peanuts to replace. This car ticks all the right boxes if you are looking for a practical car of this type, the engine has enough power, its fuel efficiency isn’t that bad, it has stacks of carrying capacity and it just goes and goes. Another dependable Ford that doesn’t amaze but will do its designed job as a long distance carrier and will do it well for years to come.

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Summary –

Spec as tested: Base model (no optional extras)

Base Price: $37,720
Price as tested:
$37,720

Positives: Smooth ride & road holding, Good torque’y engine, Cavern’s of space and practicality
Negatives: Looks not an improvement over the previous generation, Outdated 4 sp auto technology, Fuel efficiency

Rating of out five: 3.5

 

Words and photography by Mark Bedford.

New Maserati Quattroporte Unveiled – modernising more than anything

Announced today by Maserati AU the Quattroporte which has always been the grand daddy bread earning luxurious grand tourer in the Maserati line-up has been updated to keep it with the times.  The new model brings a host of new minor technology changes along with a little styling refining from Italian styling house Pininfarina to boot.

The exterior has not been played with too much by fitting a new grille with vertical chrome inserts (Black on the Sport GT model) proudly supporting the Maserati three pronged badge and slightly reshaped side skirts and bumpers. Front and rear LED lights have been designed in now, which seems to be the current car design ‘fashion’ across most prestige brands.


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Still un-ashamingly smart

On the interior they have redesigned the center console with the addition of a new Maserati Multimedia system with improved satellite navigation features and of course supporting connection to you favourite portable music player and Bluetooth connection to your favourite mobile.  Lastly the seats have been given a going over to try and provide both a bit more support and comfort; these can now be opted in two new shades of leather, Marrone Corniola and Sabbia, lovely.


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Lashings of wood for the Executive spec, Carbon fibre for the GT spec 

The engine for the new model comes in two flavours, Automatic or DuoSelect, this is actually the gearbox type that comes with the car and the colour of the cylinder heads of the engine, Blue for Automatic and Red for the DuoSelect shows the version fitted. Both versions are a V8 outputting 298 Kw (400 HP) of power at 7000 rpm and 460 Nm of torque at a not overly low 4250 rpm.

The automatic box gives a smoother driving style whilst the Red headed DuoSelect uses a clutchless gear system derived from Maserati’s successful track cars. Performance of this 2 ton heavy tourer comes in at a 0-100 kph time of 5.7 seconds approx, not exactly fast by today’s standards. If it’s a fast Maserati you’re after then your eyes, and lead weighted foot should be looking at the gorgeous GranTurismo S model.


Quattroporte 3.jpgThe V8’s Red cam covers showing the DuoSelect version

To further complicate your buying decisions once you have chosen between Automatic or DuoSelect gearboxes there is a further Executive spec giving increased levels of driver and passenger comfort all round and a Sport GT spec that fits carbon fibre parts to the interior, larger 20″ wheels, sports setup suspension and cross-drilled brakes.

On the safety side, the front airbags are now of the more advanced two-stage type and there are 6 curtain airbags fitted all round for front and back passengers.

The new model is tipped to be released in spring but by the time it reaches our Australian shores, will likely be next year before you can get your mitts on one.

Source Maserati AU

Its lightweight fun and its ‘Green’ too

Gazing around today’s press releases like I do every day, I spotted Lotus AU bringing the Green angle into their marketing. It’s obvious we are going to see more and more of this type of ‘Green’ issue marketing from motoring company’s over the months coming. We are leading up to the future where we will most likely have government stipulating that all CO2 outputs have to be clearly shown on all car advertising just like health warnings are shown on cigarette packets now, it’s coming guys!

Car marquee against car marquee battling out over the CO2 figures from their vehicles but boasting the most power efficiency from their engines. Technologies like DFI (Direct Fuel Injection) are the start, by having a ‘double positive’, bringing more Horsepower but lower emissions, its coming we all know, along with the “my cars lighter than yours” battles.


 
lightweightlotus2.jpgLotus is on the front foot in this area in that they have been building their cars their founder Colin Chapman’s lightweight philosophy with small engines since the start and now they’re coming of age using this to their advantage.

Here are a couple of tables released in Lotus AU’s press release this week:

SPORTS CONVERTIBLE COMPARISON:

MODEL

L/100km

0-100km/h

CO2 output

Price

Mazda MX-5

8.5

7.8

174g/km

$42,870

Lotus Elise S

8.3

6.1

196g/km

$69,990

Nissan 350Z Roadster

11.7

5.7

280g/km

$73,990

BMW Z4 2.5

8.4

6.5

216g/km

$78,200

Mercedes-Benz SLK200K

9.2

7.9

220g/km

$89,990

Lotus Elise SC

8.5

4.6

202g/km

$104,990

Porsche Boxster 2.7

13.8

6.1

222g/km

$109,300

 

PERFORMANCE COUPE COMPARISON 

MODEL

L/100km

0-100km/h

CO2 output

Price

Porsche Cayman S

11.6

5.4

254g/km

$149,000

Lotus Exige S PP

9.1

4.1

216g/km

$149,990

Aston Martin V8 Vantage

14.0

4.9

358g/km

$269,000

Lamborghini Gallardo

17.0

4.2

400g/km

$414,993

Ferrari F430

15.6

3.7

345g/km

$416,850

 

It’s not much of a surprise really to see a car manufacturer marketing in this way really, but I think it really is for the better.

Ok I am a little biased being a happy owner of a Lotus Elise but even if I wasn’t, its known by all that lighter cars: – require less HP to accelerate faster, corner better, brake better + there brakes last longer, use less petrol and to top it off, require less oil to build as there’s less car to actually build.

Having a look through the figures, I wonder how the forthcoming Lotus Eagle and Lotus Espirt’s will fair against the competition once there designs have been finalised? Can’t wait.

Source Lotus AU

The next generation 911 is released – 3 letter marketing acronyms at the ready

From the sports car manufacturer that loves its 3 letter acronyms, Porsche bring you the new next generation 911 with Direct Fuel Injection technology & a Double-Clutch Gearbox with the most RIDICULES name ever ‘Doppelkupplung’ (its actally German for ‘double-clutch) as the biggest new features.

The full information was released to the world this week. In typical German style I have analysed with my White coat through all the Press release material, collected up as many 3 letter marketing acronyms from it as possible and brought you the changes. 


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Here it comes the next generation 911

New features:

Direct fuel injection (DFI) – Injects fuel up to 120 bar directly into the cylinder this results in the Carrera now producing 254kw (345hp) and the Carrera S 283kw (385hp) These new performance figures is supersedes the previous generations outputs of 239 kw (325hp) and 261 kw (355 hp). Smoother torque delivery, better fuel economy and lower exhaust emissions are also a side benefit to the Porsche flat 6 engine now using DFI technology.

 


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The newly tuned engine with added DFI’ness

Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) – uses a double clutch design simular to what’s found in cars like the VW R32 but with 7 forward gears. The new steering wheel has two thumb paddles (either left or right can be used), press either to shift up and pull to shift down. If you opt for this new PDK gearbox option, that’s if you can say it to the dealer without being laughed out of the showroom, it will shave 0.2 of a second off the 0-100kph times due to faster shifting speed compared to a manual.


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The new Porsche Doppelkupplung (just say PDK it’s safer) gear stick  

Launch control – coupled with the PDK system, when enabled holds the engines RPM at 6,500 rpm for a perfect launch when the brake pedal is quickly released.

Dynamic cornering lights – As standard on all new 911 models are bi-xenon headlights previously this was an optional extra. As an extra now though are the dynamic cornering lights which actively swivel the lights left to right up to 15 degrees according to the tightness of the corner to light up the bend ahead. Woohoo safety that looks cool!

Improved Porsche Communication Module (PCM) – Now fitted as standard and with the screen size enlarged to 6.5-inch and also now touch screen. Full Bluetooth support, as an optional extra, all PCM functions can be controlled using voice control system. TV Tuner available as an option, capable of receiving digital TV broadcasts, switches off as you start moving.


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The newly designed 6.5 inch widescreen PCM

BOSE Surround Sound System – made up of 13 loudspeakers (12 in the Cabriolet models) combined wattage 385 watts, includes an active subwoofer and central speaker, great for popping out to the car and watching a surround sound movie in the garage for when you’ve had a argument with the wife.

Universal Audio Interface – the central armrest storage console contains 3 connections of iPod, USB stick/MP3 player and stereo jack input, about time!


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For the first time iPod and 911 see i to i

Seat Ventilation, heated steering wheel options – As the final  interior changes you can now optionally specify ventilated seats that can help cool down your bod on those hot sweaty peak of summer days and a heated steering wheel for those bitter cold winter mornings, no one likes a freezing steering wheel brrrrrrrrr.

 

Features carried over from the previous generation 911:

Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM)

Porsche Stability Management (PSM)

Sport Chrono Package Plus

Spring loaded automatically deployed roll-over bars (On the cabriolet model)

Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPM) – Although this has been redesigned to read tyre pressures in much quicker times now.

 

The visual differences

Porsche are pretty famous in the motoring press for not really playing with the look of the 911 through the generations and this new generation of 911 really isn’t breaking that mould. Ok you can look on this in two ways really, either they are just honing a nearly perfect look of their near 40 year old original design or they are just bloody lazy buggers and would rather be out driving their cars.

I have put together a few shots comparing the looks of the old & new models and as you can see at first glance there really looks like there’s very little difference, but there are some differences if you look closer.


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The New 911 and old, very little changes

Taking the front we can see they have aligned the front indicator lights with the front air intake and also incorporated some daytime LED running lights which seems to be the fashion now since first started by Audi last year. On the rear the only change apparent is the slightly drawn out shape of the rear lights towards the ‘hips’ of the car and also showing LEDs are being used for the entire rear lights cluster.

Moving to the interior you can see the changes are very subtle also. The new 6.5 inch, wider touch screen display being the main change with a few small changes to the heater controls too.


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The new 911 and old interior, same news here also

So there you go they have done it again and refined there 40 year old creation just that little bit more and Porsche purists will be very happy with the changes I feel. Still, some say the engine is still in the wrong place ๐Ÿ™‚

No prices of the new models are marked for the Australian market yet but the European prices show that we’ll probably be paying the same as for the current 911 models new, that’s around $201k for the 911 Carrera and $227k for the Carrera S.


new911d.jpgThe four new flavours of 911, Carrera, Carrera Cabriolet,
Carrera S and the Carrera Cabriolet S
 

Now the rest of the 911 range will surely follow with these design and technological updates and most likely a few of their own. I have heard rumours that the new GT3 marked for release around early to mid 2009 will feature a sport/track tuned version of the dual-clutch PDK system for example, I can’t wait to see the new GT3’s spec’s when released and my deposit on the next generation GT3 RS will be riding on this.

Source: Porsche AU