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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Happy ALL THE HOLIDAYS!


Normally I wait until Christmas Day, but this year I'll be all-encompassing and post a little message between the various religious holidays.

This time of year was cause for celebration long before religions and commercialism characterised it in their own ways around the world*. Even thousands of years ago, after the longest night, humans gathered together and celebrated life and love while they still had it, before the harsh conditions of winter took its toll on the weaker population. Thanks to central heating and online groceries, nowadays this is not such an issue for most, but life nonetheless remains precious and temporary. People change year on year and sometimes even disappear. Cherish this time when they're still here.

As you gather this winter, regardless of which religious holiday you celebrate (or exploit for time off), enjoy the company of your loved ones and have a warm, happy winter celebration.

I promise I'll still be alive next year to give you more aimless ramblings about cars. You lucky thing...

*Source: Cracked.com, of all places

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Mercedes-Benz GLE "Coupe" Is Everything Wrong With New Cars

FUN FACT: "GLE" is German for "Troll Car"
OK look, we've been here before. I've done long rants about crossovers, I've done long rants about preposterous niche cars that make no sense, I recently did a long rant about diluting brand vales and I've even made fun of Mercedes-Benz's naming system before. I'm not going to waste too much time getting my opinions across on this new GLE Coupe [it's not a god damned fucking coupé you daft cynical marketing-department bastards......]

Here is a >1000-word rant condensed into note form, by seeing if the GLE can fill a checklist of all the things wrong with new cars from this decade so far:

✓ Meaningless Alphanumeric Name (Bonus Point for vastly inaccurate engine-size numbers)
Performance-Branded Version [GLE450 AMG] Not Actually Engineered By Said Performance Brand
✓ Fills a Nonsensical Market Niche (Bonus Point for thinking they can merge two polar opposites)
✓ Off-Roader Designed/Engineered Specifically for On-Road Use [See 22" wheels on low-profile tyres, for one...]
✓ Numerous Grilles, Some of which Are Fake
✓ Fake Engine Noises (Bonus Point for also amplifying gear-change noises for whatever reason)
✓ A Trillion "Driver Modes" for Transmission, Suspension, Driver Aids, Fake Engine Noise, etc.
Stupid OTT Name For A Feature [heated windscreen with automatic wipers called "MAGIC VISION CONTROL"]
✓ Huge Heavy Car with [probably] Numb Electric Steering Marketed as a "Sports Car."
✓ Cynical Marketing Ploy to Exploit Gullible Rich People
✓ Automatic Transmission with More Gears Than You'd Ever Really Use [9-speed]*
Baffling Array of Expensive Optional Extras [it's German so we can take this as a fact immediately]
✓ Non-Retracting iPad-Style Dashboard Tablet Screen That Sticks Out Like A Sore Thumb
✓ Pisses Internet Car Enthusiasts Off By Being Idiotic But Selling By The Bucket-Load [probably]
✓ Marketing Department Pretending It's New and Innovative When It Isn't [BMW X6, anyone?]

See dash screen for annoying design feature #352
X 1,000,000 different body surfaces to try making it look "stylish" [this car only has like 100 so it gets a pass, see Lexus NX for exemplary surface-rape]
X SUV from a brand that exists to make Sports Cars/GTs/Supercars [Mercedes generally make everything so it's not blasphemous on that level]
X Huge retro version of a famous small car

OK, so it misses out on three of the items, but it got pretty close to being everything wrong with the car industry today. On that last , if you want to see just how much the marketing people went to town on the Press Release, click here. It's a pile of bullshit almost as tall as the car itself...

Remember, kids, just because somebody does something wrong over and over again, doesn't mean it becomes right. Saying "alot" instead of "a lot" all the time doesn't make it a word, it just means you're always doing it wrong. Cars like this are the same deal...

*They add more 'economy gears' so that it cruises at really low revs at 60-80mph and allows them to claim a higher overall MPG figure. Because apparently overdrive isn't cool anymore.

[If you see this writing anywhere other than Small Blog V8, it has been copied without the author's permission and should be reported]

Friday, 5 December 2014

Aston Martin DB10 - Missiles Or GTFO

Aston Martin DB10
In case you've lacked any kind of internet signal for the past three days, you'll need me to tell you what this car is. This is the Aston Martin DB10, and despite the name it's NOT a replacement for the DB9 (although damn does that car need a replacement). Instead, this compact GT, which is based on the also-increasingly-antiquated V8 Vantage, has been specifically commissioned for SPECTRE, which is the new James Bond movie.

First of all, it's gorgeous. Finally we're seeing some evolution of Aston Martin's design language, something we all needed to see after they spent the last five years being lazier even than Audi's designers (who basically just photocopy an existing model and then change the shape of the lights). I think it's fair to say that the roof and the tail lights (see below) are borrowing rather a lot from the jaw-dropping Jaguar F-Type Coupé, but then Aston and Jaguar have always been following each other's fashions, so it's almost excusable on that basis... and for the fact that it makes for a stunning body.


Only 10 of these will ever be built, and all of them will be used in the upcoming 007 movie, SPECTRE. After celebrating 50 years of the world's most ostentatious and perverted spy with Skyfall, the 24th Bond film brings back the global terrorist organisation originally seen in Ian Fleming's novels (and the first movies) whose name is an acronym for SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. Obviously.


Little is known about this film thus far, except that it won't be out for another 11 months and it features some actors. Also the story will link back to the end of Skyfall in some way. Based on the other Daniel Craig-era 007 movies thus far, it seems likely that rather than featuring a non-parody version of Dr. Evil based in a hollowed-out volcano full of rockets, it will be all gritty and realistic, and the bad guy - almost definitely called Ernst Stavro Blofeld - will probably be a corrupt business tycoon in a premium tuxedo who plans to hack into All The Computers and win at trendy cyber-terrorism to take over the world in a modern, cool way that's "more down-to-Earth" (or "less pie-in-the-sky," if you prefer). His evil base will probably be a hollowed-out block of brushed-aluminium, glass-edged architect's wet dream full of touch screens and classy, light blue or white strip lighting and not a single un-polished surface to be found. Just a row of crystal-clear shot glasses and lots of premium-branded premium products.

Speaking of premium-branded products, the previous (premium) Bond cars in Daniel Craig's (premium) movies have been just that and nothing more, which remains a bitter - and premium - disappointment. The only gadgets the Aston Martin DBS ever had were a custom (premium) glovebox and the ability to roll over spectacularly at high speed for no obvious reason. In Skyfall they brought back the old DB5 just to ram home that the new cars simply aren't as cool, not just because they aren't from the 1960s but because they don't have retractable missile launchers or oil slicks or a pop-up bullet shield or an invisibility cloak or a smoke screen. Do these people really think that the Goldfinger DB5 became the most famous movie car of all time purely based on British (premium) branding and Italian body styling? I get that they wanted to make it all gritty and realistic just like literally every big action movie this decade, but they've toned it down too much for too long. We need gadgets! That was always the coolest part! Gadgets and a crazy villain in a crazy evil base. The previous film at least had a proper villain, rather than a weepy guy who plays cards and then whips Bond's testicles for a bit, but the DBS was still a bit part, not a full character. All it did was appear for the sake of it and then crash.

Ask yourself: which makes for the better movie spy-car?

Right: The DBS from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Left: The Van(qu)ish from Die Another Day
The correct answer is the one on the right, even if you think the DBS looks better than the Vanquish, which is a whole other debate. Even if you think Die Another Day was a worse movie, which is yet another other debate (at the very least I think we can agree Skyfall was the best Craig movie thus far). OK, it's hard to keep a 50+ year-old movie franchise fresh and sometimes the only way to refresh something so ridiculous is to pare it back a bit and focus on substance... are you listening, TopGear?

But therein lies the problem: James Bond is inherently ridiculous! A real spy would sneak around in a silver Mondeo with a camera and a smartphone, not powerslide an Aston Martin through a town with a gun in his hand and a Martini in the glovebox. He wouldn't single-handedly take down a terrorist organisation by shooting all the men and banging all the women before throwing the big boss into a shark/acid bath/jet engine/LASER shark/outer space/toothy munchy machine thing/miscellaneous crevasse. Now that the makers of Bond films have brought things down to Earth, they need to build things back up again. Embrace the crazy! If anything there's more of a challenge in finding ways to incorporate mad gadgets like grappling-hook watches and tranquiliser pens without it feeling like a parody than there is in finding ways to incorporate more classy innuendos and smoldering glances and new-money filming locations.

Personally I think Craig's Bond will get pretty boring if he keeps spending the movie sulking at things and punching guys in the dick. Lots of action movie heroes do that and always have. We get subtle references to old favourites, but little more. I want this DB10 to be an iconic Bond car, not a prop to make people look at Aston Martin. People already look at Aston Martin! The DB10 is a one-off (well, ten-off) just for this movie, so for it to be a pure 007 car through and through, it needs the side vents to fire missiles. It needs those blade-like wheel spokes to stab and/or slash at things. There needs to be an ejector seat, or a jet-powered Honda Motocompo escape bike in the boot, or an autonomous function that talks in John Cleese's voice. It needs something. Otherwise it will just be yet more premium nothing.

Your mission is clear, Eon Productions. Don't ruin the car.


























Premium.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Holy FXXK! Hardcore LaFerrari [UPATED] vs P1 GTR

Ferrari FXXK
One question that keeps popping up in reviews after comparing the likes of LaFerrari and the McLaren P1 is "Where on Earth do they go from here?!" The answer? To the track. Ferrari is not averse to modifying its road cars so extensively that they're no longer road legal. We've seen the Enzo-based FXX crushing all on TopGear at the hands of Michael Stigmacher, and the 599XX set an obscure lap record around the Nürburgring for "production-based" cars (only to be beaten by the Pagani Zonda R with a 6:47). Now, we have the same recipe applied to the storied Italian brand's latest flagship, LaFerrari, to make what they're calling the FXX K. Insert wordplay here.

The 'K' stands for 'KERS,' a device missing from the previous FXX. Yup, the brave multi-millionaire drivers will be subjected this time to assault and battery, as LaFerrari's immense powerplant has been modified all over. The 6.3-litre V12 has had an extra 50 horsepower squeezed out of it to make 860PS (848bhp), while the KER System [sic] chucks an extra 190PS (187bhp) at the rear wheels the very instant you floor it, up from the street LaFez's 160PS of electric boost. That adds up to 1050PS all-in, or 1035bhp if you still prefer it in old money, all going to the rear wheels via a 7-speed DCT. Oddly, the official torque figure is the same at "over 664lb/ft," a claim that seems all the more Italian when you notice the McLaren P1 packs 663lb/ft......

Engineering types might want to know that to get this extra punch from the engine, Ferrari gave the V12 new camshafts, redesigned intake manifolds and mechanical tappets (the device that lifts the valves) instead of the typical hydraulic ones. Er, good? Oh, and the exhaust silencers have been removed, because literally nobody in the world dislikes the sound of a track-spec Ferrari V12 engine. As for the electric motor side of things, drivers get to choose the nature in which the "HY-KERS" augments that ferocious V12, from full-blast 'Qualifying' mode, to 'Long Run' which balances boost force and battery life, and 'Manual Boost' where the driver chooses when to use it. There is also a 'Fast Charge' mode that lets the regenerative brakes do their job to the fullest. It's not just about the power, though. The body has been given a full WEC-inspired makeover to generate 50% more downforce than the original LaFez, with high-mounted winglets attached to awesome tail fins, a huge dual-element front spoiler and a cartoonishly big rear diffuser. Let's go back to the tail fins though. Like the street car, the aerodynamics on the FXXK are active. The large gap between the little winglets can be bridged by an equally-large pop-up rear wing in "High Downforce Mode." In Low Downforce Mode, said wing rests between the unique aero-sculpted tail lights, while the fin-winglets act as guide vanes. I'd be surprised if there weren't moving diffuser flaps as well, like LaFez but also the 458 Speciale. Ferrari claim this FXXK-load of negative lift amounts to as much as 540kg at ~125mph (200km/h). Heaven only knows what downforce it's generating at 200mph, but this car's bespoke Pirelli slick tyres ought to be able to handle it...

It's been suggested that Ferrari will build just 30 of these cars, and just like the previous 'XX' cars, they're not even slightly road legal. They're not eligible for racing either. Instead, they are devices for Ferrari's ongoing research and driver development programme. Over the next two years lucky squillionaires will be invited to track days to do laps in their car and gather data which Ferrari will use to inform development of future road cars. On that note, those slick tyres have sensors embedded in them which give data about lateral, longitudinal and radial acceleration, so the Italian stallions can also tell you where and when you were being too harsh on them. Also helping you preserve the tyres is a development of the 458 Speciale's Side Slip-angle Control system, which essentially allows the car to slide without allowing it to spin. Performance figures haven't been released, but with slick tyres and an extra 90 horsepower, it ought to do 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds or less, really. LaFerrari does it in 2.9s with road tyres, after all.

The price? Guesstimates say £2m, $3m, but it's irrelevant. Those who need to know the price have the money to handle whatever it is. All I want to know now is what this thing sounds like!

UPDATE (5/12): While I haven't found out what it sounds like, TopGear recently pointed out that this FXXK is a whole 5 seconds faster around Pista di Fiorano - Ferrari's own test track - than LaFerrari (1:14.x vs 1:19.x). It also weighs about 90kg less than LaFez, which from what I can work out gives it a dry weight of 1165kg. So that's over 1000 horsepower propelling the weight of a Fiesta ST! Compared to the previous FXX, it generates 42% more downforce, has fewer steering wheel settings to make it less mind-boggling to operate and will be slightly more common - 40 will be built, each costing about €2.5m. Not that it matters, as all are sold out.

FXXK YEAH!

...But it doesn't end there...