The Mclaren Line-Up.

Let me start by saying that I love Mclaren. I love the efficient way that they go about making some of the worlds amazing cars, without the fussiness, aggressive branding, and redness of, say… Ferrari. Some people think that this makes their cars overly clinical and robotic, but you wouldn’t say that the terminator doesn’t have character would you? mclaren-mp4-12c-07

There are two problems, as I see it, and they’re both called F1. First the sport: A couple of years ago Mclaren was top of the tree in F1 and there’s no doubting their heritage in the sport. They even had two British drivers (Lewis and Jenson), all of which is great for their identity as a British car maker, in the same way that Ferrari and Lamborghini are distinctly Italian. The fate of their 2014 season is yet to unfold, but recently the British team has fallen of the grid. Not good for branding.

How about the car then, Gordon Murray’s iconic Mclaren F1. In a way, it wasn’t built by the same Mclaren road car company that we know today. As the first road car by the marque, it was built and designed by the same people that made their racing cars- not strictly true today, but not far off. The F1 was the fastest car in the world at 243mph, a figure beaten by only a select few of the hypercar royalty. The problem here? The current generation of Mclarens can’t get anywhere near this figure, despite being more powerful, technical and rewarding to drive.

Maybe Mclaren isn’t the F1 anymore. Maybe its the ballistically brilliant P1. I’m sure that there are a bunch of very wealthy people itching to own the entry level 12C just to be part of the hype. And thats fine right? Well I’m not so sure. Let’s look again at Ferrari. Of course they have their flagship cars but the 458, the F12, the LaFerrari are all great cars in their own right. Not so much with Mclaren since the P1 blew away the media. mclaren_p1_actf34_fe_918131_600

The new 650S is clearly more of a 12C evo, rather than a brand new car, utilising new technological advances honed in the P1. But they’ve changed the looks too, shamelessly bolting on the rather fiddly front end of the bigger car. They tell us that the new car will be built alongside the 12C but given the small price difference and largish gap in performance, who would buy a new 12C now? I fear that they’ll have no option but to kill it off. Why didn’t they just make the 650S a completely different car, even if the differences were still only cosmetic. I can’t be the only one disappointedly   this? 650S-blue-front-mo_2869960b

So really we’re now left with two Mclarens: the P1 and the P1 mini- sorry 650S. Because of this there’s still a huge problem… The company sits in a huge, prancing-horse shaped, shadow. In the main, I don’t think even Mclaren can compete with the Ferrari appeal.

Advertisements

6 Reasons to Not Hate the 90s

There are many reasons to hate the 90s. AOL, Furbies, and Aqua spring to mind. A lot of ‘purists’ consider it to consider the 90s to be the death of real cars: the birth of plastic bumpers, and excessive driver aids. You can see there point. However I think that the 90s gave us some damn cool cars.

 

 

mazda_rx_7_01_1-1031

 Mazda RX7 FD (1991)

The FD variant of Mazdas flagship sports car first appeared in 1991. It retained the bloodline’s pop up head lamps and rotary engine. The screaming 1.3 litre power-plant featured the first ever sequential twin-turbo charges to be fitted to a mass produced car. 252hp propelled the car to 60mph in 4.9 seconds and onto an ear-splitting top speed of 158. That said, you’d have to be a serious car bore to run one: There’s no denying that rotaries are hard work compared to conventional engines. However with fantastic chassis balance, character by the bucket-full and being incredibly tuneable, it has been one of the gems of the JDM scene ever-since.

 

m5

BMW M5 E39 (1998)

The E39 is considered by some to be the perfect BMW M5. I’m not so sure about that (there’s a strong case for both the earlier E32 and 34) but there’s no doubting that the 39 is a brilliant car. 5 litre V8. 400hp. 0-60 around 5 seconds. These are all numbers to get the blood pumping. Whats more, all E39 5 series had sweet handling. Infact, rumour has it that BMW was so pleased with the standard car that there were no plans for a faster version from their Motorsport division, until they saw Jaguars snorting XJR super saloon. Today the E39 just looks… right.

 

1992-Escort-RS-Cosworth-3

Ford Escort RS Cosworth (1992)

Cosworth. Need I say more? Allow me to elaborate, just incase: 227hp delivered to the road via four wheel drive, 60mph in 5.8 seconds and a tail that would embarrass even the largest of whales. It was a pure rally homologation of the group A rally car with a 2 litre Cosworth YBT engine and made no apologies for being raw and visceral. It was nothing short of a blue collar hero.

 

 

Mazda MX-5 (5)

Mazda MX5 (1990)

There are a lot of people out there who don’t like the MX5s. From what I can see there’s no real reason not to. It looks great, drives brilliantly and is just fast enough to be every drivers introduction the rear-wheel drive. It was a carbon copy of the classic British sports car recipe: Fizzy little engine upfront with drive to the rear wheels, plenty of weather thanks to no roof, and a well balanced chassis. And the MK1 is the best of the lot, especially with its pop-up headlamps.

 

 

f1-5

Mclaren F1 (1992)

It could be argued that the F1 didn’t really change the super-car landscape, but it sure made a bloody big mark on it. Designed by the genius Gordon Murray, just 106 were produced. This thing was produced with a precision never seen before. The engine bay was lined with 24K gold, for a start. 0-60 took just 3.2 seconds- thats with an old school manual gearbox and no fancy launch control. You could ride a wave of 6.2 BMW V12 noise all the way to 243mph making this the fast production car in the world- smashing the XJ220 poultry 213mph.

 

 

honda_nsx_46

Honda NSX (1990)

The NSX could not do 243mph. It topped out at just 162mph and took 7.3 seconds to reach 60- positively mild by modern standards. But the NSX felt fantastic. A 3.0 V6 with Vtec revved all the way to and beyond 8000rpm and the Ayrton Senna guided chassis tuning meant it handled with near perfect precision. But the NSXs real trick was that it could do that time and time again, everyday if you wanted. The NSX was the worlds first real user friendly super-car.

Perhaps there’s one thing to take from this…

…bring back pop-up headlamps!

headlights

 

 

 

The MINI we need

Given the price of motoring, particularly here in the UK, the small car market is huge and has been for a while. BMW decided to capitalise on this by buying Rover and stealing the MINI brand before leaving the rest of the company to die a slow and painful death.

With the politics of the once complexBritish car industry aside, BMW actually gave us a fantastic little car with the new Mini. In fact it was one of the best small hatchbacks that the world has ever seen and put VW’s retro re-invention, the new beetle in the shade- where it has stayed.  It drove brilliantly, a fact only accentuated by the addition of a supercharger and an ‘S’ on the best Cooper model.

cooper s

That was the R53, 52 and 50. The first BMW Mini Cooper S, Convertibles, Cooper and One, respectively. Theconvertible variants were pushing it a little, but the rest were relevant, well packaged, hatch-backs. With the second generation of new Minis things got a little bigger, looked a lot bigger, and in my opinion the brand has completely lost all meaning.

The Cooper S lost its supercharger in place of a turbo charged unit developed with Peugeot for there terrible 207RC. Despite the Peugeot connection, this was much better in terms of reliability and refinement than the Tritec botch job that actually came from Brazil and has very close relations with Chrysler- yuck. Build quality, although the cars were still built in the Oxford factory (in the UK at least), was much much better.

So whats the problem? Well played BMW… Actually no. It doesn’t end there. BMW are constantly dusting off Original Mini model names and assigning them to completely irrelevant modern ‘interpretations. The Clubman- a pointless estate type thingy, and the Countryman- a stupid reworked BMW X1 crossover which is also stupid and terrible. Don’t get me wrong. Sales are good. People actually buy these cars. But why do they have to exist? We have other manufacturers for that.Mini-Paceman-2_2338808b

Surely this isn’t why BMW wanted the MINI name in the first place. There’s a coupe version for God’s sake! And now theres a coupe version of the crossover version, dubbed the Paceman! Seriously. And of course all of which come in One, Cooper, Cooper S, Cooper D, and Cooper SD specs. Oh and some with the option of all-wheel drive. To understand the MINI line up nowadays would be a feat worthy of a Nobel Prize.

Whats more, its about to become even harder to comprehend. The new (and in my opinion worst looking yet) hatchback will be available as a four door, presumably so that people desperate to be part of the MINI family have an excuse to buy that over a sensible Golf.

new-mini-2

What is the point in all of this? Well I used to like MINI. I still think that the basic hatch is great, if a little expensive and over engineered. The reason for my (probably over-the-top) reaction here is this: There are plenty of direction that BMW could expand the brand, and make tonnes of cash in the process, that would be far more relevant and useful to us- the consumers.

I started this piece with a point about small cars. We love them here in the UK. Sometimes it seems that every other car on the road is a C1, 107, or VW Up. And you can see why. So where is MINI in all of this. Why hasn’t BMW, with the best brand for small car pedigree in the business, absolutely obliterated this market place? Arguably the most important and fastest growing car sector right now.

A cool city car is something that we don’t really have. Citroen badged a few of there C1’s as VTR models and Peugeot put some ludicrous red stripes and centre exit pipes on the 107 but the modifications to both are purely cosmetic and are minimal. What we need is a City Car hot hatch. Another 16V Lupo. A VW Up GTI if you will. MINI has all the ingredients: The engineering capability to build fantastic front-drive chassis, they certainly have the cash, and infinite heritage. A mini MINI would fly out of showrooms in their droves, surely.

They teased us a while back with an intriguing little concept called the ‘Rocketman’. Crap name I know, but at this point thats the least of our concern. It wasn’t much bigger than the original Mini, seriously. Next to most stuff on the roads today it would look tiny and it didn’t have the tall and skinny problem that all city cars seem to have these days. Most of the over the top design features would probably go and should go- in the pursuit of affordability if nothing else. And imagine a Rocketman S…

Seeing as they’re so obsessed with resurrecting old names, they could even call it the City. BMW- make it so.

3/4Front_türauf_var_ 003
MINI-RocketMan-concept-back-side-view-gun-metal-grey-gray-doors-open-phoenix-arizona-valley

Mirror Mirror…

…Who’s the prettiest of them all? No seriously. I saw a DBS today and its still bloody gorgeous but a little bit ‘creaky’- old fashioned. There’s a problem here too because, and I’m almost ashamed to say this, I’m not much of an Aston fan. I prefer cars that are a little more hard edged. There is a point here. What’ the best looking car on sale today?

Let’s disregard the retro stuff here. Whilst car design is clearly on the recovery, I still think that, lets say, an F40 stomps, for example, a LaFerrari in terms of looks.

c766fe69dc139d13f5e0ca2cfa5d65e4I do, however, think that both the F12 and the 458 (less so the Speciale) are outright stunners. Seriously. I don’t think that there’s been a prancing-horse this pleasing since at least the 355. They are a bit fussy though- a lot of angles. I think we can do better.

On a similarly Italian (and probably red) note:

Alfa-Romeo-4c-Spyder-Anton-carscooAlfa Romeo. More specifically the soon to be 4C spider *jaw hits floor*. Those revised lights really made the car. So much so, infact, that Alfa now offers them as an option on the coupe. Its a chunky little thing, isn’t it. Purposeful. Much better looking, I think, than the 8C and the 8C based Disco Volante.But the style obsessed Italians shouldn’t get all the glory here.
What about the Germans? Well Audi’s are quite pretty now aren’t they? There RS cars are certainly some of the meanest looking machines we’ve ever seen (cue terrifyingly imposing RS7).maxresdefault BMW’s are nice too but a little bit dull for my tastes in terms of shape. And Mercedes? Well they’re definitely pretty but I don’t they’ve realised that there is such a thing as too much bling. Dull VW’s aside, we’re left with Porsche.To my eye, the 991 is stunning. So… fluid.porsche-918-spyder-107 Elegant. In GT3 form its transformed. So much presence! Obvious fire problems aside, I want one. And the 918 is just fantastically good-looking. The most contemporary car on sale today bar none.

The Mclaren P1 is the 918 Spyder’s main rival. Personally, I think that it’s not only one of the fastest, but one of the best shapes we’ve ever seen. That arse, in particular. Just wow. I love how they’ve left it exposed and raw. Most of all I love the fact that every component of the car looks as if it were designed to be a thing of beauty and perfect precision.Batman should have one.

God its nice.

McLaren-P1-83

mclaren_p1_actf34_fe_918131_600

Lift Off

So these are my first words in this particular corner of the internet. Although… I have actually tried blogging before and that quickly paled into insignificance so don’t be too surprised if you see more of the same here.

If your not interested in internal-combustion, a number of wheels greater than two and less than eighteen (but probably four most of the time), and driving cars that could be considered nothing less than anti-social, click away now. That means you Prius drivers. For the record, drivers of 1.2 Corsas- you can stay but just know that your car is nothing like what any normal person would call fast and I probably don’t like you.

I always have been a car person: the sort of person that you don’t want to be stuck on your own with for more than 30 minutes if your conversational repertoire barely stretches past football. Quite how I’ve managed to stay an ‘enthusiast’, with all of the obstacles that being a young driver in the UK brings, is beyond me.

My first car was actually quite interesting, albeit shit. An MGB GT- no not the V8 and no not a nice one. Rubber bumpers, raised suspension and flakey black paint. Yep a US market one, even worse than the original. Thankfully I was just 13, so I never had the displeasure of driving the thing. But I wanted to.

My Dad sold it for a K-reg Landrover Discovery, with a 3.5l Rover V8 no less. Sure, it made more noise than power and used more fuel than an aircraft carrier whilst accelerating even slower. But it was quite cool, at least I thought so at 14. And, being an off-roader, I got to have a go. I was hooked.

After we found out that it was more rust than car it had to go and I didn’t have anything until I was 16. My Dad had a couple of decent motors: a V6 406 coupe in red and latterly a tidy CLK cabriolet, which went much better than it looked.

When it came to finding my first actual car there were a couple of choices. When I learned that BMWs Mini Cooper was still far too expensive, I had a look at MG ZRs in trophy blue. Thanks to insurance I swerved that head-gasket shaped bullet and ended up in a slow, boring, French, 1.1 litre, 8 valve, French, Pug 106. It was, at least, blue.

I then had a boring C2, also 1.1. But that was actually quite nice (which you may have trouble believing- and who could blame you). Now I’ve got a little Suzuki Swift Sport. It begins….