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Posts Tagged ‘V8’


IT’S HARD NOT to get just remotely excited when the key to an Aston Martin for evaluation lands on your desk. Of life’s many pleasures there’s nothing as fulfilling as shepherding a thoroughbred sports car through a series of tightly knitted corners, all to the glorious tune of an unsullied V8 mill. The key I’m holding, however, doesn’t belong to the latest Vanquish but rather the new Vantage V8 – one of the most successful Aston’s ever made. Yep, it may be over seven years old now but Aston Martin has parlayed various components from last year’s Vantage S into the model you see here, resulting in a more focussed and surprisingly cheaper car than before. Nevertheless, can the Vantage V8 still cut it as a modern sports car?

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In the metal

Although the Vantage is getting on in years, it still cuts an exquisite shape, particularly when parked against the picturesque rock-strewn backdrop of Table Mountain. There aren’t many cars that exhibit the same sense of balance, beauty and poise. The classical contoured silhouette with short front and rear overhangs, bulky haunches and hunkered stance all evoke a sense of speed even when it’s not moving – it’s achingly beautiful. The 2012 model has inherited a number of styling riffs from the Vantage S and the results are rather impressive to say the least. Aston’s fabled grille layout punctuates the front end flanked by newly-designed headlight clusters complete with intricate LED accenting while a lower front bumper with pronounced air dams and a splitter have injected the Brit with a refined level of aggression and undeniable road presence. As you move along the car’s shoulder line towards the rear, you’ll notice the chunkier side skirts and a larger rear diffuser which complete the visual package.

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Life inside

As expected, the cabin features a contrasting meld of hand-crafted equipment and plush cow hide and Alcantara, resulting in a comfortable and cocooning cockpit. Of course, the interior is fairly customisable and can be personalised with complementary stitching, more leather and facia accents but our test car was pretty standard from a trim-spec point of view. Still, the relationship between the leather and aluminium switchgear on offer is of a premium feel, the only disappointments being the audio unit and the integrated pop-up Garmin navigation screen, which both look out of place amid the other equipment’s high-quality fit and finish. The seats may not quite match the grippy nature of a Porsche bucket seat but they’re still first-grade items, and the high scuttle line gives the illusion that you’re sitting just millimetres off the road surface – proper race car stuff. Like all automatic Aston Martins, the interior is bereft of a traditional gear lever. Four buttons assume the role of gear selectors instead and inhabit the space just above the audio toggles on the facia, marked Sport, Neutral, Reverse and Drive.

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In the hot seat

The same high-revving 4.7-litre V8 engine introduced during the last round of updates has been retained and fills the space behind the front wheels. Power and torque outputs are unchanged at 313kW and 470Nm respectively. The only powertrain alteration comes in the form of a new seven-speed automated manual gearbox that has been passed down from the Vantage S. Sure, this transmission has its benefits – according to Aston Martin the ratios are shorter and shifts are quicker, but in reality the gear changes feel stilted and incoherent. The terrible shift sensation can be minimised by coming off throttle during up-changes but this feels unnatural and counter intuitive, and does nothing but amplify the disconnection between engine and transmission. As a result you never really bond with the car in the same manner as you would a car with a traditional manual or even a dual-clutch transmission. But perhaps I’m being too harsh here because the gearbox does have its perks: it’s just as happy trundling around town at low speeds as it is butchering the red line, and the fuel consumption figure isn’t too bad, either. I managed to eke out an impressive 10.9ℓ/100km over our economy run but not without some serious restraint from my trigger-happy right foot.

Performance levels are surprisingly a little on the tepid side. The brochure claims a 4.9sec 0-100kph time but we couldn’t get it to dip under the magical five-second barrier, no matter how hard we tried. The best we could muster was 5.3 seconds with a 13.35 quarter mile, which are both quite a way off the figures logged by the Porsche Boxster S we recently put through its paces. Bugbears aside, the big V8 does discharge quite a spectacular noise especially when the bypass valves open their mandibles at 4000rpm, not to mention the flurry of spine-tingling blips that accompany each downshift.

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An asphalt rollercoaster

The Vantage makes up for the lacklustre straight-line stuff the moment you flick its nose into a corner. It’s phenomenally responsive in the twisties. The 49:51 front/rear weight distribution means the car remains neutral in most cornering situations so there’s no understeer – even oversteer feels oddly in check as the fatter rear wheels foster unbelievable grip levels as they embrace the bitumen beneath. The new Vantage also gets the steering column, re-valved power-steering pump and quicker steering ratio (15:1 instead of 17:1) from the S. There’s real positivity to the steering, it’s superbly weighted with detailed feedback instilling a sense of confidence that allows the driver to be more creative with steering inputs. And creative I was – the road directly beneath Table Mountain offers a varying surface with tight directional changes and the Vantage’s suspension absorbed the imperfections and kept its shape through some of the bumpier transitions even with as much as 70% throttle applied. The only real let-down, if I were to nitpick, is the thin steering wheel, which lacks the girth and meaty feel of a Porsche or Mercedes-Benz AMG equivalent.

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Final call

The Vantage is still a great driver’s car – no question about it, but realistically it poses no threat for the newer and more technologically advanced Porsche 911Carrera S. The competition has moved on significantly during the last couple of years whereas Aston hasn’t, choosing to instead reinvent (read recycle) an aging product portfolio. Personally though, the only real issue I have with the Vantage is the inarticulate automated transmission, which tarnishes the entire driving process and robs the driver from ultimate involvement. Sure, I understand that certain global markets demand the services of an autobox, but why anyone would prefer it over a razor-sharp dual-clutch transmission is seriously perplexing.

Make no mistake, the Vantage is still one beautiful machine, an icon of timeless design many admirers, including myself, hold in the same company as legends such as the Jaguar E-Type and Ferrari 250 GTO. From a pricing viewpoint, Aston has had to slash its sticker price by R100000 to level the showroom playing fields so to speak, but at R1720000 it’s still over half-a-million more expensive than the 911 Carrera S – yikes! One thing is for sure though, the Vantage is still the most alluring and well-proportioned sports car currently on the market, and because of its huge status appeal (and now cheaper asking price) it will continue to sell and beguile the buying public, even with faster and cheaper opposition entering the fray.

Follow me on Twitter @AaronBorrill

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The Range Rover Sport is the antithesis of cumbersome

by Aaron Borrill

SUVs aren’t known for their go-faster attributes. Yes, there are a handful that are pretty quick, but the fundamental design characteristics of an SUV point towards off-road conquering. But what happens if you combine the speed and agility of a sports car with the size of an SUV? The outcome is pretty simple really; it’s called the Range Rover Sport. The Range Rover’s massive chassis has been fitted with the same 5.0-Litre V8 supercharged power plant found in the Jaguar XKR, but it has been significantly tweaked for all-terrain situations. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission – its engine kicks out 375kW and 625Nm – which is enough oomph to out sprint a hot-hatch. It weighs in at nearly three tons but the acceleration is mind-blowing: 100km/h arrives in only 6.2 seconds and it can reach a frightening top speed of 225km/h. The engine makes a beautiful noise, too. The sound that emanates from its sixth-generation Eaton supercharger is amazing: a throaty whine which gets progressively louder the faster you go. You shouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself getting carried away in the twisties though. The Range Rover’s damper settings and cornering ability is so refined, that the dynamic stability control system automatically slows the vehicle when negotiating a corner too fast. Thing is, the Range Rover wasn’t built for racing. It’s a pedigreed off-roader engineered to skillfully master any landscape. It’s furnished with an impressive collection of state-of-the-art technologies and flaunts the company’s hallmark four-wheel-drive system: Terrain Response. This system incorporates five modes: general driving, sand, grass/gravel/snow, mud and rock crawl along with a new Dynamic mode (designed for sporting on-road driving), a sand launch control feature, hill descent control system and a revised rock-crawl program. The optional surround camera system is very handy and displays an almost 360 degree view of the exterior to provide hassle-free navigation.Street cred is provided by its 20-inch alloy wheels, chrome tailpipes, signature LED head lamps, and new two-bar grille. The Range Rover is burly and low-slung, suitable for the soccer mom but with enough truculence to suit a high rolling rapper.

Price: R961 000

Engine: 5-litre V8 supercharged

Power: 375kW and 625Nm

0-100km/h: 5.9 seconds

Top speed: 225km/h

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The R8 resting aside the scenic views of the Worcester winelands

Put your Lamborghini, Ferrari and Porsche aside because, quite frankly, none of them come close to the Audi’s all-new masterpiece. Maybe as an Audi aficionado, I’m being partisan but I much prefer the R8 to any of the super cars. It’s not as pretty, shiny or as perfectly pieced together as the others, but it’s a raw, chiselled car; an absolute attention seeker.
Two years ago I was unlucky to have missed out on the opportunity to drive the R8 V8 (something I regret bitterly to this day), so when the chance of driving the V10 arose, I seized the day.
The night before I felt like a little boy before Christmas. I slept fitfully, my mind adrift with visions of myself decimating affluent bastards in their Porsches. No matter how hard I tried to count sheep, they all became R8s that relentlessly marauded me from slumber.
The next morning, scanning the parking lot’s perimeter, my eyes immediately locked on the R8’s feral contours. The glistening white R8, stood there taunting my emotions. I stood in awe, my breaths became longer and deeper. I knew then, I was in for a thrilling encounter.
Upon entering the belly of the beast, I sat in its body-clutching seats while attempting to garner my thoughts and tame my uncontrolled emotions. ‘Breathe,’ I told myself. ‘Take it easy. Don’t speed, and just don’t get pulled over. You know where most of the speed cameras are, so you have anything to worry about.’
The following day I realised that it’s easier said than done, and after every push of the throttle I sat worried, nervously pondering the possible jail time I’d be spending with Bubba if I were to get caught speeding. I decided to drive the R8 through the Huguenot tunnel into Worcester, giving it a thorough workout in all departments, and answering the R2 million question: is it worth the cash? Here are 10 reasons why it is:

1. Aural Pleasure
At 8 500rpm the sound inside the Huguenot tunnel is incredible: it envelopes everything and seems to travel faster than the car. It’s not as subdued as its V8 sibling and not as over-powering as the Gallardo LP560-4. Many argue that no other sound can match the V8, but in comparison to this particular V10, the V8 needs an amplifier. The car comes equipped with a Bang & Olufsen sound system, which was wasted on my drive as I spent most of my time with the windows rolled down listening to the bellowing V10 singing a beautiful symphony.

The colossal V10 mill resting at the rear

2. The v10 mill
No, you have it wrong. It’s the other way around: the LP560-4 employs the same engine as the R8. Yes, it makes a few horses less than its Italian brother (about 26kW), but who cares? The engine is a masterpiece. It needs no go-faster bits like the turbochargers that the Japanese use to compete at this level. It’s the perfect balance between engineering and art. The 5.2-litre V10 lump rests comfortably in the back, cloaked in carbon-fibre trim with ambient lighting illuminating its heart at sunset.

3. Performance
Without the performance to match the looks, a supercar is nothing. Never in my life have I experienced power of this magnitude on a road-going car. Explosive bursts of power are available anywhere in the rev range and once the rpm needle passes 6 000rpm, your neck feels as if it’s going to snap. The mid-mounted V10 produces a monolithic 386kW available at 8 000rpm and 530Nm available at 6 500rpm. This is quite delightful as it translates into cranium-crushing acceleration and a tantalising top speed of 316km/h.
Performance figures are off the chart: 100km/h arrives in 3.9 seconds, and 200km/h in a mere 8.6 seconds.

Perfection

4. Aesthetically pleasing
The R8 V10 is a perfectly balanced amalgamation of beauty and brutality neatly packed into an automobile. You can see the Lamborghini blood flowing through its veins. Its low-slung looks and wide stance make it good to look at, while appearing intimidating at the same time. It’s undeniably German in the front and a raging Italian bull at the rear. At first glance it looks very similar to the V8 version but upon closer inspection, the differences are very clear. The first of which is the V10 badging marked on its side fenders. Other than that, it has flared air intakes on its carbon-fibre side blades and dual, oval exhaust tips that replace the quad-tipped outlets.

5. The perfect drive
I placed the R8’s gated gear lever into first and took off lickety-split across the tar. OMG! The perfect launch – no wheel spin, thanks to Quattro. My head is forced back onto the headrest with a fraction of a second reprieve before I snapped it into second at 8 500rpm. Pair the hallmark Quattro system with a mid-mounted engine, and you get supreme handling. The Quattro bias is set at 40-60 in favour of the rear with that ratio changing to 20-80 with a heavy foot. So you can imagine the sort of fun there is to be had on the track. It’s accurate steering and near-perfect weight distribution makes anyone look like a racing champion.

6. A sensory experience
Driving the R8 is a sensory adventure second to none. Be it the smell of the leather or the burnt fuel, the touch of the steering wheel, the feel of the heat or the glorious sound emitted by its huge engine, your senses are given a thorough workout. It’s a far cry from what the average South African is used to: this is more than just transport. Nothing else matters when driving this car, it provides the ultimate bond between man and machine.

7. Pretty comfortable
With most supercars, there is always a certain degree of comfort that will be comprised. This is because of the ferocity of the engine, the stiffened suspension, the wider body and taut chassis – all of which contribute to a lack of space. But Audi has managed to negate this issue. It has a very roomy cabin. You are able to stretch your legs and do a Pilates class – you can’t do that in a Ferrari, can you? What’s more is that the ride isn’t as hard as you’d expect it to be. Obviously off-roading is out of the question but for daily commuting and South African roads, the R8 will cope effortlessly.

Its truculent front end will scare off most road-users

8. Its presence
If you love attention, you’ll love driving the R8. Everywhere I drove I was greeted by people bowing down to me, waving at me, throwing their underwear and generally behaving like groupies. Yes, you feel like a rock star, but it might all get a bit too much. I found myself battling with the popularity, the camera flashes and the strange people following me home. Audi has succeeded. Everybody loves it. There’s envy but no spite. You will probably have more difficulty being liked in a BMW Z4 than the R8. The Audi R8 is car that breaks down differences. It can stop wars. Drive the R8 through Baghdad and enemies will have something in common. Fighting will stop and the R8 will save the day.

9. Fine detail
Look at any Audi and you will see attention to detail. Be it the 500, the A3 or even the TT. In each particular segment, Audi will always go one step further in providing an unprecedented product. It’s no different in their flagship R8. The racing seats are garbed in the finest nappa leather, and the roof lining and door inserts are clad in alcantara. The instrument cluster is emblazoned with R8 and V10 insignia. The exterior of the car is encapsulated by two carbon-fibre side blades with a brushed aluminium R8-branded fuel cap moulded snugly into its right side. The R8 has all the finishing touches of winner.

10. The Price tag
Come on, the price isn’t that bad, is it? Like many car-loving South Africans, I can’t afford the R8. Not many of us will have the wherewithal of one day owning one of this rare breed, but when compared to its contemporaries, the R8 isn’t as expensive as its R2-million price tag might suggest.If we analyse what we are actually getting for our money, it’s quite a bargain. Compare the R8 with its Gallardo brother and there is a price difference of about R1.7 million, with the Ferrari 430 Scuderia a variation of R1.3-million and the Porsche 911 GT2, a R745 000 disparity. What we get is a supercar that is just as beautiful, just as powerful, just as exotic and considerably cheaper than its peers.

Ecstasy: This is what happens after every spirited run

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The barbarian

In profile it appears to be leaning forward – revealing a restrained beast

Developed in koala country, the Lumina SS boasts a worldwide cult following. With the second largest engine capacity out of the lot, it’s one of the most manic sports sedans around. It is undoubtedly a muscle car and, with a massive 6-litre V8 Corvette engine powering its heavy chassis, it doesn’t mean the car is slow by any manner. It does go well on a straight line but the moment you start to put it through anything remotely resembling a corner, it grapples uncontrollably for traction. And, if caught unaware by the ferocity of its engine, you will most probably take out a street lamp with its side. But who buys a powerful sport sedan for its cornering prowess alone? You want something that has sufficient space, practical functionality and has enough power to excite your lady friend when overtaking 18-wheelers. Chevrolet has promised more attention to quality which is evident throughout its cabin space. The perforated leather seats and door panels supply comfort and flexibility. The exterior styling of the Lumina is undeniably muscular. In profile it appears to be leaning forward – revealing a restrained beast. Its broad posture and lowered ride height is finished off superbly with four exit pipes. This car goes like a rocket and what makes the experience even better is when the V8 screams out in reverberating splendour.

100km/h arrives in only 6.2 seconds

Go figure: This Lumina sends forth an outrageous power surge of 270kW and 530Nm, guaranteeing a visceral driving experience. These figures help it swallow 100km/h in 6.2 seconds and reach a top speed of 250km/h.

Verdict: For those who yearn to own a veritable muscle car, don’t miss out, as this might be the last time the Lumina (g)races our roads, given the current state of the global car industry.

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