Archive for August, 2012

Gumpert giving up the ghost?

The makers of one of the fastest, if arguably ugliest supercars on the market, Gumpert Sportwagenmanufaktur GmbH, had applied for insolvency Chinese sales expectations ‘couldn’t be realized’.

Mr. Görge Scheid, the provisional insolvency administrator, has talked with the employees of the company and toured the facility, and is confident a buyer can be found, saying: “The super sports car “Apollo”, developed by Gumpert is technically mature and holds superior performance figures compared to all other cars. Now it’s essential to reactivate the European market, which has been neglected over the past years.

“The Apollo has gained an exclusive fan base throughout Germany and Europe. Now we have taken care of this customer base intensely. Production continues and we hope to sell the first vehicle within this week.”

After hearing over the past few months that several bespoke supercar brands could be lost to the GFC, including Melkus, Artega and De Tomaso, will Gumpert be saved by the spin, or become another statistic?

Ford Oz bails out Ford Performance Vehicles

Ford Australia and Prodrive has signed an MOU to keep the formerly separate tuning arm FPV alive.

Ford will buy out Prodrive’s 51 percent share of the company and keep its engineering, manufacturing and marketing of the FPV brand alive, after a horror few years for the company that saw sales of its super sedans and utes fall below the number of elitist AMG Mercedes sold nationwide (2011 - 2012).

“As a result of the business review, Prodrive has made the decision to exit the performance car market at the end of 2012,” said Prodrive Managing Director Bryan Mears.

“We have enjoyed great success through our partnership with Ford Australia and look forward to watching the FPV brand continue to thrive in the future.”

DRIVEN: VW Golf R

Is the Golf R really that much better than the Golf GTI? As in, thousands of dollars better?

The Mk VI GTI and R models are now a little too close for comfort, what with the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, same body, and very similar interior.

Of course, the R is faster, more powerful, has all-wheel grip, and a performance glitter pack. But it’s quite a financial leap for a car that is arguably similar.

So here’s the tally. First up, the wheels, tyres and brakes in an aftermarket scenario to a GTI would easy see four to five thousand dollars added to the tag.

The R’s 18-inch multi-spoke alloys hide enormous calipers - with one enormous piston each - and 345mm front rotors. The rears are the same as the GTI’s fronts at 312mm.

At the rear, the GTI’s dual exhaust pipes are mounted more traditionally at either side of the car, while the R‘s two pipes are centre-mounted, as it needs to skirt around the bulky all-wheel-drive rear axle.

Here’s where the rest of the dosh would be spent. That axle housing the all-wheel capabilities offers an on-demand system that is front-drive until grip or powerdown is needed from the rear, but also taking away the GTI’s slight inherent front-push and vagueness through the wheel on full power. And, of course, more grip. It comes with a weight penalty, but this is absolved by the extra power and torque.

The bonusl value of R over GTI is in the figures. The GTI’s two-litre turbocharged four develops 155kW and 280Nm, while the R gets an additional 33kW and 50Nm of grunt. The roar of air induction and throaty exhaust is decibels above the multi-purpose GTI. This would be a decent $1K - $2K tune after dyno time.

The GTI is more forgiving, with a more compliant ride while still offering smile-enducing handling and boost. The R is honed and sharp, and for some, that is worth its weight. While the dollars are higher, the R can easily justify its price premium.

Toyota wins the weird ad award

Apparently, it’s hard to tell who the the 2013 Toyota Auris is actually aimed at - men, women, or both. So all three have been moulded into this quirky ad by the usually conservative Toyota Japan.

The topless model is Stav Strashko, a 19-year old Ukranian man who has modelled women’s clothing in the past.

The text at the end of the ad reads: “Not trendy, not casual, not for everyone.” We aren’t sure if they are talking about the ad or the car…

McLaren’s X-Fighter

McLaren Special Operations (MSO), the division of McLaren Automotive responsible for bespoke one-off projects where price is obviously no object, has created this “X-1″ batmobile for a lucky (wealthy) customer.

The car is set to feature at The Quail event today as part of the Pebble Beach weekend in Monterey.

It was based on the company’s carbon MP4-12C MonoCell, and shares the same the major mechanical components as the 12C, including the twin-turbo 625PS engine, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

The buyer is currently anonymous, but we’re pretty sure it will turn up in Leno’s garage.


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Driven: BMW 640i Gran Coupe

The 6 Series is a striking, if polarizing model, with a broad and flattened front end, wide stance, and sloping rear couple line.

Designed to take on the likes of Audi’s A7 and Merc’s CLS, the third model in the BMW 6 Series line-up, the Gran Coupe, is a four-door version of the the two-door Coupe and Convertible directly between the latter in price. It is very similar to the coupe, apart from a slightly higher back window, the two extra doors, of course, a brake light which stretches across the rear window, and its name worked into the rear window frame.

The 640i’s turbocharged 3.0-litre six churns out 320hp and 450Nm, which is sent to the back wheels via an 8-speed automatic. It’s a sublime powertrain, with full torque available from almost idle speeds at 1300rpm, and claims the 0-100m/h sprint in just 5.4secs. Shame the luxuries add up to a 1750kg kerb weight, which dulls its otherwise lively performance.

Four switchable chassis settings are the biggest contributor to said performance. Sport and Sport Plus modes loosen up the car’s shift patterns, steering and exhaust, with Sport Plus also relieving most of the nanny controls (TC and DSC).

The trade-off on the firmer sport settings is of course a less composed ride over broken asphalt. To counter this, the Gran Coupe also has a soft and squishy Comfort mode, which slacks off the the suspension, and makes the hydraulic power steering noticeably airy and light.

The fourth mode is an Eco driving setting, which coaches the steerer to better fuel economy while short shifting the gears and recharging the battery while coasting and braking.

It can be quite a dynamic drive depending on the chassis setting you select. The chassis itself is adjustable and honest, wanting to push at the front rather than step out at the rear in spirited driving. However, touring is pretty much where it’s at in such a car, and while BMW wax lyrical about the Gran Coupe’s sporting prowess, its soundtrack is a little on the luxury (read: quiet) side.

As a GT, it is superb, with an ergonomic and supportive driving position that any size will find comfortable, and every feature imaginable. But you have to like its polarising looks - and you must have at least $76,895 to spend…

Chinese-made cars recalled for using asbestos

Around 23,000 Chinese cars will be recalled in Australia after some engine components were found to contain deadly asbestos fibres.

The Australian importer of Chinese brands Great Wall and Chery, Ateco Automotive, will have to replace the engine and exhaust gaskets in question following a ruling by the The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission yesterday.

Ateco had already commissioned its own study, and found health risks to consumers were “negligible”, and will replace the gaskets as part of routine servicing unless the customer wanted them replaced immediately.

“It is the case that some of our gaskets have been found to contain a small amount of asbestos, however we have professional advice from an occupational health and safety consultant that there is a negligible risk to drivers or passengers of the vehicles, and a very low risk for mechanics working on the cars,” the Ateco spokesman said.

According to a statement released by the ACCC, Customs and Border Protection officers first detected asbestos in imported spare parts and triggered a safety investigation.

The recall would affect almost all of the vehicles sold by Great wall and Chery since they went on sale in 2009 and 2010 respectively, which is estimated to be around 23,000 cars.

The use of asbestos in Australia was banned in 2004. Asbestos is highly toxic, and has been found to cause a range of lung diseases such as pleural disease, lung cancer, Asbestosis, and Mesothelioma.

UPDATED: Horror crash caught on camera at Pikes Peak

It aint called the Devil’s Playground for nothing.

This year at Pikes Peak, Jeremy Foley and his co-driver threw their Evo off the hill at Devils Playground (Mile 16). But despite rolling no less then eight times, both walked away with cuts, bruising and codriver Yuri Kouznetsov dislocated his shoulder. That’s it.

It’s the downside of the sport we all love; perhaps next year some water barriers at the Playground may be a good idea - and we are sure the competitors would not mind paying a little extra to subsidise them either…

New Aussie Ford GT takes cues from US Mustang

Australia’s Ford performance arm, FPV, has released a track-going limited edition model of the V8 GT today.

The car features suspension modifications and launch control, as well as a bling black and red paint job, aping the palette of the popular 1968 Mustang.

It is powered by a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol engine with 335kW of power and 570Nm of torque, through either a six-speed manual or six-speed ZF automatic gearbox.

The GT R SPEC (Race Specification) has a limited run of 350 sedans, and is priced from AU$76,990, which strategically splits the V8 entry level GT and top-shelf GT-P and GT-E.

Vale: Citroen’s first WRC star Bugalski

The man who brought Citroen its first victory in the World Rally Championship in the late 1990s, Philippe Bugalski, has passed away at age 49.

The Frenchman took victory both on Rallye Catalunya in Spain and the Rallye de France in 1999, debuting the Citroen Xsara kit car.

Bugalski forged many inroads for the Citroën Total World Rally Team until it developed and introduced the WRC version of the Xsara, and the greatest man of rally, Sebastien Loeb, took the reins. Bugalski became the backup driver for tarmac rallies, which were his strength, until 2004.

Bugalski apparently fell out of a tree, and died from his injuries in hospital.