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  •   CFB18705 reacted to this post about 9 months ago
    1973 BMW 3.0CSL ‘ #Batmobile ’ £165,000

    Genuine ‘Batmobiles’ are be few and far between; this lookalike offers an accurate compromise, says Richard
    There’s a common misconception that every BMW 3.0CSL came bedecked with spoilers, fins and a stripped interior. Many owners, especially British ones, opted for more subtlety. That was the case with this car, now for sale from a private collection. Its conversion from Series II CSL to ‘Batmobile’ spec was done during a restoration using, according to the vendor, genuine BMW Motorsport parts. The attention to detail included conversion from right- to left-hand drive. It has covered under 500 miles since.

    Finished in Chamonix White with BMW Motorsport striping, care has obviously been taken to make this look as accurate as possible, with the full quota of add-on aerodynamic and weight-saving parts. Exterior condition is mostly excellent. Corrosion is absent, save for what looks like a minute stain at the rear of the left-hand side sill cover. On the other side, the right-hand side sill cover doesn’t quite fit flushly because of a loose securing screw. The left-hand rear edge of the bonnet also doesn’t sit quite as snugly as it could when closed. Up close, there are a few minor marks on some of the side trim and black-painted rear bumpers. The chrome wheelarch trims are all superb.
    Behind the Alpina wheels, only the nearside pair show any minor rim scuffing.

    Tyres are Bridgestone Turanza T001s, 205/55 R16 91Ws up front with wider 225/50 R16 92Ws at the rear, all from 2013 and looking healthy. The underbody looks to have been comprehensively sealed. Inside, the cabin is very tidy, although it shows more ageing signs than the exterior.

    With 67,679km (42,054 miles) on the speedometer, it has obviously been looked after but not over-restored so that it loses any patina. Thus the wood shows some some wear, mostly around the extremities by the doors. There’s a gap in the centre console for the radio, just waiting to be filled by a period Blaupunkt or Becker. Apart from the clock, all of the controls, gauges and warning lights work and behave as they should. The seats – leather with corduroy inserts – look nearly new.

    On the road, the BMW behaves impeccably. There’s no roughness, the idle is smooth and the temperature needle stays resolutely at the centre of its travel once it reaches working temperature.

    Gear selection is easy throughout, with a surprisingly light clutch, and the steering feels tight and accurate with no play. As docile as the CSL is around town, the car comes alive when let loose on a faster road – it surges forward with no hesitation. Fortunately, the brakes are very sharp; they pull the car up quickly, without any veering to one side.
    Sadly when the owner responsible for the restoration passed away, the history went AWOL. However, this car bears all the marks of a very good 3.0CSL where the ‘Batmobile’ additions have been performed to a high, authentic standard. And it’s up for considerably less money than you’d pay for an original ‘Batmobile’.


    1 Production of the homologation ‘Leicht’ BMW E9 began in 1971, under the 3.0CSL designation. Lightweight steel and alloy body panels, Plexiglass rear side windows and a stripped-out interior saved 200kg over the standard 3.0CS.

    2 After 169 cars, the second series came out in 1972 with a fuel-injected 3003cc engine in place of previous 2985cc twin-carburettor unit. There were 500 rhd and 429 lhd examples.

    3 The third series (1973-1974) saw engine capacity increased to 3153cc, and aerodynamic aids added. On road cars, these were often supplied unfitted in the boot for owners to fit. All of these 110 cars were left-hand drive.

    4 The fourth series (1974-1975) brought down the curtain on the E9 3.0CSL, with just 57 made.

    Car #1973-BMW-3.0CSL-Batmobile-evocation-E9 / #1973 / #BMW-3.0CSL-Batmobile-evocation-E9 / #1973-BMW-3.0CSL-Batmobile-E9 / #BMW-3.0CSL-Batmobile-E9 / #BMW-3.0CSL-E9 / #BMW-E9 / #BMW-3.0CSL / #BMW /

    Price £165,000
    Contact Private seller, Letchworth, Hertfordshire (07860 264932)
    Engine 3003cc sohc straight-six, M30 / Bosch electronic fuel injection
    Max Power 200bhp @ 5500rpm
    Max Torque 200 lb ft @ 4300rpm
    0-60mph: 7.3sec;
    Top speed: 134mph
    Length 4658mm
    Width 1676mm
    Fuel consumption 17mpg

    Interior shows age-related wear but no over-tired trim pieces ‘Batmobile’ aero parts are supposedly genuine BMW items.
    The basis is a second-series E9 CSL, so it has a 3003cc straight-six.
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  •   Daniel 1982 reacted to this post about 2 years ago

    Richard Meaden revisits the final incarnation of Mazda’s rotary-powered sports car. Powered by a twin-turbo #Wankel engine, the third-generation #Mazda RX-7 was one of the sharpest coupes of the ’90s. But nearly a quarter of a century later, does it still have that edge? TEXT by RICHARD MEADEN. PHOTOGRAPHY by DAVE SMITH.

    I can still remember the last time I drove a third-generation, ‘FD’ RX-7. But that’s because it was also the first time. It was way back in #1993 , when the car was new and causing a stir in the UK. There was a real buzz about it, and I’m not just talking about its audible rev limiter. Even those who would not normally be drawn to Japanese performance cars found the fast and voluptuous rotary-powered Mazda very hard to ignore.

    The same was true of Toyota’s bewinged A80 twin-turbo Toyota Supra and Nissan’s slightly more discreet, but no less appealing, 300ZX. That this was also the heyday for Honda’s NSX makes it clear how strong the Japanese brands were in the early to mid ’90s. Factor in BMW’s equally fresh E36 M3 and Porsche’s 968 and you’ll appreciate this was something of a golden era for fans of fast, front-engined and relatively affordable rear-drive coupes.

    As you’d expect from Mazda, the RX-7 was the oddball of the bunch, courtesy of its twin-turbo 13B-REW Wankel engine. With twin rotor chambers (each displacing 654cc) and turbo equivalency applied, the RX-7 was deemed to have a 2.6-litre motor. The unit’s compact size and light weight made it easy to package behind the front axle line and low in the chassis for a 50:50 weight distribution and low centre of gravity.

    The engine was unusual for its use of twin sequential turbos. Indeed, it was amongst the first of its kind. The concept was simple, the first turbo boosting from 2000rpm, with exhaust gases then fed directly from it into the second, identically sized, turbo to further reduce lag. It was an effective, if complex system that relied on precise electronic control of boost pressures to work seamlessly.

    In Japan it was tuned to deliver 255bhp, but in Europe it developed a slightly softer 237bhp at 6500rpm, with 218lb ft of torque at 5000rpm. That still put it on a par with the four-cylinder 968, but some way short of the more potent six-cylinder M3, Supra and 300ZX. Nevertheless, the 1284kg RX-7 remained an appealing and rapid machine, capable of hitting 60mph from a standstill in 5.4 seconds and touching 156mph flat-out. That was quick in the early ’90s, kids.

    Just 210 of these curvy coupes were officially imported to the UK, and this is one of them. Of course, many more subsequently arrived from Japan in the late-’90s, courtesy of the Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) import scheme, but the FD RX-7 remains a rare sight on our roads, especially in unmolested condition. The Fast and Furious movie franchise has plenty to answer for.

    Like all cars of this era, the RX-7 seems so small and compact. It might be small, but its curves (evolved from a concept penned by Mazda’s US design studio) ensure it has plenty of presence. It’s funny, though, how your mind plays tricks; cars that you thought looked low and wide and had big wheels don’t actually look that spectacular these days. No wonder, when a quick glance at the pretty five-spoke rims shows they’re only 16 inches in diameter and wrapped in 225/50 rubber. No matter, for the innate rightness of the shape and the courage of the design mean the FD’s looks remain surprisingly avant-garde.

    There wasn’t really anything like it before, and there hasn’t been anything quite like it since. The smoked, one-piece, full-width tail light still makes a dramatic statement, while the pop-up headlights are proper ’90s nostalgia. They were actually a necessity due to the low-line nature of the RX-7’s nose.

    The door handle is positioned unusually high, up above the waistline and nestled against the B-pillar. You open the door expecting the glass to be frameless, but instead you find a heavy black surround framing the side-glass lenses like a pair of thick-rimmed spectacles. The interior mirrors the exterior with its organic curves, but advances in materials mean the RX-7’s black-plastic cockpit has dated badly. It doesn’t feel that great quality-wise, but it’s a comfortable place to be thanks to squidgy seats that yield nicely, allowing you to sink into them for support.

    You don’t sit as low as you might expect, and the steering wheel is quite big in diameter with proud stitching that also features on the handbrake and gearknob. Equipment levels are pretty basic by today’s standards – leather upholstery, a pair of plastic luggage bins instead of rear seats, air conditioning, electric windows, powered mirrors and a stereo are all there is to shout about. The instruments are simple but really quite handsome, with a bold typeface, a speedo that reads to 180mph and a tacho that reads round to 9000rpm, even though the red line itself starts at an altogether more modest 7000rpm. Gauges for oil pressure, oil temperature and fuel level sit to the left of the tacho to complete a proudly analogue binnacle.

    The view though the windscreen is dominated by curves, the rising line of each extremity swooping up towards you while each door mirror captures a reflection of the long arc of the door tops that flow into the rear wheelarches. Everywhere you look, sections of the RX-7’s fulsome shape swell into view to remind you you’re driving something special.

    The engine starts with a characteristic chunter before settling into a rapid idle, rotary tips whizzing round at a busy and rorty 2500rpm for a minute or two before the revs eventually settle down. The clutch is modestly weighty; the throttle has a nice measured resistance. The stubby gearlever hints at a snappy, short-throw gearshift that’s clean and accurate, but the first few miles reveal the five-speed transmission is blessed with a good rather than brilliant shift.
    The steering weight is more substantial than I was expecting, and that’s a welcome surprise, for it confirms the sense that the RX-7 is a communicative car with well-matched control efforts and carefully measured responses. The cast-aluminium pedals look attractive, feel good under your feet and are widely spaced across the footwell. The relationship between brake and throttle was clearly signed off by someone who enjoyed heel-and-toe work, and the exhaust is soon popping and crackling nicely with each easily blipped downshift.

    Of course, the 13B motor was what made the RX-7 unique amongst its contemporary rivals, and it’s what continues to add curiosity value today. The engineering differences between rotary and conventional internal combustion engines might be large, but the tangible differences from behind the wheel are surprisingly subtle. Yes, of course that has something to do with the motor not being in a screaming state of tune, unlike in the legendary Mazda race cars, but it also shows that while rotary engines are still seen as eccentric, they are impressively straightforward in the way they go about their business.

    This car has an aftermarket exhaust, which is a bit more vocal than an OE system, but strip away the snorty soundtrack and you find an engine blessed with refinement and good manners. Rise through the revs and it has a finely serrated smoothness that confounds your senses and encourages you to work it hard. It’s a genuinely enjoyable engine; torquey with little lag, it delivers a solid shove from 3000rpm through to 6000rpm.

    Beyond that it runs out of puff a bit, yet still pulls meaningfully to the red line – signalled by the infamous buzzer as a reminder to take another gear. If you’re remotely intrigued by a car’s oily bits, the RX-7’s motor is special. It doesn’t dominate the whole character of the car, but it asserts itself nicely and sets the tone for a driving experience that’s outside the norm but delivers the goods.

    This particular car has clearly lived a life, one in which it has covered more than 90,000 miles. That said, while the dampers and bushes aren’t in their first flushes of youth, and despite the front axle running on a different brand of tyre to the rear, it still manages to feel tidy. It rides with pliancy, masking minor surface imperfections and absorbing potholes without too much fuss, though there are a few creaks from the interior plastics! More impressive is the way the innate balance of this front-mid-engined, rear-drive chassis shines through, and how you rapidly build a clear picture of the sharpness and agility for which the third-gen RX-7 was rightly praised when new.

    Funnily enough, of the memories I have of my first drive in an FD RX-7 back in 1993, the most lasting impression is of a car that demanded respect – something the 22-year-old me had just enough of to keep the Mazda out of the weeds. One moment in particular sticks in my mind. The road was damp and chased across hilly terrain. Travelling at enthusiastic but not silly speed, the RX-7 squeezed into a gently curving compression. As the suspension got towards the bottom of its travel, the vertical and lateral loads pushed the tail out of line with little warning. It was one of those moments caught by luck and youthful, sparky synapses rather than sage car control, not least because these were the days when I was testing my own limits as much as those of the car. It certainly taught me a lesson.

    My driving skills – and judgement – have come a long way in the last 20 years, but I still can’t help but feel a little wary of this old Mazda for the first few miles. The nicely weighted steering is complemented by a calm rate of response that’s typical for fast cars of this era (just under three turns lock to lock) and which makes it easy to confidently place the RX-7 in corners with intuitive precision. You need only encourage it into long curves with a small squeeze of steering input, then relax the lock as the corner opens out. It finds a very satisfying and easily sustained flow.

    The balance is beautifully neutral, with just enough bite from the front tyres to generate decent grip and response but not enough to induce oversteer. Likewise, the rear end has strong traction – not a surprise given the rear tyres aren’t exactly over-burdened with torque. In short, the perfect weight distribution and sweet ratio of grunt to grip ensures a harmony that lets the chassis work unhindered by dynamic imbalance. That it’s not fighting with an engine that’s too potent underlines the fact that sometimes less really is more.

    Carry meaningful speed into a second- or third-gear corner, chase the throttle from apex to exit, and you feel the car and its Torsen limited-slip diff load up nicely, sitting down on the outside rear as the loads increase and those sequential turbos start to blow. It’s at this point I feel something of the RX-7 I recall, for when pushed hard it rapidly makes the transition from just on the limit to some way over it. It’s fun and harmless enough in the dry, but I can clearly see how I nearly came unstuck all those years ago.

    The brakes are up to the job of fast road driving, with progressive response, but they don’t have the capabilities of those on today’s high-performance cars, so you have to be a little sympathetic. You’d toast them on track, but then cars of this age weren’t developed with as much in reserve as today’s performance models.

    It’s been great to be reacquainted with the FD RX-7. Two decades of rampant engineering progress and sky-rocketing performance mean Mazda’s flagship sports car is no longer the force it was back in 1993, but it remains a thoroughly charming, fascinating, intriguing and usefully rapid car. It does things differently – as you’d hope – but it does them well. Well enough to remain the high point for Mazda’s rotary efforts. Here’s hoping last year’s glorious RX-Vision concept makes the leap to production and rekindles some of this RX-7’s abundant magic.

    TECHNICAL DATA #Mazda-RX-7-FD (UK spec) / #Mazda-RX-7 / #Mazda /

    Engine Twin-chamber rotary, 1308cc, twin-turbo
    Power 237bhp @ 6500rpm
    Torque 218lb ft @ 5000rpm
    Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
    Front suspension Double wishbones, coil springs, dampers, anti-roll bar
    Rear suspension Double wishbones, coil springs, dampers, anti-roll bar
    Brakes Ventilated discs, 294mm front and rear, ABS
    Wheels 8 x 16in front and rear
    Tyres 255/50 R16 front and rear
    Weight 1284kg
    Power-to-weight 188bhp/ton
    0-60mph 5.4sec (claimed)
    Top speed 156mph (claimed)
    Value now £7000+
    On sale (in UK) 1992-1995 (£33,999)


    Above: interior shows its 23 years, but the pedals were laid out by someone who knew what they were talking about. Left: pop-up headlights were required to meet regulations due to the RX-7’s low nose.

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  •   Stuart Gallagher reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    Car: #BMW-i8 / #BMW
    Date acquired November #2016
    Total mileage 12,526
    Mileage this month 1074
    Costs this month £0
    Mpg this month 37.2

    Three years after driving one for the first time, Richard Meaden revisits the i8. Have his feelings about it changed?


    The future is it quickly becomes the present and then, in equally short order, the recent past. The first time I drove an i8, during eCoty 2014 (the silver car pictured here), it very much felt like I was in some kind of time machine. The looks, the technology and, yes, the driving experience all felt like something very fresh.

    A few years later and that bold Bavarian vision of the future is parked outside my house, thanks to the benevolence of editor Gallagher, who wants to share the i8 love.

    Its presence has certainly taken the sting from losing my old Fast Fleeter, the stonking AMG C63 S (the final report for which you may have read on). I’m struggling to think of two more different takes on the quick, premium, German two-door, but the contrast is very good for revealing what I like and dislike about BMW’s statement of intent.

    Do I miss a big, ballsy combustion engine? When I press the i8’s starter button, yes, of course I do. The AMG was like a shot of adrenalin, whereas the i8 starts with an aural cue much like turning on a laptop. The funny thing is, so long as it has some juice in the batteries, that disappointment lasts just as long as it takes to pull the gear-selector into D and whirr off down my drive on near-silent electric propulsion. No, that novelty never wears off.

    Sadly, the thrum of the i8’s triple-cylinder petrol engine is less endearing – unless you really clog it, at which point it starts to become interesting. I didn’t mind it so much back in 2014, but expectations have grown in 2017. In fact, I’m the first to admit the most satisfying solution could easily be more/all electricity and less/no internal combustion. As it stands, the i8 feels like it’s caught between two worlds – those of an all-electric future and a past rooted in performance cars requiring petrol engines to feel authentic.

    Does it feel quick? When you floor it with all 357bhp, absolutely. The torque-fill from the electric motor really does deliver a decent shove, and the tall gearing adds to the sense of reach and elastic, accessible performance.

    Chassis-wise, it’s competent but a bit of a cold fish. The numb steering is the weakest element, which is a shame as you do feel inclined to drive the i8 at a decent pace on fun roads. The damping is firm but the body is nicely controlled, so it’ll find a flow on a good A-road. Some of the lack of feel can be blamed on the tyres, which generate decent grip in the dry but lack progression when you exceed their limits. And it all gets a bit spooky in the wet, with a glassy feel that offers little clue as to how much grip there is to play with.

    What the i8 does brilliantly is provoke thought and reaction. Kids love it – surely a good thing to enthuse new generations of car nuts – and even those adults I’d have down as diehard petrolheads are intrigued by the looks, technology and driving experience.

    You can’t directly compare the i8 in value-for-money or bang-per-buck terms with conventional rivals. But as a bold attempt at reconciling a love of cars and driving with an environmental conscience, this BMW has plenty going for it.

    Richard Meaden (@DickieMeaden)

    ‘Chassis-wise, it’s competent but a bit of a cold fish. The numb steering is the weakest element’
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  •   Tony Saggu reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    Speed of light #2017 #Lotus Exige Sport 380. Is this stripped-out supercharged Lotus the best drivers’ car you can buy new? Richard Meaden heads to Yorkshire to find out. Lotus has chipped away more weight from the Exige to create the Sport 380. No mere track warrior, it’s one of the most enthralling road cars we’ve ever driven by Richard Meaden and photography by Aston Parrott.

    The joy of the Sport 380 begins long before you drive it. If you’re a geek – and you will be if the idea of this ultimate Exige floats your boat – your juices start flowing when you read the specification, the best bits of which reveal an array of detail improvements and an obsessive pursuit of weight saving.

    The original V6-engined Exige S was always a mouthwatering machine. The step to the lighter Sport 350 was a delight, so it’s no wonder the evolution to the even lighter, even faster Sport 380 instinctively seems like the best thing Lotus has done in years. Excess mass has been hunted down with dogged determination, to the point where the quartet of rear lights has been pared down to a pair, with the inner duo replaced by small reversing lights. Weight saving? 300g. Geek value? Priceless…

    The whole car is peppered with such changes. Big wins are scored with a lithium-ion battery that saves 10.3kg. Pared-back carbonfibre seats slice another 6kg from the kerb weight. Carbonfibre has also been used in place of glassfibre on key body panels to save weight and lower the centre of gravity. Forged wheels save 2.5kg per corner. A polycarbonate rear window saves another 900g. The list goes on (and on) until more than 30kg is saved over the Sport 350, and closer to 45kg if you go for the optional titanium exhaust and carbonfibre sill covers.

    Being Lotus, the tweaks don’t stop there. Gallingly, some of those hard-won savings are undone by aero-improving barge boards along the sills, a new fuel pump, a larger fuel tank and a more effective transmission-oil cooler to ready the Sport 380 for track work. Together they put 15kg back on the car, bringing the kerb weight to 1110kg, or 1100kg with all the lightweight options. For comparison, the original #V6 Exige S (now discontinued) was 1176kg.

    It’s easy to immerse yourself in the minutiae, but like any great car the Sport 380 is all about the driving. No matter how keen you are to get going, you can’t just saunter up to the Exige, jump in and drive it. Partly because there’s the small matter of folding yourself up and posting your body through the door aperture, but also because it looks so good. Small, squat and bristling with aerodynamic devices from nose to tail (a package that increases maximum downforce from 88kg to 140kg with no penalty in drag), there’s a delightful, toy-like quality about this pocket-sized supercar that makes you feel good just being in its company.

    Once you’ve slid across the sill and wriggled down into the driver’s seat, it’s time to pause once more to enjoy the cockpit, driving position and view out through the windscreen. It’s sparse in here, but what fixtures and fittings there are create a fantastic ambience. Precisely stitched leather and Alcantara trim, neat alloy fixings, the bare aluminium tub and that intriguing exposed gear linkage are all spot-on, both in terms of aesthetics and tactility. It looks and feels the part.

    Sounds it, too. The Toyota-supplied 3.5-litre V6 might be of relatively humble stock, but the crisp, brassy soundtrack is a long way from a Camry. Especially when breathing through the optional titanium exhaust, as fitted here. With outputs increased via a supercharger pulley change and ECU remap, the motor gives an honest 375bhp (380 PS) and 302lb ft of torque, which is plenty in a car of this weight.

    The bald performance figures are impressive enough – 0-60mph in 3.5sec and a top speed of 178mph – but there’s much more to the Sport 380 than straight lines. For starters it laps Lotus’s Hethel test track in 1:26.5, which is just 1.5sec slower than the road-legal 3-Eleven. That’s mighty impressive, believe me.

    This might create the impression that the Sport 380 is an all-or-nothing, track-obsessed, road-compromised machine, yet that impression is confounded the moment you select first gear and pull away. The clutch bites smoothly and the engine pulls lustily without a hint of histrionics, leaving you free to surge along on a wonderfully elastic reserve of readily accessed torque.

    If you’re used to more mainstream metal the Exige’s unassisted steering will come as a bit of a shock. Initially for its weight at parking speeds (be warned, it’s hefty), but mostly for its level of feel and connection once above walking pace. There’s no slack, no filtration, no sense of driving with a pair of oven mitts on your hands. Instead the road surface tingles through your palms and fingers to create a high-definition picture of what’s going on where tyres and tarmac meet.

    Which is just as well, for the Yorkshire Dales is treating us to a wet and wintry day. Mercifully the temperature is hovering around 8C, so the standard-issue Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s stand some chance of waking up, but the roads are saturated, with plenty of standing water waiting to trip us up. Not exactly ideal conditions for a quick, light, torquey mid-engined sports car, which accounts for the tension spreading up my arms from wrists to shoulders as we splash our way towards the Buttertubs Pass.

    Given the conditions, I’m expecting the Exige to be flighty and skittish, but it’s actually behaving impeccably, even when slimy fallen leaves enter the equation. If there’s a slip or slither it’s well telegraphed. Better still, the car catches itself before any electronics need to intervene, which helps to build a strong level of trust. So long as you drive with respect for the weather and work the throttle with equal consideration, the Exige copes remarkably well, even when you increase the pace.

    If that comes as a pleasant surprise, so too does the fact there’s so much to enjoy about the Exige at moderate speeds. Thanks to the engine note, cockpit environment and connection you feel to the car, it’s never less than an event to be in. Simply to feel it working is enough. The way it remains utterly taut, yet compliant enough to work with what are demanding roads even by UK standards.

    The way you’re drawn into the process. The detailed feel and measured immediacy with which the Exige responds to your inputs. Far from isolating you from what’s going on, the Exige does all it can to involve you. For instance, I love the fact you feel and hear water and grit splash and clatter in the wheelarches when you power through puddles. That’s not for everyone, and indeed you can spec additional sound-deadening and carpets if you want to feel more cosseted, but for me it’s what makes the Exige uniquely involving. This is driving.

    Just as we’re beginning to wonder whether the promised afternoon sunshine was a cruel lie, the clouds part and sunlight bursts out across the Dales. It’s a spectacular sight, the road spooling out irresistibly towards the horizon. With ‘glory shots’ in the bag we head back out, taking advantage of drying roads to explore the Sport 380’s abilities that bit further.

    Using the torque in the higher gears has been fun and highly effective, but the Sport 380 takes on a whole new demeanour when you slot a low ratio and pin the throttle. Gone is the mellow, muscular delivery, replaced with genuine ferocity that builds as you work to the red line. It’s a fabulous feeling. One of being picked up and thrown towards the next corner.

    The gearshift is the sweetest I’ve felt in a modern Lotus. I’m not sure if it’s directly related to the exposed linkage, or simply the result of the continual fettling a car manufacturer makes to improve its products. Whatever, the shift quality is quick, clean and precise. It feels engineered, and encourages you to punch the lever up, down and across the gate as rapidly as your wrist can move it.

    If there’s a downside, it’s that the motor is so tractable and the car so light compared with the effort required to propel it that there’s a reduced need to actually change gear. However, you feel a strong desire to work the gearbox, so you end up making shifts just for the sake of it. The pedal spacing is okay for heel-and-toe downshifts, but much like in the Evora Sport 410, there’s a dead zone in the throttle response that makes measured, sweetly timed blips trickier than they should be.

    The brakes are sensational, as they should be given they hail from the 3-Eleven. The pedal is firm, the response smooth and measured even at low speeds. Work them harder and they give you a supreme feeling of confidence in their outright potency and stamina, and also in the way they can work right up to the ABS threshold, even in difficult conditions. Few road cars in my experience have brakes as good as this.

    The truly special thing about the Sport 380 is that all these stand-out qualities come together seamlessly to create a car that’s completely intuitive to drive. The way it combines such detailed feel with such high levels of grip and traction is exceptional. So too is the way you can deploy such performance, even on roads apparently more suited to something like a Focus RS.

    Across the Dales it crystallises into an experience that I genuinely can’t get enough of. Point-to-point there are few cars that can carry more speed; fewer that wrap you up in the process so completely. Your senses feel heightened, but not through the fight-or-flight fear response some fast, mid-engined cars can induce on tricky roads in dicey conditions. In the Exige you look further ahead, reading the road and plotting your line. On fast, flowing stretches you slice from one corner to the next, charting the path of least resistance, steering almost by squeezing the steering wheel rather than actually making a perceptible input. At these speeds it’s surgical, but never clinical.

    Over the more gnarly sections, where dips and crests lie unseen and the road jinks evasively, you drive more on your wits, relying on the Exige’s poise, balance and consistency to keep things in check. It’s fun to work the intermediate gears, wringing it out in second and third before calling on those stonking AP brakes to set you up for the next corner. Driven thus it’s an intense, absorbing and truly exciting experience.

    You have a choice of dynamic settings, from Normal, through Sport and Race to Race+ (which completely disables the traction and stability systems). In the worst of the rain I’ve run in Normal and Sport, for they offer plenty of reassurance without getting in the way of your enjoyment. Race mode allows you to work up to and far enough beyond the limits of grip and traction to feel the car slip and slide beneath you. Hard acceleration over crests on wet tarmac sends the revs flaring and the tail shimmying, but even then there’s a layer of control.

    Very occasionally the Sport 380 betrays its lack of a limited-slip differential, but these moments are generally in tight, uphill corners in Race or Race+. Clearly the rain doesn’t help, but when the inside rear submits to the supercharged V6’s generous torque, the resulting flurry of wheelspin feels at odds with the Exige’s polish and finely honed abilities. Of course, a diff would come with a weight penalty (approximately 5kg), and might make the car a bit twitchier in wet conditions, so simply sticking one in isn’t an instant cure-all. And Lotus reckons it wouldn’t appreciably improve lap times, either. It’s an interesting conundrum, particularly as the Evora Sport 410 now features an LSD, but while the occasional scrabble of wheelspin is unseemly, it’s far from a deal-breaker.

    The Sport 380 is not as everyday useable as something like a Porsche 911 – or indeed a Cayman GT4, arguably its closest rival. It takes more commitment to buy a Lotus and live with it, but that’s always been the case; I’m sure Lotus owners wouldn’t have it any other way. Ultimately the Sport 380 is brilliantly capable and truly covetable – drivers’ cars don’t come much better at any price.

    TECHNICAL DATA SPECIFICATIONS #2017-Lotus-Exige-Sport-380 / #Lotus-Exige-Sport / #Lotus-Exige / #V6 / #Lotus / #Lotus-Exige-Sport-380

    Engine V6, 3456cc, #supercharged-V6
    Power 375bhp @ 6700rpm DIN
    Torque 302lb ft @ 5000rpm DIN
    Transmission Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
    Front suspension Double wishbones, coil springs, dampers, anti-roll bar
    Rear suspension Double wishbones, coil springs, dampers, anti-roll bar
    Wheels 7.5 x 18in front, 10 x 18in rear
    Tyres 215/45 ZR17 front, 265/35 ZR18 rear, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2
    Weight 1110kg
    Power-to-weight 343bhp/ton
    0-60mph 3.5sec (claimed)
    Top speed 178mph (claimed)
    Price £67,900
    Rating 5.0

    Above: weight-saving regime for the Exige included removing the inner pair of tail lights and replacing them with smaller reversing lights, thus lopping a whole 300g from the kerb weight…

    Above: a removable soft-top is standard, while a carbon roof and louvred tailgate are an option, but they offer no weight saving. Right: cabin is a paragon of minimalism, yet strangely stylish, particularly the exposed gear linkage (below right).

    Above: canard wings at the front corners and the fixed carbonfibre rear wing contribute to downforce of 140kg at the Sport 380’s 178mph top speed, though drag remains unchanged from the Sport 350.



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  •   Richard Meaden reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe This German muscle car was always going to have to deliver something special to justify its eye-watering price-tag. So did it?

    / #Mercedes-AMG-C63-S-Coupe / #Mercedes-AMG-C63-S-Coupe-C205 / #Mercedes-Benz-C205 / #Mercedes-Benz-AMG-C63-S-Coupe / #Mercedes-Benz-AMG-C63-S-Coupe-C205 / #Mercedes-Benz-C-Class / #Mercedes-Benz-C-Class-Coupe / #Mercedes-Benz-C-Class-Coupe-C205 / #Mercedes-Benz-Coupe-C205 / #Mercedes-Benz-C-Class-205 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes / #Mercedes-AMG /

    It’s fitting that my last drive in the C63 S was one of the best: a one-day round-trip to Anglesey Circuit to drive the new 911 GT3. It was a long day in the saddle; one that started with a 4.30am alarm and finished with me arriving back home just before 9pm. In between was the best part of 500 miles of motorways, majestic A-roads and nadgety B-roads, all dispatched in effortless, engaging style.

    As I’ve discovered over the last six months and nearly 10,000 miles, that’s the nub of the C63 experience. I’d never run a Mercedes before, let alone an AMG model. I suppose deep down I never considered myself a Merc person. This car has made me revise that belief. It did everything so well, and with such big-hearted enthusiasm that even if the journey was a stinker I always found plenty to savour about the car.

    Star of the show is the 4-litre biturbo V8. In ‘S’ spec it’s an absolute powerhouse, feeling good for every last one of its 503bhp and 516lb ft. It’s smooth and refined, with a ton of endlessly elastic low and mid-range thrust, so in most situations you just dip into its vast reserves of performance. Yet when you do extend it, there’s proper fire at the top end. It’s a thoroughbred powerplant, no question. And fuel economy? I’m pleasantly surprised to report that over the six-month loan period the average was 22.9mpg. Yes, I saw sub-15mpg on a particularly enthusiastic commute to the evo offices, but the car countered that with a hugely impressive 29mpg on an epic 700-mile Cambridgeshire-Ayrshire- Cambridgeshire day-trip. Merc’s muscle cars aren’t the dipsomaniacs they used to be.

    Being an AMG, there were plenty of modes to choose for the engine, gearbox, chassis and exhaust, from Comfort through Sport, Sport+ and Race. Comfort and Sport were my preferred and most-selected modes. They just seemed to offer the best blend of response, fuss-free pace and comfort for most trips. However, when I did elect to blitz a few A- and B-roads, Sport+ was hugely effective and great fun. The seven-ratio Speedshift automatic transmission could really up its game and was uncannily prescient with downshifts. Unless I was in a particularly committed frame of mind, Race mode was a bit full-on, but even that had its moments.

    KN66 ZPB was very generously equipped, with options including carbon-ceramic brakes (£4285), lightweight forged alloys (£1735) and the AMG Driver’s Package (£765), which elevates the speed-limiter to 180mph. All in, the price shot up from £68,710 to £82,875: a lot of money for a BMW M4 rival. That said, the car’s fit, finish and looks backed up the big ticket. Sleek and compact, with a purposeful stance and a muscled physique, the C63 S had plenty of presence without showing off.

    The leather, Alcantara and carbon interior was a delight, with the glass roof and Burmester hi-fi (part of the £2595 Premium Package) adding to the feel-good factor.

    We often criticise cars for a lack of connection, and I was worried the C63 S might be a bit numb. Those concerns weren’t entirely unfounded, as it quickly became clear the Merc’s feedback was muted and finely filtered. The steering feel was hardly sparkling, but you could build a picture of what the front end was doing, and its rate of response was well judged. Just as importantly, the rear end’s communication skills were good enough that you always knew when traction was at a premium. I knew where I was with the car, in dry or wet conditions. It helped that the stability-control system was on the ball, and could be relaxed enough to let you have fun yet still remain effective when run in Sport mode. The ceramic brakes had great feel and made light work of stopping the 1725kg coupe, even when we had a quick hoon down the runway at the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground.

    The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres worked well through the winter and generated plenty of grip. And there was still a useful amount of meat left on them when the car went back. Must try harder next time.

    Traction? Well, that was at the mercy of my right foot and/or the electronics, but I was surprised how much performance the software enabled you to deploy in the wet. In the dry, the car easily nailed 0-100mph in nine seconds, and I was amused to find it would hit 60mph in seven seconds while performing an epic rolling burnout.

    Dislikes? Well, I quickly switched off most of the semi-autonomous driver-assist widgets (lane-assist and the like). The coasting mode, which disengages drive when you’re cruising off the throttle to save fuel, was annoying too, so I frequently switched that off as well.

    I tend to miss long-term test cars when they go, but this one really got under my skin. It was special in ways that transcend objectivity, and I can honestly say I enjoyed every one of those 9955 miles. You can’t ask for more than that.

    ‘Star of the show is the 4-litre biturbo #V8 – in this spec it’s an absolute powerhouse ’

    CAR #Mercedes-AMG-C63-S-Coupe / #Mercedes-AMG / #AMG /

    Date acquired October #2016
    Duration of test 6 months
    Total test mileage 9955
    Overall mpg 22.9
    Costs £0
    Purchase price £82,875
    Value today £62,500-68,000
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  •   Adam Towler reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    NEW ARRIVAL #Mercedes-AMG-C63-S-Coupe / #Mercedes-AMG-C63-S-Coupe-C205 / #Mercedes-Benz-C205 / #Mercedes-Benz-AMG-C63-S-Coupe / #Mercedes-Benz-AMG-C63-S-Coupe-C205 / #Mercedes-Benz-C-Class / #Mercedes-Benz-C-Class-Coupe / #Mercedes-Benz-C-Class-Coupe-C205 / #Mercedes-Benz-Coupe-C205 / #Mercedes-Benz-C-Class-205 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes / #Mercedes-AMG /

    AMG’s latest supercoupe arrives on the fleet. Will it be good enough to justify its big price?

    In more than 20 years in this job I’ve never run a Mercedes long-termer. This could account for why I’ve never considered myself a ‘Merc Man’. That said, the arrival of this #AMG C63 S Coupe might force me to reappraise that opinion, for on the evidence of our first few weeks together I feel very much aligned with Affalterbach’s freshest export.

    First, the numbers. Were you to spec an identical car to this you’d need £82,875. That’s to say £68,710 for the base C63 S, then just over £14,000 for the options, which include keyless go, a panoramic sunroof and a 13-speaker Burmester sound system (all part of the £2595 Premium Package), carbon-ceramic brakes (£4285), 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels (up from 19s all-round and costing £1735), and the AMG Driver’s Package (£765), more on which in a moment.

    Given this car is a rival for the £57,065 BMW M4, that’s a chunky amount of money, but personally I’ve long felt AMG’s take on the midsize two-door rocketship is a league above the M-car. Mostly because of what sits beneath the bonnet.

    Stuffing a twin-turbo 4-litre #V8 into the C-class yields spectacular results. This Benz has 503bhp and 516lb ft at its disposal. With the AMG Driver’s Pack its top-speed limit has been raised from 155mph to 180mph, and if you can get its rear tyres to hook-up with the tarmac, it’ll nail 0-62mph in less than four seconds. That seems ample to me.

    The C63 S revels in its hot-rod role. Push the starter button and the whole car pulses with the throb of the V8, exhausts gurgling and burbling exuberantly – especially if you press the exhaust button and open the silencers a bit. There’s even a hint of turbine whistle from the turbos on a cold start. Your neighbours might not agree, but it’s a great way to start the day.

    As you’d expect, there’s a ton of technology to broaden the car’s operating range. You can configure the engine, seven-speed automatic gearbox, chassis and exhaust via the Dynamic Select settings. It’s a bit laborious at first, but you can curate all your favourite settings in the Individual mode to speed things up. Tempting though it is to crank everything to Sport+, it’s good to discover some shades of grey, so for now I’m mixing and matching to find my optimum blend of attitude, response and comfort.

    First impressions are dominated by the sheer performance on tap. This is a truly daft/epic car to have daily access to. One that underlines pleasure is not always dependent on unleashing everything you have at your disposal. Sometimes it’s as good knowing what you have in reserve, and the C63 S has plenty.

    Handling-wise, at low speeds the rear axle is continually under something of an onslaught from the V8’s abundant torque. Pulling steadily out of T-junctions you feel the fat rear tyres and limited-slip diff nibble and chunter as they try to keep things on a tight leash. It’s not something you feel once your speed builds, but it hints at a car that might be a bit spiky on damp winter roads. For now, though, I’m just enjoying the combination of compact coupe and kick-ass engine. What a cracking car.

    Date acquired November #2016
    Total mileage 1568
    Mileage this month 1403
    Costs this month £0
    Mpg this month 23.4

    ‘First impressions are dominated by the sheer performance on tap. This is a truly epic car to have daily access to’
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  •   Richard Meaden reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    Outside Line Richard Meaden by #Drive-My

    Money no object. Three words, endless possibilities for the imaginative petrolhead. Meaden gets the ball rolling with his perfect flight of fantasy.

    Thinking. Always a dangerous pastime. Especially when you’re a freelance journalist who has turned procrastination into an art form. Still, what is life without daydreams? That’s what I say. Especially when you can turn a few hours of staring out of the window and drinking copious cups of coffee into a long-overdue evo column. I blame my erstwhile colleagues Nick Trott and Jethro Bovingdon for prompting my latest catastrophic distraction and litany of missed deadlines. The former for asking us to concoct our ultimate McLaren Special Operations (MSO) project a few issues back, the latter for reminding me of his N24 drive in Jim Glickenhaus’s eponymous home-brewed racer.

    Where am I going with all this? Rather pleasingly, the haphazard wiring in my brain has taken these random sources of diversion and arrived at what is surely one the most pressing questions of any petrolhead’s life. Namely, what would you commission as your one-off supercar?

    As is always the case with these flights of fantasy, money has to be no object. Likewise, I rarely allow my tenuous grip on engineering to inhibit my desires. In any case, if anyone dared say something wasn’t possible, I’d refer them back to the ‘money-no-object’ bit, for as Bugatti proved with the Veyron, unlimited budget is the ultimate engineering solution.

    So, the six million dollar (or in all likelihood, rather more) question is: what to build? After considerable deliberation, a number of blind alleys and one or two changes of heart, I’ve settled on… a Porsche. Surprise, surprise, I hear you cry, but incredibly, given you’re reading evo, it has nothing to do with a 911. You see, while I have major lust for Stuttgart’s rear-engined icon, I’ve got a real thing for Porsche’s early sports prototype racers. Naturally this includes the #Porsche-917 , but the true apple of my eye is the unspeakably gorgeous #Porsche-908/01 from 1968.

    Why? Years ago I had the immense privilege of driving one of the original factory 908/01s during a trackday at the Nürburgring. Given the very same car raced in (but sadly retired from) the 1968 Nürburgring 1000km, this was truly a day to remember.

    The beauty, delicacy, speed and exquisite engineering of this fierce and fragile machine stuck with me, only to return to the forefront of my mind during my aforementioned daydream.

    Imagine, I thought, what it would be like to make a modern homage to the 908/01, in much the same manner Jim Glickenhaus did with his spectacular Enzo-based, Pininfarina-designed P4/5. Initially I thought a 918 Spyder would be the ideal basis. But then I had to concede it would be too big and complex. And even if you could junk the batteries and motors, it would have a V8 when the 908 had a jewel-like 3-litre air-cooled flat-eight good for 350bhp. It’s at this juncture I should give special mention to evo’s resident curmudgeon, Stuart Gallagher, for his enduring tirade against the 718 Cayman’s less-than-sonorous flat-four. I’m not a great fan of the engine myself, but if two were joined at the crank I reckon I’d have the perfect modern flat-eight. Strip away the turbos, drop in some high-compression pistons and prickly cams, have a play with the firing order and speak to Mr Akrapovic and my project has a suitably special motor.

    The 908 was built around a spindly alloy tubular spaceframe, which the bodywork wraps like an eggshell, only thinner. My 908 will have a chassis made from tubes, but ones fabricated from carbonfibre, perhaps collaborating with a bicycle manufacturer, as they understand the material. The body would also be carbon, the contours of which would be shaped by Rob Dickinson, obsessive genius behind Singer Vehicle Design. Not only would the panels be flawless, but Dickinson’s eye and lightness of touch would capture the essence of the 908/01’s perfect proportions while adding a contemporary twist to elevate the car from re-creation to 21st century tribute.

    Naturally my 908 would have a manual transmission, complete with birch gearknob, and the finished car would be painted white, like all Porsche’s factory prototypes, perhaps with a flash of red or blue around the nose. It would have 600bhp and weigh less than 1000kg. It would be road-legal but track-capable; trimmed for minimalist comfort, but well suited for long European drives. The trouble with this kind of fantasy is the whole process gets rather addictive. Indeed, as I prepare to conclude this column, I’m thinking the perfect accompaniment to the #Porsche-908 would be a more ambitious, #Porsche-917LH -inspired machine. Perhaps powered by an 8-litre, 1000bhp flat-12 made from a spliced pair of #Porsche-911-GT3-RS motors. It needs more thought, obviously, but I’m sold on the idea. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’d best make myself another coffee.

    ‘Initially I thought the #Porsche-918-Spyder / #Porsche-918 would be the ideal basis, but it’s too complex’

    Richard is a contributing editor to evo and always the last columnist to deliver his words / @ DickieMeaden / #Porsche / #2017 / #1968 /
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  •   Iain Ayre reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    Test location: Blyton Park, Lincolnshire #Radical RXC Turbo 500R

    Radical’s latest road car offers hypercar performance for supercar money, but is it too raw?

    We’ve grown used to the mind-blowing performance of radical’s road-legal track monsters, but this new RXC Turbo 500R really is something special. Built around a simple but strong and light tubular steel spaceframe, the range-topping RXC is powered by a twin-turbo, 3.5-litre V6 #Ford-EcoBoost engine good for a mighty 600hp and 630nm of torque. The seriousness of those figures really hits home when you learn the 500r weighs just 1070kg and costs £201,000 ($341,000) because combined they equate to a hypercar power-to-weight ratio for McLaren 650s money.

    It’s fun to pop the gullwing door, then step up and over the sill and drop yourself into the driver’s seat. The view out is pure Le Mans racer, framed by that bubble windscreen and the vented tops of the front wheelarches. The view behind is restricted, but an LCD display hookedup to a discreet tail-mounted camera does the job of a conventional rearview mirror. The driving position is low and snug, so you soon get settled behind the small, Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel. Carpet and more Alcantara trim make the cockpit more habitable – the RXC is a road car, don’t forget – but don’t hide radical’s origins as a builder of race cars.

    The upside of this is a driving experience that literally takes your breath away. The #EcoBoost V6 #Ford is an absolute powerhouse – smooth and tractable, but with an unburstable, near-endless torrent of torque and top-end power that hurls you out of the corners and down the straights. The brakes have tremendous, tireless stopping power, a firm pedal and plenty of feel, and thanks to the nature of the Dunlop Direzza Roadlegal Trackday rubber there’s plenty of grip but no snappy breakaway when the limits are reached.

    On track the aerodynamics really come into play through medium and fast corners, augmenting that mechanical grip with unseen but very welcome downforce. It’s addictive and surprisingly accessible once you build the confidence to commit.

    So the dynamics are dazzling, but the aesthetics are somewhat challenging. The RXC’s carbonfibre and GRP body is functional, but no more, and the lack of detailing means there’s little to gawp at purely for pleasure. The workmanlike nature of the styling and finish falls well short of, say, the jewel-like (and considerably cheaper) BAC Mono.

    The 500r might lack finish and flourishes, but there’s no question it nails driver appeal. It really is a truly sensational thing to strap yourself into, and not just because of its raw pace. The motor is brilliantly tractable, the clutch progressive and the pneumatically actuated paddle-shift gearbox snappy but not too jerky at lower speeds. The brakes have feel at modest speeds and the electric power steering has five stages of assistance, from easy to hefty, so you don’t have to bust a gut to turn the wheel at low speeds. We haven’t had the chance yet to drive the 500r on the road, but as with earlier RXCs it shows every sign of making a surprisingly good fist of it.

    Effective air-conditioning and a heated front screen add another layer of usability, and it even has a front suspension lifter to cope with speed humps. our test car didn’t have it fitted, but production versions will also have #Bosch-M4 #race-ABS with multi-point settings and a traction control system to tame all that torque on damp tarmac. In the dry conditions of our test, traction and brake lock-ups were never an issue.

    We’ll be putting the RXC Turbo 500r to the ultimate track test in our upcoming Track Car of the Year extravaganza. On the evidence of this first taste we’re fully expecting it to be the fastest road-legal car we’ve ever driven. That it’s also one of the most approachable and enjoyable is testament to what is a very impressive machine.

    TECHNICAL DATA SPECIFICATION 2016 #Radical-RXC-Turbo-500R / #Radical-RXC / #Radical /

    Engine #V6 , 3500cc, twin-turbo CO2 329g/km
    Power 600hp @ 6700rpm DIN
    Torque 630nm @ 4200-6200rpm DIN
    Transmission 7-speed sequential
    0-100 km/h 2.9sec (claimed)
    Top speed 297km/h (claimed)
    Weight 1070kg (568hp/ton)
    Basic price £201,000 UK / USA / AU
    + Immense accessible performance
    - Fit, finish and detailing lacks finesse for £201k
    Rating 4+++ ‏ — at Blyton Rd, Gainsborough DN21, UK
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