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    Along came three Spiders

    / #2013-McLaren-12C / #2019-McLaren-600LT & / #2019-McLaren-720S-Spider-S / #McLaren-720S-Spider-S / #McLaren-720S / #McLaren / #2019 / #McLaren-600LT / #McLaren-12C

    by Mark Dixon

    Spider or Spyder? Both versions of the word have long been used by the motor industry to describe an open-top roadster: Audi calls its new soft-top R8 a Spyder (as reviewed by Matthew Hayward on) whereas McLaren prefers Spider with an ‘i’. Best guess for the origin of the term is that it was a 19th Century coachbuilder’s coinage for a lightweight, high-wheeled carriage that was thought to have spidery qualities of lightness and agility. Which makes it particularly appropriate to McLaren.

    A recent opportunity to test the new 600LT and 720S Spiders in Arizona also seemed a good excuse to revisit its first attempt at the genre, the 12C Spider that made its debut in late 2012. The example pictured left is a 50th Anniversary limited edition from 2013, which was available in just three colours: black, silver or orange.

    I was lucky enough to attend the original 12C’s launch and, like many hacks back then, I expressed some doubts about the car’s styling. It seemed too supercar-generic, we thought, too lacking in adventure. Well, guess what? We were wrong. Its sultry curves now look better than ever, and its distinctive rear end appears almost understated compared with the aero-dictated complexity of more recent models.

    A Spider version of the 12C was planned right from the start, so the open version involved no structural compromises later. The hinged hardtop is electrically powered and folds away in 17sec; clambering over the high sills is a lot easier with the top stowed, especially if anyone has had the temerity to park too close alongside – those dihedral doors need a lot of space.

    Once you are in, the 12C feels almost old-school in its simplicity, with a pleasingly large central revcounter and a digital read-out for mph. The twin-turbo, 3.8-litre #V8 has never been the most soulful of units – it was arguably the 12C’s greatest weakness against its Italian competition; supercars are about emotion as much as technical ability – but the Spider has a slightly louder exhaust than the Coupé and, of course, having the roof down allows you to savour it a lot more. It sounds gruffer, more bassy than the Coupé’s, and there’s an appealingly anthropomorphic breathiness from the intake system as the turbos spool-up.

    The 12C Coupé set new standards as an all-rounder for its combination of comfort, handling and performance; the Spider offers the same – plus more of the visceral stuff, roof down. With 616bhp propelling a 1475kg kerb-weight, it’s still ballistically fast, but on a more prosaic level there’s also a decent amount of storage space under the front lid. Those doors would drive you mad in urban spaces (or rather, lack of them), but otherwise the 12C Spider makes a surprisingly good fist of being a real-world regular drive. And now we have two further variations on the Spider theme.
    The new 720S and 600LT Spiders are from McLaren’s Sports and Super Series respectively, the latter car being rather more track-focused – henced the ‘LT’ suffix for Long Tail, its rear end extended 47mm over the 570’s for increased downforce. The 720S starts at £237,000 whereas the 600LT’s base price is £201,500.

    The 720S feels closest to its 12C ancestor in spirit, although it has a character all its own. The V8 engine has been upped from 3.8 to 4.0 litres, with 41% new parts content, and it makes a very different sound: there’s a breathy V8 burble as you pull away, which transmutes to a crisp braaaap as you pile the revs on. Even with the roof lowered this is a genuine 200mph car yet, despite the big power and performance increases, McLaren’s relentless pursuit to pare weight means that the 720S Spider weighs about the same as the 12C Spider. It’s also even more livable with, thanks to glazed panels in the rear flying buttresses that make a huge difference to over-the-shoulder vision, although top-down it feels a lot less claustrophobic, as you’d expect. McLaren’s chief test driver, Indy winner Kenny Bräck, told Octane that he would definitely choose a Spider over the Coupé for just this reason and, indeed, the sales split is forecast to be 75:25 in favour of the open car.

    Curiously, while the Spider is claimed to give nothing away in terms of structural stiffness, both this reviewer and our sister mag evo’s tester – driving different cars – noted mild steering column shimmy and windscreen shake on less well-surfaced stretches of the very road pictured left, although it wasn’t dramatic. It clearly doesn’t bother Kenny, anyway.

    But if extracting the last nth of on-the-limit handling ability is vital to you, the 600LT Spider is probably more your bag anyway. McLaren says simply: ‘We asked ourselves, what’s the absolute lightest we can make a roadgoing car?’ And they’ve really pulled out the stops, to the extent that even the windscreen glass is thinner. The correlation of this stripped-out approach is that the 600LT feels conceptually older than the 720S – even its sat-nav looks a bit dated. But it’s more obviously a driver’s car, with a simpler console layout and manually adjustable race seats. Its exhaust note is different again – buzzier than the 720S’s, like an angry wasp – and its V8 is a 3.8, not the 720S’s 4.0-litre.

    The 600LT really comes alive on a circuit, where you can fully appreciate its incredible brakes and neck-snapping acceleration. Selecting ‘Track’ mode and keeping the steering wheel as straight as possible at all times minimises driver-aid interference, so drifting round corners is the fastest way to proceed. As if you needed any excuse…

    Clockwise from left 12C Spider was launched in 2012 but is ageing well; 12C interior is refreshingly uncluttered; new 720S Spider is faster and more powerful, but weighs the same as the 12C.

    From top 720S Spider will pull 200mph with the roof down; 600LT has a slightly smaller engine, a little less power, but has been optimised for the track.
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    Paul Walton – EDITOR

    / #2000-Jaguar-XK8-4.0-X100 / #2000 / #Jaguar-XK8-4.0 / #Jaguar-XK8 / #Jaguar / #Jaguar-XK8-4.0-X100 / #Jaguar-XK8-X100 / #Jaguar-X100 / #Jaguar

    After suffering yet another setback, Paul finally manages to take his XK8 for a drive to the Norfolk coast, but will he make it back home again?

    You couldn’t make it up. Just two days after collecting my now legal XK8 from the bodyshop (to repair a small rusty hole close to the offside sill so it could pass the #MOT test, which it had failed the week before – see #Drive-My ), it has suffered from more bad luck.

    Due to visit friends who live an hour away in the Lincolnshire countryside, I figure this is an excellent opportunity to drive my now rejuvenated XK8. So, while my wife changes for the umpteenth time, I go into the garage and start the car. It fires normally, but soon falters, eventually stalling. When I turn the key again, the engine cranks unevenly, starts hesitantly, then idles awkwardly before stalling again. The big V8 eventually runs smoothly, but only after I give the throttle the beans, something I hate doing when the engine is still cold. I grudgingly leave the car at home and take my less-stylish Nissan SUV.

    After the problem persists all week – eventually resulting in an amber engine warning light – I finally cave in and contact Nene Jags Specialists (www.nenejags.co.uk).

    Even proprietor Clive Kirton is surprised to see me back so quickly, joking the car must be on a piece of elastic. He soon diagnoses the air mass flow meter is at fault and also discovers the air filter is incorrect, meaning it doesn’t fit correctly.

    With typically poor timing, as soon as the car is fixed and ready for action, the weather takes a seasonal downturn and, frustratingly, I have to leave the XK8 in the garage.

    Waking to an unusually warm and sunny December morning a few days later, I decide to blow caution to the wind and take the green Jaguar for a drive. With little time on my hands due to our hectic Christmas schedule, I choose Hunstanton, on the Norfolk coast, as my destination. The 100-mile round trip is enough to test the car and I can also be there and back in an afternoon. That I know an excellent chip shop on the seafront isn’t a factor at all.

    As I start my journey along the eastbound A47 that cuts through the flat, empty, but still beautiful Cambridgeshire countryside, I swear my XK8 feels a little faster, the engine slightly more responsive than it was before. I’m guessing this improvement is because the car can now breathe properly thanks to Clive fitting the correct air filter. More importantly, as I reach King’s Lynn 40 minutes later there are still no warning lights.

    As most of my recent long journeys (and some short ones) have ended in a dashboard filled with more flashing warnings than a Boeing 747’s console after a wing drops off, I’m constantly expecting something bad to happen. But nothing does, not even when I turn onto the tree-lined A149 that passes through the Sandringham Estate. Or even when I enter the outskirts of Hunstanton 20 minutes later and make my way down to the town’s pretty seafront. It might be just 50 miles from home, but I feel a real sense of accomplishment as I park the XK8; it hasn’t put itself into limp mode, broken down or blown up. Although that could still happen. Even though it is a glorious afternoon, Hunstanton’s seafront is deserted as I go for a stroll. The amusements are empty, the beach is quiet and, even worse, my favourite chip shop is closed. My run of bad luck continues.

    My journey back home, though, is enjoyable and trouble-free, and, with the Jaguar’s immediate issues taken care of, I return my attention to a most pressing task – replacing the original plastic tensioners with metal ones from the 4.2 #V8 . When Leeds specialist Tasker & Lacy removed the head to inspect them in 2016 they were in good condition, but knowing that the engine could still self-grenade at any minute, should the tensioners snap, is never far from my mind. I plan to drive the XK8 to Le Mans for the 24-hour race in June, so it’s something I need to get looked at, and sharpish. Other jobs for 2019 include having the increasingly crusty rear wheelarches tidied, and repairing the worn driver’s side seat bolster.

    But that’s for the future; today, I’m simply enjoying the warm sensation of my XK8 getting me to Hunstanton and home again in one piece.

    The XK8 beneath Hunstanton’s famous red-striped cliffs.

    Paul cuts through the desolate Cambridgeshire countryside using the A47.
    The amusements are empty. Well, it is December and Hunstanton is deserted
    The view down Hunstanton’s beach in bright sun is gorgeous.
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    BMW M5
    Engines like the one shoehorned into the M5 need to be savoured while they are still around – even if your neighbours don’t think it’s all that cool…

    Date acquired March 2018
    Total mileage 12,418
    Mileage this month 3246
    Costs this month £0
    mpg this month 23.9

    / #2018-BMW-M5-F90 / #BMW-M5-F90 / #BMW-M5 / #BMW / #2018 / #BMW-F90 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-M5 / #BMW-5-Series-M5-F90 / #BMW-5-Series-F90 /

    It’s to be expected that the 4.4-litre, twin-turbo #V8 lurking behind the M5’s kidney grille is going to generate levels of heat normally associated with my living room when someone ignites the fire and forgets to turn the central heating down. What I didn’t expect was how much cooling it requires post engine shutdown, no matter what the length of journey. Nor how much noise is generated in the process.

    In the early hours, after a late-night run back from evo HQ , the M5 can get a bit of a pant on and doesn’t hold back on the decibels (around 88), and it can be a good five to seven minutes before it’s sufficiently cooled. Only Mercedes’ new AMG G63 has annoyed the neighbours with more of the same and for longer.

    Lift the M5’s aluminium bonnet and it’s clear why those eight cylinders can get a little hot under the collar. Most modern engines look larger than a Spitfire’s Merlin when dressed with the de facto moulded plastic cover, but remove the M-branded hat from the S63 motor and there’s barely a millimetre to spare. As a piece of packaging it’s quiet remarkable, although I can’t imagine the independent specialists who will be working on it in a decade’s time thinking the same.

    Despite its antics after every run the F90’s V8, like those found in AMG’s hotrods, is a mighty piece of engineering to control. It doesn’t have the theatrics of the Affalterbach power units in terms of vocal support every time the crank rotates, but its performance is on a par and it’s every bit as exciting when you let it off the leash. Yet despite being based on the motor fitted to its F10 predecessor, the considerable changes #BMW-M has made have turned a potent yet anodyne engine into a characterful and deeply layered V8. And while its downsized and electrified replacement will blow our minds in terms of technology, I’m worried it won’t tug at our heartstrings like this one does. Truth be told, I already know it won’t.

    Which means we should enjoy cars such as the M5 while we can. One day we’ll need to dig deep on these memories of driving a car with supercar performance, sports car agility and family practicality as we’re transported everywhere in an electric pod.
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    / #2008-Mercedes-Benz-CLK63-AMG-Black-Series / #Mercedes-Benz-CLK63-AMG-Black-Series / #Mercedes-Benz-CLK63-AMG / #2008 / #C209 / #2008-Mercedes-Benz-CLK63-AMG-Black-Series-C209 / #Mercedes-Benz-CLK63-AMG-Black-Series-C209 / #Mercedes-Benz-CLK-C209 / #Mercedes-Benz-C209 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-CLK63-AMG-C209 / #Mercedes-Benz-CLK / #Mercedes-Benz /

    The Mercedes-Benz CLK #Black-Series was always going to be a legend. A limited top speed of 186mph, 507bhp, 0-60mph in 4.2sec and 0-100 in just 8.8. Heroic numbers from a Benz that can trace its roots directly back to the CLK63 F1 Safety Car of the 2006 season.

    But a list price of £100k in 2007 – £34k more than the standard 6208cc CLK – meant that sales didn’t exactly go crazy and only 25 rhd CLK Black Series were ever registered in the UK. Rabid, hard-riding and brutally fast, it’s definitely not for everybody and isn’t a classic for mooching around garden centres. What it is, though, is one of the most rare, hardcore MBs of its era. When you look at a proper CLK DTM AMG at £225k, a low-mileage Black at around £70k seems like a cheap ride.

    And here’s why you should take notice. Like everything else, prices of the CLK Black are weakening. For ten years values were rock hard and this was a Mercedes that genuinely didn’t depreciate at all – but now asking prices are visibly softening.

    A private seller in London has just sold a #2008 with 39k miles for £63k and in Silverstone’s July auction there’s a 2007 with 47k-miler estimated at £45k-£55k. That’s a far cry from the £100k-plus price tags that have been routinely required for the last decade. This is a one-year-only ultrarare Mercedes with a hand-built #V8 engine powerful enough to worry a Porsche GT3.

    MB’s second Black Series model (the first was the carbon-roofed SLK55 #AMG ) the #CLK Black was simply one of purest hot Benzes ever to come out of AMG’s Performance Studio. Unmistakably sinister with fat arches, front air dam, rear diffuser, composite brakes, 19in rims, vents and gills, onlookers know that something wicked this way comes.

    Unsurprisingly, quite a few have been written of over the years. But as long as you have the talent, self-control and a very sensitive right foot, the CLK Black Series is one of the most entertaining modern performance classics I know.

    In May Historics offered Simon Cowell’s old Black Series CLK with 14k miles and a £95k estimate but it went home unsold. Watch the market carefully because it won’t be long before a new, lower price benchmark is set for the CLK Black and I expect it to be less than £70k. Bag one of the 25 right-hookers out there at sensible money and you’ll have an awesome classic.

    COST NEW £100K

    VALUE NOW £70K
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    The all-new #BMW-X5-G05 - Product Highlights ( #2018 ).



    Fourth generation of the #BMW X family patriarch. New #BMW-X5 opens the next chapter in the success story of the Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) segment’s founder, of which more than 2.2 million units have been sold so far. New edition of the BMW X5 captures the imagination with clarity of design, comfortable, sporty and authoritative driving attributes and innovative equipment features. Production at BMW Plant Spartanburg (USA). Market launch in November 2018.

    Significantly larger than its predecessor: Length increased by 36 millimetres to 4,922 mm, width by 66 mm to 2,004 mm and height by 19 mm to 1,745 mm. Wheelbase extended by 42 mm to 2,975 millimetres.

    Exterior employs a robust and clear design language that is new to BMW X models. Powerfully sculpted surfaces, precise lines. Large BMW kidney grille with a one-piece surround, eye-catching character line and dynamic roofline, rear lights have a three-dimensional form.

    Interior exudes a classy and modern aura thanks to sophisticated materials, harmonious design and an innovative control concept.

    Neatly judged individualisation with BMW xLine and M Sport lines, plus model-specific features from BMW Individual.
    BMW Laserlight with Adaptive LED Headlights available as an option. Light sources have a striking design; lenses spread in a distinctive X shape; signature blue colour of #BMW-Laserlight .

    First BMW model to be available with 22-inch light-alloy wheels (optional). M light-alloy wheels in twin-spoke design and BMW Individual light-alloy wheels available from launch in this size.

    Market launch of the new BMW X5 with four engine variants: Newly developed #V8 petrol engine with 340 kW/462 hp in the #BMW-X5-xDrive50i-G05 (not available in Europe), six-cylinder in-line petrol engine with 250 kW/340 hp in the #BMW-X5-G05 xDrive40i (fuel consumption combined: 8.8 – 8.5 l/100 km [32.1 – 33.2 mpg imp]; CO 2 emissions combined: 200 – 193 g/km)* and two six-cylinder in-line diesel engines with 294 kW/400 hp in the #BMW-X5-M50d-G05 (fuel consumption combined: 7.2 – 6.8 l/100 km [39.2 – 41.5 mpg imp]; CO 2 emissions combined: 190 – 179 g/km)* and 195 kW/265 hp in the #BMW-X5-xDrive30d-G05 (fuel consumption combined: 6.8 – 6.0 l/100 km [41.5 – 47.1 mpg imp]; CO 2 emissions combined: 179 – 158 g/km)*. All power units feature cutting-edge exhaust gas treatment technology, including a gasoline particulate filter or SCR catalyst, and meet the #EU6d-TEMP standard. Eight-speed Steptronic transmission fitted as standard.

    BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive with new, more efficient control system and rear-wheel bias as standard. Differential lock at rear axle provides noticeably enhanced agility, traction and directional stability when accelerating out of corners and in other dynamic driving situations.

    First BMW X model with optional Off-Road package. Two-axle air suspension, underguard at the front and rear, plus specific displays in the instrument cluster and Control Display. Choice of four driving modes available at the touch of a button. Ride height and the responses of #BMW-xDrive , DSC, the transmission and the accelerator are adjusted to give an optimum set-up for driving on sand, rock, gravel or snow.

    Dynamic Damper Control with electronically controlled dampers as standard. New chassis systems available for the first time in a BMW X model: two-axle air suspension offering ride height adjustment of up to 80 millimetres. Integral Active Steering, Adaptive M suspension Professional with active roll stabilisation.

    Debut appearance of the BMW Live Cockpit Professional display and control concept (fitted as standard). Further development of the iDrive operating system to include a fully digital instrument cluster and 12.3-inch Control Display. Clear graphics and flat menu structure designed for touch control ensure quick access to settings and functions. Situation-linked and customisable displays supply the driver with the right information at the right time.

    Increased ease of use through multimodal use of the touchscreen display, Controller, voice control and BMW gesture control.

    New generation of the BMW Head-Up Display with a larger projection surface (now 7 × 3.5 inch), optimised 3D graphics and additional display content.

    Optional third row of seats (expected to be available from 12/2018) offers two additional seats; comfortable entry and exit thanks to electrically forward-tilting second-row seats.

    Two-piece split tailgate, hands-free opening and closing of both sections with optional Comfort Access. Automatic boot cover can be lowered electrically into load compartment floor (expected to be available from 12/2018). Boot capacity can be increased from 650 litres to a maximum 1,860 litres.

    Standard leather trim in new variant Vernasca and optional BMW Individual Merino leather trim both available in a choice of four colours.

    New options provide the interior with exceptional creature comforts: Multifunction seats with massage function, four-zone automatic climate control, heated armrests, cooled/heated cupholders in the centre console, Panorama glass roof Sky Lounge with a 23 per cent larger glass surface, Ambient Air package for interior fragrancing, Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System (expected to be available from 12/2018), Rear-seat entertainment Professional system with 10.2-inch touchscreen display (expected to be available from 12/2018).

    First appearance of new glass applications (optional) for the newly designed transmission selector lever, the Controller, the start/stop button in the centre console and the audio system control knob.

    Telephony with wireless charging for compatible mobile phones. #BMW-Display-Key shows vehicle status information and allows user to control vehicle functions.

    Updated ambient lighting (optional) with Welcome Light Carpet for the entry area to the car and Dynamic Interior Light with pulsating illumination in the instrument panel (when receiving incoming phone calls) and in the door panel and opener (when the door is opened with the engine running).

    Innovative suite of driver assistance systems takes another step towards automated driving: Driving Assistant Professional includes further developed Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, Steering and lane control assistant, Lane Change Warning and Lane Departure Warning, side collision protection, evasion aid, Crossing traffic warning, Priority warning and Wrong-way warning.

    Emergency Stop Assistant available for the first time; brakes the vehicle automatically if required, and steers it to the side of the road.

    Parking Assistant with automated longitudinal and lateral guidance. New Reversing Assistant takes over steering to manoeuvre the vehicle along a path recently negotiated forward – over a distance of up to 50 metres. Parking Assistant Plus also includes Surround View, Top View, Panorama View and Remote 3D View.
    Complete range of services from BMW ConnectedDrive. Full connectivity between the vehicle and the customer’s digital devices via the BMW Connected personal mobility assistant. BMW Digital Key allows users to access the vehicle and start the engine using their smartphone. Hazard warning provided by connectivity with other BMW vehicles. Software upgrades “over the air”. Integration of Microsoft Office 365 and Skype for Business.
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    Public squeaking

    CAR #1966-Ford-Mustang / #1966 / #Ford-Mustang / #Ford / #Mustang / #Mustang-Mk1 / #Mustang-thermostat

    OWNER MARK DIXON

    It just happened, out of the blue. One day the ’Stang was performing sweetly, the next it had developed an irritating noise from the front suspension. Not just an occasional chirp, but a relentless squawk induced by even the tiniest road ripple. Googling revealed that this is a common phenomenon with early Mustangs; so common that it is known as ‘the Mustang squeak’. But it can originate from one or more of several places in the suspension and identifying the source is very difficult, even if you enlist someone to bounce the front end up and down while you stick your head under the car.

    The noise was coming from the driver’s side, so I jacked the car up and whipped off the front wheel. Pumping the lower ball-joint full of grease made no difference, and my money is now on the upper wishbone pivots – built with no means of lubrication – or the spring perches. The latter are miniature platforms that pivot on top of the lower wishbones to support the springs. With no lubrication points, they rely on the elasticity of rubber bushings.

    Thanks to the Mustang’s fantastic parts support, you can now buy wishbones with grease nipples built in, and spring perches that pivot on roller bearings. The latter are relatively expensive but will last forever and are said to have other benefits for the ride and steering feel, because the entire weight of the car’s front end bears on these perches and the standard items have innate ‘stiction’ under load.

    Otherwise, the only problem I’ve had in 2000 miles of sunny springtime motoring is that, as bought, the engine was running too cold. There are three temperature options for a Mustang thermostat – 160, 180 or 195ºC – and the one fitted turned out to be a 160, presumably to help it cope with summers in Los Angeles, where it lived for almost 50 years.

    I’m blessed with a choice of two major US car parts warehouses within 30 minutes’ drive of the Octane office, so obtaining a replacement ’stat was an easy lunchtime jaunt.

    Experimenting with a 195 made the #V8 run too warm but, like Goldilocks’ porridge, a 180 was just right and the car is now averaging just over 21mpg, which I think is pretty good for a 289 V8. I was amused to see that the thermostat housing gasket fits all #Ford-V8 s from 1948 to 1989 – you gotta love Henry’s parts rationalisation!

    Right and above Mark attempts to cure ‘the Mustang squeak’ and fits a new thermostat, which has improved fuel consumption.
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    BMW M5 F90 COMPETITION GETS POWER UPLIFT TO 616BHP / #BMW-M5-F90 / #BMW-F90 / #BMW-M5 / #BMW / #2019 / #BMW-M5-Competition / #BMW-M5-Competition-F90 / #2019-BMW-M5-Competition-F90

    BMW’s M5 will soon reclaim the title of most powerful supersaloon on sale with a new Competition variant. Peak power from the 4.4-litre twin-turbo #V8 rises to 616bhp, 24bhp more than the standard M5 F90 , and 12bhp more than the Mercedes-AMG E63 S W213. The sprint to 62mph drops by a tenth to 3.3sec. Revised suspension, black styling details and new forged 20-inch wheels also feature.

    / #BMW-G30 #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-G30 / #BMW-M-Automobiles / #2018-BMW-M5 / #BMW-5-Series-F90 / #BMW-5-Series-M5 / #BMW-5-Series-M5-F90
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    CHASING CARS Quentin Willson’s hot tips

    / #Jaguar-XK8 / #Jaguar-XK / #Jaguar-XKR / #Jaguar-XKR-X100 / #Jaguar / #Jaguar-XKR-Convertible-X100 / #Jaguar-XKR-Convertible / #Jaguar-XK8-Convertible-X100
    is gaining a following

    For around £10k Ian Callum’s capable and elegant coupé is looking a great buy

    I see opportunities in the 1998 to 2005 X100 XKRs. The trade has been squeezing prices up over the last couple of years and there are lots of low-milers up at £25k-plus, but last month H&H hammed down two of the supercharged Jags at very reasonable money. A blue ’1999 convertible with 46,000 miles and three owners made £12,365 and a black 2003 coupé with 76k made just £8437. For a get-in-and-go neo classic that you could use every day this is no money at all. And we’ve forgotten just how good the old-shape XKR is. Top end is a limited 155mph, 60mph comes up in less than six seconds and the burble from the V8 is narcotic. I remember driving across Italy in a 4.2 R convertible and slip-streaming a Ferrari 456GT for miles on the autostrada at 140mph without any fuss at all.

    Convertibles are the most desirable with the 2003-on 406bhp 4.2 #V8 the best engine. Early launch-year 1998 4.0 cars are worth watching along with special editions including the Silverstone, XKR 100, 400 and the final edition XKR-S.

    There were issues with the #Nikasil bore liners on the pre-2000 4.0-litre engines but most will have been changed by Jaguar under warranty. Upper timing chain tensioners and water pump impellers were revised after 2001, so make sure these have been done too. The six-speed #ZF autos are better on the 4.2s than the earlier Mercedes ’box but always chose an XKR that has a long history and try for a sub-50,000 miler.

    Prices are wobbling quite seriously and a private seller in Ashington is advertising a ’ #1999 blue convertible with 75k, history and all old MoTs for only £6400. Dip into those online ads and you’ll see cheap XKRs popping up regularly now.

    Think of the XKR as a much faster Mercedes-Benz SL and you’ll understand the appeal. They may feel nose heavy on B-roads but their straight-line heave is remarkable.

    As long as they’ve been serviced properly they’re also refreshingly reliable and rust-resistant. The XKR may not be investment quality quite yet but their performance-for-value index is compelling and those curvy lines are maturing nicely. For less than ten grand this is a rapid classic Jag worth taking seriously.

    ‘We’ve forgotten how good old-shape XKRs are – their straight-line heave is quite remarkable’

    VALUE 2010 £18k
    VALUE NOW £15k
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    Wabenzi in Africa

    OWNER: ROBERT COUCHER

    CAR: #1988-Mercedes-Benz-560SEC-C126 / #1988 / #Mercedes-Benz-560SEC-C126 / #Mercedes-Benz-C126 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-S-Class-C126 / #Mercedes-Benz-S-Class-126-Series / #Mercedes-Benz-S-Class / #Mercedes-Benz-126-Series / #Mercedes-Benz-W126 / #Mercedes-Benz-W126-Coupé / #V8

    I haven’t mentioned the ‘Big Block’ before. This is the Mercedes-Benz 560SEC C126 my father has owned for over a decade. It lives in Cape Town and on our last trip over for Christmas he lent it to my wife and I.

    I had never taken much notice of it before. I was never mad about the colour - a Broederbond racing bronze, significant because it is rumoured the car was previously cwned by General Magnus Malan, a past Minister of Defence in South Africa.

    But I have read that the W126 series, 5547cc #Mercedes-Benz-V8 560SEC was often cited as the best coupe of the 1980s. Weighing some 1750kg and pumping out about 300bhp, it promises a 0-60mph time of seven seconds and a top whack of 150mph. So I pile my wife’s ample luggage into the huge boot and we motor off in comfort. The Benz slides down the motorway in air-conditioned serenity with its typical MB wooden throttle response, woollen steering and sluggish auto-box.

    Leafing through the Big Block's fat silver- covered handbook, it seems it has a fully stamped MB service history from new and the 167,000km (104,000 miles) reading is correct. Then I read that the gearbox has two settings: ‘E’ for economy and ‘S' for standard. Surely ‘S’ is for sports...

    Next morning, on a solo mission, I fire up the 560 and switch to ‘S’ mode. The Benz pulls away in first gear (in E it moves off in second) and instantly feels a lot more alert. After allowing the big V8 to warm properly, I reach the bottom of a long mountain pass and floor it. The Wabenzi draws a deep breath and hoofs up the road with a muted roar. The steering, despite its loose straight-ahead position, becomes accurate when weighted into the comers, the handling is taut and sharp when pushed, and the big brakes more than capable of slowing the beast down for the next bend.

    Later, with my wife back on board, I slip the gearbox back into ‘E’ mode and smile in the knowledge that the Big Block can be awakened at the merest flick of that innocuous little switch.

    Above Switch to the left of the transmission selector is key to unlocking 560SECs huge potential.
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    Demand grows for #Aston-Martin-V8 projects #1973-Aston-Martin-V8 / #1973 / #Aston-Martin


    One of the surest conirmations of a classic’s growing popularity is when people start paying what looks like silly money for project cars. With Astons it very much prefaced the epic rise of early DB values some years ago. Now it appears to be happening with the V8s. Two results on successive days recently put the seal on it.

    First we saw a 1973 V8 offered at South West Vehicle Auctions that had been buried under storage boxes in a garage for 20 years. Said to be a runner – probably – it will obviously require plenty of attention even if the new owner is only aiming for preservation-class standards. Estimated (rather pessimistically) at £22,000-£26,000 it was deemed good enough to pay a ‘Good’ £48,224 for.

    Similar happened at ACA the next day with a #Aston-Martin-DBS #V8 that had been recently repatriated from Japan and was in need of a complete going-over. Offered at no reserve it topped out at just over £66,000.
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