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    END OF TERM Nissan GT-R The latest GT-R is more useable than ever, claims Nissan. So did that claim turn out to be true? And does it make for a better car overall?

    CAR: #Nissan-GT-R / #Nissan / #2017 / #2017-Nissan-GT-R

    In the end I spent 99 days with the #2017-model-year Nissan GT-R. And in the end I loved it to bits. That verdict was far from a foregone conclusion, however. The whole reason for running this latest GT-R – albeit for a less-than-ideal three months only – was to see if Nissan had softened the car sufficiently to make it liveable with seven days a week. That was always going to be the key question that needed answering. And the simple fact is, it has.

    If there’s so much as a single millilitre of petrol in your veins then you could easily put up with the GT-R’s firm but no longer ridiculous ride quality. Same goes for its much improved transmission, its much reduced tyre noise, its more soothing engine refinement and its slightly less manic steering. In all these areas Nissan has, without question, improved the GT-R and made it more useable as an everyday car in the process.

    But there was a second key question, namely: if Nissan really had polished away the GT-R’s rough edges to a point where you can live with this car daily, then how might that affect its core ability to make your heart explode when the right road appears in the windscreen? Because this is ultimately what the Nissan GT-R has always been all about. No other car, with the exception of a few of the most hardcore Porsches and the Ferrari F40, has ever been able to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention like a GT-R does when you give it the beans over a deserted mountain road. So if this aspect of it went missing, I’m not sure the thing would deserve to wear its badge any longer.

    But I’m glad to say that the madness is still very much intact. You need to press a few buttons to unleash it, true, but on the right road and ideally when there’s no one else around to witness it, the nutcase that has always been at the centre of the Nissan GT-R is still very much in situ. If anything, in fact, it is more unhinged than ever before because the suspension is that little bit softer nowadays, I that little bit more in tune with the average UK B-road, which means you don’t get airborne quite so often as you once did, which basically means you can generate, and carry, even more speed. Everywhere.

    It’s not perfect, though. During my time with #OY66-UOP I became increasingly irritated by a piece of plastic trim near the steering wheel that would fizz randomly to a point where it began to bore a hole into the middle of my brain on some journeys. The car’s packaging is also ridiculous in terms of the amount of road space it occupies relative to the amount of interior space it fails to offer. And the combination of its silly fuel consumption (22mpg sometimes, more like 17-18mpg most of the time) allied to a 74-litre tank meant its real-world touring range was always an issue.

    But you put up with these things in a GT-R because the payback, when it arrives, is immense. And now that they’ve smoothed away most of the rough edges – none of which added to the purity of the driving experience; they were just flaws, pure and simple – the Nissan GT-R has become a more complete car. And a more desirable one as a result.

    To a point where I genuinely can’t think of another vehicle that offers more raw ability for less, even if its weight and packaging are a bit dubious. Bottom line: I know 82 grand (basic) sounds like an insane amount of money for a Nissan, but this ain’t no ordinary Nissan. It’s a GT-R first, and a Nissan second; always has been. And for the 2017 model year version the GT-R happens to be in better shape than at any point in its near 50-year history. Which, as you’ll know, is saying something.

    Steve Sutcliffe

    Date acquired July 2017
    Duration of test 3 months
    Total test mileage 3622
    Overall mpg 19.0
    Costs £0
    Purchase price £83,745
    Value today £72,500

    ‘The nutcase that has always been at the centre of the GT-R is still very much in situ. If anything, it is more unhinged than ever’
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    Steve Sutcliffe
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    McLaren’s dynamic drop-top… 570S Spider has lost a roof, but it retains every bit of the Coupé’s driving appeal – and it sounds even better, too. Words Steve Sutcliffe. #McLaren-570S-Spider / #McLaren-570S / #McLaren / #2018

    Convertibles have come a long way in the past 15 or so years, and today many are referred to as Spiders, or Spyders. McLaren’s new £164,000 570S Spider is the most recent addition to such ranks – and, having driven it on some of Europe’s best roads, Octane is prepared to stick its neck out and declare this particular arachnid to be one of the very best, if not the best. But not necessarily the most scary.

    As a starting point, the 570S Coupé is hardly lacking in brilliance, or visceral appeal. At its core sits a carbonfibre tub, with a twin-turbo V8 and seven-speed dual-clutch box mounted behind the driver but well ahead of the rear axle. What separates the McLaren from all its key open-top rivals (think Lamborghini Huracán, Porsche 911 turbo 991, Ferrari 488 and Audi R8) is that there’s precisely zero difference in structural rigidity between coupé and drop-top versions. This is due to the way the 570S’s carbon tub has been designed. Right from the word go, this car was engineered to be both a coupé and a convertible, and because the roof has zero strengthening, the loss of said panel makes no difference to the car’s core integrity. You can feel as much the moment the 570S Spider starts to move. It feels absolutely identical to the Coupé in its ride, steering, handling, braking and acceleration – because, McLaren says, it is identical to its stablemate in every aspect of its dynamic behaviour.

    So, just as the Coupé 570S will sprint from 0-60mph in 3.2sec and hit 204mph flat-out, so will the Spider. It’ll even do 196mph with the roof down, claims McLaren, thanks to a nifty reworking of its rear end to achieve all-but-identical aerodynamic qualities.

    But there is one big difference between the Coupé and Spider versions of the 570S. When you drop the latter’s roof and give it some beans, the noise that comes back at you from behind is five times louder and six times more exciting. And maybe the absolute best way to drive the Spider is with the glass aero-screen behind the seats dropped and the roof raised. That way, you can really appreciate the range and complexity of the sounds that emanate from the V8 in a way you never can in the Coupé. As a bonus, a new, small luggage area behind the seats means the Spider is not only more entertaining to listen to than its brother, but it’s rather more practical as well.

    On the move the newcomer genuinely drives just as well as the Coupé, with razor-precise handling, ferocious acceleration, lovely steering and great braking power and feel. However, it’s the noise that really gets you; it convinces you this model must be the better of the two overall. That’s why McLaren expects at least 50% of all 570 sales from now on to be Spiders. And why all 400 of the first batch have already sold out.

    Above and below 570S Spider is as good as top-down motoring gets, with coupé-like dynamics and an awesome roar from its V8.
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    Steve Sutcliffe
    Steve Sutcliffe created a new group McLaren 570

    McLaren 570 Open Group

    McLaren 570

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    The making of a hero / #Lamborghini-Aventador / #Lamborghini-Aventador-S / #2017-Lamborghini-Aventador-S / #Lamborghini / #Lamborghini-V12 / #2017

    Lamborghini’s Aventador stunned at launch then fell behind. Now hail The S. Words Steve Sutcliffe.

    When Lamborghini unveiled the Aventador back in 2011, the world of fast cars gasped for a moment in disbelief. Because, at the time, the Aventador, with its cartoonish good looks, its thunderous V12 engine and 210mph top speed, was like no other supercar on Earth. It was also near the technological cutting edge back then, featuring a carbon monocoque chassis with pushrod suspension and four-wheel drive with which to deploy its prodigious power.

    But since then the atmosphere among the upper echelons of fast cars has thickened somewhat, and dynamically the Aventador has struggled to keep up. Which is why Lamborghini has come up with this car, a dramatically more advanced Aventador known simply as ‘The S’.

    It costs £277,000 and boasts four-wheel steering and revised electronic suspension. That famous 6.5-litre V12 has also been tickled to produce 730bhp and 509lb ft, with more torque available towards the top end this time.

    Aerodynamic efficiency is up by an impressive 50%, too, with 130% more downforce than before and a lot less drag, says Lamborghini. And, as you can see, the S also looks quite different from its predecessor, with an unashamed design nod towards the Countach around its rear wheelarches.

    The technical progress doesn’t stop there, however. There’s a bespoke new Pirelli tyre, while the dynamic drive programme, which featured three modes – Strada, Sport and Corsa – has been re-written to include a fourth setting called Ego. This allows a driver to alter the dynamics of the steering, powertrain and suspension separately from each other, which is a minor eureka moment for the Aventador.

    The other key technical change is the fitment of one single ECU to control all the car’s dynamic functions. And this, Lamborghini claims, has enabled its engineers to develop a consistency in response that you can’t achieve with separate ECUs.

    On the move the S has a new-found harmony in the way it reacts to your inputs – be that on the throttle, via the steering wheel, on the brake pedal, and most of all beneath your backside – and this alone means it represents a huge step forwards dynamically over the old car. What you notice first is how direct the front end now feels; then how much cleaner the throttle response is. You instantly feel much more in control of the car as a result. And without question the single biggest difference is the four-wheel steering.

    From behind the wheel this manifests itself in much sharper front-end bite everywhere and, because the car is so much better-balanced under power, the engineers have been able to send much more torque to the rear axle at any given time. Which makes the S feel more like a rear-wheel-drive car than a four- wheel-drive one.

    The more time I spent in it, the more the S blew me away. And it wasn’t only the new handling set-up that impressed. The V12 engine is also a rare gem that shines brighter than ever here; the carbon-ceramic brakes have huge power and a lot more feel than before; and, although the gearbox remains fundamentally unchanged (which means it works OK if not brilliantly, when compared with the best of the best), its automatic mode has been softened to make it smoother.

    But it’s the chassis that’s the stand-out feature, because it’s just so much sharper and so much better-balanced than it used to be. At last, dor has the underpinnings to do that heroic #V12 engine justice.

    Above and top left Latest Aventador looks wilder than the original and packs a power boost to 730bhp, but the improvements to its handling are what really count.
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    Just added lightness / IGNITION / New Cars / #Lotus-Elise-250-Cup / #Lotus-Elise / #Lotus / #2016 /

    Shaving weight and boosting torque land the Lotus Elise 250 Cup at the top of the track day heap. Words Steve Sutcliffe. Photography Pete Gibson.

    Focused minimalism is the phrase coined by Lotus to describe the intent behind its new Elise 250 Cup road racer. And, for once, the hyperbole fits the description of what Hethel’s engineers have done to the car.

    The 250 is lighter (931kg with fluids), faster, more powerful and more torquey than the 220 Cup it supersedes. In the process it becomes the fastest production Elise there has ever been, with a 0-60mph time of just 3.9sec and a top speed of 154mph, or a still impressive – if slightly windy – 149mph with the new removable soft-top stored in the boot.

    Also new are a set of super-sticky Yokohama trackday tyres that are still perfectly usable on the road in the wet, claims Lotus chassis guru Gavan Kershaw. ‘It’s almost got too much grip for its own good,’ he admits with a knowing smile. Which explains why, in his hands, the car has lapped the test track at Hethel only a couple of seconds slower than the far more powerful, far more expensive Evora 400.

    Such mighty ability against the stopwatch doesn’t come especially cheap, however. In standard trim the 250 Cup costs £45,600. Add the very lovely carbon pack that was fitted to the test car (front splitter, sills and the huge diffuser at the rear were all in carbon) and the price rises to within a whisker of £50,000.

    And that puts the pared-down, lightweight Elise deep into Porsche Cayman territory. That said, the Elise is such a different prospect that you’d doubt whether anyone thinking of buying one of these two would seriously consider the other. The Elise is a proper trackday weapon, a car you can easily endure on your way to a circuit (it’s more civilised than you’d think on the road, with a still-decent ride quality and an interior that feels simple but way higher in quality than ever before) in order to relish what it can do once you get there. Which is to say, demolish pretty much anything that might happen to turn up with power this side of 500bhp.

    The biggest difference between the 250 and other Elises dynamically (apart from those tyres, which provide massive grip in the dry) is the extra torque the engine produces, and the extra couple of hundred revs available at the top of its range. The 250 in the car’s name refers to the 250Nm torque peak (that’s 184lb ft), not the power output (243bhp), and it’s available all the way from 3500 to 5000rpm, at which point power takes over to maintain the momentum. It’s some cocktail.

    The Elise 250 Cup is deeply thrilling to drive, and very, very quick around a track. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but for the committed few there is nothing else quite like it. Twenty years on, the Elise is still king of the hill, albeit at a suitably regal price.

    Above and below. A 1.8-litre engine, like the original Elise, but 243bhp and a track-devouring chassis justify the £45,000 price. Almost.
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