Road cars

McLaren plans new hypercar

Forthcoming three-seater recalls spirit of original F1

McLaren has announced it is to build a new three-seat hypercar to honour the memory of the F1. Due to go on sale in 2019 – the 25th anniversary of the first F1 – the car (code-named BP23) will feature the same arrow-head central driving position as the F1. Just 106 will be built, to match the abbreviated production run of the F1, at a price that’s unannounced but expected to be £1.5-£2 million.

The BP23 will be the second car after the P1 to feature a hybridised drive train, though it will be a much evolved system featuring more energy-dense batteries that can therefore be smaller, lighter and easier to package. This system is expected to be carried over into more mainstream hybrid McLaren models, due to be launched at the start of the next decade.

For now, however, the BP23 is believed to be more of a long-distance touring car than a race-track refugee like the P1. The original F1 was always intended to be not only the fastest but the most usable of supercars. Designer Gordon Murray was at least as proud of the fact it would seat three, had decent luggage space and cast a shadow no bigger than a Porsche 911s as he was of its raw performance. The new car will therefore likely follow this philosophy as closely as the constraints of its existing carbon-fibre architecture and twin-turbo V8 engine allow. No power or performance figures have been announced, but it seems likely the new car will have at least 1000bhp (a figure already achieved with ease by the P1 GTR) and with lower-drag bodywork, a top speed likely to exceed even the 240mph achieved by the F1.

The decision to return to a central driving position is brave because it was cited as a contributing cause (alongside global recession) to the commercial failure of the original F1 when it was new. Although visibility was magnificent once installed, and the car easier to handle because the driver was always the same distance from both left and right hand apices, many complained that entry and exit were both difficult and undignified. McLaren promises that once on board the BP23 will provide “the highest levels of refinement.”

First all-electric Cat

No organisation is better at pulling rabbits out of motor show-shaped hats than Jaguar. At the
Los Angeles Auto Show, once more it did not disappoint.

The I-Pace concept it revealed would have been interesting enough even if Jaguar never had any intention of putting something remotely like it into production. When a credible manufacturer produces any kind of all-electric car these days, there’s always a story to be told. But I am assured that the I-Pace is a concept in name alone and that in 2018 you will be able to go out and buy one that looks just like it, will have the same claimed 310-mile range and also scorch to 62mph in 4sec flat. “All we will change are the details, and small ones at that,” said someone who should know.

It is fair to say that no one was expecting to see anything from Jaguar in LA other than the first of nine continuation XKSSs, the existence of which has been known for months. By contrast, the I-Pace was a complete surprise. And Jaguar is saying it is as significant a moment in the history of the company as the E-type. Significantly it seems likely to make it into production before either Audi or Mercedes-Benz is able to field their first fully electric production cars, the e-tron and Generation EQ respectively. So it is at least arguable that for the first time since the E-type, Jaguar is once more leading from the front, setting an agenda for others to follow.

The I-Pace sits on a bespoke, specifically developed platform. Despite the linking by name, it is a genuinely new car and not an electrified F-Pace (although it shares similar suspension). It has two electric motors, one per axle, each producing 200bhp. They are fed by a lithium-ion battery pack slung flat and low between the wheels in order to maximise interior space and achieve the lowest possible centre of gravity.

Although the I-Pace is a Jaguar project for now, no one is denying that the platform would be equally effective wearing Land Rover clothes, especially as four-wheel drive is already an integral part of the design.

However, the first all-electric Land Rover is believed to be some distance behind the I-Pace. Customer deliveries are likely to start in 2018, at a price believed to be about £65,000.

Fresh terrain for Alfa

Alfa Romeo has launched its new Stelvio SUV at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Named after the famously tortuous Italian pass, the Stelvio is not only the first civilian Alfa off-roader, but is expected to become the company’s best seller. This would mirror the performance of its two closest rivals, the Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace, both of which became their brand’s most popular models soon after launch.

The Stelvio is based on the same platform as the broadly well received Giulia saloon. Predictably enough in these days of top-down launches, the car chosen to welcome the Stelvio to the world was the Quadrifoglio model, complete with its Ferrari-developed 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 motor developing 503bhp.

No performance figures have yet been announced, but given the Stelvio’s additional height and mass it would be naïve to expect it to match the 3.9sec 0-62mph time achieved by the Giulia using the same powertrain, or its 191mph top speed. That said, its performance should easily eclipse everything else seen in this category to date and, indeed, that of every other SUV out there, with the possible exception of the Bentley Bentayga.

More affordable versions of the Stelvio are expected to follow close behind, the best-selling likely to use the Giulia’s 2.2-litre diesel developing about 180bhp, though a 276bhp 2-litre petrol turbo is also expected. Prices are expected to begin below £40,000 for a base diesel and extend to about £65,000 for the Quadrifoglio.

Though the Stelvio is Alfa’s first SUV, it is most assuredly not its last. Future plans provide places in the range for two more, one full-sized Porsche Cayenne rival and one more compact SUV in the crossover style to compete with the likes of the BMW X4.

Aston launches V12 flagship

Aston Martin has announced a new flagship model. No, not an even faster version of its new, rapturously received DB11 coupé, but an S version of the existing Vanquish.

The proposition is interesting: the Vanquish S costs £199,950, some £45,000 more than the DB11, but while its venerable six-litre normally aspirated V12 has been tickled up to 592bhp, that’s still a touch less than the 600bhp offered by the brand new 5.2-litre twin turbo V12 in the DB11. While figures have yet to be released, I’d bet plenty that the DB11 produces more torque at little more than idle than does the Vanquish S in total.

To see such cars in bald statistical terms is usually to miss much of their point. The maker insists that modifications to the engine, suspension, gearbox and aerodynamics have resulted in “Aston Martin’s most overtly sporting production GT model.” Not only that, but all Vanquish models have carbon-fibre bodies and a wide choice of sumptuous interior trims to help personalise the car.

Sales are beginning as you read this, with the car available in both coupé and convertible configurations.

Panamera now even larger

If you ever doubted the contention that Porsche is seeking new conceptual territory with its revised Panamera, the latest news should soon set you straight.

Not content with making the new Panamera by far the most comfortable and lavishly appointed Porsche of all, it has now announced a long-wheelbase version called the Panamera Executive, in a blatant attempt to grab sales from the traditional luxury marques.

With an additional 150mm between the wheels, the already spacious Panamera is set to provide near-limousine quantities of legroom for those in the back, sufficient to create an office environment complete with fold-out tables. A range-topping Panamera Executive Turbo will cost £122,480, a £9500 premium over the standard model.