Autumn launch for 911 Turbo
New technologies and uprated engine make it fastest ever
Forty years and six generations after the first was seen in prototype form, a new Porsche 911 Turbo will go on sale in the UK this September. Based on the 991-series platform it will of course be faster and more powerful than any other seriesproduction 911 Turbo. Even in the S configuration that will be launched at the same time, however, the output of its 3.8-litre twin-turbo flat six will not approach the 611bhp of the previous 911’s limited-production GT2 RS.
Even so, a Turbo with 513bhp (up from 493bhp) and a Turbo S with 552bhp (previously 523bhp) should suffice, especially as the car is believed to weigh a fraction less than its scarcely tardy forebear. For the number crunchers among you, the new Turbo hits 62mph in 3.2sec — as fast as a standard McLaren F1 road car, once considered the quickest car you could buy, has ever managed. And the S undercuts that again, hitting the 62mph benchmark in 3.1sec, putting it on a performance par with the 730bhp, two-wheel-drive Ferrari F12.
Like all new 911s, the Turbo sits on a radically longer wheelbase than any previous generation, the adverse effects of which it tries to mitigate through the fitment of the four-wheel-steering system announced on the forthcoming GT3 version.
Capable of moving the rear wheels by 2.8deg, the system steers them in the opposite direction to the front wheels at speeds below 31mph, points them straight ahead between 31-50mph and steers in the same direction as the fronts beyond 50mph. Porsche says the effect on the handling is akin to shortening the wheelbase by 250mm at low speeds and lengthening it by a barely imaginable half a metre at high velocities.
The Turbo is also the first to feature active aerodynamics, with a front spoiler pneumatically extendable to three different positions, matched by a deployable rear wing. These enhancements knock 2sec off its lap time around the old NiIrburgring, which doesn’t sound like much to me — call it a couple of tenths off any normal lap time — but will doubtless make for first-class wine bar banter.
Inevitably prices have risen, by £5345 to £118,349 for the Turbo and a whopping £14,877 for the S, which now retails at £140,852 and is thus more expensive than an Aston Martin DB9 or a Bentley Continental GT, even when the Crewe offering is equipped with a 6-litre, 557bhp W12 engine. The Turbo S has many features missing from the Turbo to account for some of the price disparity, including carbon-ceramic brakes, active roll bar control, active engine mounts and full LED lighting.
Added vim for Range Rover
You might have read some reviews of the new Range Rover Sport in other motoring media. What you’re less likely to have seen is that these alleged road tests were based on a sum total of less than five minutes behind the wheel. It’s the reason I’m talking about the car here rather than on the road test pages. I’ve driven the ca; but sadly lack the skills required to make a definitive judgement on such slender exposure. Then again, I well recall the hack who once proudly boasted he’d written a verdict based on an assessment conducted entirely within the confines of an airport’s long-term car park.
Still, some points can be made. The Range Rover Sport is arguably Land Rover’s most important car. The last one achieved automotive nirvana because it was very cheap to build on the old Discovery platform and therefore vastly profitable per unit, but was also unbelievably popular around the world despite being, in my view at least, Land Rover’s ugliest and least capable car. The new car, by contrast, is massively more expensive to build thanks to its state-of-the-art aluminium platform shared with the new Range Rover, but Land Rover is confident this will be offset by even greater global sales success.
The brief supplied to Land Rover’s engineers was succinct enough to turn into a soundbite: “More Range Rove; more Sport.” It sounds too convenient to be true, but on even minimal acquaintance it’s clear this objective has been achieved. The new Range Rover Sport is both better to drive and far more luxurious than the model it replaces. It also comes with the option of third-row seating, the first time that’s ever been offered on any Range Rover-branded product.
But there’s more to it than that. The new architecture has dropped the weight of the car by 450kg. No smoke and mirrors here: like for like, engine for engine, the new car is nearly half a tonne lighter than the old.
At launch there will be just two engines: a 3-litre diesel that’ll be the big seller in this part of the world and the 5-litre supercharged petrol versions that’ll soon be clogging all the designated parking bays from Stamford Bridge to Old Trafford. The best, however, is likely to be the 4.4-litre V8 diesel that won’t be available in the UK until near the end of the year.
But the engine that’s causing the most excitement at Land Rover won’t even be sold here. It’s a brand new, home-grown 2-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol unit producing about 240bhp and is expected to transform the prospects of the car in places like China, where punitive tax regimes place disproportionate penalties on larger engines with lots of cylinders. It’ll also bring the weight of the car below two tonnes, quite an achievement for such a monstrously large machine.
I drove the supercharged car, but only on the test track at Gaydon. Still, I did get to boot it to beyond 140mph and fling it through some quick curves, enough to know that this is so much more sporting than any other Land Rover that there’s really no comparison worth making. I was impressed by the chassis composure: in corners the car felt balanced, responsive and agile in a manner unusual for models such as this. For the first time it is a Range Rover Sport in more than name alone.
As the Porsche Cayenne cannot be specified with seven seats, it is fair to suspect the Range Rover Sport has the broadest envelope of ability of any SUV in existence, insofar as none appears able to accommodate your needs as a family and desires as a driver quite so completely. I fear the ride quality might be uncompromising when I get one off the track and onto the road, but the signs are good. Beyond that, you and I will need to wait for an opportunity to test the car more thoroughly.
Aston tries hydrogen racer
By the time you read this, Aston Martin will have taken part in the Niirburgring 24 Hours in a car powered by hydrogen. The Rapide S will be fitted with a twin-turbo version of Aston’s familiar 6-litre V12 motor tuned to run on hydrogen, petrol or a mix of the two. No information about lap times was available at the time of writing.
People have been injecting hydrogen into the cylinders of internal combustion engines for a very long time. Many years ago I drove one of a fleet of hydrogenpowered 7-series BMWs that could swap between hydrogen and petrol power as quickly as you could flick a switch. The problem is that hydrogen has poor energy density relative to petrol, even if you go to the cost and complexity of storing it in liquid form. There’s also nowhere to fill up and, at present, no way of obtaining a reliable supply at remotely affordable cost save by steaming it out of natural gas… and that means burning fossil fuels.
So while I’d like to see Aston do well with the project, I hope it’s got someone else’s money behind it. I can’t help thinking in this current climate that the firm should have more important things to be doing with its time and resources.
Ferrari to build fewer cars
Ferrari has announced it is scaling back production and will this year produce fewer than 7000 cars, a drop of more than 300 since 2012. The company says we should infer no falling off in demand but that the move is intended purely to maintain the brand’s exclusivity. To prove this it says revenue and profits will be maintained.
I didn’t do maths past 0-level, but even I know that, all other things being equal, the only way to maintain revenue on reduced sales is to charge more for those cars you do sell, which of course does no harm to your exclusivity either…