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Convertible Bentley can top 200mph

Bentley has shown its fastest open car ever at the Detroit motor show. The new Continental GTC Speed is propelled by a 616bhp version of its evergreen 6-litre W12 motor, enough says Bentley to push the 2.5tonne car through the air at an impressive 202mph.

Other improvements over the previous GTC Speed include the provision of an eight-speed transmission, said to be the main factor in bringing a 15 per cent fuel consumption improvement, although a combined figure of just 19mpg still seems stuck in another era. As with previous Speed models, the new GTC comes with lowered, stiffened suspension and a meatier feel to its Servotronic power steering.

Of course Bentley’s claimed top speed is, like those of all other convertibles, recorded with the roof in place. A few years ago I went to the Nardo test track to see if this car’s predecessor would hit the double ton with the roof down. It stopped short at 197mph, due to the convertible’s sub-optimal aero profile, but managed 204mph with the hood up. It would be interesting, if academic, to see whether the new GTC was the world’s first proper four-seater capable of a genuine 200mph with the roof down.

Radical coupé breaks cover

Radical, a company hitherto best known for its 5R3 and 5R8 racing cars, has joined the world’s supercar manufacturers. Its new RXC, revealed at January’s Autosport show, is a twoseat coupe with styling deliberately reminiscent of a Le Mans prototype.

Radical claims the RXC is faster and more dynamic than anything the supercar sector has seen to date. The car is now available for sale as either a road or a track machine, with prices starting at £87,500 plus VAT.

The RXC is a complete departure for Radical and is, says MD Phil Abbott, the company’s most exciting project yet. Not only is it the first Radical with a roof, it seems set to bring a level of downforce unimagined in the road car arena until now. Indeed Radical claims that it develops around 900kg of downward pressure, matching the car’s own weight and allowing it, in theory at least, to drive upside down. Even McLaren has so far claimed only 600kg of downforce for its forthcoming P1 hypercar.

The RXC is built up around a steel spaceframe with front and rear monocoque crash boxes, which Radical says will make the car strong enough to pass the FIA crash test for Le Mans prototypes. Downforce is provided by airflow over and under the car as well as a GT3-specification carbonfibre rear wing. Bodywork is a mixture of composite and carbon-fibre panels.

Power comes from a 3.7-litre Ford V6 motor, much fettled by Radical Performance Engines, although the car has also been designed to take the Suzuki-derived 3-litre V8 race motor used in the 5R8. The Ford engine produces 380bhp and directs its power to the rear wheels via a brand-new seven-speed paddle shift transmission provided by Quaife. Radical claims a 0-60mph time of 2.8sec and a downforcelimited top speed of 175mph.

Suspension follows pure racing theory, with double wishbones at each corner operating pushrods to act on springs and four-way adjustable dampers mounted inboard to minimise unsprung mass. Ventilated discs are clamped by sixpiston calipers at each corner with ceramic discs as an option while treaded road and slick race tyres are both available.

Despite this extreme specification, Radical has made some concessions to everyday life on the road: it comes with air conditioning, electric power steering (said to be essential because of the downforce capabilities), electrically adjustable and heated exterior wing mirrors and a sliding pedal box so the car can be made to fit the driver rather than the other way around.

Radical says the RXC is aimed as much at the private track day user as someone wishing to take part in domestic or international GT and sports car events.

Car sales rise still below par

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reveal that more than two million cars were registered in the UK in 2012.

This is a rise of 5.3 per cent on 2011, the fourth successive yearly improvement.

All good news? Not quite. First, these figures are for cars that have been registered, but not necessarily sold. Secondly, the figures need to be seen in a historical context: in 2007, the last year of boom time, more than 2.4 million cars were sold in the UK.

Lexus axes its supercar

After some seven years development but just two years on sale, Lexus has shut the order book for its LFA front-engined supercar, with fewer than 500 thought to have been built.

Losses per car are unlikely ever to be made public, but probably dwarf even the £343,000 asking price.

Despite fine engineering and a welcome reception from the press, it failed to establish Lexus as a credible alternative supercar maker to Ferrari. Its great claim to fame was lapping the Nordschleife in 7min 14sec, 10sec ahead of the likes of the Pagani Zonda F, Ferrari Enzo, Porsche 911 GT2 RS and Nissan GT-R. It would also have beaten Klaus Ludwig’s pole time for the 1982 1000Kms.

Power to the people

Whatever else happens in 2013, it is certain to usher in a new breed of supercar, one powered not only by internal combustion but by electric motors, too.

Before the year is out, production versions of the Porsche 918, Ferrari F150 and McLaren P1 will have been unveiled and quite possibly driven. Only the recently canned Jaguar C-X75 will fail to make it.

Firm descriptions of all three are still unavailable, though it’s known that the Porsche will have at least 784bhp from a 4.6-litre V8 assisted by twin electric motors, will reach 62mph in 3.2sec and touch at least 199mph. The first figure is no better than the McLaren F1 of 18 years ago, the second rather worse. Then again, an F1 can’t cover 15 miles on electricity alone.

McLaren has at least shown the P1, but remains completely mute on the subject of power or speed, only saying that it will produce 600kg of downforce at considerably less than maximum speed. Ferrari hasn’t produced more than a teaser picture of the F150, but it is now known it will be powered by a V12 related to the 730bhp unit in the F12. Considerable electrical assistance will be added, so expect 850bhp minimum.

How the market will view these cars remains to be seen. Clearly, despite Porsche’s claim that the 918 produces no more than 70g/km of CO2, none of these cars has an environmental leg to stand on. So the electric systems will have to actively enhance the driving experience, to wit the extra power they deliver needs to more than offset the weight penalty those extra motors and batteries bring.

And even if they do prove wondrous to drive, I can’t help thinking that the wider world may be more excited by the affordable sporting machines that go on sale in 2013.

Three in particular stand out. There is the new F-type Jaguar, a car that’s been driven by celebrities, dealers and delivery drivers, but no journalists. They all say it’s wonderful, but then they’re broadly allied to Jaguar, so perhaps that’s not too surprising. Even so, I like the idea and the look very much, even though I’m disappointed that it’s launching as a convertible first and its weight does worry me.

Porsche’s new Cayman should be better than the new Boxster, already the best sporting car on sale, so you’ll understand why my heart leaps at the prospect. As an aside, we’ll also find out if the new 911 GT3 with its paddleshift gearbox, electric steering and an engine no longer related to a Le Mans winner, is as good as the old GT3. If so, miracles will have been achieved.

Finally, the Alfa Romeo 4C, said to be just as pretty and light in the production version as the 2011 motor show concept. I hope so. I rashly told Alfa Romeo that if it turned out to be as good in reality, I might buy one. Within an hour journalists were asking me if I’d really put my name down, and I’m still asked when it’s arriving. I might have to order one just to shut them up.

And that reminds me

Photographers can lead journos into deep water – or soft sand…

Motoring journalists crash cars. It is an occupational hazard. I’d like to say I’ve not had a significant accident since I destroyed the UK’s first Lancia Integral Evoluzione 21 years ago, but the recent launch of the latest Range Rover in Morocco reminds me this is not true.

In 2006 I was also in Morocco with Land Rover, recceing routes for the launch of the second-generation Freelander. It had gone well. We’d driven up rivers and hopped over rocks I thought might destroy the car, and we’d soon be back at our Essaouria base for well-earned beers.All we had to do was cross the dunes that heralded the arrival of the Atlantic coast. Dunes? I could almost hear the photographer’s car prick up. Performing for the camera is the most likely way for a hack to damage a car and these dunes provided plenty of scope. But with Land Rover experts on hand, we’d be OK.

Inevitably, the cameraman wanted a jump shot: car fully in the air, sky above, sand below. So I duly flew from a dune or two, but the Freelander seemed disinclined to fly. “Try harder. Give it everything.” Had the words come from the snapper I’d not have been surprised. In fact it was my chaperons at Land Rover egging me on.

So everything was duly given. I remember driving up the dune, seeing my colleagues making encouraging circular motions with their hands, the perfect launch off the top and thinking what a fabulous picture it would make. I then remember my view turning from blue to yellow and thinking this was going to hurt.

Which it did. The Freelander nose-dived into the desert bringing me to an abrupt halt. Because we hit soff sand damage to the car was limited to panels, trim and radiator. Damage to me was restricted to a thumping headache for a day or two. Still, we got a jump shot that was published across two pages. It was the shot taken a few frames later that stayed on the light box. Until now.

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