TEST DRIVE: BMW M5 – OMG!

I test drove an BMW M5 a long while back (I have a backlog of overdue updates for this blog…).

It started in a very dramatic way. Before handing over the wheel to me, the salesman did a loooong drift on the off-ramp of the motorway. He kept the car sideways for the entire 270 degree turn with the rear tires totally lit up… After these heroics, it was my turn to drive the car.

Engine

There is no other way to start this review, but to comment on the engine. With 560hp it is the most powerful car I have driven. The acceleration is brutal on the motorway and overtaking, on secondary roads, is a breeze. If you are really looking for it, you can feel a little turbo lag at low revs, but it is barely noticeable.

The sound of the engine is fabulous. It has a system that enhances the sound (Active Sound Design, ASD) which is rather controversial among car enthusiasts. But, to my ears, it sounds lovely and much better than the Bentley Continental GT V8 (see my review here, in Swedish).

How is it on the twisty stuff?

The weight, 1945 kg, is rather high, but some of the competing cars weigh more: 1995 kg for the outgoing Panamera GTS, or 2070 kg for the new Panamera Turbo. The Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG also weights more. The car masks it weight very well though, and it turns in sharply, which is a trait I have come to like a lot.

Interior

I really like the possibility to customise the different settings for the drivetrain, dampers, etc, separately, something I miss in my Macan. You can save two different sets of settings, which can be selected directly with their respective buttons (M1 and M2) on the steering wheel. It is very convenient to be able to change the character of the car with the press of a button on the steering wheel, instead of down on the centre console. Ferrari does this with the Manettino on the steering wheel; Aston Martin has buttons on the steering wheel as well. This is something I missed in the Porsches, which have not received a similar system until the recently released 991 mk2 (read my review here).

The head-up display is also very useful. In M-mode it shows speed, gear and a graphical representation of the rev counter and a shift light indicator.

Final words

As an everyday car the M5 is an enticing proposition. You could drive it daily as you would drive a 520d, the only drawback being tyre noise (you can read my review of the 520d here, in Swedish).

Would I like to own one? Yes for sure, but I am not sure it is an entirely practical proposition as a family car for us. We need to take the car to the mountains to go skiing, and a massively powerful, turbocharged, rear wheel drive car, might not be the best option. The next M5, which will be based on the new 5-series (that was introduced a couple of weeks ago) will have the option of 4WD, which adds a lot of practicality.

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GROUP TEST: Driving the Boxster GTS, Cayman GTS and 911 Carrera back to back!

Last year I was at a Porsche event and had the opportunity to drive the Boxster GTS, Cayman GTS and 911 Carrera back to back.  The cars were evenly matched regarding power en weight. The Boxster GTS has 330 hp, the Cayman GTOS 340hp and the standard Carrera  350bp. The Carrera is slightly (25kg) heavier than the other two, offsetting the small advantage in power.

There were a couple of surprises.

Firstly, the Cayman GTS is much more hardcore than the Boxster GTS. This is partly due to the fact that the Cayman GTS we drove had the optional sports suspension; 20mm lower with no adjustable dampers. The Boxster GTS, on the other hand, was on standard adjustable dampers (PASM) and felt much more rounded and easy to exploit. The Cayman GTS (exactly the same car that I drove for my review here), is better suited for track work, though.

Secondly, the 911 Carrera felt slower than the two GTS cars, but not necessarily because it was slower, but because it was masking its speed. Looking at the speedo you realise that you are going much quicker than you think in the Carrera. On the other hand, with the Boxster and Cayman you feel like you are going faster, which adds to the fun.

Final words

The 911 is the practical proposition; it has back seats and it is very comfortable, in a GT way. The Cayman GTS, with the option of the extra sporty suspension, is probably more suited to track work and felt nervous on the Catalan mountain roads we drove. For me, on this roads, the Boxster GTS was the pick of the day.

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New Porsche Panamera spotted in Weissach

Yesterday I drove past Porsche’s research facility in Weissach. I was able to spot a few of the brand new Panameras. I must say it looks much more better than the old Panamera. My photos don’t do it justice, it is actually really beautiful.

After Weissach, I went to the Porsche Museum in Zuffenhausen. I will post photos from the museum soon. I will keep you posted!

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Top Gear Trailer!

Top Gear has just released the first trailer for the new Top Gear series, starring Chris Evans, Chris Harris, Sabine Schmitz and Matt LeBlanc, among others.

Not sure about whether it will be as good as the old Top Gear with Clarkson, Hammond and May, but I guess we need to give them the benefit of the doubt. Being a fan of Chris Harris I am somewhat hopeful.

It will premier on the BBC in May.

TEST DRIVE: The new 911 Carrera S – ruined by the turbo engine?

On Christmas Eve (!), during a couple of hours, I test drove the brand new turbocharged Porsche 911 Carrera S, i.e. the 2nd iteration of the current 991 generation.

The main change, compared to the 1st generation 991, is the all new 3.0-liter twin-turbo engine. Adding turbos to the standard Carrera and Carrera S models is the biggest change in the history of the 911, since the controversial (at the time) introduction of water cooling in the late 90s.

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How is the new turbocharged engine?

Let’s get straight to the point, does the turbocharged engine transform the car? If so, how? Does it ruin the character of the car? How does it sound? Continue reading “TEST DRIVE: The new 911 Carrera S – ruined by the turbo engine?”

Jaguar F-PACE – the prettiest SUV in town?

Unfortunately I was not able to make it to the F-PACE launch event in Barcelona last week. But, fortunately, the Jaguar dealer around the corner from my office has a Jaguar F-PACE in the showroom.

I must say that the F-PACE is a very beautiful car, from the outside as well as from the inside.

It is slightly bigger (5 cm) than our Porsche Macan, but still smaller than big SUV:s. Rear seat space and boot space is marginally bigger than in the Macan.

The F-PACE is a very desirable car, and with the 340hp or 380hp supercharged petrol V6 (same as in the F-TYPE) it should be rather quick. The only problem is that for that kind of money I think I’d rather upgrade to a Macan GTS…

Versió 2

Porsche’s most important sports car launch since 1999: the Cayman GT4!

Rumours have been circulating for a long time but on Wednesday Porsche finally released the details, specs and photos of the new Cayman GT4. OMG is it desirable!

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It has the 911 Carrera S engine producing 385 hp at 7400 rpm, but according to Porsche it is “probably more than 385 hp”. Porsche’s hp figures are always conservative for the GT cars and since the same engine is producing 400 hp in the Carrera S, you can draw your own conclusions…

Performance is astonishing, it goes from 0-100 km/h in 4.4s and it laps the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7:40! (the same time as the 997 GT3 Mk2…)

The upgraded brakes consist of steel discs (380 mm) on all 4 wheels, i.e the same size as the 991 GT3, in spite of the latter being a heavier car.

The front suspension is almost identical to the 991 GT3 while the rear suspension is “new”, but it seems it is still a MacPherson-strut, although with new improved components.
The GT4 weights 1,340 kg DIN (1,415 kg EU), i.e. 90 kg less than the current 911 GT3. Compared to a standard Cayman, the GT4 is 30 mm lower.

It is only available with a manual gearbox as opposed to the 991 GT3 which is only available with PDK-gearbox.

Looking at the exterior, the GT4 has a few additions: front bumper and splitter, big rear wing and air scopes on the side to improve aerodynamics, looks, cooling and engine breathing.

In addition, there is a Clubsport package, only available together with optional bucket seats, that includes: roll cage, six-point harnesses, fire extinguisher and preparation for a body shell and battery disconnect switch. This is hardcore stuff…

Sharing many suspension components with the 911 GT3 and having the engine from the 991 Carrera S, the Cayman GT4 looks like a bargain, at a price way lower than both cars and even below the entry level 911 Carrera, which is a slower car.

Enjoy the photos and the video below!
(and read about my test drive of the Cayman GTS here)

evo Car of the Year 2014

This video is a summary of evo Magazine’s yearly Car of the Year contest. If you haven’t bought the magazine (which you should), check out this video.

The contenders in no particular order: VW Golf R, McLaren 650S, Ferrari 458 Speciale, BMW M3, Porsche Cayman GTS, Jaguar F-type R Coupe, BMW i8, Renaultsport Mégane 275 Trophy-R, Aston Martin Vanquish and Audi S1

And the winner is…

TEST DRIVE: Two days with the Porsche Cayman GTS

The Cayman GTS is beautiful!! During the two days I had the car, plenty of people on the street complimented me on the looks of the car.

Cayman GTS

How does it drive?

Ok, it looks great, but more importantly, how does it drive? The car I borrowed was equipped with the optional sports chassis that lowers the car 20mm and removes adaptive dampers (PASM). You can clearly see in the pictures that the car is looow. This optional sports chassis is very firm for road use. If you are not planning to track the car, I would recommend going for the standard adjustable PASM chassis.

Having said that, the car drives absolutely on rails. It is an old cliché but it has never been so true. I can’t remember any car I have driven, that is more keyed to the road. It is at the same level as the two 911 GT3:s (996/997) I had a couple of years ago. Turn-in is excellent, the balance is neutral and fluent. The steering is very good and well weighted, in spite of having electric power steering. Brake feel is excellent. I am running out of superlatives…

Drivetrain

Driving the Cayman GTS, I initially felt a lack of power, until I realised I have to rev it much higher. I was upshifting at 4500 rpm… I have been driving diesels for too long. The V8 in my California was very torquey, in spite of being an atmospheric engine.

The sound from the engine and the Sports exhaust (standard on the GTS) is very good, although I have to admit that I had it in “silent” mode most of the time.

The dubble-clutch PDK gearbox is excellent, as always. The only problem is that the gearing is very long. If you rev the engine, as you should, in 3rd or even in 2nd gear,  you are suddenly carrying very high speeds. With shorter gearing you would be able to rev the engine more often.

Interior

The interior is very sporty with a lot of alcantara and carbon fibre parts. The spec on this car closely resembles the interior of the 997 GT3 Mk1, that I used to have. This car has the interior GTS package that adds more alcantara as well as contrasting stitching (I apologise for the poor quality of the photo). The leather dashboard is standard on the GTS, and contributes to the car feeling special.

Cayman GTS interior

Final words

Summarising, I believe that this is the best sports car in the market, with the possible exception of the Ferrari 458. My wife drove the car as well and was not keen at all on giving the wheel back to me…

Thanks to Porsche Center Ibercarrera in Barcelona for generously lending me this car.

TEST DRIVE: Porsche Carrera S Cabriolet

I spent a couple of days with a Porsche 991 Carrera S Cabriolet rental car last summer. In this report I will mainly compare the Porsche with my Ferrari California, which I sold a couple of months before this test drive.

Looks

The 991 generation Cabriolet has very good looks. With the roof up it looks much better than the previous generation 997 Cabriolet and almost as good as the 991 Coupé. With the roof down it is less beautiful than with the roof up, but still better looking than the 996/997. Possibly, the 4WD version which has a wider rear, would look better than this 2WD version.

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How does it drive?

The 991 feels more planted to the road than my California. Despite the power deficit the Porsche is probably faster point to point; albeit with less passion and drama…

In spite of the car being a Cabriolet i couldn’t fell any chassis flexing. I guess you have to drive a Coupé back to back in order to feel the difference.

Feeling that body roll was virtually inexistent, I presumed that the car was fitted with active anti-roll bars, i.e. PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control). In order to be sure, I drove to Porsche Center Stockholm Segeltorp and they confirmed that this particular car indeed had the PDCC option. There has been some debate about whether the PDCC options is any good or not. The argument against it, is that PDCC removes feedback to the driver. In the end I guess it is a question of personal preference; whether you prefer that the car feels “planted and on rails” or “more alive”. From a performance and technological point of view, PDCC is a tour de force. Maybe you can guess which camp I am in…

Although the 991 S has less power than my California, it feels plenty enough. The sound, even without sport exhaust, is very good; in particular the intake sound. The 991 has a Sound Symposer  (http://articles.sae.org/10374/) that channels exhaust and intake sounds into the cabin (without creating artificial sound through the speakers!). The Porsche sounds great, but you can’t compare it with the glorious and symphonic sound of the Ferrari V8 in the California…

Open top

It is nice to be able to open and close the top at speed, which was not possible in my California. The cabin noise is low, even with the roof down. With the roof open there is much less turbulence than in the California and the foldable wind protector is very good. It can be raised and lowered at the touch of a button.

Final words

Summarising, the 991 Carrera S is an excellent allround open top sports car. My son and daughter love it… Would I buy it? Well, historically I buy an open top car every ten years; a Porsche Boxster S in 2001 and the Ferrari California in 2011. In both cases I would rather have bought the same car with a fixed roof had it been available (the Porsche Cayman didn’t exist in 2001). Having said that, it is good fun to have an open-top car and the kids love it, but all things considered I would rather go for the Coupé.

Update: See my review of the facelifted turbocharged second generation 991 Carrera S.

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Tesla D: 4WD and up to 700 (electric) horsepower!

Tesla has presented the new D model, a new version of the Model S with 4WD and up to 700 horsepower! The top version accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.4 (!) seconds. To put this into perspective, it is the same time as a Ferrari 458…

According to Tesla, two smaller electric motors can regenerate energy more efficiently than a single big motor, thus increasing the range of the 4WD models with about 15 km compared to their 2WD counterparts.

Tesla also introduced Autopilot features; software updates will enable semi-automatic driving on highways as well as autonomous parking. The car will actually be able to drive out of a parking space and to its owner autonomously.

The future is here today.

Tesla Model S P85D

Spain to Scotland and back in a week – Days 3 and 4

Part 2 of Spain to Scotland electric vehicle trip with Tesla Model S – (reblogged)

Drive & Dream

It was nearly 6pm when we left Portsmouth. Three hours later than planned, but we had a full battery and only 250kms to go.

How did we choose our next stop when we’ve never driven an EV in the UK before?

The way we plan trips is partly based on where we want to go and partly on the overnight charge options available. Overnight charging is key because the car is stopped anyway.

In the UK there are a growing number of motorway services with 22kW charge points (Ecotricity have set up many) but sleeping in a UK motorway service stop is not high on my list of things to do.

One day hotels.com will have a filter option for hotels with charge points but the only resource I know of now is the excellent zerocarbonworld.org site. They have helped many UK hotels install 7kW outlets, which is the bare…

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The first two days – Madrid to the South of England

Very interesting article describing a trip from Madrid to Scotland in an electric Tesla Model S! To be continued…

Drive & Dream

So, the whole point of Drive & Dream is to make electric car touring as easy and pleasant as possible, in order that people can overcome their worries and start buying electrics by the million.

This means that we are always doing something for the first time, because after that it’s easy.

On this trip we were to try the first long (24h) ferry crossing with on board recharging. All the rest, I thought, was just routine. Ah, how innocent. 🙂

If you recall, back in September we did the first Tilburg to Southern Europe trip. Then, it was a challenge just to locate and book a hotel or lunch stop with a reasonable (7kW+) charge point. We drove down through Belgium and France to home in a weekend and on the way confirmed places like the Parador in Lerma as great places to stop.

So on this trip day…

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TEST DRIVE: Porsche Macan – sports car or SUV?

I was fortunate to drive the new Macan at a Porsche event close to Barcelona a couple of weeks ago.

For the purpose of this review, I will mainly compare the Macan with my BMW X3 xDrive35d (MY 2012).

The most important bit first; the Macan feels more agile than my X3, or rather, more agile than any SUV I have driven. Don’t be fooled, the Macan is no sports car, it’s no 911 with four doors, but it is as sporty as a SUV gets.

Before driving the car I had a passanger ride in the back seat of a Macan S Diesel. It felt properly quick, not the least since the driver was driving the car like a complete lunatic… In spite of his efforts, the Macan Turbo in front of us pulled away from us on the straights. The diesel engine had a pretty OK soundtrack, considering it is basically a reworked Audi diesel…

After the scary back seat ride, I drove the Macan Turbo on some mountain roads. Boy is it fast! The engine produces 400 hp with a somewhat muted soundtrack, but it makes nice exhaust noises on upshifts…

The steering is light, which is something I like. On my X3 it feels more weighty, specially in Sport mode, but in a bad, artificial way.

Now to the practical stuff. The interior feels very “premium”; much more luxurious than my X3. The Macans on show had full leather interiors, which added to the premium feeling.

Interior space in the back seat is limited and luggage space is markedly smaller than in the X3. Headroom in the back seat is not plentiful; tall people will hit the roof.

Finally, the most important question: do I want one? The answer is yes, but I wouldn’t sell a kidney to buy it… Let me clarify: if I didn’t own a family car and needed a small, sporty SUV, I would definitely buy a Macan. But is it worth upgrading from my BMW X3 xDrive35d? That’s a tough question. The Macan looks a little better, it feels a little more expensive inside, it is much more agile, but quite less practical than the X3.

If I had a sports car along the X3, as I used to have, I would keep the X3 as a family car. But without a sports car on the side, the family car needs to be sportier. In that context, the Macan would be an excellent all-rounder; it would make everyday driving a little bit more exciting. On the other hand, I am really fond of the new Maserati Ghibli (test drive report coming soon…). Decisions, decisions, decisions…