Top Gear's new 'best road in the world' is the Transfagarasan

In the same vein as the Top Gear Challenge to Find Driving Heaven, and Supercars and a Super-Bridge, the Top Gear grew head over to Romania to drive the Transfagarasan.

Looks like another road I'll need to add to the list :-)

To the road, they bring two cars I'd love to own: the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder LP560-4 and the Ferrari California. The California has those pointless back seats but is better suited to the GT role, as unlike the F430 Spyder or the 458 Italia, it has sat-nav. The Lambo is definitely what I'd put my money on and RedBook suggests you could pickup a '08 model with the LSD on all corners for ~$300k... and it looks the bomb in black!

As usual, you can't watch BBC programs online from Australia and Top Gear haven't published it yet to YouTube, so we're left with whatever car enthusiasts can publish themselves.

The full episode can be found in Parts 1 through 4, but the best scene is this one in higher resolution:

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:23 AM, ,

Passat CC

If you I were looking for a 4-5 seater car (as it is sometimes a topic of debate in a 2-seater car only household), I came to the conclusion in What a dilemma, that the cabriolets on the market don't really offer a true option for carrying 4 adults.

Given I think big SUVs are a bit of a waste of space (despite having a crush on the X6), that would generally leave you looking back at big coupes such as the GranTurismo, or sedans such as the Rapide, Panamera, A8 or M5.

But then you are back to compromises - ditching the 2-seater roadster for a performance sedan is a backwards step for driving enthusiasts no matter how you look at it.

So I got to thinking, why not keep the hot car and get a sensible sedan that doesn't cost over $50k, but is still 'sexy'?

Which brings me to the Volkswagen Passat CC.

The pick would be the 3.6l V6 which retails for about A$63-77k, depending on what options you tick, but a 1 year old (as they weren't available in Australia before that) goes for about $50k according to RedBook.

It puts out 220kw and has 350Nm's of torque which is similar to the SLK350 I owned and has the Direct-Shift Gearbox (DSG).

It is previously only a 4-seater, but according to eMotorAuto will shortly be available with an optional new rear bench that turns it into a 5-seater.

Checkout FifthGear putting it through it's paces against the Coupe/Sedan market-maker: the Mercedes CLS.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:25 AM, ,

Audi A8

Reading that the 2010 Audi A8 will be the first car with Google Maps installed was quite interesting as it shows the Google/Microsoft push to become embedded everywhere is certainly happening.

As I said back when looking at the Aston Martin Rapide, I'd want total luxury from the back seat with some get-up-and-go, and the I think the A8L with a big W12 or V10 would be the pick.

According to, a new A8L 4.2 will cost you A$233,900, and the 6.0 W12 will cost an eye watering A$345,900!!!

So how do they stack up on resale value?

Red Book has the 2007 4.2 going for between $94,100 - $102,500 privately and the same year W12 going for between $133,600 - $145,300. That's under 50% of their respective values in just 3 years.

Ouch!!! (for sellers)

Woo Hoo !!!! (for buyers).

To be fair, most new cars will lose the bulk of their value in the first two years (50%), but checking out my SLK55 online it shows that the value then plateaus for years 2-4, with 2005 models only losing a further 10%.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:25 AM, ,


Whilst super-cars are gorgeous works of art when they are in one piece, seeing them broken is a painful sight.

The Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 donated to the Italian highway patrol had a little bingle late last year and looks a lot less pretty.

The Pagani Zonda is a another beautiful piece of art... when it isn't rammed into parked cars.

And if you aren't teary eyed just yet, the final heartbreaking episode is the Bugatti Veyron going for a dip.


posted by Lee Gale @ 4:02 PM, ,

Jay Leno Makes a Rendezvous Of His Own

Checkout Jay Leno's great adaptation of the classic Rendezvous: The Fast and the Famous, featuring the awesome Mercedes-Benz SLS.

I couldn't get the Wired video to play well, so fortunately it's on YouTube!

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:15 AM, ,

Moving deck chairs on the Titanic

Checkout Wikipedia for the origins of the saying Moving deck chairs on the Titanic - I especially Like Stephen Colbert's analogy.

Whilst the signs are increasingly looking positive for Ford, the same can't be said for GM.

Earlier this month, Chairman Whitacre announced he was taking over as acting chief executive following the resignation of Fritz Henderson as CEO. Henderson had led GM through bankruptcy and in the months following after taking over for Rick Wagoner, who had resigned as part of a government bailout of GM.

Anyone coming into a role after such a profound change i.e. merger, acquisition,... accumulation of more than $80 billion of losses in eight years... is going to have a tough and short tenure.

Apparently, Obama's administration was an advocate for the change by having appointed Whitacre as it's broom. Whilst the situation for Fritz wasn't great with GM in bankruptcy, he didn't exactly do a fantastic job of the Saab sale, UAW negotiations or the attempted sale of Opel to Magna International.

But wait, there's more!

GM has appointed the chief financial officer, Chris Liddell, of Microsoft as its new finance chief, and as it turns out, life isn't too bad working for a government agency: Chris will have a base salary of US$750,000 and also receive stock awards worth US$3.45 million in stock over three years beginning in 2012. That's a step up from his pay at Microsoft but a cut from GM's past CFO salary.

Will replacing Fritz bring about changes at GM? According to the WSJ, changes in leadership account for roughly 10% of the variance in corporate profitability on average. To quote:
As Mr. Buffett likes to say, "When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact."

So, who is likely to replace Fritz? BusinessWeek offers some insights but it's clear that GM's board probably has their eye on someone already - you generally don't let a CEO go without a plan to replace them. I think it would be wise to get someone in from a manufacturing background (as Ford did with Alan) as I can testify that more 'virtual' industries like financial services and, to a degree software, are able to maneuver far quicker than an auto maker will be able to. Whitacre is yet to articulate the long-term strategy and priorities for GM - let's hope he does so soon!

On the positive side, GM did repay some of it's loans recently... that's good, right?

Image by ivan petrov

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:39 AM, ,

What a dilemma

I appreciate labeling "choosing a four-seat cabriolet worth twice the average Australia annual wage" as a dilemma to be somewhat cheeky, but that's the truth.

Follow my logic here:
  1. I like convertible cars primarily because of the opportunity on great days & nights where the weather conspires to deliver a truly brilliant experience - especially in Sydney; and
  2. My partner wants to get a second Beagle, which means we would need four seats if we're to legally and comfortably get them A to B.
And it's therefore quite early in the process that it starts to unravel.

If you are going to get a four-seat car, surely logic dictates it should be able to handle four adults? Now, I'm tall so generally need the drivers seat positioned a reasonable distance from the pedals and steering wheel.

At this point, we can start eliminating some of the 109 different four-seat convertible models found on, including: Aston Martin DB9, Audi A3, old Audi A4, BMW 1 & 6 series, Ferrari California, Ford Focus, Citroen C3, Holden Astra, Jaguar XK, Mini, Peugeot 207 & 307, Porsche 911 and Volkswagen EOS.

Next, we can prune objects that don't qualify as 'cars' because either they are totally crap quality, handles like runny manure, and/or have the soul of a kitchen appliance - i.e. anything Chrysler (PT Cruiser & Sebring), Lexus (SC & IS), the Renault Megane, the Saab 9-3, Volkswagen Beetle and the Volvo C70.

Now I'm acutely aware our American friend staying with us over New Years might be upset with the Chrysler inclusion, and work colleagues whom are senior to me will be upset with the Saab & Volvo inclusion... but deep-down, you know I'm right and if you don't, I'll have to avoid publishing a CLM online.

Then, we need to prune cars that I can't afford without either a sudden deal where I can make 1000% of my annual target, a lotto win, or the sudden death of a wealthy relative I didn't know I had. Therefore, we need to kick: the Bentley Continental GTC, a potential Aston Martin Rapide convertible, the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead and the Maserati GranCabrio - the last at excruciating agony because it's almost affordable and ever so sexy.

Which leaves us with: Audi A5, BMW 3-series (barely - those back seats are questionable in their utility) and the Mercedes E-class (previously the CLK).

I want to like the BMW 3-series - especially the 335 or the M3 versions - but the one thing holding me back, aside from those questionable rear seats, is the styling. The exterior looks like every other 3-series on the road, and there are a lot of them in Sydney. The interior seems to have followed Volkswagen's strategy of making every car in it's range identical inside so you are completely unaware of which car you are in... and both manufacturers seem intent on inducing their passengers into a coma with their mundane style. I don't think it's actually possible to have made it more boring inside - it should come with a shot of adrenalin to avoid causing more road fatalities.

And both the Audi and the new Merc (according to the pictures from AutoExpress) look like barges with their roof's down.

Which leaves me wanting neither.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:51 AM, ,

McLaren MP4-12C Spider

McLaren are certainly stirring up the emotions and imaginations with the MP4-12C's journey to become a production car.

Now, they've added more fuel to the fire with the possibility of a Spider version, supposedly with a retractable hard-top.

It certainly looks like better conversion than Audi managed with the R8 Spyder.

Checkout the rendering courtesy of AutoExpress:


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:49 AM, ,

Is it an R2? Is it an R4? Whatever, it's a mini R8.

Back in July, news broke on what was then dubbed the Audi R2... which now seems to have taken on the label of Audi R4.

Let's just go with mini-R8 until they name it. Unlike the R8 Spyder, this one isn't a dud in the looks department.

It's not clear if the VW group (who own Audi and now Porsche) would use this platform for the Porsche Spyder, or if those reports are mixed up with the Boxster Spyder.

These images from AutoExpress are of the E-Tron concept - their Tesla rivaling, electric version. Pretty sexy!


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:36 AM, ,

Driven to Distraction

I've discovered a trend. When I'm about to get on a long flight and I haven't put any preparation into the reading material for the flight, I go for the easy choice - another Clarkson.

Yes I know most long-haul flights have a gazillion channels of entertainment, but they don't operate whilst on the tarmac, takes-offs and landings.

So that's how I bought Driven to Distraction.

It's written in the same format as For Crying Out Loud! i.e. extracts from his Sunday Times column, but it's about cars this time mixed in with him carrying on about... pretty much everything!

A funny light-hearted read that petrol heads will enjoy :-)

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:43 AM, ,

Aston Martin Rapide tackles Stelvio Pass

Aston has released this beautifully edited promotional video, showing the Rapide in high-speed testing on some of the continent's most challenging roads including the Nurburgring and the Stelvio Pass - which featured in my favourite TopGear episode.

I have to admit - I'm starting to thaw on the idea of a big four-seater luxury cruise missile. Whilst I am adamant that if you are in the back seat, you won't enjoy these, but if you are in the drivers seat, it certainly looks more exciting. From the outside, there is no question the Rapide is dead sexy!


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:20 AM, ,

Rolls Royce Ghost

Checkout Auto Express' pictures of the Rolls Royce's scaled-down Phantom, known as the Ghost.

As I stated in my blogs about the Aston Martin Rapide and Porsche Panamera, I think this formula is the right combo of luxury and style for those traveling in the back seat.

It's definitely up a notch from either the Aston, the Porsche or Jaguar XJ.

Powered by a 6.6-litre twin-turbocharged V12 giving 570hp and 780Nm of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox the 'baby' Rolls-Royce will have plenty of get-up-and-go!

To get an idea of how insane this car is likely to be, checkout this Top Gear video of the Phantom:


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:57 AM, ,

I think the R8 Spyder is a dud

Sadly, the Audi R8 Spyder has moved from concept to barely disguised prototypes and into production.

I say sadly because as I pondered in July, I don't like the look of it that much and I definitely know why: the sideblades are missing and the the "twin vented flying buttresses" don't make up for it.

It's probably smart for Audi only to have this available in the V10 version - initially. I'd suggest the revenue opportunity in 1-2 years time to drop the V8 in and sell more cars will be overwhelming.

Checkout the AutoExpress photos and make up your own mind. I'm pretty certain it isn't just the hideous colour shown as the Frankfurt Motorshow pics by CAR of it in red are better, but it doesn't make it look special.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:28 AM, ,

McLaren MP4-12C

What an awesome car!
How soon can I buy one?

I'd previously blogged about this car whilst it was known as the Baby McLaren and it's popped out better than expected.

Checkout the images from AutoExpress and the images + videos from eGMCarTech including Jay Leno's tour of the factory where it's being built:


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:14 AM, ,

Mercedes SLS feature site

Well, it's finally been unveiled - the Mercedes SLS that I'd blogged in:

Worth checking out are the pictures at AutoExpress and the AMG mini-site >


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:04 AM, ,

GranTurismo Spyder aka GranCabrio

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only back in Sept '08 that the news of the Maserati GranTurismo Spyder broke cover.

Since then, it looks like they've ditched the metal roof in order to make it a proper four-seater. I suspect either we'll see a smaller car unveiled as well, or they learned from Ferrari's launch of the California and decided against the metal roof.

As per AutoExpress, the GranCabrio will debut at next month’s Frankfurt Motor Show, and become the trident brand’s first ever four-seat convertible.

I could totally handle this as my everyday car. Drew has been at me over ditching the two-seater and getting a four-seater... so we can get another dog. I feel this would be a happy compromise :-)


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:46 AM, ,

BMW Vision Efficient Dynamics hybrid concept


That's something I didn't expect to say about a BMW.

Checkout on and Auto Express, the futuristic BMW Vision Efficient Dynamics two-door concept hybrid car can get to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds yet uses less fuel than a Toyota Prius.

I'm not sure how intact your pub bragging rights will be as you tell your mates about the 1.5-litre diesel engine... perhaps it's something best left to showing, rather than telling.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:08 AM, ,

Driving the Stelvio Pass - at night, with no headlights!

More than a little crazy, takes a Mercedes-Benz E-Class up Italy's world famous stretch of twisting bitumen, the Stelvio Pass, using Night Vision technology only!


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:33 AM, ,

Updated Porsche 911 Turbo

Porsche have updated the 911 Turbo and as AutoExpress comments "and in true Porsche style the updated version is virtually indecipherable from its predecessor".

What is most interesting is that Porsche must have really felt the criticism with the gear-shift levers. Apparently "the excellent PDK twin-clutch gearbox can now be specified with standard wheel-mounted levers – pull the left to change down and the right to shift up – rather than the confusing push button setup on earlier versions".

I've mentioned this once or twice (or thrice) before so it is good to see Porsche came to their senses!


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:19 AM, ,

Aston Martin V12 Vantage vs Audi R8 V10 vs Corvette ZR1

I'm a huge Audi R8 and Aston Martin V12 Vantage fan so was keen to see who would come out on top in AutoExpress' shoot-out between the Aston Martin V12 Vantage vs Audi R8 5.2 V10 FSI vs Corvette ZR1.

I'm in two minds about the Audi. As per the quote "The R8 succeeds where other supercar wannabes have failed because of the way it drives. Despite ferocious firepower, the V10 is as docile and easy to get on with as an A3" - I'm in one mind thinking "that's great, I'm not going to kill myself". In another mind I'm thinking "a supercar is supposed to try to kill you".


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:08 AM, ,

Jaguar XJ

Continuing on the roll that I blogged about with the C-Type, Jaguar has unveiled the new XJ.

Auto Express has some pretty good video coverage of the launch and links to tonnes of images.

Like the XF, they've gone with a revolutionary approach, rather than an evolutionary one. Having said that, their is a lot of XF in the new XJ, but that isn't a bad thing. has a pretty good video (below):


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:49 AM, ,


In March '09, I confessed in 0-60 champions! that I'm a secret admirer of the ML63.

I know, I'm not supposed to be. Instead, I'm supposed to be sick by the vulgar display of power, weight and a high-center of gravity.

But I'm not.

So, it's time for another confession: I think I really like the BMW X6M.

I think it might have something to do with the 4.4 L twin-turbo V8 pumping out 408 kW.

Check out the review at AutoExpress and the Fifth Gear and Top Gear Australia videos of the stock versions (not the M) below:


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:47 AM, ,

Jaguar C-Type

This is the Big Cat’s all-new rival for Porsche’s Boxster – a compact two-seat roadster that promises performance and style at an affordable price.

As well as the Boxster, rivals include the Audi TT, BMW Z4 (tested on Page 50), Nissan 370Z and Mercedes SLK.

Jaguar is really on a roll having nailed it with the XF and news of the XE (the XJ220 revival) but also having axed the X-type due to poor sales (it was a crappy car!).

I think they'll nail this one if they drop the range of engines all taken from the XF into the C-type - an entry-level 235bhp 3.0-litre V6 version and a 380bhp 5.0 V8 flagship, both featuring Jaguar’s excellent six-speed automatic gearbox, complete with steering wheel-mounted paddles.

This Boxster rival, along with the XE, are on the drawing board, though, and would arrive in 2012 at the earliest.

Checkout the write-up at Auto Express and those sexy pictures:


posted by Lee Gale @ 2:20 AM, ,

More Porsche Panamera

Way back when the web was at version (January '09 for the rest of us) I took a look, or was that a swipe, at the Porsche Panamera.

I don't think my views on this have altered much. If you buy a Panamera, the stats say this isn't your only car. The typical 911 owner has 3 cars, if I recall my stats correctly, and this is part of Porsche's ploy to get more wallet share from each customer.

But if you are going to buy 3 cars, wouldn't you want them to be the best-in-class at the task you intend for them?

This was my point when I looked at a Panamera competitor, the Aston Martin Rapide . My comments there were focusing on these cars as big saloons, but the other niche they are targeting is the 4-seater coupe market where cars like the Mercedes CL (sorry, soon to be S-Class coupe), Maserati GranTurismo and the like are popular. And again, to labour the point, whilst the Rapide may make headway against that market because it is dead sexy, the Panamera is, well, ugly.

Interestingly, all the reviews seem to indicate that despite the terrible looks, the car drives like a Porsche. Checkout the reviews from and AutoExpress.

Also worth checking out are these videos:

Top Gear's Panamera vs the postman (which will likely get yanked as it isn't BBC official material)'s test drive


posted by Lee Gale @ 3:25 AM, ,

Aston Martin Rapide

I know it's product marketing 101: target a niche, succeed, move to adjacent niches and repeat.

But when is it a niche too far? When does that next niche devalue the brand promise built in the past?

I think Porsche have gone too far with the Cayenne and the Panamera and now Aston Martin is doing it with the Rapide.

Would I think of Aston when looking for a big four-door saloon? No, I'd want total luxury from the back seat with some get-up-and-go. An Audi A8 W12 would do the trick as would a Mercedes S600 (remember, I'm not a BWM fan, but the 7 series is a good car).

If you don't want a mainstream German brand and want to stand out a little? How about a Bentley Continental Flying Spur?

Granted, the Rapide is a much better looking car than the Panamera, but I'm still not sold.

Would I think of an Aston when looking for a two-door GT? Absolutely! I'd definitely checkout the V12 Vantage.

There is further coverage of the Rapide at World Car Fans, Auto Express and Car & Driver.

Also worth a look is the Rapide lapping the Nürburgring:


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:55 AM, ,

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport

Great coverage of the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport by Auto Express as well as at Edmunds.

The Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport can lay claim to being the world’s most incredible convertible. Apparently the engineering that went into loping to roof off was significant - it was a case of taking 10 steps backwards and rethinking how they got to the new destination.

With a quadruple-turbo 8.0-liter W16 dispatching 0-100km/h in 2.7 secs, then 200 km/h arrives in just 7.3 sec... and on to 300 km/h in just 16.7 seconds! It must truly be astonishing to drive.

The Veyron is truly an automotive icon and engineering masterpiece. I'd have one if I could afford it !

Whilst I'm thinking about it, checkout these Veyron videos on YouTube:


posted by Lee Gale @ 2:41 AM, ,

Sabine Schmitz's Nurburgring Van challenge

This Top Gear episode is simply gold!

In part 1, Richard Hammond pays homage to the Ford Transit... which tees up Part 2 where Sabine Schmitz attempts to drive a transit van around the Nurburgring in under ten minutes. I love her complaining about the slow motorbikes in her way! Priceless.

I have to admit, I'm dying to get to the Nürburgring - the Nordschleife ("Northern Loop") in particular.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:15 PM, ,

BMW Z4 vs Porsche Boxster vs Mercedes SLK

With the release of the latest BMW Z4 (see my past blogs BMW Z4 and More BMW Z4), it was inevitable that motoring journo's the world over provide comparison tests with other cars in the same class.

To be fair, these tests are exactly what readers want to hear. If you are thinking of buying a car, you are going to do what most of us would and checkout a few options before making a decision.

The downside of such tests is that they are narrow in scope (i.e. this model/spec vs that model/spec) and they don't really give you the full picture. But I digress.

Auto Express have pitted the BMW Z4 vs Porsche Boxster vs Mercedes SLK and it's interesting (if not predictable) to see the new Z sDrive23i comes out ahead of the older SLK 280 (it's target competitor) but behind the Boxster (which it really isn't aiming for). This test follows the same formula as the Porsche Cayman vs Audi TT S vs BMW 335i M Sport test I shared earlier.

Since having blogged about the Z4 before, I've since had my opinion of the car changed somewhat. The exterior is definitely attractive - it's less edgy that the previous Z4 (which I quite liked actually). I'm still not a fan of BMW interiors as they are all shockingly similar and overly sterile, but to be fair, I've not spent any time in the Z4 so hardly in a position to judge. Perhaps I might take a detour pasts a BMW dealership this weekend and take one out for a spin?

So back to my comment re: car comparisons. What this test and every other fails to express is just how different a base/mid-level car can be to it's top spec brothers.

Jump in a Boxster and you feel disappointed that it has a great chassis but not enough power to exploit it. Jump in the Boxster S and that disappointment diminishes - it doesn't fade because we know the Boxster S could have more power still but that would upset Porsche's 911.

Similarly, the differences between the SLK350 I owned from '05 to '08 and the SLK55 I know own are astronomical. The brakes, the gearbox, the suspension, the steering, the seats and the engine make the car a completely experience.

So what's my point? Go drive a few of these cars for yourself - you'll be richer for the experience... or poorer if you buy a few of them :-)

Also worth checking out are the videos from Top Gear (sDrive35i with turbos vs the 370Z) and Fifth Gear (sDrive35i with turbos vs the Porsche Boxster S) on YouTube - both of which will no doubt change as these aren't 'official':


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:25 AM, ,

GranTurismo videos

Back in May I blogged about the XFR vs M5 & XKR vs GranTurismo S as well as videos of the Jaguar XF, I hadn't done similar for the GranTurismo.

Well here they are!

Whilst we haven't heard more news about the rumoured GT Spyder based on the GranTurismo, the GranTurismo itself has had a few upgrades - particularly to it's engine and gearbox - which have really produced a wonderful car! I have to confess eyeing a dark blue one off in the car showroom on my way to work.

Fifth Gear - Maserati GranTurismo Tested

Fifth Gear - New Maserati GranTurismo

Top Gear Australia - Maserati GranTurismo S GTS

Top Gear - Maserati GranTurismo [Clarkson's Thriller]


posted by Lee Gale @ 3:43 AM, ,

Porsche Spyder

I'd have thought Porsche were done having stretched their brand to include the Cayenne and the Panamera, but according to Auto Express and WorldCarFans, they are still going - this time with plans to slot in a baby Boxster called the Spyder.

Maybe I'm completely off base when I suggest that having stretched the brand already, going further down-market is really going to test the capacity of 911 owners to buy into the brand.

It would likely be built on the VW platform that underpins the Bluesport and the rumoured Audi R2, so it's more than likely this car will get produced. But the renderings of the Porsche don't look as sexy as the VW or Audi. Hmmm.

On the plus side, an MX-5 competitor with a Porsche badge would be great for those without the money to go for a 911 or Boxster.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:19 AM, ,

Along came a Spyder

Last year when I blogged about the Audi R8 Coupe & Spyder, the coupe was on the streets and looking hot, but the Spyder (aka Audi R8 Cabrio) was still a heavily camouflaged test mule.

And in March when I blogged about the Audi R8 V10, there were still no more pictures of what the Spyder would look like.

Well, Auto Express reckons it will look like this:The good news is it's apparently still scheduled for production.

But I don't think I like the look of it that much and I think I know why: the sideblades that made the coupe interesting are missing.

Let's hope Audi finds a way to give the Spyder these sexy additions. I'm pretty sure they will.

There are more pictures at Auto Express of the camouflaged test car.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:14 AM, ,

Galston Gorge

In my last blog's about driving roads around Sydney, I covered the Old Pacific Hwy north of Sydney and then the extend trip to Wiseman's Ferry.

If you have even MORE time on your hands, I'd recommend on the return trip from Wiseman's Ferry back to Sydney, you deviate at Middle Dural down through Galston Gorge, and back up to the Pacific Hwy.

View Larger Map

Sadly, I was stuck behind two cars on my last run through the hairpins so couldn't fully enjoy the drive. It was also raining, which coupled with a heavy V8 up front, makes for a less fun and more stress.

Comparing that experience with my previous experience, I'd have to say that a sunny day with no traffic and a '99 Mazda MX-5, beats it hands down.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:02 AM, ,

Audi R2

Back in May, I was a bit harsh on the Audi TT and expressed hope that they might produce a corker with the Audi TT RS.

I do fear the underlying chassis will ultimately let it down... but this might not be cause to drop Audi from your
shopping list if you are in the market for a two-seater sports car for under A$200k.

Especially if early rumors of the R2 are to be believed - which according to Auto Express, they are.

These rumors indicate all the usual stuff you'd expect from Audi: 4-wheel drive, 2.0L naturally aspirated and 2.5L turbo engines (both from the Audi TT and TT RS) with a
choice between six-speed manual and seven-ratio R tronic semi-automatic gearboxes.

All pretty standard really. So what sets it apart from the Audi TT and TT RS ?

Well that would be it's mid-engine layout à la big brother Audi R8.
This in turn explains the gaping side vents shown in the illustration below.

Let hope the R2 does get launched in 2012 but I suspect it'll have a higher asking price than what Auto Express suggest. A starting price of around £30k puts it in Audi TT 3.2 V6 territory and well short of the TT RS'
£42k price. Given the R8 is around £75k, I'd suggest the R2 would lob in around £45k (about A$105k before our draconian luxury car taxes are applied) to keep it above the TT RS and near to the Porsche Boxster S. In fact, it's entirely possible that this is a 2012-2014 replacement for the TT as it would otherwise create an overly broad product lineup.


posted by Lee Gale @ 2:59 AM, ,

Government Motors

In an overdue blog on the state of the American auto industry (I've not blogged about things since Carmageddon '09), and in the long running saga that is the auto industry's GFC related woes, GM finally went into bankruptcy as long predicted.

Their bankruptcy, as ranked by total assets, is the fourth-largest in U.S. history, following Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Washington Mutual and WorldCom Inc.

They are quickly selling off Saab and Hummer as part of the Chapter 11 process, but as you'd expect from an attempt for a rapid Chapter 11 process, there is already concern over flaunting long-standing rules & regulations. Furthermore, American taxpayers should be concerned that in financing the new GM, they may not have saved American jobs as hoped for if plant closures continue in the US whilst investment in China increases.

Recently, GM named Edward Whitacre Jr, a former chairman of the board and chief executive officer of AT&T, as chairman. He is scheduled to take the position when the automaker emerges from bankruptcy proceedings.

Interestingly, Whitacre isn't a "car guy" as Bloomberg reported. To quote:
I don’t know anything about cars,” Whitacre, 67, said yesterday in an interview after his appointment. “A business is a business, and I think I can learn about cars. I’m not that old, and I think the business principles are the same.

I sincerely hope that the news that the Holden built Pontiac G8 might survive as Buick, is true. Holden produce a great car and have done some smart things around their business locally as I blogged in Where all think alike, no one thinks very much, so having this car continue in the US would be great for Australian jobs.

Again, I'll leave Jon Stewart to provide you a laugh:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
BiG Mess
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:07 AM, ,

Evora vs Cayman S

I've blogged about the Lotus Evora previously and the Porsche Cayman ad-nuaesea in
2009 Nissan 370Z vs 2008 Porsche Cayman S, Porsche Cayman vs Audi TT S vs BMW 335i M Sport and Facelifted Boxster & Cayman.

Now Auto Express has put them head-to-head.

The verdict is predictable. The Cayman is such a great car (if you excuse the driving position for tall drivers, the stupid PDK ergonomics and the criminal options list) that it wins the fight... unless you want to stand out from the crowd and get something more original.

I did try and do the right thing by the BBC, but couldn't find the official Top Gear video of their review of the Cayman S. Instead, checkout this 'less official' one:

Also worth checking is Fifth Gear's drive of the Cayman S:


posted by Lee Gale @ 2:01 AM, ,

Lotus Esprit

It thankfully sounds like Lotus is continuing their product release. Following on from the Evora, next in line is the reincarnated Esprit.

AutoCar report that both a coupe and convertible are in the works.

Motor Authority reports on the power being sourced from Toyota (Lexus) and that makes a lot of sense given their past Toyota alliance. They suggest that "the 500hp (373kW) V10 engine, which is set to debut in the Lexus LF-A supercar next year, would likely be reserved for a range-topping model, while a mid-spec model would get the IS-F’s 420hp (312kW) V8 and an entry-level model would pick up a 300hp (225kW) version of the 3.5L Toyota V6 from the Evora." Sounds fantastic!

I have to say the renderings look fantastic - especially the convertible below.

I had looked at buying the V8 Esprit back in the late '90s. In the end I just didn't want the high-cost of running the beast... but it was tempting (the example I looked at was in great condition and a bargain price) and remains a dead-sexy car!

Fifth Gear did an amusing 200mph project with an Esprit S4S. Check it out here:


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:54 AM, ,

Updated video content

Over the past few months, I've endeavoured to share video content for all car blogs made.

Well, it turns out that these videos on You Tube weren't 'approved' by the BBC and were removed. In the process of going from 'less' copyright friendly to 'more', the BBC began posting their content on You Tube.

As such, I've updated the original blog posts below with the updated content:
They've also now enabled embedding - yay!


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:59 AM, ,

Lexus LF-A

According to AutoExpress, the Lexus LFA is going into production! Further:
"The two-seater flagship will feature a 600bhp V10, giving 0-60mph in less than four seconds and a 200mph-plus top speed. Expect a light carbon fibre body with a pop-up wing, rear-wheel drive and an F1-style paddleshift box."
Very yum! I'm glad they aren't pulled the same stupidity that plagued the NSX, specifically the underwhelming engine.

Worldcarfans has news of the prototype lapping the Nurburgring.

As yet there appears to be no news on price and exact performance figures. Looks like competition will be hot for buyer's with the F450, baby McLaren and Audi R8 V10 also new on the scene.


posted by Lee Gale @ 2:07 AM, ,

More Aston Martin V12 Vantage

Following up from my previous post on the Aston Martin V12 Vantage, Auto Express gives us an update which answers the big question: what’s the car like to drive?

Sadly, it hasn't made it's way to Australia yet and may be a while yet coming due to the current environment here for car sales. :-(


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:06 PM, ,

Ferrari F450

According to AutoExpress, this is the Ferrari F450 (codenamed F142) - the replacement for the F430.

Apparently, "the new car will get a larger 4.5-litre V8 engine – hence the name – putting out around 500bhp thanks to modified mechanicals including a higher rev limit".

It's also a good bet that this engine will be connected to the double-clutch gearbox, also found on the brand new Ferrari California.

I would buy an F430 Spider any day of the week (if my bank balance afforded it... and in the middle of the GFC, has 14 F430 Spider's for sale right now!) but this looks even sexier! There are very strong hints of the McLaren F1 in this car, particularly the rear haunches.

Honey, we're going to have to mortgage the house so I can buy one. :-)


posted by Lee Gale @ 3:18 AM, ,

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Interior Details

Even MORE on the Mercedes Gullwing (SLS). After my past two blogs (here and here), eMercedes-Benz gives these interior shots.

Is it just me who thinks the dashboard looks a little Porsche 911 ?


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:46 AM, ,

Porsche Cayman vs Audi TT S vs BMW 335i M Sport

Last time they bought us the 2009 Nissan 370Z vs 2008 Porsche Cayman S comparison. This time this give us the Porsche Cayman vs Audi TT S vs BMW 335i M Sport.

I've covered the facelifted Boxster & Cayman and Audi TT RS previously but I'm not entirely certain this is a great comparison, as buyers looking for a two-seater sports car would more likely look at the BMW Z4 (as opposed to the BMW 335i).

I think I'd take a Cayman S if I were buying. Now if they would just fix those stupid gearshift buttons on the PDK version, the world would be a lovely place!


posted by Lee Gale @ 2:39 AM, ,

More Ferrari California

Checkout Fifth Gear's review of the Ferrari California here:


posted by Lee Gale @ 2:13 AM, ,

Audi TT RS

I'm going to brave what is likely to be a less popular topic amongst most car fans I have spoken with: I think the Audi TT convertible has no place in a "performance car" or "great drivers car" discussion.

The Porsche Boxster, Mercedes SLK55 and SL63, Nissan 370Z, Aston Martin Vantage, Honda S2000 and Audi R8 Spyder (when it arrives), are all good drivers cars and decent-to-serious performance cars.

The Audi TT and BMW Z4 (maybe the sDrive35i or an M version would make the cut) are for people who want a convertible but don't really care about the performance aspect.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying the Audi TT is a bad car. Quite the opposite in fact - it's a well built car that looks great. It just has a 'soft' edge to it's handling. I suspect this is all due to the car being based on the same platform as the Audi A3 and VW Golf as per the Top Gear quote "Still a Golf in a posh frock, although sometimes a plain girl in a nice dress can be alluring."

Now that I've got that out of my system, WorldCarFans gave me hope with the news of the Audi TT RS and on paper it appears to have what it would take to harden-up the TT:
I look forward to driving it an finding out. :-)


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:38 AM, ,