Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Spot The DB9-ifference

Yes, I know, I don't like it when the title isn't up to much either, but I digress. Another quick bit of news-bred opinion here, following the rather surprising emergence of a new model in the Aston Martin line up: Virage.

The Virage is indeed a new model in its own right designed to fill the gulf in Aston's model range between the £120k DB9 tourer, and the £170k DBS faster, firmer tourer. And what is this new coupé? Based on DB9 architecture, it's a 2+2 tourer with the same V12 engine, here producing 490bhp to neatly coexist with the 450 bhp DB9 and 510 bhp DBS, and therefore not interfering with the Vantage line either, it V8 or V12 guises. Still with me? The key thing to concentrate on here is that this is (really!) not a facelifted DB9, with a bit more power, Rapide headlamps, a V12 Vantage splitter, and DBS diffuser. It's ostensibly a whole new, niche-filling £150k car.
You might want a bigger badge for the rear, just to be sure

Call me cynical, by all means. I would. Even for a low volume manufacturer like Aston, the Virage just isn't different enough from a DB9 to justify the outlay.
I appreciate the cost of engineering new cars, and meeting all modern legislation is obscene, and Aston can't afford fresh starts, but still needs to cover as much of its potential market as possible. In that respect, the Virage is very timely, and very clever. I also agree it's rather harsh to make large judgements about a car based on a selection of just-seen pictures of it, with no context. It's only because I, and thousands of petrolheads like me, care about Aston Martin and desire for it to succeed as a major player that I'm prompted to share thoughts and disappointments.

So, observing the Virage purely superficially, the exterior smacks of a mid-cycle refresh rather than a remotely clean sheet philosophy; mirrored by the interior, which while just as good looking and no doubt user-unfriendly as existing Astons, lacks any flair not seen on the DB9 as far back as 2004.

Virage: not a mirage - it really isn't a DB9

One may argue that at this end of the market, money is not a crucial factor in the purchase decision; nevertheless the Virage really does come across as Aston's Cayman: slightly 'parts-bin' when compared to the rest of the range and in doing so lacking its own defined character. Having said that, the Cayman is perhaps the sweet spot of Porsche's current crop, being as fast as a Carrera but significantly cheaper, usefully smaller and equally useable. Forthcoming reviews of the Virage will no doubt ascertain as to whether Gaydon have pulled of the same trick with their new motor.

All new. Except for all the bits that aren't.
To criticise something so beautiful, which will be revered here in England and desired worldwide, feels pretentious to the point of blasphemy, but it stands to reason that however commendably Aston Martins are dynamically, they must succeed as objects, as a design of classical aesthetic and latent aggression. Depending on your viewpoint, the Virage ticks those boxes, but that, on first impression regarding these initial photos, is the car's problem. It ticks the boxes for Aston's marketing and profit targets and shuns the chance to be something more original, and at last, less DB9. The One-77 shows what Aston can do. The Virage is just something they have to do. In that respect, it's twinned with the Cygnet. Heaven forbid.

Jaguar meanwhile will bite back at Geneva with a £90k leap into Aston territory with the XKR-S. Shown in not-so-subtle fashion on a racetrack, this new halo model posesses 542bhp, and, to these controversially subjective eyes, a just about tasteful bodykit which has something of the GT3 racecar about it.

The reprofiled feline headlaps and cracking blue hue of the pictured car are brilliantly executed as well, though rearwards it has been proved yet again that this generation of XK really doesn't suit rear wings.

Still, take your pick of the latest British super GTs to vie for Queen and country. Argumenative comments welcome, and many thanks for taking TyreRoar past 2,000 worldwide views today.

A Turn Up For The Books

A few months back I noted that Novitec Rosso was up to its usual tricks again wringing improbable amounts of performance out of existing supercars, with the latest recipient being the Ferrari 458 Italia. (see here http://tyreroar.blogspot.com/2011/01/world-is-not-enough.html) I may have mused that despite the impressive feats of power-hungry engineering they bestowed upon chosen exotics, it was a slight shame NR were reinterpreting the 458, one of the last vestiges of the high-revving naturally aspirated supercar as the general march towards more capacity-efficient forced induction continues. Reports back then suggested the Fezza would gain NR's standard twin-supercharged package to up power towards hypercar levels.

Whether or not my post had an effect on Novitec Rosso remains a mystery at present, but Stateside sources have today shown that the finished conversion, revealed just in time for the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, is as one hundred per cent free flowing, unassisted, naturally aspirated as orginally, and a damn site more pokey to boot. Through the fitment of lighter F1-derived exhaust, a remapped ECU and a reprofiled carbon air intake, the baby berlinetta now hands over 609bhp in return for its 4.5 litres. While not as headline-grabbing as some of NR's previous outputs, unearthing a further 39bhp from an already highly strung motor with no increase in capacity, no forced induction, and an overall decrease in weight is an extraordinary feat. Make up your own mind about the mustachioed front and other carbon paraphernalia, but there can be little argument against the quality of Novitec's tuning results, not least the preservation of the 458's flat plane crack howl.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Straight From The (Prancing) Horse's Mouth

Apologies for being behind on the post front at the moment, university work is having to take priority, but what with the new McLaren MP4-12C tests going public, a looming F1 season classic, and the Geneva Motor Show all on the way, there'll be plenty to get stuck into in the near future.
In the meantime, do take five minutes to check out this sensational account by Evo Magazine's Chris Harris on the darker side of Ferrari and its press department. This is one hell of a brave, lucid, and emotive topic written with verve by the incomparable Monkey, surely the fastest rising British auto journalist around right now. See what you think and get involved in the inevitable debate.

No plagiarism intended, all credits go to Chris Harris and jalopnik.com

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Kudos to Kubica

When someone makes it out of a near death situation alive, and miraculously at that, the first thought is always one of thanks and relief, and only later comes the thorny issue of how coping with the aftermath of such an event will impact on said individual's day-to-day life. Suffering the partial severing of a hand, the shattering of the bones in an arm, and a bruised eye socket following a high speed car wreck, then being trapped in the wreckage for over an hour waiting for assistance is a devastating situation to befall anyone unfortunate to be in that wrong place and the wrong time. Revealing that the victim was competing in a rally and therefore subjecting himself (and his co-driver) to such inherent dangers takes nothing away from their plight, but it does perhaps alleviate some sympathy in the face of  such an unhappy ending being something of an occupational hazard.
But for Robert Kubica, Lotus-Renault F1 driver, hotly tipped for the 2011 season as a potential threat to the incumbent favourties, the plot is rather thicker. Firstly I wish Robert the very best for a full and speedy recovery, of both health and racing form. But it's plain why the Pole's accident last weekend in Andorra has sparked such a furore, in that whether Kubica right, justified even, in entering into an intense rally just weeks before the start of a potentially very successful season for himself and the team. 'Despite' his incredible escape, he remains at the beginning of an extremely difficult road to recovery (forgive the unintentional pun).
Kubica's 2007 Canada GP jaw-dropper
The intricate skills of his surgeons may yet allow him to restablish full funtionality in his right arm, but even so, will his strength, reaction times and psychological confidence recover adequately to allow him to compete in the world'd most high stakes motorsport? Lest we forget he returned with gusto from his horrific Montreal impact in 2007. By high stakes I recognise that other series may have less safety legislation, and higher risk, but F1 is also a tricky game due to the vast amounts of money and time invested in it in the pursuit of hundreth-of-a-second one-upmanship. Renault will struggle to recover from such a blow so close to the curtain raiser in Bahrain next month, while filling Kubica's respected racing boots against the world's best is a fairly unenviable task, most likely to be bestowed upon Williams F1's Nick Heidfeld.

How Lotus-Renault GP 2011 looked this time last week

So was Robert Kubica wrong to jeapordise his own safety and others' efforts in order to go out and get his kicks in Skoda Fabia?
Absolutely not. The mere fact that Kubica gets himself 'in the zone' for the season by getting stuck into a physical, gritty, less glamorous motorsport, understanding the danger and yet still pushing himself, should be unequivocally applauded. His ambition and drive overcame his responsibilites to impress his sponsors or engage in the ever-politicised realm of Formula One. He has undoubtedly paid a heavy price, in most likely being out for an entire season, losing a year's worth of experience, fitness, and youth. But the attitude to go out and do racing for the love of it, not for the livelihood, has something of the old greats about it, the James Hunt or Stirling Moss gene, that fans often moan is missing from modern racers who are just as careful how they negotiate and handle themselves in a press conference as they do through Spa or Monza.
Thumbs up Kubica, and best of luck getting back in the driving seat. Formula One will miss him this year, but oddly, up to the point where he had his untimely meeting with an Armco barrier, perhaps his need for speed example might inspire some classic racing in his absence.

And if you're in any doubt about the calibre of control he brings to the track, look no further than this. Wonder if Jenson Button will miss him..

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Selling Yourself (Down The River)

Buying a new car is a big decision and a substantial investment, over which a great deal of care should rightly be taken. A car enthusiast may research many road tests of their potential purchases, look up the scores of candidate manufacturers in reliability and customer satisfaction surveys, and agonise endlessly over the respective trim levels and options on their shortlist to create the perfect bespoke motor for their budget and needs. However, for just as many people, a car is a convenient form of transport and nothing more, and in order to reach customers, manufacturers have to depend on the best direct outlet they can muster - the advert. Think about it, you may well be a car lover, but when you last purchased a laptop, a holiday, or a fizzy beverage, did you weigh up all possible pros and cons and cross reference those with the experiences of those in the know, or were you more swayed by a particular advertising campaign? For many I suspect a television advert which grabs the attention and then hits home with an unignorable 'buy me' message is what leads to a subsequent parting from your hard-earned.
In the last couple of months though, it seems that the car marketing fraternity has gone totally spare. Some of the recent efforts to attract buyers to promisng new cars have been cringeworthy at best, and at worst, totally unintelligible. Below are a selection of the latest and greatest advertising fails, in my opinion, which far from leading to a lust and desire for the given car, instead leave behind a quizical expression which remains for the next couple of minutes of viewing, as we try to comprehend what the hell just happened.

For example, first in the dock is Audi, with this attempt to flog the new A7:

The premise here is that the human brain separates pragmatic rational thought from imagination and aspiration via the two sides of the brain, and that the A7 is a fusion of these two isolated elements. In itself that's a fairly clever idea, but illustrating it through some mirrored kaleidoscope footage of bits of the A7 set to an unashamedly 'lets attract young people to the brand' Basement Jazz backing track is pretty poor execution. The ad's main faux pas comes with the final shot. The all-important reveal of the car in its entirety puts the main selling point - the svelte coupaloon profile - in white against a white background, which might be all cool, and fresh and contemporary but makes it damn hard for the A7 to stand out. After the quality of recent Audi campaigns for the R8, this is one hell of a dropped ball.

If the A7's advert needs some contextual explanation, then what can be gleaned from Renault's Megane series is beyond understanding. The fact they had the audacity to use the much lauded RenaultSport 250 to carry the commercials is even more of a kick in the current hot hatch king's face. Work this one out...

Can a car change a town? Probably not, but it can change your mind about which one to buy, and it's not in Renault's favour. However, at least they went for a bit of humour here, not taking themselves too seriously, and got an advert with some comedy in it.

That was probably what Volvo was going for with this travesty, but in missing the mark they've ended up with a complete runt of an advert. The S60 has been unfairly saddled with Volvo's recent attempts to reinvent itself, away from the boxy safe estates of yesteryear to become a modern and alternative choice to the German mainstream. The 'Naughty' new S60 has adorned the back covers of a fair few magazine covers since its release and while the car certainly moves Volvo's styling on a few leaps, the slogan has come in for a fair bit of stick, only compounded by this effort for the V60, the main inspiration beind this blog post.
Ironically Volvo have disabled embedding of the clip, no doubt out of pure embarrassment, in the hope it will be lost in the vast chasm of YouTube and never see the light of day, but it's well worth follwoing the link if you want to see just how not to do irony. Check this one out and keep a straight face: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DflS8QKj3j4

The epidemic of shameful adverts can be traced back in this phase to BMW's 'Joy' campaign, a nauseating trawl through the Beemer lineup with plenty of shots of grinning models piloting various BMW cars along beautiful alpine passes generally having a lovely time. Included nowhere were the more true to life clips of never being let out of junctions, or the 'Joy'of having your X6 or 5GT spat on or gestured to. Other recent offenders worth a mention are Nissan for the useless Qashqai and Juke commercials, showing mostly computer generated cars jumping off buildings in order to display their urban agility, and Mini, who appropriately sold the very hard to like Countryman using the very hard to like (and understand) 'Getaway' adverts.

Thankfully, some marketting depts are still up to scratch. Skoda's contrasting Fabia adverts, with the regular car being fashioned out of cake while the sporty VRS model is made with pure evil has rightly won awards, it's inspired. Jagaur's simple, effective use of stylishly shot XF footage in conjunction with a proud but not smug voiceover recognising the car's awards to date is certainly worth adorning anyone's TV screen. And with the Superbowl just a week away in the US, the annual smattering of brilliant car ads, used in the biggest primetime audience slot of the year, means there'll be a few more coming good yet. Audi stole the show last year with the remake of the famous Godfather head in the bed scene, using the R8, while the pick of the bunch so far for 2011 must be this joint promotion of the Camaro and upcoming Michael Bay Hollwood release. Pretty purile, and hardly a product truth, but entertaining all the same...

No commentary on automotive adverts would be complete without the inclusion of not only one of the best of the breed in recent times, but also one of the all time greatest commercials ever. Here's how it should be done, and Aston Martin especially should take note; their 'Time is Power, Power Should Be Shared' series featuring the Rapide is an affront to the Aston Martin marque, and to the eyes of anyone who sits through it. Here a link to the useless Aston series: http://www.astonmartin.com/eng/rapidetruepower

And this is Honda setting the bar, way back in 2003. Enjoy 'Cog'.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...