Monday, 26 September 2011

Give Me Five

While the world has been mesmerised by the automotive Second Coming that is the F10 BMW M5, there's been far less attention paid to another, perhaps altogether more important new 5 Series. Naturally, the 520d EfficientDynamics doesn't have the heritage, the lineage, the folklore to live up to, but away from super saloon madness, in the tooth and nail fight of company car fleets, it's the undisputed king.

So here's a simple question? Which Five would you rather have?
Is it just me that really likes those lo-drag alloys?
As with most car comparisons, that which isn't subjective (styling, badge kudos) comes down to simple a Top Trumps numbers game, and as far as performance is concerned, the M5, as you'd hope, has it by a country mile.

520d ED
4395cc V8, Twin-turbocharged petrol
1995cc In-line 4 cyl, turbocharged, diesel
552 brake horsepower @ 6000rpm
182 brake horsepower @ 4000rpm
501 lb/ft @ 1500rpm
280 lb/ft @ 1750-2750rpm
4.4 seconds
8.2 seconds
Top Speed
155mph (limited)
190mph (limited) with cost option M Driver package

The 520d is trounced by the M5 in the speed stakes, thanks to the latter's comparatively enormous engine. However, given that the 520d has almost half the torque, and less than one-third the power of the M5, it's still an easily adequate performer. Its top speed of 144mph is competitive and safe for autobahn commutes where many will no doubt find a home, while its sprint to 62 betters its direct turbodiesel rivals from Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes. Furthermore, it'll be drinking a damn site less fuel than the lot of them while it's at it.

Here's where the M5 starts to come unstuck against its humble sister, in the just-as-important 'everyday' stakes.
CO2 Emissions
Economy (claimed)
Base price

Just as the 520d gave a good account of itself out of its comfort zone, in the performance fight, the M5 makes an effort to appeal to head as well as heart. It is the cleanest, greenest M5 ever, thanks to its move to  forced induction. And while journalists have complained than even under light load, the engine never gets close to achieving its 28 mpg promise, you'd have to assume the 520d is guilty of similar frugality optimism, as are all new cars.

So there's the figures, now a return to the initial question: which 5 would you have? Yes, this is in all but a handful of ways, a total non-comparison, but after the cars were launched mere days apart, their shared presence in all this week's magazines and websites is nothing if not thought provoking. So allow me to play devil's advocate.

In a world teetering on the brink of financial oblivion (again), committing to running a two tonne machine with a 20mpg everyday thirst is a risk that, in £1.35 a litre Britain, looks about as secure as a UBS investment portfolio. The 520d, despite its 10 litre shallower fuel tank, can achieve well over double the M5's potential range, having cost less than half as much to buy. According to reviews, it'll still be vaguely entertaining, if not a full on 'Ultimate Driving Machine', and it'll certainly be less hard on tyres, brakes and suspension thanks to a 300kg advantage next to the M5.

If you crave the M5's aggressive snout and sills, you'll have to settle for the non-Efficient Dynamics 520d, which BMW will fit with the M Sport pack, giving your rolling juxtaposition the deep chin spoiler, big wheels, and flared skirts that adorn the range topper. You lose quad tailpipes, the nasty chromed wing vent, and the choice of garish press demonstrator blue paint, but can still have a paddleshift transmission and sports suspension. Interestingly, the parsimonious ED version is manual only. Interaction and involvement with a the driving experience, in a modern eco car? Who'd have thought it..?

The F10 M5 is no doubt a wonderful car. It'll be in the running for a trophy cabinet's worth of Car of the Year prizes, and assert itself over the E63 AMG, XFR and RS6 as the super saloon benchmark. As Clarkson will  certainly note for the umpteenth time, 'there has never been a bad M5.'

But in making neccessary concessions to efficiency, the M5 has certainly lost a thimbleful of its aura. It was never going to compare well to the flawed but legendary V10 car it replaces, as with the rose tints on, that car will be one of the all time great four door supercars. Given that the 520d ED could be had as an estate, or Tourer in BMW speak (while the M5 won't, given the poor sales of the last one), play at being sporty, and not break the bank to run, I wonder if the M5 may lose perhaps a couple of sales throughout its lifespan, to the non-alcoholic enemy within.

Or will there be a true solution for eco-minded M addicts, through the rumoured diesel M5? A 4 litre twin turbo oil burner, superior torque and economy to its petrol sister, and four wheel drive is all muted for the black pump car. If it materialises, hopefully it'll sidestep BMW's increasingly peculiar naming strategy. 'M5' is a lot better than '550d M xDrive ED' or the like.

Now may I refer you to the brilliant Steve Sutcliffe of Autocar, with what is, so far, the M5 review.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Let's Hear It For The Boys

..and the girls too, of course. This is actually intended as a thank you/well done post, to all the motoring journalists present at Frankfurt who did such an sensational job of reporting from the mammoth show.

Not all that long ago, motor shows were events to avoid on automotive websites. The sheer volume of new content being rushed up was hard to follow, untidy, and frankly unattractive. The online side of matters has really come of age now however, with 'best of' galleries, walk-around video clips and incisive concept analysis all prevalent on the big sites. Special mentions should go to Auto Express, the ever-excellent Autocar, Car Magazine, and Evo, who all used video snippets to great effect.

The single biggest revelation came in the useage of social media though, via Twitter specifically. As I read through the feed, noting hacks taking their seats at events such as the Volkswagen Group presentation, I was hugely jealous to be missing out on the big reveals. It's exactly where I want to be, professionally. Yet the quick-fire use of smartphones to instantly Tweet news as it was spoken, together with pictures live from the event, interspersed with witty analysis titbits from the journos themselves, made for an immersive, inclusive experience. Far from privatising, or isolating the event, the way in which the new medium of Twitter was embraced and exploited was well judged and, well, welcome!

Sincere gratitude then, to the boys and girls of Britain's finest motoring publications, who did themselves proud at Frankfurt, with fresh, entertaining, informative coverage. It really was the Top Gear antidote of automotive journalism.

The video featured below is my personal favourite example of what I've been appraising. A clearly impromptu yet impeccably delivered round up of the individual concepts and wider issues present at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, courtesy of the guys at Car Magazine. Well done, chaps.


Thursday, 22 September 2011

New Look, New Posts - But Still The Same TR

As you can see, Tyre Roar has had a bit of a freshen up as it approaches its 10 month birthday. Hopefully the added width of the page will make for less scrolling for you guys, and more space to cram content, high res pictures and HD clips straight onto the blog. It's also a lot less grey! Please leave comments at the bottom of this post or on my Twitter to let me know what you think, and how the site can be improved further.

The main new feature is the Garage, where I'll be running my own mini fleet report like you'll find in most car magazines. My personal long termer 'fleet' may only consist of one car, but it's a good 'un, so keep your eyes peeled for occasional updates on the welfare of my Ka, and news regarding the rest of the family motors.

Finally, do head over to Gridlock Magazine, and have a good look around the new issue, getting stuck into the superb free content and competitions. There's four new articles up this week by myself under the motoring tab, so check it out and see what you think.



No Hurry In EV By Murray

Forgive me for inflicting one more scar on an already broken record, but pure speed is by no means the be all and end all of any sports orientated car. Right, now I've said that, I'm going to pretty much contradict it completely,  but I think there's a valid point here.

Gordon Murray Design, headed by the legendary father of the McLaren F1, has shown off its electrically powered creation, the Teewave AR.1. Commissioned by Toray Industries as a showcase for complete carbon construction in cars, it's an Elise sized two seated with onboard battery power, double wishbone suspension, and an 850 kg kerb weight, which is commendable given a quarter of that mass is provided by typically hefty batteries.

So why the slight tone of moan? Well, despite this being a simple prototype, with no production plans or viability, I slightly resent the pitch of this car as anything sporty. Yes it is light, but the unchanged 63bhp powertrain from a Mitsubishi iMiev gives it performance that would only marginally outstrip my 13 year old Ford Ka. 11.4 seconds to 60mph - that's not pacey by any stretch of the imagination.

As convincingly pointed out to my on Twitter by motoring journalist and nice chap Antony Ingram (well worth a follow @antonyingram), the 100+ mile range is impressive, but I stand by my response. A sports car should always put performance at least slightly ahead of practicality, else it forgoes its raison d'etre. And you don't build a car out of carbon fibre and put its power behind the driver unless it has at least a modicum of sporting pretensions.

Now as I've said, this isn't going to go on sale, it's merely a technical exercise. The reason the Teewave makes me uneasy is that unless there is a seismic shift away from the electrification of motoring, this could be the future for affordable sports cars, like the Elise and MX-5. Not in the next decade, but in maybe 20 years, i.e. when a lad like me might just about to be able to own one.

I'm aware that to criticise a Gordon Murray project through the medium of Tyre Roar is hardly gallant, it's verging on blasphemy, as the man is a bona fide genius, an automotive tour de force. I just hope that manufacturers of tomorrow won't settle for those kind of figures when the electric sports car becomes the must have model in the line-up, just as the soft-roader SUV has been during the last decade.

 Oh, and as I've ranted mentioned on Tyre Roar before, can someone please design a properly good looking EV? The AR.1 just isn't my cup of Tee. Sorry.


Thursday, 15 September 2011

Defender's Own Goal

There can be no doubt that the Land Rover Defender needs replacing. Even design bosses at the company know that the weight of affection for the 63 year old icon cannot outweigh its shortcomings, as chief Gerry McGovern concedes:

"Today's Defender is a fantastic machine but it has many faults: it is hard to build, not very space efficient, the driving position is cramped, it's  not very comfortable for passengers, and so on. We have to replace it."
Newly conglomerated into an official joint effort and the world's youngest car company, Jaguar Land Rover has an unenviable task in trying to please the core markets of the Defender while modernising it necessarily. There are also the legions of worldwide fans to consider, who despite never having owned a Defender, see the car as very much part of the automotive landscape, and to interfere with its core principles is abject blasphemy. Some paradox...
The DC100 concepts have certainly got people talking, but is all publicity really good publicity? Debate over the futuristic moon-buggy alike concept has been fierce.

Of course, these are only initial design studies, and the real 2015 production car will surely not ride on 22" rims with low profile rubber, but these show car cues are unnecessary on a Land Rover. They enhance the toy-like stance and, when combined with some of the frontal detailing, lend impressions of a pimped Skoda Yeti. The Yeti may be an excellent car but it surely isn't aesthetically worthy of Land Rover plagiarism.

It's very easy to pick holes in the DC100 concepts, since the current, long standing Defender is held in such high regard, but I do think Land Rover have sullied their achievements with the on board off roader technology, and simple hose down interior, with needless shouty styling. The car was always going to be one of the stars of the Frankfurt show; new Defenders don't come along, well, ever, and there was no possibility of it being forgotten about.

The roofless DC100 Sport is a waste of time; Land Rover have the Evoque and Range Rover Sport for totally road biased and fashion conscious customers. A yellow drop-top Landie isn't going to impress the brand faithful any more than it is likey to fit in outside the best restaurant in town. Step away from the Hummer tribute act. 

The Sport iteration was intended to demonstrate the flexibility of the new car, but with around 30 versions of the Defender currently produced, a flatbed, station wagon, or even ambulance or armed forces version would have, in my humble opinion, been a more fitting showcase for the continuation of the Defender's jack-of-all-trades ability.
 The Defender is, as always has been, a bit of a Swiss Army Knife of a car. I for one hope that the next time a glimpse into its valuable future is unveiled, we're treated to something a bit less blunt.
Does that look super-imposed to you? 
Have your say on Land Rover's controversial concept in this quick survey. And hit the Tweet button to start some discussion there!

Winging It

The first of my Frankfurt Motor Show related posts is directed at just one of hundreds of cars there present, and oddly, not a particularly new one. The (deep breath) Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Super Trofeo Stradale is a new model, but it's quite clearly based on the familiar Gallardo architecture we've known since 2003.

Moan all you like that it's another iteration of an ageing car, ripe for replacement, but special editions have managed to keep the car reasonably fresh while the Aventador was being readied. The Gallardo is now so relatively ancient it's being talked about in motoring circles with the old clichés as 'hairy-chested throwback', and 'one of the old school.' Given that it's not as dynamically polished as a 458 or MP4-12C, the Lambo charm is a valuable hand to hold.

The new version had potential, however, to really inject a shot of intravenous adrenaline into the Gallardo, and stick a last ditch challenge to its Modenese nemesis before it dies. A road car inspired by the fastest one-make race series in the world, the Super Trofeo. Sounds interesting.

The first mistake, brought about by careless rewording of the press material, has been to call the Super Trofeo for the Stradale (street) a road-going version of the racing car, because it simply isn't. It isn't set up as racing car then converted for domestic use, it's a normal Gallardo SuperLeggera with choice additions to liken it to the racing cars. In other words, a Lamborghini take on the Challenge Stradale and Scuderia Ferrari has made a mint of in recent years.

Upon investigating just how extensive these choice additions reach in creating the dramatically named newcomer, the list isn't that long. There are supposedly lighter wheels, more carbon fibre inserts inside and out, and a rear aerofoil almost identical to that of the racing cars themselves. Admittedly, that's a cool feature; akin to the use of a racing crank in the Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0

However, there's no token 10bhp increase on the engine, it's the same 562bhp unit from the SuperLeggera. The brakes are also of identical spec to the SuperLight. And if you search hard enough, there's evidence that the 'racecars robotised six speed e-gear transmission', present in the STS, is the very same as that in situ in the SL, and the cooking LP560, for that matter.

And then there's the weight conundrum. We're used to lightened supercars having nice round mass losses, usually of 100kg or so. (Murcielago SV, Audi R8 GT, 430 Scuderia off the top of my head.) Yet the quoted dry mass for the STS is 1340kg, unchanged to the gramme from the SuperLeggera.

Lightened supercars are often singled out for abuse from the 'why pay more to get less' brigade. You've got either be a real enthusiast, or extremely vain, to opt for the cynically hardcore version and accept inherent compromises. Yet the Super Trofeo Stradale, commanding around £20,000 more than the already fettled SuperLeggera, gets double the downforce from a larger wing, and very little else besides. No doubt all 150 built will sell at a canter, but doesn't the venerable Gallardo deserve a little more innovation. Instead of being a fitting swansong, a la RS 4.0), it's just another Gallardo limited edition. Pity, no?

Praise be that the sub 100kg, sub 3s - 60mph Sesto Elemento is seeing the light of production, at a price. Now, if only there was a road-going version...

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