Little Aston + Big Heart = Lots of Fun

The Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is the last Vantage before it is replaced by the new DB11 lookalike in 2017. The car has 420KW and 620NM of torque. However, for the 2017 model year, this car can be specified to have either a 7-speed automated manual (paddles) or a 7-speed manual. However, this is no ordinary manual. This is a ‘dogleg’ manual. What this means is that the gears you mostly use are in an H pattern with gear 1 sitting on its own. The reasoning behind this was in the past, racing drivers would use gear 2 and up more than gear 1, which was really only used to get the car going. But with the introduction of 6-speed manuals, the ‘dogleg’ fell out of fashion as it was illogical to have two ‘doglegs’ in one box. But now, Aston has a 7-speed which makes the ‘dogleg’ relevant again. This also means that the V12 Vantage S is the only V12-engined, manual car for sale… in the world. (Clarkson reference)

Now, I have always liked the ‘baby’ Aston. It was cheaper than the bigger brothers such as the DB9, DBS and Vanquish, but I could never decide if I’d like them. Well, one evening quite a long time ago, I went to a mall in Pretoria. In the mall a grey DBS and a blue V8 Vantage Volante were on display. Naturally I did a happy dance and a giggle and got into the nearest one – which was the DBS. I love that car. Since it appeared in Casino Royale it made my top five ‘To Own One Day’ list of cars (even though it only had about five seconds of screen time). I fell in love with the interior, the long dashboard that extends all the way to the windshield, the plain yet elegant steering wheel, the paddles. Oh, I loved those few moments that I sat in it. One of my favourite things about Astons is their doors. They open at an angle. It’s really cool. Anyway, I moved on to the V8 Volante. In my mind, it would be a cheaper, scaled down version of the bigger DB9. I was wrong with regard to the ‘cheap’ sense. It is essentially a smaller DB9. It has the same dashboard, same steering wheel and same feel as the bigger Astons. Plus this V8 had a gearstick!

I started to like the ‘baby’ Aston quite a lot. Especially the V12. One of Jeremy Clarkson’s best car reviews was when he drove the V12 Vantage. Minimal dialogue, maximum passion. He said that he had a feeling that he was driving the last of the greats. The biggest engine in the smallest Aston. Luckily however, he was wrong – for the most part anyway, because Ferrari still puts massive V12s in their cars. Heck! The new GTC4 Lusso still has the big 6.3L naturally aspirated V12.

But back to the Aston. I watched the Motor Trend’s review of the new V12 Vantage where Jason Cammisa drove the car on a dry lake-bed. All I could think the whole video long was “listen to that noise!” That video also reiterates the fact that dirty sports cars and super cars are some of the prettiest things ever made. If you take a black Lamborghini Gallardo and drive it in a bit of sand or along a dry lake, it becomes a piece of art above the piece of art it already is. It’s magnificent!

The thing is – I think Jeremy Clarkson’s prediction is relevant for today, not ten years ago. This is most likely the last car of Aston’s smaller range which will have the big engine. The next Vantage will probably have AMG’s 4.0L V8 Bi-Turbo. This makes me sad. Big engines in super- and hyper-cars are almost a thing of the past, with the exception of the LaFerrari, Chiron and everything America can come up with. Then we are left with stuff like VW’s X1 prototype with the teeny little diesel engine and Teslas. Not that I’m complaining about Teslas, as they just unveiled the Model S P100D, which will be the quickest production saloon ever. But as they are electric, they don’t have a nice noise like, say AMG’s M156 or Aston’s AM28 (which is 5.9L, not 6.0L).

But, oh well, as technology continues to progress, so will the automobile. Who knows, maybe we’ll all be driving crappy electric hatchbacks with V8 noises coming out of the speakers one of these days…

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Four Litres for Everyone

Today I would like to talk about the three big German automobile manufacturers. This excludes Volkswagen, but also doesn’t as Audi is owned by them. The problem I have with them is the fact that their new performance V8s, respectively from Rennsport, AMG and the M-Division, are almost the same.

Audi was the first to introduce their engine a few years ago in the RS6, RS7 and S8. AMG introduced theirs in the AMG GT as a replacement to the brilliance of the M156 and M159 engines. The M156 is my favourite engine and I would put it in an older Merc if I could.

Anyway, these manufacturers used to have diversity in their performance engines by having big 5.0L V10s, 6.2L V8s and 4.2L V8s – all naturally aspirated. These are brilliant engines. I actually have been in an RS5 doing lots of revs on a very short piece of road.

Now we will have three executive saloons with the same displacement engines. Not to mention that this is from the three biggest competing manufacturers. Now I understand the reason behind it all. The respective regions have their own emissions regulations and so forth, thus manufacturers are trying to get as much power as they can out of smaller engines. Heck! Volvo is saying they want 400+KW out of four-pot engines!

I am for saving the planet and all that, but these are cars – things that make people like me very happy. My mother just rolls her eyes and smiles when I put my foot down in our 3.0L V6 Pajero. It is not the best sounding car in the world (it sounds like a hair-dryer at low speeds), but hearing the engine work at high revs makes me happy. Having these smaller engine cars will be better.

My question is just, won’t it be boring?

The Return of Italian Passion

(hopefully anyway)

So a few months back we caught sight of a new car. A car that looked visually striking – not to mention beautiful – and we heard that it will be Ferrari inspired. This got me very excited. In my mind, the image of a practical, everyday-use Ferrari that isn’t a Ferrari FF or made sense. Having a two-door coupé with lots of space or a family sedan with an Italian engine note sounded like the perfect everyday car.

This car premiered in June 2015, almost a year ago, and the first few cars have already been produced. A few months ago, a launch-type event was held for it and a well-known car YouTuber, Shmee150, was among the first to drive it (lucky bastard).

The car in question? The new Alfa Romeo Guilia Quadrifoglio Verde, or Giulia QV for short. Quite a mouthful.  This car, in my opinion, is one of those cars that you cannot believe actually exists. It is pretty from every angle, the interior is beautiful, the noise is awesome and it’s an everyday sedan with a Ferrari-‘inspired’ heart. This may well be the best looking car I have ever seen, even prettier than the Mercedes SLS or Pagani Huayra (which are two of my favourite cars). Alfas of old displayed this type of motoring passion and thus produced cars that spoke to you. Ferrari sort of still has this, but lost most of it when they decided to sell caps and after-shave. The little passion Lamborghini has left is locked away in an Audi vault, but luckily some of it escapes and makes its way into a car. Maserati still has most of their passion, but they keep trying to pump most of it into their awesome-sounding V8s. Alfa Romeo lost theirs slightly and tried to get it back with the 4C (which backfired) and now it seems like they are gaining it back.

Now, specs. The car will come with different engines, including a diesel and a two-litre petrol, but the one I am most interested in is the full Clover Leaf, the Quadrifoglio. This version will have a 2.9L Bi-Turbo V6, ‘inspired’ by Ferrari, 375KW (503BHP) and 606NM (447 lb-ft) of torque. The thing that makes this even better is that all of this power is going to the rear wheels! Some markets will get all-wheel-drive, but the RWD should be a lot of fun. There are two gearbox options, a 6-speed manual with a clever upshift mechanism and an 8-speed ZF automatic. Unfortunately, only the left-hand-drive version will get the manual (America…), so us South Africans will be stuck with a boring old, fast-shifting, efficient and overall better auto ‘box.

You might have noticed that I kept saying ‘inspired’ by Ferrari. Well this is because the engine isn’t from Ferrari themselves, but rather the fact that former Ferrari engineers worked on it. Ferrari were actually the ones who insisted that Alfa use “inspired” because they are afraid the car will backfire and the brand’s name would be shamed. This has happened before with Deadmau5’s ‘Purrari’ 458 Italia…

All in all, I do honestly believe that this is one of the most beautiful modern cars – along with the Mercedes AMG GT S of course – on the road. Well, it will be in 2017 anyway. It has a better noise than an M3 and more power than a stock C63, but the same as the C63S. The only problem with it might be the price. Most of the reviews I read or watched said that this car would be around £60,000 (R1.35m). That is a lot of money.

Alfa Romeo as a car company has always tried to elicit an emotional response when it comes to their automobiles. They try to build a car that speaks to your soul and that makes you slightly excited with their curved lines, beautiful performance engines and overall striking look. With this ‘talking to the soul’ stuff comes the problem of reliability, especially with Alfa Romeos – most notably in the form of the GTV6. This car is striking to look at – its engines one of the best and its overall performance made it one of the most sought-after cars when it was produced. Only to let the owner stand on the hard shoulder of the road with steam coming out of the bonnet. Luckily many of them had Monaco to look out over whilst waiting for a tow truck. Despite this, people like Jeremy Clarkson owned a GTV6 and admitted that even though that car had cost him lots of money on repairs and tows, he still regrets ever selling it.

The Giulia is a beautiful automobile and, from all the reviews I’ve read, quite a driver’s car. Let’s just hope that Alfa knows how to market it…

I have a problem with the new Ferrari 488 GTB

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I have a problem with the new Ferrari 488 GTB.

With Ferrari’s of old, the name shows what engine and how many cylinders it has. In the case of the 458, it’s a 4.5L V8, 458. Same with the 308 GTS, 3.0L V8. Easy. Now, the new 488 has a 3902cc V8. When I heard that I was a bit confused because Ferrari said that they will put a smaller engine in the new car because of emission regulations and stuff like that that makes us petrolheads very angry and sad.

ferrari_458_02

Anyway, the new car now has a 3.9L Bi-Turbo V8. Which, in my mind, would be the 398 GTB. It makes more sense than 488, where the only true number is the second eight. I did a quick internet search for why Ferrari decided on 488, but not even their own website can tell me.

Now the power. It has 492KW and 760NM of torque. It’s well and all, but that causes another problem. My favourite few cars include the Ferrari 458, Mercedes SLS, Porsche 911 Turbo S, Lamborghini Gallardo, Audi R8, Lexus LFA, Aston Martin DBS, Jaguar XKR-S and most of their variants. All those cars have between 380 and 430 KW, which is ‘tame’ enough to not be scary.

The problem is that this new car is too powerful. With that much power, it puts the 488 in the Aventador’s category. And that makes me sad.

As some of you might know, my favourite car of all time is the Mercedes SLS. But since last year, it was discontinued. I was pretty upset. The DBS, LFA and Gallardo died out. Of them, only the Gallardo got a successor that I don’t really like. Some other cars changed too, which I don’t like. There is something wrong with the way the Huracan looks. It’s like mini Aventador, but without the Lambo soul.

All that’s left from that category now is the Jaguar, Audi and Porsche. The SLS’s successor, the AMG GT, is pretty and all, but it doesn’t fit.

Back to the 488. I wouldn’t mind for one at all because let’s face it, it’s a Ferrari. But I also wouldn’t mind to have the 458 Speciale Aperta…

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Ho to Become a Motoring Journalist

I absolutely love cars since I can remember. My mom told me to get other interests too, because she said I would bore people if that was the only topic I could talk about. Then she changed her mind and told me to look for a career involving cars, seeing that it is my passion and that she wants me to do something that makes me happy to go to work one day. So, I started thinking and one morning, when I was about 11, I told her that I was 51% sure that I would want to become a motoring journalist.

Lately I am rethinking my choice, but I would still love to do something involving cars – if it is full time or just as a hobby. Here are a few thoughts about becoming a motoring journalist.

Probably the best known TV motoring journalists today are those three musketeers from the BBC’s Top Gear. For the past ten years and 19 seasons, Jeremy Clarkson, James May, Richard Hammond and The Stig entertained us with their adventures and mischief. Together they had set the standard for motoring journalism on TV. They not only test cars, but push motoring journalism’s boundaries past the limits. (Ask the poor BBC boss!)

They crash cars for fun and sometimes do very thorough road tests – involving stupid questions, like: Can you fit an eel next to very reactive sodium cubes in the bookt of a KIA? Or Can you fit Cienna miller into the glove compartment of a Skoda?  Yes, I know.

They – or rather Jeremy – also gets in trouble a lot for saying what he thinks, without thinking about the repercussions and then get fined. But all in all, they are the most entertaining lot in the motoring world today.

Not Every Car Enthusiast can become a Motoring Journalist

Fortunately or unfortunately, not every motoring journalist will end up being a TV celebrity. So, for the rest there is the less glamorous, but still very satisfying option of the printed media. There are hundreds of car publications to work for all over the world. A few examples are car and Driver, Top Gear Magazine, Top Car, Car, Rides, Classic Car etc. Here you see only a few examples of car magazines from different countries.

 Car mags

Another option in motoring journalism is blogging. There are many blogs available on the Internet.

These few sites are a good start: www.carmagblog.co.za, www.carblog.co.za, www.celebritycarsblog.com.

What skills do you need to become a motoring journalist?

To become a motoring journalist, you must at least have some important skills:

o   A love of cars and/or motorbikes and/or other vehicles is a necessity.

o   Secondly you must have a wide and in depth knowledge of the subject.

o   And of course, it would help if you can write.

o   (If you have ambitions to become a TV journalist, you’ll have to acquire some communication skills.)

Study journalism at a local university or internationally at a school of journalism.

Find work in the industry at either a newspaper or a magazine and then work your way up – who knows, maybe you will take over Jeremy Clarkson’s job one day when the BBC finally decides to kick him out! LOL!

In the Mean Time…

  • Read articles in motoring blogs and magazines to increase your knowledge and to learn how articles are written.
  • Read as many different magazines as possible to get different journalists’ views on different aspects of motoring.
  • Improve your writing skills by doing courses, writing regularly (or join my mom’s Writing Club).
  • Visit car shows or expo’s whenever you can.
  • Start you own blog. This will help you write regularly and it will also help you to get your name and views out there. This will also count in your favour when you apply for university.

The Future of Motoring

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As we all know, the futuristic vision of motoring normally shows adventurous, spontaneous and all out happy people driving the electric equivalent of a Lada Niva, i.e. a Nissan Leaf, that silly little Peugeot thing and the G-Wizz . I personally think that is not the future for motoring enthusiasts. Well, if it were, then all motoring enthusiasts would say, “Bugger this!”, jump off a cliff and scream “YOLO!!!”

I think the company which has the correct idea for the future car is Fisker, especially with the Karma. They haven’t got it 100% right, but they’re onto something. The idea of having an electric motor as the main propulsion component is excellent. The way the Fisker works (if I got this right and I think I do) is with an electric motor at the rear axle, a bunch of batteries in the middle and a 2.0L turbo at the front. You plug it in your wall socket and it charges just like a phone. Easy. Or, you don’t even have to plug it in. You can just put petrol in it, but the engine doesn’t power the wheels. Instead, the engine charges the batteries, which in turn power the wheels. It is a brilliant system (apart from all the trouble Fisker has with the suppliers, fires and technical difficulties).

There is only one problem. When, not if, all the oil runs out, you’ll be stuck with this heavy lump of unused metal under the bonnet formerly called an ‘engine’. Then one day you can tell your grandchildren about this thing that used to power your car that also made this (sometimes) beautiful, intoxicating sound – not what granny drives now that makes this digital noise to keep her from falling asleep. I’ve gone completely off topic now…

Ummmm… oh yes, the ‘engine’. If you replace the ‘engine’ in the Fisker to, let’s say, a hydrogen fuel cell in the Honda FCX Clarity, then it can work as normal. People will go to a ‘HydroStation’ instead of a ‘Petrol Station’ and the world can continue as if nothing ever happened (well not really, but you get my point). I mean, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. When we run out of hydrogen, then someone else can just copy and paste this blog and correct the vehicles and technologies of their time. Off topic again…

The best things about electric cars are the specs. All the power and all the torque are there from the second you ‘start’ the electric motor until the second you ‘turn it off’. It is awesome! I can only imagine driving something like the Mercedes-Benz SLS ElectricDrive around the Nürburgring. Or even a hyper-hybrid (just thought that word up) like the Porsche 918 Spyder, or the Ferrari with the stupid name, or the McLaren P1 (a company which should really revise their naming strategy).

Then you get to the bad things. The worst thing about them is that they will wipe out the manual gearbox. I can’t imagine a world without the manual car. I see it as a horrible, miserable place where gearshift hands and left legs are the most bored body parts the universe will ever see. Another thing is the range. And the sound. And the looks (Nissan Leaf). And the irritating fact that you bought an electric car!!!

 

Michael De Kock is (obviously) a car enthusiast, avid reader and movie lover who have the goal to know (at least) a little bit about (almost) everything.

Drunk Rhinoceros vs Hyper Active Snail

I’ve always wondered what would be the best, German or American engineering? Well, I have been in search of the best saloon car. First I want to tell you what my game plan was. Because no traffic cop wanted to give me a licence to do the real thing, I tested the cars on my PlayStation2 on:

1.             handling;

2.             speed; and

3.             looks.

 

Fortunately, the Americans have a saloon in the sturdy, elegant body of a Chrysler 300C SRT- 8. The Germans on the other hand produced the a-bit-snaily-on-wheels Mercedes Benz CLS55 AMG. I personally think the companies are in a war about how many digits they can squeeze into the names. Why couldn’t they just name it after a famous person or poisonous snake or a flower or something and get it over with. They are both stunning to look at and they are both in class D. D for desirable, definitely. Now let’s get on to the first point of the test.

 

Handling

The Merc goes beautifully around corners, but the Chrysler steers like a drunk rhinoceros, because it doesn’t have enough power, it feels heavier than it seems and they say this is the sport version!

 

On to speed

Both cars go from 0-100km/h in about five seconds and has a stopping time from 100-0km/h of three seconds. But, the Chrysler’s top speed is 264km/h, while the Merc’s top speed is only 250km/h. The Merc has 39bhp more than the Chrysler, but the Chrysler is more gorgeous to look at. Both cars weigh almost two tons, but the Chrysler is Cr.56000 (Playstation currency) cheaper than the Merc. Unfortunately, I only got the Chrysler to get up to 245km/h, while with the Merc gave me more than 10km/h over its top speed limit.

 

Looks

The Chrysler looks like it was styled by Al Capone and the grille is way too big, but that’s what makes this car unique.  And beautiful. The Merc looks like a snail on wheels, but the frameless windows are very cool. You have to force the Merc’s boot to close it properly. Both car’s interior are equal in beautifulness (if that is a word), but the Chrysler has that, JE NE SI QUA.

 

Now to the big question

Which one to choose? Well, if I had to buy a car to drive to work every morning, I’d buy the Merc and if I had money to blow on a car it would be the Chrysler. Personally, I don’t care if the Chrysler looks like a fat cat with mad cow disease on roller skates. I still would want one.

 

Specs

 

 

Merc

Chrysler

Engines

V8

V8

Max power

469BHP

425Bhp

Transmission

Manual

Automatic

0-100km/h

4.6   sec

4.9sec

Top speed

250km/h

264km/h

Safety factor

8

8

Price

Cr.106,000

Cr.50,000