This is quite possibly the best TV advert I’ve seen in sometime:
Celebrating that the Audi R8 V10 now comes with the S-tronic gearbox, this video is just superb. The whip crack violence of each upshift is immense, tempered only be the spine-tingling downshifts with accompanying flames.
Audi, if i win Euromillions tonight, you’ve got my money.
Not wanting to be left out of all the fun and frolics of that big sporting event happening in the capital city, ESM decided to get on board with the Olympic spirit. Whilst EngageSportMode wasn’t at the opening ceremony/Victorian Farm the Musical which happened last night, it can at least add some tenuous related car-based writing to the copper cauldron. Though with less geese, and certainly with less Paul McCartney (thank God).
As you may, or may not, know BMW is heavily involved with London 2012. Due to its heady position as official automotive partner, BMW is offering 4,000 vehicles to chauffeur athletes and VIPs around. The company was also responsible for the vehicles which followed the Torch Relay, including ones decked out in a blindingly bright gold wrap.
Unfortunately for those who live in Cheshire, BMW doesn’t actually offer an actual gold wrap off the shelf. Though if you live in Dubai or similar and have enough money, I’m sure they’ll be happy to oblige. So, to make the Olympic dream a bit more achievable, ESM decided to browse the BMW model list and pull out the actually obtainable models with a winning theme and colour scheme. And by winning, I mean the latest offerings from Bavaria which have won the prize for steering as far away as possible from what BMW used to be about; something previously touched on.
I spent a while playing around with the rather easy to use configurator tool on the BMW website to “make” these possible. So here we go, with the prize winners in the BMW Olympic Podium of Shame:
Third place in this event is actually a tie. The first contender I came across was this:
Mmm. A Marrakesh Brown X6. Obviously it is more dog excrement than precious metal in colour, but ESM really strongly dislikes the X6 so it’s inclusion was needed in this roster. Even after coming across this:
Yes it’s that old EngageSportMode conundrum, the 6-Series Gran Coupe. As big as a 7-Series, just as expensive but less practical and only slightly more swoopy looking, this enigmatic machine is available in the above displayed Frozen Bronze. Which actually in real life is more of a matte brown colour. But let us not be picky; BMW say it’s bronze, so it must be. It’s inclusion is also warranted for the chance to have this interior combination, which you actually have to pay MORE for:
I actually left the details uncropped to prove that this wasn’t something I just hashed together. If your heart so desires, you can indeed have a BMW with a white and brown/orange-y interior. The mind boggles.
For the runner-up, ESM picked a brand new offering from Munich: the M6. Gone is the wailing V10, instead replaced with a turbo V8 as used in the latest M5. Road tests have highlighted that the latest M6 is apparently found to be lacking as a driver’s machine, which for a M-branded car is concerning. It also happens to be hideously expensive. Starting at an already pricey £93,795, through ticking all the options I managed to spec this Silverstone II coloured machine to this price-tag:
Yes, that’s £114,545.00. In GBP, not Yen or anything else. Or about the price of an Audi R8 V10; yes I know it’s not the same kind of car, but I know where I’d rather put my lottery winnings/controversial banking industry bonus were it me.
And the winner is:
The 5-Series GT. Another confusing concept of a car, and one that also happens to be horrendously ugly. BMW offer it in this Milano Beige which was about as close as I could get to something on-screen which replicated gold. £64k, for something with a face only a mother (or marketing executive) could ever love. Shameful.
But, all is not lost in Munich. As, whilst perusing the configurator, I was immensely pleased to see this little number available:
In the crazy, modern world of the hot-hatch, a Volkswagen Golf GTi has a starting price of over £25,000. The latest Renaultsport Megane 265 Trophy will require almost £29k to be yours, and Audi’s now not so limited edition RS3 charges £39,930. However, the M135i starts from less than £30,000 (I’d added options on the one pictured) yet boasts firepower to tackle the even the fiercest of current performance hatchback.
The Valenica Orange paintwork isn’t the only thing it has in common with that old ESM favourite; the 1-Series M Coupe. Essentially the M135i uses a slightly detuned version of its turbocharged 3.0 litre straight-six to give 320 bhp, and 0-60 mph in 5.0 seconds. Flat-out it’ll hit an electronically limited 155 mph, whilst it’s still frugal enough to offer an official combined mpg of 35.3. It doesn’t photograph well, but in the flesh it does look better believe me.
Given that the old M Coupe cost around £40k and was scarcely quicker, BMW looks to be offering something with 9/10ths of the performance for only 3/4ths the price. Could the M135i be the possible Yohan Blake to the M Coupe’s Usain Bolt in ESMCoTY2012? Wait and see in December.
With another 2 weeks of the Olympics, ESM can take no responsibility for the potential for more tenuously linked items to appear. Although it can guarantee Paul McCartney will not turn up at the end to ruin everything.
ESM cannot help but notice that over on YouTube a LOT of people are talking about a certain video. No, not the one ESM featured last week, or even the baby monkey riding on a pig. The internets are currently very into this one:
Over 21 million viewers (as of today) can’t be bad surely? Well, I guess not. But, for whatever reason, I just don’t really buy into the whole Ken Block/Gymkhana thing.
Undoubtedly I appreciate that the level of skill and car-control to do the things Block does in that video are incredible. Jumping the hills of San Francisco sideways whilst drifting?! That is genuinely insane. Doing doughnuts on a floating barge also takes tremendous faith in knowing where the car ends and the water starts.
Ken is certainly talented behind the wheel of a car, doing stunts and yanking on the handbrake. Does this make him a great racing driver? ESM would be inclined to say “hmm, well, probably not dude”. His performance on the WRC circuit has been sporadic; typically only competing in half the rounds throughout the season. His best actual result has been 8th on last year’s Rallye de France. An impressive result in isolation, but Kimi Raikkonen managed better even with his whimsical approach to rallying.
Block and his Ford Fiesta have also seemingly created a generation of drivers who think sticking huge Monster energy drink stickers to random bits of their car will give them his level of car control. Essentially, it’s no cooler than sticking a picture of the Tetley Tea Folk to your back bumper.
So before ESM turns into too much of a boring old man, here’s one of Block’s good friends (Travis Pastrana) doing a ridiculous jump in a Subaru Impreza from a couple of years ago. Enjoy:
So the sixth Grand Prix of this years Formula 1 season was won by the sixth different driver. Unpredictable, chaotic and disordered, the 2012 championship is like shopping in Primark. Or Greece.
The Monaco race also played host to an almighty gaffe on the part of Simon Lazenby who, if you’re unfamiliar, is the one holding the iPad not managing to be Jake Humphrey
Basically, during Sunday’s coverage of the race, Lazenby made the comment of: “Some twisty and dangerous roads above us here in Monaco, Princess Grace knows all about them.”
If you didn’t know, Princess Grace (aka Grace Kelly) died in 1982, following a car accident on the French side of the border with Monaco. She suffered a stroke which led to the car going off the road and down a mountainside.
Bad taste? For a Sunday afternoon sports programme yes, I think so. The Daily Mail, obviously, agrees. I’ll admit I didn’t hear the comment said by Lazenby; I was too busy channel hopping to avoid him. So I’m not going to write to my MP and demand Lazenby resigns etc. etc.
Mainly because it probably wasn’t his fault. If you watched him presenting F1, it’s apparent he’s struggling to cope with such a fast paced moving format. You could put anything on a TelePrompTer or bark any instruction in his ear, and he’d say/do it. I’m sure you could offer the words; “punch Jean Todt in the face, then crap in Mark Webber’s cockpit Simon” and he’d loyally do so.
Will Sky drop him? I doubt it. This early in the season it’d be like Lotus booting out Raikkonen. But a couple more foot-in-mouth situations and he could be moving on to pastures new.
Despite the fact Lazenby follows me (and several others who have been negative about his presenting) on twitter, I’m not going to change my opinion of him. You only had to flick between the BBC and Sky coverage to witness the gulf in ability between him and Jake Humphrey. Sky are charging people like me a premium for its F1 coverage; why should we suffer when the BBC get high quality (admittedly for only half the season) anchoring?
To finish, here’s a photo of another awkward situation from Sunday. Our dog, stuck behind my shed:
The past three seasons of Formula 1 coverage by the BBC had made me forget just how bloody irritating advert breaks are in the middle of practice sessions and qualifying. Sky Sports F1 seemed to feature rather a lot of them during its broadcasting including, ironically, a lot for its own F1 channel. But, in between watching advertisements, did Sky manage to live up to the hype? Yes-ish.
Producing and directing any new show can’t be easy, especially one with so many parts which need to coordinate together. There were a few blank stares and missed links over the weekend, but the Murdoch money-machine will iron them out over time I’m sure.
Overall it worked; the F1 Show on Friday was a notable success, I generally felt well informed and the HD pictures looked deep and glossy. Everyone’s favourite Dutch-sounding Englishman, Christian Horner, made a number of appearances, we got many pictures of a (more) miserable looking Alonso and there was no Anchorman style confrontation with the BBC.
With Sky having such a disparate roster of individuals working across the weekend, it’s perhaps easier to assess them individually. Here we go then:
Possibly the man with the biggest weight to carry, replacing Jake Humphrey in the eyes of former BBC viewers. It might have just been first race nerves, but from what I saw he could have been presenting anything, anywhere on any channel. Came across bored, soulless and disinterested; check out this from the post-race interview with Eric Boullier for example:
Kept forgetting things like his iPad or to take the microphone off the person he’d just interviewed. Brundle and Hill looked awkward in his presence. Who knows, he might grow into the role as the season progresses but for now he looks out of his depth.
Having commentated on F1 since 1997, Brundle’s television career is now actually greater in length than his time spent behind the wheel. He didn’t seem quite as comfortable as normal and the grid walk failed to hit the spot, getting there too early to bag the top drivers. In truth that’s more the producers fault than his, but it did undermine his role as chief pundit. However, in the commentary box at least, he was on usual form.
“Crofty” as everyone calls him (including himself) spent several years commentating on F1 for BBC Radio 5 Live before jumping ship to Sky. His radio history shows; he sadly seems to suffer from Jonathan Legard syndrome. This irritating affliction involves stating every little detail of what’s going on as if the commentator was on the radio and thus having to give a vivid description to help the listener. This isn’t necessary with television; we can see what’s happening for ourselves! Generally knowledgeable, and really nowhere near as annoying as Legard (or James Allen, thank Christ). If he calms down and lets the pictures speak for themselves he’ll be fine.
Like Brundle, another F1 TV journeyman, having spent time with both ITV and the BBC before moving on to Sky. Kravitz (or Theodore Slotover as he was originally named) is consistent, insightful and eager to please with his pit-lane updates. Aside from the rather excellent F1 Show with Thompson on Friday he felt underutilised this weekend, which is a real shame. Less Lazenby, more Kravitz.
Another BBC Radio 5 Live refugee. I had never heard much of her on the radio, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The result was some incredibly lightweight questioning and confused looking F1 drivers. Highlights were discussing koalas with Sergio Perez, lowlights being the stupidity of asking Alonso if Ferrari planned to update the car between Australia and the next race weekend (which begins in only 5 days). The irritated look on Fernando’s face said it all.
Went to the same school as Pinkham and, according to Wikipedia at least, is her friend. Georgie proved to be something of a revelation this weekend as, to be honest, I didn’t really expect a great deal from her. She co-hosted the F1 Show on Friday with authority and professionalism. In my opinion she could quite easily replace Lazenby as anchor for the whole weekend, such was the impression she made. Before anyone says anything, the above isn’t related to her looks. Yes she is easy on the eye, but not my type; this praise is purely for her presenting.
The only member of the team whom I have an incredibly tenuous personal link with; a result of vaguely knowing his younger brother many years ago. Davidson is another under used part of the group, with great professionalism onscreen and astute commentary on practice sessions. His chemistry with Thompson seems to be the most natural of any pairing across the line-up. Also seems to be the only person capable of working the SkyPad display.
The Roman Grosjean equivalent of pundits, going above and beyond what anyone must have expected from this former F1 World Champion. Charismatic, clever and (according to my girlfriend) a bit of a silver-fox. Apparently only scheduled to be doing ten races for Sky; they desperately need to get him onboard for the rest to give some weight and magnitude to proceedings. Undoubtedly the star of the weekend.
Like a timeless, neatly coiffured squirrel Rider presents the Legends show, which I haven’t seen and thus can’t comment on. But his inclusion is a nice throwback to the original days of Grandstand on the BBC.
So there you have it. The 1996 World Champion leading the pack, with the rookie anchor trailing in last place. I sincerely hope Lazenby at least attempts to look more interested in Malaysia; otherwise it’s going to be a long road to November.
Top Gear was on TV tonight. Whilst being better than the past couple of weeks, the cliched analogies from Clarkson are really becoming tired. I’ve heard the “gearbox doesn’t know what it is” line god knows how many times in the past decade. It just isn’t funny anymore.
Also, the production is now so OTT it’s almost impossible to actually see a car for more than tenth of a second. The crazy camera angles, dramatic effects and jarring music make for tiring viewing.
By contrast, and for an example of some excellent car journalism on video, watch this: Chris Harris On Cars
This is a car review. This actually gives information about driving a supercar in the real world. And this is what, given the opportunity, I would like EngageSportMode to be like.
So, Top Gear returned to our screens tonight for the start of the eighteenth (indeed, 18th!) series.
I have to admit I didn’t even realise it was on. Having watched Clarkson, Hammond and May dissolve into cliches of themselves over the past nine years, Top Gear has recently been something to tolerate not enjoy. It wasn’t until it started trending on twitter that I noticed it was back.
After the sheer hideousness which was the Indian Christmas Special, my expectations were low. But tonight’s episode displayed a faint glimmer of what could be (or could’ve been) the direction of the show.
Three new supercars, an road trip and an infamous race circuit. This is what real petrolhead TV should be about. Yes there were still some cringe-inducing parts, but nothing which made me want to turn away. Apart from Clarkson interviewing will.i.am perhaps.
Tonight the cars were the focus. Not staged “comic” set pieces or non-accidental accidents. Nothing exploded, nothing caught fire (bar the Lambo’s exhaust) and James May didn’t shout “oh cock” every five seconds.
The Aventador was the true star for me out of the cars on offer. The drama, the presence, the noise; none of the others matched it. More than anything it was the supercar which has a soul.
The segment before the last session at Imola where the trio talked to the cars; only Clarkson and the Lambo seemed convincing. I’ve had a similar “moment” with an orange Lamborghini also, but that shall wait for another post.