Continuing the Japanese theme for this week, here is another photo fresh from the archives. If by fresh you mean taken about two days ago:
This Nissan 350Z belongs to ESM’s Mate Dave who, whilst finding himself bored with a week off work, traded in his diesel Seat Leon FR for the tree-fiddy-zed.
Going from a frugal derv-powered hatchback, to a coupe powered by a naturally aspirated V6, has hit Dave hardest in his wallet. 287bhp doesn’t come without a corresponding thirst for unleaded! Although it has to be said, the 3.5 litre motor is a great sounding way to shred your hard earned cash.
This was the first time I’d been in a Zed, but it’s safe to say it felt easily as quick as the claimed 0-60mph time of 5.8 seconds. I was also impressed by the ride; despite wearing the GT pack Rays alloy wheels, it didn’t particularly thump or judder over Newcastle’s shoddy roads.
The interior has aged well since the 350Z’s introduction in 2003. However, the period BOSE stereo proved amusing by making me question the last time I saw a car with a cassette player:
We did discover that it’s also the perfect place to store an iPhone 4, should you so wish.
Overall, the 350Z is more modern muscle car than out and out sports car. But this isn’t to the big Zed’s discredit; it’s a wholesome, honest coupe with sonorous engine under the bonnet. And a tape deck.
Whilst the Festival of Speed “proper” doesn’t begin until Friday, Thursday plays host to the Moving Motor Show event. Designed to let the public get up close and personal with a range of new cars from Skoda and SEAT to Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari. Of note were the BMW M5′s which seemed to rev and crackle for fun, and sheer awesomeness of five Audi R8 V10 Spyders tearing up the hill one after another.
Thursday is also the quietest day of the Festival of Speed, with not all garages and paddocks full with cars. The number of spectators is also lower, giving the early bird the chance to get close up with the vehicles on site without wading through a wall of elbows.
ESM arrived on Thursday in sweltering humid conditions at around lunchtime. Once the tent was up and somelight refreshment taken onboard, we set off to explore. Below is a pictorial summary of what we found:
Stay tuned for further photo and video highlights from the other days of the Festival of Speed.
Now that my hearing has started to recover, the sunburn has begun to fade and the numerous pictures and videos have been uploaded, I can now begin to make sense of the previous four days.
For the uninitiated, the Goodwood Festival of Speed (FoS) is an annual event which first began back in 1993. The idea is simple; legendary and iconic cars and bikes from the world of motorsport are invited to be hammered up the Earl of March’s drive, at his house in West Sussex, by the greatest riders and drivers from history. In addition, between runs up the hill the cars/bikes are displayed in simple awning-style paddocks with spectators able to get right up alongside them. The additional Moving Motor Show event has in recent years fundamentally replaced the traditional British motor show, with stands from leading manufacturers and new cars being unveiled. Have a look at this if you still happen to be in any doubt as to what the long weekend entails.
The event felt bigger than ever this year, with a sprawling exhibitor’s area, numerous special paddocks, off-road displays and the more recent rally-stage taking up huge acres of the Goodwood estate. Trying to fit all this into even four days is a challenge, given the vast array of distractions both on and off the track. As a result, and for this week’s first FoS themed post, I’ve picked out my top five moments from the weekend.
ESM’s FoS Top Five
5. Ayrton Senna’s Lotus 98T
Every year Goodwood chooses to celebrate a certain manufacturer, with a giant and extravagant display outside the main house and a range of vehicles intended to showcase the marque’s successes. For 2012 the FoS picked Lotus as the company to be revered. As many will know, the brand has taken a battering lately with the optimistic strategy of Dany Bahar, and his subsequent removal. However, the FoS allowed fans to remember the Norfolk firm’s finer moments, including it’s Formula 1 back catalogue. Of particular interest was this one:
Driven by Ayrton Senna and Johnny Dumfries during the 1986 Formula 1 season, the 98T took Team Lotus to 3rd in the constructor’s championship and gave Senna 2 wins and 6 additional podiums. The Renault EF15bis engine gave up to 1,300 turbocharged-bhp, produced from only a 1.5 litre V6. Anything with the name “Senna” on the side always makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, so to be only a couple of feet away from an iconic car was a special moment.
4. The Mazda MX-5 GT Concept
What, amongst all the exotica on display a Mazda MX-5 makes it this high up the ranking? Yes, because this is no ordinary MX-5; the standard (normally aspirated) 2.0 litre engine has been taken to 205 bhp, carbon fibre bits added, weight reduced and suspension tightened. Amongst the countless supercars, the little MX-5 managed to sound ridiculously raucous.
This was probably in part due to the enthusiastic driving style of those responsible for flinging it up the hill. 19-year-old kart/sports car racer Jade Paveley was the most fired-up of all, and she really made the GT fly. The fact it is bright orange also swung ESM towards liking the dinky convertible, and seriously made one want to be on its drive. Mazda certainly needs to build it.
3. Nissan GT-R GT1
Given that the regular Nissan GT-R sounded relatively tame whilst speeding past, ESM assumed the race car would not be that much louder. Wrong, oh so very wrong indeed. This thing made the earth shake like an original Dodge Viper GTS-R. Piloted by last year’s FIA GT1 world champion Michael Krumm, the GT-R set some of the quickest times across the weekend. Too quick, in fact, for ESM to manage any video of the damn thing! You’ll just have to imagine instead.
2. Renault Alpine A110-50
Built by Renault to celebrate 50 years since the launch of the original Alpine A110, this concept car is based on a Megane Trophy racer tubular chassis, using a mid-mounted 3.5 litre V6 to offer up 400 bhp. Whereas the GTR above sounded scary, the A110-50 just sounded as enchanting as it looked. Another fan favourite, and ripe for at least some sort of production offering surely?
1. Sebastian Vettel
Along with celebrating a specific manufacturer, the FoS also has a theme to the selection of cars on offer. For the 2012 event, the subject was “Young Guns, Born to Win” and to be honest, it’s a title that could have been handwritten for Vettel. The German, who turns 25 this week, already has two F1 world championships and a host of other achievements under his belt. I remember watching him take his first win, and become the youngest driver to do so, in the wet at Monza with Toro Rosso. It was obvious then what a star he was going to be.
Making his first appearance at the FoS, Vettel enjoyed himself as much as he possibly could. Whether it was ripping up the lawn outside the house in his Infiniti FX (Vettel edition), or doing possibly the longest ever display of show-boating in his 2011 F1 car, Seb seemingly had a wail of a time. You get the impression that, whilst many drivers would be there under the forced hand of corporate media pressure, Vettel was there simply for the fun of it. I apologise for the poor video quality, but I think you can get the idea:
The rest of the Red Bull team present made sure they got involved in the fun also:
If those were the highlights, then what were the lowlights?
Well, the Lamborghini Aventador managed to sound muter than a mute swan. The Infiniti emerg-e electric concept failed twice causing the track to be red-flagged. And a Gumpert Apollo had a nasty incident at Molecombe corner cutting short Saturday’s running. But as I’m sure you can gather, these were only small issues compared to the enjoyment shown above.
Check back later in the week for more photos and videos, followed by an editorial post on what Goodwood actually offers to the average petrolhead.
The Infiniti brand is to Nissan what Lexus is to Toyota; essentially blinged up versions of domestic Japanese models, renamed to charge Americans more money for them.
Whilst Infiniti was launched in the United States back in 1989, it wasn’t until 2008 that the decision to branch out in to Europe was taken. In keeping with the “premium” image comes a premium price tag. The cheapest G-Series saloon starts at just shy of £35k, rising to £58k for the range topping FX 4×4 SUV.
And that’s the one ESM found itself in, powering around the streets of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, desperately trying not to look like a drug dealer. Though, as you can see from the photos below, not looking like your friendly, neighbourhood, crack dispensary is not easy:
This is the FX30d S Premium, looking to cost someone mental enough to pay full price a whopping £53,415. As you can probably guess from the “d” in the name, this is a derv powered machine; a 3.0 litre V6 kicking out 253 bhp and a not unsubstantial 406 lb-ft of torque. A 3.7 litre V6 petrol is also available, along with a suicidally thirsty 5.0 litre V8. Given that the Renault sourced diesel engine was shoehorned in for the European market, the US bias behind this car is obvious.
Regardless, despite weighing the best part of almost 2.2 tonnes, the diesel engine manages to launch the FX30d to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds and on to a 132 mph top speed. Warm-hatch performance for such a huge vehicle is not to be scoffed at, but the payback comes in the form of only 31 mpg average fuel consumption. In reality, 25 mpg is probably more realistic. The 7-speed automatic gearbox does have a Sport mode with flappy-paddle shifters, but even in my short drive the novelty soon wore off. This is a car to be left to do its own thing in D. Performance matches the figures, with the FX feeling quicker than a crude-oil burner of such stature really should. Braking is equally, and reassuringly, impressive.
A few roundabouts provided the only real chance to test out the handling of this 4-wheel drive behemoth, which was grippy and stable. The suspension also happens to have a Sport mode, though this served only to amplify the crashy nature of the ride; something not helped by the big pimpin’ spec 21″ wheels:
The steering is light and not particularly communicative, though accurate which is useful given its 2.13 metre width. With the narrow lanes of some of the “Toon’s” dual-carriageway, the automatic lane departure warning kept making itself known; just one toy from the entire box Nissan has emptied into the FX Premium through its sunroof. Adaptive cruise-control, dual-zone climate-control, heated and cooled leather seats, touchscreen satellite navigation and a media hard-drive are your starters for 10. More interestingly, the FX includes cameras mounted at the front, back and both sides to offer a very handy bird’s eye view when parking. Given the cramped feel to the cabin and restricted vision of the outside world, this feature is more necessity than gimmick in the FX.
Along with feeling cramped, the FX’s interior struggles to live up to its £50k expectations. Plastic abounds in the cockpit, along with a tacky Maserati emulating analogue clock:
Other bits appear stolen from the rest of the Nissan range, and do very little to create a feeling of bespoke craftsmanship. I have no doubt that it will be well put together and ultimately reliable, but in this price range that special ambience behind the wheel is critical.
I also think anyone buying one new is going to suffer depreciation on a truly epic scale. Whilst the £53,000 list price may well undercut rivals such as the BMW X6 (equally pretentious) or the Range Rover Sport, and be better equipped, Infiniti lacks the brand cache. I realise launching a new badge is difficult, and that it took Lexus until the release of the IS200 in 2000 to get a foothold in Europe, but I’m not convinced by the Infiniti project.
Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and even Lexus all offer (relatively) affordable entry-level models to welcome new, young, buyers into their marques. With a £35k opening bid, Infiniti is asking substantial sums of money for a unknown entity. However, given the Nissan model range it can hardly offer a gold-badged Micra or Note as competitors to the Audi A1 or BMW 1-Series.
The FX30d S is not a bad car by regular measures of performance or value for money. But in a market segment where choice is based on image and desirability the FX it makes a very poor argument for itself.