BTCC 2017 | Donington Park – What did we learn?

The first race weekend in the 2017 British Touring Car Championship failed to excite our correspondent. What did he take away from Donington Park?2017 BTCC | Donington Park

After a rather tepid affair at Brands Hatch last time out, the action and drama heated up at Donington Park on a weekend marred by the horrific injuries suffered by Billy Monger in the F4 support race. Apart from learning there was more brilliance shown from the marshals and medical services at the track, what else did we learn?

It is perhaps time to stop referring to Tom Ingram, Aiden Moffat, Jack Goff and Josh Cook et al. as ‘young guns’ and ‘rookies’ despite their age and experience after yet more sterling efforts at Donington. In fact, Ingram leads the championship, as his outstanding displays from Brands Hatch continued. Ingram was naturally helped in achieving this by Gordon Shedden’s failed ride height in the final race where he’d crossed the line first. However, Ingram followed up a strong qualifying with a brace of fifth place finishes and another win. He is deservedly top of the ladder and it is a great achievement for Speedworks and Ingram.

When you consider that Ingram is already 82 points ahead of Jason Plato, you would suggest the he will be, or is, a serious title challenger, but what is happening to Plato? His new teammate, Ash Sutton, has outperformed him so far and achieved two podiums at Donington, and these were achieved after starting at the back in the opening race after his qualifying pole lap was discounted. Rarely has Plato been uncompetitive in his BTCC career, but this season has been quite disastrous so far, albeit six races in and with a DNS. A serious championship contender can perhaps afford one bad event per season, yet alone two when the competition is as tough as this season’s. Although, I didn’t publicly air my predictions for the season, I did fancy Plato in what looked like a strong Subaru last season. Will he win the championship? No.

Similarly, Moffat won’t win the championship either, but we did learn that his consistent improvement over the last couple of years has been finally rewarded with a maiden win. It was a great effort from the Scot and I’m sure that it will be the first of many in what promises to be an excellent career. He seems a genuine chap, who just wants to race and not be bothered by complaining about boost levels and such like as some of the field mix themselves with.

2017 BTCC | Donington Park

The mere sight of rain clouds often causes panic and more debate amongst teams and drivers, yet sheer pandemonium greets the precipitation and it was no different at Donington. Generally, the drivers hate rain and the fans love it because it makes the racing unpredictable and ups the ante of excitement. Race three was no different. Several drivers took the scenic route on the warm up laps and the race was stopped after a lap with cars strewn everywhere, including leader Matt Neal. It was, as a fan, brilliant to watch. It was, as a driver, a nightmare.

Why? These drivers are meant to be the best in Britain, yet some of them are calling for the race to be delayed, stopped and so on. Motorsport is dangerous, we all know that, but if you’re not prepared to play ball, don’t race. Similarly, the F1 drivers have a tantrum at the sight of rain. They are meant to be the best in the world. Yet, their former supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, even pondered the idea of fake rain via sprinklers to liven up the races. As a driver, the spray is obviously horrendous, blinding, but surely in 2017 there must be some technological advances somewhere to ease the problem in one way or another? Admittedly, there were small streams across the track, but again, remind yourself that these are supposedly the best drivers in Britain. Again, do we not have the technology to easy these problems? A lot of questions, I know, but it seems completely stupendous that we have to stop racing because it’s a bit wet. (more…)

New Metal | 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

In all the excitement surrounding the SRT Demon, we almost overlooked the fact that Jeep slipped out the most-powerful production SUV at the same time. It involves the Hemi Hellcat engine, so we should probably take a closer look.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

It must only be a matter of time before every product sold by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in the USA comes fitted with the 707hp 6.2-litre supercharged engine. This is now the third model to be endowed with the monster Hemi, following the Challenger and Charger Hellcat models. We would include the SRT Demon too, but Dodge wants us to regard that particular ludicrous motor as unique. It has a Demon face cast into the block – so ok, we will.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk was hardly Detroit’s best kept secret, but that doesn’t stop it still being a little exciting. With 707hp, and 645lb-ft of torque, this is the most powerful production SUV to exist. This easily surpasses the already quite mental Dodge Durango SRT released earlier this year. Forget the Lamborghini LM002, the Bentley Bentayga W12, or even the BMW X5 Le Mans – the Trackhawk beats them all. The only way to get more power in an SUV would be to turn to aftermarket tuners.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Instead this craziness comes direct from the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, and is responsible for the Trackhawk hitting 180mph, and doing 0-60mph in just 3.5 seconds. We repeat, 3.5 seconds. That’s quicker than a Ferrari F40, quicker than a Lexus LFA, and even quicker than the Challenger Hellcat! Yes, the Jeep actually springs to 60mph in less time than the Dodge, thanks to the advantage of a 4WD system. With launch control, and a standard Torque Reserve feature, the Trackhawk is capable of hurling itself forward with reassuring violence. Thankfully the eight-speed gearbox and drivetrain have been enhanced to cope with the gigantic forces at work to make this all possible.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Bilstein adaptive suspension is standard, and can be adjusted by choosing several drive modes on offer. Naturally there’s a sport mode, but there can’t be many SUVs that have the option of a ‘tow’ mode, along with a ‘track’ setting. The latter decreases gearshift times, stiffens the suspension, and sends 70% of the torque to the rear axle. Just in case you’re wondering, yes the Trackhawk can actually tow – up to almost 3,500kg. There is a ‘snow’ mode included as well, which is said to reduce horsepower to maximise traction on icy roads. There’s no word on whether the Trackhawk will off-road, but someone will undoubtedly test that at some point… (more…)

Engage Drag Mode | 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon | More details

It turns out we didn’t dream it, and Dodge really did release the most-powerful muscle car ever early this morning. Now that it’s actually sunk in, what does the SRT Demon actually deliver?

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

Forgive us if our post this morning was a little short on detail. In our defence, it was almost 2am, and we had endured Dodge’s live streaming buildup to the big reveal of the SRT Demon. Dodge had a lot to deliver on here, having released teaser videos and trailers for weeks, culminating in the final unveiling last night. Vin Diesel was there. So was Wiz Khalifa. We’re not sure anybody really cared about them, other than Dodge promoting how big their muscle car brand is.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

No, the star attraction was the official announcement of a car that has seemingly already racked up a quite insane number of superlatives. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Most-powerful production muscle car
  • Highest horsepower production V8 ever – 840hp
  • World’s fastest 0-60mph time – 2.3 seconds
  • Highest g-force acceleration of a production car – 1.8g
  • First-ever car to lift the front wheels during an acceleration run – 2.92-feet (certified by Guinness World Records, seriously)
  • First production car to feature a front passenger seat delete – they’re not kidding
  • World’s fastest production car to run a standing quarter-mile – 9.65 seconds / 140mph

That last one is the kicker. The SRT Demon is, for all intents and purposes, a road-legal dragster. It can be driven to the strip, optimised with the included ‘Demon Crate’ of goodies, used to set crazy times, and then driven home. This goes far beyond even the Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcat models, in essentially creating what is a race car for the road. Dodge is also keen to point out that this isn’t just a modified version of the Hellcat, and that the Demon had undergone extensive modifications.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

Although it may use the 6.2-litre supercharged V8 as found in the Hellcat models, the additional 133hp and 120lb-ft of torque (taking the total to 770lb-ft) come via a number of upgrades. The supercharger is bigger and runs more boost, whilst the V8 revs higher to a 6,500rpm limit. It also features two fuel pumps, and air intakes galore – with one in the bonnet, one in the wheel arch, and one in the headlight. The Hemi engine is setup to run on 101-octane fuel, which will in part be responsible for that headline 840hp figure. Perhaps our favourite feature is the ‘Power-Chiller’ system, which circulates refrigerant from the interior air-conditioning to cool the supercharger. It also continues to run once the car has been turned off to minimise heat soak from the colossal motor. This clearly is more than just a Hellcat with the wick turned up.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

An eight-speed paddle-shift automatic gearbox is standard, having already seen service in the Hellcat twins. However it gains a TransBrake feature, which holds the car in place for fast launches. According to Dodge, this delivers 15% more torque from a standing start. The Demon also features launch assist, which detects wheel hop and reduces torque accordingly, allowing the driver to keep the throttle pedal wide open. Oh, and there’s Torque Reserve – building boost from the supercharger to ensure maximum acceleration off the line. All of this is said to improve quarter-mile times by a tenth of a second – a small amount of time which matters in drag racing.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

So much torque, it’ll do wheelies coming off the line

Although where you might actually race your SRT Demon is another matter. The National Hot Rod Association certified the 9.65 second quarter-mile time, and then promptly banned the Demon from competition use for being too fast. It may sound like a Donald Trump-esque boast, but the SRT Demon is technically prevented from competing because it is too good. The NHRA requires any street-legal car built after 2008, and capable of doing a standing quarter in 10.00 seconds or less, to have a certified roll full cage. Something the Demon does not have, and would probably damage it’s street car usability by having.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

The Demon also doesn’t have any passengers seats as standard from the factory, with only the driver’s chair provided. Front and rear passengers seats can be added for just $1, depending on how serious you are about terrifying friends and family. Their removal is part of the 90kg diet that the Demon has been placed on with sound deadening, stereo speakers, and parking sensors ditched in the pursuit of lightness.

Even the anti-roll bars have been swapped to lighter hollow designs, as part of suspension changes designed – unsurprisingly – to help out at the drag strip. Suspensions settings are actually softer than the Hellcat, intended to maximise weight being shifted to the rear on acceleration. Our favourite part is the inclusion of a Drag Mode which sets the adaptive dampers, and other systems, for straight line runs. Once the run is over, the car returns to regular damper mode, whilst the traction control kicks back in having been disabled to allow giant burnouts.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

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Video | New 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

Dodge has seemingly founds its niche, which is producing ridiculous muscle cars with increasingly insane levels of performance. After the Hellcat now comes the Demon, which Dodge has hyped and teased to within an inch of its life. Was it worth the wait?

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

Let’s cut to the chase. This is essentially a street-legal dragster, with 840hp and the ability to do a standing quarter-mile in 9.65 seconds. That’s a production NHRA record right there. It’ll also do 0-60mph in 2.3 seconds, pulls 1.8g when launching, but is still covered by a regular three-year/36,000-mile warranty. We’re not entirely sure what this madness is, so here’s a video that might help explain:

We’ll have more much Demon coverage on EngageSportMode once we’ve managed to get our heads around just what is going on here.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

BTCC 2017 | Brands Hatch Indy – What did we learn?

British Touring Car Championship fans rejoiced at the weekend as the first of ten Sundays were taken over by the sound of purring engines and screeching tyres. After the first round of action, what have we learnt?

BTCC 2017 | Brands Hatch Indy

With the grid being as strong as ever, it was important that reigning champion Gordon Shedden made a good start at Brands if he wishes to retain the trophy for a third successive season. And he did. Come 6pm on Sunday evening, Shedden was once again top of the pile following a win, second and a seventh. It appears clear at this early stage that his main challengers will be from the BMW trio of Colin Turkington, Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan as well as his teammate, Matt Neal. I would suggest there’s an outside chance of Tom Ingram realistically challenging Shedden too, if he can maintain his opening round form for the season.

Turkington looked like he’d never been away from the BMW 1-series, with which he won the championship in 2014, despite a two year absence with Subaru. His teammates, however, are still ahead of him in the points chart showing how competitive the BMW was at the weekend and will be, again, over the season. Turkington, of course, was not helped by Neal wiping him out off the start line in the opening race.

BTCC 2017 | Brands Hatch Indy

A similar fate ruined Turkington’s former teammate Jason Plato in the second race too. Worryingly for Plato though, he and his teammates’ Subarus never looked competitive all weekend. A few regulation changes to the Subaru Levorg over the close season certainly looked to have ‘worked’, depending on your point of view. They will need to find some solutions quickly if Plato wishes to mount a serious title challenge this time around. (more…)

Opinion | Are new cars actually getting more expensive?

The new Volkswagen Golf, and the excellent revised GTI in particular, got us wondering. Just how much more expensive are new cars compared to their predecessors? 

2017 New Volkswagen Mk7.5 Golf GTI

Having already won rave reviews from both print and online media, the Mk7.5 Volkswagen Golf GTI is already attracting attention. Yet a lot of the Internet comments seem to take umbrage at one particular fact – the cost. To clarify, the new Golf GTI has a list price starting at £27,865. As with any modern car, there is the huge temptation to run wild with the extras, but that basic amount will get you a brand-new three-door GTI, with a manual gearbox. No options, no fancy technology packages, not even metallic paint. Signature GTI colours like Tornado Red will add an extra £250, with metallics needing £570. In short, it’s rather easy to spec’ a GTI which costs over £30,000. Shock, horror, Internet outrage.

The most recent time a new Golf GTI garnered such positive attention was with the introduction of the Mk5 in early 2005. After the lacklustre Mk4 effort, the all-new GTI was an absolute revelation. Tartan seats helped, too. Yet when first introduced, the new Mk5 GTI had a starting price of just £19,995. Yes really, less than £20,000, and although the amount did rise shortly afterward, that’s the value we’ve used for comparison.

2005 Volkswagen MkV Golf GTI

A difference of £7,870 equates to a substantial sounding 39.4% increase in those twelve years between 2005 and 2017! On the other hand, horsepower has gone from 197hp in the Mk5 GTI, to 230hp in the Mk7.5, a jump of only 17%. If it had followed the same pattern as pricing, new GTI models should be rolling out the factory with 274hp. So have Volkswagen left new GTI buyers shortchanged?

Well no, actually. Inflation on the cost of goods and services in the UK has risen on average by around 2.9% each year. That 2.9% figure is based on the Bank of England’s CPI information, and there is little difference when using inflation calculators that rely on RPI data instead. We’re not going to delve into A-Level economics and debate the differences here – this is a car blog, not the Financial Times.

2017 New Volkswagen Mk7.5 Golf GTI

Inflation between March 2005 and March 2017 totals roughly – wait for it – 39%. Meaning a new Mk7.5 Golf GTI costs within £75 of what the financial data tells us it should do in 2017. It also means we’re getting a better deal in 2017 with 230hp, and the continuous improvement in technology and specification that has taken place in the last decade. So the next time someone exclaims the new Golf GTI is far too expensive, feel free to shut them down with data.

We couldn’t just leave it at one car, however. The Golf GTI may happen to be a freak automotive bellwether, so we checked out the new Golf R, just to be sure. But this time we went even further back with our research. All the way back to 2002, and the introduction of the Mk4 R32. (more…)

Geneva 2017 | Lamborghini Huracán Performante

It’s bright orange, it’s got a huge rear wing, and it’s a Lamborghini. Of course we were going to feature the new Huracán Performante on EngageSportMode.

2017 Lamborghini Huracán Performante

The Performante is hardly a well-kept secret, as disguised test versions have been spotted out in the wild for months. We’ve also already seen the video of Lamborghini setting a new Nürburgring Nordschleife production car lap record of 6 minutes 52.01 seconds. Yet despite not being a surprise, it’s still a deeply impressive machine, and offers up more than the typical “less weight, more power” supercar special edition formula.

2017 Lamborghini Huracán Performante

 

For a start, Lamborghini has made use of Forged Composite technology, which sounds a little like a cross between regular carbon fibre and glass fibre construction. In short, it has allowed Lamborghini to craft bumpers, and other complex shapes, from a lightweight, but strong, material. The result is a saving of some 40kg, with the 4WD Performante clocking up a family hatchback-rivalling 1,382kg weight on the scales.

2017 Lamborghini Huracán Performante

The 5.2-litre V10 engine has also been updated, with output now 631hp at 8,000rpm. That’s an increase of 29hp over the regular Huracán, whilst torque has also increased from 413lb-ft to 442lb-ft. Proving that the effects of Dieselgate don’t quite appear to have reached Sant’Agata, CO2 emissions have increased to 302g/km – although we doubt that will be a major concern for any customers. Likewise the official combined fuel economy of 20.6mpg. Lamborghini is also keen to stress that the manifold cover is now bronze, in a knowing nod to previous special edition models. Exhaust noises are also said to be made even more aggressive, with a revised higher position.

2017 Lamborghini Huracán Performante

So far, so standard supercar upgrades. However, where the Performante does move things on is with the use of active aerodynamics system. Which actually sounds far better in Italian: Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva (ALA). Working on both the front spoiler, and vents in the rear engine cover, the ALA system can with between low drag and high downforce, or even allow aero vectoring. The latter shapes air flowing across the rear spoiler, and pushes the inside wheel harder into the ground to increase traction when cornering at high speed. Clearly this is more than just Lamborghini bolting on the biggest set of wings and spoiler they could find.

2017 Lamborghini Huracán Performante

Suspension settings have been stiffened by 10% over the regular Huracán, with optional magnetically adjustable dampers also available. The steering has also been recalibrated for better response and feel, although we wonder just how much you can fine tune a supercar. Braking is via carbon ceramic discs, with six-pot calipers at the front and four-pots gripping the rear. Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres are fitted to the 20″ wheels as standard, with optional track-orientated Pirelli Trofeo R rubber also on offer. (more…)

Ned Jasper | 2017 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo

Ned Jasper is back, and he’s got the latest on the latest addition to the Porsche model range. It’s not rear-engined, but there’s certainly a lot going on out back!

2017 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo

I’m told that good things come to those who wait. So, considering the Panamera Sport Turismo is the first Porsche estate car to leave Stuttgart since the company was founded back in 1931. It better be good! Thankfully, the first impressions are good. Very very good. The front half of the Sport Turismo is near enough identical to a ‘normal’ Panamera. That means handsome looks and road presence akin to that of a supercar.

2017 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo

But it’s what happens around the back that matters. Gone is the standard Panamera’s slopping 911-esque roof line. In its place, is in my eyes, the best looking car rear end not just of the year, but of the last decade. The Porsche design language remains clear, with hints of 911 and Macan showing face. However, the combination of the squatted rear, combined with the giant muscular haunches, is just so spot on.

2017 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo

The interior of the Sport Turismo remains near identical to that of the standard Panamera. That means svelte materials, contemporary shapes and angles, plus there’s a colour scheme almost as rich as the kind of person who can afford to buy one. Who knew brown could look so good, eh? Move towards the rear and you’ll begin to notice the differences. Or should I say, the difference! With the Sport Turismo being an estate after all, it was only right of Porsche to fit a proper rear bench. It seats three, and is capable of folding flat in 40:20:40 sections. Practical.

Despite the rather large exterior changes, the boot space isn’t too dissimilar to that of the standard Panamera, with the ST boasting just 25 litres extra space. That’s about the same size as a medium suitcase. The total room available is 520 litres or 1,390 with the rear seats folded down – Panamera van, anyone?! (more…)

New | Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet | Ultimate G

This could quite possibly be the weirdest answer to a question nobody has asked. Or, the perfect gift for the person who genuinely does already have everything. This G-Class is ideal for the crazy world of 2017.

2017 Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet

Important things first – the G 650 Landaulet is not going to be offered for sale in the UK. Sorry. We’re sure there’s whole tens of people now totally disappointed, but sadly it won’t be coming here. Blame it on Brexit, perhaps. So if you’re based in the UK, and in the market for a stupidly powerful and deeply luxurious (chauffeur driven) off-roader, you’ll need to find a new option.

2017 Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet

However, if you’re elsewhere in the world, you might be able to snag yourself one of the 99 units of this bizarre creation when it goes on sale in the Autumn. There’s no mention of price but, realistically, if you’re searching for something like this then cost isn’t really going to be an issue. Especially not when there’s a biturbo AMG V12 engine, making 630hp, that’ll average around 16mpg at best. Oh, and C02 emissions of 376g/km, which is probably on par with a coal-fired power station.

The G 650 Landaulet is probably similar in size to a power plant, measuring over 5.3metres in length and 2.2metres tall. Ground clearance, thanks to those portal axles first seen on the G 500 4×4², is a towering 450mm. It makes the standard fit wheels, wearing 325/55/R22 tyres, look relatively in proportion. The alloy wheels are ceramic polished, and feature ‘Landaulet’ lettering in them – just in case you ever forget what you’re driving.

2017 Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet

Traditionally used in relation to horse-drawn carriages, landaulet refers to a chauffeured vehicle with a folding soft-top over the rear seats. Typically intended for use by dignitaries and public figures, if you’re a vain tyrant – in a country with poor road surfaces – then this could be the machine for you.

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New | 2018 Dodge Durango SRT | HEMI muscle for the whole family!

Ever felt the need to subject five other people to the gut-wrenching sensation of being in a Hemi-powered muscle car? You’re in luck!

2018 Dodge Durango SRT

Does everything in the Dodge lineup really need a 392-cubic inch HEMI V8 engine? Where does this all stop? With the Durango SUV gaining the 6.4-litre engine, it now means 60% of Dodge model range in the USA comes with the option of that big ‘Apache’ motor. In fact, the Detroit company only needs to wedge it into the Journey crossover, and Grand Caravan MPV, to have complete coverage.

2018 Dodge Durango SRT

Until now the biggest engine on offer for the Durango was just the 5.7-litre (345-cubic inch) V8, producing 360hp and 390b-ft of torque. The new SRT goes much further, with horsepower upped to a faintly ludicrous 475hp and a corresponding 470lb-ft of twist. That’s sufficient for 0-60mph in just 4.4 seconds – a figure aided by the four-wheel drive system and eight-speed automatic transmission. Oh, and there’s a standard launch control just in case you need a hand getting off the line.

2018 Dodge Durango SRT

We’re pleased to find that the auto’ gearbox features a sport mode that reduces shift times by 50%, and sends up to 65% of torque to the rear wheels. Hitting sport also means stiffer suspension setting and adds steering feel. If you’re feeling really brave, there’s also a track mode which results in even faster shifts, more torque to the back wheels, and the stiffest suspension settings.

The National Hot Rod Association has certified the Durango SRT as being capable of running a standing quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds. For reference, the Dodge Challenger Hellcat manages the same distance in 10.8 seconds, but under 13 is probably fast enough for something with three rows of seats. Oh, and it’ll also tow 8,600b of weight – that’s 3,900kg!

2018 Dodge Durango SRT

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