Ned Jasper | 2017 Vanquish S – The last proper Aston Martin?

The greatest noise from Aston Martin this year has, understandably, been all about the new DB11. Does it mean time is up for the naturally aspirated V12 creations? Ned Jasper takes a look at the latest Vanquish S.

2017 Aston Martin Vanquish S

Now, I don’t usually tend to comment on a car manufacturers yearly model alterations. The changes from the previous year are minor and, for the most part, insignificant. For me to write about a new brake light cluster or centre console alterations is, to say the least, boring. You’d probably enjoy reading about them as much as a vegetarian enjoys a bacon sandwich. But, when Aston Martin announced they were adding the Vanquish S to their range next year, I just had to do something.

2017 Aston Martin Vanquish S

This is it. At a glance it looks much the same as a ‘normal’ Vanquish. That is, effortlessly pretty. Somehow, Aston manages to do something to its cars – something indescribably special. (The fact that you’re reading this means we probably share the same passion, and that you completely understand what I mean. It’s like Aston sprinkles a little bit of magic in with every car that leaves the production line. The bodywork manages to catch the light in ways that you never thought were possible. The paint’s so deep, and so rich, you could almost waste an afternoon getting lost in the colour. Then there’s the noise, a deep, baritone, soulful howl that couldn’t be more Aston if it tried. All of this is true for a normal Vanquish, so what about the ‘S’?

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Motorsport | Can a Porsche 911 really be mid-engined?

With a new Porsche 911 RSR announced, EngageSportMode ponders if anything is truly sacred in 2016.

2017 Porsche 911 RSR

It’s fair to say that 2016 has been something of a rollercoaster ride. From Brexit, to Donald Trump, and even Boaty McBoatface this has certainly not been a ‘normal’ year. However, amongst the madness, there’s always certain automotive things you can count on, right? A Mercedes driver will win the Formula 1 World Championship, more SUV models will be announced at every motor show, and a Porsche 911 has a rear-mounted engine.

After the LA Auto Show, only two of the above statements can be counted on to be true. Yes, 2016 has got to the most hallowed of sports cars – the Porsche 911. Admittedly it’s not a 911 road car, but the RSR racer instead. Yet there’s still something slightly unsettling about a 911 not featuring an engine behind the rear axle.

Porsche claims to have taken advantage of Le Mans GT regulations by moving the engine to “be positioned in front of the rear axle” along with various other technical developments. It’s still powered by a naturally aspirated flat-six – none of the that flat-four turbo nonsense here – but surely a rear-engine position is what makes a 911, well… a 911? It’s probably the key defining feature of the 911 model, as a mid-engined Porsche coupé is actually just a Cayman. (more…)

Ned Jasper | The Unclaimed M – Four BMWs you never knew you wanted

It’s Friday, so what better way to celebrate than with photos of BMW’s special M creations? Ned Jasper takes you through them. 

2000 BMW E46 M3 Touring Concept

BMW M cars – namely the M5 and the M3. They’re blisteringly-quick saloons, right? Yes, in the past the M3’s also been a coupe and a convertible. But what about a hatchback version, or maybe an estate car? And how do you fancy an M5 convertible?

The following list consists of some of BMW M’s lesser-known secrets, and also happens to be a list of some rather cool creations. So prepare for what is almost definitely going to be an overwhelming sense of want for at least one car on this list.

1. E46 M3 Touring2000 BMW E46 M3 Touring Concept

This car recently hit the limelight in BMW’s “30 years of M3” celebration. What a masterpiece it really is, although it might not be quite as pretty as it was in my dreams. It rides a little high, plus the wheel and colour combo don’t exactly flatter it – I’d have it in Interlagos Blue with the diamond cut 19″ alloys. It is, however, infinitely cool.

Who wouldn’t want a high-revving, 3.2-litre naturally aspirated straight-six, a manual gearbox, and enough room for all the family including the dog Considering BMW never made a saloon version of the E46 M3, the chances of an M3 Touring (that’s BMW for estate car ) were highly unlikely. Still, it’s nice to dream.

2. E36 M3 Compact1996 BMW E36 M3 Compact Concept

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Editorial | Volkswagen to end World Rally Championship commitment

Another week, another Volkswagen Group motorsport project gets canned. After the end of Audi’s Le Mans campaign, now comes the closure of VW’s highly successful rally programme. ESM’s Editor reflects.

VW Polo R WRC

Just three days after winning the 2016 Rally GB, along with more World Championship titles, Volkswagen officially that there will be no 2017 WRC campaign. The official reason is that the brand must ‘realign’ priorities in the face of enormous challenges. Whilst the statement from Volkswagen is at pains to avoid any reference to last year’s emissions scandal, this is clearly a knock-on effect from dieselgate.

With litigation and product recalls requiring Volkswagen to set aside billions of euros, continuing an expensive motorsport campaign in the WRC becomes a difficult thing to justify. In addition, it may well be that the Volkswagen brand wants to keep a low profile until the fall-out from dieselgate is completely sorted. It’s worth noting that VW-branded cars didn’t appear in this year’s latest Forza Horizon 3 game on the Microsoft Xbox, due to undisclosed licensing issues. Having been paraded through the global media as a cheat, perhaps Volkswagen wants to avoid rubbing noses in the dirt. Literally.

VW Polo R WRC

What’s more depressing is that Volkswagen Motorsport’s campaign with the Polo R WRC has been nothing short of flawless. From entering in 2013, to now, Volkswagen has taken 42 rally wins from 51 entries – that’s more than 83%! It means the Polo R WRC has notched up four drivers’ titles with Sébastien Ogier, four co-drivers’ titles with Julien Ingrassia, and four Manufacturers’ championships. Whilst cynics and critics will point to contemporary WRC being at its lowest ebb in generations – they’re not wrong – it’s still an amazing performance.

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Motorsport | Audi ditches Le Mans for Formula E

After almost two whole decades of dominance, one of the biggest names in endurance racing has called time on participation. 

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro #7

Audi Sport officially announced yesterday that, at the end of 2016, the Audi brand will no longer compete in the World Endurance Championship. That means 18 years of Le Mans competition will also come to an end, as Audi Sport elects to pursue Formula E instead.

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro #7

This decision is hardly surprising, and had been rumoured in the previous weeks as a very real possibility. Since the introduction of the R10 TDI, Audi’s LMP strategy for the past decade has been built around the use of diesel engines. Following last year’s dieselgate furore, diesel power has become immediately unfashionable across the Volkswagen Group.

Whilst the motoring world was already pushing towards the greater use and integration of electric power, dieselgate has made this even more important for brands like Audi and Volkswagen. Audi Sport already has a partnership with Team ABT Schaeffler Motorsport in Formula E, meaning the barriers to entry are low. Throw in the fact that Formula E now allows for the development of bespoke powertrain elements, and it becomes a fairly easy decision. (more…)

Short Review | 2016 BMW M240i Convertible

The M235i might be gone, but the replacement has even more performance. We took a short, topless, drive, to see if the M240i stacks up as a cut-price M2 alternative.2016 BMW M240i Convertible

Full disclosure. The M240i does not have a 4.0-litre engine. BMW nomenclature has paid little attention to engine capacity for years, so don’t be fooled. No, under the bonnet is a 3.0-litre straight-six TwinPower turbo engine, that has gained more horsepower and torque. Peak power has increased to 335hp – a rise of 14hp – whilst twist is up to 369lb-ft. That last figure is significant for two reasons: it’s the same torque as found in the E39 M5 but, more importantly, it’s the exact same amount as the M2 Coupé.

2016 BMW M240i Convertible

Performance is improved over the M235i, with 0-62mph taking just 4.7 seconds in the M240i when fitted with the optional eight-speed Sport Automatic gearbox. The six-speed manual car needs 4.9 seconds to do the same sprint, with both topping out at an electronically limited 155mph top speed. We didn’t experience the three pedal car, so can’t comment on how it compares, but the automatic ‘box is supremely efficient and effective at banging through the ratios. Eight gears are probably overkill, especially with so much torque on offer, but they contribute to respectable sounding CO2 and mpg figures.2016 BMW M240i Convertible

The automatic transmission also suits the slightly more laid-back, cruiser, image of the Convertible version. (more…)

New – BMW M4 DTM Champion Edition

Saddened you couldn’t get your hands on a BMW M4 GTS? Worry no more! Now you can have one to honour a racing driver you’ve most probably never even heard of.2016 BMW M4 DTM Champion Edition

It’s a shame the DTM series doesn’t get more coverage in the UK, with close competition between 4.0-litre V8-powered coupes sounding like a rather attractive package. The fact it’s on BT Sport might not help, along with the love for our own British Touring Car Championship. Yet, despite somewhat of an unknown over here, BMW UK is going to be offering the M4 DTM Champion Edition.

2016 BMW M4 DTM Champion Edition

Built to celebrate Marco Wittman taking the 2016 DTM drivers’ title, this special edition seems to be a thinly disguised version of the M4 GTS which everyone went crazy for this year. In fact all the GTS goodness seems to be there – water-injection for the 3.0-litre straight-six turbo sees peak power of 493hp, along with torque of 443lb-ft. Yes, that’s identical to the GTS, as is the 0-62mph time of 3.8 seconds and 190mph top speed.

2016 BMW M4 DTM Champion Edition

In fact the roll cage inside, the big wing on the boot lid, and even the canards and splitter at the front end, are all taken direct from the GTS. Even the wheels are the same, save for being painted Orbit Grey, rather than featuring the wonderful orange details of the GTS. In short, if you can live with BMW Motorsport stickers and having to explain who Marco Wittman is, then this really is a GTS by another name.

2016 BMW M4 DTM Champion Edition

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BTCC 2016 – Silverstone | Recapped and Rated |

Forgotten what happened in the BTCC last time out at Silverstone? You’re in luck, as ESM’s BTCC Correspondent is here to refresh your memory, and make predictions on tomorrow’s season finale.2016 BTCC SilverstoneEight drivers will go into the season finale at Brands Hatch with a chance of becoming the 2016 British Touring Car Championship champion following the latest rounds at Silverstone. Once again, the action-packed races produced three different winners and a bout of controversy.

Saturday’s qualifying brought a return to form for the MGs as Ashley Sutton took pole and teammate Josh Cook qualified third, with the duo sandwiching Tom Ingram. Andrew Jordan took fourth, Adam Morgan fifth and Rob Austin sixth, but championship leader Tordoff qualified poorly for the second meeting in a row, down in sixteenth.

2016 BTCC Silverstone

Race One (Sutton*, Cook*, 1st Ingram, 2nd Jordan, 3rd Austin)
The opening race was certainly lively, especially by first race standards. It started with Ingram taking the lead off the line and Jordan moving up the third, before cars swapped places up and down the grid, more regularly than normal. After a robust move to retain third, Jordan eventually lost out on the fifth lap as Cook powered through, while Sutton also closed on Ingram. It didn’t take long for Sutton to make his move and Cook was soon on the tail of the lead duo. Cook had a fantastic battle that lasted several corners with Ingram as he tried to make it an MG 1-2 and he succeeded following a little tap.

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Ned Jasper | Tesla Model S 90 P90D

The Tesla Model S is kind of a big deal. No, scrap that, it’s a massive deal. We’ve heard from The Tame Geek when he drove one, but what is it like to be a passenger in the fastest four-door in the world? Ned found out.

tesla-model-s[Just a small disclaimer before I start the article, due to my age, I haven’t actually physically driven the car myself. I did, however, have a ride in the back, and this is my review from that perspective. Enjoy.]

2.8 seconds – that’s about the time it takes for you to decide whether or not you want to continue reading this article. Hopefully, it’s the former. But if you were in a Tesla P90D – with Ludicrous Mode – 2.8 seconds is the time it takes to blow your mind. Why? Because this 2.2-tonne family saloon can out-accelerate a Porsche 911 Turbo, that’s why! So in case you haven’t already guessed, 2.8 seconds is the 0-60mph time. Now, the way this thing looks.

The Model S came out in 2012, yet in the Spring of this year, we saw it oust its cocoon and flourish into quite a handsome brute. The combination of the long sloping roof line and powerful stance make spotting one on the roads an occasion. What’s more, the new eyelash-shaped wrap around headlights make it yet more menacing in the dark. Overall the Model S manages to mix a little bit of the future with much of the present. So even in 10 years time, I can’t imagine it looking dated.

With it being “the car of the future” and all, the Model S is inevitably a tech fest, and the whole car is adorned with little flourishes that do more that just please the eye. Those devilish lights, for example, are now full-LED and fully adaptive. The air suspension is fully adjustable too and, with the help of GPS mapping, the Model S will track where you’ve altered the suspension so that next time it can automatically do it for you. (more…)

Twin Test Review | VW Polo GTI vs SEAT Ibiza Cupra Black

On paper these two VAG family cousins share many similarities but, peel back the surface, and you’ll discover that things aren’t quite so homogenous. Which Spanish-built supermini wins out though?

SEAT Ibiza Cupra vs VW Polo GTI

If you’ve read our review of the SEAT Ibiza Cupra you’ll know there is a lot to like about this condensed hot hatch. However, sharing a powertrain and platform with the Polo GTI, through Volkswagen’s tried and tested badge-engineering, opens up obvious comparisons. We’ve broken our review down into several key areas, and found that things aren’t quite as predictable as you might imagine. Let’s get down to it:

Styling

This is evidently a subjective area, and neither Cupra nor GTI could be considered unattractive designs. Whether you prefer the basic Polo or Ibiza shape is personal taste, so we concentrated on the actual effort made to transform regular supermini into a hot hatch.SEAT Ibiza Cupra vs VW Polo GTISo what sets the GTI apart is the fact it looks more bespoke compared to the rest of the Polo range. From the red trim running across the grille into the headlights, to the honeycomb mesh and the GTI branding, it feels more special. Yes, it might be a scaled-down pastiche of the Golf GTI, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

On the other hand, the Ibiza Cupra struggles to separate itself from the hundreds of FR-badged imitators. Where it does differ is often through fussy styling, like the trapezoidal centre-exit exhaust or fake vents in the rear bumper. It’s still a good-looking car, but doesn’t quite do enough to make things feel distinctive. (more…)