Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Review: 2011 Chrysler 300 V6


Of the many hurtful similes one can hurl at a vehicle, few are more insidious than drawing design or driving parallels to the oft-maligned American sedan. Thanks to the dark days of the ’70s and ’80s, once proud nameplates like Imperial, Impala and Galaxie were either completely forgotten or bastardized into models with about as much personality as a tube sock. Whether you blame it on oil prices, safety standards or the popularity of disco and cocaine, there’s no denying that the domestic four-door suffered a major fall from grace.

Now, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are all fighting tooth and nail to establish their products as capable of besting metal from Japan, Germany and Korea. While that’s largely translated into a fleet of mid-sized sedans with soap-bar aesthetics and front-wheel-drive architectures, the 2011 Chrysler 300 is hell-bent on continuing to buck that trend.

With its rear-wheel-drive configuration and stylish lines, the four-door strives to draw connections to the Pentastar’s more successful past – to an era long before corporate take-overs and the K-car. Is it successful?

When the 300 first bowed in 2005, it brought a new-found element of menacing appeal to the full-size segment thanks to its high shoulder line, chopped roof and vertical grille. The design may have borrowed more than a few cues from the Bentley stable, but buyers were more than happy to embrace the high-dollar association. For 2011, Chrysler insists the 300 is all-new from tires to taillights, though much of that same look has held on for the new generation. The company’s designers have given the big beast a more mature nose with LED-trimmed projection headlamps, touches of chrome and a more subdued grille.

From the profile view, it’s difficult to discern the new-generation 300 from its predecessor, though careful examination will reveal more pronounced fender arches fore and aft, as well as new detailing behind the rear wheel. The tail of the sedan has received much more aggressive updating, with a new valance that integrates smoothly into the upper and lower portions of the 300’s posterior, allowing for muscular-looking exhaust outlets – even on our V6 tester. The LED taillights are both bright and beautiful at night, and although we don’t mind the chrome detailing on the lamps themselves, the shiny trim along the trunk sill is a bit much.

2011 Chrysler 300 side view2011 Chrysler 300 front view2011 Chrysler 300 rear view

While the 2011 Chrysler 300 may still wear its older sibling’s hand-me-down skirt outside, its cockpit has benefited fully from the Pentastar’s interior renaissance. A single piece, soft-touch dash stretches between both A-pillars and integrates flawlessly with the front door panels. Compared to the clunky center stack and cheap plastics of the old machine, the new cabin has been improved by several orders of magnitude. The centerpiece of the dash is the same 8.4-inch LCD touchscreen interface found elsewhere in the Chrysler lineup. As massive as it is quick, the new piece of kit puts most other infotainment systems to shame, at least in the graphics department.

The interface is a little cumbersome when it comes to actually managing mobile media players, but climate, radio and navigation settings are intuitive and blisteringly quick.

In addition, the driver is treated to attractive and easy-to-read gauges highlighted by bright blue accent lighting. These pieces do much to give the cabin a much classier look compared to the white-faced gauges found on the previous generation. A new, well-sculpted leather-wrapped steering wheel has has replaced the chunky tiller of old.

Our tester arrived with black cloth seats that must have been lifted straight from the Lay-Z-Boy factory. The front buckets are ludicrously huge and envelop passengers in a loving embrace of foam and high-quality cloth that’s perfect for a vehicle of this size. The rear seats afford the kind of space that only a full-size sedan can deliver, too. For quick trips, there’s ample room for three full-grown adults on the back bench.

The trunk offers up a cavernous 16.3 cubic feet of cargo room, which means that there’s enough storage area for everyone’s luggage should you decide to pack the family in for a trip cross-country.

2011 Chrysler 300 interior2011 Chrysler 300 front seats2011 Chrysler 300 rear seats2011 Chrysler 300 trunk

We were fortunate enough to sample the 2011 Chrysler 300 with the base 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 behind its headlights. In this application, the engine delivers 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and is mated to the same old five-speed automatic transmission found in the previous-generation model. According to the EPA, the 300 should see 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg highway, which fits pretty closely with the 23 mpg we saw over five days of mixed driving.

Despite the fact that the new six-cylinder weighs in with 70 fewer ponies and 134 fewer pound-feet of torque than the optional 5.7-liter V8, the V6-equipped 300 never really seems out of breath. In fact, the V6 feels pretty quick on the way to 60 miles per hour, though its torque deficit is readily apparent. As we’ve found in other applications, this Pentastar engine is happy to rev, making the majority of its power at a high 6,350 rpm. For buyers used to the early-pull of the big V8, the V6 may take some getting used to. Even so, after a week with the vehicle, we’d have a hard time paying more for the bigger displacement mill.

Unfortunately, the 3.6-liter engine is handicapped by its aging five-speed automatic transmission. We’ve rarely taken issue with the gearbox when paired with the larger 5.7-liter V8, but in this application, the automatic seemed easily confused. That was especially true under hard-acceleration passes as it struggled to drop a gear or two to put the engine in its lofty power sweet spot. We can’t wait for Chrysler to grace this engine with its upcoming new generation of eight-speed transmissions.

2011 Chrysler 300 engine

Chrysler describes the redesigned suspension at work in the 300 as built for grand touring duty, which is surprisingly accurate for PR-speak. While clearly engineered to consume mile after mile of interstate asphalt, the springs and dampers do a stand-up job under more athletic driving circumstances. There is some body roll, to be sure, but it doesn’t translate into traditional understeer as readily. Really get the V6 singing in its upper octaves and saw on the wheel, and you’ll actually be rewarded with some rotation before the traction control quietly steps in to contain the chaos. This beast drives incredibly well for its size.

Unfortunately, the 2011 300 is cursed with comically light steering. That beautiful leather-wrapped wheel seems to be only casually associated with hardworking hardware out front, and as a result, piloting the vehicle takes some adjustment. Trying to command the big sedan through aggressive maneuvers is like attempting to pluck a stuffed animal from one of those infuriating claw games. Despite being able to see what needs to happen, you’re constantly flummoxed by a layer of machinery seemingly designed to misinterpret your every input.

2011 Chrysler 300 steering wheel2011 Chrysler 300 gauges

The good news is that the vehicle’s brakes don’t suffer from the same impotence. Despite the fact that the 300 weighs in at 3,961 pounds, its 12.6-inch vented rotors up front and 12.6-inch solid rotors out back do an outstanding job of bringing the beast down from speed.

Chrysler has really done its homework in the noise, vibration and harshness department, too. The 2011 300 is quiet at most sane speeds and there’s very little engine vibration at idle. The single-piece piece dash has done away with any squeaks and rattles that could arise from plastic-on-plastic action, and the result is a cabin that could allow eight hours of driving in a day to be comfortably covered without making you want to guillotine yourself with the auto-up driver’s window.

But there are still a few ghosts of Chrysler past bumping around the big sedan. While the interior fit and finish is top notch, it’s apparent that the company could still use some work in the detail department outside. Our tester wore an excess of structural adhesive along the trunk rail (see it here) that looks to have been haphazardly slathered on. To us, it’s the kind of “good enough” thinking that got Chrysler into its most recent Chapter 11 mess.

2011 Chrysler 300 rear 3/4 view

At the end of the day, the 2011 Chrysler 300 is a vehicle you can’t help but want to drive. It looks as good as it feels, offers decent fuel economy for a full-size and won’t break the bank. Prices get going at $27,170, not including the $825 destination fee. That figure is fairly close to what our tester commanded, and includes niceties like the big LCD screen and Uconnect telematics system.

Unfortunately, nearly $28,000 is a lot of money to pay for a thirsty sedan these days. As vehicles like the Honda Accord and Volkswagen Passat grow to full-size territory, buyers may be less inclined to shop bigger. That’s especially true as fuel prices continue to creep up. While the ballyhooed eight-speed automatic transmission that’s coming to Chrysler will likely increase the Pentastar’s fuel economy, the engine will never be able to effectively lock horns with the four-cylinder, diesel and hybrid options available in the mid-size segment.

Still, as with most of the vehicles crafted from the Chrysler renaissance, the 2011 300 is yet another big step in the right direction. It ought to be a giant leap when we can finally get our hands on the SRT8 version.

[Source: autoblog]

GM releases another shot of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu


The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu will be unveiled on Monday at the Shanghai Motor Show. General Motors is expectedly making a big deal of the event, and started dropping teasers a couple weeks back. Those were followed by a full-on, high-resolution pic of the Malibu in red on Thursday. And now? Another picture of the China-spec car in blue. Since it’s static, we get a clean look at the new Malibu’s wheels and a better idea of the car’s profile

If you feel like you’re already overstuffed on the 2013 Malibu, try to save some room for the main course, which comes in the form of the sedan’s official debut in Shanghai.

[Source: GM via EGM Car Tech]

Roush announces 2012 Stage 3 Mustang with 540 horsepower horsepower


The Stage 3 has always been the flagship of Roush’s modified Ford Mustang stable, and the supercharged pony car is making a return for 2012 with a new RS3 moniker. With 540 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque on tap, the Stage 3 replaces the 5XR as Roush’s most powerful offering.

Along with the extra power, the RS3 comes with a new graphics package that is available in six stripe colors and six accent colors, making for 288 color combinations. You can use Roush’s new online configurator to see what colors like Luminescent Lime and Red-Blooded American look on the car and add optional items like the 20-inch Hyper Black wheels and rear three-quarter window louvers. The 2012 RS3 Mustang starts at $59,945 and comes standard with a 3-year/36,000 mile warranty.

[Source: Roush]


Livonia, Mich. (April 14th, 2011) – DETROIT MUSCLE | REDEFINED is the vision that sets the direction for the design team at ROUSH® Performance this year. The ROUSH brand has long been synonymous with high horsepower, performance handling and an aggressive body style. And, for the 2012 Mustang model year, ROUSH is introducing some game-changing enhancements that will “Redefine” their heritage of high performance and stylish appearance.

ROUSH Performance proudly introduces the new 2012 ROUSH Stage 3™ performance Mustang. The 5.0L 4-valve DOHC TiVCT power-plant has received clearance for takeoff with the addition of the R2300 ROUSHcharger, forcefeeding up to 12psi of inter-cooled energy to the already robust Coyote engine. The ROUSHcharger® supercharger induction system increases the base horsepower from 412HP to an impressive 540HP and 465 ft/lbs of torque. To enjoy the ride, ROUSH Stage 3 (RS3) vehicle owners enjoy peace of mind with ROUSH’s 3 year/36,000 mile power train warranty.
The 2012 RS3 takes to the streets with an all new graphics and appearance package. ROUSH Performance is now offering a wide palette of color options for the RS3’s appearance and curb appeal. This allows for personal customization of three different aesthetic elements of the car  8 choices for the base vehicle color, 6 stripe colors, and 6 stripe accent colors. Together, these options offer an impressive 288 unique color combinations.

“In addition to the powerful ROUSH power train and tuned suspension, we’re really excited about the new graphics and design options,” says Gary Jurick, VP/GM of ROUSH Performance. “The ‘Redefined’ graphics introduce new metallic colors utilizing automotive paint-grade materials. The result is a breathtakingly deep tone to the RS3’s graphics. We’re now providing our ROUSH consumers a very broad spectrum of graphics and color combinations to consider for their 2012 RS3 Mustang.”

To view and interact with the new RS3 paint colors, graphic striping and accent combinations, painted calipers and wheel options visit the all new ROUSH Vehicle Configurator at: http://www.roushperformance.com/2012-stage3-mustang-configurator.shtml
The ROUSHcharged® 2012 RS3 vehicle is currently not available for sale into California and other states requiring CARB emissions standards.

The estimated retail price for the typically equipped 2012 ROUSH Stage 3 Mustang is around $59,945. Actual final retail pricing will vary based on options selected. The RS3 is backed by a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty and is currently available with a 6-speed manual transmission only. The 2012 ROUSH Stage 3 is expected to start appearing on ROUSH Authorized Ford Dealer lots by the end of April 2011.

For more information on the 2012 ROUSH Stage 1, Stage 2 and RS3 vehicles, upgrades and options, retail pricing, and downloadable Hero Cards, please visit: http://www.roushperformance.com/vehicles.shtml

Review: 2011 Kia Optima EX


Nobody remembers the 2010 Kia Optima, but just like that, the 2011 model may be the mainstream sedan to beat. While some consumers – the uninformed and brand-bigoted – might remain skeptical, the 2011 Kia Optima is the new benchmark. How could the Optima go from warmed-over also-ran to the segment’s latest front-runner?

The 2011 Kia Optima is at once classy and striking. There’s just enough detailing to keep it interesting without looking gaudy. Kia sent us an Optima EX with standard 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome accents on the door handles, body color mirrors and chrome exhaust tips added to the crisp bodywork. The windshield header’s echo of the “tabbed” grille is the designer’s way of saying “Hey, we thought about this.” Clean and inoffensive, there’s virtually nothing to criticize about the 2011 Optima’s styling.

The nuts and bolts of body assembly appear carefully attended to with tight panel gaps and good fit and finish all around. A stretched-out, long-wheelbase look underscores the increased size over the old Optima, and passenger volume is boosted to 102 cubic feet, near the top of its class. A 15.4-cubic-foot trunk is also larger than several of the Optima’s peers.

2011 Kia Optima EX side view2011 Kia Optima EX front view2011 Kia Optima EX rear view

On the inside, there’s not as much flair as the outside, perhaps, but the dashboard has a whiff of Saab-ness to it. French stitching, the latest way to say “I’m upscale!” appears on the padded material ringing the instrument panel and center stack. The EX trim level we tested carried the $2,000 Technology Package, which also rolls in the $2,500 Premium Package. All of this translates to a panoramic moonroof and heated and cooled power-adjustable front seats with memory for the driver’s side and heated rear seats. A metal bezel around the shifter and wood trim on the center console and door panels is there to reinforce the message of fancy tailoring. Materials, design and quality are as good or better than anyone else. You’ll have to step up to a luxury brand to find anything better.

Knobs and stalks also feel tight and precise. The big LCD screen, automobiledom’s equivalent of the ostentatious flat screen, is clear and easy to use, but we found it too bright for night driving, even at its minimum illumination setting. Fortunately, the screen is easily switched off to minimize nighttime distraction. We did occasionally hunt for buttons, and even though Bluetooth is standard, there’s no voice command system for anything other than paired phones. Uvo, developed with Microsoft, does offer some voice recognition control and communication and device integration, but it’s rolling out gradually and not offered on Optimas that have navigation like our EX.

2011 Kia Optima EX interior2011 Kia Optima EX front seats2011 Kia Optima EX navigation system2011 Kia Optima EX engine

The Optima is a mainstream sedan, so ease-of-use is a priority. The chunky leather-wrapped steering wheel is sporty-feeling, even if the electrically-assisted rack and pinion is too light and not much of a talker. With a roomy cabin, the Optima is comfortable front and rear, though the class-leading 44.5 inches of front leg room comes at the expense of rear legroom – at just 34.6 inches, it’s about three inches shy of its segment peers. Rear seat passengers are also shortchanged on shoulder room relative to the rest of the class, though rear headroom isn’t bitten by the raked C pillar like you might expect.

Kia says the 2011 Optima rides on an all-new platform. That’s true, and the underpinnings were co-developed with the all-new Hyundai Sonata. The Optima’s suspension is firmer, giving sharp responses at the expense of some ride comfort. Kia’s modus operandi of stiffly tuned standard suspensions makes even the basic 2011 Optima stern enough over bumps. It’s more supple than some of its overly-harsh siblings that bounce and clunk over bad pavement, capable of tight body control and impact absorption. The multi-link rear and MacPherson strut front setups allow the Optima to corner with discipline. Brakes are firm and easily modulated, as well. The bottom line for drivers is that the 2011 Optima follows orders eagerly and can actually be fun to drive.

2011 Kia Optima EX rear 3/4 view2011 Kia Optima EX headlight2011 Kia Optima EX side trim2011 Kia Optima EX wheel

The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that our EX carried is among the smoothest engines of its type. Its 200 horsepower is made possible by direct injection that also boosts efficiency. A six-speed manual transmission is available in the entry Optima LX trim and a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine can also be had, but not together. Optional turbo aside, the 2.4-liter’s no slouch on its own. Teamed with a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic, this powertrain is quiet and refined, capable of great fuel economy. The EPA estimates you’ll get 24 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. We scored a solid 27 combined.

Perhaps it’s not much of a surprise that the newest mainstream sedan appears to trump all the established players. After all, competitors like the Nissan Altima, Toyota’s evergreen Camry, Ford’s lauded Fusion and the Chevrolet Malibu that debuted to much fanfare are all years-old veterans by now. Refreshes are coming and this battle will wear on. Soon, we’ll know if the 2011 Kia Optima is forged from the right stuff to continue proving the company’s “The Power to Surprise” tagline. For the moment, it’s got what it takes, but our advice would be to not rest on its newfound success. It’s brutal out there.

[Source: autoblog]

Friday, 6 May 2011

Mini Goodwood packs the heart of a Rolls-Royce for Shanghai


While it may seem anathema to American tastes, in the Old World, bigger is not always better. Particularly if you live in a city laid out long before the advent of the automobile. But overseas buyers can still have extravagant tastes, so downsizing to a smaller vehicle to get around densely-packed cities shouldn’t necessarily equate to losing out on those little touches that make a high-end automobile what it is. Hence cars like the Ferrari edition Abarth 695, the Maserati edition Alfa MiTo, the Aston Martin Cygnet, and this: the Mini Inspired by Goodwood.

A joint effort between the two subsidiaries of BMW in England, the Mini Insipired by Goodwood (named for the home of Rolls-Royce) is set to be unveiled shortly at the Shanghai Motor Show. Mechanically, it’s essentially a Mini Cooper S, packing the same 1.6-liter turbocharged four with 181 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque (192 hp on overboost).

Mini Goodwood interiorThe exterior is distinguished by Diamond Black Metallic – a color straight from the Rolls-Royce catalog (or alternatively, Mini’s own Reef Blue Metallic) – with 17-inch multi-spoke alloys and the requisite special badging. But like a Disney character seeking access to a secret, lion-shaped desert cave, it’s what’s inside that counts: Rolls-Royce craftsmen have collaborated with the Mini Yours custom orders department to trim the Cooper’s cabin out in Cornsilk leather, Walnut Burr wood trim, black Nappa leather upper dashboard, thick-pile carpeting… the works, in other words – everything you’d expect from a Rolls-Royce cabin, only smaller.

There’s a lot to love here, but try not to love it too much: only 1,000 examples will be made, and as with all BMW-related option packages, we’re sure it won’t be cheap. Even though deliveries start about a year from now, we see this car going down a storm, so you’d better get your order in quick.

[Source: Mini]



  • Limited production model from the MINI Yours range of special edition vehicles and options
  • Based on the MINI Hardtop, this special edition includes authentic Rolls-Royce materials, colors and accessories
  • Production limited to 1,000 units worldwide
  • Deliveries to begin spring 2012

WOODCLIFF LAKE, NJ – April 13, 2011-The MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD, which will make its world debut at the Auto Shanghai 2011, is an exclusive special edition that adds another layer to the MINI brand experience with a generous dose of automotive luxury and exclusivity in its highest form.

Close collaboration with the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars design team at the development center of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood, England has produced a limited-run special edition MINI, whose exterior and interior design is inspired by fine materials and the British luxury car marque’s commitment to absolutely flawless workmanship.

The MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD, which will be produced in a limited edition of 1,000 units, combines typical MINI driving fun with discerning craftsmanship, select materials and a styling marked by typical British understatement of the world’s leading producer of luxury automobiles. Deliveries of the 2012 model year vehicle, which will launch as part of the exclusive MINI Yours product line, are scheduled to start in spring 2012.

The MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD is characterized by top-grade materials, the highest level of workmanship and stylish supremacy. The special edition of the MINI Hardtop was built under the guidance of the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars designer team and transfers the unmistakable style of the British luxury car manufacturer to the equally unique MINI, an original within the premium small car segment.

The exterior and interior design from the MINI Yours range: fascinating charisma and incomparable high-quality ambience.

As the first premium model in the small car segment, MINI has been a genuine trailblazer, the unsurpassed scope of its equipment features and accessories allowing it to meet the most varied requirements. And now MINI fans can express their appreciation of exclusive individuality, eye for stylish elegance and penchant for uncompromising premium quality with even greater sophistication.

Inside the MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD, a harmonious color concept, selected materials and a production quality characterized by precise craftsmanship guarantee the highest degree of well-being and comfort.

The dashboard, including the surrounds of the central instrument and the air vents, the center console, carpet surfaces, the Lounge leather seats, the roof lining as well as the door, side and body pillar cladding boast the exclusive Rolls-Royce color Cornsilk, a warm and natural shade of beige. Only the upper section of the instrument panel, which is lined with extremely high-quality, soft full-grain leather, is in black.

The dashboard and door handle surfaces are manufactured in Goodwood and finished in Walnut Burr, a wood quality also exclusive to Rolls-Royce. The black nappa leather dashboard top, Tipped Leather Cornsilk door linings as well as Piano Black surface finishes for the buttons on the multifunction steering wheel and the controls below the central instrument all provide additional quality-enhancing accents. These veneers are selected at the Goodwood factory exclusively for the MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD, and the matching black dials for the speedometer and rev counter bear the same typeface as their Rolls-Royce counterparts.

Two of the most striking features of the exterior design are the body finish in the exclusive Rolls-Royce color Diamond Black metallic and 17-inch light alloy wheels sporting a multi-spoke design. Alternatively, the MINI color variant Reef Blue metallic can be specified as an option.

The chosen paint shade is also used for the exterior mirror caps and roof spoiler of the MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD. The exclusivity of the special-edition model is also reflected in its body design. The car’s front and rear apron are the same as those found on the MINI Cooper S, but are combined with the bonnet from the MINI Cooper D. Rather than carrying over the air scoop of the MINI Cooper S, it boasts a harmoniously flowing surface which underlines the stylishly elegant appearance of the MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD.

There are also high-class aluminum badges stamped with the lettering “MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD” on the side indicator surrounds above the front wheel arches and on the door sills. Another badge, also featuring the legend “One of 1000″, can be found on the centre console in front of the gearshift lever (or selector lever, if the automatic gearbox is specified).

Beyond the signature features of the special-edition model, the standard equipment fitted in the MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD also meets the highest expectations of a premium car. The MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD’s range of high-quality equipment offered as standard also includes Xenon Adaptive Headlights, Park Distance Control, automatic air conditioning, an onboard computer and the audio system Radio MINI Visual Boost, which includes the Harman Kardon hi-fi speaker system.

Twin-scroll turbocharged engine delivers customary MINI driving fun.

The MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD is powered by a turbocharged l.6-liter four-cylinder engine that was featured for the first time in the 2011 MINI Cooper S. The MINI Cooper S engine ensures that the hallmark MINI driving fun and imposing power reserves are available on tap. The engine includes a Twin Scroll turbocharger, direct injection and variable valve control.

The 1.6-liter drive unit generates 181 hp and maximum torque of 240 Newton meters (177 lb-ft), which can be raised to 260 Newton meters (192 lb-ft) using the Overboost function.

The most efficient engine in its displacement class combines its outstanding power development with exceptionally low fuel consumption and emissions figures. The sprint from 0 to 60 mph is all over in 6.6 seconds, while its EPA fuel economy ratings are 35 mpg highway / 27 mpg city / 30 mpg combined (manual transmission). As an alternative to the standard six-speed manual gearbox, the MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD can also be ordered as an option with a six-speed automatic.

Inspired by Goodwood, built in Oxford.

The exterior and interior features specially developed for the MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD embody the inimitable style of Rolls-Royce Design. From the initial inspiration, the selection of materials and the detailed preparation of the color concept, to the fine-tuning of the production process to ensure unimpeachable quality standards, the entire development process in Goodwood was carried out in close collaboration with the MINI plant in Oxford and the BMW Group’s development center in Munich.

The special-edition car will be built at the Oxford MINI plant, where the MINI Hardtop, MINI Clubman and MINI Convertible are also produced for the global market.

Bred from the finest of stock: The MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD.

The British origins of the two brands, their shared belief in meeting the individual needs and desires of their customers, and the creative pooling of ideas between the various brands at BMW Group Design provided the fuel for the collaboration between Rolls-Royce and MINI. At the Rolls-Royce headquarters in Goodwood, southern England, Rolls-Royce interior designer Alan Sheppard has overseen the emergence of a MINI which reproduces the hallmark majestic allure of the historic luxury brand and an interior ambience born of exquisite materials and outstanding workmanship in a representative of the small car community for the first time.

The exclusive status of the MINI INSPIRED BY GOODWOOD is rooted in a materials and color concept which reflects the unmistakable and globally unique Rolls-Royce style not only in its individual component parts, but also in the configuration put together for the special-edition model.

BMW Z4 GT3 undergoes first round of customer tests


The 2011 BMW Z4 GT3 proved it can win races back in January when it took the overall victory at the Dubai 24 Hours. Never one to rest on its laurels, BMW took the car from the winners circle in Dubai and put it right back on a test track. After a good beating throughout March, BMW made aerodynamic and electronic tweaks to get the racer into absolute state-of-the-art shape for customer entries in 2011 GT3 competition.

The BMW Z4 GT3 resembles its production cousin in name and basic shape only. Most of its body panels have been significantly altered to keep the car slipping through the air and bolted to the road.

Under the hood, the production Z’s six-cylinder heart has been ripped out and replaced with the same 4.4-liter V8 that sees duty in the M3. The V8 feeds power to the ground through a six-speed paddle-shifted sequential manual. Stuffing all that engineering know-how into the Z4 GT3 isn’t cheap, either; the car retails at just north of $450,000.

[Source: BMW]


Modified BMW Z4 GT3 Completes Successful Test Programme

Munich, 8th April 2011. The modified BMW Z4 GT3 has survived its baptism of fire: the GT customer sports car proved itself in a series of intensive tests in recent weeks. The goal of the latest modifications was primarily to improve aerodynamic efficiency in order to ensure the car’s competitiveness in the many, hard-fought GT3 classes.

The BMW Z4 GT3, which was launched in March 2010, achieved its greatest success to date in January 2011. Claudia Hürtgen (DE), BMW works driver Augusto Farfus (BR), Tommy Milner (US) and Edward Sandström (SE) won the Dubai 24 Hours for Team Schubert. This was the first outright victory for the BMW Z4 GT3 at a marathon race of this scale, having already proven its potential with wins in its debut season in the FIA GT3 European Championship.

With its elongated bonnet, the driver’s compartment towards the rear of the car, long wheel base and narrow wheel arches, the series version of the BMW Z4 boasts an unmistakable appearance. The two-seater provided BMW Motorsport engineers with a good basis for developing a competitive GT3 racing car.

A difference between the production and racing car can be found under the bonnet: while the production version of the BMW Z4 is driven by a six-cylinder engine, the GT3 car is powered by a 4.4-litre eight-cylinder engine.

BMW Motorsport engineers have also fine-tuned the aerodynamics of the BMW Z4 GT3 for the new season, improving the car’s performance in this area. When it comes to electronics, the private teams can look forward to innovative BMW solutions: The modern ECU408 takes over the engine management, while the Power400 electronic control unit is responsible for controlling all the actuators. The power is transmitted through a six-speed, sequential gearbox. Gearshifts are now initiated using two paddles.

The steel body of the car comes from BMW Plant Regensburg. A safety cell made of extremely rigid, precision steel tubing is then welded into the body. The engine block of the V8 engine is produced in the BMW foundry in Landshut. BMW Plant Dingolfing contributes the rear axle differential, among other things. Front and rear wings, bonnet, roof, fenders and many other components are made of carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP).

The car is available now at a price of 315,000 Euros (plus VAT) from BMW Motorsport Distribution, email address Z4GT3@bmw-motorsport.com.

First Drive: 2012 Ferrari FF


The last time Ferrari blew absolutely everyone away with wall-to-wall surprises and equally sizzling performance all wrapped into one car was in 2002 with its Enzo. We’re not saying that all things between then and today have been shabby, mind you. And we’re also not saying that the 2012 Ferrari FF does it in marquee-and-fireworks Enzo-style, but the unexpected innovations aboard this gorgeous trailblazing all-weather shooting brake will keep conversation heated for an uncommonly long time. This is Ferrari thinking way outside its box of usual GT forms and, for no other reason than this, we must applaud them.

You’re probably expecting us to drop the “But…” right about now, yanking the carpet away in the damning-with-faint-praise tradition, however, there isn’t one to drop on the parade here. We’ve just reeled off some 150 miles of sheer V12 driving joy in the endlessly challenging Dolomite Mountains of northeastern Italy, and when finished with that, we only wanted more. Admittedly, we could do with a better onboard sat-nav and command center than the Harman Kardon unit, as well as a slightly weightier steering map for warm and dry days, but these are our only moments of quandary when assessing the FF.

FF means “Ferrari Four” and this unashamedly standout model will most likely cost around $300,000 when it hits North American ports in the end of October of this year. That’s cheap. Why keep a $173,200 Porsche Panamera Turbo S, a $39,680 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4×4, a $111,100 Corvette ZR1, and a $21,200 Ford Transit Connect cluttered in your drive, when you can save both money and garage space by snapping up the ingenious and rare all-wheel-drive 651-horsepower Ferrari FF and call it a day? For that matter, why buy a house when you can have all the comfort and room we took advantage of inside the FF? The leather is luscious and an optional Schedoni [pronounced ske-DOH-nee] luggage set outfitted in the same hides runs around $10k.

2012 Ferrari FF

We are not ignorant of the fact that some of those who can afford an FF – together with legions of the less wealthy who aspire to simpler pleasures like a BMW xDrive model or some such thing – have been exuberantly vocal (usually in writing, huddled away in their computer lairs) about what an atrocity the FF is to the Ferrari brand and heritage. We have only one thing to say before we say more things: stick it in your ear. The FF is a genius move from a company that we frankly saw getting itself into a small rut and having an increasingly challenging time selling V12-engined dream cars, no matter how gorgeous they might draw them or how well they were engineered. Thinking of a world without a briskly selling V12 Ferrari makes us break out in a worrying sweat for humanity.

And seeing as there has been a real challenge for anyone selling 12-cylinder cars lately, any new V12 needs to be about a lot more than simply the engine and its power. That said, even the 6.3-liter “F140 EB” V12 sitting front/amidships in the FF possesses a raft of sophisticated improvements. Nuances to the FF’s engine almost make the outgoing 612 Scaglietti’s F133 F 5.7-liter V12 and its 536 horsepower seem historic. The 6.3-liter has more in common with the 611-to-661-hp 6.0-liter V12 in the 599 line. Just add 200-psi direct injection and new “reed” valves in the dry sump to keep oil from seeping back up with the pistons. Voila! 651 hp and 504 pound feet of torque and at least a 15-percent improvement in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

2012 Ferrari FF side view2012 Ferrari FF front view2012 Ferrari FF rear view

Certainly we must talk design and packaging of this latest Ferrari that has succeeded in surprising everybody. First, just like Porsche and others before it, Ferrari found itself at a point where it needed to create something more “practical” – using the term very loosely, of course. Bringing new blood to the brand was necessary. One measure that reassures as we eye the FF before driving it is the 1.4 inches taller that it stands versus the 612 Scaglietti, while at the same time still remaining 1.5 inches squatter than a Panamera Turbo S. In all other key measures, the FF is almost exactly the same size as the Scaglietti, though the aluminum chassis and every aluminum body panel are all new. So, the FF still sits low down enough to be a sleek two-door supercar worthy of the Ferrari badge.

Marking Ferrari leader Luca Cordero di Montezemolo’s words, there will never be a four-door Ferrari and hence, nary an SUV or crossover. So, also along these lines, the four-honest-seat FF should be as close to such genres as the company ever gets.

2012 Ferrari FF grille2012 Ferrari FF side detail2012 Ferrari FF wheel2012 Ferrari FF taillight

How Ferrari designers have established the taller rear section of the greenhouse is a thing of beauty, with rear-seat head- and leg-room that is copious for anyone up to six-feet, two-inches tall. Luggage space in back ranges from 15.9 cubic feet up to 28.3 cubes with the rear seatbacks simply falling forward and laying flat. Bagged skis and golf bags can also be stored by loading through the center section of the rear seats very comfortably. For many car companies, these facts and figures would be far from miraculous, but the FF is a 208-mph Ferrari with a thoroughly heart-wrenching exhaust symphony that sets it miles apart.

Helping the exterior proportions are the surface treatment and detailing of all the lines of the FF’s sexy rear, as well as the standard 20-inch wheels bookending the long 117.7-inch wheelbase. Whereas we’re still not 100-percent convinced by the headlights of the sensational 458 Italia, the LED light design up front on the FF is just right. Does the FF have too large a mouth? That V12 does need to breathe a lot and stay cool, hence the constant Italian smile.

2012 Ferrari FF rear seats2012 Ferrari FF rear cargo area

Sitting in the multi-adjustable driver’s seat within the first class cabin, before us is an impressive steering wheel that’s clearly inspired by the one gripped on occasional Sundays by Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. By forgoing all traditional stalks, the now larger column-fixed carbon-fiber shift paddles for the new seven-speed F1 DCT automated manual gearbox sit closer to the backside of the wheel, and thus right at our fingertips like never before. Besides the five-mode GT manettino switch and red Engine Start button, a windshield wiper toggle and the “Schumacher” button for softer suspension while in Sport or ESC Off on the manettino, Ferrari has incorporated the turn-signal controls into the 3-o’clock and 9-o’clock positions for thumbs to activate or deactivate. This seems small as far as features go, but it’s a revelation of functionality. There are also the “Look, Mom, I’m racing!” red LEDs that light up left to right at the top of the wheel as the revs build to the 8,000-rpm redline.

Luckily, we were directed to many a tunnel with perfect acoustics during our drive day, and this obligated us to downshift even when not really necessary, and there were a few occasions when we couldn’t help but pull both paddles to find neutral so that we could then just blip the throttle like rabble rousers. And what a sound from the FF’s four burnished tips! The throttle is so responsive that we could blip out entire songs as we coasted briskly through the heart of many a mountain. There’s nothing anywhere more emotionally evocative as a carefully tuned Ferrari V12 singing in a tunnel.

2012 Ferrari FF interior2012 Ferrari FF interior2012 Ferrari FF gauges2012 Ferrari FF suspension settings

And it’s not just all sound and fury with no substance. The 651 horses and 504 lb-ft of torque work together with all that sweet tech on board to move this 4,147-pound Ferrari as though it weighs about half a ton less than it does. Despite all of the changes, the FF weighs just 13 pounds more than the 612 Scaglietti. Given its added power and torque, acceleration to 62 mph is quoted officially at 3.7 seconds versus the Scaglietti’s 4.0 seconds. We’ll take odds right now on a digitally timed 3.3 seconds to 60 mph as soon as Ferrari lets us do that. Four adults and their bags – moving very quickly.

The Dolomites are a perfect testing area for dynamics and engine characteristics. The A-Number-1 innovation on the FF is the two-ratio gearbox mounted in front of the V12 linked directly to the crankshaft, looking a bit like the motor hung on the front of a Morgan 3-Wheeler when it’s naked. These two ratios in front are what give the FF its lightweight all-wheel drive only when needed. Think about it: Do 99 percent of all-wheel-drive vehicles need to be all-wheel-drive at all times? No, they do not. How often do you need four-wheel drive in gears 5 through 7? Just about never.

2012 Ferrari FF engine

This system is labeled “4RM” – “4 Ruote Motrici” meaning “four driven wheels” – and it is a Maranello in-house patented approach that we know others will be using in the future. First off, it is mechanically much simpler than a traditional all-wheel-drive setup, it weighs half as much and the reactions are silk smooth. There is no center differential needed and no additional shaft is required to pass from the rear axle back up to the front axle. You do not talk of a torque split here. Rather, the seven-speed F1 DCT and E-Diff torque vectoring on the rear axle still run most of the show and they are built to manage up to five times the torque of the front axle. The mechanism on the front of the crankshaft is referred to as a PTU, for power take-off unit or power transfer unit. Take your pick.

Wet clutch packs on the rear transaxle and the front PTU are synchronized by the FF’s sophisticated ECU to make sure all four wheels are doing everything they can at all times to give you the dynamic advantage under all driving conditions. The PTU has one gear that acts on the front wheels while the F1 gearbox is engaged in either first or second gear in back. The PTU’s second gear is used with the F1’s third and fourth gears. There is more slip programmed into the PTU in first or third gear, while less slippage happens when in second or fourth. This variation is to simply maintain proper wheel speeds between front and back at all times while in these more sensitive first four gears. The PTU’s first taller gear is good up to around 60 mph, while the longer-legged second gear can engage up to 125 mph or so before rendering the car a traditional full-time rear-wheel-drive Ferrari fast-lane funfest from fifth through seventh gears.

2012 Ferrari FF driving

We drove plenty of sundrenched dry mountain roads with a plethora of hairpins that would suck the wind out of and overtax the weight-shift characteristics of almost all other cars we know that can compete. We flew over graveled sections of road, hammered the third-generation Brembo CCM ceramic brakes ad infinitum and played a lot with the third-generation Delphi magnetorheological dampers via the manettino switch and Schumacher button. The throttle to the new direct-injected V12 motor knew no rest and the responses were precise. Overtaking a constant flow of delivery trucks and people driving slowly into the mountains for the weekend became an afterthought as the FF’s mid-range enthusiasm imposed itself.

Shifts from the Getrag-Ferrari F1 DCT gearbox are emotional moments, and happen exactly as we hoped they would while staying in Sport mode practically all day long. In full Auto mode with the manettino set at Comfort, this DCT is far more livable than the former Graziano single-clutch race-oriented boxes. Do not let yourself be fooled, though, it’s still manically satisfying to slap the carbon-fiber paddles up and down the scale. The FF’s downshift throttle blips are the stuff of legend.

2012 Ferrari FF driving2012 Ferrari FF driving

In those myriad curves – ascending, descending, flat, and all in abundance – the all-season 20-inch Pirelli P Zero tires – 245/35 ZR20 (95Y) front, 295/35 ZR20 (105Y) rear – were made to look infallible thanks to the 4RM system conducting all negotiations between the PTU in front, E-Diff with F1 DCT in back, and the agile F1 Trac rear axle torque control. Launch Control comes on all FFs and it can be used in all five settings of the manettino this time around. On the dry, just stand on the brake with the left foot, press the Launch button and insert first gear, floor the throttle, which holds at 3500 rpm, and let go of the brake. The F1 tranny then takes over and automates all the shifts at the 8,000-rpm power peak. Sadly, all our testers this day wouldn’t let us try out the LC party – something about cars possibly flying off the narrow mountain roads in unskilled hands and whatnot. We’ll just need to hit the closed track later, we suppose.

The FF also proves itself a capable snow-goer on optional 20-inch Pirelli Sottozero tires. We really see the entire 4RM suite of features at work here and the controlled oversteer drifts are just weird since we’ve never been encouraged to behave this way in a Ferrari. On our testers, there was a Traction Index interface to the left side of the driver’s display that was as addictive to watch as the green graphics in any slow-moving Japanese tree-hugger car. This digital display showed the traction values jogging between the four wheels in real time as we scooted over ice and snow, or over wet or dry pavement. It was fascinating stuff that a Ferrari spokesperson confided will not be offered on production models. Pity, because it was amazing to play with – especially when kicking out tail in empty hairpin sections.

2012 Ferrari FF driving in snow

It’s in exactly those tail-swishing dynamic sections of road where the FF equation all comes together. In our preferred Sport manettino position, feeling the forward PTU help pull us through and out of all hard curves while still letting the rear end swing around was akin to ballet. The FF profits from a typical 47/53 percent fore/aft Ferrari weight distribution and there was no perceivable understeer through whatever curves we were barreling into and screaming out of. It was also here, on dry pavement, that we wanted the feedback of a slightly heavier wheel, just as we’ve come to love on all other Ferrari models – especially the 458 Italia. In the slick stuff on winter tires, this lightness is ideal, but we were looking for it to tighten up a touch on warm, dry asphalt.

Funnily enough, a Ferrari guardian angel/spokesperson (who came to aide us after our left front Michelin Super Sport summer tire found a nail) handed us his backup FF and said in passing, “Try the steering feel on this car.” Later, after having driven this other FF all the way back to base camp, someone informed us that the steering map had been increased by ten percent for this pre-production car as an experiment. It was just the ticket and we hope that this calibration at least gets offered as an option somehow.

2012 Ferrari FF rear 3/4 view

Other than all that, what can we say? Those out there who are so caught out by the non-traditional nature of this amazing Ferrari GT variation are only going to cheat themselves. Maranello has absolutely done it to a tee with the FF. In a sense, the FF is one of those beautiful moments where a company has answered a question that nobody was asking, only for us to drive it and smack our foreheads for not having thought of something like it sooner. It takes all of the racing lore Ferrari puts into each car it builds and adds every single bit of correct versatility that we’d add were we in charge.

The FF’s first year of production is already sold out and annual volume is planned at around 800 units, though Ferrari intends to stay open to making more if and when more are needed. European left-hand-drive FF deliveries start the end of May, worldwide right-hand-drive units ship in July, and North America gets federalized FFs into buyers’ hands in late October.

Just in time for the early snows.

[Source: autoblog]