Posts Tagged ‘Clarkson’

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This month’s TopGear Magazine comes to you from 1972. Sort of. That was the year the first Lancia Stratos was given to the world, and now – 38 years later – it’s back. And we’ve driven it. We’ve driven lots of other stuff too, which you can read all about once you’ve watched your free DVD that’s all about cars with soul. Or you can read the mag first. It’s a free world.

Dust off the remote, fire up the telly box and tune in to BBC2. The boys are back and we’ve got a big fat series 16 preview in the mag, including a little insight into life behind the scenes, plus much toilet talk, with exec producer Andy Wilman.

This month’s news section is kicked off by the new BMW 1-Series M Coupe. An orange one. We snuck it into the TG studio and took some shiny pictures.

More orangeness comes in the shape of the Ford Escort Mexico, driven around the TG test track by a man called Hammond. It reminded him of peas, but you’ll have to read the story to find out why.

Then it’s off to France for a spin in the new Stratos. It’s a custom-built special, based on one of our favourite Ferraris, with some cunning German engineering. But is it any good? Hmm… does James May like a pint?

It’s been a while since Citroen made a proper hot hatch. So when the DS3R arrived, we begged for the keys and went for a drive. If anyone from Citroen is reading this, your car is fine. Well, it’s ours now, but it’s fine. Honest.

Stuck for a new year’s resolution? TopGear is here to help! Have a flick through our feature on All the Cars Worth Caring About in 2011, then promise yourself you’ll buy one. We’ve got the lowdown on all the good stuff.

If you grew up in Russia, you probably know about the Lada Niva. If you grew up in Rushden, allow us to enlighten you. Actually, allow James May to enlighten you – it’s officially being imported into the UK and he’s driven it. On some snow.

The Lambo Gallardo Performante and Porsche 911 Speedster are the ultimate playboy playthings. We arranged for them to meet in the Californian desert. Then we took some pics and wrote some words, because it’s important to share the joy.

After all the supercar frolics, we put on our road-test flat caps and arranged a fight between the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso and the new Ford Grand C Max. Which one is worth your dosh? There’s only one way to find out. Buy the mag. Go on. It’s only £3.95.

Finally, we send a hairy man up a Glacier in the new KTM X-Bow R. Why? Because it was there. And because it looked fun. And dangerous. Which it was.

The December issue of TopGear magazine hits the newsstands today, and features an ear-splitting match-up between two of the loudest objects known to man: the Pagani Zonda R and the Jeremy Clarkson.

Yes, in the pursuit of Much Loudness, we crowbarred our very own JC into Pagani’s Nurburgring-destroying, in-no-way-road-legal Zonda R and donned earmuffs. “It screams like a psychopath stuck in a gin trap, hurls itself at the end of the runway and before you’ve stopped gurning, the speedo is reading 200mph,” reported our intrepid correspondent, shortly before his ears fell off. Trust us: this is one power test you really, really want to read.

At the very-slightly-quieter end of the spectrum, we get under the skin of Audi’s stunning Quattro concept, built to commemorate 30 years of four-wheel drive. Time to party like it’s, erm… (TopGear takes off shoes and socks and begins tortuous process of counting backwards)… 1980!

Argh! Cover your eyes! It’s the Xenatec Coupe, a terrifying two-door based on the bilious Maybach 57S. We take a good close look so you don’t have.

Seb Loeb has just won his seventh WRC title. Seven. Seven. We talk to the people who know him best – his co-driver, his team principal, even his osteopath – to find the answer to the million-dollar question: how the hell is he so good?

The original Merc CLS was a mighty car, a banana-shaped behemoth that spawned a generation of big, fast sort-of-coupes. And now there’s a new one. Can it improve on its predecessor’s stellar reputation – and deliver a kicking to the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera? Jason Barlow finds out.

The Lexus CT200h is what a Prius looks like if you’re not (a) a Hollywood celebrity or (b) a boring old fart. That’s the theory, anyhow. The reality of the lumpy ‘sports hybrid’, as Paul Horrell discovers, is a little less convincing.

Budget-conscious road testers that we are, we’ve conducted a thoroughly and selfless investigation of the record-breaking 268mph Bugatti Supersports, and can happily report it is the ideal car for young couples or recent retirees. We also get to grips with the new Ford Mondeo, VW Passat, Hyundai ix20 and Renault Gordini Clio.

The R8 GT is Audi’s fastest, most committed road car. The Isle of Skye is a very, very long way from anywhere. Add one Tom Ford and that’s a potent recipe for a Big TopGear road trip. And lots of unwanted police attention.

Mini and Prodrive are heading to the WRC next year with this archtastic Countryman. According to TG’s Big Book of Racing History, it turns out that both these firms have a rather illustrious history of winning rallies. Paul Horrell plays co-driver on a slidey, sideways ride to find out whether 2011 will see a little bit of history repeating…

Ha! Look at this ridiculous car! So tiny! So tall! So orange! Oh, what’s that? It has 805bhp and does 0-60mph in less than four seconds? We strap into the Tango T600, the all-electric super-thing that makes the Tesla Roadster look like an underpowered golf cart.

Gran Turismo 5 – the latest, greatest instalment of the epic Playstation franchise featuring the TopGear test track – is nearly here. No, really, it is. In a world-exclusive preview, we meet its creator to find out how the sights, sounds and unidentified smells of Dunsfold were committed to the virtual world… and why the hell it’s taken to long.

Mexico, as you may have read on the news, is not the world’s safest country at present. Especially not if you’re driving the ‘Road of Three Thousand Curves’ – the twisting mountain pass winding through the heart of drug-war territory – in a Porsche Cayman S. Can TopGear survive the drugs barons, the 1,000-foot drops and, most terrifyingly, the Really Quite Spicy Food? Find out this – and far, far more – in the December issue of TopGear magazine, out now!

Clarkson on the M600

Posted: September 17, 2010 in Articles
Tags: , , , ,

Remember Noble? It’s back with a new car, a modest effort with 650bhp, maxing out at 225mph and costing £200,000. Jeremy takes it for a blast around the TopGear test track.

For years, Leicester’s contribution to the world amounted to little more than Walker’s crisps and Gary Lineker. Then a few years ago, Leicester came up with something more interesting. It was called the Noble M400 and, despite being assembled in a shed, it was one of the best handling cars we’ve ever had on our track. As a result we were keen to know what its inventor, Lee Noble, would do next. Unfortunately, what he did next was leave the company he’d founded. Plainly this was a worry. Then the M600 came along.

You might assume that a £200k supercar with a Volvo engine and no ABS would be a laughing stock, a reason why Leicester should stick to making things with salt ‘n’ vinegar written on the outside. In fact, the M600 is extraordinary.

Yes, if you call up all that power it can be as scary as finding an alligator in your pants, but the really amazing thing is that on its gentler setting it is incredibly easy to drive. It even rides well, and that’s always the mark of a well-sorted sports car.

I know it doesn’t have a fashionable badge, and I know that it’ll quickly be worth as much as yesterday’s newspapers, but for sheer, visceral speed there’s little to touch it. Which should give Leicester something to be proud of, apart from snack food and a jug-eared footballist.

from 09|2010

It’s the doors. You know why they’ve been fitted; so that we’re reminded of the old 300 Gullwing. That’s fine. But you also know that at some point, you are going to have to get out of the damn thing, when people are looking. And they’re going to think you’re a cock.

This is a little-known fact among petrolheads. You may think that people will be impressed by your purple metal flake paint job or your enormous rear spoiler or your massive tailpipes. But they aren’t. They see a passion for cars like we see a passion for golf. They think it’s ridiculous. And those doors? They’re the full Rupert Bear Pringle number. The full look-at-me nonsense that no one likes. Put simply – if you have a car with doors that open upwards, you will get less sex.

Also, you will not get them closed. If you are a midget, by which I mean you are less than 6’2″, then you will not be able to reach the handle when you are in the driver’s seat. So either you will be forced to pay extra for a drop-down strap – you tick the option box marked “I am a short arse” – or you will have to ask a passer-by to shut it for you. They will not be impressed by this. Or you.

I should explain at this point that I’m being hyper-critical from the off on this road test report because I am smitten by the SLS. I love it more than I love my own limbs. And I urgently need to talk myself out of buying one.

So let’s get back to the faults. The ride. I thought the set up in my CLK Black was stiff. I thought it wouldn’t be possible to make a car any more rigid. But AMG has managed it. And how. The road from Burford to Chipping Norton is extremely smooth. I know this because I have driven on it many times. But in the SLS, it felt about as flat as Scotland.

There’s a harshness to the whole car in fact. It’s as though the rubber bushes that are used in normal cars to isolate the driver from the workings of the engine and the suspension have been removed. Certainly, we know that the propshaft is made from carbon fibre and as a result weighs just 4kg. We also know that the engine is made from lightweight materials too. It’s all very impressive but when it comes to isolating you from the world, cotton is not as good as fur. Heavy is better.

The SLS looks like an elegant grand tourer. It is fitted with much leather and many luggzuries. But to drive, it feels like a foundry.

Since I quite like this, I shall move on to the size. It’s nearly two metres wide. This means that it will be defeated by many council width-restrictors. And the wideness means that your passenger is very far away from where you are. So you need megaphones to talk.

Especially if you are going fast. All AMG cars are noisy when you accelerate – and it’s not a trick either involving valves. They’re that way from the get-go. The SLS though… is more noisy than anything that has gone before, for more of the time. On a steady cruise, it settles down and hums, but if you even think about pressing the accelerator, the barking and the bellowing is back, with a vengeance.

In many ways, it feels like a TVR – and like a TVR, I think that the ownership experience would be annoying and difficult and awkward and tiring. Although perhaps with a bit less fire and smoke. I’m not sure you’d grow to love the looks either. From some angles, in some colours, it is sensational. As good to behold as anything on the road. But from the back, it looks a bit weedy. So there we are. I really mustn’t have one. It would be stupid. And I mustn’t wait for the convertible either, because although it will have proper doors, it will cost a billion pounds.

The hard-top is already expensive. The base car is £157,000 but the car I drove was fitted with a reversing camera, sports seats, special wheels, a Bang and Olufsen sound system, ceramic brakes, special paint and nice leather. It even had – at an extra cost of £3,355 – a carbon-fibre engine cover.

Why would you want that? People already hate you because of the doors. So if you then get the bonnet up and invite them to inspect your three-and-a-half grand engine cover, it’s likely they will take out their penis and wee on you. I know I would.

The upshot of all this is that the car I tested would cost £194,000. This means it’s more expensive than an Aston Martin DBS or a Ferrari California. £194,000 is absolutely idiotic. And yet…

One Sunday night, I dropped my daughter off at school – well, near it actually so that her friends didn’t have to see those doors – and came home on my own. The weather was beautiful. The roads were empty. And the SLS was utterly magical.

Everything’s a lot further back than you’d expect. The engine, for instance, is mounted way behind the front axle and you sit right over the back wheels, which probably explains why it feels so firm. It also means that the driving experience is akin to being in Ben Hur’s chariot.

It feels like it’s pivoting around where the horse’s arse would be if it were a chariot. Miles in front of where you are, in other words. It’s an amazing feeling and I liked it very much.

I also liked the steering. It’s Porsche GT3 direct. You turn the wheel a tad, scarcely believing such a small movement could cause such a huge bonnet to change direction, but it does, immediately and with almost no roll.

The seven-speed gearbox was brilliant too. It uses the exact same double-clutch system that Ferrari uses on the California. And I know a little bit about that. Sadly.

When Top Gear was in Romania recently, Hammond and I found ourselves neck-and-neck on the motorway. He was in a California. I was in a DBS, and, at a given signal, we both floored it. There was absolutely no difference between the cars at all. They accelerated at precisely the same rate – until it was time for a gearchange.

I tried to be quick. But in the Aston, I had to press the clutch pedal down, move a lever and let the clutch pedal back up again. Hammond just pulled a paddle and, bang. The next gear was engaged, in a period of time even an astro physicist would call ‘none’. It was instant and, as a result, with each change, he pulled out a 20-metre lead.

The SLS is very fast. Zero to 60 is dealt with in 3.8 seconds. Flat-out, you’ll be doing 195. And on a real road? Well, providing the real road in question is wide enough, I can think of absolutely nothing which could keep up. Not with that ‘box. Not with that steering. And certainly not with that 563bhp, 480 torques, superlight 6.2-litre V8.

This is the opposite of a grand tourer. It’s an out-and-out racer. Edgy. Nervous. Noisy. You need to be careful with the throttle coming out of the corners because despite the 295/30s on the back, and the traction control system, it will misbehave. And with that engine on full chat, no one can hear you scream.

Time and again I would crest a brow, see the road ahead was empty and clear and straight, and I’d floor the throttle and whoop. It’s not like I’m unused to fast cars. But this? I don’t know. It somehow feels faster than anything I’ve ever driven before. More exciting too. You need the aircon on full or you’d drown in your own armpit juices.

So here we are. Near the end. Looking for a verdict. And it’s tough. The excellent trade magazine, Autocar, said after driving the SLS that while it impressed them – they called it “massively fast” – it left them emotionally cold.

That’s odd because for me, it’s sort of the other way around. The SLS is riddled with issues. The ride. The size. The price. The looks. And of course, the doors. It’s a mentalist. It’s bonkers. But I find it more characterful and more likeable than even an Aston Martin DBS. I love it more than I love my dog.

It makes no sense. And almost because of that, it makes more sense than anything I’ve ever driven.