Posts Tagged ‘September’


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The plan was simple: the TG office decamps to Paris to see an awfully famous Mouse and a Big Tower to wash away the oncoming winter blues. Much cheese would be eaten.

But some internet people speculated that lots of cars would be happening in the French capital. Shiny ones you might be able to buy if you had ‘moneys’, and strange, futuristic ones you’ll never be able to buy, even if you had lots of ‘moneys’.

This intrigued us. We therefore set aside our strict cheese-eating regime, recalculated our TomToms and, despite being quite lost for some time, eventually found what the feverish speculation was pointing to: the 2010 Paris Motor Show.

There will be cars! There will be girls! There will be gentlemen with severe Vitamin D deficiencies who only speak in 0-62mph times!

We are rather excited, partly because of the Maserati GT Stradale above, Lamborghini, Lotus and much more supercars.


Lamborghini Gallardo Blancpain

Lotus Elite

BMW 6 Series concept

Porsche Speedster

Range Rover Evoque

Ford Focus ST

Vauxhall Astra VXR

Audi A1 ‘S-Line’

Kia Pop

Citroen Lacoste

Infiniti Performance Line

Some Bentley sunglasses. The company might also show the new Conti GT.

Excited? You should be, you automotive rascals. Lamborghini is serving up a treat for you, so you better bring your big plate…

What you see above is the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Blancpain Edition. For the peasants among you, Blancpain make watches. Like, really expensive ones. A Blancpain watch is to a wrist-based timepiece what the Palace of Versailles is to a land-based residence.

Blancpain also sponsors Lamborghini’s lightly insane Super Trofeo race series – the fastest one-make series on Earth – so the good folk at Sant’Agata felt it necessary to smother a Superleggera in carbon fibre and roll out a new Gallardo. All hail the Blancpain Edition!

This Blancpain Gallardo gets a mighty carbon fibre rear spoiler, new engine cover (for ventilation), diffuser, new mirror casings, carbon-ceramic brake discs and calipers, and ‘Skorpius’ wheels.

The seats are stitched in Alcantara with yellow accents and visible carbon fibre, along with the Blancpain logo stitched about the cabin.

Lamborghini reckons the Gallardo’s performance is enhanced by these carbon-fibre details, but the specs are equal to the standard 570-4 Superleggera: the 5.2-litre V10 generates 565bhp and propels the Gallardo, its owners and their soon-to-be-emptied stomachs from 0-62mph in just 3.4 seconds and on to a top speed of over 200mph. Sant’Agata also proudly trumpets the Blancpain’s weight boasts no more than 1,340kg – the same as the Superleggera.

Still, this be no bad thing indeed. 570bhp in something weighing the same as a Focus diesel is a Good Thing. Like it?

And now, rather spuriously, is some more Lamborghini goodness. US tuner Underground Racing has tweaked the mighty, meaty and magnificent Murcielago LP670-4. And by tweaked, we mean wig-splitting, ice-cap melting tweakery. They’ve pumped the Murci’s power from 670bhp to 1,100bhp using two turbochargers.

from 09|2010

Snowdonia looks like Middle Earth. From our mountainside car-park base close to Capel Curig – officially the wettest place in Wales, which is no mean feat – we watch as great tracts of cloud roll in off the Irish sea. We have no option but to take shelter as the weather gets unseasonably medieval on our asses.

Except that conditions like these really up the ante. In that same remote car park sits a Ferrari 458, a Lambo Gallardo Superleggera, a Porsche 911 GT3 RS, a Merc SLS AMG, and a Lexus LFA. (There’s also one of those hideous Hymer RVs with a German couple inside, but we’ll leave them out of this.) That’s some collection of cars, 2010’s finest. It’s also a total of 2,713bhp, a fair few thousand kilograms of aluminium, carbon fibre and expensively reinforced plastic, a combined top speed north of 1,000mph (they’ll all do 200mph or close to it), and near enough a million quid’s worth.

Here we go then. Time to pop the necessary brave pills and just get stuck in, evil weather or not. One road, instant impressions – sometimes it’s the best way. There are mountains, rocks, sheep and for all I know an army of vengeful orcs waiting to hurl flaming tar at me. This particular road, the A4086, is irresistible though. Freshly resurfaced, there’s definitely grip to be had out here. And even with the sheets of rain and the curlicues of spray, there’s enough forward visibility to plan ahead properly like police driving instructors insist we do. But even so.

The 458 Italia is the latest so-called ‘small’ and ‘affordable’ Ferrari. It costs £169,000, so in reality it’s about as affordable as a Bahamian island. But it is still relatively small. It’s also still mid-engined, and having recently spent some time reacquainting myself with its mid-Nineties forebear the F355, I know that small, mid-engined Ferraris are utterly bewitching right up to the moment they stop being bewitching and try to do you in. Especially if it’s wet.

But the 458 might just be the cleverest car I’ve ever driven. The 458 kisses goodbye once and for all to the old-school, ‘organic’ Prancing Horse, to the lingering idea that when you buy a Ferrari you’re paying for the engine, for the toil of some Italian artisan, and the rest of it is a bonus.

Not here, it isn’t. This is a seriously high-technology car, a deliberately, unapologetically complicated bit of kit engineered by men with vast IQs. Its chassis electronics, aerodynamic refinements and incredible carbon-ceramic brakes will see you down a treacherous Welsh mountain road in a way that’ll pump the blood round your body faster than anything this side of base-jumping off a Shanghai skyscraper. Honestly.

It’s been said that the 458 Italia is the first truly digital supercar, and if, say, you still prefer vinyl records to CDs or MP3s, then that’s probably a bad thing. But when I overcook one particular corner, I can sense the electronic differential and traction control effortlessly compensate for my cack-handedness.

Really, I should be picking bits of orc tar and sheep out of my hair at this point. No question, Ferrari has absolutely nailed the network of electronics that keep things sweet, finding traction where there isn’t supposed to be any and juggling braking forces. The 458 is nothing less than a major step forward in the evolution of the car. Its lightning-fast, two turns lock-to-lock steering takes some getting used to though. It majors on accuracy rather than feel.

For the next hour or so, the other four get tested over exactly the same stretch. It’s one of the best and most illuminating hours of my life. My God, these cars are good. Amazing, in fact. And all very, very different in their approach to the common goal of going like the clappers.

The Porsche’s semi-slick Michelin Sport Pilots clearly aren’t, er, optimised for these sorts of conditions. But a soggy road like this doesn’t so much compromise the GT3 RS as bring into sharp focus what it can do: which is to connect you with what’s passing beneath those four bits of rubber more intimately than any of the others, filter the information in the most stupendously interactive way. Its steering is perfectly alive: exquisitely weighted, linear, communicative.

It’s also the only one with a conventional manual gearbox, perhaps the truest driver’s car of the quintet. Give me this sort of 911 any day over the arcade-game-slick PDK version. It’s classic 911 remastered, a defiantly analogue counterpoint to the Ferrari. But still highly evolved.

As Pat Devereux observes at one point, “it’s as hi-tech as any of the other cars, you just don’t always realise.” He’s right, but hook up a string of corners, maximising entry and exit speeds and getting your line just right, and you can feel the breath of genius on the back of your neck.

The Porsche is genuinely spine-tingling. Maybe because it’s the one you’d least want to make a mistake in. You have to concentrate pretty hard in the Porsche. This is a good thing for the soul.

The Lambo isn’t the same immediate fit. The Superleggera is awkward to sit in, awkward to see out of, and is starting to feel its age. But even in stripped-out form (it weighs an impressively lean 1,340kg), its stability and sense of purpose is incredible.

Without putting a stopwatch on it, it feels like the one that’s fastest and most sure-footed on this road, even if it lacks the Ferrari’s ferocious electronic intelligence. Its turn-in, and the amount of grip you can find in it, and the way it communicates its findings to you, is beyond exhilarating. The fastest, then, in a massively rapid bunch of cars, as well as the most reassuring. Not bad for a lightweight Lamborghini, of all things. This thing is the polar opposite of flakey.

The SLS feels like a muscle car; it’s loud, very firm, and doesn’t change direction with the immediacy of the others. It feels unrepentantly German, a big sausage alongside the more lip-smacking Italian salami.

There seems to be an awful lot of car in front of you, and not much behind, which makes it an interesting vehicle to place on the road. Right now, it feels like a heavier, blunter instrument. But it’s also more of a long-legged GT than the others, and this short blast, point-to-point exercise doesn’t show it in its best light. I suspect it’s the one for the long drive home. Perhaps even the best all-rounder, too.

The Lexus, on the other hand, is almost too sharp. It skitters about more than any of its rivals, needs a careful hand on the wheel and a quick brain on the job, even with its traction control switched firmly on. As I concluded when I drove it at the Nordschleife last autumn, the 560bhp, V10 LFA is probably the maddest car ever to come out of Japan, and definitely the craziest product to emerge from the company that brought us the Prius. I’m loving the Lexus.

Back in the car park, the weather now seems to be going in reverse. A stern wind has dissipated the rain, and a little vortex of air is blowing a polystyrene cup around us repetitively like the plastic bag in that famous scene in American Beauty. It’s getting brighter rather than darker, too, but still, the Hymer couple must be reviewing next summer’s travel options. Death Valley, maybe.

At least they have what must surely be 2010’s five most compelling-looking cars to distract them. I’m still buzzing from my rapid-fire drive, but it’s time to get a proper handle on these things. Pat D dismisses the LFA as a mutant Supra, and the truth is that this is an eternally gestating motor-show concept car that nearly didn’t make it out of the starting blocks at all. But it’s also the number one crowd-stopper and though not all the people we speak to like it, everyone wants to know what it is. And then they all want to know how much it costs, and are naturally rather surprised to hear that it’s 340 big ones. Lexus will lose money on every carbon-bodied LFA it sells, which only underlines the madness at work here.

Its interior is also remarkable. It’s sensationally well made. It has easily the best door handles and indicator stalks I’ve ever used, and the dials in the instrument display are powered by tiny motors and so glide across the binnacle in the most gloriously pointless way. The LFA’s centre console is a wonderful aluminium slab, a gleaming, retro-futuristic edifice with a little joystick that moves a cursor round on a screen. This is brilliant fun but also utterly hopeless on the move, and the reason why I almost drive the car into a kerb while trying to find Ken Bruce’s Popmaster on Radio 2.

Thanks to its doors, the SLS runs the LFA a close second for crowd-pleasing. At least Mercedes has some moral right to gullwing doors, and over the course of our few days with it I never get bored just getting in and out. Although, as Jeremy says in his SLS feature, anyone who’s less than 6ft 2in might find the novelty less enduring unless they remember to pull the door shut after them as they get in. (And anyone who’s over 6ft 2in will need to grow an impact-absorbing Afro to avoid bumping their head on the bit of the door that eats into the headlining.) The rest of it is familiar high-end Merc product: resilient leather and plastics, simple interfaces, great to use but arguably a little soulless.

The Lambo is the least friendly to be in. The driving position isn’t very good, the view ahead letter-box slender, and the fixed carbon-shelled bucket seats are hard work at first. The carbon-skinned door clangs shut like a race car’s, and there’s thinner glass on the windscreen and side windows, and Perspex on the rear-quarter windows. Yes, it skims weight off, and it feels lean. But a bit mean too. And old. Why does this car suddenly feel old? Pat again: “About 80 per cent of the people who’d buy the Lambo would be doing it for other people’s benefit. With the Porsche, it’s probably the other way round.”

It says something that, despite the daft decals and the huge wing, the Porsche is practically invisible in this company. I love the fact that you can swap the enamel bonnet badge for a sticker, and you just know that no one goes about weight reduction like these guys. There’s a titanium silencer and a single-mass flywheel which has now been lightened to the point where it weighs almost nothing at all. (It rattles like a bag of old nails at idle, too, but we’ll let that go.) Yet the 911’s Michelins have tall enough sidewalls to make it surprisingly compliant.

Inside, the current RS diet means no aircon and no stereo – when I got into it at home before setting off, I spent 10 seconds searching for an iPod connection before I realised there was no bleeding stereo to connect it to. (I will eventually drive 630 miles in this car in three days. Personally, I’d have aircon and a stereo in my GT3 RS, and swallow the 0.007 of a second or however much those bits blunt the car’s performance by. After three days and 630 miles, boy did I miss Ken Bruce.)

Let’s get back to the Ferrari. The 458 is the most obviously pretty Ferrari since the F355 in 1994, and raids the best back catalogue in the business without looking remotely retro. There’s all sorts of aero work on the 458 – a big rear diffuser, flexible aero-elastic winglets upfront – without the need for showy spoilers like the Porsche’s and Lambo’s (the Lexus and AMG both have devices that hove into view at 70mph). This technically astonishing Ferrari also manages to be true to its maker’s reputation for beauty.

If the car’s dynamics have been taken to new levels by electronics, the 458’s cabin has been similarly re-imagined. Not quite as successfully, in my view. The quality inside is excellent, with beautiful leatherwork, and gorgeous snake-hipped seats. But though the interior ergonomics ape the multi-functionality of modern F1 cars, this might not be an entirely good thing.

I love the strip lights that mirror the engine revs along the top of the wheel, and there’s no arguing with the manettino or the engine start button. But the indicator switches are a literally on/off, hit-and-miss affair, and the wiper and light buttons – they’re all on the wheel somewhere – are confusing. As is the sheer volume of stuff that’s going on in the media and info pods either side of the steering column.

Still, the F430 was criticised for the paucity of interior content, so we shouldn’t kick its replacement for having too much (though charging £540 for an iPod connection is a bit rich. Indeed, a trawl through the Ferrari options book could reduce a grown man to tears. In fact, prepare yourself for pain if you go options shopping for any of them).

Not that the baubles matter. Because what unites all five of these cars is the astonishing completeness of their engineering. Their engines alone are worth the price of admission. Work your way through the 458’s sublime dual-clutch gearbox – instant, seamless shifts with just enough mechanical grit built into it to keep the analogue purist happy – and even changing up early is a satisfyingly meaty process. The exhaust makes that brilliant Ferrari ‘bwap’ noise. But hunt for the redline in second, third and fourth and keep an eye on that wheel strip light, and the 4.5-litre V8’s appetite for revs is unbelievably addictive.

Personally, the 430 Scuderia’s harder, more F1-influenced character still has the edge for me, but the 458 is thrillingly close and it’ll flip into cruise-home mode in an instant. In fact, it’s so torquey it’ll pull in seventh gear from under 40mph. It’s a devastatingly good car even at 70mph on a busy motorway, yet almost as fast as an Enzo everywhere else, with an even more sophisticated chassis. Ferrari’s current rate of technological progress is off-the-scale.

The 458 is just so complete, which is an unusual thing to conclude about a Ferrari. But then, the SLS – with its wonderfully savage 6.2-litre, hand-built AMG V8 and eye-popping looks – is a hugely charismatic car to be around. The Porsche has the authenticity, a soaring race-car character and a beautiful, gutsy, free-flowing engine. The Lamborghini corners the hardest of all, is massively confident, and gigantically, hilariously fast. The Lexus is mad as a brush, but its 4.8-litre V10 runs the Ferrari’s V8 very close indeed for high-revving thunder. Yes, you read that right: a Lexus engine that’s close to Ferrari good.

That’s the class of 2010. Seriously, the best ever. The best ever.

Range Rover Evoque

Posted: September 25, 2010 in Uncategorized
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The LRX wowed us; Victoria Beckham pouted it at us; liveried warriors marched off into the world for us…

and now it’s here.

Land Rover has officially announced the arrival of its smallest model, the Evoque, which will be offered like a sacrificial goat to the public at the Paris motor show.

The Evoque is as close an interpretation of the LRX concept possible, and is the lightest and most efficient Rangie ever.

And it looks pretty good, ‘innit? While some of the Top Gear office regard it as a two-doored, two-wheel drive metropolitan abomination of all that we hold dear about this company’s utilitarian past, even they can’t deny that it’s going to do very well. Expect it to be the ride of choice for all Fulham/Cheshire-based wives from next summer – much as the Audi TT and Mini have dominated that market in the past. As Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern says, the Evoque is a “bold evolution of Range Rover design”.

Underneath that handsome face lurks some clever tech. You get the option of front-wheel drive for the first time in a Range Rover, together with adaptive dampers and something called a ‘Terrain Response’ system on the four-wheel drive. We like the sound of that…

The base engine is a 148bhp, 2.2-litre diesel which returns 58mpg and creeps under 130g/km of CO2 (in the front-wheel-drive model), while a 2.0-litre, 238bhp petrol engine offers up a 0-60mph time of 7.1 seconds.

You get loads of techie bits like park assist, blind spot monitoring, surround camera system with digital cameras, TV, DVD and keyless entry. We’re still waiting to see if it’s got something called ‘electric windows’, so check back for updates…

Land Rover is offering the Evoque in three design themes: Pure (brushed aluminium trim, soft-touch materials), Prestige and Dynamic. Prestige gives you ‘sparkly metallic details’, while Dynamic gets you 20-inch rims and Big Respec’.

This little crossover SUV will cost from £30,000 when it goes on sale in summer 2011. And it’s Made In Britain. It’s split the Top Gear office fairly cleanly down the middle, so we want to know what you think. A hideous betrayal aimed at milquetoasts from the chattering classes, or the latest stroke of genius from Gaydon?


Lotus Elite: First pics

Posted: September 20, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Lotus’s DB9 rival revealed

Under new boss Dany Bahar, Lotus has big plans. Many big, fast, expensive plans.

And this is perhaps the biggest, fastest and most expensive of the bunch. This is the Lotus Elite (read it carefully), a front-engined, 2+2 super-coupe to rival the Aston Martin DB9 and due to launch in 2014.

The Elite will be officially revealed at the Paris Motor Show next week, and spearheads a slew of new Lotuses aiming to take on Porsche, Ferrari and Aston in the next few years.

That’s a big aim, but the Elite has some big credentials. Under that long bonnet, though behind the front axle, is a Toyota-sourced 5.0-litre V8 – the engine found in the mighty, and mighty sounding, Lexus IS-F – developing 610bhp at 8,000rpm. And, unlike the IS-F version, which is awesome enough, this one is supercharged. Lotus says it’ll haul to 62mph in around 3.5 seconds which, if true, puts the Elite in some pretty serious company.

The shape is by a team operating under Lotus’s new head of design, Donato Coco. He began at Lotus in January 2010, and it’s no coincidence that he came from Ferrari, where he was head of Concept Design & Development. No coincidence for two reasons. One, the boss of Lotus, Dany Bahar, also came from Ferrari. Two, Coco was at Ferrari when the California was taking shape.

There’s tech here, too. The full 610bhp Elite will, says Lotus, use an optional full complement of hybrid gubbins – integrated electric motors and an F1-style ‘KERS’ regeneration system. In hybrid guise, it weighs 1,650kg, about 100kg less than the DB9 but portly by Lotus’s own featherweight standards.

The Lotus is 10cm shorter than the Aston, but the most significant gap between the two cars comes in the form of the CO2 emissions: the Elite is predicted to cough out just 215g/km of CO2, a massive 40 per cent less than the DB9.

One more ambitious figure for you: £115,000. That’s the price that Lotus has tagged on the Elite, and a clear indication of its intention to head upmarket, although note that’s the base price for the non-hybrid version, which is predicted to put out a slightly meeker 550bhp (to be fair, that’s still officially “a lot”). The Norfolk firm will have to raise its game hugely in terms of interior fit, finish and cabin gizmos to justify that price tag and tempt buyers away from their Porsches, but Bahar sounds confident.

“Make no mistake, there’s a definite market requirement for the Elite,” says the ex-Ferrari man.

“It’s the ultimate sports car feel with comfort and space. There will always be those who believe Lotus should stick to small sports cars, but we didn’t take the decision to design something like the Elite lightly. This sector has been very successful for us in the past, and now the Elite raises the benchmark higher still.”

What do you reckon? Can Lotus really take on the big boys at their own game? Or should it stick to lightweight, no-frills track monsters?

James on the Ferrari 458

Posted: September 15, 2010 in Articles
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from 09|2010

It really is, absolutely, unbelievably, mesmerisingly, brilliant.” (J Clarkson, 2010)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Ferrari 458 Italia. You may remember it from such recent hits as “Ferrari 458 on fire”, or “Ferrari 458 Italia crashed”. All of these, we hasten to add, a result of “excited new owner” error.

The Ferrari 458 is a bit like high-definition television. It’s a phenomenon with which we are completely familiar – a mid-engined Ferrari – but much clearer and brighter.

Take the gearbox. Like my old F430, it has paddles behind the wheel, but where my car moves from one gear to the next, this one is simply in one and then instantly in the other. It is, literally, quantum mechanics, in the sense that the space in between ratios is never actually occupied.

The engine is more powerful, and the exhaust note is crisper, sharper and better defined. There is a greater sense of immediacy to everything that happens in the 458. The steering on the F430 has never been described as bad, but the steering on this car is simply less fuzzy. The suspension is a bit more accommodating, the brake pedal a bit more positive, and the glove box appears to be slightly bigger. Even the styling seems to have been rendered with slightly sharper edges.

See what I mean? It’s the same stuff, rendered in more detail. It’s as if a lens has been wiped clean, or a layer of sponge removed from the ends of your fingers. The world of driving a Ferrari remains familiar, but is now in sharper focus.

Obviously, high-def television can come with its own downside, just as most technological advances do. Richard Hammond’s hair or Jeremy Clarkson’s face in greater detail is not something that society ever regretted not having, but this car only benefits from the transformation. There is no penalty that I can detect. It is, in fact, a better car than mine in every single way.

It’s really bloody annoying.

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.

Somewhere in Coventry I saw Aston Martin V12 Vantage Le Mans 2010 from Aston Matrin Racing group. I had to share it with you.

Power Lap Times from 09|2010

Veyron SuperSport 1.16.8

Gumpert Apollo 1.17.1
Ascari A10 1.17.3
Koenigsegg CCX (with Top Gear spoiler) 1.17.6
Noble M600 1.17.7
Pagani Zonda F Roadster 1.17.7
Caterham R500 1.17.9
Bugatti Veyron 1.18.3
Pagani Zonda F 1.18.4
Maserati MC12 1.18.9
Ferrari Enzo 1.19.0
Lamborghini LP670 SV 1.19.0
Ariel Atom 1.19.5
Lamborghini LP560 1.19.5
Ferrari Scuderia 1.19.7
Nissan GT-R 1.19.7
Lamborghini LP640 1.19.8
Porsche Carerra GT 1.19.8
Koenigsegg CCX 1.20.4
Corvette ZR1 1.20.4
Ascari KZ1 1.20.7