Camaro Z/28 Laps the Nurburgring faster than a Ferrari

GM just completed a 10 hour or 1000 mile performance test with the new Chevy Camaro Z/28 on the Nordeschleife at the Nurburgring and for good reason.

Nicknamed “The Green Hell” and just under 13 miles in length and consisting of over 150 turns it’s considered the most demanding race track in the world. Which is why over the past couple years automakers have been making it a point to complete performance tests there and advertise the lap times.

In damp conditions and with some sections of the track experiencing pouring rain, development driver Adam Dean piloted the Z/28 around the Nurburgring in a very commanding 7:37.40. Making it four seconds faster than its supercharged kin, the ZL1.

“One of the challenges of testing at the ‘Ring is that the track is so long that conditions can change radically in a single lap,” Camaro Chief Engineer, Al Oppenheisser went on to praise Dean, “Adam did a heroic job driving in deteriorating conditions. Based on telemetry data from our test sessions, we know the Z/28 can be as much as six seconds faster on a dry track.”

Even in less than favorable conditions, the Z/28 was able to power around the Nurburgring faster than European royalty such as a Porsche 911 Carrera S, Ferrari 458 Italia and a Lamborghini LP640.

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With the 7.0L LS7 pumping out 505hp and 481ft/lbs of torque to the rear wheels via a close-ratio 6-speed transmission, strait line speed was never an issue. But power isn’t everything, certainly not around The Green Hell.

Weighing 300lbs less than the ZL1 combined with fade-free carbon-ceramic Brembo brakes capable of 1.5g in deceleration and chassis revisions allow the Z/28 1.08g in lateral acceleration.

The stringent test the Camaro under went is part of a larger mission to simulate one year of track days driven at 10/10ths. It’s a requirement that certifies the cars are “track capable” by Chevy.

“Today’s test pushes the car harder than the vast majority of customers ever will. As a result, when we call a car ‘track capable’ we are confident that it will perform reliably and consistently for our customers.”

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Put through the paces: Jaguar XKR-S

In the country of England, there’s a growing disinterest among young people in getting a license and owning their first car. There are a few theories on why this is: high gas prices, increasing trends in ‘going green’ etc. But the one that sticks out for me is the epic amount new drivers have to pay for insurance over here. New drivers have to shell out thousands in insurance, sometimes adding up to more than the actual car they’re paying to insure. In the U.S we long for the day where we don’t have to take that big yellow eye sore of a bus to school, no matter the cost. I’m glad to say getting my license was one of the greatest and most freeing experiences I ever enjoyed; getting out of the house whenever I wanted, unnecessarily racing my friends home in their cars, going to parties and not getting dropped of or picked up by the ‘rents. Not getting my first car? I can’t even fathom the thought. It actually took all my strength to type that first sentence with out being sick.

It’s because of this and being 23 that I have such a hard time driving worthwhile cars at press events. The first monthly Jaguar press event I went to, I could only drive the 2.0-liter diesel engine cars. Not exactly what I had in mind, especially since the monstrous XKR-S recently came out. No, because I was under 28 they barely trusted I could feed my self and go to the bathroom all on my own let alone drive their super-coupe. I tried to tell them that I’ve worked as a valet and had driven everything from Pontiacs to Porsches to Rolls-Royces (albeit only 300 ft to park them). It took a few more appearances at these monthly press events and some American charm but I eventually swayed the lady in charge of the keys to hand over the rest of Jaguar’s fleet.

After months of being jealous of all the veteran journalists getting a go in it, I finally got my ride in the XKR-S.

I don’t care how old you are or how many discounts you get on your insurance; everyone is 23 when they walk up to it and immediately 12 years old when they sit behind the wheel of an XKR-S. Jaguar built this car with one thing in mind and that was pure performance. A facelift at the front sees aero aids on the sides and a new splitter under a revised front fascia. Around back, a carbon fiber spoiler makes an appearance and quad exhausts hug the rear diffuser as well. All of which hint at Jaguar’s proven racetrack heritage.

I barely got out of the complex and on the main road before I jabbed at the accelerator and unleashed all 543 horses. The sound that came as a result was instantly addictive (epic WW2 fighter planes come to mind). 0-60 takes a mere 4.5 seconds and 100mph in 8.7. Trust me, I tested it and retested it and then my colleague tested it some more. The claimed top speed is 186mph, but I’ll take Jag’s word on that one.

Engineers just didn’t simply add more horsepower though; through the corners the Jag stays flat and planted. Stiffer suspension and retuned adaptive dampeners help keep the front facing forward and the rear tires behind you. I couldn’t even tell the car had any body roll until I saw the cornering shots. A lot of people have complained that the suspension is too stiff. But that’s like ordering apple pie and complaining that it has apple in it. The roads weren’t exactly smooth where I tested it but I just might be used to the track tuned suspension of my Kawasaki ZX-10. Therefore my spine is permanently lodged in the top of my skull and my pelvis had turned to dust long before I sat in the sporty bucket seats of the R-S. The steering wasn’t as confidence inspiring as I would hope in a high horsepower rear drive sports car, there wasn’t much feed back when something went out of line. Luckily the car is easy enough to handle that you can react quick enough and not do doughnuts every time you turn in to a corner.

This is where I question the dedication of the car though. Most sports car companies have sportier versions of their best cars and then track oriented versions on top of that. Porsche’s 911(the main competition) has the GT3 and then the GT3 RS. The problem with the XKR-S is that I don’t think the suspension was stiff enough. The GT3 RS is a much larger step up in the way that there is literally nothing left in the car except the essentials: seats, steering, A/C…and thats pushing it. Things that have been added are along the lines of a roll cage and a fire extinguishing system. The metal Porsche emblem on the hood is even replaced by a sticker just to save weight. Looking at the back seat that should have been the first thing to go in the Jag since it barely exists in the first place. The dedication towards the track is a little half-assed. If the R-S is going to be a top of the range, track oriented car, I wish it would separate its self from the next model down with a little more than tuned suspension and 30 extra horsepower.

For what it’s worth I’ve never had nearly as much fun in any other car, being a valet or journalist. I want make the exhaust note my ring tone and call myself over and over just to hear it on a regular basis. That’s what Jag did get right with this car, the whole sensory experience; the exhaust bark, your head getting pinned back when you hit the gas and the seats hugging you when you get side ways. Just making you feel like a kid and enjoying the ride. In an era where planned obsolescence is all too common I’m afraid the XKR-S may have fell victim to it, hinting Jaguar could have done more. But as a 12 year old, the XKR-S is one of those cars that would have me longing for my license and an empty stretch of road.

 

Something sensible and useful for a change…

Best bets on low insurance

 Whether seen as a right of passage or a privilege, passing your driving test is an exciting time for anyone. However, insurance premiums are guaranteed to rain on your parade. And if you’re under the age of 25 it can be a torrential down pour. According to the AA British Insurance Premium index, the average premium for the 25 and under bracket is £2,342 a year. The price of the quote depends on the type of car you pick. Insurers categorize different cars on a scale numbering 0ne to 20, one being the cheapest quote. Using quoteexchange.co.uk we found which are the makes and models of cars are the cheapest to insure for buyers on the on the market for the first time.

Top ten cheapest cars to insure

Out of the 8,400 different cars available for purchase in the UK, this is a list of the top ten cheapest to insure.

Manufacturer

 

Model

 

Average Premium

 

Vauxhall

 

Nova 1.2i Trip

 

£303.44

 

Ford

 

Escort Ghia Tdi

 

£347.23

 

Citroen

 

Ami 8 Club

 

£408.10

 

Austin

 

Mini Park Lane

 

£410.35

 

Seat

 

Ibiza Salsa Diesel

 

£410.35

 

Seat

 

Marbella Jeans

 

£425.06

 

Ford

 

Escort Acapulco

 

£427.79

 

Fiat

 

Panda Selecta

 

£428.85

 

Vauxhall

 

Astra Arctic 2 16V

 

£431.50

 

Source: quoteexchange.co.uk

Driving down the cost of insurance

Part of the list is cars that are rare enough to not even bother looking for and are not going to be an option for most drivers. Many of the cars are actually special editions, which means they have more specifications on the trim in addition to the base level versions. Though similar models can be found through second hand dealers.

Along side choosing the right make and model, there are other means of driving down the cost of insurance. Research which grouping your vehicle falls into to get an idea of how expensive your quote will be with the Association of British Insurers.

Once you’ve given an arm and a leg for your car and its insurance, Telematics Technology might help you lower your premiums. Some insurers offer this technology that monitors driving habits through a tiny black box with a GPS signal attached to your car. The system rewards good and bad drivers accordingly.

Ducati Panigale 1199: a serious look

Ducati, the famed Italian motorcycle company, has recently released the Panigale 1199. Their 5th generation super bike, which they say is a “check mate” to the competition.

When looking at the facts on paper it sure reads that way. Boasting the highest power to weight and torque to weight figure of any production bike with 195 hp at 10,750 rpm and 98.1 lb-ft at 9000 rpm and a dry weight of 361.5 lbs.

“Without doubt, this has been the most ambitious project in Ducati’s history and underlines our engineering excellence and ‘product emotion,’ an aspect of our brand which, in such a competitive market place, has become more important than ever.” Says Ducati’s president Ducati President Gabriele Del Torchio. Those aren’t just words for the press either. The Panigale has done away with the Ducati signature tubular A-frame and gone with a monocoque chassis. To top it off Ducati has also bolted the engine’s cylinder heads directly to the frame making them a stressed component on the frame. They didn’t stop there though. The airbox is integrated into the frame and the swing arm is bolted directly to the back of the engine block, all this for weight saving sake. Ducati claims 22 lbs are shaved off, which is biblical in the motorcycle world.

The Panigale matches its mechanical innovations with its electronic wizardry. Utilizing systems such as ABS, traction control, electronic suspension, different riding modes and Ducati’s quick shift system (allows wide open throttle up-shifts), the Panigale becomes the most electronically sophisticated bike on the road. But sophistication has a price. The 1199 is tagged upwards of 20k.

That’s on paper, what is it like on the road? The ergonomics were altered to accommodate for the time spent off the track. The foot pegs are lowered, yet still relatively high and the handle bar reach isn’t as stretched. With all the electronic controls at you finger tips the inspiration for confidence is ripe and ready.

Having been to the UK press launch of the Panigale 1199 and followed reviews of first rides and so on I can’t help but shake a thought. After I admire the sleek simplicity and the sharp beautiful lines I think, “ if that’s not Italian I don’t know what is”. But I’m reminded of a poster I once saw of an old Ducati and underneath it captioned “ Ducati. Making mechanics out of riders since 1946”. That’s when I start to look past the PR sweet talk and the amazing rider-reviews and wonder what is it like to live with when maintenance becomes an issue.

I have dropped the engine out of my ’96 Kawasaki zx-11 to split the crank case to change the connecting rod…twice (In the bike’s defense the bike had 50k+ miles on it and in my defense I was young and stupid). It’s not a fun task. Engineers don’t think of the rider, they think of how to put the bike together and never about how to take it apart. Now factor in Italian engineering. Dropping the engine on the Panigale also requires the detachment of the swing arm as well. Attaching the swing arm to the engine block and putting the air-box as part of the frame works on the track but not in my garage and certainly not on my patience. If I had an army of Italians to maintain my Panigale 1199 I wouldn’t mind buying one at all. But I don’t… so I won’t

And there you have it. Its expensive, bright red, loud, loads of power, beautiful to look at and mechanically impractical for every day life… Traditionally Italian. By being innovative and steering away from tradition Ducati haven’t changed a damn thing.

Put through the paces: Jaguar XK and XK-R

Joining the infamous Jaguar two-door sports car family is the 2012 XK and XK-R. Starting at a base price of around $85k with the XK and rising to just above $100k with the R badge.

The base model XK, though the normally aspirated of the two, is no slouch. The free breathing V8 brings a healthy 385 Bhp in at 6500rpm and supplies 380lbs of torque at a lowly 3500rpm. All that power is put to the rear wheels via crisp six speed electronic paddle shifters. Keeping it shiny side up is Jaguar’s own adaptable traction and stability control systems.

When you’re taking it easy in automatic it’s easy to sit back and appreciate the luxury of the roomy and finely crafted interior. Neither the driver nor front passenger will ever complain about getting cramped. Only plan on bringing along one friend though. The back seats are a joke even if those two extra friends are double leg amputees.

When you finally do put the power down and hit those country roads this cat comes alive. If at all possible go for the soft top, on a nice day regrets are impossible. The suspension is soft enough to hit bumps and potholes without a second thought but firm enough to handle the corners like a pro.

The XK-R takes the range to the next level. Combining the same snappy transmission as the XK, stiffer suspension and the added supercharger you can tell where Jag is heading with this one. The R model gets a massive 510 horses blown into it and a tire melting 461lbs of torque to up the ante. These figures make for an exciting ride through the corners as well as add to the auditory experience. Select ‘R’ on the shifter knob and the exhaust opens up to a symphony of a baritone V8 and the soprano supercharger. Driver be warned though, while lateral grip of the XK-R is impressive mid-corner, exiting a corner can be hair-raising. The rear tires spin under power all too easy and you may be hard pressed to tell when they do let go.

Stiff suspension or not the convertible is the way to go on either model based on vocals alone. With the top down on a nice day you wont care how may bumps you hit. And when stringing a few switchbacks together you’ll be glad you only have one friend because the legless guys in the back would’ve only upset your weight distribution…

The VW Cabrio is back and better than ever

Recently Volkswagen has redesigned the New Beetle, a car that was massively perceived as “girly”. The redesign has pushed it in a more “manly” and sporting direction with a wider looking stance and sharper lines. Volkswagen have now redirected their attention to another inherently feminine family member…the Cabrio.

It has been at least a decade since the world has seen a new Cabrio from the VW family. Well, it’s back and better than ever. The Cabrio has always been just a Golf with the roof replaced by folding fabric. Set for an official launch at this year’s Geneva Motor show VW has done one better and used the GTI as the platform.

Using all the racy and sporty GTI design cues, the new Cabrio GTI is furthest thing from a cutesy convertible. Deep front air dams and side sill extensions give the car a wide affirmative stance. And if any one has any doubts when you rocket by, the bespoke rear diffuser is flanked by two chrome tailpipes.

The rocket under the hood is the same 2.0 liter turbo charged 4 cylinder engine as in the hatch back combined with an ol’ fashioned 6 speed manual or the optional 6 speed dual-clutch DSG. As with all soft tops extra weight is added to better the torsion rigidity and as a result the 0-60 does suffer a bit, up to 7.3 seconds from 6.9. The Cabrio’s off the line speed is still nothing to shy away from with a max torque achieved at a close to an idling 1,700 rpm. All that low end torque mated with an electronic differential still gives you a great driving experience but now with the joys of open air driving.