McLaren 720S

McLaren 720S driven: seven days with a supercar

Seven days with a supercar makes one weak. Especially when it’s the 212mph McLaren 720S.

How to take a virtual tour of Audi’s largest factory

AudiStream lets you virtually tour its German factory

Audi has come to the rescue of those stuck in isolation boredom with a virtual tour of its production facility in Ingolstadt, Germany.

AudiStream can take you around its largest factory, which occupies a similar amount of land as Monaco.

Such is the size of the facility, it even has its own ‘Ingolstadt Audi’ train station. The online tool can take you across the site in as little as 15 minutes.

AudiStream lets you virtually tour its German factory

Ingolstadt has been operational for some 70 years, with 441,608 cars built there in 2019. Around 2,300 Audis are assembled every day, with 45,000 workers making the process happen.

Audi is the first manufacturer to offer such an inside look at its production facility and technology. The A3 bodyshop and A4 assembly line can both be accessed via the stream.

The plant has recently been outfitted for production of the new A3. Audi’s new Golf-sized hatch was meant to debut at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month. 

If you have questions about what you’re seeing, tour guides will be on hand to answer. They’ll be available via a live interactive discussion or online chat.

There are 20-minute time slots. These can be booked for the virtual AudiStream tour by visiting www.audi.stream.com.

AudiStream lets you virtually tour its German factory

This AudiStream tour joins other virtual experiences offered in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Last weekend, self-isolating car enthusiasts were treated to a virtual Goodwood Members’ Meeting, with a ‘best of’ selection of races and demos sorted into two day-long streams.

With much of the 2020 F1 calendar postponed, a virtual Grand Prix series was also launched.

And for something a bit more static, but no less fascinating, you can take virtual tours of the Petersen and Mullin automotive museums in America.

Government figures reveal huge decline in road and rail travel

Transport figures show effect of social distancing

The Department of Transport has published figures that reveal how various modes of transport have been affected by the coronavirus crisis.

The graph below shows motor vehicles, national railways, London (TfL) buses and the London Underground. 

Transport figures show effect of social distancing

On February 27, everything is at 100 percent. By 3 March, the underground shows its first sign of decline.

By 18 March, tube use had halved, while bus use was at just over 75 percent. Travel by National Rail experienced a similar drop, at around 75 percent. Travel by car, meanwhile, had only just started to drop off by March 18.

However, the rate of drop after this date – around when the UK ‘lockdown’ first began – is enormous. By 25 March, car driving was down to 50 percent, dropping almost overnight from 75 percent. At this point, the three forms of public transport are down at or below 25 percent.

Transport figures show effect of social distancing

It’s difficult to compare these figures with UK cases of the virus, hospital admissions and the death rate, due to incubation periods, testing availability and so on.

However, in terms of new cases, the so-called curve appears to have softened, with the first drop-off occurring on 28 March, following the stark jump on 27 March. 

The real effects of the social distancing measures, evidenced in these transport figures, will only be visible in the longer term. For now, at least, it seems that most of the population has listened and stayed at home.

Land Rover puts Defender to work for emergency services

Jaguar Land Rover Red Cross coronavirus

Land Rover has joined the effort to combat coronavirus. The British carmaker is donating a fleet of 150 new Defenders to emergency services around the world.

Some are destined for long-time Land Rover partner charity, the Red Cross.

The cars will be put to use delivering medicine and food to elderly and vulnerable people in the UK, Spain, France and beyond.

The British Red Cross will receive 57 vehicles from Land Rover, including 27 new Defenders.

ALSO READ: New Land Rover Defender revealed: the headline facts

The cars are in addition to Jaguar Land Rover’s efforts in terms of 3D printing. It’s among a number of UK companies, including car manufacturers, contributing research and resources to the production of ventilators.

Jaguar Land Rover Red Cross coronavirus

“The health and safety of our employees, customers and their families remain our priority,” said Finbar McFall, Jaguar Land Rover customer experience director.

“Jaguar and Land Rover will do everything we can to support people in need around the world. Our partnership with the Red Cross goes back 65 years and we will work hand in hand with them to do all we can during this global health emergency.

“We will also provide help to those closer to home in our local communities. We can all play a part in helping the vulnerable during this global pandemic.”

Jaguar Land Rover Red Cross coronavirus

Like a member of the Royal family, the Defender’s lineage almost demands that it puts a shift for the services. Its predecessor was, for decades, the backbone of many organisations in the UK and around the world.

Land Rover has been working with the Red Cross for more than 65 years, and Defenders have been invaluable in response efforts over the years.

Jaguar Land Rover Red Cross coronavirus

“This unprecedented global health emergency requires us all to pull together,” said Simon Lewis, head of crisis response at the British Red Cross.

“As part of the British Red Cross response to coronavirus, we’re delving deep into the heart of communities across the UK to help strengthen support for the most vulnerable people through delivering essential food parcels and medicines to those unable to get out.”

Ferrari Dino 'Evo'

Ferrari Dino ‘Evo’ review: a red rag to the purists

Ferrari Dino 'Evo'

Ferraris are works of automotive art, says conventional wisdom; modifying one is like daubing Dulux on the Sistine Chapel. Not that Kevin O’Rourke seems concerned. His Ferrari Dino ‘Evo’ was among the star cars at London Concours last summer, while another Dino built by his company, Mototechnique – the 400hp, F40-engined ‘Monza’ – earned a thumbs-up from Jay Leno and made the cover of Octane magazine. Is nothing sacred?

Launched in 1968, the Dino was named after Enzo Ferrari’s beloved son, Alfredo (known as ‘Alfredino’), who died of muscular dystrophy aged 24. It was Maranello’s first mid-engined road car, although it never wore the prancing horse badge (many owners added them subsequently). It was also the first ‘junior’ Ferrari, a since-unbroken bloodline that leads to the new F8 Tributo.

The original Dino 206 GT had a 2.0-litre 180hp V6, swiftly upgraded to 2.4 litres and 195hp in the 246 GT. The Evo, as you’d expect, packs a somewhat bigger punch. Its 3.2-litre V8 hails from a Ferrari 328 and uses Bosch electronic fuel injection from an F355, along with uprated driveshafts and a hydraulic clutch conversion. The result is 300hp and vastly improved reliability. “I’ve driven the car to Austria for skiing holidays and competed in three European road rallies,” confirms Kevin.

Ferrari Dino 'Evo'

The Dino’s voluptuous lines remain intact, and rightly so. The only additions are a roll cage to boost rigidity, a bespoke ‘Evo’ badge in the same angular script as Dino’s signature, plus a set of gold Ferrari 360 alloys – needed to accommodate the 360 brake discs and calipers. “Most people don’t like the wheels,” Kevin admits. The paint is a lustrous candy-flip, created by layering dark metallic red over a silver base.

I tug a delicate chrome latch and open the dainty door. The Dino’s cabin is snug and driver-focused, with simple white-on-black Veglia gauges, an evocative open-gate manual gearbox and a dashboard swathed in race car-style flock by O’Rourke Coachtrimmers, owned by Kevin’s son. Concessions to comfort aren’t immediately obvious, but include power steering (which can be dialled-down for track days) air conditioning and a power socket for a mobile phone.

The engine fires with a brusque bark and I ease gingerly into west London traffic. The pedals are skewed towards the centre and the gear lever needs a firm hand, but the Dino’s manners are reassuringly refined. It idles steadily and pulls strongly from low revs, allowing me to short-shift from first to third, while the brakes feel powerful and progressive. Ride quality, on fully adjustable suspension with Koni dampers, is firm without being brittle. Thankfully, the electric power steering still belongs to the old-school: it jostles with incessant feedback.

Ferrari Dino 'Evo'

I follow the old A3 through Esher and finally arrive at some open roads. With the lift-out Spyder roof removed, the V8 sounds magnificent. It’s multi-layered and richly mechanical, gurgles and gasps of induction augmented by zingy rasps from the exhausts. The Evo is quick enough to worry hot hatchbacks, but it’s more about sensation than raw speed. You drive it via the seat of your pants, measuring your inputs and feeling it react to road. It amplifies where most modern cars smother.

I finish the day with a tour of Mototechnique in West Molesey. Alongside numerous Ferraris, a Lamborghini Miura and a rare Porsche 356, I watch as aluminium panels are hand-beaten and a carbon fibre clamshell for an F40 is moulded from scratch. The contrast of old artistry and new technology is fascinating.

Kevin concedes that demand for modified Dinos will be limited, particularly given the £250,000 cost of a donor car. However, his latest project – tucked in the corner of the workshop – starts from around a fifth of the price. The 400hp 308 GTB Evo is, for now, a work in progress. But I can’t wait to see the finished result.

Price: £300,000+

0-62mph: 5.8sec

Top speed: 160mph

Horsepower: 300hp

Weight: 1,180kg

Ferrari Dino ‘Evo’: in pictures

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Filling station petrol pump

Fuel pumps ‘should carry cigarette-style warnings’

Filling station petrol pump

A group of public health experts have called for petrol and diesel pumps to carry health warnings similar to those on cigarette packets.

These could include blackened lungs and flooded homes.

One scientist said the images would need to be “shocking” to have an effect, reports The Times.

The labels should be introduced ahead of November’s COP26 climate change conference in November.

ALSO READ: What is E5 petrol and B7 diesel?

Similar emissions warning labels are already carried on fuel pumps in Vancouver, Canada. Sweden will introduce them in May.

Dr Mike Gill, one of the experts making the call, says telling consumers at the point of use about the climate and health risks could change attitudes and behaviour.

“Warning labels connect the abstract threat of the climate emergency with the use of fossil fuels in the here and now.”

The call is reported in the latest issue of The British Medical Journal, as part of a series of features on planetary health.

Air pollution falls amid coronavirus lockdowns

Coronavirus lockdowns cause drop in emissions across the world

Scientists are reporting a side-effect of the coronavirus pandemic in many cities across the world is a significant reduction in air pollution.

As people stay home, and have done so in various countries over the course of the month, marked percentage drops in emissions levels have been noted.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has now published data from recent weeks on nitrogen oxide (NOx) concentrations. This is backed up with imagery from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI).

Images are from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite which has been monitoring NOx levels in Europe. 

This is Italy in early March: 

Coronavirus lockdowns cause drop in emissions across the world

And this is later in March, once lockdowns began: 

Coronavirus lockdowns cause drop in emissions across the world

The differences are significant. As of March 25, Italian cities such as Milan and Bergamo saw nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations down by a respective 21 percent and 47 percent respectively. 

Rome’s average NO2 concentrations for the four weeks preceding March 25 were down between 26 and 35 percent, compared to the same weeks in 2019.

Spanish figures seem to follow similar trends. Average NO2 levels in Barcelona were down 55 percent for the same mid-March period, compared with 2019. Compared with the week prior, levels were down 40 percent.

Coronavirus lockdowns cause drop in emissions across the world

Madrid saw a week-to-week drop of 56 percent.

Coronavirus lockdowns cause drop in emissions across the world

Figures in the Spanish capital were down 41 percent on the same week in 2019. Lisbon saw a year-to-date drop of 51 percent, and a drop from the week before of 51 percent. 

Emissions down during coronavirus crisis

Chinese figures too, are down significantly. The country’s ministry of ecology and environment has reported a 21.5 percent increase in ‘good quality air days’ in February.

Nasa reckons that NO2 levels dropped by between 10 and 30 percent across eastern and central China, between mid-January and mid-February.

The drop in CO2 emissions in all cases ought to be commensurate, too. China’s, for instance, are thought to be down by at least 30 percent.

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera

Porsche 911 Carrera (2020) review

The new Carrera coupe is the meat and potatoes of the Porsche 911 range. Or perhaps a bratwurst and fries, washed down with a refreshing pilsner, for those with Teutonic taste.

Stepping up to the recently-launched 911 Turbo swaps your sausage for a spicy currywurst and beer for a full-bodied bock.

Then there’s the forthcoming, track-focused GT3: a lightweight salad with a crisp Riesling to vivify your senses.

And finally, the fearsome GT2: a liquid lunch of Jägerbombs to utterly blow your mind.

Sadly, the Carrera isn’t as cheap as chips. Have one-too-many Jägerbombs before tackling Porsche’s online configurator and its £82,793 price can swell to six figures.

Still, the basics are what matter most: chiefly a 3.0-litre flat-six located, as ever, behind the back axle. It serves up 385hp and 332lb ft of torque from 1,950rpm, driving the rear wheels via a PDK semi-automatic transmission.

A seven-speed manual arrives this summer, although most 911 buyers now prefer paddles.

Despite its same-again styling, the 911’s 70 percent aluminium body is all-new. Look closely and you’ll spot pop-out door handles and different alloy wheel sizes (19in front, 20in rear), plus a high-level brake light that illuminates like an ‘11’ alongside nine grille slats. See what they did there?

One feature you won’t find, though, is the ‘narrow body’ that used to characterise the Carrera. All 911s now share the same wide track and muscular haunches. More on that shortly.

Inside, the minimalist cabin looks futuristic and is brimful of cutting-edge tech. A traditional analogue rev counter stays front-and-centre, but is flanked by digital dials, including an (optional) infra-red night vision display. The 10.9in touchscreen looks super-sharp and connects seamlessly with your phone, while knurled metal toggle switches add some retro charm.

And, lest we forget, the 911 has rear seats. They meant I could ferry my nine- and six-year-old kids around all weekend, when most rival cars would have stayed at home.

Even this ‘basic’ 911 is blisteringly quick. Standstill to 62mph takes 4.2 seconds, or four seconds flat with the Sport Chrono pack and launch control. That’s on par with the 2001 ‘996’ GT2. The Carrera’s twin turbos use smaller compressor wheels than more powerful 911s, so they spool up faster, giving instant right-foot response.

Also, the use of forced induction, while anathema to Porsche purists, means impressive economy. Keep it smooth and you should see 30mpg.

In Normal mode, the 911 does a convincing impression of a luxury GT. Its suspension is taut, although not at the expense of ride comfort, while the gearbox shifts up early – and almost imperceptibly – to save fuel.

Twist the steering wheel controller to Sport or Sport Plus, though, and its inner sports car is emancipated. The engine barks, yelps and howls, racing to its 7,500rpm redline with gleeful abandon, and shifts are now rifle-bolt rapid. Whisper it, but for driving around my home of London, I’d choose the speed and convenience of PDK every time.

A new Wet mode is also standard, which uses acoustic sensors behind the front wheelarches to sense water spray and ramp up the car’s stability systems. In the depths of Storm Dennis, it made the 911 feel planted and predictable, without muting its nuanced steering or athletic cornering balance. This still feels like a car developed by drivers, for drivers, combining explosive performance with finely wrought feedback.

Just the 911’s size – those hips are almost wider than a Mercedes S-Class limo – holds you back on rural roads.

Faster and more focused models are coming, but only the much pricier 911 Turbo (which you’ll read about here soon) will likely match the bandwidth of the Carrera. Fifty-seven years after launch, this is still the only sports car you need.

Price: £82,793

0-62mph: 4.2sec

Top speed: 182mph

CO2 G/KM: 206

MPG combined: 31.7

New Discovery Channel show to rebuild Carroll Shelby’s DeTomaso

Driven on Discovery Channel

A new Discovery Channel TV series will see iconic cars with unique histories returned to their former glory.

Premiering at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Monday, March 30th, the new show Driven will see key employees from Galpin Auto Sports on screen again.

Both Ford and Mopar fans may be intrigued by the first episode, which sees a car once owned by automotive legend Carroll Shelby undergo restoration.

Pimpin Ain’t Easy

Driven on Discovery Channel

If the name Galpin Auto Sports sounds familiar, it is because the company previously appeared in seasons five and six of MTV’s Pimp My Ride. The show became notorious for custom designs and modifications. 

One of the stars of Pimp My Ride, ‘Mad Mike’ Martin, will appear on Driven in his role at Galpin Auto Sports.

Galpin President and COO Beau Boeckmann, along with custom car builder Dave Shuten, will also take leading roles in the new show. 

However, instead of wild upgrades, Driven will primarily focus on locating important vehicles and bringing them back to original condition. 

Shelby’s mid-engined mule

Driven on Discovery Channel

The subject matter for the first first episode of the season is a 1987 DeTomaso Pantera GT5-S. Taken from the personal collection of Carroll Shelby, the car was used as an early prototype to test engine options for the original Dodge Viper

Shelby had wanted to use a twin-turbocharged V-8 setup for the Viper, but Chrysler executives would see a version of the company’s V-10 engine installed instead.

It meant the Pantera GT5-S would later be left in Shelby’s collection without a power unit. Listed as part of the Bonhams Greenwich Concours d’Elegance auction in 2018, the Pantera achieved an impressive price, despite the condition it was in.

Up for the challenge

Driven on Discovery Channel

Galpin Auto Sports does have considerable experience in restoration and custom coach build projects. 

The Van Nuys-based outfit was responsible for the custom Galpin GTR1 sports car, shown at Pebble Beach in 2013. It means the company should be more than capable of returning the Pantera back to how it looked when originally leaving the factory.

A trailer for Driven shows that the Pantera will not be alone in receiving restorative attention during the first season. 

Amazing wood-carved cars are the perfect lockdown project

Woodworking Art

Tired of colouring in pictures of cars? LEGO kits too expensive? Well, you can play coronavirus lockdown car craft on ‘expert mode’ by emulating this artist instead.

He carves scale models of cars from wood, without using a template.

The videos on his channel, Woodworking Art, are just that. These aren’t simply wooden bucks sculpted vaguely into the shape of a car.

As you can see, he goes into detail, building the vehicle up from the roof, side pieces and carved components.

His tools range from large industrial wood-cutting machines to the smallest chisels, the latter for carving precise details.

The models are interactive, too. As you can see in the Land Cruiser video, the doors and boot open, while the wheels turn and the steering works at the front.

He also does his work with a wide variety of cars. Everything from the workhorse Toyota Land Cruiser to the presidential Cadillac limousine – along with a classic Cadillac convertible, complete with tail fins.

Bringing it back to LEGO, there’s also a Bugatti Chiron: a car we built as a 3,600-piece LEGO Technic kit on video.

Obviously the Woodworking Art recreation doesn’t have that many pieces, but the level of skill and sculpture makes up for that. Out of a solid block of wood comes a convincing recreation of Bugatti’s 260mph hypercar.

The most amazing thing is, there really are no instructions. The artist is working by hand, using pictures of the car for reference. It’s not like the Lego kit, where there’s a bag of components and an extremely detailed step-by-step guide to assembly. 

If one or all of these models takes your fancy, but you’re not a high-level woodworker, fear not. It explains in the video descriptions that the models are for sale. They’re available ‘all over the world’ – all you need to do is email to receive them.