What is a connected car anyway?

Just what is a connected car, anyway?

In the simplest of terms, a connected car is one that has the ability to wirelessly communicate with other devices. It can be a relatively simple interface like a smartphone connection that allows music playback, a link to the manufacturer that allows the vehicle’s software to be updated without a service appointment, or a remote connection to the owner’s smart home system.

All these convenience features and many more are available today, and are largely unremarkable. Adoption of the connected car has been swift and, again, largely unremarkable. The communication technologies that allow connectivity already exist in the everyday smartphone, and the internet is accessible from anywhere on earth. A manufacturer’s app that remotely turns on the seat warmers seems like nothing more than a new toy, soon to be forgotten.

What is a connected car anyway?

However, cars can also be connected to each other and the road infrastructure around them. They can be programmed to travel safely in tight groups at high speed, anticipating traffic signs and signals, reacting to changing road conditions, and avoiding accidents by seeing hazards half a mile or more down the road.

All these connected technologies together add up to nothing short of a revolution. The connected car promises to be the biggest safety advance since the seat belt, and will be the biggest change to the way we drive since the horse was put out to pasture.

What, exactly, is the car connecting to?

There are two basic categories of car connectivity. The first is cellular such as 4G and the upcoming 5G, which includes communication, internet and/or cloud services. Cloud services are the ones we use every day on our smartphones. Want to hear a music track? Your device sends a request to a server which sends the coded music back to the device, allowing it to be played. Need directions? Your connected device searches for GPS satellites, cell towers, wireless connections, or a combination thereof to position itself, then requests map data from a server, perhaps with a few restaurant recommendations from the internet thrown in for good measure. Whether display is on laptop or in a car, the function is the same and, again, relatively unremarkable.

This kind of connectivity also allows for the Internet of Things (IoT) to be accessed. The IoT is, basically, anything that has an on/off connection to the internet, from a toaster to a home air conditioner to various components in a car. The toaster can access the latest time and temperature recipes for various breads. A home air conditioner can be turned on while the homeowner is sitting in traffic, ensuring a comfy house at dinner time. A car’s main computer can receive a new operating system.

The second kind of car connectivity is dedicated short-range communications (DSRC). DSRC allows cars to securely and privately talk to each other, as well as the infrastructure around them, a collectively system called vehicle-to-everything (V2X). It has extremely low latency (it’s fast) and enables the high data transmission rates necessary to manage multiple vehicles in traffic.

In the the future, DSRC will work in sync with cellular technology to keep cars connected.

Connected car features available today

Most manufacturers today offer some level of connectivity, whether it be in the form of an in-dash system that connects the car to existing apps and services, or more involved experience that allows drivers such features as scheduling service appointments, having the car refueled, or controlling a smart home systems.

A quick sampling of available services demonstrates the breadth of today’s connected car ecosystem. There are, of course, dozens more applications available, and the list is growing every day.

Apple CarPlay/Android Auto

Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto put select apps right on the car’s built-in display. Streaming music, directions, text messaging, and phone calls are available in the native format, and can be accessed in a way that doesn’t distract the driver.

Volvo Concierge Service

In days of yore, luxury meant never having to touch anything or talk to anyone. Volvo brings back this tradition with Concierge Services. Using an app, drivers can order fuel, cleaning, or service. A one-time digital key is sent to the authorized provider, allowing access to the vehicle. The tank can be filled while the owner is at work, overnight cleaning can be scheduled, or maintenance can be performed while the owner is traveling.

Amazon Alexa

Ford is linking its SYNC system to home automation devices like Amazon Alexa, allowing consumers to control lights and thermostats from the car. While at home, the system interacts with the car, allowing it, for example, to be warmed up, unlocked, and ready to go on cold days. Driving the vehicle requires a proximity key, discouraging theft.

Alexa also offers a broad range of additional voice-activated services, such as a location search that transfers the destination to navigation, audiobook search and play, and shopping.

OnStar Go

General Motors has combined its OnStar communication system with IBM’s Watson to create OnStar Go, expected to released early this year. With the customer’s consent, Watson learns the driver’s preferences and habits to make time in the car more productive and enjoyable. For example, Watson can make restaurant recommendations for drivers far from home, locate a fuel station and handle automated payments, or place and pay for a coffee order.

But what about hacking?

There are dozens of processors on a vehicle and they are wired into everything: engines and transmissions, brake actuators, seat belt pre-tensioners, automatic trunk closers, and more. These electronics and their predecessors have been in vehicles for generations now, and the software that runs them has built up year after year, layer after layer. There are literally millions, even tens of millions of lines of computer code necessary to make all these components work properly, and that number is only expected to go up in the future. This older, less secure software is everywhere and could be vulnerable to attack.

Recently, stories of vehicles being taken over by hackers exposing security flaws in those systems have made headlines. The transmission, braking, acceleration, and steering were all controlled remotely and the driver was placed in a dangerous and terrifying situation.

What was a bit underreported at the time, however, was that the hackers involved were researchers, not criminals, and that it took them about a year to gain control of the vehicle. They also used a hard connection, a cable plugged into the subject vehicle, in order to understand and break into the system

The flaws those researchers exposed have made cars more secure by highlighting the need to separate the control side of the vehicle from internet-connected systems. Yes, criminal hackers do exist and are likely working on ways to compromise vehicles in the future but, to date, no vehicle’s control systems have ever been successfully tampered with in the wild.

Smartphone hacks, on the other hand, are very real. Without security protocols in place, malicious software can unknowingly be downloaded from the internet or even hidden inside a totally unrelated app. This software looks for a automotive control app and launches invisibly alongside it. The vehicle’s credentials and passwords are recorded and transmitted, allowing the car can to be located, unlocked, and sometimes even started for a brief time. However, because of the previous research work, the control systems in most cars are disconnected from the smartphone app. Simple two factor authentication, fingerprint recognition, or proximity key requirements would also avoid the hack entirely.

Hacking is indeed a concern, but manufacturers and suppliers are working hard to keep connected cars safe, and to make them more so in the future.

What’s next?

Connected cars might seem like little more than the latest gadget, but the advances those gadgets pioneered will soon make driving safer and more efficient than ever. As semi-autonomous car components such as automatic emergency braking become industry standard, connectivity has more of a pivotal role than ever in near-future vehicles.

V2X

Cars use DSRC to connect to each other and the road around them. Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) is two short-range, wireless-based technologies designed from the ground up to be both private and secure: vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I). Their main function is to prevent accidents and save lives.

V2V works by transmitting and receiving key data such as vehicle position, speed, direction of travel, braking and steering input. Additional systems spot pedestrians, road hazards, emergency vehicles, unsafe drivers, and more. V2I  sends information about things like traffic lights, construction projects, bridge height, spot weather reports, and crosswalk location. Working as one system, V2X creates a complete picture of the driving conditions surrounding the vehicles.

While V2X is still in the future, all of the individual technologies exist and are widely available on cars today. The industry is currently working with planners and lawmakers on the next steps, and there is a definite need for the system. The Department of Transportation estimates that 80 percent of all traffic accidents for unimpaired drivers can be avoided using the safety technologies enabled by V2X, allowing risks to be identified before a collision is imminent. Vehicles equipped with automated driving functions such as automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control will benefit even more.

A future group of V2V-enabled vehicles will travel together in a convoy that acts kind of like a school of fish or flock of birds, one group made of myriad individual movements and fluctuations. If a pothole is detected in one lane, the impacted car will swerve slightly to avoid it, but other vehicles may not have to. Drivers can join or leave the convoy; there is no leader. The cars can be tightly packed together at high speed, taking advantage of group aerodynamics to improve fuel economy.

In city traffic, speed is adjusted so that red lights and other stops are avoided. Crosswalks broadcast their pedestrian occupants, and the vehicles avoid impacts. Emergency vehicles are automatically given the right of way, improving public safety. The position of empty parking spaces is broadcast, putting an end to circling the block. No one gets rear-ended at stoplights by some fool who can’t put down the cellphone, because both vehicles are paying attention.

Next Steps

The individual technologies that create the connected car are advancing at breakneck speed. Manufacturers are now working together with suppliers and lawmakers to bring all the pieces together as a whole. Companies such as General Motors, Qualcomm, and Microsoft have invested heavily in the technologies, and face stiff competition from competitors.

GM is committed to bringing V2X to market, and has been actively working for over a decade with other companies and organizations to develop mature DSRC standards in the US and Europe. Now ready for adoption, GM is bringing its latest V2X research and development to China, which is soliciting advice on the protocols. Here at home, GM is launching V2V in the 2017 Cadillac CTS.

As the cellular market reaches full saturation and therefore declining growth, companies such as Qualcomm are looking to the connected car to increase revenues. The average American spends 46 minutes per day in the car, so cellular connectivity makes sense for music playback, streaming movies for the kids, and navigation systems. Qualcomm released Snapdragon processors and modems specifically for the automotive market, including data collection, analytics, parking assistance, and wireless electric vehicle charging, as well as infotainment.

Microsoft has launched its Connected Vehicle Platform to speed up connected car development, built on the Azure cloud platform. Unlike car manufacturers, Microsoft already has and continually develops a living, agile, cloud-based platform. The software giant is working with several manufacturers and developing telematics, predictive services, in-car productivity, advanced navigation, advanced driver assistance systems, and autonomous vehicle development assistance.

People spend an inordinate amount of time in their vehicles; Americans average roughly 46 minutes per day. Connected cars offer a plethora of safety, comfort, and convenience advantages with only a slight increase in cost. All the manufacturers are on board, the communications and information companies are on board, and even lawmakers around the world are moving to embrace the benefits of connectivity.

The connected car is here to stay.

Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato revealed: the most beautiful Aston ever?

Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato revealed: the most beautiful Aston ever?

Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato revealed: the most beautiful Aston ever?

Aston Martin has revealed these pictures of its latest creation from the firm’s long-standing partnership with Italian design house Zagato.

Shown ahead of its official global debut at the 2016 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, the Vanquish Zagato arrives fives years after the Vantage-based V12 Zagato.

2016 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S manual driven

The Vanquish is just a concept, for now – although we expect a small number will be produced for Aston’s wealthier clientele.

Aston Martin’s executive vice president and chief creative officer, Marek Reichman, said: “Over the years, we have developed and refined our own design language and we have always gone that little bit further with our special series cars like CC-100, One-77 and Aston Martin Vulcan. The Vanquish Zagato Concept shows how our two companies can come together and push the definition of Aston Martin design.”

Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato revealed: the most beautiful Aston ever?

Designed and engineered at Aston Martin’s headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire, the Vanquish Zagato in the latest in a long line of Astons designed with the help of Zagato – a partnership that started with the 1960 DB4 GT Zagato.

Zagato’s CEO, Andrea Zagato, added: “We pride ourselves on our strong partnership and the creation of the Vanquish Zagato Concept was a true shared experience. It represents the essence of an important design relationship that dates back over fifty years.”

The Vanquish Zagato concept features design elements from other modern Astons – including One-77 inspired door mirrors and a rear end similar to that of the DB11.

It features an ‘aggressive stance’, the firm says, thanks to carbon fibre sills running around the lower body and a visor-like ‘glasshouse’.

Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato revealed: the most beautiful Aston ever?

In true Zagato tradition, the Vanquish features a ‘double-bubble’ roof – a nod to the early Zagato Astons which needed to accommodate racing helmets.

It’s not all about appearance, however. Power has been increased to 600hp – an increase of 24hp over the regular Vanquish – although no performance figures have been revealed.

Inside, the Vanquish Zagato Concept features splashes of Herringbone carbonfibre, along with a unique ‘Z’ quilt pattern stitch on the seats and door sections – as well as the Zagato ‘Z’ embossed on headrests and stitched into the centre console.

We’ll see the Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato in the metal for the first time at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, held at Lake Como in Italy from 21 – 22 May 2016.

Toyota Tundra million miles

Man drives Toyota 1 million miles in 9 years, gets a free Toyota

Toyota Tundra million milesToyota Tundra owner Victor Sheppard has, for the past 9 years, driven 125,000 miles a year in his pick-up and the Japanese firm has now rewarded the 1-million-mile driver with a special prize.

A brand new Toyota Tundra.

Sheppard bought his Tundra new in 2007: it was one of the first assembled at Toyota’s Texas plant and the Houma, La. resident has used it intensively since then for commuting between Virginia and North Dakota.

Greatest hits of Top Gear: in pictures

The Tundra, a U.S. relation to Top Gear’s ‘indestructible’ Toyota Hilux, still has its original engine, gearbox and paint. “Most people can’t believe how much on his truck is original,” said Ron Weimer from Sheppard’s servicing dealer Greg Leblanc.

As a reward for 117 visits over nine years, the car dealer has been making Sheppard’s Tundra famous; it even posted an image on its Facebook Page of the odometer hitting 999,999 miles.

Toyota Tundra million miles

Now, Toyota’s engineers want the Tundra back, so they can spend months stripping it down and see how all the components have held up to such intensive real-world use. This, they say, will help make future models even more reliable.

“Having a million-mile truck in as pristine condition as this one with original parts is a truly rare find,” said Mike Sweers from Toyota’s technical department. “Our team plans to tear down the entire truck, bumper-to-bumper, top-to-bottom to evaluate how the quality and safety we designed, engineered and built into the Tundra has held up to over one-million miles of real-world driving.”

And Sheppard’s reward for handing over his well-used Tundra? a brand new 2016 model – which, impressively, is his 16th Toyota Tundra…

1 million miles is probably pushing it but today’s cars are more capable than ever of high miles. Do YOU own a leggy motor? Just like Victor did above, share a picture of your odometer with us over on our Facebook Page!

Aston Martin Racing Wings 2016 WEC

Aston Martin gives its racing cars hand-made wings

Aston Martin Racing Wings 2016 WECAston Martin is fitting a set of hand-made wings badges for its V8 Vantage GTE racing cars racing in this year’s World Endurance Championship series.

The bespoke badges are all hand-painted in the national flags of the eight nations hosting each round of the 2016 WEC series – starting with a union flag wings badge for this weekend’s 6 Hours of Silverstone race.

Aston Martin Racing Wings 2016 WEC

The badges have been made by jewellery artists at Vaughtons in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, using a combination of CAD equipment and 120-year old jewellery making machinery.

Aston Martin’s ultra-bespoke Q division had overseen the project. General manager for Q by Aston Martin Dr. Matthew Bennett said: “Our service endeavours to provide customers with a range of unique and personalised options for their road cars and I’m proud to be able to bring a bespoke touch of luxury to our Aston Martin Racing entries for the 2016 season.

“We look forward to seeing these iconic Aston Martin wings badges take to some of the world’s leading race circuits”.

So how’s Aston hoping to do in WEC this year with its V8 Vantage GTE racers? Pretty well, hopes Aston Martin Racing team principal Paul Howarth. “This season really is a fresh start for us,” he said.

“With a re-balanced driver line-up and our new V8 Vantage GTE making its competitive debut this weekend, I’m confident that we can put in strong performances throughout the season and carry these wings to strong race results”.

 

Porsche 911 Turbo S 2016

2016 Porsche 911 Turbo S review: first drive

Porsche 911 Turbo S 2016Now all the non-GT3 Porsche 911s are turbocharged, where does this leave the Turbo turbo? Has Porsche unintentionally diluted the power-oozing daddy of its range in the pursuit of more power, cleaner exhausts and modernity?

Not a bit, snorts product line boss August Achleitner as he prepares to tell us all about the 2016 Porsche 911 Turbo and Turbo S range. The deep breath before his hour-long presentation at the Kyalami race track in South Africa is not for effect.

See, there’s been a Porsche 911 Turbo for 40 years now, all the time with one goal: packing in as much power as possible into a compact 911-sized silhouette. In the early days, this was far too much power for the chassis to cope with, and the 911 Turbo duly developed a reputation as a bit of a demonic animal. Which actually did it no harm whatsoever.

Porsche 911 Turbo S 2016

These days, it has four-wheel drive, so you don’t have to worry about that. The bigger challenge is not losing the back end of the car, but losing your licence each and every time you drive it. It’s been sanitised, but the 911 Turbo is still ferocious.

For 2016, the regular £126,925 Turbo now produces 520hp, 20hp more than before. The one that most buyers go for, the Turbo S, throws out 580hp: in a 911-sized car, that delivers a 205mph top speed and a 0-62mph time of just 2.9 seconds. For £145,614. Makes even that heady price tag seem cheap.

Porsche’s even engineered a clever anti-lag system that maintains turbo boost when cornering, but without ruining fuel economy: yes, it’s greener too, averaging 31mpg (2mpg more than before) and emitting 212g/km CO2.

It all means the new 911 Turbo S is the first one to do more than 200mph, the first one to dip below 3.0 seconds 0-62mph, the first one to average over 30mpg. Looks like the daddy’s reasserted his status alright.

You’ll spot the new Turbos from their (and excuse the Porsche code-geek speak) 991-II 3D rear lights, new headlights with four-point running lights, modified front aero details, smooth new doorhandles and a fancy three-part rear lid with decidedly 70s-style louvres.

Oh, and also from the fact it may now, for the first time ever, actually be going sideways in safety, rather than in the seconds before a crash. See, Porsche’s developed a new PSM Sport mode for its stability control system that, a bit like the Ford Focus RS’s system, allows controlled tail-out fun without spitting you off the road.

The hour’s up. Achleitner’s voice has gone. It may not look like it’s much-changed, but Porsche hasn’t half been busy reasserting the Turbo’s status with this facelift. Time to find out if it’s been worth it.

On the road

Porsche 911 Turbo S 2016

It’s stupendously fast. Goes without saying: so was the old one. That 0-62mph time of 2.9 seconds is a worst case scenario and, thanks to launch control, it’s ever-repeatable. More than 1G is generated during acceleration and the intensity of it stomach-churning.

Unbelievably though, this one feels even faster. Frankly, it’s hard to tell much difference in pure acceleration: this is different degrees of ludicrous. But on the road, the 991-II Turbo S certainly does feel even more energetic and electrifying than before.

This is because engine response is improved. The anti-lag system, called dynamic boost, virtually eliminates any delay before power floods you when going back on the throttle in corners: on switchback roads, where you’re constantly on and off the accelerator, it feels significantly crisper and, as such, faster.

Porsche 911 Turbo S 2016

You can further enhance this by twisting the mode switch into Sport and Sport Plus mode. You can also ‘supercharge’ the Turbo S for 20 seconds by jabbing the Sport Response mode in the middle. It preconditions the car for 20 seconds by retarding the ignition, opening the throttle valve, closing the variable turbo vanes and reprofiling the PDK shift pattern. It’s like a caffeine hit for the car and is utterly addictive.

Incidentally, you engage the drift-ace PSM Sport mode by briefly pressing the PSM button: it’s independent of the modes above. So you perhaps can have your slide slice of cake and eat it.

You can manage the gears yourself, using steering wheel paddles or the PDK shifter that’s now the correct ‘forward-for-downshift’ way round. Frankly, we left it in Sport Plus and found little complaint: the rare moments we would like a lower gear were quickly sorted by jabbing Sport Response.

The 911 Turbo S is fitted with Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brakes as standard, the gigantic 410mm stoppers that are totally tireless and more than up for the task of shedding the car’s fiendish speed on a circuit. Sensible: you’d have to option them up even on the standard Turbo.

Ride and handling? Why, it’s a Porsche 911, so it’s extremely good. The ride’s firmer than in less incendiary variants, and the sheer brute engineering gone into making all that engine power (and the not-insubstantial 553lb ft of torque) work without ripping the drivetrain apart means it’s not as delicate or adjustable. Some will have more fun in a regular Carrera. But it’s still mighty.

Scratching beneath the surface reveals a responsive, alert, surprisingly involving all-wheel drive car. You feel enormously confident using its exaggerated power, particularly power-oversteering out of corners when on track, or feeling the front end bite rather than understeer.

In some ways, it’s as chuckable as a hot hatch and responds to being driven as such. But will then ease you back home in taut but cushioned comfort afterwards.

On the inside

Porsche 911 Turbo S 2016

Turbo S spec means a load of luxurious equipment as standard. Standout is the new PCM4 infotainment system, now featuring Apple CarPlay, online sat nav maps plus pinch and swipe functionality all hidden behind a flush-fit glass screen.

There are new trim colours inside for those with deep pockets. Saddle brown and bordeaux red leather give a retro touch; two-tone black and bordeaux red is now the standard colourscheme on the Turbo S. New options that might be useful in daily use include lane departure warning; standard is post-collision auto-braking, which hopefully you’ll never use.

Porsche 911 Turbo S 2016

The 360mm GT sport steering wheel is perfectly round and a lovely thing to hold. Better to hold than to look at: there’s too much shiny chintz on it, and the fake boltheads on the silver bits are awful.

It generally feels a very plush, luxurious car. Noise levels seem down on before, there’s a Bose sound system as standard and the high-back sport seats are excellent – far better to sit in than you expect from their relatively understated appearance.

You’d have no complaint if you wanted to use one every day. And you’d almost certainly wear the plastic to a shine on that Sport Response button.

Running costs

Porsche 911 Turbo S 2016

The 911 Turbo S will cost more to run than a regular Porsche, without question. It’s a rocketship of technology and, while this probably won’t go wrong or become a nightmare, servicing is a must and will be pricier than for other 911s.

It will also run through tyres pretty quickly if you use its power enthusiastically: that’s pure physics rather than any fault of the car. The 305/30 ZR 20 steamrollers on the back won’t come cheap.

At least the PCCB carbon ceramic brake discs should last the lifetime of the car – that’s part of their appeal (and partly how Porsche justifies the expense to those who option them).

Remember too, this is a Porsche. It’s epically fast but has been engineered to be as robust after 100,000 miles as it is out the box. Go, use that acceleration time and again in confidence….

Verdict

Porsche 911 Turbo S 2016

The Porsche 911 Turbo has always been a fantastically powerful car; the 2016 model continues that tradition, only adds in even more control and vivacity when you want to sense more than just warp speed.

The clever anti-lag solves a grumble that the turbo’s powertrain was a bit dull to use. The brilliant Sport Response button electrocutes it further if you really want a quickfire buzz. The chassis is enormously capable once you start digging in (which requires both speed and, ideally, a racetrack).

It’s still the boss of the 911 range. There was a GT3 RS sitting in the pits: ooh, we’d love to drive that, we said. No point, they said: the Turbo S is quicker. Of the modern stuff, only the 918 Spyder is (a bit) quicker, and you can’t buy that anymore. This is a FAST car.

Too fast? Most of us would get all the speed we want, and more, from a regular Carrera 4S. This would save us half the price of that car again – that’s how ferociously expensive the 911 Turbo S is. For some, there’s the rub with the Turbo: do the turbos make the Turbo turbo irrelevant?

We think not. It still has a place. It’s wildly powerful, has more of the ‘right’ sort of thrilling than ever, and has bragging rights coming out its ears. Status rediscovered, we say.

Specifications: 2016 Porsche 911 Turbo S

Price: £145,773
Engine: 3.8-litre flat-six twin-turbo petrol
Gearbox: Seven-speed PDK
Power: 580hp
Torque: 553lb ft
0-62mph: 2.9 seconds (PDK + Sport Plus)
Top speed: 205mph
Fuel economy: 31.0mpg
CO2 emissions: 212g/km (PDK)

Cadillac Allante

Cadillac Allante: the curious motoring disaster that had its own private jets

Cadillac AllanteWhen it comes to building cars cost-efficiently, it’s generally a good idea to manufacture the body somewhere in the vicinity of the final assembly line.

Next door is ideal, the freshly stamped and welded body immediately making its way to the paint shop, before being baked, undersealed and despatched to the moving conveyor that will see it built into a complete car.

It’s a manufacturing sequence that most car-makers follow, although there have been a surprising number of models whose bodyshells have been built on sites some distance from the assembly line.

Rolls-Royce used to buy in shells for its Silver Shadow and Silver Spirit from British Leyland, which manufactured them on what is now the site of the BMW Mini factory in Oxford. And today, a Roller’s bodyshell comes from Germany.

Ferrari sourced bodies from coachbuilders Scaglietti, Lamborghini from Goldencar, both of these local to their factories.

Less clever was British Leyland’s habit of transporting primered bodyshells around the Midlands during the ‘60s and ‘70s, a pretty inefficient activity when most of a raw shell is air.

Cadillac and Pininfarina

Cadillac Allante

But that was nothing to the manufacturing process that produced the Cadillac Allante. This two-door convertible, which debuted in 1986 as an alternative to the Mercedes SL and Jaguar XJS, was the progeny of America’s most upscale car-maker and Italian design house Pininfarina.

Cadillac had flirted with the Italian company before, the body of its ’59 Eldorado Brougham saloon handbuilt and assembled in Turin on chassis’ sent from the US. Once Pininfarina had finished with it, the Brougham was shipped back to America for final finishing.

This was the last hand-made, coach-built Cadillac and you certainly paid for it, the Pininfarina Brougham costing three times the price of the spectacularly flamboyant standard version made in the US.

Unsurprisingly, this US-Italian hybrid sold slowly despite its more tasteful elegance, only 200 finding homes in 1959-60. There were quality problems too, the lead-loading used to smooth its hand-beaten bodywork causing the paint to fracture.

How not to learn from history…

Cadillac Allante

Despite such mixed results, GM decided to have another crack at creating something special with Pininfarina a couple of decades later.

This time, Italy got the task not only of designing a classy two-seat roadster, but also of building and painting its body as well. The broad basis of the Allante was Cadillac’s front-wheel drive V8 Eldorado, although its bodyshell, and most of its platform, were unique to the convertible.

And the name? That was generated by a computer that produced 1700 possibilities, the chosen badge being meaningless, although its did sound a little like the sea that this Cadillac’s body had to cross.

Cadillac Allante

That body was neat, slender, crisp and excitement-free, the Allante’s potential athleticism undermined by an over-short wheelbase, a curiously high-riding stance and a powertrain that was never going to threaten a sprinting SL or an XJS.

There may have been 4.1 litres of V8 beneath its long bonnet, but this engine was good for no more than 170bhp and a 0-60mph time of 9.8 seconds, languidly delivered via four-speed automatic.

All of which meant that the most dramatic aspect of the Allante was not the car itself but its crazy method of construction.

Building cars with Boeing

Cadillac Allante

Once Pininfarina had finished the bodies, which were painted, fully trimmed and equipped with their folding roofs, they were transported from Turin to America by jumbo jet.

GM called it the ‘Allante Airbridge’, a trio of Boeing 747s specially modified to carry the part-finished Caddys across the pond. Detroit installed the sub-frames, suspension, drivetrain, fuel tanks and wheels to complete the car.

Cadillac Allante

Although it was not quite complete when Cadillac launched it in autumn 1986, Pininfarina having realised that the soft-top was prone to leaks and squeaks. They wanted to delay the launch and fix the problems, but GM insisted on sticking to its timetable.

And Mother Earth stuck to her familiar weather patterns, unhelpfully showering the Allantes bought by eager owners. Who soon found that some of that rain wasn’t returning to earth, but pooling in the footwells of their prized new convertibles.

Stemming the leaks cost Cadillac tens of thousands of dollars, besides staining the Allante’s reputation. And its carpets.

Leaks were not the last of the Allante’s functional troubles. Bosch discovered problems with its ABS anti-lock brake system, and the Bose sound system made strange cracking noises that could have been mistaken for failing trim.

Cadillac didn’t give up

Cadillac Allante

By the early ‘90s, the Allante’s reputation was glittering like an old tyre. But Cadillac didn’t give up on it, despite slow sales.

The pushrod 4.1 motor was tuned to produce 204bhp before being replaced in 1992 by GM’s excellent new 4.5 litre 32-valve quad cam Northstar V8, which delivered a far more convincing 285bhp.

Despite its front-drive chassis, the Allante drove well, too, blending refinement with a decent show of twisting road agility.

And it had plenty of the toys that Cadillac owners expect, including sumptuous power leather seats, digital LCD instruments, traction control – necessary, with front-drive and 285bhp – and later in life, electronically controlled suspension too.

‘Quite decent’, eventually

Cadillac Allante

By the end of its career, the Allante had become quite a decent grand touring convertible. Trouble was, the 1989 Mercedes SL, a tour de force of engineering and quality, had the one thing that the Allante was missing, in the shape of a one-shot power roof. Which didn’t leak.

Cadillac ran hard to fix and improve the Allante in the first few years of its life, but it never ran hard enough to keep up with the SL and XJS despite some substantial improvements.

Like most cars that gain an unsavoury early reputation, it never fully recovered. Still, the ’93 model year Allante was the best yet, featuring revised rear suspension with electronic dampers, upgraded brakes and myriad detail improvements.

It was also the best sales year for the car, the 4670 sold far higher than had been achieved in earlier years. But Cadillac nevertheless announced the Allante’s demise in the same year, the model still falling short of its 6000 annual sales target.

Profligate, yet loss-making

Cadillac Allante

It’s hard to imagine GM making much money on this car when it sold an average of around 3000 copies a year, was produced by such tortuously profligate methods, shared relatively little with other Cadillacs and almost nothing with Oldsmobiles and Buicks.

The total Allante production tally was 21,430. Today you can find them on sale in America from around $8000, while the best examples, often with mileages well below 40,000, cost under $20,000 – a third of the $60,000 or so that this Cadillac cost at the end of its career.

The Allante was not Cadillac’s last two-seater, the company taking another shot at the SL with the XLR. This time without the help of Pininfarina and a small fleet of jumbo jets.

Revealed: Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4 SV Roadster

2016 Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4 SV Roadster revealed

Revealed: Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4 SV Roadster

Lamborghini has chopped the roof off its Aventador LP750-4 Superveloce to create a Roadster version, debuted at California’s Monterey Car Week.

The first open-top Lamborghini to sport the Superveloce badge, the LP750-4 SV Roadster will be limited to just 500 and priced from £350,000.

Compared to the LP700-4 Roadster, the SV has a power boost of 50hp to 750hp, and a weight of 1,575kg – a saving of 50kg.

This is partly down to the use of carbonfibre – with even the removable roof panels made out of the lightweight material.

The naturally aspirated 750hp 6.5-litre V12 takes a smidgen longer than the coupe to hit 62mph, completing the run in 2.9 seconds. Its top speed remains at 217mph.

Deliveries of the Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4 SV Roadster are expected to begin early in 2016. With all 600 LP750-4 SV coupes already accounted for, Lamborghini will be expecting high demand for its Roadster version.

The Chris Evans car collection

Official: Chris Evans to present Top Gear!

The Chris Evans car collectionChris Evans will replace Jeremy Clarkson and lead a new Top Gear line-up, the BBC has confirmed.

The BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show presenter and renowned car fanatic has signed a three-year deal, says the BBC.

It reports Evans called Top Gear his “favourite programme of all time” and that he has vowed to “do everything I possibly can to respect what has gone on before and take the show forward”.

Speaking to TopGear.com, Kim Shillinglaw, Controller of BBC Two and BBC Four, said: “I’m so delighted that Chris will be presenting the next series of Top Gear.

“His knowledge of and passion for cars is well-known, and combined with his sheer inventiveness and cheeky unpredictability he is the perfect choice to take our much-loved show into the future.”

Encouragingly, she confirmed that Evans “knows the phenomenal attention to detail it takes to make a single sequence of Top Gear, let alone a whole series.

“He is already full of brilliant ideas and I can’t wait for him to get started.”

Filming for Top Gear Series 23 will begin in the next few weeks, and it will air both in the UK and abroad in early 2016.

Chris Evans and Top Gear: the build up

The star recently revealed he was “making a Top Gear”, explaining to Channel 4 Sunday Brunch presenter Tim Lovejoy that he was filming a sequence with an independent production company.

“We’re going to see how it goes,” he said. Clearly it’s gone well enough to make Evans review his earlier claim that rumours he was to replace Clarkson were “absolute nonsense”.

Jeremy Clarkson was suspended from Top Gear back in March, following the now-notorious ‘fracas with a producer’.

Following a review by BBC Director General Lord Hall, it was decided not to renew Clarkson’s contract: he thus left Top Gear after over two decades on the show.

Lord Hall said it was “not a decision I have taken lightly”.