The DBA DB: preparing to drive a new British sports car

David-Brown-Automotive-Speedback-GTToday I’m in, where else, Yorkshire, to drive proud Yorkshireman David Brown’s first model from his startup car company, David Brown AutomotiveRead more


Launch Pad: Fiat Panda Cross

Fiat-Panda-CrossThere’s an argument in the age of humongous cars and melting ice caps that small is the new big. Why buy a big saloon when a city car will do most of the things you require of it? Read more

Toyota Yaris 2014

Launch Pad: 2014 Toyota Yaris

Toyota Yaris 2014Anticipation is high. We’ve broken the news that the new Yaris Hybrid will be London Congestion Charge free, learnt last night why this is one of Toyota’s biggest facelifts on record… and now I’m itching to drive it. Read more

VW Scirocco

Launch Pad: Volkswagen Scirocco and Scirocco R, Frankfurt, Germany

VW SciroccoIt is 40 years since Volkswagen launched the original Scirocco (that’s back in 1974 non-maths fans). So it makes 2014 an appropriate year to update the current model. Read more

13 things you need to know about the Audi A3 e-tron

Audi-A3-e-tron-002MR is driving the Audi A3 e-tron and has been sitting down with the notepad and reflecting. Here were our thoughts as we sipped our coffee… Read more

Launch Pad: Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe

S-Class-Coupe-image-20Sitting in a plane on Heathrow’s, delayed by the inevitable French air-traffic control strike  – a week, guys? seriously? – I’m struggling to think of a more indulgent car than the one I’m off to drive today: the new S-Class Coupe. Read more

Peugeot 108

Launch pad: Peugeot 108

Peugeot 108“The 107 is the kind of cheese you would have with a baguette,” says Peugeot 108’s design director (and chief designer of the 107), Ivo Groen. “The 108 is a cheese you would like to eat with a nice glass of red wine.” Read more

Ferrari California T launch 001

Launch Pad: Ferrari California T

Ferrari California T launch 001

A line of shiny new Ferrari California T – and one of them has MR’s name on it

Today, I am very much feeling like the ordinary bloke on the Ferrari launch. To make matters even more interesting, I’m sharing ‘my’ California T with Chris Harris, a man who should need no introduction by this point. One way or another, it’s going to be a fascinating experience.

But anyway, the Ferrari California T. This is a heavily revised version of what appears to be known as the 08 California, which was introduced back in 2009. Every body panel bar the roof and the windscreen surround is new. There is extensive aerospace and F1 grade aluminium engineering under the skin. The interior marries some technological curiosities with an increased emphasis on craftsmanship.

Ferrari California T launch 003

The chassis features sharper steering, stiffer springs and the very latest electronics for everything from the magnetorheological dampers to the ABS, stability and traction control systems. And of course, the new 3,855cc engine uses turbocharging for the first time on a Ferrari production engine since the F40.

While I strongly suspect it is going to be the engine that dominates this car – it’s a Ferrari, though, so isn’t that how it should be? – the lengths that Ferrari has gone to here should not be underestimated. And lengths is a good place to start, for in its determination to maintain a classic Ferrari California sound, it has ended up with a set of complex three-piece exhaust headers with equal-length piping that cost a small fortune to develop.

Ferrari California T launch 002

In addition to improving the sound this is also said to help overcome turbo lag. Peak power is 560hp – some 70hp more than the larger naturally aspirated unit it’s replacing. Torque, meanwhile, increases some 49% to a maximum of 557lb ft in seventh gear.

Why seventh gear? Because amongst what’s going on here is much manipulation of the torque output. In order to avoid the immediate but flat feel of a turbodiesel (Ferrari’s words, in jest, but still), the torque curve remains a curve, swelling as the revs rise. In the first three gears this remains a constant – but once you’re into fourth the peak increases and shifts lower down the revs, a trend that continues right through to absolute maximum in seventh. Seems odd, helps traction – and also allows Ferrari to use longer gears, improving efficiency. Sixth here is the equivalent of the old car’s seventh, for example…

As a result of all this, you get an ‘entry-level’ Ferrari which now does 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds, yet is 15% more efficient. Isn’t technology wonderful?

I guess I’m about to find out.

Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake

Launch Pad: Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake

Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake

186mph and 1,675 litres of boot space sounds good to us…

To Germany, to drive the production version of the Jaguar XFR-S late-spec prototype I drove back in March on the eve of the 2014 Geneva Motor Show.  Read more

Launch Pad: 2014 Volvo V60 Polestar (MY15)

20140416_115341First impressions: the new Volvo Polestar looks totally badass. Read more