The forgotten one

Life as a motor journalist can’t be easy. Depending on what you write or say your audience often finds you biased, and if you don’t love the car you’re reporting on, manufacturers won’t like you very much, putting at risk your future access to their cars. An example of the former are my own feelings as someone who reads motor press from different countries. I can’t remember a single sports car test in Germany’s most important car magazine Auto Motor & Sport where a German car didn’t come out on top. And British Evo, the magazine whose tagline this blog takes its name from, had a period about a year ago where there would be a McLaren in every single issue. Literally. You wouldn’t think you could ever tire of McLaren, but Evo at the time proved you wrong.

An example of criticism not going down well with manufacturers also comes from Evo, who at the introduction of the Aston Martin DB9 had the audacity to picture it on the front of the magazine against a title that read “Why the DB9 it fails its toughest test”. The journalists in question were actually summoned up to Aston HQ in Gaydon and basically told they were wrong. It didn’t jeopardise their future access to Aston cars in any way, but they’ve testified to this not being a very pleasant experience…

Not a cover that made people happy at Aston HQ…

The DB9 may have failed the ultimate test in Evo’s eyes, but it was certainly the car that put Aston on the map for a larger public than had previously been the case. As one of the most beautiful modern sports cars ever, it was built for all of twelve years until 2016 with various updates along the way. And just as the DB9 was not an update to the DB7 but very much a new car, the same was true in 2017 when its successor, the DB11, was introduced. And so we’ve finally arrived at this week’s topic. You see, the DB11 is officially a failure, and even Aston will tell you that. Underneath however it’s a pretty good 2+2 GT car, which today is somewhat of a bargain. Let’s look at why it’s worth considering!

Many DB11’s are two-tone to help enhance the design

When it was introduced at the Geneva Auto Show in 2016, the DB11 received a lot of praise for its looks and was seen as a worthy successor to the DB9. Relatively quickly however, it became clear that not everyone was convinced by the design that remains quite decisive to this day. Personally I find the DB11 stunning and far better live than in pictures. Especially the rear sets the car apart from anything else in a positive way and as a 2+2 GT, I find it one of the best looking cars out there. And by the way, 2+2 is exactly what it says, with the rear seats meant for luggage or rather small children.

Turning the key certainly doesn’t make matters worse. Initially the DB11 was offered not with Aston’s 5.9 litre V12 from the DB9, but rather with a new 5.2 litre twin-turbo V12 developed in-house and producing slightly more than 600 hp. A year later Aston used its by now well established relationship with Mercedes-AMG to complement the V12 with the well-known, double-turbo V8 offered in various AMG models. The V8 delivered around 100 hp less than the V12 but with almost the same torque, and with more than 100 kg less weight on the front axle.

Cosy, but also far more spacious than a DB9!

The concept the DB9 and various other Astons up until the DB11 were built around was referred to as VH (Vertical Horizontal), a name that basically doesn’t tell you anything unless you’re an Aston engineer. We won’t dwell on it here but the construction carried with it that both the DB9 and other cars, especially the DBS, were very stiff and not very pleasant on longer rides. Given their character as GT more than sports cars, this wasn’t ideal. The DB11 doesn’t take the VH concept further and is built on a new chassis, bringing far more comfort than its predecessors. It carries over to the cabin which has the right amount of leather for an Aston, meaning a lot, and is generally a nice place to be. Its infotainment unit is the same Mercedes used in the early 2010’s pre-MBUX and is of course hopelessly dated, but it lets you connect your phone and the (optional) B&O stereo more than compensates for it. Driving-wise, most agree there isn’t much to complain about either. The DB11 doesn’t shoot the lights out and isn’t made for throwing round a track, but it does a pretty fabulous job as the GT it was built to be.

The DB11 was introduced as one of Aston’s “make or break” cars. The firm’s CEO at the time was still Andy Palmer and he felt it so important to convince buyers of the car’s qualities, and fundamental quality, that he apparently gave his personal mobile number to the first 1000 of them, telling them to call him should they have an issue. It’s unclear how many did, but what is clear is that it didn’t help much. The DB11 failed pretty spectacularly, to the point where Aston cancelled it after only 18 months of production – at least in its first version. By then, only 4200 cars had been produced. The second version that remains in production to this day is referred to as AMR (Aston Martin Racing) and saw the V12 boosted by another 30 hp. The V8 wasn’t affected by the update and has remained unchanged, but both versions will see a major review in 2023 as part of a general overhaul of Aston’s model line-up.

A far nicer front than on the current Vantage!

DB11’s today start around EUR 100′ for both versions, meaning half or even less than half of their price as new for cars that are two-three years old. I’ve written lately about cars preserving their value in today’s market, but this is clearly not one of them. Until now that is, because we may just have hit the bottom in terms of resale values here. If you like the looks (and how could you not?!?) and are in the market for a 2+2, EUR 100′ for a V8 or V12 Aston is really quite attractive. Between the two I’d go for the V8 given it produces the same torque and drives better given far less weight on the front axle. It’s also an engine that is tried and tested throughout in various AMG cars. There is however a reason to look at the first version of the V12 given only 4200 few were built. When the AMR update was introduced, CEO Andy Palmer referred to the pre-AMR cars as future collectibles. I’m not sure about that, but I’m quite sure that EUR 100′ is a pretty attractive entry ticket for one of those, collectible or not. The DB11 is a fabulous car that you don’t see on every corner, and the downside from here is certainly far more limited!

Two is more fun than one!

Turbo. the concept arguably made popular in petrol cars by Swedish Saab in the 70’s, has come such a long way that it doesn’t get much attention anymore. Yet if you want to challenge the US saying “there’s no substitute for cubic inches”, at least in terms of power output there’s no way around the turbo. Its advantages are obvious in allowing a far larger output from a smaller engine than would otherwise be the case, and a smaller engine means lower weight and potentially lower consumption, a bit dependent on how often you rev the turbo. Over time things have gone from one to two or even three turbos in modern engines, engaging at different revs, and the concept of more than one turbo on a petrol engine actually goes back to the late 70’s as well, and was somewhat surprisingly pioneered by none other than Maserati. In fact, most observers agree that had it not been for the Biturbo engine family, Maserati would have gone under there and then – and that would have been a shame!

A first generation Biturbo Spyder

There were two reasons times weren’t rosy at Maserati’s HQ in Modena, Italy, in the mid 70’s: firstly Maserati was owned by Citroën at the time in something that was far from an ideal marriage and secondly, various cars were built in small numbers without standardised production methods. Next to that however, much like other sports car brands at the time, Maserati was not helped by Italian taxation law which heavily penalised engines larger than two litres. This led manufacturers to the same thinking that Saab had up in Sweden, albeit for different reasons, namely to get more power out of a smaller engine. The turbo was the answer, but whereas Saab found one turbo to be sufficient, down in Modena the idea was an engine with two turbos boosting power even further. The project was led by a certain Alejandro de Tomaso, the Argentinian who had run his own car brand in Modena since the 50’s (and whose cars until then had certainly not used turbos but rather cubic inches, but that’s a story for another day…).

A less spectacular rear, but notice the Maserati emblem on the c-pillar!

De Tomaso took over Maserati in 1976 and saw its way back to profitability in cheaper cars through standardised production methods and with sub-two litre engines such as to avoid taxation penalties. The result was on one hand a range of different models over the coming years that we’ll look closer at below, and on the other the six-cylinder Biturbo engine which initially put out 179 hp from only 1996 cm3. That number would later be increased to as much as 245 hp in the early 90’s and siblings to the engine would offer even more power but at larger volume, and were therefore mostly destined for the export market.

The cars Maserati started producing under de Tomaso’s management were comparable to the BMW 3-series of the time in size and came as two-door coupé, convertible/spyder and four-door sedan. At 4.1 metres long and only some 1100 kgs weight, the first generation Biturbo cars that came onto the market from 1982 used carburettors, which combined with the small six-cylinder engine produced a wonderful sound. Initially de Tomaso’s plan seemed to work as sales numbers picked up from around 2000 in 1982 to over 5000 in 1983. By then however, early cars started having pretty important quality and reliability issues, and sales numbers fell regularly over the coming years. Issues were actually so important that Maserati decided to remove the Biturbo reference in car names after 1988, by which time both engines and cars had seen quite an important facelift and had also improved quality-wise.

A late Spyder interior with lots alcantara, leather and wood! Notice the watch…

Be it the two-door coupé, the Spyder or the four-door sedan, what they all have in common are quite an angular design which is far from the the sweeping lines of Italian cars in the 60’s. It’s a matter of taste whether you like it, but the car definitely has more presence than for example a BMW 3-series. And once you open the door, everything changes as you’re greeted by an ocean of leather an alcantara in a cabin that no one on this side of Rolls Royce and Bentley offered at the time, and hardly do today either. The interior could be chosen in different colours and with different mixes of alcantara and leather, and looking at most cars today makes it clear how much better leather stands the test of time than alcantara!

The sharp lines were softened a bit both inside and out with the first facelift in 1987 and perhaps more importantly, the engine was changed to fuel injection. Further improvements over the coming years included the suspension, steering and brakes, and as mentioned, the overall quality improved. In 1991 the two-door Shamal was added to the range with further design changes to other cars as well, generally in the form of more painted plastics in line with what was popular in the 90’s. The 2-litre V6 by now produced up to 245 hp but was only sold in Italy. It was complemented by the larger 2.8 litre engine in other markets, and models in the late 80’s and early 90’s were called 2.24 and 222 (two-door) and 4.24 and 422 (four-door). Next to these the Spyder was still built, featuring the same engines. A couple of years later in 1994, the lights were out for Biturbo engine, although elements of it lived on into later Maserati engines.

The Shamal is hard to find and could only have been built in the 90’s!

It’s a few years since I drove a late 80’s coupé, but it was probably the most Italian driving experience I’ve ever had. As said the car is small, so you sit relatively tight in quite an Italian position, meaning one that requires long arms and short legs, which isn’t really how I’m built. It also made clear that Italians are usually smaller than my 183 cms. it’s not too bad though and when you look closely at the interior, you discover how wonderfully hand-sewn it looks, with uneven stitching here and there which only adds to the charm of the package. It’s a car you can definitely throw around the corners should you want to, but be slightly careful doing so given the engine of course has the same Ketchup-like power delivery as other 80’s turbo engines. Generally though, the car is a pleasure to drive and gives you real 80’s vibes!

The quality issues Maserati ran into with the first series of cars meant values reached rock-bottom on the used car market, and although good cars have started to gain somewhat in value, we’re pretty much still there. This is clearly driven by many cars having been purchased by drivers on a small budget who could buy the cars thanks to the cheap entry ticket, but who have then neglected maintenance or used the car like a hot hatch. Service history is therefore key, as is a thorough inspection of the rust-prone body and the sensible, and today partly irreplaceable interior. Did I mention checking the engine as well? You should, but even if you do it all, a Biturbo will probably not be the problem-free perfect car for those who love German precision. It’s thus important to know yourself in this regard. The best part is of course that you won’t have to spend more than EUR 15-20.000 for really good cars, meaning a bit of investments isn’t all that bad. That’s with the exception of the Shamal though, a car by many considered a the best (and certainly sportiest and most 90’s) of the Biturbos, but which today is very hard to come by, and correspondingly expensive.

The Spyder gives you even more engine sound for the same money!

The four-door Quattroporte is generally slightly cheaper than the coupés and Spyder, and arguably the least attractive in the range. Later cars after 1987 and into the 90’s are quality-wise the best and most powerful. They don’t have the unbeatable sound of the carburettor six-cylinder though, and have also lost some of the angular appearance of the early cars. Both earlier and late cars in good condition are becoming more difficult to find but if you do your research, you will definitely find a Biturbo that provides plenty of pleasure along with a few frustrations, and the value of which can only go one way from here. Should that not be enough, driving it will also make you feel more Italian than anything this side of Modena!

The best car Hethel ever built!

As regular readers have no doubt noticed, I don’t often write about new cars. Enough other people do that, and the fact that most new cars these days are EV’s is certainly also a contributing factor. I’m also no big fan of losing 30% in the first year, although as highlighted recently, that’s something that seems to be changing in these crazy times, at least for some cars. However, when one of the favorite brands among all car enthusiasts brings out a new car with two petrol engine options, and indications are that it’s the best car they’ve ever built, then I do believe it’s worth a few lines. I’m talking about Lotus and the all new Emira, that we’ll look closer at this week!

Beautiful – with Evija and F8 elements all over!

The Hethel-based brand is something like northern Europe’s Alfa Romeo; every time they launch a car we all want them to get it right and in terms of driving pleasure they usually do, but unfortunately the cars just as often are a deception both in quality and comfort, especially since they tend to be a tad too expensive for what they offer, making them an enthusiast, niche product. This is no doubt one of the reasons behind Lotus’s financial difficulties through the years. After a drive in an Exige a few years ago, I mentioned to the dealer that I found it slightly harsh. He just pointed at the Evora saying that in that case, that was the car for me. I had some back problems then, and the time it took me to get into the Evora was exremely unworthy. When I was finally in, what I discovered was a car that was perhaps refined compared to an Exige, but miles away from a Cayman, yet still more expensive. That’s not a winning package. Luckily, having had the opportunity to experience the Emira inside and out recently, I’ll risk it and claim things have very much changed – in a positive way!

The Emira is Colin Chapman’s last Lotus iteration and also the last Lotus with a combustion engine, before the brand goes fully electric under the new Geely ownership. The chassis comes from the Evora but has been heavily reworked and Lotus has developed a new steering rather than buying it from another brand as they’ve done previously. In terms of looks it’s no big surprise that the Emira has clear design elements in common with its sibling, the coming, all-electric supercar Evija. Next to that however, it also looks like a mini Ferrari. More precisely, like a mini F8 Tributo. There are elements on all sides that makes you think of the cars from Maranello in general and the F8 in particular, but the design combines looks with function, with air being led through various channels from front to back in an Evija-like way. The result is absolutely fantastic, and the Emira definitely has a supercar look about it, far from the more toy-like looks of some of its predecessors.

Replae those lights with round ones and the F8 resemblance i clear!

Initially the Emira is offered with two engines: the well-known, supercharged Toyota V6 featured in both the Exige and the Evora, and here putting out 400 hp. It’s coupled to either a manual or an automatic gearbox. The other option is a four-cylinder, turbo-powered Mercedes-AMG engine from the A45s with 360 hp, which is only available with an auto box. That engine actually puts out 61 hp more in the A45s, so AMG tuned it down for Lotus such as not to challenge the V6 as the top engine. It’s a pretty safe bet that with the first facelift in a year or two, the four-pot will have its performance increased… Both engines produce similar speeds at just over 4 seconds to 100 and a top speed over 280 kph but as said, if you want a manual (and many Lotus drivers do!), then the V6 is the only option. And there’s another, very Lotus-typical reason for wanting a manual, namely that the gearing is still fully transparent and visible on the inside under the center console!

The inside is also were the biggest differences to previous Lotuses are to be found, and it’s a bit like night and day. Gone is the rudimentary interiors of earlier Lotuses, replaced by a very nice place to be, still with a clean design that is not overloaded, and offering a good mix of new, digital elements and phyiscal buttons. It also feels very roomy compared to for example an Evora, which is interesting given at 4.4 metres long and 1.95 metres wide, the car isn’t much bigger. The squared (almost) steering wheel and shifter sit exactly where they should, the digital instruments and infotainment screen offer all modern features you could wish for, but have been combined with physical buttons notably for climate and radio controls. Why can’t everyone do that?? With a total weight of only 1400 kg, the Emira is heavier than an Elise or an Exige, but still qualify as lightweight in today’s world, thus staying true to Chapman’s legendary lightweight motto. But for 5 kgs, the weight is actually on par with a Porsche Cayman.

The interior has nothing to do with previous Lotuses!

Next to the manual box, another reason to opt for the Toyota V6 is a great sound through the Emira’s exhaust. First tests indicate that the car drives like a Lotus should, diving into corners, perfectly controllable over the steering, well-balanced and very happy to wag its tale and drift as much as you want, should you want to. There are no active elements in the suspension, Lotus has rather set up the car as they believe it should be set up and offer you the choice of two versions, a sportier one and a more comfort-focused one. To go with that are two different 20-inch tires that have been specifically developed for the Emira (something that was actually last done for something as exclusive as the AMG GT Black Series!), one sportier than the other, and inside them are really big disc brakes that should have no problem bringing the 1400 kg to a halt.

Launch cars are available in a First Edition with the V6 and with a driving package, special wheels and various other visible elements highlighting it is precisely that, i.e. the First Edition. The initial batch of V6 cars have been sold out in most markets, although most haven’t made it to the road yet. If I were to order a car in Switzerland today, I could chose between the V6 and the AMG engine, and Lotus indicates delivery in about a year for both. That may be better than some other cars, but it’s still a long time! Prices are not fully clear but are somewhere around EUR 80-90.000 for the V6 version and about EUR 10.000 less for the four-cylinder. All cars are well equipped with few options. Considering that and that this is a mid-engined, two-seater which at 1400 kg offers 400 hp, the Emira very much looks like a supercar for sports car money. And when you add to that the interior quality, comfort and practicality it also offers, it starts sounding not only attractive, but actually pretty irresistible, especially when you know that with a Toyota or an AMG engine, servicing it won’t ruin you either.

I’ve yet to see a colour that doesn’t fit the car!

Should you get this instead of a Cayman or for that matter, an F8? As always, that depends on who you are. Even though the Emira is miles ahead of previous Lotuses, if you’re looking for perfection, then the Cayman is probably the way to go. And if you really want the full drama, looks and sound from Maranello, well then an F8 is the car to get. But if you’re on a smaller budget, you enjoy special things that aren’t seen on every corner, you find it has enough supercar looks and feels special enough, well then the Emira could be the car for you. Personally I would be in that corner, and buying the last petrol car that will ever come out of Hethel also feels quite special! In terms of which one to get however, Lotus hasn’t made it easy. I like the V6 but by the sounds of it, the AMG four-pot could be a real peach. What settles it for me though is that to me, a Lotus needs to be a manual, especially when it lets you look into the gearing mechanism. I’ll take the V6 please!

The 1000 hp Ferrari tribute!

Sometimes funny things happen in the car market where you least expect them to, as is currently the case with one of the greatest cars of them all – none less than the tremendous Ferrari SF90. The somewhat unexpected situation I’m referring to is that there’s unusually many of them for sale. This is unusual both as the SF90 is very much still a new car (although you can’t order a new one anymore), but also since it’s rare to see any kind of supercar at this level being offered in current numbers. This doesn’t mean that they’ve dropped massively in price, but of course a large supply tends to reduce the price in the long run (and vice versa, as the energy market is reminding us of). So what’s going on? Have so many fallen out of love with one of the greatest supercars of all time, and in that case why? And what is the Ferrari SF90 really about? That’s what we’ll look at this week.

New design elements were introduced on the SF90 that in my eyes look great!

Presented in 2019 and boasting a total of 1000 hp of which 220 are electric, the SF90 name is a tribute to the 90 years of the Ferrari racing team. The extreme creation is however not the first super-Ferrari that uses hybrid technology – that was the LaFerrari, although that was a simpler, non-chargeable hybrid system and total power output was “only” 950 hp. The SF90 is a plug-in hybrid with two tank caps on the aisles just like on the F40, it’s just that in one of them, nothing but a cable should go in. Design wise the SF90 goes its own way, which is not to everyone’s taste. The headlights are different in shape to all other cars from Maranello and the square rear lights will probably have some Ferraristi rub their eyes. Whatever the form of the lights though, in terms of speed there’s little reason for concern. The SF90 hits 100 km/h in 2.5 seconds and 200 km/h in 6.7 seconds, and then goes on all the way to 340 km/h. That’s the take-off speed of an Airbus passenger plane… In terms of acceleration it’s even more impressive when you consider that at around 1600 kg, the SF90 is around 200 kg heavier than LaFerrari was, and still manages to be faster.

The rear’s design is less clear, and squared rear lights are a Ferrari first!

The secret of course lies in the engine package. Firstly the combustion, 4-litre, twin turbo V8, putting out 195 hp per litre and being buried so deep in the car that the cylinder heads barely reach the middle of the rear wheels. This is unlike most Ferraris where the engine sits right under the bonnet, but of course does wonders to how the car handles. Complementing this tremendous machine are a total of three electrical motors, one centrally placed and the other two close to the front wheels, adding up to another 220 hp. The motors would be capable of more than twice that power, but the relatively small 8 KwH battery sets the limit. It’s also responsible for the SF90 not doing more than a max of 25 km in electrical mode, then again that’s probably not your main concern when you develop a new Ferrari supercar. It doesn’t change the fact though that the SF90 is the first Ferrari that can be driven fully electrically and thereby silently, which is quite useful when you want to sneak out of the neighborhood early in the morning!

No Ferrari engine has been located lower than the double-turbo, four-litre V8!

The aerodynamic features of the car are too many to go into in any greater detail, but at a speed of 250 km/h they add almost 400 kg of additional downforce, a pretty impressive number. And of course, the four engines in different places help the car in the area of dynamics. It basically gives the car an informal four-wheel drive system, hereby making it the first 8-cylinder Ferrari driving on more than two wheels. On the inside you sit low in the driver seat and look out over a total of 9 digital displays, the largest of which is almost Tesla-esque in size and is complemented by quite an advanced head-up display above it (also a first for Ferrari). Luckily the manettino is still there, helping you switch between driving programs.

A lot of screens, that sometimes work in an Italian way…

There’s thus no doubt that the SF90 is quite a compelling package and a modern supercar in the true sense of the word – so what’s with all the cars in the market? It’s indeed quite odd, but as I write this there are 105 SF90’s for sale in Germany, and as many as 22 in small Switzerland. No other comparable supercar is close to those numbers. Contrary to the LaFerrari of which only 500 coupes were built, production of the SF90 wasn’t limited, although it’s gone out of production now, and there’s was never any conditions tied to buying one, such as owning other Ferraris. Price-wise, having initially climbed to about 20% above the price as new, cars have now come back to roughly the new price between EUR 500-600’ with as said many cars hitting the market.

My guess is that one reason for the number of cars in the market is exactly that, I.e. that the SF90 could be bought by anyone, and a number of cars probably were in the good economic years we now have behind us, during which it was produced. With the benefit of hindsight many may then have changed their mind, so what’s been going on is a kind of cleansing of the market. Where it goes from here is probably anyone’s guess. In the coming five years the car can certainly lose 20% or EUR 100’, or on the other hand start appreciating, notably now that production has stopped. Given we are after all talking about a 1000 hp Ferrari, I’d put my chips on the latter scenario. As always though, if your considering one, don’t by an SF90 to speculate. Buy it to enjoy what is one of the greatest supercars ever built, and enjoy it all you can!

The only car you’ll ever need!

If you don’t want run the risk of serious depression, you need to be selective when watching the news these days. Between the war in Ukraine, rampant inflation, lock-downs in China and other de-globalization effects (and in addition to that a full energy crisis in Europe), it’s not a wild guess that the coming years may well be more difficult than the last ones. Is it maybe time to downscale, and reduce the number of cars in the garage? Thinking about it, I started playing with the idea that you would have to stick to one car and one car only for the rest of your life. What would you choose? I realize many would probably answer with an EV these days, but for this exercise, let’s forget about those and stick to the good old combustion ones. A sports car would be nice but not really in line with down-sizing, and also not very practical. Coupes are nice to drive but not very good for your present or future kids and all their stuff. SUV’s is obviously the way most of us have gone in the last years, but they’re not really a thrill to drive, unnecessarily heavy, and loading them is quite tiresome given the height.

If you think about it, I’m sure you’ll reach the same conclusion as me. The one car that will serve you well for the rest of your life is – drumroll – a German power station wagon and more precisely, an Audi RS6 Avant or a Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. They will carry all your children and their gear when they’re young, and all the furniture when you’re re-designing your house after they moved out. Their four-wheel drive systems will ensure you reach your favorite winter destination while beating most supercars (at least those a few years old) on the highway. But they can also take your stepmother to the grocery store without her noticing anything special, and she’ll be able to load the groceries herself in the back. The RS6 and E63 are thus pretty unbeatable and have obviously been head to head competitors for many years.

Purposeful and muscular with tremendous presence!

Regular readers of this blog might rightfully be a bit surprised at this point for two reasons: firstly the fact that up until three years ago I owned an E63 so why on earth did I sell it? And secondly, wasn’t I the one who complained about how bad the (then) new E-class was? You’d be right on both points and I’m not sure my defence will convince you, but in terms of my E63, if there’s one car I wish I hadn’t sold it’s indeed that one and if I had a second chance, I might well have decided differently. Trading it in for an XC90 was perhaps sensible, but if so, proving how boring sensible can be.

On the second point it’s indeed true that I’m still far from convinced by the current E-class but luckily, a downsizing budget is more compatible with a somewhat older car, which in this case would mean the Merc (W212) E63 AMG and the Audi (C7) RS6 Avant, built from 2013 until 2016 and 2018 respectively (meaning for Merc, the face-lifted version of the W212). These were the last not-fully digital versions and they can now be had at between 1/3 and 1/4 of their price as new, meaning around EUR 50-60.000. For what is arguably the world’s greatest car concept, that’s no less than a tremendous bargain and one that is hard to resist, whatever the world does next!

An elegant line, appreciated by those “who know”…

As a short background, the W212 MB E63 AMG in its face-lifted version was introduced in 2013 and unlike its predecessor, it had four-wheel drive as standard, which is very useful in getting the power from the 5.5 litre, double-turbo V8 with 557 hp in the regular version, or 585 hp in the “S” version, to the tarmac. The additional power was more noticeable in the torque which increased from 720 Nm to 800 Nm. The corresponding C7 RS6 was built between 2013 and 2018 and was the third version of the RS. Its 4-litre, double-turbo V8 produced 560 hp as standard or 605 hp in the version called “Performance” in most European markets, with corresponding torque numbers of 700/750 Nm. It goes without saying that it also came with four-wheel drive as standard – how could it be any different from the home of Quattro?

The engines and drive trains are thus very similar, as are acceleration and top speed numbers with drag races normally ending slightly in favor of the Merc. The difference is however negligible, but it’s far more common that Audis have been tuned to even more power than E63’s, and it’s not uncommon to see RS6’s with over 700 hp. What is more surprising given Merc’s reputation is that the E63 is the hooligan of the two, very happy to drift as much as you desire but only if you so desire. This is very different to Audi’s more controlled behavior – it drives like it’s on rails whether you want it or not. Then again, if you’ve tuned it beyond 700 hp, that’s perhaps a good thing…

A fault-free interior – perhaps slightly dull?

In terms of styling this is of course a matter of personal taste, but I think most people would agree on the Audi having more presence than the Merc which is more of a sleeper. I would also say that the Audi looks sportier, the Merc more elegant. The same is carried over to the interior where most would probably agree on Audi’s being more modern, which of course has to do with the W212 having been introduced already in 2009 and the face-lifted version taking over most of the original car’s interior in 2013.

In terms of quality and feel however, the Merc has a solidity to it which I find difficult to replicate (and which the current E-class is light years away from). It very much leaves you with the impression of being the last “real” E-class. The E63 is also the roomier car, both cabin- and booth-wise, with up to 200 litres more space in total. If you still rely on onboard infotainment you’ll prefer Audi’s larger screen and more modern system, and it’s also far easier to find an RS6 with the B&O sound system. Mercedes also offers that as an option, but it’s far less common. That’s a shame, since it’s a fantastic system, far superior to the cheaper systems in both cars.

An ageing interior, but ageing well!

If you’re still with me and haven’t made up your mind just yet, there’s two other things to note before you do so: firstly, the RS6 is much more often to be seen than the E63. The latter is quite rare and content with being only noticed by those “who know”. If you don’t want to see the same car on every street corner, or indeed if you want to be noticed less than you are in an RS6, that’s worth considering. Secondly, comparable RS6’s are generally more expensive than E63’s by somewhere between EUR 10-20.000. Good sub-100.000 kms E63’s will start around EUR 50.000, corresponding RS6’s at around EUR 60.000.

Whichever one you choose, do so carefully. A 700 hp RS6 with unclear history and imported from Germany is not necessarily the one you want, neither the car that rides on 23-inch wheels with nothing between rubber and the wheelarch. This is far more common with RS6’s than with E63’s, so beware. As always, original cars from countries with high fines for speeding, and elderly owner and a complete service history are the best and worth a few thousand more. Think about the equipment that is important to you and although this may make the search longer, don’t compromise but rather wait until the right car comes along, because it will. And if that happens to be a bright red RS6, who cares? Firstly it’s one of the few cars in this class that looks good in red, secondly you’ll probably never want to sell it anyway and thirdly, if you do, the secondary value will take much less of a hit than if it had been a new car 3-4 times more expensive. As for myself, if downsizing really kicks in and my beloved cars had to go to focus on one, then I would buy an E63 again. But just to make sure, I would test drive that RS6 once more before doing so!

The most elegant 4-seater ever!

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to spot a number of spectacular cars within a few minutes and meters in downtown Zurich, and made a post about it that you can find here if you missed it. One of those was in my eyes far above the rest in both elegance and rarity. To me, the legendary Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet is one of the most elegant cars ever built and as I said in my post, it certainly deserves a bit more attention than sharing a post with a number of other more “everyday” cars (that’s perhaps stretching it, but at least far more common). This week therefore, we’ll take a closer look at the car that is not only beautiful and incredibly elegant, but also historic in several ways!

The beautiful 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet

The 280 SE (as I’ll call it from here on, given that saves loads of time writing…) is part of the W111/W112 range, the roots of which go back all the way to 1959 and which are today known as forerunners to what would later become the S-class. The W111/W112 (the difference being that the latter was a more luxurious version with notably air suspension and a more luxurious interior) was mostly sold as a four-door sedan, which became known as the “Heckflossen”-Mercedes (tail fin Merc) due to the shape of the rear “wings”. However a station wagon, a coupé and a convertible were also built in smaller numbers, all based on the same, non-modified platform. The body parts were different though and most of these were produced by hand, as many other cars at the time. The sedan wasn’t however, and this contributed to making the other versions prohibitively expensive in comparison. In spite of this and the resulting small production run, they are important as they are the last Mercedes cars that were in essence built by hand.

The regular w111, also referred to as “Heckflossen” (tail fin)

In the first half of the 60’s, the coupé and convertible had the designation 220 SE and were powered by a 2.2 litre, six-cylinder engine putting out a relatively modest 120 hp. Subsequent versions called the 250 SE, the 280 SE and the 300 SE (the most luxurious version, part of the W112 range) pushed that all the way to 170 hp, but it was in 1969 that things really changed, as that was the year the 280 SE got the brand new, 3.5 litre V8 engine internally called M116 with 200 hp, the first Mercedes engine post-WW2 that was larger than three litres. It came together with a modest facelift as the W111 was starting to age, notably including a flatter radiator grille and different rear lights. The new grille’s shape made the car known in Germany under the name “Flachkühler”, translating into “flat radiator”. Contrary to what is often believed it thus had nothing to do with making more room for the new engine, but was rather purely a styling measure. The price issue had been solved somewhat at least vs the coupé, as the convertible was only 10% more expensive towards the end of production. That is slightly different today, as we’ll see below.

Not the most beautiful engine, but the 3.5 litre V8 it does its job!

The 280 SE comes from a time when Mercedes was shaking off the old post-war heritage and started developing more modern cars to take the brand into the future. Car building itself was however still traditional, panels were still in thick metal and weight considerations weren’t a major concern, neither on the outside, nor on the inside. What looks like wood is indeed wood, and of the finest quality, and quite a few cows must have lost their lives when the interior was sown. The doors are heavy and make the right sound when you close them and the leather-covered dash has another cow or two on its conscience. The engine is said to have power at all revs and the 280 SE was good for 210 km/h at the time, although most people would probably not think of going anywhere near that today. This very luxurious convertible was hence seen as the 300 SE’s successor, but it was actually part of the W111 range and most notably, had conventional rather than air suspension.

They don’t make car interiors like that anymore!

The 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet was built 1232 times between 1969-1971, not a lot when you consider the total production run of the W111/W112 of around 400.000 cars. It would be the last four-seater convertible from Mercedes for more than 20 years until the far less special A124 / E-class convertible in the early 90’s. At the time of the launch it cost 35.000 D-mark, no doubt a lot of money but by far not as much as today’s value of around EUR 350.000 – 500.000 for perfect cars, most of which have of course been renovated. There’s not many around and it’s probably easier to find one in the US than in Europe, as that’s where most of them were sold. That’s certainly not cheap, then again 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet has a solid place in automotive history and is perhaps the most elegant Mercedes-Benz ever built. There’s really no reason why it should be cheap!

Serious EV power from Croatia!

I’m sure most, if not all readers of this blog have a few automotive legends of their own. Henry Ford is no doubt part of most people’s list as the man who gave us the first mass-produced automobile. I would of course also cite some of my Italian car legends that you’ve seen featured on this blog, and no doubt include Christian von Koenigsegg as well, the Swede who built the world’s fastest car from scratch on the countryside in Sweden. These days however, at least for the general public, Elon Musk is probably the biggest of them all. You can debate how much of a car company Tesla is (or for that matter how sane Elon is), but you can’t debate the success Tesla cars have had (and as shown last week, this goes for the resale values as well!).

What’s fascinating with Elon next to the fact that in addition to cars, he also builds rockets that he lands back on earth after the flight, is that just like Koenigsegg, he started from a piece of paper (albeit with lots of money in his pocket). He did so in the biggest car market in the world, but of course he himself is South-African. Let’s just say that the odds of success weren’t necessarily on his side, and they were even less so for Koenigsegg, as also highlighted in my piece last year. So in that case, how would you rate the odds of a 20-year old Bosnian setting out to build the fastest EV supercar in the world in neighboring Croatia? Yeah, right. You’d be wrong though, because his name is Mate Rimac and he’s quickly developing to becoming something like the next Elon. This week, we’ll look closer at him and the car brand carrying his name!

Rimac’s electric BMW – the fastest EV in the world at the time!

Mate Rimac is only 34 years old, but he’s already accomplished more than most do in a lifetime. Having grown up in Germany and Croatia, he participated in various innovation contests at a young age and in 2006, after having exploded the engine of his BMW E30, decided to transform it to an electrical car. So he did and not only that, he made it the fastest EV in the world at the time, which got him quite a lot of press coverage that would turn out to be very useful a few years later. Mate also competed with the car against traditional combustion engines and usually won, and it was sometime around here that he became convinced of the potential of EV’s and decided to set up a company and build better cars than Tesla. At the same time he invented a few other things as well, such as a rear-view mirror without blind spot and the iGlove, aimed at replacing the computer mouse and keyboard. It didn’t, but there’s little doubt Mate had lots of ideas in his head and by the looks of it, still does.

Mate Rimac and the Rimac Concept One

At first, Rimac’s company focused on conversion of traditional cars to electric drivetrains. That business developed nicely and became known as Rimac Automobili in 2009, when Mate was 21. It took him another two years to get a few employees at the company’s HQ in Croatia, and at this time he also met a GM designer called Adriano Mudri. The two men got along and started discussing building an EV supercar together. Thanks to the previous garnered publicity, they also got an invitation to the royal family of the United Arab Emirates who would become the financier of Rimac’s first prototype called Concept One, unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2011. Eight Concept Ones were built in total and as far as I know seven are still around, the eighth having been crashed in quite spectacular fashion by Richard Hammond of (the original) Top Gear. That’s without doubt the most expensive car Hammond has ever crashed…

Next to the car however, Rimac continued to work with other brands on modifications and parts related to electrification. These include Porsche, Aston Martin, BMW and Koenigsegg, and in 2018 VW/Porsche also bought a 10% stake in Rimac. Last year, it was then confirmed that the partnership has been extended to a new company called Bugatti Rimac where Rimac owns 55% and will provide electrification to the coming hybrid Bugattis. Porsche is also said to have invested further in the company in its latest financing round. As if that wasn’t enough, Rimac also produces the battery systems for the Aston Martin Valkyrie and the Koenigsegg Regera.

The Nevera – a mix of other sports cars and old uniform neckties!

With a top speed of 220 mph (roughly 350 km/h) the Concept One was no doubt extreme, even for an EV, especially 10 years ago. This was however only the hors d’oeuvre for what was to come. The even faster Concept S would follow in 2016 as more of a track car, before the Nevera was unveiled in 2018 and is being delivered to customers form this year. With 150 cars being built for a price of EUR 2m these customers are to be considered very lucky, as this 1914 hp monster sets a new standard even for EV’s. With a top speed of over 400 km/h and a 0-100 time of 1.85 seconds, it also reaches 300 km/h in nine seconds, faster than an F1 car and something that will most probably have you searching for your eye balls at the back of your head, should you try it.

Of course speed isn’t enough though, and the Nevera (which by the way is the name of a Mediterranean storm – what is it with auto makers and winds??) certainly looks the part. It’s a beautiful car with hints of the new Corvette at the front and a McLaren of your choice in the back. Air vents along the sides have the same shape as the necktie of Croatian soldiers fighting for Napoleon (you’d be forgiven for not noticing that yourself…). Of course almost every panel is carbon fibre, it uses butterfly doors and a break spoiler in the back, deploying at a predetermined speed. Rimac confesses he’s programmed that speed to be low enough for the spoiler to deploy frequently, as clients find it cool….

Quite a plush interior given the car’s power, more of a GT than a track car

The Nevera has four electrical engines, one per wheel, which are thus operated and adjusted individually, further contributing to great handling. The interior is more plush than you would expect and definitely more of a GT car than a track car. That doesn’t mean it drives badly though: the first of the 150 Neveras will be delivered to ex-F1 world champion Nico Rosberg who is enthusiastic about not only the power but also how the car handles. In terms of colors you can of course have whatever you want – Mate himself has chosen raw carbon fibre for his own Nevera, a bit of a debatable choice but who are we to argue…

We’ll see where Rimac goes from here, but both the cars and the prestigious collaborations have put him on a fast track for even greater things going forward. From interviews and videos he also seems like a genuinely good guy, which is always nice to see. Notably all Rimac employees, from the cleaning stuff and up, have a share in the company. Of course, unless I have more prominent readers than I know, neither you nor I will probably have the pleasure of driving a Nevera or see for ourselves how nice Mate Rimac is. There is however another way to experience the Rimac magic, namely by buying an electrical MTB from his other company Greyp Bikes, founded in 2015. That will save you a couple of million, be better for your health and give you the first MTB that can communicate with all other Greyp MTB’s around the world, and also film what happens behind you when you ride. If that’s not an irresistible offer, I don’t know what is!

How not to lose 30% the first year!

There are many sayings along the same tune: full of joy you pick up your new car at the dealership, and by the time you reach the street, it’s lost 30% of its value. With very few exceptions that used to be the case for more or less all new cars, and depreciation would then continue to eat into the remaining value like rust does to an old 70’s Opel, until some day you reach a bottom where values stabilize and if you’re lucky, even start to rise. You could say that my modest garage consisting of my beloved BMW 650i convertible 2014 and my no less loved RR 5.0 SC 2015, both bought in the last two years, were very much purchased along that logic (and if I dare say, pretty much at the bottom).

At least in some cases, what used to be true isn’t anymore, and we can of course thank the moving parts of the global mess we currently find ourselves in for that. The combination of broken global supply chains, the European energy crisis and inflation are starting to change things. I’ve written previously about prices for used cars being on the rise especially in the US. That trend seems to be softening, although it’s a bit too early to say. It’s still the case that delivery times have in some cases gone bonkers, but here as well things are looking slightly better for most cars, as the stress on delivery chains of certain parts have improved slightly. You’ll still have to wait far longer than used to be the case though. But lately, and the topic of this week’s post, is what is perhaps another logical consequence of the current situation, namely that certain new cars barely lose any value during the first few years.

The chip crisis is slowly easing, which is really good news for manufacturers!

It’s still perfectly possible to lose lots of money when buying a new car. An old man’s sedan is for example an excellent way to go about it, especially if you order it in a color scheme that may seem fun at the time of ordering, but far less a week after the car being delivered. Large Mercedes coupés with big engines are also pretty hopeless. Actually, with everything everywhere being about EV’s and with prices at the pump going only in one direction, you’d be forgiven for thinking that buying anything with a big, thirsty engine would be just as good (or bad). That’s not the case though, at least not yet, and it’s also not the case that all EV’s hold their value in the same way the best ones do.

Given that, and if we except the small series hypercars that live in a world of their own price-wise, what should you be looking at if you want a cool, everyday car and prefer buying new, but want to minimize the initial value loss? I’ve taken a few examples below from the SUV world which continues to be the preferred car segment everywhere, and which is therefore a relatively safe bet in this regard.

There’s three different body formats now, from 90 to 130 to choose from

New Land Rover Defender

It was no easy task that Land Rover took on when they decided to build a new version of one of the most legendary cars of all times but in my view, they did an excellent job with the new Defender. I think it balances references to the original car with modern features in just about the right proportions, and apparently the market agrees – not only do you see a lot of new Defenders around, their resale values are excellent. In Europe, when the car was introduced in late 2019 in a version called the First Edition, these 2019 cars today trade only around 10% lower than their original price of around EUR 100.000, in spite of a minor upgrade having just taken place on the 2022 Defender. For now at least, the car that’ll take you anywhere seems to be a safe bet economically as well!

The G63 could also take you most places – it’s just that it never does…

Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG

If Land Rover’s task with the new Defender was daunting, arguably what Mercedes had to do to turn the G-wagon to a modern car (as much as possible) was no less so. It was a year earlier in 2018 that the new G was introduced, and still today you need to look twice to see the difference between old and new – at least from the side. Absurdly enough, the vast majority of new G’s are in the G63 AMG version, that an article I recently read described as “Kardashianesque”, a description as good as any. Few cars have the same street presence though, and 585 hp in car looking like a fridge will keep you laughing all the way to the petrol station. Provided you still see the road that is, because with its completely flat front window, the G63 kills bugs at a speed making you fear bug extinction. Still, should you for some reason want to sell your G63, you’ll be happy to learn that even cars from the first year with moderate km’s on the clock sell for within 10% of their price as new of around EUR 220.000.

The only SUV that looks good in yellow – and many other colours!

Lamborghini Urus

If 585 hp in an SUV isn’t enough for you, then Lamborghini are happy to give you another 65 hp, rounding it off to 650 from the Urus’s 4-litre, 8-cylindre engine. Its looks take more or less getting used to depending on your taste, but the Urus is one hell of a car and no doubt the SUV that drives the most like a sports car. And of course, being a Lambo, it delivers in terms of sound like few others. The Urus was also introduced in late 2018 and costs a bit more than EUR 300′ as new. 2-3 years later without too many kilometres on the clock you will have lost no more than 10%, and it will have been worth everyone of them!

Three examples out of a selection that could clearly have been wider and that illustrates that at least right now, you can buy at least some new cars and not lose much in terms of value even after 2-3 years. If you’re interested in any of these or for that matter other cars with a similar evolution, then the recommendation is of course to buy new, provided the car you’re after can be delivered within a reasonable timeframe. A discount that isn’t larger than 10% doesn’t compensate for neither the compromises in equipment you may have to make, nor for the typically much shorter guarantee you’ll have on the used car.

The Model X hardly sells anymore in Europe, but has fantastic residuals!

What about EV’s then? Isn’t that a safe bet when it comes to resale values? With everything happening in general in terms of clean energy, and in the EV market in particular with new models both from new and old brands, you’d certainly be forgiven for thinking so, but actually the picture is a mixed one. The champion in resale values is no doubt Tesla where the 10% value loss discussed above goes even further in terms of mileage or even age. Had you bought an Audi E-tron instead, perhaps convinced by the fact that in everything except for the range it’s a better car, well, then you would have lost almost 50% in the last 2-3 years (making the E-tron a really great bargain today!). Mercedes’ EQC EV SUV doesn’t fare much better, and there are other EV’s in both camps. At least for now therefore, value preservation seems to be more brand-related than depending on the drive train, and part of Tesla’s strong resale value probably also relates to the Apple-like image the brand has among many.

Where does that take us? Well, if you’re after a SUV and you’ve been looking at one of the three mentioned above, it looks like a relatively good investment even if you’re changing cars now and then. However, as the disclaimer says if you buy a financial product, “past performance is no guarantee for future returns”, which is of course especially true now with an energy crisis in Europe and a general trend towards electrification. Remember though that this will take time, and there will conventional cars around for many years to come. If you’re looking for an EV, the resale value and the range speak strongly for Tesla, but it will require you to compromise in build quality compared to some other EV’s, and the competition is no doubt heating up. Personally, I still think a good bargain beats anything presented here, and if I were after an EV, I think I’d go and look closely at that bargain Audi E-tron!

F1 pit stop – half time!

After 13 rounds of the 2022 season we’re into the summer break, with the next race not happening until early September in Max Verstappen’s home country of the Netherlands. It’s thus time to take the temperature on the season so far and doing so, a few things seem pretty obvious already now. Most importantly, I’m not really sticking out my neck by saying that I’m pretty convinced Max will be the relatively uncontested world champion in 2022, for the second time around. However, predicting who will finish on places 2-6 is much harder, almost as hard as guessing if Ferrari will ever get their theme strategy together. These are really the main questions for the second half of the season.

Things are going well for Max!

To start off though, there’s been two big pieces of news on the drivers’ side worth mentioning, especially since it all happened in the last days. Firstly, on Wednesday night ahead of the Hungarian GP, Sebastian Vettel informed Lawrence Stroll, owner of the Aston Martin F1 team, that he’s retiring at the end of the season. Aston would have loved to keep him for another year, especially since Seb has delivered more than what should be possible with the current car, but Lawrence is said to have accepted Seb’s decision, mostly driven by his wish to spend more time with his family. Lawrence didn’t lose any time though and instead picked up the phone to Fernando Alonso whom he knows well, offering him what sounds like a deal too good to say no to. It was all done in five days and Alonso, about to turn 41, will thus step in to Seb’s shoes as a mentor to Lance Stroll and hopefully with a faster Aston car next year.

Neither Alonso nor Lawrence Stroll apparently saw a need to inform Renault/Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer though, who claims he only learnt the news through the official F1 communication. His disappointment is indeed understandable since with Ocon and Alonso, Alpine had a driver pairing helping them to what is currently P4 in the constructor championship, ahead of all teams except for the three big ones. There’s a slight déjà vu here remembering Ricciardo’s move from Renault two years ago when he seemed to be on the way to McLaren, where things have basically gone south every since. Let’s thus hope Fernando knows what he’s doing and that Aston will start performing next year!

Thanks for everything Seb – Ferrari will never forget you!

At the top of the ranking, it’s really all about Max Verstappen. Red Bull started the season on par or sometimes perhaps even slightly behind Ferrari, but the last races have confirmed that they’re back where they were last year, with Perez doing a mighty fine job in spite of being the most obvious “second” driver of all teams, currently ranking P3 in the drivers’ standings. Max leads by a margin of 80 points on Leclerc in second, his driving is as phenomenal as his ego is large (as we know, a combination any good racing driver needs to have!) and in combination with the most professional team on the circuit, it’s really difficult to see how anyone could challenge him, especially since Ferrari insists on giving him the helping hand he doesn’t need through one tactical misstep after the other.

Binotto doesn’t have much to smile about currently…

Hungary was the latest but probably not the last example of tactics going wrong, having everyone except Ferrari F1 boss Binotti scratching their heads. With 30 laps to go and with Leclerc in the lead, the team pitted the car and put him on hard tires. In a way they had no choice as it was too early for softs, but Leclerc hadn’t been complaining about the mid tires and would probably have lost less time staying on them until the softs would have made it until the end. Those are his thoughts, not mine. This is the latest in a series of mistakes, such as for example in Leclerc’s home race in Monaco when Ferrari pitted him at the same time as Sainz, which cost him the win, or Montreal, where the team pitted Sainz rather than Leclerc who was in the lead, again costing him the race. If you add to this mechanical failures and to be fair, also driver mistakes, the second part of the first half of 2022 hasn’t been much to cheer about in Maranello. Binotto however doesn’t see the need to change anything and insists everyone’s happy. So far Leclerc and Sainz don’t say anything, but If things don’t improve quickly in the second half, I very much doubt that will remain the case.

So what about positions 2 to 6? Well, there’s in total only 27 points between Leclerc in second and Lewis Hamilton in sixth, with Perez, Russell and Sainz (in that order) between them. Anyone of the six can thus take second position and if the current trend is anything to go by, it’s definitely Mercedes who are on the way up, and I would tend to put my money on either Russell or Hamilton, together with Perez. Then again, if Ferrari manage to find the form of the first part of the season again, it could also be Leclerc or Sainz. Not much of a conclusion here as you can see, time will tell!

If Russell finishes in P2, will Lewis call it a day?

Except for Alpine Renault who as mentioned are currently in P4, there’s really not much to cheer about for any of the other teams. Alfa Romeo started the season well but don’t seem to get anywhere currently. The same goes for McLaren and especially Daniel Ricciardo who is systematically underperforming Lando Norris, Haas where Mick Schumacher is however starting to show his talent, Aston Martin and Alpha Tauri where not much is happening, and finally Williams who have more speed than last year but still not enough to secure them points in most races. McLaren, Alfa Romeo, Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin should all be on stable footing in terms of their financing, I’m less sure if that’s the case for Haas and Williams, so the second half of the year may well decide if we see them again in 2023. Stay tuned!

Northern German winds

Wolfsburg, translating into “Wolves’ castle”, is a northern German town known as the home of Volkswagen (hereinafter VW). I’ve never been to Wolfsburg so I can’t really say if it should also be famous as a particularly windy town. Its geographical location in the middle of the country suggests it shouldn’t, VW’s model naming over the years however very much suggest it should! Starting with the Golf (from the Gulf stream) over the Jetta (from the jet stream), the Polo (from the polar winds), the Passat and then of course the Golf’s mechanical twin dressed up like a sports coupé, the Scirocco, we end up with the Corrado (from, well, actually nothing at all). The Corrado was a break with VW’s naming convention given the name is invented and has no meaning, but it has the benefit of sounding Italian, something that’s never hurt any sports car. Luckily the car itself is not invented but very real and a bit of a gem, which is the reason we’ll look closer at it this week!

The Corrado is actually smaller than a modern compact car

Through the Piëch owner family VW is obviously closely related to Porsche, and in fact VW’s first two tries at a sports car both ended up under the Porsche rather than the VW brand, following some probably quite heated discussions in the respective board rooms: the first was the almost forgotten Porsche 914, the second the not much liked 924. The third time around VW resorted to simpler tactics, taking all the mechanics from the Golf and then asking Giugiaro to design a coupe-like body. So he did and the car was called Scirocco and built in two series between 1974 and 1992.

Second series cars are slightly re-designed and carry lots of plastic spoilers, wings and other things that were far cooler then than now. They were however also a showcase for new VW technology, notably its first 16-valve engine. This had the slight disadvantage of making the Scirocco expensive, and as VW had more ideas on new technology they wanted to test, they therefore saw a need to develop a new sports car positioned higher in price and sell it in parallel to the Scirocco, until a new, cheaper model could replace it. Enters the Corrado in 1986 as the more exclusive car, but VW never managed to build the intended Scirocco replacement, so the Corrado and the aging Scirocco would be sold in parallel until the latter was discontinued in 1992.

Leather seats add a bit of flair to the otherwise quite gloomy interior…

Design-wise the Corrado goes back to the first Scirocco series, basically looking like its body-builder brother, but with a lot of the original lines still preserved. I wouldn’t call it timeless like some other cars from the time, but it definitely looks good and has the right proportions. It also has a rear spoiler that deploys at speed to reduce wind drag, not much to brag about today but excessively cool in the late 80’s, and a feature that was applied to the Corrado before it was so on the 911 (964)!

Underneath the body, the car was however very much the second series Scirocco, meaning a Golf II. Logically therefore it was praised for its practicality but also for its handling, steering and gearshift. VW were however serious in making the Corrado a showcase for new technology, and the only available version of the car therefore had the new G60 engine. With 158 hp, the output of the 1.8 litre four-cylinder was perhaps reasonable, but given the Corrado was far heavier than the old Scirocco with the less powerful 16V engine, it lost more than a second in the sprint to 100 km/h. Not great news for a more expensive car intended to showcase new engine technology…

The most compact V6 ever seen (at least until then)!

VW thus needed a new engine before all potential clients went away and bought a Honda Prelude instead. The problem was however that the Corrado is a small car with not much space for really anything more than a 1.8 litre, four-pot which was already supercharged. But of course this was a German car, so it wasn’t long until a bunch of German engineers put their minds together and solved the problem. What do you do when there’s no room neither for a larger volume four-cylinder engine, nor for a straight or V6? Einfach (easy)! You reduce the angle of the V until it basically looks like an I. Maybe not quite, but they went from the typically 60 or 90 degrees of a typical V6 to as little as 15, putting the six cylinders close enough to use a single cylinder head.

This increased the volume to 2.9 litres and the power to 190 hp. The engine was named VR6 with V for the V-shape and R for “Reihen”, i.e. straight in German, as the engine had the same firing order as a straight six. It thus ran smoother and sounded better than a typical V6 and more power meant the Corrado was now a second quicker than the Scirocco to 100 km/h at 6.4 seconds, and managed a top speed of 225 km/h. Not only that, when the Corrado VR6 was introduced in 1991, it was part of the Corrado facelift and now based on the Golf III rather than II as the predecessor, basically meaning even better handling and weight distribution. Everything was thus pretty great, except for one thing: the price.

Good things don’t come for free and the inflation Corrado prices went through during production years 1988-1995 resembles what we experience these days. The Corrado VR6 was in the end more than 30% more expensive than the original, G60 car. Realizing the problem, VW also offered the car in the cheaper 16V version, which wasn’t however what people wanted given it had far less power. In the end this meant Corrado sales numbers were far below what VW had hoped for – in the last two production years, less than 6.000 cars were built. The effect of that a few years later is usually that residual values are kept high, and here the Corrado is no exception.

A good VR6, which you’ve hopefully understood by now is the one you want, starts at around EUR 25.000. There are cars out there but the offer isn’t unlimited, and finding the right one will take some digging. Except for the Corrado VR6 being a great car, it’s obviously also great that it’s mechanically pretty much a Golf, meaning help is as close as the next VW garage and parts shouldn’t be a problem. Chances are however you won’t need them as the Corrado may be a VW, but it also comes from the best era of German manufacturing. It’s a very solid car but one that looks and drives with more feeling and inspiration than a VW usually does, and also carries a more exotic name!

All good things come to an end…

There’s obviously a lot of things changing in the car world these days, and with that, it’s no surprise that many good things also come to an end. Today we’ll look at two of those, and luckily we’ll do so before it’s too late so that should you take the wise decision to join in before the lights go out (so to say), in both cases that’s still possible!

The first piece of sad news reached us recently from Buchloe, the small German town made famous by Burkard Bovensiepen, founder of Alpina, a company today run by his two sons. If you missed my story on Alpina you can read it here, and unfortunately what the company communicated was that they have sold the rights to the Alpina name to BMW, effective end 2025. For BMW, the interest in the Alpina name apparently comes from the wish for a sub-brand to sit between BMW and Rolls-Royce, which BMW also owns, but if that becomes the case, the cars will be fully built by BMW with no involvement of what is currently Alpina.

The legendary stripes will soon be gone!

You may of course ask why Alpina chooses to give up, especially when you hear that 2021 was their best year ever in terms of sales. The answer is that it costs Alpina somewhere between EUR 10-15m to develop a new model on the basis of the corresponding BMW, a cost that needs to be amortized over the coming 6-7 years. Unfortunately the general insecurity with regards to future drivetrains, regulations, penalty taxation in some markets etc. no longer affords Alpina (or for that matter, other small brands) enough planning security to make that a viable proposition. It’s indeed a sad although unintended consequence of the industry’s current development and will most probably lead to more brand concentration among non-EV brands.

The recently introduced Alpina B4/D4 S Gran Coupé is thus the last Alpina model we will see leaving Buchloe (and it will do so, along with the other current models, until 2025), but the Bovensiepens guarantee that until then, they will not turn down a single order for any of their current cars. They also don’t plan to go anywhere, but rather to continue their business under a different name. On one hand it’s about servicing and supplying parts for the 25.000 Alpina cars currently on the road, which for discerning Alpina clients often also means for example redoing a full interior. On the other, the future Alpina company will continue to work on some projects as they already do today, such as developing improved drivetrains, steering etc. for other manufacturers.

The last Alpina – but not even they can fix the number plate positioning…

It takes around an hour and a half to drive from Buchloe to Ingolstadt, home of Audi and thereby also of one of the most discrete, polished, usable and reliable supercars in the world – the R8. It’s been with us since 2007, a very long time for any car these days and with very few design updates through the years, it still looks modern to this day. It will however be replaced next year and when it is, that will also mean good-bye to the last engine of its kind still produced. I’m of course talking about the wonderful, naturally aspirated V10 that these days is the only available power source for the R8. It is however on the way out as Audi have already confirmed that the new R8 coming out in 2024 will be fully electric. The same V10 is of course also in service in the far less discrete Lamborghini Hurracan, but here again the engine won’t be available in the new Hurracan set to come out in the same year as the R8, i.e. 2024. It’s not fully clear what will replace it, but current rumours point at some kind of hybrid combined with a no longer naturally aspirated V8.

15 years later, still one of the best looking supercars!

The naturally aspirated engine in the R8 and Hurracan is thus the last V10 in production. There’s one naturally aspirated 12-cylinder engine still out there and it’s of course the sensational, 6.5-litre one in the Ferrari 612 Superfast, putting out a crazy 818 hp and revving all the way to 9500 rpm. Then we’re however down to eight cylinders and in terms of naturally aspirated ones, options are few and far between. There’s of course the very discrete and also not very inspiring Lexus LC500, and there’s various versions of the 5.7 or 6.2 litre V8 in various cars in the Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep/RAM family of mostly trucks. But then there’s also the new Corvette where the top model features the 6.2 litre V8 putting out 482 hp. And that’s basically it.

The 6.5 litre Ferrari V12 is the last of its kind

It’s safe to say that we’re clearly well into the last straight as concerns natural aspiration in general, and for big cylinder engines in particular. Given this, buying a new R8 between now and 2024 could actually turn out to be a better deal than buying a new car usually is, as the last year of production is often sought after, especially if it features an engine that can then no longer be had. Of course that goes for the Hurracan as well. And if we forget about natural aspiration, it’s no doubt also true if you buy one of the last Alpinas!

Which one would you pick??

It’s obviously summer time, and here in Switzerland right in the middle of the really hot temperatures down in Spain and Italy and the really cold temperatures up north in parts of Scandinavia, we’re enjoying perfect summer weather. This is obviously the kind of conditions you imagine when you decide to spend a significant amount of money on a car in the categories sports/hypercar or luxury convertible, so the time to enjoy them has definitely come – and if it’s a convertible, so has the time for shielding your head from the sun during those long, nice drives.

It’s not just in the summer that Zurich is a rolling car exhibition, but clearly the number of beautiful automobiles is higher in July than in November and they tend to be cleaner as well, thereby lending themselves better to the game I thought we’d play this week. It’s one I’m sure we all played as kids and that just maybe some of us still play as grown-ups. I’m of course talking about variations of the excellent mind game “which one would I pick?”! It was when walking through the city the other week that I photographed the following four cars within an area of 200 meters, and thought they lent themselves very well to this exercise. Also, the results could be a good way of getting to know our readers a bit better through your preferences, so please therefore put your replies in the reply section below!

The Continental Convertible – elegant, timeless, discrete, or too old school and boring?

We start with the most common car of these four, namely the latest version of the very popular Bentley Continental GT Convertible, or GTC. I personally think the most recent facelift has given it a much more modern and sporty look, perhaps especially from the back as pictured here. This is the four-litre V8 version with 550 hp, enough to get the quite heavy Continental up to illegal speeds in very little time. The happy owner has also chosen to spend some money on his very own license plate – you may remember the post on the Swiss system for auctioning number plates that you’ll otherwise find here. Anyway, the GTC is a beautiful car here in a discrete, elegant colour, and very much not in your face.

If you read the Bentley caption and take the opposite of every word, you’re there!

We move on to something that is the complete opposite – a very yellow Lamborghini Aventador SV, meaning Super Veloce, or super fast. That it is indeed, being powered by a 740 hp V12 that will bring you to 200 km/h in 10 seconds flat and also around the Nürburgring in (just under) seven minutes. As it does so, it will leave no one in any doubt of where it comes from and that there’s a bit V12 powering it. You can certainly debate how ideal it is as a city or shopping car but there’s definitely space enough for some of the small, expensive gift boxes you find in the many jeweller shops close to where it was parked. Whether it’s yellow or not really doesn’t matter – an Aventador will never pass unnoticed!

The wooden hood cover is very nice, but perhaps not with this seat colour?

If the Bentley is too common and the Lambo too flashy, then what about a Rolls-Royce Dawn? After all, when it was launched in 2015 the brand referred to it as “the sexiest Rolls-Royce every built”! That was however not enough for CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös who also described sitting in it as “the most luxurious place to be on earth”. Be that as it may, the Dawn is no doubt a beautiful automobile creating just enough theatre with its rear-hinged doors, but its weight of 2800 kgs (!) means the 6.6 litre, 570 hp V12 needs to work hard. It’s thus probably better suited for downtown Zurich than the Aventador, even though the owner’s choice of parking space could turn out to be expensive. Then again, in this league, who cares…

Looking at it, RR boss Müller-Ötvös may just be wrong about that luxurious place…

The final pick is perhaps the best representative of a time long before engines had many hundred horsepower, and prestige was instead defined by opulent design and plush materials. This beautiful Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 V8 Cabriolet (long name for a legendary car!) that we’ll come back to on the blog as it’s worth a post of its own, was built in the late 60’s – early 70’s 1232 times. The 230 hp, 3.5 litre V8 had its work cut out with the quite heavy car, but this was of course never meant to be a Nürburgring racer so power was quite sufficient at the time, as it remains today.

Those are the candidates, which one would you pick? I’ll obviously tell you which one my choice would be, and it probably comes at no surprise that I would go for the beautiful Merc. I certainly wouldn’t mind the others either but as said, if you need to pick one, that’s my choice. Please put yours in the comments or, if you happen to be the very fortunate owner of any of these masterpieces, perhaps a photo of it!

Classic races: The Mille Miglia!

This week sees the start of a new section on the blog called “Classic races”, where at more or less regular intervals, the idea is to tell the story of some of the most famous and legendary classic car races of the last century. As is often the case the idea came out of nowhere, or at least not following any logical path. More precisely, last week when walking down the street, I saw a grown man in a business suite on a non-powered, two-wheel scooter, kicking himself forward on the sidewalk and wearing – a helmet. It struck me how in spite of fatalities from most activities being lower and longevity obviously higher than at any time in history, in the perception of some people, the world has become incredibly dangerous. Somehow that made me think of cars (never far away…) and especially classic cars, and thereby of a time when the drivers indeed risked their lives for the sport and cars they loved. In other words, classic car races!

I’m sure you could have a lengthy argument of what race you should start such a section with and I certainly don’t intend for this section to follow any kind of order of importance, but somehow you need to start with one of the most well-known ones, which at least from a European perspective is no doubt the famous thousand miles through the northern half of Italy, more well-known as the Mille Miglia (hereinafter also MM)! Given the 2022 race took place in the second half of June this may ring more than one bell, but today’s race is not the same as the original one, so let’s take things in good order.

Neither helmets, nor paved roads

It was back in the 1920’s when, as part of the strong rivalry between the two northern Italian cities Milan and Brescia, the Brescians weren’t happy to see the completion of the Monza race track close to Milan in 1925. Some resourceful merchants from Brescia got their heads together and thought up a race that would be driven on (unprepared and unpaved) roads rather than on track, but be of the same length as a Grand Prix at the time, namely 1000 miles (1600 km). Why on earth would Italians think in miles you may think, but actually the old Romans used miles as measure, so it’s indeed a measure which at least historically has been used in Italy as well. The race would start in Brescia, lead to the eternal city of Rome before ending back in Brescia, along a route as figured out by two of the more enthusiastic merchants, Aymo Maggi and Franco Mazzotti.

Aymo Maggi, one of the four men who gave us the Mille Miglia!

Two years later in 1927, a total of 77 cars took part in the first Mille Miglia. Ferdinando Minoia and Giuseppe Morandi needed a bit more than 21 hours to win the first race in their OM 665, thereby managing an average speed of 77 km/h. Not bad for the 1920’s, but it didn’t take more than three years for a certain Tazio Nuvolari from Mantua, also known as “The Flying Mantuan”, to increase that to over 100 km/h. The Mille Miglia was however not reserved for sports cars with both smaller cars such as the Renault 4CV and family cars taking part as well. In a logic that would arguably not be applied today, the slower cars started ahead of the faster ones such as to reduce the time officials had to spend along the route. This was certainly one, but not the only cause of accidents, of which a serious one in 1938 led to the original route being changed to a shorter 165 km route driven several laps in 1940 (no race took place in 1939). After the war however, the MM went back to the original route – having seen the horrors of war during five years, the general view was that in comparison, the original route was child’s play!

The OM 665, winner of the first Mille Miglia in 1955

When the MM resumed after the war it remained, as in previous years, very much an Italian story. In most years both the winning cars and their drivers were Italian. In the years before the war it was Alfa Romeo that was most successful with the 6C and 8C, after the war Ferrari had most success with various models. Among drivers, Tazio Nuvolari is perhaps the most legendary, and in some years the route was even changed in his honour so that it went through his home town of Mantua. This is not to say that foreigners didn’t have some success as well; Juan Manuel Fangio participated in the race but never won, and the most well-known foreigner is no doubt Stirling Moss who won in 1955 in the Mercedes 300 SLR. That was only two years before the last Mille Miglia race in 1957 when a tragic accident killed not only the driver and his co-pilot but also 10 spectactors of which five were children. This meant the end for the original Mille Miglia race.

The Flying Mantuvan Nuvolari in full action!

As a largely pre-WW2 car race, there’s obviously a number of stories to be told from the young age of automotive sport. One of the best ones is certainly from 1954, when German driver Hans Herrmann participated in a Porsche 550 together with co-driver Herbert Linge and decided to save some time at the sight of a rail crossing – and an approaching train. Given the 550 was quite low, Herrmann accelerated and both Linge and him sunk down in the seats such as to be able to pass under the barrier… Stirling Moss’s victory in 1955 is also a story in itself since he managed to set an all-time speed record, averaging close to 160 km/h. Given the non-paved, dwindling roads of the race with hundreds of spectators alongside them, that remains difficult to understand to this day. His co-driver during the race was the journalist Denis Jenkinson who later in the magazine Motorsport told the story of what was in his words a terrifying experience. If you’re curious, you’ll find it here!

An artistic view of Moss and Jenkinson in the 1955 race

In 1977 The Mille Miglia was revived as a tourist race with the current, annual format being in place since 1987. The race is today open to cars that either participated in the original race, or are of the same type. Either or, needless to say that these are worth quite a lot of money these days and the race has thereby become a wonderful exhibition of automobiles from a bygone era. The initial technical inspection in Brescia on the eve of the race is something not to be missed if you happen to be in northern Italy around this time of year! Every year around 400 cars take parto out of around 1500 applicants, and the route still leads from Brescia to Rome but varies a bit from year to year. As a tourist rally it’s no longer about outright speed but more about typical classical car race moments such as regularity and navigation. The risk of accidents and need for helmets has thereby diminished heavily, and it’s also highly improbable that any driver chooses to cross a railway under the barrier!

Street finds – Lamborghini 400 GT 2+2!

About 10 minutes’ walk from my office, there’s a small garage specializing in enthusiast cars hiding on a back street. It’s obviously an ideal and favourite destination for a lunch walk, and I try to pass by there at least every two weeks or so as there is usually something special to admire. Boy was I happy to do so earlier this week and discover a car I’ve never seen before and had no idea what it was! Seeing it at first from the side, I noticed the nicely stretched body, which at the C-pillar and backwards reminded at least this old Swede of the Volvo P1800. Next it was the very special windshield that caught my eye, literally bulging out over the bonnet. The badge gave away that I was looking at a Lamborghini but even then, I had no clue how exclusive this piece of automotive history really was!

I was actually especially happy running into this street find since I may not have been kind to the Lamborghini Gallardo in last week’s post on the Ferrari F430. I’m not going to lie, I’m really no fan of the Gallardo and in choosing between it and an F430, I would go for the latter every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Obviously however Lamborghini have a wonderful history and have built some amazing cars through the years, so it’s nice being able to pay tribute to that this week. After some googling and research, it was clear that what I had been looking at was a Lamborghini 400 GT 2+2 (a name that somewhat confusingly was applied to other Lambo models as well).

Somewhat peculiar headlamps, typical 60’s bodywork

What is then a Lamborghini 400 GT? To find out we need to go back to the late 60’s, more precisely 1966-1968 when the team in Sant’ Agata built no more than 273 of these beautiful cars. The 400 GT was the successor to Lamborghini’s first ever car, the 350 GT, of which only 120 cars were built between 1965-1967. The 350 was a two-seater, but thanks to a slight adjustment of the roof line such as to create more space, the 400 was a 2+2. Otherwise the cars are really very similar, not only visually but also mechanically. The stretched, typical 60’s body was designed by the Italian coach builder Carozzeria Touring, and they obviously put a lot of emphasis on the driver and passenger not hitting their heads against the windshield in the case of an accident! The headlights are a bit peculiar, but that’s where the complaints end.

The 400 GT 2+2 has a modified roofline compared to the 350 GT

Both the 350 and the 400 GT were modern for the time with notably independent suspension and disc brakes on all wheels. The 5-speed gearbox was linked to the most interesting part of the car, namely the V12 engine. As long-term readers of the blog will remember, this is indeed the V12 originally developed by Giotto Bizzarrini for Ferruccio Lamborghini and also featured in other Lambos such as the Miura (where it was transversally mounted) and that I’ve written about several times (see for example my post on Bizzarrini, the one on the Miura, or of course the one on the Countach). As the name suggests, originally the engine was at 3.5 litres in the 350, putting out 280 hp. In the 400 it was increased to 4 litres with power increasing to 320 hp and the torque by 20% to 365 Nm. The car weighed no more than 1300 kgs meaning the power was enough for a top speed of 270 km/h and a 0-100 km/h time around 6-6.5 seconds. Not bad for a 55-year old lady!

The 400 GT in question was not in mint condition and as I learnt from a chat with the garage owner, also not for sale. It belongs to one of the garagist’s clients, reason for which he wasn’t willing to share many details, but the garage is basically performing a mild restoration on it. I learnt all this a couple of days later at which time the car had moved into the back of his workshop, squeezed in between an XC120 Jaguar and a Ferrari 456, with a 550 standing a bit further away. I guess that’s what you call a nice work environment!

Paul McCartney apparently owned a 400 GT – this one!

After the 350 and 400 GT, Lamborghini would move on to the Isolero in terms of GT cars and to more well-known things in terms of supercars, such as the Miura and the Countach. The V12 would be further developed over the years, but this is really where it started and in that sense, the beginning of a true legend. The cars themselves, even though produced in very low numbers, are arguably less legendary, which doesn’t mean they’re cheap. As we all know by now, limiting supply, be it of cars or of Russian oil is a good way to drive the price up, so if you’ve fallen in love with the Lambo 400, prepare yourself for a long search to find a good one and when you do, to part with at least EUR 400′. That buys you a wonderful automobile, a legendary engine, and guaranteed uniqueness!

Baby Enzo comes of age!

There’s a lot of talk among car bloggers and vloggers (me included) about the concept of “real”, in the sense of for example “which is the last real this-and-that?”. These days it often has to do with partial or full electrification, where the last “real” car is understood as the last version before that happened. You only need to wind the clock back a few years however for the debate to have been between naturally aspirated and supercharged, and before that, analogue and digital. I could go on but I think it’s already clear that this is a discussion that’s been going on maybe not since the car was invented, but definitely for a long time (assisted steering? who needs that? Naa, the predecessor was definitely the last “real” car they offered!).

I believe to know that most of those reading this blog will have lived through at least the three stages described above, meaning mechanical/analogue vs digital, naturally aspirated vs supercharged, and petrol vs hybrid/EV. I also think that many of you have a preference for the first world in those three categories. Which is why this week, I thought we’d talk about the last “real” Ferrari corresponding to the above brief in the sense of it being (mostly) analogue, very much naturally aspirated, and definitely only running on gasoline! It also happens to be one of my all-time favourites from Maranello one of the most beautiful cars they ever built. As if that wasn’t enough, today it’s even a bit forgotten, and hence bit of a bargain: ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Ferrari F430!

A beautiful, compact and timeless design by Pininfarina

It was in 2004 that the F430 was presented to the world as the F360’s successor and sales started the year after. This was important for Ferrari since the competitors in Sant’ Agata had launched the Lambo Gallardo, a much more powerful car than the F360, in 2003. The nervousness only lasted until 2005 though, as the F430 was a true competitor to the Gallardo. Outside the changes compared to the F360 could be considered as a major facelift, but they were changes that took the already beautiful F360 to the next level. And obviously, not only the looks did so, but very much the powertrain as well!

Most noticeable are of course the Enzo rear lights, knowing the Enzo had been introduced two years before and is obviously the main reason the car was often referred to as “baby Enzo”. There’s other details as well though, notably the side mirrors that are held by thin arms such as not to interrupt the air flow to the air intakes on the rear aisles. On the driver side the mirror cap also has the very cool “F430” inscription. Inside the car, the step-up in quality from the F360 is very clear to see. The F430 is still analogue to the extent that it doesn’t have any screens, but a bit depending on the optional extended leather package, the interior feels very high quality. Some people insist on the optional bucket seats but the standard seats not only look better, they also offer enough hold and more comfort and thus fit most people absolutely fine.

The F430 is a Ferrari that doesn’t need to be red!

If the looks can be considered a facelift rather than a full re-design, there were definitely other quite revulationary news on the mechanical side. The wonderful 4.3 litre V8 was a completely new engine replacing the 3.6 litre one in the F360 that could be traced all the way back to the Dino. Weighing only 4 kgs more than its predecessor but putting out 490 hp that had only around 1300-1400 kgs to carry, not only was its power much higher than the F360 but the torque was also significantly higher at 465 Nm. For about 90% of the 15.000 F430’s built, the engine was associated to an F1 semi-automatic gearbox, with only 10% of cars being manual.

The F430 was the first Ferrari to be equipped with the by now classic “manettino”, located on the steering wheel and allowing you to select the different driving programs. Linked to that, it was also the first Ferrari to have the electronic or e-differential, a limited slip active differential that could vary the torque distribution by taking into account lateral acceleration, steering angle and so on. Brakes came from Brembo and carbon-ceramic breaks were available as an option. All this gave as end result a car that had much better downforce than the F360, better handling, and much more power: a time to 100 km/h under 4 seconds and a top speed of 315 km/h is really all you need still today! When you press the throttle, the exhaust sound is quite simply sublime and of a kind only natural aspiration can produce. Sorry Pavarotti, this is Italian opera at its best!

Coupé or Spider, the interior remains the same but the coupé gives you additional storage behind the seats

Initially the F430 was available as a coupé and in 2005 a convertible/Spider was added to the line-up, obviously allowing you to enjoy the action and the sound to the max, but doing so also sacrificing at least a bit of the beautiful lines. In 2007 the F430 Scuderia came out as the racing version and successor to the F360 Challenge Stradale, taking up the competition with notably the 911 GT2 and the Lambo Gallardo Superleggera. The Scuderia weighs 100 kg less and has a few more hp, but only comes with a semi-automatic gearbox – no manual Scuderias were built. The F430 was replaced by the 458 in 2009, the car that took Ferrari into the modern age.

The F430 is thus not only one of Ferrari’s most beautiful creations and a great sports- or even supercar, it’s also the last, naturally aspirated Ferrari. That makes it special but strangely, that doesn’t seem to be fully appreciated by the market yet. For a “regular” F430, meaning a coupé with the F1 semi-automatic gearbox, prices start around EUR 80-90′. The Spider will be slightly more and cars with manual gearboxes will add 40-50%, a premium hardly worth paying. That’s only slightly more than on one hand the predecessor F360, clearly an inferior car, or the Lamborghini Gallardo which, let’s be honest, looks like it was designed by someone who could only draw boxes and has a VW engine. Given that, the standard F430 is clearly the bargain of the lot!

The Scuderia is more than twice as expensive but it’s also quite an extreme car that is really only interesting if you do track days. It does get even better as although boasting supercar performance, the F430 is generally considered quite reasonable to run. We’re obviously not talking a Toyota Prius here, but certainly not Enzo-level either. So in summary, EUR 100′ will easily get you the last real Ferrari without ruining you on the way. In today’s inflationary world, that’s a true bargain for a car that I’m sure we can all agree on is the last real Ferrari!

The hooligan and the gentleman!

It’s time for an update on my personal garage and the 16 cylinders and some 960 hp in total I have standing there, split between the all-weather family, full-size Range Rover 5.0 SC and the summer and good-weather BMW 650 Xi Convertible. Due to too much work they unfortunately spend a bit too much time in the garage this year, but then again given current prices at the pump, that’s probably all the better… The Beamer has been with me a couple of years by now, the Range for about half a year, and the combination of them has led to something that’s never happened to me before: a lack of urge to buy another car. You’ll tell me I haven’t had them for very long, but that’s not knowing me… Of course I still look and imagine this and that, but I only do so for various, wonderful classic cars. The urge for anything new(er) is no longer there. I guess I’m quite content, probably partly due to age, but partly obviously also to how excellent both cars have been.

I’m very pleased with the 650i which for me at 20% of the price as new is really exceptional value!

As a small reminder, none of the two are new, being production years 2014 (BMW) and 2015 (RR). Both were bought through dealers (as guarantees are very useful…) but had in both cases only had one previous owner who must have had a love affair with their automobiles as both were in mint condition – and of course still are! The BMW has been a summer car all its life and shared a garage with 4-5 other cars at its previous owner’s, making you wonder why he bought the 4-wheel drive version (I would have preferred the rear-wheel drive, but it’s very hard to find one). The Range lived the first part of its life in Ticino in southern Switzerland and was according to the GPS history used in a mix of business trips to Italian cities and skiing trips to the Swiss Alps, two areas where the car excels. That’s by the way a good place to look – most owners don’t bother or forget to empty the GPS when they trade in their car, and it can give you a good indication of what kind of trips it has been used for.

Of a completely different character, the RR is very much master of its game!

The logic behind the 650Xi was to have a convertible that offered enough space both for holidays for two, cabin space for four on the occasions the children are with us, and put a smile on your face when you floor it. It delivers on all three. Room in the back seat isn’t huge (given the total size of the car it’s actually pretty pathetic), but on somewhat longer trips it’s less the room and more the fact that you sit where you sit and cannot easily change position that makes it a bit less comfortable. The boot is all you need both with the roof down but obviously even more so when the top is up, when it’s also by far the most quiet convertible I’ve ever been in. It’s especially impressive how little wind noise there is even at higher speeds. Those higher speeds are a bit too easy to reach with the double-turbo, 450 hp V8, which is a real hooligan that keeps pushing you to do things you shouldn’t. There’s an ever so slight delay before the first turbo kicks in but it’s less than on my old E63, and gear changes are also far more immediate and extremely discrete. The exhaust popping is just magnificent and makes you wonder why anyone would bother with an aftermarket exhaust, which many owners do.

You can improve the legroom in the back and still drive the car when you need to…

If there’s one car I’ve always looked at with desiring eyes through the years, it’s the full-size Range. The Sport is nice and the Velar is trendy, but it’s the big boy that in my eyes has the class and is the real thing. Now I have one in my garage, and it’s so far been absolutely great! The quality of the build and the materials continues to impress, and the Range is the first car that has really made me realize the difference between standard and high-quality leather. The seats are oh so soft to the touch as well as to your butt and you can of course enjoy them in any position you want, with more adjustments than anyone needs. Some people wonder why there are extra armrests on the front seats between the seats and the center armrest, but once you’ve driven it a while you no longer ask why – it’s there since it’s where your arm sits the most comfortably, not 10 cm further away. The whole car is full of such small attentions to detail that I love. Altough being a V8 of similar size and power, the engine couldn’t be more different to the BMW. It’s quick to respond but then a wonder of discretion unless you really misbehave, in which case you’ll hear a discrete roar at most. That also goes for other sounds, of which there are basically none, and the few remaining are easily handled by the 29-loudspeaker Meridian sound system.

No one in the Solihull factory confuses armrests with the center console!

Are the cars perfect? Of course not, but funnily (and I guess this is indeed age-related) what I have remarks on or think could be improved has very little to do with the latest technology. First and foremost, I’d like a bit more configurable driving settings, especially on the BMW, which of course became the case in the years thereafter. Here, it’s still Comfort, Sport or Sport Plus, without individual adjustments. Ventilated seats would also have been useful in a convertible, even if the interior is beige. For the Range, a more direct steering is probably top of the list and I get it in Sport, but then the gear change tries to be sporty as well, which I don’t like. Otherwise it’s really small things here and there.

The BMW generally has better tech than the Range but the latter has more stuff, much of which I don’t use anyway. The auto-parking is great, but so are the gigantic rear view mirrors that tilt down when the car is in reverse and supported by plenty of cameras, it’s really not difficult to park yourself. And so it goes. I certainly don’t need augmented reality on a screen in front of me as long as I can look out the window. I don’t need to talk to my car, and certainly not to wave my arms in strange gesture rather than pressing a button. And the few times I need better navigation than the cars offer, I have a great holder in both for my iPhone. Call me grumpy if you want, but I’d bet you there’s quite a large group of owners out there who don’t know how to use much of what their new car is fitted with…

Is this really what we want?

Before buying the Range I read and heard lots of people, usually not owners, talking about the bad quality and the astronomical fuel consumption. Time will tell for the quality, but how the now seven-year old car feels, and the dealer’s willingness without blinking to extend a two-year full warranty are very reassuring. As for the fuel consumption, I’m still averaging at around 12.5 litres per 100 km – about 1 1/2 litre more than the boring, four-cylinder with 200hp less in my old XC90. That’s well done Land Rover and not so well done Volvo! Of course it wouldn’t be a problem to get that number up to 20 litres, but that’s not the way to drive the car, nor is it what the car encourages you to do. Consumption also increases at (above legal) motorway speeds which is quite normal – unfortunately not even the Range can escape the laws of physics. As for the 650, I actually don’t know and I’ve made a point of not finding out – I don’t want consumption numbers to ruin the fun!

For now, all is thus as it should be down in the family garage and when it’s time for a drive, it’s a wonderful feeling to choose between the cars, knowing that whichever one I take, it will be a special ride. That was really my goal and I hope you have the same feeling, whatever your dream pair is. With the risk of being reminded of writing this at some point in the future, I suspect the BMW and the Range could be the last cars of this type in my garage. What I mean is that is that there’s a clear risk as things stand that in a year’s time we fondly remember the days when oil was “only” $100 a barrel, or that our great political leaders force us down the avenue of electrification, in spite of a lack of rationality, as illustrated last week. Before that happens though, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ve reached “peak screen”, and that over the coming years, we return to more physical switches and buttons. Time will tell, but along with most, I obviously hope for that rather than peak oil!

EV’s will never rule the world

A few months ago, as spring was still losing the fight against the last efforts of winter, I attended a financial conference close to Zurich. That’s one of those events where asset managers meet up with investors to tell them why they are the best option to invest with, in whatever theme they feel is of most interest at the time. Not too long ago, these events still had some diversity to them, as you had the opportunity to speak to a great variety of managers on different strategies. Those days are gone. Today, everything, and I really mean everything, is around ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) and impact. In a way that’s great – I’m absolutely convinced of companies needing to behave like good citizens, both towards their employees and the environment (which is what ESG is about), and if they can report some concrete metrics on that good behaviour (which impact is about), then all the better. What I don’t like is when the discussion gets stupid, because when it does, it also gets counter-productive. In this case, as you probably guessed already, it was about EV’s.

Is everything really green in EV land? Eeh… no.

One of the sessions I chose to attend was with a portfolio manager (PM) who started by presenting his team with their name, role and how they commuted to work. The options were bike, public transport or EV, and when someone asked about conventional cars, she was told that wasn’t allowed on the team. The PM thereafter spent whatever was left of his 20 minutes to talk in extremely broad, non-committing terms about how we were all going to die very soon unless we all invested through him in cool companies such as Tesla and solar panel manufacturers, rather than the terrible old dinosaur industrial companies, to which he gladly also counted traditional car manufacturers who now build EV’s – go figure. To conclude, he then looked at his client relations guy standing next to him and explained how he had convinced him to buy a Tesla, and how happy he was by now. Apparently the colleague wasn’t trusted with saying this himself.

In the context of what was supposed to be a serious, institutional investor conference, this was all a bit too much for me so I put up my hand, congratulated the client relations guy on his new car and said I hope firstly he didn’t have a car before, since replacing it with an EV in most cases and for a very long time will be detrimental to the environment and not positive from a total emission perspective, and secondly that I hope he drives a lot, since he’ll need around 100.000 km’s for his Model S to be “net positive” in total CO2 emissions compared to a conventional car. I added that I’d be interested in knowing where the solar panels of the mentioned company were produced. All this made the PM quite excited, and in a rather arrogant way (how dare you question the wisdom of EV’s??) told me that the 100.000 km number was absolutely not correct and based on “biased research by the petroleum industry”. He never gave a number himself. With regards to solar panels, he had to admit that a large part were still produced in China, but “not in the problematic parts”. Stupid me – I wasn’t aware there were parts in China which are not a Communist dictatorship…

It’s been a year and a half since I published one of my most read posts on EV’s and how they won’t save the climate (catch it here if you missed it). One of the main points in that post was on the “CO2 deficit” of EV’s, i.e. the very large amounts of CO2-emitting energy that goes into their battery production. This fact was validated by a study I learnt of recently, commissioned by VW in 2019 and done by the Austrian Joanneum Research Institute together with the German automobile club ADAC and the excellent German Economics Professor Hans-Werner Sinn.

Given the above, it’s safe to say that almost no EV’s make sense from a CO2 emission perspective.

With apologies for the bad quality (coming from the fact that I took a picture of the screen during a presentation by Prof. Sinn), it’s pretty easy to see why VW didn’t want a lot of publicity around the study’s results and instead chose to bury it in a basement somewhere before it was leaked to the public. You see, the results go against the complete electrification VW and all other car makers in the world are currently embarked on. The diagram is based on the total CO2 emissions of a car, so for an EV including the production of batteries, and the two lines depict on one hand an electric Golf and on the other the same car with a diesel engine. As the graph makes painfully clear, for a country with an electricity mix comparable to Germany and Austria (and there’s quite a few of those), the 100.000 km number the PM claimed was exaggerated is actually quite the opposite when compared to an economical diesel engine. If you go by the yellow vertical line that shows the average lifetime of a car in Germany, the EV simply never catches up.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has laid bare especially Europe’s dependency on Russian energy and is now talked about as something that will accelerate the transition to renewables, which on a global basis still make up less than 2% of the energy mix. This reasoning is often accompanied by statements of how solar panels and wind mills will continue to get cheaper according to a version of Moore’s law (which refers to how the number of transistors doubles every two years whilst prices of computers are cut in half). This is quite simply wrong.

Firstly, the material cost of notably metals that go into the production of all renewables has a worth that will always prevent the cost from going below a certain level. Most of those metals have price-wise been at a historical bottom during the last ten years or so, until very recently. If you combine that with a cost of financing that with interest rates at zero has been as low as it can get but is now moving up, everything points to renewables getting more expensive going forward, not the other way around. To which should then be added further issues such as notably the extraction of required metals from great countries like Russia, China and the Congo, the many tons of cement needed for the basements of wind mills and so on. That’s not good news for anyone, especially since the ESG-movement has been very good at preventing any form of investment in oil, gas, and even nuclear, a non-polluting and non-weather dependent form of energy. That’s obviously where it gets stupid.

Coal is still the world’s largest energy source, and no country has more coal mines (and workers) than China

Some countries have a better energy mix than Germany and Austria and with cleaner energy sources, the EV equation improves. There are also initiatives to recycle battery metals and even replace especially cobalt, and there’s obviously research into steady-state batteries and so on. That’s all great, but it won’t be here tomorrow or even in a few years, and the issue of scale is still huge. Quite simply, we are very far away from having the battery or other storage capacity required for an energy system based on renewables, and such a system would also by definition assume massive over-investment, such as to produce enough energy to store when the wind blows and the sun shines. I don’t know about you, but the more I look at wind and solar power, the more I’m convinced that this is not what our future will be built on. I am however as convinced that we will manage to solve the energy equation such as to reduce emissions, quite simply because human creativity is unbeatable at solving challenges, and emissions is a challenge we need to respond to. But we need to be smart about it.

Stock performance YTD per 9 July. It was more fun investing in EV’s last year… Volvo Cars is included as owner of Polestar.

We all suffer at the pump these days and as previously said, things won’t get better anytime soon (rather the contrary if you consider that China has basically been in lock down, i.e. not consuming a lot of anything, in the last months, but is now opening up). I fully understand if you choose to buy an EV, especially if you can produce your own energy through solar panels (preferrably not from China) or otherwise, but please don’t tell your friends how you are helping save the environment by doing so, because in most aspects, you’re not. For those without their own electricity production, unfortunately it can be expected that electricity prices move up as well. It seems the market is starting to realize that as well, as illustrated by the stock price performance of EV’s this year, as illustrated above. I haven’t checked on the recent performance of the funds managed by the PM I met at that conference but looking at the table, I think I have a pretty good idea!

The best dream car in the world!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often wondered what goes on in the boardrooms of car manufacturers when the decision on what to call a new model is taken. Without getting into the many, less successful names or number combinations we’ve seen over the years, I rather wonder if it’s decided beforehand that numbers will be used, or if it starts by trying to find a name and when you don’t, you then resort to a number combination? In the case of Ferrari back in the 60’s, there’s no question though that numbers ruled, each with a meaning but often so close to each other that separating the cars became rather difficult. Such was the case of the Ferrari 365 GTB4, and that’s probably the reason why the world decided to call it something way more appealing: Daytona!

Shark-like nose with the original 5-spoke wheels

It’s special for me writing about the Daytona, since in the unlikely case I will ever be able to start my dream car collection, the Daytona will be first in line. I’ve always loved the car for its looks, its construction and of course, its fabulous engine. As someone who grew up in the 80’s and who didn’t miss a single episode of “Miami Vice” and found Don Johnson very cool, of course it didn’t hurt that a Daytona Spider (or as we learned, at least a replica on a Corvette C3 chassis) was featured. But I would have loved the Daytona even without Miami Vice, and we’ll see if I succeed in conveying some of that love to you in this week’s post!

Starting with getting the story of the name out of the way, Daytona comes from the fact that Ferrari finished first, second and third in the prototype class of the 24 hours of Daytona in 1967, the year before the car was launched. The official name was however always 365 GTB4 (alternatively GTS for the Spider), and it was the successor of the 275 GTB4 and the predecessor of the 365 GT/4 Berlinetta Boxer. 365 refers to the volume of each cylinder and 4 comes from the two twin cams on top of the two cylinder banks of the V12 engine to which we’ll come back later. The Daytona is also interesting since it was the last V12 Ferrari presented before Fiat took a 40% ownership of Ferrari, and also the last, new 12-cylinder Ferrari sold (officially) in the US until the Testarossa (another great name!) 15 years later, due to the increasing regulatory and legislative costs that weighted heavily especially on low-volume manufacturers. The car was presented to the world at the Paris auto salon in 1968.

The GTB has more harmonious lines than the GTS

The Daytona was designed by Leonardo Fioravanti at Pininfarina, who would later also design the 280 GTO and F40, and the car was put together by Scaglietti, the famous Italian coach builder and a long term Ferrari partner. The design is a clear break with earlier Ferraris, looking much more modern with the shark-like, sweeping nose, the set-back cabin and the rather abrupt tail. Until 1971, around 400 Daytonas were built with their headlights behind plexiglass, but it was again the US authorities that put an end to this by forbidding headlights behind double glasses. Later Daytonas were instead equipped with pop-up headlights. The GTS was introduced in 1969 and became very popular especially in the US. It’s identical from the waistline and down to the Berlinetta and only 10% of Daytonas built were Spiders, but the popularity led to many GTB’s having their roof cut and thus being transformed to “inofficial” GTS’s. That’s a crime comparable to many bad things I can think of… Needless to say, should you be lucky enough to be in the market for a GTS, you’ll want to make sure you know its history and hence that it’s a genuine one!

A beautiful – here restored – interior!

On the inside, it’s all you can expect from a plush, Italian GT from the era. Early Daytonas had a Momo wood steering wheel which was however replaced by a leather version on later versions (a bit unclear from when), said to give more grip especially at low speeds, since the Daytona’s perhaps biggest drawback often cited is its heavy steering. The shifter is in perfect reach on the high center console and is linked to the rear-mounted 5-speed manual box, a transaxle construction that gave the car a very good balance. It’s a lovely, plush space that at least some experts claim is of higher quality than for example Lambo interiors from the same period. Obviously the Daytona is a two-seater, however offering some space for your Ferrari leather bags right behind the seats as well.

The heart of the car is of course the fabulous longitudinal, 60-degree angled, 4.4 litre V12, developing a claimed 352 hp and 431 Nm of torque, enough to give the Daytona a top speed of 280 km/h as it weighed in at around 1600 kg dry. The engine wasn’t new but rather derived from its predecessor, the 275, but its capacity was increased and it was fitted with six Weber carburettors. The sound that comes out of that construction is, as you would suspect, nothing but glorious, and increasingly so as the revs climb. The 365 is perhaps slightly less economical than a Prius, so it’s very helpful that Ferrari fitted a truly huge, 128-litre tank. That should be enough for at least a couple of hours, at which point you should anyway stretch your legs, so you may just as well fill up at the same time.

One of the best V12’s in all its beauty!

The Daytona was built until 1973 when as mentioned, it was replaced by the 365 GT/4. The production time was actually quite long for the type of car at the time, and in total 1284 cars were built. Of these about 400 as mentioned have the original, plexiglass nose. Also as mentioned, about 120 were (original!) Spiders. Today original cars are all immensely valuable but should you be lucky enough to have the choice, I would go with a plexiglass GTB, as this is the original design as intended by Fioravanti. I’d also be very happy to use the muscles a bit, gripping that wonderful, wooden Momo steering wheel. Colour-wise most cars are red but there’s also quite a few in black, blue and in other colours, including 13 cars in a brown metallic officially called “marone metallisato”, which paired with the beige leather interior look absolutely sensational. Chances of finding one of these are… slim, and finding a Daytona in any shape or form today is hard and expensive, with prices having risen quite dramatically to somewhere around USD/EUR 700′-900′ for good cars.

A later car with pop-up headlights – almost, but not quite as beautiful!

I’m not a believer in miracles and unless one happens, I’ll never park a Daytona in my garage. Then again as we all know, when you realize something you’ve long dreamt about, reality can be a bit… disappointing. So perhaps the Daytona is actually best left as an object of desire. Because as I dream of it, the sun shines all the way down to the French Riviera along the Route Napoléon. The roads are empty, no one has come up with speed limits or invented speed cameras. In the dream I also look surprisingly good and much younger, perhaps with a slight resemblance to Don Johnson (it goes without saying that my wife next to me just looks as good as always!). We stop at a small bistro and enjoy a lunch with a bit of rosé, that in no way affects my driving skills. Of course the Daytona runs like a dream, with the carburettor-powered V12 sound filling our ears as the kilometres run by. I guess I’ll keep on dreaming, and to me, the Daytona is without a doubt the best dream car in the world!

Colourful car considerations…

This week is about something every car has and is plain for everyone to see – the paint. Not very exciting you’ll tell me. Far more than you think is my answer! Car paint has far more nuances (pun very intended) than you think, be it between different types and different colours, but also between different manufacturers. The reason I came to think of it was that I recently saw a G63 (yet again…) in solid green – i.e. not metallic. This made me think of a whole lot of other recent cars from mostly German brands that also have solid colours,. Exploring what seems to be a new trend at least for exclusive cars revealed the whole world of car paint to me so for this week, here you go: the definite guide to everything you ever wanted to know (or not) about car paint.

The 70’s were generally more colourful (in solid paint) than today!

Putting some order in the car paint universe reveals that there are four base types of car paint:

  • Solid is to most of us the white, black or red we grew up with before metallics became popular. There were plenty of solids in the 70’s (including colours such as orange, yellow and bright green which today make a comeback), a few less in the 80’s and a decreasing number ever since, until recently. For most “standard” cars the only solid colours available, and thereby the only ones without an additional cost, are white or black. The big advantage with solids is that scratches or other types of damage are easier and cheaper to fix than for other types.
  • Metallic is what most modern cars have. The name comes from the production process where varying degrees (size and amount) of small metal particles are mixed into the paint, meaning some metallic colours will sparkle more than others. Metallic paints have a higher production cost than solids, explaining why they’re a (paying) option. Their big advantage is that they also have a deeper shine, and that small scratches are less visible. Large scratches are however more expensive and laborious to fix.
  • Pearlescent or mica paint is basically the same as metallic, but with ceramic instead of metal particles. This allows for a great variety of reflections and can make the paint look even more more exclusive than metallic. The downside, you guessed it, is again that it’s even more complicated to fix any damage.
  • Finally matte finishes have become popular in the last 10 years or so, but seem to have lost a bit of their appeal recently. To some they look cool, others hate them. Mostly matte cars come in black or grey, and it’s something manufacturers usually only offer for some top models given the application is even more complex than for metallic or mica paints. Also, the level of matte can vary from very matte to less so. Fixing damages is a nightmare.
Mica colours have great depth and reflections

That’s the basics of car paint but far from the whole story. If we start by looking at paint quality, there’s of course a big difference between a modern car manufacturer where it can be assumed that they know how to paint a car properly (you hear that, Tesla?) and where qulity therefore refers mainly to thickness of the paint, i.e. the number of paint coats applied. For classic cars, it’s a completely different and more complex story that’s probably worth a post on its own, so for now we’ll stick to our everyday cars. .

Some of you will know that I have a Range Rover and a BMW 650i in my garage, both 6-7 years old with quite a few km’s on them, and both without a single scratch mark in the paint. This was a very different story with the XC90 that preceeded the Range and the paint of which was extremely sensitive, i.e. thin, with the smallest touch leaving a mark. My wife drives a Mini and had her rear bumper repainted a while ago. Less than six months later, it looks like the old one with mini scratches, although she’s super careful. This is in other words an area where manufacturers can save money, and at least some of them do. If you ever wondered why the metallic paint costs less on a Dacia than on a BMW, here’s the answer (and yes, there may be small “brand premium” added to the price as well…). As a rule of thumb, more expensive cars will of course tend to have more better, meaning thicker and more resistant paint.

“Grigio Telesio” definitely puts your Aventador in a different league!

Coming back to the solids, you’ve probably also seen that there is a greater variety of them, especially for high-end models, not only the G63 but also for example on Audi RS’s, M5’s etc. There’s no real logic here however, with manufacturers choosing to make a greater variety of colours available for certain, but not all top models. For those where it’s the case, this then sounds like a good option to save some money on a car that is already expensive enough, also since there are really nice solids now. Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it works. Taking Mercedes as example, it’s still only black and white that are non-paying solids. All the other solid colours (and there’s quite a few available on the top models) go under the label “G Manufaktur”, which in this part of Europe means they cost an optional CHF/USD 5.000, roughly three times more than a “standard” metallic paint.

This sounded a bit outrageous so I called the Mercedes garage around the corner and asked for an explanation. They then told me that the “G Manufaktur” line has much more layers than a conventional solid, is produced in a whole different process and hereby offers both a deeper shine and more resistance. The same obviously goes for other manufacturers as well and explains the quite hefty extra 3.000-5.000 you to pay for them. Some will also offer the ceramic mica colours described above, which will also tend to be more expensive than metallic colours. That in turn explains why these are usually only available for the most expensive models. It’s obviously up to everyone whether it’s worth the money, but unless you’re part of the car-cleaning tribe and keep your automobile nice and shiny, you’re not going to enjoy the benefits.

In summary, there aren’t really any surprises – you get what you pay for, and the more expensive your car is, the more types and colour options you will typically have. A couple of points are however worth remembering. Firstly, the mica green that may look awfully cool right now may be less so in a couple of years. As mentioned we’ve been in a trend of matte colours the last years, but it seems to be fading and it’s uncertain how well it will stand the test of time. If resale value is of any concern to you, make sure you choose a colour that isn’t one you (and everyone else) will be tired of next year. As a rule of thumb, grey and black metallic are the colours which typically command the highest resale values. Silver will work as well, and for some cars, red and white. That nice, solid, multi-layered green however, will probably have far less candidates than the standard black or grey metallic, which from this perspective are the safest bets.

Foiling can be in metallic as well – the Chinese love gold apparently.

Before matte colours were widely available, cars tended to be foiled in matte. This is a nice alternative if you’re unsure about your colour or if you want one that is less standard, given the foiling can be removed at any time and thus has the additional benefit of protecting the paint benath it. It’s the same story here, you get what you pay for, but I dare say that if you consider a solid colour in the price range of 3.000-5.000, a really good foiling is a clear alternative. Today foiling can be done in any colour and type you can imagine, and the price will usually depend on the size of your car. So if you’ve always dreamed of a gold 911, this is probably the best alternative. As for me, I’m continuing to dream of the first car paint that is resistant to dirt – that would be a true revolution!

The land of rising rev’s!

Japanese cars aren’t featured all too often on this blog, mainly because if you’re not a true fan of a wing-clad hot hatches of different kinds (as I’m not), there really hasn’t been that much to write about from Japan in the last years – or actually, make that decades. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule of Japanese cars being very high quality, but also very clinical and rather impersonal. The most obvious ones are certainly the beautiful and today very sought after first version of the Honda NSX, and of course the Mazda Miata, the world’s most sold sports car ever and which has been a true source of enjoyment in the classical roadster sense for now more than 30 years. And then, there is the far less sold and thus also less well-known direct competitor to the Miata that we’ll look at today – the Honda S2000. Because if naturally aspirated four-cylinder engines that can be revved until eternity is your thing, then there’s really no better car out there!

It may not look like it will rev to 9000 rpm but trust me, it will!

The S2000 was introduced in 1999 at the Geneva Autosalon and it was a rather successful start since the car was straight away elected Convertible of the Year, but this was still ten years after the Miata had been launched, so clearly Honda were late to the party. The S2000 would subsequently be built during ten years in the NSX factory in Japan to a total of around 110.000 cars which really represent Japanese car making at its finest. Honda’s ambition was clearly to tap into the successful roadster market especially in the US but also in Europe, in presenting a car that corresponded to the traditional roadster brief, combining low weight (in the case of the S2000, around 1300 kgs) with rear-wheel drive, and exploited so successfully by the Mazda Miata. To the difference of the latter though, it did so with an engine that had much more power and may well be the finest four-cylinder engine ever built.

Before we get to the engine, if we look at the car itself, there’s, really not that much to say. It looks good, in my eyes less “cute” than a Miata and more purposeful. Optical changes during the 10 years of production were if not far between then at least few, so all S2000’s look rather the same, making the year of production less important (one mechanical exception being the throttle by wire system, that was featured on US cars and on European cars from 2006, with many enthusiasts preferring the wire system on earlier cars. Moving to the interior, as so often, there’s no points awarded for design or creativity, but on the other hand it’s a no-frills, purposeful interior that works as you would expect it to. It is very digital though, in a very early 00’s way. All in all it’s a package that has stood the test of time really well, or put differently, that you could easily update to something that wouldn’t look old at all.

More purposeful, but still with similarities to the Miata.

So what about that engine? As mentioned, all European cars were equipped with a 2-litre, naturally aspirated four-cylinder putting out 241 hp at 8300 rpm, and where the limiter only kicked in at 9000 rpm (a larger 2.2 litre engine was fitted to US cars from 2004 but didn’t give more power). Those are pretty extreme values for any car engine, especially when you consider that it was also efficient enough to be categorized as Ultra Low Emission in California at the time, and also to produce exactly the same power when run on everything from 92 to 98 octanes. The engine gave the S2000 a top speed of 240 km/h and a time of 6.2 seconds to 100 km/h, but what it didn’t give it was much torque. As you would guess, the high revs come at the expense of torque and with only 208 Nm at (also quite high) 7500 rpm, it really is simple: you need to rev the car close to the limit to get to the full power, but what a pleasure it is to do so! If you don’t want to take my word for it, the 2-litre engine actually won the international Engine of the Year award in its category five years in a row, between 2000 and 2004!

Except for a somewhat high seating position, the S2000 is really enjoyable to drive. It was criticized in the first years for its unpredictable rear end, and an ESP therefore became available in 2006. The balance is superb, helped by the engine being front-center mounted, sitting behind the front axle. Even though it’s a roadster, the car is very rigid with typically few cracks of any kind. It also usually has few problems of any kind as long as it’s been properly looked after. Therein lies a bit of the issue as the S2000 is popular in the tuning scene, with everything from sports exhausts sounding great to paint jobs and spoilers looking less great being very frequent. They don’t all look like the S2000 featured in “Fast & Furious” but as always, it’s the original cars that preserve their value best.

Given there aren’t many features, there’s not much that can go out of style!

Speaking of value, S2000’s aren’t cheap, holding their value really well given they have a loyal following and are clearly well appreciated by a perhaps increasing group of owners. Given the fundamental solidity of the car, chasing low-mileage cars isn’t really necessary, but these tend to be around EUR 35-40′ with higher-mileage ones starting at around EUR 10′ less, i.e. around EUR 25′. The very limited CR (Club Racer) racing version of which only 699 were ever built, and which is basically a harder version of the original, but without any speed advantage, cost way more than EUR 100′ these days – if you can find one.

If you’re a fan of the classical roadster concept but not of mechanical failures and quality issues, if you love naturally-aspirated engines with a heavy right foot that likes revs, and if you think the driving experience is everything and you’re not bothered by black interior plastic, then you really can’t go wrong with an S2000, and you can also expect values to stay stable with upwards potential. This is also since Honda has never gotten round to produce a successor to the car. It is now rumoured again that one may come for 2023, but it’s too early to tell whether it’s more than just rumours. Until then, why not enjoy the original and to paraphrase a classic, keep on revving in the free world!