The AMG story – from Grossaspach to Stuttgart!

In my overview of something we could call “Germany’s leading automobile improvers”, regular readers know that over the last weeks I’ve written about Ruf and Alpina, the boutique manufacturers specialized in Porsche and BMW respectively (you’ll note that I’m avoiding the word “tuner” lhere, since it doesn’t even come close to describing what these formidable companies do!). The overview would however not be complete if it didn’t include the three legendary letters A, M and G, i.e. the Mercedes-focused racing- and sports car specialist AMG. The story is a bit different than Ruf and Alpina’s given AMG has been part of Mercedes for many years, but it is nonetheless an interesting one, so let’s look into it this week and then at the end also spend a few lines thinking about the dilution the value of a brand, something I will cover from another, but no less interesting angle next week.

Back in the 60’s, Hans-Werner Aufrecht (the A) and Erhard Melcher (the M) were good friends and engine builders at Mercedes-Benz, with a special love for racing. Aufrecht lived in the small town of Grossaspach (the G), which according to Google has one restaurant and one hotel and is located around half an hour north of Mercedes’s home in Stuttgart. Going about their daily jobs, they noticed that the Bavarian competitor BMW not only built more performance-oriented cars themselves, but also worked with external companies (yep, Alpina), offering even more refined and powerful cars. BMW’s client demand on one hand and racing success on the other wasn’t lost on the two MB engineers who therefore started to develop a racing engine in their spare time. The work became increasingly intense but also increasingly interesting so that in 1967 they handed in their resignation at Mercedes and set up their new company AMG. They converted Aufrecht’s basement to the firm’s headquarters, and the future garage came soon after in the form of an old wind mill in Grossaspach.

AMG’s first factory in Grossaspach – how things have changed since!

Aufrecht and Melcher had started working on a racing engine for the 300 SE in their last years at Mercedes, a car they were especially fond of. Once AMG was up and running the pair quickly found a damaged 300 SE that they bought for a few thousand D-Marks and then used as basis for the Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.8-litre AMG they would start racing with in 1970. In spite of their mechanical knowledge and extensive modifications it didn’t go very well in the beginning (not very surprising you’ll tell me given the size and weight of the SE) but given failure wasn’t an option, they kept at it and finally saw the turning point at Spa-Francorchamps in 1971. AMG finished second in the championship and all the hard work finally paid off. Word of the success spread quickly and AMG’s operations grew throughout the 70’s, as did the racing success. The multiple wins through the 70’s and 80’s are too extensive to mention, but to give an example of AMG’s dominance, the DTM 1988 series saw them win all ten races, with their two cars finishing in first and second position in six out of the ten!

The DTM series in 1988, here in Eiffel, was completely dominated by AMG-MB’s.

Outside of racing AMG initially mostly tuned Mercedes engines in both power output and torque, but soon clients also contacted them for more individually customized vehicles, and the company was happy to comply. Experience from the race track was systematically applied to the “standard” cars, and word of AMG as THE Mercedes tuner started to spread. The wind mill in Grossaspach was by now far too small and the company moved to Affalterbach, a few kilometres away, where they are still located to this day. In 1990 the company signed a first collaboration agreement with Mercedes which also included selling AMG cars through the MB dealership network. Shortly thereafter plans were also drawn up for what was to be the entry on the US market in 1995.

The 300 SEL 6.8-litre AMG, the company’s first, and still most famous car

Listing all the AMG’s that have been built through the years would make a very long post, since quite often, the same model was equipped with different engines. The 300 SEL 6.8-litre is probably the most well known, with the so called “Hammer”, a W124 E-class with a 5.8 litre V8 not far behind. But there’s also less well-known cars in the line-up, a few examples of which you’ll find below:

  • The C-class has been an AMG favourite, and notably the US market entry started with the six-cylinder C36 AMG. Far more exciting and only distinguishable through the front grille was the C55 with a V8 engine producing 347 hp. These are still a good deal by the way, being somewhat forgotten by the market.
  • In 1992 you could buy the six-cylinder, 234 hp 190 3.2 AMG. That was almost exactly the same power output as the 190 EVO II, however with far less drama and wings. It won’t be easy to track one down, but if you manage to do so it will no doubt be far less expensive than an Evo!
  • The CLK GTR of which only 25 were built is perhaps not that unknown, but all the more remarkable since AMG developed it in less than 6 months and Bernd Schneider won the inaugural FIA GT Champ title with it in 1997. Other CLK versions were also produced by AMG for the German DTM series during many years.
  • A more modern exotic is the family van R63 AMG, the top version of the not very successful R-range, where more than 500 hp from the 6.2 litre V8 took seven passengers and their luggage to 100 km/h in less than 5 seconds. Again, not many were built so finding one won’t be easy but if you do, that’s probably the most practical dark horse you can find for the school run to this day!

I could go on, but the major difference to somewhat comparable companies such as Ruf and Alpina is obvious – AMG has always been about quantity to a certain extent. The company has wanted to do everything for everyone, from cosmetics to diesels to petrol engines, and obviously also a lot for other manufacturers, going all the way from Pagani to Mitsubishi. The proliferation has therefore always been large, which is also reflected in prices. The small series and rare cars are pricey, those produced in large numbers far less so. They are however also far less exclusive.

The dilution only intensified when Mercedes took over the majority of AMG in 1999 and to a large extent coincides with Tobias Moers time as CEO, before he last year moved on to Aston Martin. Looking quickly at the current Mercedes line-up in Switzerland, there are a total of 22 models carrying the AMG brand from the factory, and in addition AMG styling packages that can be ordered to even more models. Engines called AMG go from four to eight cylinders but if you look closer into the range, you quickly realize that the “true” AMG cars in the line-up are far fewer. This smaller range is where the philosophy of “one man one engine” is still being followed, with engines being hand built and signed by their builder. This is also the range that can be said to be somewhat comparable to the Rufs and Alpinas of this world. The remaining offer is basically re-branded Mercedes products, and I can’t help thinking that even if it may make business sense, it diminishes the brand value to a point where true enthusiasts may start to look elsewhere.

True – and great – AMG’s are still being built!

Aufrecht and Melcher are both alive and well to this day. Melcher is 78 and still involved with AMG, but Aufrecht, who is the same age and who sold out all of his shares in AMG by 2005, had then already founded the racing specialist HWA (he’s obviously a fan of naming companies by initials) in 1998, where he is active to this day. The company called AMG which started in a wind mill in the 60’s is thus not really around anymore, but Aufrecht and Melcher no doubt took it a long way with impressive achievements through the years, both in serial cars but even more on the race track!

SpecialCars Invest – the Danish supercar fund!

There is a new investment option out there for car enthusiasts, and would you believe it, it comes from Denmark. If you’ve visited the small kingdom between Sweden and Germany, you’ll know that both the country and its people are lovely, but notably because of a tax system that seems to be built around the idea that it’s good that people drive around in old, crappy cars, it hasn’t really been the home of many exciting car projects. Things are however changing and will continue to do so, at least if you speak to Theis Gerner Stanek, founder of SpecialistCars up in Copenhagen. Theis runs a new fund specializing on super- and hypercars, the SpecialCars Invest Fund, and I recently caught up with him on a Zoom call to hear a bit more about the whole project!

Theis makes your supercar dreams come true!

As you would expect, and as quickly became clear in our conversation, Theis is a car guy through and through. He says that he’s liked cars since a young age and has been importing cars to Denmark for 25 years. With an Austrian father and speaking German fluently, Germany became a natural place to go initially, and has remained so to this day. Theis’s first import as an 18-year old was his first own car, a Golf VR6, and for the last 15 years he has made his hobby into a more solid business, importing cars and selling them in a leasing package, something that makes the Danish taxes a bit less penalizing. He currently has around 500 cars on leasing for clients in Denmark, many of whom are high-net-worth individuals, for whom he’s also imported more special cars over the years. And it’s here somewhere that the idea for a fund was born, notably when Theis imported an MB SLS Black Series eight years ago, paying EUR 330.000 at the time, knowing it’s today worth more than twice that. That kind of value appreciation is preserved a small number of cars, and it’s these that Theis and the SpecialCars Invest Fund target. It’s obviously also part of the general value increase we have seen over the last decade in many kinds of real assets, and that Theis doesn’t see an end to, as least not with regards to supercars.

The SLS Black Series has shown great value appreciation!

The fund has a focus on new super- and hypercars, not older than 6-7 years (but having in such cases not been really driven). 90% of cars come from Theis’s network in Germany, with some additionally being sourced from places like Monaco. A couple of weeks before my call with Theis, he had been to Germany to pick up a Bugatti Chiron Sport, and shortly before that, he secured Denmark’s first McLaren 765LT. He currently also owns a Zagato Shooting Break, a Pagani Huayra Roadster BC (with rights secured to buy Pagani’s upcoming model) and has secured a contract for an Aston Martin Valhalla. We are in other words firmly in hypercar territory, with the exclusivity and small series of the objects being the most solid indication of an expected price increase. Having said that, you don’t just go out and buy a Valhalla without good contacts, and it’s these that Theis has been cultivating over the last 15 years of car trading. He is in the right circles and he gets the right invitations. There are however also periods when fewer hypercars hit the market, as the deal flow in this segment isn’t constant, hence my question to Theis why he doesn’t include oldtimers and vintage cars as well. His answer is very honest, saying that given the long and sometimes complicated history most classic cars have, he simply doesn’t have the required expertise.

You don’t see a Chiron Sport every day, not just in Denmark!

Every car that is added to the fund will be so with a pre-planned length of ownership, from a few months to a few years, something that can obviously change along the way. During the time the cars are owned by the fund, they are stored in Denmark in secured facilities and are taken care of as is required. Investors also have the possibility to visit the facilities and see the cars. When the time comes to sell, Theis has a strong wish for the cars to remain in Europe, as that’s where he’s bought them from, and will thus look primarily for European buyers.

The cars are bought by the fund in a format of several vintages, i.e. a “sub-fund” will be started and closed at an indicative size of 10-20m, and the money will be invested before the next fund is opened. The entry value of the car into the fund is always the first price listing of the car, and the fund itself is set up as a Danish Alternative Investment Fund, which cannot be marketed outside of Denmark, but remains fully investable for non-Danes. As for the expected performance, every car will not perform as the Black Series mentioned above, but Theis and his fund management company give investors a performance target of 8-10% net p.a. Having said that, you should have a long horizon given firstly the illiquidity of the market, secondly the fact that the funds are closed-end with a legal term of 10 years, although the aim is for a somewhat shorter fund life.

Pagani is a favourite brand of Theis’s, who speaks of Horacio’s cars as “works of art”

A few days after our chat, Theis was able to go public with the information that his company SpecialCars has been purchased by Selected Car Leasing, one of the largest car leasing groups in Denmark, and will take on its name going forward. Theis, who has built a business from scratch during the last ten years, says he finds it great to be part of a larger group with the resources that brings. For investors, it will be most interesting that Selected Cars is owned by Danish billionaire Torben Østergaard-Nielsen, an equally large car enthusiast and someone who will no doubt bring both contacts and clients to the SpecialCars Invest Fund!

I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Theis and the team lots of luck in this new adventure, which given his network and focus, I believe he has a very good chance in being successful with. Should you wish to find out more about the fund or be interested in coming in contact with Theis, do let me know in the comments below.

Filippo Pignatti – CEO of The Classic Car Fund

I meet up with Filippo Pignatti in a former Porsche dealership on the outskirts of Zurich that he, together with two other petrol heads, has transformed into a spectacular car IMG_1720showroom with exactly the right pit lane smell, featuring a selection of the cars in The Classic Car Fund (TCCF). This is also the HQ of the TCCF and where Filippo has his office. Italian and from Modena (where else?) by birth, he is a true European nowadays based in Switzerland where next to running a family office business he set up the TCCF five years ago, driven both by a passion for cars and for uncorrelated assets.

As Filippo tells me over an excellent espresso in the pit bar that is one part of the showroom, and as most readers of this blog know, well selected classic cars have provided better returns to investors over the last decade than most traditional and alternative assetIMG_1719 classes, including things such as art, wines and gold. This is partly driven by the falling interest rates since the financial crisis, but also by baby boomers becoming solvent and realizing their childhood dreams and emerging market buyers that were not there a decade ago. “The Chinese have so far only been able to own classic cars abroad,” Filippo explains, “but that is about to change and that will create even greater demand in the future”.

The philosophy of the The Classic Car Fund is simple; buy well-selected cars at attractive prices following a thorough evaluation by an independent expert, and sell them later at a profit. The fund is not focused on any specific make or production year, but the emphasis is clearly on sports cars from various periods, especially Italian and quite a few of them from Filippo’s home city Modena. Holding periods vary vastly but the fund does not fall in love with its investments. Some cars have enabled the fund to realize a healthy double-digit profit in as little as three months, others will remain in the fund for up to a few years.

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An MG K3 Magnette 1933, owned by the fund for 19 months and then sold at a net profit of 25.3%

As always it is easy to be clever with hindsight and arguably you could have bought most Ferraris from the 90’s and earlier in these last years and realized a good profit. But it’s not just about finding the right model. “It has to be the right car”, Filippo explains, citing factors such as early production years, small, limited series, or, slightly surprisingly, famous previous owners. This last point explains two satellite positions in the fund’s current portfolio, a Maserati Quattroporte once owned by Elton John, and a fully-loaded and personalized Range Rover Sport initially ordered by David Beckham. “Obviously buying a famous person’s car brings an additional risk”, says Filippo and hints at the person’s reputation. “Should it come out tomorrow that David Beckham was doped through his whole career, that would not necessarily be good for the value of the fund”. Luckily though, the risks of that happening seem relatively small.

Next to selecting the right cars, the additional challenges of a car fund are the same as with a private car collection, most notably that you need a place to store them that is not only dry and warm but that also allows for regular exercising to avoid the cars being damaged from being immobilized. The TCCF stores its cars in various locations in IMG_1722Switzerland and Italy, and employs mechanics to keep them in shape. Two additional features of the fund further strengthens the link with private collections: subscriptions are permitted in kind, meaning that you can buy into the fund through a car or a car collection, following an evaluation by an independent expert. Ownership passes to the fund but the original owner receives a buyback guarantee at the same price up to two years from the point of purchase. Also, and perhaps of more interest for most, against a small fee, fund investors may borrow and drive the cars in the fund over a day or a weekend. Filippo smiles and says “take the Testarossa in the showroom down to St. Moritz over a weekend. If anyone asks you can truthfully say it’s your car, as it is part of the fund you are an owner of”.

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A beautiful Fiat Touring Aerodinamica 1939, owned by the Fund for 7 months and then sold for a net profit of 8.3%

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Filippo Pignatti, CEO and fund manager of The Classic Car Fund

In Filippo’s eyes, the tangible nature of the assets in the fund as one of its best guarantees of future value. “If something goes bad or the market turns completely, we can always sell the cars, making sure you do at least get part of your investment back”. He is also the firstto say that this is not something for the core of your portfolio but rather a satellite position. In terms of the current market he does not see any dramatic changes but some signs that it is becoming more selective, meaning greater expertise and competence will be required going forward. He also sees a breaking point relating to the electronic age: “the Testarossa, or Culo largo (large ass) as we call it in Italian, is a mechanical car. the LaFerrari is very complex electronically, which does not necessarily bode well for future values as it gets increasingly old and fragile”.

The Classic Car Fund has been running since 2012 and has provided investors with net returns of 7% on average p.a. after fees without any negative years (as per April, 2016). It shows no correlation to traditional assets and could thus be an interesting addition to a diversified investment portfolio. At its core though, it is really about the passion for cars. Before we shake hands and part, Filippo concludes with some very sensible words. “I always tell people that if you buy a classical car, do so because it is a car you like and that you like driving. After all, that is really what these cars are for”.

For further information on The Classic Car Fund you are welcome to contact me over the blog.

Spain to Scotland and back in a week – Days 3 and 4

Part 2 of Spain to Scotland electric vehicle trip with Tesla Model S – (reblogged)

Drive & Dream

It was nearly 6pm when we left Portsmouth. Three hours later than planned, but we had a full battery and only 250kms to go.

How did we choose our next stop when we’ve never driven an EV in the UK before?

The way we plan trips is partly based on where we want to go and partly on the overnight charge options available. Overnight charging is key because the car is stopped anyway.

In the UK there are a growing number of motorway services with 22kW charge points (Ecotricity have set up many) but sleeping in a UK motorway service stop is not high on my list of things to do.

One day hotels.com will have a filter option for hotels with charge points but the only resource I know of now is the excellent zerocarbonworld.org site. They have helped many UK hotels install 7kW outlets, which is the bare…

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The first two days – Madrid to the South of England

Very interesting article describing a trip from Madrid to Scotland in an electric Tesla Model S! To be continued…

Drive & Dream

So, the whole point of Drive & Dream is to make electric car touring as easy and pleasant as possible, in order that people can overcome their worries and start buying electrics by the million.

This means that we are always doing something for the first time, because after that it’s easy.

On this trip we were to try the first long (24h) ferry crossing with on board recharging. All the rest, I thought, was just routine. Ah, how innocent. 🙂

If you recall, back in September we did the first Tilburg to Southern Europe trip. Then, it was a challenge just to locate and book a hotel or lunch stop with a reasonable (7kW+) charge point. We drove down through Belgium and France to home in a weekend and on the way confirmed places like the Parador in Lerma as great places to stop.

So on this trip day…

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Ferrari California T – World Première – the turbo is back!

I had the privilege to attend the world première of the new Ferrari California T at the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari in Modena in February.

Ferrari California T

The front is all new and inspired by the Ferrari F12 and FF. It is much sportier and I have to say it looks much better than the original California (which I had the privilege to own). The back of the car, exhausts, diffuser etc. also looks better and sportier. The shape of its flanks is inspired by the classic Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa; not bad at all… It also has some resemblance to the beautiful (moderon) Alfa Romeo 8C.

Ferrari California T

Ferrari California T

The rear has been improved and is now lower and better looking.

The interior has been overhauled as well and is more in line with the other Ferrari models (458, FF and F12). The seats are thinner and thus provide more space in the back.

Technical highlights
The big news is the use of a turbocharger in a Ferrari. The last Ferrari with at turbo was the Ferrari F40, more than 20 years ago!

The specs are amazing; remember this is the “entry-level” Ferrari… (original California in brackets):

  • Power: 560 HP (460 HP)
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 3.6 s (3.9 s)
  • Top speed 316 km/h (310 km/h)

Power is really up. To put this into perspective: it has 10 HP less than the 458, more power than any Lamborghini Diablo, only 20 HP less than the original Lamborghini Murcielago or 45 HP more than the Ferrari 575M V12.

Ferrari states, with a lot of emphasis, that there is no turbo lag and that the California T sounds like a proper Ferrari. Let’s wait and see…

Summarising it looks better and more athletic than the original California and it has the power to match it.

For those he want the tech details; the presentation:

Geneva Motor Show 2014 – report

Thanks to a last minute reschedule of flights I was able to make it to the Geneva Motor Show this year. I was only able to spend about an hour visiting the Motor Show, so what follows is a short summary with a somewhat limited photo gallery (taken with my iPhone).

Porsche
The Porsche 991 Targa is as beautiful in the flesh as in the pictures and I was lucky enough to see the roof mechanism in action. Amazing…

There were a couple of Macans in the stand, but both where in an awful dark brown metallic colour. The car looks good though, better than it’s bigger brother the Cayenne and better than the Audi Q5, with which the Macan partly shares the underlying platform.

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I tried the back seat of the Macan. Nice but marginally less spacious than my current BMW X3. The luggage space is smaller than the X3 as well.

Nice car though; I’m Thinking about selling the X3 and getting the Macan (or the Maserati Ghibli, see below).

BMW
Looking at pictures, I have not been convinced about the styling of BMW’s electric sports car, the i8, but in the flesh it is absolutely stunning. In the dark grey colour exhibited on the stand it was very desirable. Maybe the most desirable sports car in Geneva; I didn’t see that one coming.

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The BMW 4-series Gran Coupé looks really good. I have also posted a large gallery of photos. Looking at this car, I wonder whether they will sell any 3-series Saloon…

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For those who don’t follow BMW:s new, intricate numbering system:

  • The 3-series is build as a 4-door Saloon, a 5-door Touring or a 5-door GT (the latter is a BIG hatchback).
  • The 4-series is essentially the same car, but it is build as a 2-door Coupé, a 2-door Convertible or a 5-door “Gran Coupé”, i.e. an elegant 5-door hatchback with coupé-like roofline (think: Audi A5 Sportback)

Tesla
The Model S is great. I liked it even more than I thought I would. Ergonomics are very good; the big centre touchscreen display is really easy to use. It  feels like “Car 2.0” or like the first iPhone. The future is here today…

It’s electric, it’s pretty, it’s practical (seats 5 or 7, huge boot) and it’s fast. What’s not to like? Maybe the interior doesn’t have the premium feel of the best german competitors…

Please read my fellow blogger’s excellent test drive report of the Tesla.

Ferrari
The new California T looks better than the original California (which I had the privilege to own during two years). I attented the launch of the California T a couple of weeks ago in Modena and will write a separate report on the car and the event. Stay tuned.

Maserati
The Alfieri concept car is very beautiful. Hopefully Maserati’s upcoming sports car (smaller than the GranTurismo), will look similar to this concept. Sorry about the poor picture.

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The Maserati Ghibli is a really nice entrant in the medium/high end saloon market, competing with the upmarket 6-cylinder versions of the BMW 5-series, Mercedes E-Klasse (and CLS) as well as the Audi A6. The blue car on the stand was highly desirable. I’m considering buying one, seriously.

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Jaguar
Could they build a car even more beautiful then the F-TYPE Convertible? Yes! The F-TYPE Coupé is absolutely stunning. On looks alone, this car is the Motor Show’s star:

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But the Convertible stills looks very good…

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Alfa Romeo
Alfa showed an open version of the 4C, the 4C Spyder. Nice design, in a Louts Elise kind of way, with added carbon fibre.

Audi
The new TT looks very similar to its predecesor. It’s nice but…yawn…

Lamborghini
The new Huracan is a stunner in the flesh, although a bit extreme for my taste. How did I not manage to take a proper picture?

Mercedes
S-Klasse Coupé
: considering the huge size of the car it is remarkably good looking…

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Short Summary
The BMW i8 and Tesla Model S surprised me, in a very positive way. The F-TYPE Coupé was a stunner.

Geneva Motor Show

Tesla Model S – the future Thrill of Driving?

Model S exterior

Tesla a while ago opened a showroom in downtown Zurich, where until now they have sold the Tesla Roadster that has now gone out of production. Judging by how many you see on the streets, they did it with some success. Since a couple of weeks, it has now been replaced by the Model S, Tesla’s new flagship. Well, actually new is to be taken with a pinch of salt, the Model S was first presented in 2009, but for various reasons didn’t go into production until 2012 (so far it has only been sold in the US). Yesterday I had the opportunity to have a closer look at it and, although beeing a sceptic to the future of electrical cars, I’ll admit it was very, very impressive.

the Model S is a very successful design. It has been developed by Tesla and is produced in Tesla’s factory in California, but has a strong resemblance to the Jag S-type (maybe the S in the name that does it…), but with a leaner, sportier touch. Furthermore Tesla use Mercedes parts for things such as gearstick, windowlifters etc., logical since MB is a partial owner of the company. Next to the design, one of the first things you notice is the absence of a visible engine, meaning you have plenty of storage space both under the front-hood (approx 150 litres) and in the back (up to 1640 litres), as the Model S is in fact a hatchback that can even be ordered as a 7-seater (two luggage seats turned the wrong way for children). The electrical engine sits, along with the battery, under the car, helping it to both an almost ideal weight distribution, and also to a low center of gravity. The battery itself weighs a whopping 600 kgs, putting the total car at 2.1 tons, and this is obviously still the big drawback with the concept of electrical cars.

Tesla claim a range of 480 km for the larger, 85 kWh engine, at an average speed of 88 km/h (the smaller 60 kWh engine manages 370 km), so far unrivalled among electrical cars. Obviously this is under ideal conditions, the question is how much that range is reduced doing 150-160 km/h on a German Autobahn. Unfortunately, the answer is probably “a lot”. Charging can be done both from a normal plug and from the kind of high-voltage stations you start to see in citys, notably London. A full charge from a normal plug takes about 30 hours but only 4-5 with a high-voltage plug.

Model S interior

The interior of the Model S if beautifully crafted with no small-series feel, and has to be considered very avantgarde. The first thing that strikes you is the GIANT 17-inch touchscreen in the middle, covering a multitude of functions and making standard cars look as from another age. The interior is also very spacious, helped by the absence of any transmission tunnel. At first sight, a very nice effort with a modern and luxurious feel. Remains to be seen if this is all confirmed after a few miles, and I very much looking forward to communicate some driving impressions from a test drive soon.

In Switzerland, the bigger engine car with decent equipment will cost around 100-110′ CHF, so around 80-90′ EUR. IF driving it is as good as I’m led to believe, and IF the range is anywhere close to what is claimed, that is a fair price, especially if you consider that driving costs are estimated at around 15-20 CHF for a full load, which would mean around 4-5 CHF per 100 km, if the range is stands the test. Not bad for a big family hatchback!

Whether electrical cars in general, and Tesla in particular are the future remains to be confirmed. It will probably take a battery revolution to make it a viable concept for the greater public, something that still looks a bit away. Tesla on the other hand is a one-product company currently valued at over USD 5bn, or 816 times projected 2013 earnings, making it the most highly valued car manufacturer in the world. Quoted on Nasdaq, in 2012 the company still loot money, and its future (in general and as an independent identity, as it is in spite of its valuation considered as a clear takeover target) is not fully clear, knowing that a change in ownership might very quickly change the profile of the company and its products. The current waiting list in Switzerland for the Model S is around two years. I’m not fully sure I would be confident enough to leave a deposit payment for that long…

Möte med våren i Zürich i en Triumph TR4 -65!

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Vårens ankomst välkomnas väl av de flesta, men kanske speciellt av oss oldtimer-förare. Har vintern dessutom varit ovanligt lång och kall som det här året, med mycket begränsade möjligheter att motionera ögonstenen mellan november och april, då pirrar det alltid lite extra i magen när landskapet börjar grönska, vägarna torkar och luften blir mild!

I mitt fall är ögonstenen en Triumph TR4 från -65, inköpt i Danmark i slutet på 2011 och sen dess rullandes hos mig i Zürich. Här börjar ju våren lite tidigare än i Sverige, och i början på april var det så dags att gå upp till garaget, lyfta av dammskyddet, dra ut choken, trampa två gånger på gasen, vrida om nyckeln och hoppas på det bästa. Inte mycket reaktion på första försöket. Ej heller på andra. En märkbar hostning på tredje, och på fjärde är vi igång, först lite tveksamt men snart med ett härligt bluddrande ur alla fyra cylindrar i Ferguson-blocket. Triumph talade alltid ogärna om det, men motorblocket kom ju ursprungligen från traktorvärlden, så de 105 hk som tas ut ur 2 liters cylindervolym är riktiga ardennerhästar. Och mycket likt dessa arbetsdjur är det vridmomentet snarare än höga varvtal som är motorns bästa sida.

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Med handskar och skärmmössa på och med oljan på arbetstemperatur blir svängarna lite snabbare och närvarokänslan total. Väghållningen, med stora däck i varje hörn kan närmast beskrivas som 60-tals gokart, styrresponsen som förvånansvärt snabb och den väldigt stela bakaxeln som rätt egensinnig när asfalten är sprucken. Sittandes väldigt nära marken i en fart som må kännas som 150 km/h men sällan överstiger 80 km/h har man den extra bonusen av att känna lukten av allt från vårblommor till kogödsel. The thrill of driving i sin mest oförfalskade form! Med ännu snötäckta alptoppar som kuliss närmar sig en tvärt svängande nedförsbacke snabbt, och insikten gör sig påmind att motorbromsning i alla 60-talsbilar har en helt annan innebörd än att det är kul – det är en nödvändighet, om man inte vill lukta på blommorna på lite väl nära håll…

Sen den första turen har det vid det här laget blivit ytterligare ett par, och om minnesvärda Triumph-utflykter, oldtimer-världen i stort samt car spotting och lite annat smått och gott från bilmetropolen Zürich ska det bli mitt nöje att, som medförfattare på Thrill of Driving-bloggen, berätta mer om under kommande månader!

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines, spring is here!

Zürich-hälsningar,

Christoffer

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PARIS: Salongens stjärna: Jaguar F-TYPE

När jag var i Genève förra året så tyckte jag att Ferrari F12berlinetta var salongens stjärna. Jag tycker fortfarande att det är en fantastiskt vacker bil, men Paris-salongens stjärna var en annan; Jaguar F-TYPE. Riktigt, riktigt snygg! Framför allt framifrån och från sidan, men även bakdelen är helt ok.

Invändigt har bilen väldigt bra stolar med utmärkt sidostöd. Bilen jag provsatt hade “Performance”-stolar som är extrautrustning. Inredningen är snygg och sportig och med tillräcklig bra finish för prisklassen.

Tvärtom mot vad vissa motorjournalister tycker, så tycker jag att F-TYPE känns väldigt prisvärd, framför allt toppmodellen med V8 och kompressor som ger 495 hästar. Det är 35 fler än i min California och då får man ta i beaktande att F-TYPE är billigare än en Porsche 991…

Toppmodellen avverkar 0-100 på 4,3 s. Även de sexcylindriga varianterna, i två trimningsgrader, är snabba med 340 respektive 380 hästar. Modellerna med V6:a är dessutom lite lättare. Mellanmodellen med 380 hästar ser väldigt intressant ut. För lite mer pengar än en Boxster S får man väldigt mycket bil. Det ska bli mycket intressant att se hur de är att köra. Leveranser börjar i vår. Coupén-varianten kommer ett år senare.

KONTAKT: Aston Martin Vanquish – vackrast just nu!

Såg nya Aston Martin Vanquish när jag var på Aston Martins fabrik i Gaydon och den är  såååå vacker!!!

Det är svårt att slå Aston Martin DB9/Virage/DBS när det gäller utseende men Vanquishen gör det. Den är mycket sportigare än DB9/Virage utan att verka så kit:ad som DBS, som iofs också är snygg.

Chassit är den senaste generation av Aston Martins VH-plattform i aluminium (version 4) och är mer vridstyvt än tidigare. Annars är den stora nyheten att alla karrosspaneler är av kolfiber, vilket håller vikten “nere” på 1739 kg.

Motorn har 573 hästar och bilen avverkar 0-100 km/h på 4,1 sekunder, vilket är bra men inte överväldigande. Min California är snabbare på den punkten. Tekniskt sett är den svaga punkten möjligtvis den sexväxlade lådan från ZF, men det får jag återkomma om efter en provkörning.

Elektroniken har uppdaterats med en ny navigator från Garmin, men den testade jag aldrig. Däremot är det “haptisk” feedback på knapparna i mittkonsolen, precis som Fisker Karma. När man trycker på dem får man en liten vibration som feedback. Coolt!

Bilen har en fin inredning; den är ett rejält lyft mot den tidigare inredningen som funnits i alla Aston-modeller sedan DB9 introducerades 2004. Enda bristen är att stolarna ger för lite stöd för mig i sidled. Det går att få med skålade skalstolar men då blir man av med baksätet. Provade att sitta i baksätet och det är bättre än i min California och i nivå med mina gamla Porsche 996/997. Dock är Porsche 991 marginellt bättre. Bagageutrymmet är större än i tidigare modeller; 368 liter, vilket är 60% mer än i DBS, men ändå begränsat. Är man två kan man lasta saker i baksätet eller beställa bilen med bagagehylla i stället för baksäte.

Pris i Sverige blir 2,4 MSEK + extrautrustning.

På pappret matchar den inte nya Ferrari F12, men det behöver den inte göra heller. Aston Martin Vanquish är mer GT-bil än vad Ferrarin är. Och  behöver jag verkligen Ferrarins 740 hästar?

PARIS: BMW Active Tourer och M135i xDrive

BMW visade konceptet Active Tourer som i princip är en produktionsfärdig version av det som kommer att heta BMW 1-serie GT. Trots att bilen är byggd på höjden (som gamla A-klass och Audi A2) så är den fortfarande väldigt snygg. Prototypen är en laddhybrid, men den kommer till att börja med att ha vanliga drivlinor, inklusive en 3-cylindrig motor. Detta blir också den första framhjulsdrivna bilen från BMW…


BMW M135i (nu även med xDrive) och M5 är fortfarande väldigt attraktiva bilar. Inte minst minst i färgerna ovan: M135i i Estorilblå och M5:an i matt silver (Frozen Grey).

PARIS: Porsche visar fyrhjulsdrivna Carrera 4(S) – äntligen svar på frågan om rumpan!

I ett tidigare inlägg frågade jag mig om de breddade, fyrhjulsdrivna 991:orna hade för stor rumpa (se: Nya Porsche Carrera 4 och 4S – är rumpan för stor?). Nu har vi svaret på frågan. Det är visuellt liten skillnad jämfört med de tvåhjulsdrivna versionerna, men de breda fyrhjulsdrivna bilarna är minst lika snygga. Jag tycker att det blir riktigt lyckat med den bredare baken, ljusrampen mellan ljusen bak och de vassare dörrtrösklarna på sidan av bilen.

En annan nyhet är att 991:an nu går att beställa med glastaklucka och då blir taket svart. Snyggt, tycker jag.

Bilderna nedan är på två Aqua-blå bilar: en Carrera 4 med glastaklucka och en Carrera 4S med vanligt tak.

PARIS: Ferrari och bagage – hur hänger det ihop egentligen?

Ferrari FF är en oerhört praktisk bil. Jag skojar inte. Provade att sitta “bakom mig själv” i baksätet och det är mycket bra långfärdskomfort för fyra(!) vuxna. Och bagageutrymmet är stort, se bilden på de bruna väskorna nedan (det är alltså stora väskor även om det inte syns på bilden). Som en jämförelse kan ni också se hur mycket bagage det går in i en 458 Italia; inte så dåligt det heller i och för sig, för en så extrem bil.

En nyhet för i år på FF är att det går att få ett glastak som skapar stor rymd i coupén.

Egentligen är FF den ultimata bilen; praktisk och extrem på en gång. Synd bara att jag fortfarande inte kommer överens med utseendet…

PARIS: Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake – snygg, snabb och praktisk! Är det ett ålderstecken?

Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake är riktigt rymlig och snygg (inte minst AMG-varianten). Till skillnad från “vanliga” CLS, som endast är 4-sitsig, så är Shooting Brake 5-sitsig. Allt familjen behöver. Börjar jag tycka om Mercedes? Och i så fall är det ett ålderstecken? Frågetecknen är många…

Vid närmare eftertanke vill jag hellre ha en Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, på samma tema, så jag är väl fortfarande OK.

PARIS: Nya Audi A3 Sportback och S3 – vad ska man säga?

Det krävs ett tränat öga för att se någon skillnad på nya och gamla A3…

Tredje generationen A3 bygger på VAG:s nya MQB-plattform som även utgör grunden för nya Golf. När det gäller femdörrarsversionen Sportback, så är den nya bilen lite större än den gamla. Baksätet är riktigt bra, för en bil i den här storleksklassen.

Audi S3, med 300 hästar, känns sportig och fin, inte minst bilen jag provsatt som hade läder med sömmar i form av romber (“quilted”). Enda problemet är att jag hellre skulle ha en BMW M135i (320 hästar) för körglädjen, eller AMG-versionen av nya Mercedes A-klass (340 hästar ryktesvis), för att den är så snygg och fin.

Vad ska man säga om Audi A3/S3? Habegäret infann sig inte riktigt…

PARIS: Största överraskningen: Mercedes A-Klass – nej, jag skojar inte!

Största positiva överraskningen på salongen var nya Mercedes A-Klass. Väldigt snygg ut- och invändigt, framför allt i AMG-utstyrsel som ser riktigt sportig ut. Ser fram emot den riktiga AMG-bilen, A 45 AMG, som kommer att ge Audi S3 och BMW M135i en match.

A-Klass är rymlig invändigt, inte minst med rymdkänslan som glastaket ger. Interiören har en fin finish, bra detaljkvalitet och känns riktigt sportig.

Jag trodde aldrig att jag skulle vilja ta med mig en Mercedes hem!

 

PARIS: McLaren P1 – inte så ful som jag befarade…

I ett tidigare inlägg (McLaren visar superbilen P1 – nej, nej, nej!) tyckte jag att McLaren P1 var riktigt ful. Nu har jag sett den i verkligheten och det var inte så illa. I en annan färgkombination skulle den nästan vara snygg, men bara nästan…

En kul detalj på bilen som visades i Paris är att däckens mönster bildar McLaren-loggan (se närbild nedan).

De visade förstår också upp lillebror McLaren MP4-12C, i såväl Coupé- som Spider-utförande. Jag tycker att den är fin men jag skulle i slutändan hellre köpa en Ferrari 458.