Alfa's hot-SUV has pulled a sub-8-minute lap of the Nurburgring, making it the fastest production SUV ever to lap the circuit.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio has lapped the Nordschleife in 7 minutes and 51.7 seconds, a full eight seconds faster than the previous record holder. For reference, the Giulia Quadrifoglio managed a 7m 32s time with the same driver at the helm, Fabio Francia.
The range-topping high-performance SUV is powered by an all-aluminum, direct-injection 2.9-litre 24-valve Twin-Turbo intercooled V6 engine, delivering 380kW and 600Nm of torque, which is coupled with the Q4 all-wheel-drive system. The engine is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission with specific settings for shifting in just 150 milliseconds in Race mode.
Advanced technology features unique to the Stelvio Quadrifoglio include a four-mode Alfa DNA Pro selector with Race mode, torque vectoring differential, Quadrifoglio-tuned adaptive suspension and cylinder deactivation to maximise fuel efficiency.
A number of ultra-high performance options will be available on the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, including Ultra-lightweight carbon fibre shell Sparco racing seats, providing maximum lateral support during extreme cornering, and designed to be the lightest in the segment while providing comfort for long road trips and ultra-high-performance, and a Brembo carbon-ceramic material (CCM) brake system.
The Stelvio also features gorgeous styled based on the Giulia sedan, which we don't think anyone will complain about.
The Stelvio range will arrive in New Zealand early next year, with the Quadrifoglio variant coming later in 2018.
The Renault brand retained its leadership position in LCV in Europe for the 18th consecutive year, and with the introduction of the Alaskan Ute, the LCV range goes from strength to strength.
“The styling of the ALASKAN Concept sticks to the rules of the pick-up segment, including impressive dimensions and a visual sense of power and robustness. At the same time, we have dialed in specific Renault cues in the form of an attractive, status-enhancing front-end design.” Laurens van den Acker - SVP, Corporate Design.
Twin turbo technology: a small turbo for smooth acceleration at low engine speeds, plus a bigger turbo for higher revs. Longitudinally-mounted twin turbo powertrain lighter than average equivalent engines, outstanding acceleration performance, plus class-topping fuel economy and low CO2 emissions.
Strong chassis for excellent road holding, high ground clearance and distinctive driving comfort. Payload of more than one tonne with five passengers on board and long, wide load bed.
Final specification to be confirmed upon product launch.
The Levante SUV is arguably the most important model in Maserati’s 102-year history. Why? Because it enters a totally new segment for the brand, a category that allowed it to roughly double the number of Trident-badged cars sold around the world in one year, especially in the US and China. That alone is impressive.
Actually, a lot about this luxury SUV raises eyebrows. No one ever expected Maserati to make an SUV, and then once it went on sale, no one expected it to be any good. But the unexpected happened. This SUV is surprisingly good.
Luxury SUVs are all the rage right now. In a segment dominated by the Range Rover, the Porsche Cayenne created its own niche market and redefined the genre. Then came other luxury crossovers like the Bentley Bentayga, while next year we will see the debut of the Lamborghini Urus with Aston Martin’s DBX slated for a 2019 launch. So the Levante has to pack a punch to keep up in this increasingly competitive segment. If the Range Rover is Jan-Claude Van Damme-- the consummate martial artist boasting perfectly chiselled features, then the Levante is Jason Statham, with unique features and a surprising ability to get over any obstacles in his way.
So what about those features? Its styling is indeed unique. Rather than calling the Levante beautiful, I think its styling is aggressive, sporty and edgy with definite hints to its Maserati heritage like the headlights, grille and badge. It certainly turns heads. This SUV sits low on the road and actually looks more like a large hatchback than an SUV.
It is based on the same rear-wheel Ghibli platform and therefore has a long wheelbase and plenty of rear legroom. Employing a perfect 50:50 front-rear weight distribution, this SUV’s secret weapon is its AWD system, two off-road modes and a five-level air suspension that can lift ride height for off-roading or lower it for high-speed driving or cornering.
The AWD channels 100 percent of its torque to the rears during normal driving, and can redirect a maximum of 50 percent to the front axle when rear traction is compromised. While I was not able to take the car off-road, I can say that it devours corners with a stability and poise equalling the best in the segment. What I especially liked was its hydraulic power steering – not electric – that gives the Levante better weight and feel and a well-judged steering response.
Awhile back, DriveTribe released a series of videos which featured the BMW M2, Audi TT RS and Porsche 718 Cayman S. Those three cars compete against each other in a variety of different ways. There was a weigh-in of sorts, where their specs were compared, there was a drag race and some track driving. Now, the BMW M3 must run through a similar gauntlet, except it’s up against much stiffer competition — the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and Mercedes-AMG C63 S.
The first test in the gauntlet is a good ole fashioned drag race. Each car is similarly armed, as each car packs twin-turbocharged engines, automatic gearboxes and rear-wheel drive. They differ in the details, though. The BMW M3 packs a 3.0 liter twin-turbo I6 which, in Competition Package-guise, makes 444 hp. While the Alfa packs a 2.9 liter twin-turbo V6 that makes 505 hp. The AMG packs the same hp as the Alfa but uses a 4.0 liter twin-turbo V8 to do it.
With a long stretch of runway, the Alfa went first. Without launch control, the Alfa just needs to be put in Race mode and get some left foot braking. It launches hard, getting from 0-60 mph in 4.0 seconds flat, 100 mph in 8.3 seconds and 150 mph in 20.3 seconds.
Next up is the BMW M3, with the least amount of power but it’s the only car in the test with a fast-shifting dual-clutch transmission. While the M3 has a proper launch control system, they didn’t use it as they got better results without it. Doing so got the M3 from 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds, 100 mph in 8.9 seconds and 150 mph in 21.6 seconds. So it’s a good bit slower than the Alfa but not by as much as its power deficit would suggest. What’s interesting is that the BMW was actually faster to 30 mph by a tenth of a second.
Lastly, it’s the Mercedes-AMG C63 S. The AMG is the most powerful, the heaviest and by far the torquiest. Its results are odd, actually. It’s the slowest car to 30 mph, but ties the BMW M3 to 60 mph at 4.1 seconds, faster than the Bimmer to 100 mph at 8.6 seconds and was the fastest of the bunch to 150 mph, doing it in 19.9 seconds.
So the Mercedes-AMG wins the test, as it’s tied with the second fastest to 60 mph, is the second fastest to 100 mph but is the fastest in the end, to 150 mph. Next up is a track battle to see which car is fastest around a circuit.
I HAVE driven the latest Audi Q5 and can think of absolutely nothing interesting to say about it. It’s a well-made box that costs some money and produces some emissions and, frankly, I’d rather use Uber.
No, really. Who’s going to wake up in the morning, sweating like a dyslexic in a spelling test, because their new Q5 is arriving that day? What child is going to stick a poster of a car such as this on its bedroom wall? Who’s going to think how hard they’ll have to work to pay for the damn thing and reckon it’s worth the sweat? No one is. You buy a car like this in the way you buy washing-up liquid. And who wants to read 1,200 words about a mildly updated bottle of Fairy Liquid?
What I can tell you before I move on is that I hated its engine. Volkswagen’s post-Dieselgate 2-litre turbo is possibly the most boring power unit fitted to any car at any time. It’s about as exciting as the motor in your washing machine. By which I mean, you only really notice it if it goes wrong. Which you hope it will in the Audi, because then you can call an Uber. At least that’ll smell interesting. And come with some unusual opinions.
I’ll be honest with you. I loathe all the current crop of so-called SUVs, except those I dislike intensely. I cannot see the point of driving around in a car that’s slower, more expensive and thirstier than a normal saloon or estate. It just seems idiotic.
But then I had to make a brief trip to Tuscany recently, and once I’d negotiated a path through Alan Yentob and Polly Toynbee and Melvyn Bragg and emerged into Pisa airport’s car park, I found a man offering me the keys to Alfa Romeo’s new Stelvio.
Named after a remote Alpine pass in northern Italy, this is a direct rival of the Q5 and all the other mid-range jacked-up estates whose names I can’t be bothered to remember. In short, it’s a Giulia saloon on stilts, and I was determined to hate every bit of it.
The man was very keen to have his photograph taken with me and to say how much he enjoyed a programme called Top Gear, but I wasn’t listening. I was thinking: “What in the name of all that’s holy was Alfa Romeo thinking of?”
If you have a heritage as glamorous and as achingly cool as Alfa’s, why would you want to make a bloody school-run car? That is like Armani deciding to make carrier bags.
Alfa’s engineers are at pains to explain that, while it may look like an SUV, it doesn’t feel like one to drive. They say all the power from the engine is sent to the rear wheels, but then, if traction is lost, up to half the power is sent instantly to the front. They also speak about carbon-fibre prop shafts and much lightweight aluminium in the body, and I stood there thinking: “Yes, but it’s still a bloody carrier bag.”
I had much the same sense of teeth-gnashing rage when I first encountered Maserati’s Levante, and that turned out to be just as bad as I’d feared. But as the man brought over more friends for more selfies, I started to gaze more carefully at the Stelvio, and there was no getting round the fact that, actually, it’s quite good-looking.
Eventually, after I’d posed with all the police force, everyone in border security and 3,000 taxi drivers, all of whom loved Top Gear, it was time to step into the Stelvio, and there was also no getting round the fact it was a nice place to sit. Way, way nicer than the Audi.
There’s some genuine sculpture in there. You get the impression in a Q5 that the dash was built with all the care of a kitchen worktop. It’s just a housing for the dials and the switches. Alfa has made its one something worth looking at. I suppose it’s an Italian thing. It’s why Siena is a better place to sit and people-watch than Dortmund.
Setting the sat nav, however, was a challenge. This is because every town in Italy has 5,000 letters in its name, and then, when you finally manage to type it in, the sat nav asks which Santa Lucia del Menolata di Christoponte you would like to set as the destination. And it turns out there are 5,000 towns with that name.
Eventually, though, as Alan and Melvyn and Polly were returning to the airport from their week of brainstorming, I had the right town and fired up the engine. The diesel engine. Oh, dear Lord. A diesel Alfa Romeo SUV.
The funny thing is, though, that because everyone in Italy has a diesel-powered car, it didn’t feel all that weird to be clattering out of the car park. And then it felt fine, because soon I was on the racetrack known as an autostrada, where it felt very powerful. The figures say it’ll go from 0 to 62mph in 6.6 seconds, which is good, but it’s the mid-range surge that impresses most of all. It’s a surge you just don’t get from Audi’s Q5. And it means you can always break free from the walnut-faced peasant who has affixed his aged Fiat Ritmo to your back bumper at 100mph.
And it’s not as if you’re leaving a trail of death in your wake because, despite the power and the torque, this engine is considerably cleaner than the diesel Porsche puts in its Macan. And Alfa says it’ll do almost 60mpg.
So it’s as fast as the badge would suggest, but does it handle as well as Alfa promises? Well, obviously, as it’s more than 7in higher than the saloon and has longer springs, it’s squidgier, which would be fine if Alfa hadn’t given it the same superfast steering setup.
The tiniest movement of the wheel causes a big change of direction, which is great when you are on a track in a low-riding “car”, but when you are on the autostrada, on stilts, with a Ritmo up your chuff and a lorry up front that has suddenly decided to wander into your lane because the driver is watching pornography on his phone rather than the road ahead, it can be a bit alarming.
It takes time to learn to think your way round corners, but when you get there, I must say this is a genuinely exciting car to drive. It doesn’t feel as cumbersome as all the other SUVs, and you get the impression it was engineered by people who were involved because they wanted to be. Not because they’d done something wrong.
And because of that — because it’s a big, practical car with a huge boot and folding seats and lots of cubbyholes that’s also an Alfa Romeo — it’s the only SUV that’s quite tempting. It may even be irresistible when Alfa launches the version with the 500-horsepower petrol engine.
The Music of Cream 50th Anniversary Tour is coming to New Zealand and we have a password for a 20% saving on Premium and A-Reserve seats! Liberty Stage, the promoter approached us asking if we would be open to offering our valued clients promotional pricing. We thought the concept of Super Groups fitted with Super Cars and nothing says the '60s' like an E-type Jag.
Fifty years since their earth-shaking debut album, the bloodlines of that hallowed trilogy entwine to pay tribute to Cream's legendary four-album reign over the psychedelic frontier of the late 1960s.
Nissan Motor’s premium brand Infiniti sold an overall of 17,578 automobiles in April, a boost of 12 percent from a year previously, which pushed the brand’s international sales in the first 4 months of 2017 to 84,947 vehicles, boost of 16 percent.
The development in both April global sales and year-to-date volume came from the momentum Infiniti acquired from a number of new products that the Japanese premium brand introduced in 2016, and in markets such as the United States and China.
In the United States, Infiniti sold an overall of 54,358 automobiles throughout the January-April duration, boost of 26 percent from a year earlier, according to Infiniti. U.S. sales in April were 10,797 vehicles, boost of 3 percent from a year previously.
Infiniti’s China sales in April amounted to 3,415 vehicles, up 105 percent from the same month a year earlier. Its volume in China throughout the first 4 months of this year was up 19 percent from a year previously to 13,456 automobiles.
While no one was looking, the Renault Koleos got really good
Away from the headlines about Mercedes-Benz's record-breaking sales totals, press releases detailing Jaguar Land Rover's new-tech offensive and ... well, Holden's anti-mullet obsession, a lot has been going on at Renault.
You remember Renault, the French car company that sort of invented the people mover? It's good at hot hatches, too, but mainly known for vans in this part of the world,
I've had reason to reacquaint myself with Renault's line-up. The degree to which it has matured and extended past the Megane is impressive.
The Captur crossover is a tastily designed car that is comfortable and fun to drive. The manufacturer still makes the Clio and Clio RS, as well as the Megane hatchbackrange, including the always bonkers Megane RS 265 and 275 track day assault weapons for the true aficionado.
And then there are those delivery vans of various shapes and sizes you see everywhere; the Trafic 3 mid-sizer is - and I'm not being facetious - the best van I have driven in about five years.
But without burying the lead, while everyone was looking elsewhere, the Renault Koleos has become really good.
For a start, it's not the slightly awkward Nissan X-Trail-based mid-size SUV you might be mis-remembering. The modern Koleos is a different beast, with broad shoulders and sculptured good looks. At over 4.5m long, it feels like an XL-sized SUV.
All Koleos have 18" alloys filling the wheel arches, although the manufacturer saves the nicest design for the top-spec version, as shown in the range-topping Intens trim.
In this state of dress, the Koleos features plenty of chrome on the outside, but not in an overzealous Beijing-Auto-Show sort of way.
It's tastefully trimmed with the shiny stuff, yet the addition of metallic framework around the headlights, through the side of the car and even around the exhaust pipes at the rear, provides for a visual line-break between this one and the Zen grade (available as either a front- or four-wheel drive).
Exterior aesthetics aside, the Koleos is packed with new-tech surprise-and-delight stuff these days.
The Intens' centre stack is dominated by a lovely 8.7-inch portrait-format touchscreen that looks more like a tablet device. The system navigation is simple; a tiled layout detailing control of audio, climate, vehicle data and phone or device connectivity.
Speaking of navigation, GPS is standard in this grade Koleos. A rear-view camera with parking sensors is included, as is cruise control with Active Emergency Brake Assist, which warns the driver of impending rear-bumper-shaped danger ahead in heavy traffic.
Other niceties include heated and cooled front seats, Bose premium audio and -- in the top trim Koleos -- an electronically opening boot and panoramic sunroof.
Cabin materials are all top-notch, with stitched soft leather seats providing for some ace ambience. And it's roomy; there is a huge amount of space for rear seat passengers (class-leading rear knee room by all accounts), while the boot provides for 458-litres of on-board real estate to cram full of stuff. If you need to add more practicality, the Koleos boasts a 2000kg braked towing capacity.
Power comes courtesy of a 2.5-litre, four cylinder petrol engine with 126kW of peak power available. The Intens grade is a 4x4-only affair and feels nicely planted on the road. I was surprised by the eagerness of the engine. There's plenty of oomph despite the vehicle's relative size.
About the only negative I can put my hand on - after dropping it several times with a teeth-clenching clatter - is the smooth-sided key card you use to access the Koleos.
It's a weighty, credit card-sized "key" that resembles a Mini-me iPhone. But there is no facility to attach it to a good old-fashioned key ring, so you end up with yet another thing to carry. I don't know why Renault persists with the gimmicky ignition key, but at least the previous plastic-y one had a hole in it through which you could feed a key ring.
Still, that's a relatively minor quibble. The updated Koleos is an impressive SUV. It also offers something a little different in a sea of the usual common or garden variety German, Japanese and Korean fare on our roads.
While the other two French brands seem to have abandoned the SUV, Renault has cracked it. And that deserves more attention.
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol (126kW/226Nm)
Prices: $44,990 (Koleos Zen 2WD), $49,990 (Koleos Zen 4WD), $54,990 (Koleos Intens 4WD)
Pro: Great looks, lots of space, satisfying level of techy comfort and convenience as standard
Con: Skoda Kodiaq is imminent and will offer seven seats for similar prices