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What is it?
It’s the new Renault Alpine A110. And it’s something very different. On the surface it’s perfectly straightforward, a compact two seat coupe in the mould of the Porsche Cayman and Audi TT. But underneath the new A110 is perhaps the world’s best example of the virtuous circle approach to automotive engineering.
It’s light. Really light. Lotus light, yet with the creature comforts you need to make it a pleasing daily driver. How light? Just 1,103kg for the flagship version including fluids and so on. That’s 300kg, approaching 25 per cent, less than the Porsche or Audi.
How? Firstly by designing it from the ground up with little carryover, and secondly by sweating the small things. So it’s an aluminium bodied, aluminium chassis’d, aluminium suspended sports car that has a modest 1.8-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine developing 249bhp and 236lb ft of torque at 2000rpm. That’s mounted behind the seats and drives the rear wheels via a seven-speed Getrag double clutch gearbox – perhaps the only thing about the car that’s not the lightest possible option.
“We have tried to follow Colin Chapman’s principle, which is still valid, so if we have low mass, we can have moderate power, so we don’t need super wide tyres or big, heavy brakes and so on,” says Alpine’s chassis technical leader, Thierry Annequin. “We have chased all grammes everywhere on each component and each system to achieve this weight.”
Everywhere you look you see this attention to detail. Take the rear wheel – there’s no secondary brake caliper for the electric parking brake (EPB), it’s now integrated into the primary brake itself. That saves 2.5kg. And getting Brembo to integrate their software into the Bosch ECU instead of bolting on a separate control unit and wiring has saved another kilo. And the brackets that hold the EPB cables and hoses are aluminium too, “this is unusual”, claims Annequin, “but it saves seven grams here, 12 grams there and it adds up”.
The Sabelt seat is a mere 13.1kg – half the weight of the Recaro seat in the current Megane RS; integrating the ball joint into the upper control arm instead of putting it in a separate housing saves 300g per corner and so it goes on. The message from Alpine, building its first car since the final A610 rolled out the Dieppe gates 22 years ago, is that light weight matters. Jean Redele, the man who founded Alpine in 1955 and named it for the type of driving he wanted his cars to excel at, would be proud.
The approach certainly promises to make the Alpine efficient – the claims are 46.3mpg and under 138g/km of CO2, numbers a standard Cayman can’t get within 7mpg and 30g/km of.
More than 180 historic Grand Prix cars gathered in Monaco over the weekend including 19 unique Maserati cars ranging from the 1957 Formula 1 winner 250F to the iconic 300S and the very rare 6CM and V8RI to part in the 2018 Grand Prix de Monaco Historique.
For the 11th edition of this prestigious event pre-war cars were brought back by popular demand to compete in the A-series, which became the unmissable world meeting for this category of Grand Prix cars, which were called “Formula 1” as soon as World War II ended. Two Maserati cars were entered in this category, and the 6CM driven by Anthony Sinopoli managed a well-deserved third place. Only 13 Maserati 6CM remain in existence out of the 27 produced: they feature an advanced front suspension system which allows springs to be adapted to different circuits.
The B-Series race saw the participation of Julia De Baldanza, one of only two female drivers in the competition, racing her beloved 1952 Maserati A6GCM together with four Maserati 250F.
Out of the 34 cars entered in the C-Series race, 12 were Maserati cars: five were 300S, six A6GCS and one 200SI. A 1956 Lister with a Maserati engine driven by Ben Short managed to get on the podium with a well-earned second place.
But the presence of Maserati wasn't just confined to the racetrack. The Trident Marque has in fact recently renewed its partnership agreement as the official car of the Yacht Club De Monaco and was present in the beautiful terrace of the amazing building, designed by Forster +Partners to be the symbolic centrepiece of Monaco’s remodelled harbour front. Guests and clients of the Maserati brand were thus able to enjoy the thrill and excitement of the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique and the stunning display, showcasing a 3500 GT Vignale Spyder and the iconic Maserati 250F.
Modena, 28 March 2018 – Maserati reveals the first Levante built around a V8 engine at the New York International Auto Show. It is the Levante Trofeo, the ultimate Maserati of SUVs, capable of accelerating in style from 0-100 km/h in 3.9 seconds and reaching a top speed of over 300 km/h.
The Levante Trofeo is equipped with one of the most powerful engines ever fitted in a Maserati. A 3.8-litre Twin Turbo V8 engine that has been engineered to perfectly mate with the Q4 Intelligent All-Wheel Drive System and delivers an astounding 590 hp at 6,250 rpm and 730 Nm of peak torque at 2,250 – 5,000 rpm.
The engine boasts the highest output per litre (156 hp/litre) of any Maserati powerplant ever produced and, like all Maserati gasoline engines, is assembled by Ferrari in Maranello, Italy.
The chassis of the fastest Levante ever has been tuned to handle the higher power output and provides an exhilarating driving experience with no compromise in terms of comfort. This tuning ensures the Levante Trofeo continues to embody the essence of the Maserati GranTurismo philosophy with supercar performance.
“It’s proof that when you play with the elements you end up in a storm”, says Maserati CEO Tim Kuniskis. “In the case of Trofeo, the engineers and designers in Modena knew that the driveline parameters were more than able to cope with additional power and they also knew that Maserati had access to the finest engines on earth. So, they were up to the challenge of making the finest luxury SUV also one of the fastest”.
The unmistakable Levante design has reached new levels of sportiness in this top of the line Trofeo. The elegant restyling was mainly focused on the lower front fascia and the rear bumper and is underlined by the 22-inch forged aluminium “Orione” wheels – the largest ever fitted on a Maserati – available in both polished and matte finishes.
The side air intakes in the lower fascia feature a new, more aggressive design, defined by two aerodynamic wings that give a sense of further stability, visually “pushing” the weight of the car’s nose towards the massive front wheels. And to help improve the airflow distribution, Trofeo is outfitted with carbon fibre side bezel blades and a carbon fibre splitter.
The rear end also looks wider and more muscular with a sharper carbon fibre horizontal element and body-color lower extractor that embrace the oval quad exhaust tips.
In front, the Levante Trofeo has Full Matrix LED headlights, a front grille with double vertical bars in a piano black finish and lower honeycomb mesh fascia, as well as body color door handles, oval exhaust tips in a dark finish and performance painted brake calipers in red, blue, black, silver or yellow. And to cap it off, specific “Saetta” Trofeo logos adorn the iconic c-pillars of the coupé styled SUV.
Specific details, like the lower splitter, the blade side bezels in the front air intakes, the side skirt inserts and the rear extractor are made of ultralight, high-gloss carbon fibre, giving the Levante Trofeo a polished racing look. Even the hood is new, featuring two aggressive vent for better cylinder head cooling. And under the hood, the engine cover is also made of high-gloss carbon fibre featuring a V8 inscription and the iconic Trident logo, while cylinder heads and intake manifolds are painted red.
Interior designers have come up with elegant ways to create a distinctive environment within the Levante Trofeo cabin. The sculpted sport seats feature a premium full-grain “Pieno Fiore” natural leather available in black, red and tan, all with contrast stitching and “Trofeo” logo stitched on the headrests. “Pieno Fiore” is like no other leather used in the automotive industry for its natural, soft feel and for the unique character it develops throughout the years.
A new matte carbon fibre trim and paddle shifters, specific instrument cluster graphics, floor mats with metal Trofeo badges and a Maserati clock with a unique dial elegantly underline the exclusive sporty character of this extraordinary Levante, which is outfitted with a standard 1,280-watt, 17-speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium surround sound audio system for exceptional listening enjoyment.
The production of the Levante Trofeo starts this summer at the refurbished Maserati plant in Mirafiori (Turin), Italy. The fastest Levante in Maserati history is initially intended for overseas export markets, including the U.S. and Canada.
Power under control
Maserati engineers developed the mighty 3.8-litre Twin Turbo V8 engine to accommodate the Q4 Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system, providing it with a new crankcase design, specific crankshaft assembly, new oil pump and auxiliary belt and a different wiring layout.
New turbochargers feature increased flow, while redesigned cylinder heads with specific camshafts and valves, different pistons and new connecting rods allow the ability to reach the maximum power targets in combination with specific engine calibration mapping.
The Levante Trofeo is definitely one of the fastest SUVs ever built with a top speed of over 300 km/h. Thanks to its remarkable weight/power ratio of 3.6 kg/hp the Trofeo needs only 3.9 seconds to reach 100 km/h and only 34.5 metres of braking distance to get back to a complete stop.
The ideal 50:50 weight balance and the low center of gravity - common to all Levante models - in combination with the finely tuned double-wishbone front / Multi Link rear suspension and the larger tyres fitted to the 22-inch forged aluminium wheels, endow the new Trofeo with remarkably balanced handling and lateral stability.
The new “Corsa" Driving mode with Launch Control functionality in addition to the existing Normal, I.C.E., Sport and Off Road modes has been adopted to enhance the athletic character of the ultimate Maserati SUV. “Corsa” driving mode further improves engine response and opens exhaust valves in acceleration, as well as provides faster gear shifting, lower air suspension height levels, sportier Skyhook damping and optimized Q4 Intelligent All-Wheel Drive settings and interacts with Traction Control and ESP systems to maximize driving pleasure.
The Maserati Integrated Vehicle Control (IVC) system has been incorporated for the first time in a Levante, for impressive driving dynamics, better performance and a genuine Maserati driving experience, by helping to prevent vehicle instability, instead of correcting “driver mistakes” as a traditional Electronic Stability Program (ESP) system does.
Limited series Levante Trofeo launch edition
As an introduction to its upcoming new model, Maserati is showcasing a limited Levante Trofeo launch edition at the Javits Center in New York. The show car is in the special matte Grigio Lava paint with matte finished 22-inch wheels and red brake calipers. This limited series Trofeo is exclusively intended for a small number of Maserati customers in the U.S. and Canada.
The Levante Trofeo launch edition will be available in eight unique exterior colors including the following exclusive exterior features: 22-inch forged aluminium wheels with three-season performance tyres or new 21-inch wheels with all-season tyres, in a gloss finish and dark details, like black daylight openings (DLO) and fog light rings, as well as Black Chrome Maserati badges, Trofeo “Saetta” logos, side air vents and trunk accent.
The Trofeo launch edition interior is even more individual, featuring natural “Pieno Fiore” leather sport seats available in black, tan or red with contrast stitching. Black leather with blue or yellow stitching is exclusive to the launch edition and all feature the new matte carbon fibre wave interior trim. A serialized launch edition badge integrated on the center console featuring the customer’s name, has also been added to underline the unique character of the Trofeo launch edition.
Fifteen years ago, we’d have stood on a Welsh hillside waiting to compare two low-slung cars of purely sporting pretensions.
Today, it’s sports utility vehicles that need to tick numerous ownership boxes beyond merely that of being a decent steer. How times have changed, eh? And yet the fact that we’re here shows change is still upon us – and for the better. We’ve sought worthy Tarmac for this test because we know these particular beasts of high-riding automotive leisure can deliver an unusual level of driving pleasure. The question is: which does it better?
Our subjects are the Porsche Macan Turbo Performance Package – current class leader – and Alfa Romeo’s new Stelvio Quadrifoglio. The same purists who rejoiced at the return of a seriously potent rear-driven Alfa saloon in the form of the Giulia Quadrifoglio must have serious misgivings about the existence of this car, but even they have to admit that encouraging similarities exist.
The platform – designated ‘Giorgio’ and the fruit of a billion-euro investment – is common to both and was always destined to underpin an Alfa Romeo SUV. Crucially, the 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 engine, whose roots are easily traceable to Ferrari’s F154 V8, is also identical. Maranello’s influence on this unusual car doesn’t end there, either.
You may remember Philippe Krief. He is the ex-Ferrari engineer who led the stellar chassis work on the 458 Speciale and is largely responsible for the fact that a Giulia Quadrifoglio will out-handle BMW’s M3 Competition Pack. Krief has overseen the transition to four-wheel drive and centre of gravity somewhat higher than he no doubt would like, but his continued involvement in Alfa’s resurgence bodes well.
Tack the price of a London pint onto the Stelvio’s £69,500 list price and you could put the Macan on your drive instead. It would have the Performance Package, too, which turns up the wick on the 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 and drops the ride height 15mm if you stick with the standard springs or 10mm with the air springs on our car here today.
As with the Stelvio, its platform is not entirely its own, being related to that of the first-generation Audi Q5, with which it shares its multi-link suspension. The manner in which these two allocate their power differs subtly but significantly, and despite their similarities on the spec sheet, I suspect they’ll attract different sorts of people. There’s plenty of nuance here.
All of which is thrust firmly to the back of my mind when I arrive in the Porsche at our meeting point above Crickhowell. Picture editor Ben Summerell-Youde is waiting with the Alfa, which, painted in a faintly pearlescent shade of white, blends in around these parts like a Burger King outlet on the set of La Dolce Vita. Judging by the heat haze over the triple-slatted bonnet vents, somebody enjoyed the journey over too.
It has vast presence, this Stelvio Quadrifoglio, simultaneously appearing curvaceous and hard- edged. The jutting wheel-arch extensions could be considered crude on something costing half the asking price, and you’ll find a less gaping expanse of fresh air above the tyre tread of Séb Ogier’s Ford Fiesta WRC car.
Sitting next to its Italian foe, the Porsche, even shod in 21in wheels shrouding yellow calipers that denote the use of optional carbon-ceramic brake discs, comes across as just another bit of the local geology. It is handsome for its type, with a pebble-like neatness to the bodywork and a low-squatting stance that suggests its handling might be closer to what you’d expect in a hot hatch than an SUV. It lacks the attitude to evoke a double take, though, and although that will be a large part of the appeal for many, it manifests as a lack of character in this instance.
What the Macan doesn’t lack is credibility. The first few hundred yards in the hot seat are a reminder that, whatever controversial form its cars might sometimes take, Porsche has been building drivers’ machines in an unbroken run that stretches back almost to World War II. The fact that you sit unusually high above the car’s shoulder line is misleading because the Macan actually places its driver remarkably low, with legs outstretched. There is, of course, the central rev counter common to all the marque’s cars, and although the ambience is rather more corporate than in the Alfa, it’s also tremendously upmarket in feel, with elegant touches such as cut-outs on the steering wheel spokes that reveal sinewy gearshift paddles.
Alfa’s designers will tell you there’s simply too much switchgear in the Porsche, particularly along the transmission tunnel. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio faithfully recreates the driving environment of the Giulia, and it immediately feels the more focused but flamboyant. Where the Porsche calmly states ‘luxury conveyance’, the Alfa more insistently hisses ‘performance car’, not least with a bright red starter button mounted on a thin-rimmed steering wheel of carbonfibre, leather and Alcantara.
That’s very Ferrari, as are the sabre-like aluminium paddles that zing when tickled with the fingernails. Sizeable fillets of glossy carbonfibre – the sort German manufacturers loved at around the turn of the millennium but still find favour in Italy – line the dashboard and door cards. The material is all over the transmission tunnel, too, which is home to just three dials, two buttons and the gearlever.
It’s pared back in the Alfa, but also dark and perhaps a little claustrophobic compared with the Macan. There is also evidence that Alfa has yet to raise its standards of fit and finish to match the best in class. An early left-hand-drive example this might be, but the upper dashboard trim doesn’t quite align equally where it meets each door and a thump of the panels doesn’t elicit the same reassuringly singular frequency as it does in the Porsche. Still, the Alfa is rather more interesting and congenial. The green and white stitching is particularly welcome.
Out on the road, these two are chalk and cheese. Owing to the fact that its maker was spooked by recent heavy snow, the Stelvio is riding on Pirelli winter tyres. The Porsche remains on summer-spec P Zeros and therefore holds a distinct advantage on a mild day like today. The Macan Turbo is devastatingly quick, too, and not just in a straight line, where its 434bhp and 443lb ft from a lowly 1500rpm make admirably short work of its two-tonne mass, but through corners of almost any profile. Thus far, no other SUV has so closely replicated the experience of driving a focused hot hatch.
But perhaps the Porsche mimics the hatchback modus operandi too well. Its balance is admirable but this chassis’ first instinct when the limits of adhesion are breached is to understeer stubbornly. I’m certain the optional air springs are of little help in this respect because, although they might endow the Macan with almost supernatural body control (not to mention amplified off-road ability by raising the ride height further), they lack the pliancy of a conventional set-up.
The result is a leading axle that is faithful and true but can become brittle when you’re really in the mood. It’s endlessly sure-footed, yes, and thus satisfying to plot along a road at pace, but never does the Porsche feel usefully adjustable. Tellingly, it is never entirely rear driven, either, and defaults to a split closer to 50/50 with even moderate use of the throttle.
Here, the Stelvio strikes first blood – palpably. When we convened this morning, those yawning wheel-arch cavities had me fearful of loose body control, but those fears were unfounded. The ride can be a little rough around town but with speed the Alfa’s vertical control becomes a lesson in how it’s done. With the cab-rear body behaving itself, the Stelvio’s light but unusually quick steering rack (another Ferrari-ism) emboldens you to drive in a wrist-flicking style and lean heavily on the rear axle. The way this car allows you to chase the throttle and indulge in a quarter turn of opposite lock seemingly without jeopardy is a surprise and delight. SUVs haven’t done this until now, and Alfa should be applauded for setting the car up with a useful degree of body roll.
There’s an ever so slight sense of float and some remoteness at times, although I’d be surprised if that weren’t adequately remedied by a set of Pirelli P Zeros. Simply, of the two cars here, it’s the Stelvio that offers the more interactive, intuitive experience and this chassis is good enough to communicate that the engine’s efforts are directed to the rear axle alone until any slip is detected. At that point, up to half the torque is directed to the front. Torque vectoring (something our Porsche similarly features, although optionally) that meters out drive via a clutch either side of the electronic rear differential is also unobtrusively calibrated.
The sheer pace of the Quadrifoglio takes some getting used to, too. The official 0-62mph claim is 3.8sec to the Porsche’s 4.4sec. It’s an absurd figure, and although the Alfa is the marginally more closely geared of the two and nearly 200kg lighter, its capacity for leaving something as quick as the Macan almost for dead on these roads is nevertheless staggering. You’ll need to engage Race mode to get the best out of this 503bhp twin-turbo V6. It sharpens the throttle response and ups the vocal ante to glorious levels. It also disables the stability control, but so benign and malleable is this chassis that you always feel in total control.
If the battle of engine and chassis is won by the newcomer, it is Porsche that has delivered the better brakes and gearbox. Both cars use a dual-clutch transmission (eight speeds for the Stelvio, seven for the Macan), and although the process of swapping cogs is sumptuously smooth whichever car you’re in, they’re whipcrack fast in the Macan. That car’s brakes also bite higher and more cleanly and inspire greater confidence through their firmer action. Were you only able to lean more committedly on the Porsche’s front axle as you can in the Alfa...
This, then, is an unusually tight contest, and the five-hour schlep back to London via the Cotswolds has the Macan working its magic to persuasive effect. Between blistering B-road stints, where it splices apices dependably and with an enjoyable enthusiasm, it is snug, quiet, wonderfully undemanding and simply a pleasure to operate. It’s tempting to give it the victory here and now. And yet my mind is still on those Welsh hillsides in an eccentric, rip-snorting Alfa Romeo that has a chassis that rewards like no other in this class. Keen drivers with their heart set on an SUV should look first to the Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
How much for a used Macan?
The Macan is a tempting proposition if your need is one of fast, rewarding family transport. However, anybody tempted to rummage around the classifieds for a bargain should be warned that Macans hold their value sensationally well. Few cars perform better and our sources predict the Performance Package car featured here will still be worth a shade over £45,000, or 65% of its original value, after three years and 36,000 miles. Residuals are propped up by high demand for a car that is still in its first generation, with relatively few appearing on the used market.
Nevertheless, should you decide to buy second-hand, it’s possible to find basic petrol and diesel Macans for less than £40,000 within Porsche’s approved dealer network, although you’ll probably lean towards the more powerful V6 petrol Macan S, which boasts 335bhp and an official combined economy of 32.1mpg. With 20,000 miles under their wheels, these models cost closer to £50,000, but they’re the sweet spot of the range in terms of value for performance. From there, the GTS bridges the gap to the Turbo, both of which you’ll find for less than £60,000. It might be worth waiting to see what effect the introduction of a facelifted model – due to be revealed this month – has on values.
1st - Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio: It’s heroically quick and exudes a joie de vivre that eludes the Porsche. With that engine note, you’ll also quickly forgive its various foibles
2nd - Porsche Macan Turbo: Crushingly effective, a more rounded product and the easier car to live with.
Styling should mirror the Giulia sedan, but the coupe will gain a restyled front and rear end, longer doors, and a distinct nameplate (either Sprint or GTV). It’s also possible that Alfa Romeo will create a five-door coupe model to contend with Audi’s new RS5 Sportback. Whether Alfa Romeo will choose to equip an all-wheel drive system like Audi is to be determined, but we’d personally miss the drifty goodness of a rear-drive setup. Pricing is completely theoretical at this point, but $80K seems like a fair estimate for the most potent Giulia two-door, given the car’s competitors.
The world needs more hot Italian two-doors, so we’re hoping to see the Giulia coupe ASAP.
The Alpine A110 is one of the most eagerly awaited production cars of 2017/18. It marks the return of the Renault-owned Alpine brand for the first time since production ended in 1995. But it’s the A110, produced between 1962 and 1971, that’s the brand’s most iconic model, and inspiration for the new car.
The 2017 A110 has been developed by a dedicated team at Renaultsport in Dieppe. What, they wondered, would an A110 look and feel like if it had never left production, but instead evolved over generations? They didn’t mention a 911, but you get the idea.
The spec sounds as promising as the evocative new Alpine looks – a mid-engined aluminium sports car that’s a little over four metres long, produces 249bhp and weighs just 1100kg.
Its most obvious rivals include the Porsche 718 Cayman, Alfa 4C, Lotus Elise/Exige and the four-cylinder Jaguar F-type. But Alpine has also taken a look at the Toyota GT86 and toppy Audi TTs during development.
We’re driving it on road in the south of France, and on track too.
Alpine was founded by Jean Rédélé in 1955. He’d raced a Renault 4 CV and scored class wins on the Mille Miglia and Critérium des Alpes. It’s the latter that inspired the company name, and the philosophy behind his cars: cars that weren’t necessarily the most powerful, but punched above their weight because they were so light and agile.
In a way, it’s the Mini recipe applied to a mid-engined sports car. No coincidence, then, that both won the Monte Carlo rally. In fact, Alpine won the WRC title in 1973, and went on to win Le Mans in 1978.
The Alpine gets an all-new, bonded and riveted aluminium platform, a mid-mounted 1.8-litre turbocharged engine shared with the incoming Renaultsport Megane and a seven-speed Getrag dual-clutch gearbox too. The latter is a wet clutch unit with – unusually – bespoke ratios, and it’s different to both the disappointing dry-clutch unit in the Clio, and the wet clutch unit in that new Megane we’re yet to drive.
If you’re thinking that a manual gearbox would be lighter, chief engineer David Twohig argues that isn’t necessarily the case – having no clutch pedal and being able to engineer a floating centre console that didn’t need to house a manual transmission clawed back the kilos. It means this A110 will never be offered with a manual gearbox.
A mechanical limited-slip differential isn’t included. Instead, the ESC-based braking helps to juggle torque between the rear wheels. Four-piston Brembo calipers take care of stopping duties.
The suspension is by aluminium double wishbones all round, which keeps the Michelin Pilot Sport 4s in better contact with the road – in fact, Renault says the harder you go, the better the grip. This is why the springs can be relatively soft, and the anti-roll bars not particularly chunky– there’s no need to resist the roll of the car in the same way you do with a heavier car using strut front suspension. The space required by double wishbones at the rear also means that only a four cylinder engine will fit.
There are no adaptive dampers, but you do have Normal, Sport and Track modes. These adjust the weight of the – electrically assisted – steering, throttle response, stability control settings, engine sound and gear shifts. You can turn the stability control all the way off.
A flat underfloor and rear diffuser removes the need for a rear spoiler, and even the cooling vents at the rear are neatly hidden away next to the rear side windows and at the bottom of the rear screen.
Weight has been chased away wherever possible. Sabelt seats weigh 13kg each – half that of the outgoing Megane RS – clips for the ABS sensor cables are made from aluminium, and the parking brake element of the rear brake caliper has been integrated into the main caliper
It’s a little fuzzy at the moment. The first 1955 cars are all Premiere Editions, which get a high spec, including 18-inch wheels, 320mm discs all round (unusually), part-leather seats, sat-nav and a sports exhaust. This is the car we’re driving, but they’re all sold out even though the price remains TBC. Expect £50-52k, with first UK deliveries in Q2 2018. A Premiere Edition weighs 1103kg.
The Pure model is the base A110, and comes on 17-inch alloys with smaller discs but the same four-piston calipers. It gets no nav, no sports exhaust, and will cost ‘mid- to late £40k’. That’s the headline 1080kg figure.
Finally, the Legende is a slightly more comfort-focussed spec with full leather, fully adjustable seats (the others have a choice of three seat heights, that are spannered into place), but are still not quite as well equipped as a Premiere Edition. They’ll be a little under £50k, and weigh a little more than a Premiere Edition.
In a word, fantastic. This is an unintimidating yet thrilling sports car to chuck down a sinuous road, and the best possible advertisement for reducing weight instead of increasing power. You sit very low down in bucket seats with high levels of both comfort and support; those well over six-feet tall have both ample legroom, and headroom, even when wearing a helmet.
Early on, you notice how eagerly and precisely the nose responds to steering inputs, much like a Toyota GT86. The brake pedal is firm and easy to modulate, the steering quick-witted and nicely weighted with decent feel, throttle response is keen, and there’s a fruity burble from the exhaust that in itself suggests a certain playfulness. So straight away there’s an energy to the way the A110 goes about its business.
It also rides nicely, its body staying spookily flat on even rougher surfaces as it soaks up bumps with a great deal of sophistication. This isn’t a complete magic carpet ride experience, but the overwhelming feeling is one of calm composure, of a car that doesn’t tug around on cambers – like the Alfa 4C – nor threaten to bounce you off a bumpy road when you press on. And yet it feels intimately connected to the surface all the same.
You could drive everywhere at quite modest speed in the A110 and still get a lot of enjoyment out of what is a very tactile sports car.
We did, at Circuit du Grand Sambuc. Up the pace and the A110 really starts to shine. It’s perhaps not as fast as you might expect given its fairly healthy 249bhp and very modest 1100kg, but it’s plenty quick enough, flexible from low revs, and feels willing to rev out beyond 6000rpm.
In Sport and Track modes, the gear shifts are also impressively snappy, and add to the frisky soundtrack with a lovely little slap of engagement. It’s a positive, mechanical kind of feeling.
We drove in slippery conditions, but that gave us a great chance to play with the A110’s balance. This is where it gets really good, and the 44/56 weight distribution comes into its own. On a steady throttle, the A110 will gradually push into understeer, while very clearly communicating what’s going on to the driver. But it’s also extremely throttle adjustable, so if you snap shut the throttle mid-bend the nose will tuck into the apex and the Alpine will adopt a bit of sideways attitude. At this point, if you’ve got everything switched off, you can blip the responsive throttle and have the A110 hanging at all sorts of daft angles.
A proper limited-slip diff would make it even more precise but, in the wet at least, it still felt nicely controllable. Most impressive is what a progressive, communicative and benign machine this is, so that neither edging up to its limits nor going beyond them feels particularly scary.
The brakes too feel strong on track, with a nicely judged progression as the feedback builds under your foot.
A minimum of mid-£40k is pretty steep, and you’ll get a Cayman with 50bhp more for a chunk less cash – though Alpine will argue you get a higher spec on the A110.
Then there’s the interior, which probably won’t wash with anyone cross-shopping a car from Stuttgart. The overall look and feel is sporty and purposeful, but there’s regular Renault switchgear, pretty average infotainment, and some cheap plastics placed prominently on display.
There’s been a huge amount of pressure on the Alpine team to get the A110 right, and they’ve absolutely delivered.
It looks as desirable as any TT, Cayman, 4C or F-type, and in terms of dynamics and driving enjoyment there’s no doubt this is a five-star car. But it is expensive and some might find parts of the interior a little underwhelming. If CAR did half stars, I’d drop it to a 4.5 for that. But the fact is we don’t, and the A110 is just too much fun for a 4. Smashed it, Alpine. Absolutely smashed it.
INFINITI earned top honors in the 2018 J.D. Power Customer Satisfction Index Sudy. Overall, INFINITI achieved a score of 876 on a 1,000-point scale, 48 points above the industry average and 14 points above the premium segment average.
NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 15, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- INFINITI earned top honors, taking the No. 1 spot industry-wide in the J.D. Power 2018 Customer Service Index (CSI) Study. Overall, INFINITI achieved a CSI score of 876 on a 1,000-point scale, 48 points above the industry average and 14 points above the premium segment average.
“We know that time is a valuable currency, which is why our retailers make it a priority to deliver an exceptional experience from the moment customers walk in the door and throughout the entire ownership cycle,” said Randy Parker, vice president, INFINITI Americas. “We want to make the most of every second our owners spend in our store, from the greeting from our service advisors in a welcoming environment—complete with premium amenities—to the moment they drive away with the same level of comfort and optimal performance they enjoyed the first time they drove their INFINITI vehicle.”
The 2018 CSI Study includes ratings on five service-related factors to customer satisfaction: service advisor, vehicle pick-up, service facility, service quality and service initiation. INFINITI ranked in the top tier among premium brands in each category, with the largest improvement seen in the Service Advisor category.
INFINITI attributes its success to a variety of factors including a strong network of retailers and a comprehensive mix of policies and programs such as multiple touchpoint reviews, high hospitality standards and a variety of training programs available both in-person and via online.
The 2018 CSI Study measures customer satisfaction with service at a franchised retailer or independent service facility for maintenance or repair work among owners and lessees of 1-to 5-year-old vehicles. INFINITI in the past has earned top marks in the J.D. Power CSI Study in 1990, 1994, 1996 and 2003.
INFINITI Motor Company Ltd. is headquartered in Hong Kong with representations in 50 markets around the world. The INFINITI brand was launched in 1989. Its range of premium automobiles is currently built in manufacturing facilities in Japan, the United States, United Kingdom and China. INFINITI design studios are located in Atsugi-Shi near Yokohama, London, San Diego and Beijing. INFINITI is in the middle of a major product offensive. The brand has been widely acclaimed for its daring design and innovative driver-assistance technologies. From the 2016 season, INFINITI is a technical partner of the Renault Sport Formula One team, contributing its expertise in hybrid performance.
“The time for you & Maserati to get together could be right now.” So says Jason Gunn after driving one of our Maserati Ghiblis. With 3.9% finance on selected Maserati demonstrators until the end of March, there has never been a better time to experience the exclusivity and uniqueness of a Maserati. As Jason says “It’s a treat”!
They have done it. At 13h20'26” UTC, Maserati Multi 70 crossed the Tea Route arrival line between Hong Kong and London passing under the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge.
Giovanni Soldini and the trimaran's crew composed of Guido Broggi, Sébastien Audigane, Oliver Herrera Perez and Alex Pella took 36 days, 2 hours, 37 minutes and 2 seconds to cover the 13,000 nautical miles of the theoretical route between the Chinese port and the capital of the United Kingdom.
They have improved the record by almost a week (5 days and 19 hours) that previously belonged to Gitana 13, the 100-foot maxi catamaran that completed the route in 41 days in 2008. On the ground, the Italian trimaran travelled 15,083 nautical miles at an average speed of 17.4 knots.
Just after the finish line, the skipper Giovanni Soldini comments: ''We are super happy but also very tired. The last 48 hours have been very tough. Sailing in the Channel upwind with a lot of breeze, a lot of sea and a terrible cold. The record went very well, we are very happy with our route. The most difficult part was the last one: with more favorable weather conditions in the Atlantic we could have gained another 3 or 4 days, but that's okay. Indeed it could not have been better, technically the boat is perfect. From the last time we put Maserati Multi 70 in a yard, we have sailed more than 19,000 miles and everything is fine onboard, surely there is the work of preparation by Guido and the whole team. An excellent crew.''
As we wait for the ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council, the organization that validates the ocean records, here is a summary of the Tea Route day by day.
The 2018 update for Maserati’s top-tier grand tourer has landed on New Zealand shores, featuring a host of refinements and improvements.
Two versions of each car are now offered, Sport and MC. Both use the same powertrain but suspension, trim and equipment differ before adding personalisation characters.
The MC, or ‘Maserati Corse’, replaces the outgoing MC Stradale and offers five selectable driving modes.
The appearance of both has been subtly updated from last year, including a front end inspired by the Alfieri concept. Headlights have been redesigned, as have the front bumper’s lateral air ducts. A rear parking camera is now standard. The MC gets a more pronounced central splitter, and the redesigned front end helps lower the drag coefficient to 0.32.
The MC also gains a carbon-fibre bonnet, with “downforce-optimising air vents.” Additionally, there are iconic vertical air vents in the front wings, deep functional side skirts, titanium brake callipers (black in the Sport) and 20” Trofeo Silver forged wheels, now 10 per cent stronger and lighter.
The rear bumper has been redesigned to incorporate the central diffuser which differs between versions. Sport gets oval exhaust outlets at the edge of the bumper while the MC features round outlets coming through the central, transparent diffuser. The exhaust system of the MC version is lighter and has a totally different shape and function. When in Sport mode, a valve channels exhaust gases so they completely bypass the silencer. This reduces back pressure and should make quite a racket.
Inside, there are further differentiating features. The 2018 Maserati GranTurismo and GranCabrio Sport are fitted as standard with a Maserati Centennial Pack which boasts two-tone Poltrona Frau leather upholstery, and a trident logo stitched on the head restraints. Seat backrest covers and seat frames are in carbon fibre.
By contrast, the MC variants have a mixed Poltrona Frau leather and Alcantara upholstery interior which extends to the sports steering wheel, instrument cluster, central armrest, door panels armrest/handles, central dashboard area, and tunnel gear pod.
The centrepiece of the dashboard is now a high-resolution, 8.4” capacitive touchscreen. That brings these models in line with other Maseratis, and it’s compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring functions. Both Sport and MC models now feature a Harman Kardon Premium Sound system as standard.
The powertrain remains the Ferrari-designed 4.7-litre naturally aspirated V8 offering 338kW and 520Nm. Zero to 100km/h takes 4.7sec for the MC version and 4.8sec in the Sport. The power is handled by a six-speed ZF automatic gearbox.
The 2018 Maserati GranTurismo and GranCabrio ranges are on sale now, with the GranTurismo Sport starting at $224,990 and the GranCabrio Sport at $254,990. Add $25k for the Cabrio MC model and $35k for the Turismo.