The EP9 is a Bolt from the Red

This is the EP9 from NIO and its parent company NextEV. It’s Chinese and it’s very, very fast. Before we get into all that here’s a little background on NIO. They’re a relatively young company but already have a Formula E driver’s championship under their belts, so they clearly know their way around a fast electric car. The EP9’s not just for the auto sites; tech bloggers are excited about it too. Hurrah for the cross pollination of interests! The fact of the matter is that as much as we all love thunderously loud cars powered by explosions, they aren’t the future. The future is electric, or something else that we can make or have an abundance of, but it ain’t finite fossil fuels (fingers crossed). NIO, for their part, are getting people interested. People who don’t usually care about cars. Good on ‘em!

To keep weight down the EP9 is made from a lot of carbon fibre. It has a carbon monocoque chassis built to FIA LMP1 standards and full carbon body panels. NIO have promised a range of 265 miles, with a full charge taking just 45 minutes (so they say). The battery packs can be removed out of the sides of the car and changed for fully charged ones in about 8 minutes. The car weighs 3825 lbs, which isn’t light, but it isn’t exactly underpowered either.

The EP9 contains an electric motor for each wheel, which combined produce the equivalent of 1360 horsepower (or one megawatt) and, get this, 4670 ft-lb of torque. That’s the kind of torque that pushes continents around. Seriously though that’s four and a half F350s worth. All that power combined with aero know-how from Formula E means that the EP9 just decimated the EV lap record at the Nurburgring with a time of 7:05:12. The previous record for an EV was 7:22:00. So, quite a step forward then. Just six will be built and are they’re all spoken for by NextEV’s founders, but I’m liking where this electric halo car business is going nonetheless.

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The EP9 is a Bolt from the Red

Lexus LFA: The High Price of Quality

The Lexus LFA is a bit of an oddball as supercars go. On one hand it’s a shining achievement in supercar building. On the other it’s extremely expensive when compared to other similarly capable cars. Its engine makes 553 horsepower and it has a top speed of 202 mph. Considering that a Nissan GT-R, which costs much, much less than the LFA, will go very nearly as fast, what the hell were Lexus playing at selling LFAs for $375,000 each? 50 of the limited run of 500 cars got the special Nurburgring package which pushed the price to $445,000. It’s one of the most expensive Japanese road cars ever built.

Exclusivity aside, there are a few areas in which the LFA is really rather special. It’s the result of over a decade of development from some of the finest car builders in the world; of insane attention to detail and driving dynamics. At its heart sits an aluminium and titanium V10 which, so say Lexus, can rev from idle to redline in 0.6 seconds. They actually had to fit the car with a digital rev counter because an analogue one couldn’t keep up. The engineers liken the engine’s sound to “the roar of angels” and while all those angels are roaring outside the car its occupants are treated to sound delivered by two ducts which connect to the firewall and contain specially shaped ribs like a guitar. This system was tuned by Yamaha’s musical instrument people and provides an engine note in two distinct octaves.

The LFA is by no means pretty, but that’s because it was designed with the idea that form follows function. Its carbon fibre and polymer bodywork produces a lot of downforce, because this is a car for driving. Ask anyone who’s had a go in one and the LFA gets a big thumbs up. It seems that this is a car built by engineering magicians to be the best that a car that doesn’t obsess over being at the cutting edge of the cutting edge can be. It inspires confidence because it’s familiar and it excites because it’s very fast. It’s in the same family as the cars that people learn to drive in, only it’s a much finer product. It’s incredibly advanced and painstakingly designed and built, but it’s not trying to reinvent the wheel with unproven and experimental technology. It has mechanical suspension, not some super-reactive computer controlled business, just really, really good mechanical suspension. It’s a supercar for the well-heeled driver, not the flashy poseur, and for that reason it deserves respect.
Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Wednesday November 9th 2016.

Lexus LFA: The High Price of Quality

Danger and Glamour: Mille Miglia

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The original Mille Miglia is one of motorsport’s legendary races, run at a time when health and safety came second to excitement. The thousand mile race over open public roads was conceived by an Italian Count in protest of the Italian Grand Prix being moved from his hometown of Brescia to Monza. The track was set as a lap of Italy from Brescia to Rome and back, and entry was restricted to unmodified production cars. Out of 77 starters only 51 made it to the finish line of the very first Mille Miglia. The race cemented the legendary status of marques such as Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW and Alfa Romeo, regularly attracting 5 million spectators along its route. Who wouldn’t want to see beautiful cars tear by on open beautiful roads?

Unlike modern rallies, the Mille Miglia sent the slowest cars out onto the course before the more powerful factory-backed competitors. Each car was given a number based on the time at which it started the race, so Sterling Moss’s legendary #722 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR set off at 7.22 am. He and navigator Denis ‘Jenks’ Jenkinson set the absolute record for the thousand mile lap with a time of 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds. Their average speed over that time was an eye-watering 97.9 mph/157.6 km/h. The race was held twice in its original format after that record-setting run, but the time was never beaten.

While probably for the best, it’s a shame that there aren’t many races left that match the drama and danger of the Mille Miglia. Holding it on public roads was divine madness. One year, German driver Hans Herrmann at the wheel of a low-slung Porsche 550 Spyder saw the gates of a railway crossing begin to lower as he approached. Tapping the back of his navigator’s helmet to tell him to duck, he floored the nimble little Porsche and flew under the barrier just before the train passed. That was the kind of race that the Mille Miglia was. Unfortunately, you’re only lucky so many times. At the 1957 running Spanish driver Alfonso de Portago, desperate to win, waited too long to change tyres on his 4.2 litre Ferrari. He lost control and crashed, killing himself, his navigator, and nine spectators. Five of those were children. The race was subsequently banned, and is now held as a timed rally at legal speeds open to pre-1957 cars which attended or raced in the original Mille Miglia.

Posted @Whippstagram on Intsagram, Wednesday June 29th 2016

Danger and Glamour: Mille Miglia

Mythical Beast: Fenyr SuperSport

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“The earth shook violently, trees were uprooted, mountains fell, and all binds snapped- Fenyr is free.” That’s the epic quote that W Motors chose to accompany their upcoming supercar, the Fenyr SuperSport, named after the giant wolf in Norse mythology who killed the god Odin, destroyed most of the world, and then ate the sun and the moon. That’s quite the legacy for a car to live up to. W partnered with RUF Automotive to develop the doom-bringing supercar, and it’s 4.0 litre twin-turbo flat six was designed exclusively for this car by the German manufacturer. The Fenyr has a honeycomb aluminium chassis and full carbon fibre bodywork for a feather-like 1200kg curb weight. That’s the same as an average BMW Mini, but this has 900 horsepower. Its styling is even angrier than its baby brother’s, showing W’s intention that this car lean towards outright performance in the speed vs luxury dichotomy. 0-60mph flies by in 2.7 seconds, and the Fenyr can reach a top speed of 249 mph or a nice round 400km/h. You might consider this to be W Motors’ budget entry: just seven Lykan HyperSports were built at a cost of $3.4m apiece whereas the company will built 25 Fenyrs, a comparative steal at $1.8m each.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Dec 10th 2015

Mythical Beast: Fenyr SuperSport

TVR Speed 12

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One tonne. One thousand horsepower. Koenigsegg wasn’t the first manufacturer to produce a road car with one horsepower per kilo, but they were the first to make it useable on public roads. With the Speed 12, TVR set out to take on the mighty McLaren F1 in GT racing and in the road car business. Powered by a behemoth 7.73 litre V12 which is said to have produced in excess of 1000 horsepower (unverified because it destroyed TVR’s dyno when they tried to test it), the Speed 12 never really got a chance to win a race before rule changes and the scrapping of the GT1 class forced it out of competition. TVR decided that they would produce a road-going version so that their hard work wouldn’t go to waste, which was to be produced alongside a new GT2 racing version. The road car would apparently have a top speed of over 240mph. After taking deposits on the £188,000 monster, then-head of TVR Peter Wheeler drove the car home one night after work. He returned the next morning and declared that the ludicrous power available was simply too much. The car was undriveable in the real world. TVR continued to race the Speed 12 in the British GT series, but its brief life as a road car was over.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Dec 2nd 2015

TVR Speed 12