All posts by Richard Major

New Ford Focus ST details and prices

Today Ford announced that the Focus ST will go on sale on 1st June, priced (in the UK) at £21,995. Deliveries are expected to start in September.

The previous ST’s 5-pot engine was forced into retirement by the Euro-5 regulations. The new car is powered by an all-alloy 2 litre 4-pot turbo EcoBoost unit, the new Ford Focus ST develops 247bhp, and returns 39.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 169g/km – 20 per cent better than the predecessor.

Suspension will be unique to the ST model, whilst non-linear variable-ratio steering and performance brakes have all been specifically tuned, by the Ford RS team in Europe, and the Ford SVT team in America.

We can expect to see the central exhaust, and Aston Martin-esque front grille as seen on the recent Concept. In terms of colour, you’ll be able to tick an option box marked “Tangerine Scream”.

The standard kit will include Ford Power keyless start, fabric Recaro seats, a DAB radio, Bluetooth for your phone and 18″ alloy wheels. The top of the range ‘ST3’ version (£25,495) gets heated leather seats, Bi-Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and keyless entry.

This new ST will go on sale in 40 countries, but Ford expect it to be especially popular in Britain. “Ever since the arrival of the legendary GT40, Britain has become the spiritual home for performance Fords – and demand from UK enthusiast customers has always been strong,” said Mark Ovenden, Ford Britain managing director. “This latest Focus ST is a global car that will excite customers around the world – but especially those in Britain.” Indeed, the previous 2 versions of Focus ST sold in large numbers, with 35,000 leaving dealer forecourts between 2002-2010.

The car will also be available in estate form, priced from £23,095.

Driven – Vauxhall Corsa VXR Nurburgring Edition

Vauxhall Corsa VXR Nurburgring Edition. 34 letters. 5 words. Quite the mouthful. PistonSpy were recently invited up to Vauxhall’s Head Office in Luton to drive this car, and we jumped at the chance. It’s a car we previously snapped pictures of  testing back in 2010 – here. This is what we thought of it.

The Nurburgring Edition certainly looks the part. I thought it might look a little ‘after market’, but in the metal it actually looks great – really mean and purposeful. The squat stance is 20mm lower at the front and 15mm lower at the back than before and the 18” lightweight forged aluminum wheels really fill out the flared arches. To mark this model out as the Nurburgring Edition, there are Nurburgring logos on the B-pillars and door sills. At the back of the car, there are two massive (and real!), stainless steel exhaust pipes. You can buy the car in two new colours, Red Henna, and the colour I drove, Apple Green Grasshopper. This isn’t a subtle car, so if I was buying one, I’d definitely have the stand out green paint to match.

Inside, the car is a nice enough place to be. The great looking leather Recaro seats are undoubtedly the highlight. They are comfortable, and provide loads of lateral support. They also have the Nurburgring logo embossed on the headrest, which is a lovely, high end touch. The piano black plastic inserts on the wheel and across the dash however, look and feel a little cheap, which is a shame on a car of this price. Worst though, is the gear stick. It’s far too big, a very unusual shape, with an enormous trigger style button to open the gate to reverse. The gear changes themselves are also a letdown. It feels more luck than judgement when changing gear quickly.

But what is it like to drive? In short; brilliant. The turbo charged 1.6 litre engine develops 202bhp and 250NM of torque. This gets the car to 60mph in 6.5 seconds. That 0-60 time will certainly prove useful at your next Formula Traffic-Lights event, but this isn’t where the car really excels. This car’s real party piece is tearing down good old fashioned British B-roads.

On B-roads, the car was outstanding. Vauxhall commissioned German suspension gurus Bilstein to develop a bespoke spring and damper set-up, specifically for the Nurburgring Edition Corsa. Over the bumps and wobbles of the country roads around Luton, this Bilstein set-up meant I always felt in total control of the car. It gave a feeling of supreme confidence, allowing me to exploit that 202bhp engine to its fullest.

The most impressive upgrade on the Nurburgring Edition is the limited slip differential. It’s a proper mechanical, multi-plate system built by Drexler and has transformed the car. Throw the little Corsa into a corner, any corner, and apply a boot-full of power – rather than wildly spinning its wheels and just washing out wide, the limited slip diff actually tightens up your line, and pulls you towards the apex. The car is an absolute riot to drive.

Does it deserve that Nurburgring name? I think so. In fact I would absolutely love to drive this car on the Nurburgring. The car has such a sweet setup which really inspired confidence. The car loves corners, which the Nurburgring certainly has plenty of! Power-wise, I think the 202bhp engine is about perfect for a front-wheel-drive hot hatch at the ‘Ring. It’s powerful enough to have lots of fun, and thanks to that limited slip diff, feels totally useable all the time. Equally though, it’s not so powerful that it’s going to be getting you into serious trouble. A great balance.

Vauxhall are only bringing 250 a year to the UK. Each are individually numbered and prices start at £22,295. That’s a serious amount of money for a Corsa. There’s no doubt it’s a brilliant car, but you could get a RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup for £17,135 and save over £5,000. Or, if you’re really into Nurburgringy-ness, you could save up a few more pounds, and buy the current record holder for fastest FWD car, the RenaultSport Megane 265 Cup, for £24,840. You get a lot more car for the extra £2,500. Physically the Megane is a bigger car, but it’s also 30 seconds per lap quicker at the ‘Ring.

Neither the Clio or Megane look or stand out quite like the Corsa though. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, well, that’s totally up to you.

Pistonspy Says:- Out of 5

Vauxhall Corsa VXR Nurburgring Edition

Ferrari F12 Berlinetta Revealed



Ferrari released images and details of their upcoming 599 replacement, earlier today.

The F12 Berlinetta will be Ferrari’s most powerful and fastest ever road car. The power outputs are almost identical, as those reported by us last week  at 740CV (approx 730bhp). Ferrari say the V12, which is the same one used in the four seater FF, but will rev to 8700rpm, and put out 80bhp more. Yet the F12 will return 18.9mpg, an increase of 10% over the 599. This is possible in part, thanks to the Start-Stop technology, as used in other current Ferraris.

The F12 will hit 62 in 3.1 seconds, 124 in 8.5 seconds, and lap Ferrari’s home circuit, Fiorano in 1min23seconds. Hugely impressive!

As with all new Ferraris, the F12 Berlinetta will not be available with a manual gear box. Ferrari are using their dual clutch, automatic gearbox.

As suspected the new F12 is actually a little smaller than the outgoing 599. According to our sources, customers complained that the 599 was a bit too difficult to park in their garages. The F12 Berlinetta will be 20mm narrower, 47mm shorter, 63mm lower than the 599. That’s 1942mm wide, 4618mm long and 1273mm high. This has lowered the cars overall centre of gravity.

The car is also now built from an all new 12 alloy aluminium spaceframe chassis and bodyshell, making in 70kg lighter than the 599, at 1525kg. Also, as reported by us last week. The F12 will also be 20% stiffer than its 599 predecessor.

Ferrari note that thanks to the XX programme, they, along with Pininfarina have designed the aerodynamics so that the F12 has 76% more downforce than the 599. The drag coefficient is down to 0.299.

Reduction in drag is reduced partly thanks to a newly designed “Air-Bridge” which channels from the bonnets side intakes though the wheel arches, then splits it though the car’s beautifully sculpted side vents. You can see these vents clearly in the pictures above. The car also has “Active Brake Cooling” which is a system that will open the brake vents when the Carbon Ceramic get hot enough. The system will then close them again when the brakes have cooled down, reducing the drag effect.

We can expect the interior to be a mix between the 458 and the FF. All driving major controls will be mounted on the steering wheel, as per Ferrari’s “Human Machine Interface” system.

Order books will open at the Geneva show, and prices will likely start at around £250,000. So get your cheque books ready and you could be driving the brand new Ferrari F12 Berlinetta by early 2013!

Revealed – Leaked Specs of the Ferrari 599 Successor

Ferrari will be launching their 599 successor in March at the 2012 Geneva AutoSalon, and as we’ve previously reported, it will be called the F620. We posted spy shots of this car under going testing towards the end of last year. 

A select few of Ferrari’s very best customers have recently been invited to a special preview event. At this event, Ferrari showed off their new, still top secret supercar to the small group of the lucky invitees. Thanks to the loose lips of some of these Ferrari guests, we can now reveal some of the headline specs of the new car.

Ferrari’s new supercar will be powered by a V12 engine, producing 740bhp (30 more than previously thought!) and will weigh 1524kg, dry. That’s a weight saving of 56kg and a power increase of 128bhp over the outgoing 599 model. We can also reveal the new supercar will accelerate from 0 to 124mph in only 8.5 seconds and have a top speed over 211mph (340kph).

We cant wait until the official unveil in Geneva.

BMW I8 – Is this the Worlds first Hybrid Game Changer?

BMW I8

We recently published some pictures of BMW’s upcoming hybrid sports car, the i8, testing up in the arctic circle.

With its 220bhp 221lb-ft (300Nm) three cylinder petrol engine sat directly over and powering the rear wheels, and a 129bhp 184lb-ft (250Nm) electric motor sat on top of and powering the front wheels, the i8 offers a combined output of nearly 350bhp and 405lb- ft (550Nm) of torque.

That’s power enough to propel the car to 62mph in under 5 seconds and onto a top speed of 155mph. All this, yet the i8 will do almost 100mpg and on a combined cycle puts out only 99grams of CO2 per km. This allows for Congestion Charge-free driving though London and negates the need to pay for a UK tax disk. You can even drive on just electric power for up to 22 miles from a full charge and BMW promise us a full charge will take only 2 hours at a standard power socket. These figures could make the i8 one of the most interesting new cars of the next few years.

I really do believe that the BMW i8 will be the first, real petrolhead’s everyday hybrid hero. Imagine; you can cruise around town for free, on electric power alone. You could then take a long drive to the country, at nearly 100mpg.

Then at the weekend, take advantage of the perfect 50/50 weight balance, low centre of gravity, and powerful hybrid power plant for a hugely rewarding ‘enthusiastic’ drive. It’s a 2+2 as well, so you’ll be able to squeeze a pair of short children in the back. Perfect.

This is a great new direction for hybrid power. BMW are showing that hybrid power isn’t just for miserly Honda Insights and Toyota Priuses (or is that Pri’i? Maybe just Prius?), it’s a system which can be used to make amazing sports cars more useful in the real world.

Ultimately it gives hope. We’ve been told for a long time now that the future will be full of hybrid or electric cars, and so far these cars have either been boring cars for those outwardly concerned about the environment, or electric cars which just don’t have the range to function in a world where you might decide you want to drive further than the local shops and back in any given 24 hour period.

BMW aren’t the only people looking into hybrid sports cars though, there’s also Audi with their e- Tron Spyder, and Porsche with their 918 Spyder. The Audi has a 296bhp 3 litre TDI V6 for the rear wheels, an 86bhp electric motor for the fronts, and a face only a blind mother could love.

The Porsche is achingly beautiful and powered by a 716 3.4 litre V8 Petrol engine at the back, and 218bhp electric set-up at the front. Unfortunately you wouldn’t choose either of these; the Audi is just too ugly, and the Porsche will be both sold out and too expensive.

In terms of design, the i8 looks brilliant. It will probably be dulled down slightly from the concept we are used to seeing now. Our spy photos of the camouflaged prototype seem to show that the production version will predictably loose the glass doors, and the windscreen will be of a more standard design. But the general shape looks similar and BMW seem have to retained the awesome rear/side floating spoiler.

BMW are saying that the i8 will be launched in 2014. They seem to be rather proud of it too, and aren’t afraid to spend money on advertising, paying big bucks for it to be featured in the recent Mission Impossible movie and even showing it in their mainstream brand adverts.

I think it’s going to be very special indeed, and you know what; if its good enough for Ethan Hunt, it’s good enough for me. Now, I just need to find the rumoured £100k its going to cost.

Source:- Richard Major