Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond introduce the new Lotus Exige, specifically engineered for America. See Jeremy’s test drive and review of it here, as compared to the Apache helicopter – literally
The Mazda MX-5 could be credited with bringing affordable open-air motoring to the modern masses but it wasn’t Japan where going topless first began; it was in France almost 75 years ago. George Paulin a full-time dentist and part-time automotive designer penned and patented the first retractable hardtop roof in 1935. Unlike the first MX-5 many decades later Paulin’s roof was power-operated and first entered production on the Peugeot 401.
In 1998, Peugeot sent the CC (Coupe Cabriolet) vehicle type into a renaissance with its 206CC and then 307CC models both achieving strong sales results. Now, it’s the 308CC that’s picked up the torch and while it may look simply like a fun vehicle to many, for Peugeot it’s serious business. So does the 308 CC have the right assets to drop its top and impress all this summer? Car and SUV got its hands all over one to find out more.
Convertibles are great for seeing and sensing your environment more than regular cars, but they’re also about being seen and the 308CC has no problem drawing the eye. The exterior aesthetic displays a subtle aggression that starts out front with a gaping toothy air intake and squinting headlights. At the rear large LED taillights are distinctive in shape and illumination. A small boot lip spoiler, a splash of chrome trim and 17-inch alloys round off the sporty look. Visually the 308CC hasn’t completely escaped the awkwardness that plagues CC vehicles and the fluid character line that starts from the bonnet and works into the A-pillars is cut short early. However, retract the roof and the Peugeot instantly appears more elongated, elegant and at its best.
Inside, the 308CC has an interesting mix of style and substance. The dashboard looks and feels quality, mixing blacks and generous silver trim with orange illuminated display screens. The retro-styled instrument cluster offers a feeling of occasion and the leather seats are cosseting and luxurious. Switchgear is a touch fiddly and climate controls are placed very closely to the gearstick but remain fairly easy to use. Cabin storage is limited with a small centre console for CDs, slim door pockets, a glove box that can’t fit the owner’s manual and a complete lack of cup holders. But space restrictions aren’t just limited to small items; adult-size back seat passengers will struggle to get comfortable on longer journeys with limited legroom and also restricted headroom when the roof is up.
The 308CC’s equipment list is very good and includes a six-speaker stereo with auxiliary input, dual-zone climate control, rear parking aid, air-conditioned lockable glove box and automatic wipers. Get the leather upgrade pack and you receive electrically adjustable heated front seats with a head restraint air vent to keep your neck warm when motoring alfresco.
It will take 20 seconds and the touch of a button to get the roof tucked away in the Peugeot’s boot and will reduce luggage capacity from 465 litres to 266 litres. With the roof down, windows up and wind blocker in place the cabin is a relatively calm place, even at motorway speeds.
Available with a single engine option in NZ, under the 308CC’s bonnet lays a 2-litre direct-injected turbo diesel engine producing 100kW of power and 320Nm of torque. It’s a flexible unit that offers a decent serve of grunt at low revs. Push it higher into the rev range and the motor struggles against the 308CC’s bulky 1695kg weight. So it’s no high performance vehicle but it was never planned to be. In terms of its cruising focus the diesel engine is capable, isn’t too loud and returns a good fuel economy of 7.0l/100km combined.
The impressive fuel economy figure is helped largely by a clever 6-speed automatic ‘box which is intuitive and has a sport mode that holds the Pug in a lower gear longer. A tiptronic feature is also available for manual shifting.
While the 308CC can’t offer sports car performance the ride is sports car firm and slightly at odds with its cruising focus. That said, the overall handling is impressive with ample grip and a flat balanced feel during cornering. The steering has a very light, artificial feel that works fine around town but on twisted roads mid-corner adjustment may be required to compensate for the vague communication between road and driver.
Safety systems have been a focus with the 308CC and this has seen it achieve a maximum 5 star Euro NCAP rating. A full compliment of 6 airbags is on board as are ABS brakes, electronic stability control and pyrotechnic rollover bars if it all turns ugly.
Priced at $59,990 the new 308CC offers many things for the money, an interesting automotive bloodline, a heavy dosage of styling flair inside and out, a calm cabin with the top down, excellent fuel economy within its segment and solid safety cred. In terms of dynamics and straight-line acceleration the 308CC isn’t as sporty as its looks might suggest but this shouldn’t dissuade many within its largely female target market.
So does the Peugeot have the goods to prance around top down this summer? Definitely, it’s eye-catching especially when topless to observers and has just enough character to keep drivers happy too.
What we like:
- Intriguing styling
- Fuel economy
- Well-balanced handling
What we don’t like:
- Harsh ride
- Cramped back seat
- Could use more power
Peugeot 308 CC HDI – Specifications
High-Pressure Direct Injection Turbo Diesel, 16 valve
6 speed Tiptronic System Porsche Automatic Transmission
Cubic Capacity (cc) 1997
Max Power kW (HP) @ rpm 100 (136) @ 4000
Max Torque (Nm) @ rpm 320 (340) @ 2000
WHEELS AND TYRES
Alloy Wheels Alloy
Front ventilated with sliding calipers 302 x 26 mm
Rear solid discs with sliding calipers 249 x 9 mm
Front”Independent McPherson type, helical springs and
hydraulic dampers, set to operating pressure of 5 bars.
Rear”Rear Torsion beam, helical springs and hydraulic
dampers set to an operating pressure of 5 bars.
Length (mm) 4400
Width (mm) with mirrors 1817
Height (mm) 1426
Boot capacity”roof down (litres) 266
- roof up (litres) 465
WEIGHTS AND CAPACITIES
Kerb weight (kg) 1695
Braked trailer towing weight (kg) 1400
Unbraked trailer towing weight (kg) 750
FUEL CONSUMPTION & EMISSIONS
City cycle l/100km 9.6
Highway cycle l/100km 5.5
Combined l/100km 7.0
Emission of CO2 by weight (g/km) 185
Emission Control EURO 4
Top speed kms/hr 202
- Remote central locking, including glovebox & central armrest
- Rolling code transponder immobiliser
- Visible VIN number
- Security coded in-car entertainment
- Auto-lock doors/boot over 10 km
COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE
- Cruise Control with speed limiter
- Rear park aid
- Internal operated central door locking
- One-touch electric windows with anti-pinch front and rear
- Electrically operated door mirrors and electric folding mirrors
- CD / MP3 Player
- Steering wheel mounted remote audio controls
- Dual and digital climate control airconditioning
- Airconditioned glovebox
- Leather steering wheel
- Automatic rain sensing wipers
- Automatic headlight illumination system
- Front storage bins
- Boot net
- Accoustic laminated front windscreen
- Front and rear fog lights and reverse lights
- Retractable 2 piece hard top folding roof
- Under boot storage compartment
LEATHER UPGRADE PACK
- Black Leather
- Heated front seats
- Head Restraint Air-vent
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
It’s not an easy thing filling large shoes, whether it’s the previous success of a parent or older sibling, matching up is always a big ask. The latest to face this tough proposition is the Mercedes E250. It needs to follow the reputation of the thousands of older-model E-Class vehicles that have proved highly popular as taxi’s working the streets of Europe. Here in NZ when we need a taxi, it’s either a Ford Falcon or a rattling old Nissan Bluebird but on the continent it’s lines of E-Class Taxis waiting outside train stations. Taxi drivers tell stories of E-Classes with staggering mileage on the clock that still offer supreme comfort for paying passengers. So is the new E-Class blessed with the same reliability and refinement as its hard working ancestors? Car and SUV set the meter running with the E250 CDI to find out.
The E250 sedan is predicted to be the high volume seller of the new E-Class range helped largely by its entry-level price of $104,900 and green credentials.
The E250’s heartbeat is provided by a 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel engine that pumps 150kW of power to the rear wheels. It’s not exactly a performance vehicle but with turbocharging and a generous 500 Nm of torque on tap acceleration is brisk. Peak torque arrives at just 1600rpm making the E250 no slouch off the line, 100kph is reached in 7.2 seconds and it won’t stop till 240kph shows on the speedo. After the initial torque shove the Mercedes settles into its work comfortably and is at its smooth best while cruising.
Mated to an ageing five-speed auto transmission the E250 hums along with relaxed gear changes liking to keep itself low in the rev range. The result of such restraint is a very impressive fuel economy of 6l/100km on the combined cycle. Not bad for a sedan tipping the scales at 1735kg without a newer 6- or 7-speed transmission. To help achieve this economical figure the E250 has been given newly developed tyres, an energy-saving generator and numerous aerodynamic aids to keep it slippery.
In terms of handling the E250 has a small amount of body roll during cornering but holds its line well, offers reassuring grip and is surprisingly quick point-to-point on twisty roads. The variable-ratio steering works a charm and is firm enough at pace while also maintaining good low-speed maneuverability. Ride comfort remains an area of strength and the suspension is set accordingly with enough travel in the springs to protect occupants from almost all bumps and divots in the road.
Putting a smaller engine into a large car is a new trick for Mercedes but in other respects the E250 marks a return to values of old. Most notably in terms of comfort, refinement and the general solid feel that has almost always been a hallmark for Mercedes. The cabin is cosseting and is impeccably put together using high quality materials all round. It’s very spacious for the front occupants while the rear passengers have adequate leg and headroom. The leather seats are excellently soft, well bolstered with multiple adjustments and are ideal for long-range touring duties. Switchgear and instrumentation becomes quickly familiar and a jog dial easily operates the high-mounted display screen. The standard equipment list is suitably lengthy and includes a six-disc DVD changer and sat nav.
For all the E250’s hi-tech gadgetry its most impressive trick is the way occupants are isolated from the outside world. With the attention paid to aerodynamics and also insulation, wind and road noise is kept to a minimum. The diesel engine, which isn’t exceptionally quiet when heard from outside the vehicle, is relegated to a distant murmur on the inside.
The exterior aesthetic is modern and stately mixing a chunky bold front end with more conservative rear styling. The contrasting silver trim, broad shoulder lines and ‘Pontoon’ crease above the rear wheel-arches all add character. The top-end look is finished with 17-inch 5-spoke alloys and LED lights front and rear.
Safety systems have become a clear focus for Mercedes and the E250 is set to be a class-leader in this area. All the usual bases are well covered with an army of airbags including driver’s knee, an advanced Electronic Stability Program and a reinforced body shell design. Further electronic aids include Attention Assist that monitors 70 different factors to check driver alertness, and the optional Distronic Plus (a proximity control that lets you know when you’re following too closely and will apply the brakes if a crash is evident). If it gets too late and a crash is unavoidable active head restraints, belt force limiters, and seatbelt pretensioners are all ready to fire up.
The new Mercedes E250 is difficult to fault and there is no doubt that it shares the same all-round competence and supreme build quality that gave its ancestors a near-legendary reputation. The diesel engine offers solid performance and very thrifty fuel consumption. Dynamically the E250 has limits most owners will never test. The level of standard equipment is high and the cabin is about as comfortable as you can get. If you want a stylish, luxurious vehicle that will go the distance and you’ve got a six-figure budget to lay down then check out the new Mercedes E250.
Click through to the next page for a list of specifications
Price: from $104,900 as tested $122,400
What we like:
- High-level ride comfort
- Frugal but strong diesel engine
- Safety features
What we don’t like:
- Dated 5-speed auto box
- Rear legroom
Mercedes-Benz E250 CDI – Specifications
Engine and Performance
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s) 7.8
Compression ratio 16.2:1
Cylinder arrangement/number 4-Cylinder
Displacement (cc) 2143
Rated output (kW [hp] at rpm) 150 at 4200
Rated torque (Nm at rpm) 500 / 1600-1800
Top speed (km/h) 240
Fuel and Consumption
Cd value 0.26
CO2 emissions combined (g/km) 159
Emission class EU5
Fuel consumption combined (l/100km) 6
Tank capacity incl. reserve 59/8
Drive system Rear drive
Transmissions 5-speed automatic
Dimensions and Weights
Boot capacity (VDA) (I) 540
Kerb weight/payload capacity (kg) 1735/545
Maximum roof load (kg) 100
Perm. GVM (kg) 2280
Turning circle (m) 11.25
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Being in your 20s is a great time of life; responsibility is minimal and style and character are all important. For Peugeot the number 20 has always had importance too with its “20¦” series vehicles accounting for almost 30% of total production. It all kicked off with the Peugeot 201 back in 1929 which was the first mass produced car to be fitted with automatic windscreen wipers. In 1965 Peugeot released the 204 with a Pininfarina body design. In 1983 the 205 followed and went on to huge success in sales and motorsport with many crediting it for saving the French automaker from financial ruin. But it’s the more recent 206 that boasts the most total sales with more than 5.5 million units sold. That brings us up to the current Peugeot 207 that has received a recent facelift for 2009. So far, the 207 hasn’t dazzled like some of its ancestors but is the latest Peugeot 20-something model set for a turnaround in fortunes? Car and SUV jumped inside the updated Pug to find out.
The 207 is offered in NZ with two petrol engines and a diesel unit, our tested vehicle was the mid-spec 207 XT. Packed under the stubby bonnet is Peugeot’s 1.6-litre, 16-valve power plant that produces 88kW of power and 160Nm of maximum torque. While it never threatens to snap your head off, it’s a spirited engine that has no issues in shifting the 207 around town. It’s easy to stay up to speed in urban centres, but for open road overtaking manoeuvres the 207 requires room, as mid-range grunt isn’t its strongest suit. That said, if you’re heavy with the go-pedal the baby Peugeot can be kept at a brisk pace around the speed limit.
Matched up to a 4-speed automatic transmission the 207 returns a respectable fuel economy figure of 7.0l/100km on the combined cycle. But unfortunately it’s the auto transmission that is the weak point of the 207 drive train. The automated changes are sluggish in both moving up and chopping down, steering wheel paddles are available to take manual control of the shifts and while using them helps it removes the main reason for driving an auto. Even with gentle action on the accelerator pedal the 207 gearbox self-shifts in a lazy and raw manner making smooth driving difficult.
There may be weak points in the 207 power train but it’s hard to find them in terms of handling and ride. On twisted roads the 207 really excels with a well-balanced chassis and a clever suspension set-up that minimises body roll and aides determined grip. The 15-inch wheels shod in 185/65 tyres seldom slip and the 207’s wide track make for competent handling on even the most windy of Kiwi roads. Handling prowess doesn’t come at the cost of ride comfort and a longish wheelbase helps smooth progress over bumps and dips in the road. The 207’s electronic assisted power-steering functions well and serves up a firm communicative feel when driving at pace but lightens up for tight moves and parking.
In terms of looks the 207 may not be as bold a statement that the 206 once was but there‘s no doubt it’s a distinctive and stylish vehicle. Peugeot’s corporate face sits prominently out front with its large ‘Lion in combat’ badge that pushes into a sweptback windscreen and pinches off at the back with a chunky C-pillar. The facelift sees new LED lights at the rear and an increased use of chrome detailing. Overall, it’s a fluid modern look that threatens to polarize opinion but is sure to win followers.
In the cabin, upgrades have been made to the trim detail and the instrument panel resulting in a pleasant environment. Black plastics are broken up by contrasting silver trim in what’s a basic but well laid out dashboard. A high-mounted multi-function display screen gives car info and the silver-ringed instruments look sharp and are easily read. The stereo could give more kick but can be controlled by a wand mounted behind the steering wheel; this is an effective and surprisingly easy set up to get used to. Other interior tricks include one-touch electric windows, a pollen filtered air con system, and an air-conditioned glove box. The 207 offers excellent space for a B-segment vehicle and there is decent room between front occupants and good storage space in the hatch for luggage. The seats are firm and bolstered and offer a range of adjustments, as does the steering wheel, making it easy to get comfortable. Finished in a black cloth trim the 207 interior is more purposeful than fun but care has gone into the ergonomics and general build quality is sound.
Safety systems on the 207 include six airbags, ABS brakes and an Electronic Stability Program. The backseat has a sash seatbelt for the middle occupant and pretensioners on the front belts. These features helped the 207 score 5 stars in Euro NCAP testing.
So what’s the bottom line on Peugeot’s latest 20-something model? Well, it’s not perfect, the engine could have more go for a 1.6 and the auto transmission is found wanting. But what it does well, it does very well. Its handling is assured and entertaining and its style attractive and distinctive. The 207 may not be as youthful and fun as its 205 and 206 ancestors but its maturity brings practical value in the form of a spacious, liveable cabin and strong safety credentials for a sub $30k vehicle.
You can’t scream around forever and the 207 marks a new era of responsibility for Peugeot’s 20-series vehicles, but is that what enthusiasts and potential buyers really want? Give it a test drive and decide for yourself.
Click through to the next page for a list of specifications
What we like:
- Distinctive Styling
- Nimble handling
- Spacious interior
What we don’t like:
- Good car ruined by a sluggish auto transmission
- Could use more power
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
The Ford Territory has been around since 2004 and has received a recent facelift for its 2009 model year. The Territory was once a popular benchmark vehicle in its segment and this latest measure is set to extend its lifespan. So is it simply a weathered old gunslinger that’s been given a new hat and holster and sent back out to fight? Or does the updated Territory have some new tricks and shining spurs? Car and SUV headed west in the range-topping Territory Turbo to test its mettle.
With extensive changes and the introduction of a turbo-diesel engine scheduled for next year, this is a modest facelift. In terms of exterior aesthetics, changes include a new front bumper, upper and lower grilles, colour coded exterior mirrors and new head and taillights. The Territory Turbo retains the aggressive bonnet scoop and in Ghia trim receives special 18-inch rims. When compared to the latest 2009 batch of SUVs the Territory is showing its age. However, it remains a smart and purposefully styled vehicle with a distinctive shape.
It’s in the cabin where the Territory turbo boasts some serious new gear. Now included as standard specification is a handy third row of seating, reverse parking camera, rear privacy glass, side steps and an Alpine DVD system for back seat passengers. The seats have also been updated with quality leather and are wide and very comfortable. Gauges and switchgear are sensibly laid out but the multifunction display screen can look cluttered and difficult to read. The silver and black trim works in well together and while some materials feel a touch cheap it’s all screwed together strongly. Cabin space is superb with decent legroom all round. Overall, the Territory interior is a pleasant place to be, but car styling has shifted forward and although the standard equipment list is impressive the dated dash and instruments aren’t.
When it comes to what’s packed in under the bludging bonnet, the updated Territory has no major mechanical changes. Some small tweaks to the powertrain have resulted in a slight fuel economy improvement but engine specs and performance figures remain unchanged. That said, Ford knows you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight and the Territory turbo is still packing some serious firepower. Making use of its turbocharged 4-litre 6-cylinder engine the top-spec Territory puts out a whacking 245kW of power and 480Nm of torque. This brutish unit will take the Territory from standing to 100kmh in around 7 seconds and easily embarrass most other SUV drivers. It’s a motor that has strength through the range but it’s low down torque that gives it real character.
Mated to a smart six-speed auto transmission the Territory works itself competently through the gears and if you want to get hands-on there’s a tiptronic shifting option. Fuel economy is quoted at 14.2L/100km combined, which is fairly high, and if you want to have some fun and wind up the turbo, fuel bills will increase simultaneously.
Like the powertrain there has been no changes to the chassis or suspension set-up for the facelifted Territory but car-like drivability remains a strength for the vehicle. Despite it’s burly 2-tonne weight and high centre of gravity it’s surprisingly agile on twisty roads and easily manoeuvrable around town. But take it off the tarmac and it may struggle, with 235/55 R18 tyres and a clearance of just 179mm the Territory is undoubtedly better suited for sealed roads. In wet conditions the Territory feels sure-footed with ample grip thanks to its full-time 4WD system and wide track.
Ride quality is very good with little in the way of engine or wind noise entering the cabin. The suspension is set on the firm side for an SUV but only the most broken of Kiwi roads will prove uncomfortable for occupants.
Safety credentials check out with a posse of airbags including curtains waiting to shoot. ABS brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, traction control and a dynamic stability control system are also all standard fare on the Territory Turbo.
Overall, the Territory Turbo is still a very good performance orientated SUV with a strong motor, solid safety and keen driving dynamics. The facelift for 2009 is more an exercise in adding value by increasing standard equipment than making any major changes. Some buyers will be tempted by the added gear from the facelift but most will understandably wait for 2010 when the Territory range is fully updated in earnest and styling is properly refreshed. For now, when the cards get shown the Territory Turbo is still holding a full house, it’s just all the other players have moved on to the next saloon.
Click through to the next page for a list of specifications.
What we like:
- Strong Torquey engine
- Car-like driving dynamics
- Lengthy equipment list
What we don’t like:
- Minimal updates
- Fuel consumption
- Dated styling inside and out
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Ford Territory Ghia Turbo (2009) – Specifcations
DOHC VCT I6 Turbo—S
Displacement (cc) 3984
Power – maximum (DIN) 245kW @ 5,250rpm
Torque – maximum (DIN ) 480Nm @ 2,000rpm
Adaptive Shift/ Tiptronic 6FA
Braked – Standard 1,600
Braked – Heavy duty 2,300
Front – Virtual Pivot Control Link
Rear - Control blade independent
Turning circle (kerb to kerb) 11.4
Turns to lock 3.0
Wheels & Tyres
Wheel size 18″
Wheel type 5 spoke alloy
Tyre size 235/55 R18
Spare wheel 17″ alloy
Volume – Luggage behind second row seats (L) 1,153
Vehicle Masses kg
Axle load rating – front maximum 1,290
Axle load rating – rear maximum 1,530
Gross combination mass (GCM) 4,850
Gross vehicle mass (GVM) 2,690
Kerb mass 2,173
Payload – maximum 517
Volvo has widened its all-wheel-drive XC60 model range for 2010. The model made famous for its City Safety System is now available in four different versions with a choice of a new twin turbocharged diesel motor, a 3.2 litre petrol engine and two turbocharged petrol models.
With 151kWs and a beefy 420Nm of torque, the new D5 engine has lower fuel consumption and emissions that meet Euro 5 standards from its 2.4 litre capacity.
Developing 175kWs and 320Nm of normally aspirated power, the XC60 3.2 litre six cylinder offers more refined performance. And the turbocharged T6 with 210 kWs and 400 Nm is available in a standard specification and as an R design model. All engines are mated to a six speed adaptive Geartronic automatic transmission with All Wheel Drive.
All XC60s now come with a power-operated tailgate providing greater ease of operation and improved convenience for driver and passengers.
Other standard features include ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, ready alert brakes and an electronic parking brake, front fog lights, roof rails, rear park assist, electric heated retractable door mirrors and 17 inch alloys on the diesel and 3.2 model and 18 inch alloys on the T6 versions.
Inside there is leather upholstery, an electric driver’s seat with memory, 3 way split folding rear seat, leather steering wheel and gear lever, height and reach adjustable steering column, cruise control, trip computer and electronic climate control air conditioning.
Apart from the industry leading City Safety low speed accident prevention system, all XC60s also have roll over stability control, dynamic stability and traction control, six airbags, whiplash protection, built in child booster seats and three point seat belts with pre-tensioners on all seats.
There is an alarm and engine immobiliser, remote central locking with panic button and approach lights activation.
All XC60s are Euro5 emissions compliant with three way catalytic converters and have a three year unlimited kilometres warranty with roadside assistance and seven year anti-corrosion warranty.
The two T6 models also come with bi-xenon headlights, hill descent control and rain sensing wipers. And the R design version gets unique door mirrors, wheels, instruments, centre console, sports pedals and body kit.
The XC60 model range is priced from $76,990.
To read a Car and SUV review of Volvo’s XC60, click here.
Click here to visit the Volvo NZ website and find out more.
Last Saturday was epic. Not only did I become the first journalist to ride in the Hulme CanAm test mule, but I also bought Shapeshifter’s new CD. It is awesome. Wave after wave of deep bass is suffused by driving, punctuating rhythms and a sweet harmonic counterpoint that lifts you up and makes your hair stand on end.
Am I talking about the CD, or am I talking about the car? Both. The Hulme is to supercars what Shapeshifter is to soulful drum and bass: masterful. But rather than samplers and subharmonic generators, the aural assault is provided by the seven-litre Chevrolet LS7 that sits right behind your kidneys producing a shade under 600hp. And that’s in a car that weighs just over 1,000kg in its current form, and will be even less when it enters production (most probably with a supercharger and another 80-100hp).
The naysayers were out in full force when the Hulme was first unveiled back in 2005. Can a Kiwi company make a supercar that will be successful on the world stage? “Oh yeah, nah!” was the typical chorus. But they forget about how the Britten motorbike dominated the tracks, and then there’s the most visible of all New Zealand icons: McLaren.
In this case it’s McLaren’s right-hand man, Denny Hulme, who gets the naming rights. This was granted by his widow, Greeta, which makes this car the only car that will bear the name of a Formula 1 champion (McLaren, if you remember, was only CanAm champion).
That’s not the Hulme’s only unique point, though: its F1-inspired design and historic McLaren-themed CanAm orange hue sets this apart from supercars like the new McLaren MP4-12C, which looks derivative of a great many supercars.
Undoubtedly there is a market for a car like this, even at a projected £220,000 (CanAm) and up to £350,000 (‘F1’ model with launch control and creature comforts). With hundreds, if not thousands, of cashed up car collectors who remember the heyday of unrestricted racing in the late 1960s that was the Canadian-American Challenge Cup (CanAm), a vehicle as distinctive and exclusive as the Hulme will certainly make its way into the climate controlled warehouses alongside all manner of Bugattis and Ferraris. A production run of 20-30 a year will ensure exclusivity, and the quality target is that of Pagani.
This particular car, though, has taken well over a million dollars to make. It’s the test mule — ‘Bear 1’, named after Denny’s nickname — developed to fine-tune the handling. It’s done some reasonably rapid laps of the Southern Hemisphere’s fastest circuit, Pukekohe Park Raceway, in the hands of veteran racer Kenny Smith, and of the Southern Hemisphere’s newest circuit, Hampton Downs piloted by F5000 driver (and circuit co-owner) Tony Roberts.
Unlike the car shown at Goodwood, which was a rolling chassis version of the hardtop F1, this is a working version of the CanAm, an open top, open wheel road/race car. The purpose is to evaluate aerodynamics, chassis performance, driving position and driving dynamics before the final specification is decided upon and the final prototype built.
The chassis has been developed with input from Bruce Turnbull. His own racecars, the Saker GT and Sprint, dominate in European racing, even having their own one-make series. The Hulme Supercars have been stylized by Tony Parker, professor of design at Massey University, renowned Chaparral and F1 designer Chuck Pelly is the overall design consultant, and a number of the team are leaders in various automotive fields.
This great pedigree has resulted in something quite astonishing. The Hulme CanAm seems less jarring on the road than my (dearly departed) version 4 Subaru WRX STI Type R with its standard suspension. It’s far less bumpy than the Radical SR3 (though perhaps a fraction of a second slower to 100kph). It’s also far more comfortable than an Ariel Atom (read our review here), in which you get a hard plastic seat and scaffolding for bodywork.
Despite its compliant springing, it sits flat in the corners like a true racecar. Every hedonistic press of the throttle results in a punishing assault on the tarmac as the 315-section Pirelli tyres scrabble for grip, propelling the car into the distance almost before your vision has a chance to catch up. Huge volumes of air are sucked through the air intake next to your head and you hear every angry breath it takes. The atmosphere not commandeered by the intake is channeled either into the radiators or over the aerodynamics, making the car stable at speed and giving it some impressive g-forces in the bends.
Jock Freemantle, Managing Director for Hulme Supercars is understandably cagey when I press him for actual performance figures, not wanting to set himself up for an impossibly expensive task like Bugatti did with the Veyron. However, he concedes that (for the price of a very nice house) it will have a top speed in excess of 320kph, and the kind of overtaking prowess reserved for superbikes. With the expected power-to-weight ratio expect 0-62mph/100kph times around the three-second mark, and equally impressive braking.
But will anyone ever get to experience it? Funding became difficult to get during the economic crisis, but the team is optimistic, despite the project being two years behind schedule. An initial public offering will be unveiled shortly and that should provide Hulme Supercars with the funds to commercialize it.
We live in a world that is cosseting, convenient and comfortable. We have electric blankets, chairs that massage us, and TVs that are wider than our field of vision. Cars like the Hulme CanAm appeal to our primal side — enough of a fright for your average millionaire. They are shape-shifters; radical designs that will influence supercars to come.
What we like
- Unique styling
- Epic performance
- It’s homegrown Kiwi ingenuity
What we don’t like
- At that price point it’s got stiff competition in the form of the Caparo T1
Words and photos Darren Cottingham