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Sunday, 29 November, 2015 - 17:36 (UK)  

..:: The Subaru Impreza Story

1. The Subaru Impreza Story, as told by me
2. The History of the Subaru Impreza
3. Special Editions
4. Image Galleries
5. My 2001 Subaru Impreza WRX - Red Mica

..:: The History of the Subaru Impreza

Subaru is a subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries. Which was originally Nakajima Aircraft back in 1917. It's wasn't until 1954 before Fuji Heavy Industries took on the challenge of building a road car. The name of this car was the P-1 (Nothing like the modern Subaru Impreza P1) which stood for Prototype-1. This name was later changed to the Subaru 1500. And here the Subaru was born. The name Subaru Closely translates to reference the star cluster Pleiades, which is the same famous star cluster that we see make up the subaru logo today. over the decades Subaru continued to build motor cars and in 1972 made it's first 4WD car with the Subaru Leone 4WD Station Wagon. From that point onwards Subaru made something for a name for it's self in the 4WD motor car department, almost like a trade mark. Think Subaru, think All Wheel Drive. However it wasn't until 1992 that the Subaru Impreza was born. So let's pick up the story from there.


The Launch of the Subaru Impreza (Japan) The Subaru Impreza was developed after rule changes in the World Rally Championship (WRC) demanded a replacement to the Subaru Legacy which was previously used by Subaru in the WRC. The changes meant that a new smaller, lighter and faster car was required in order to compete in the WRC. So even from day one, the Subaru Impreza was developed for rallying.


The Subaru Impreza reached the UK. Initially the Subaru Impreza was available in both Front Wheel Drive (FWD) and All Wheel Drive (AWD) versions. However the FWD was soon dropped in preference of the trademark Subaru AWD system.


The Turbo Charged Impreza 2000 AWD reached the UK (Known as the Subaru Impreza WRX in Japan). Also in 2004, Subaru Technica International (STI) was born and we started seeing STI versions of the Subaru Impreza Turbo. The Subaru Impreza WRX STI meant much more than an extra badge on the body. The STI stood for a full upgrading of the Subaru Impreza Taking was was learned on the World Rally stages and incorporating developments into the road car. Many areas were upgraded for the Subaru Impreza STI versions. Engine, Suspension and overall performance and handling greatly improved over the standard car. Top speed was limited to 155mph and 0-62 came in at just 4.7seconds for the Impreza STI. These figures made the Subaru Impreza very sought after by the local boy racers. Albeit a bit more expensive than the your every day Peugeot 205 and Vauxhall Nova.


Subaru won the World Rally Championship in a 555 WRC Subaru Impreza driven by fellow Scotsman Colin McRae. A brilliant achievement for both driver and manufacturer. Driver Colin McRae for being the first ever British driver to win the WRC, and Subaru proved that the Impreza was a World Leading rally car. To mark the success of Subaru winning the WRC championship that year, a special edition Subaru Impreza was released in the form of the McRae Series Subaru Impreza.


Subaru took the manufacturer title for a second year in a row, and promptly released another special edition Impreza knows as the Subaru Impreza Catalunya.


Subaru won a hat-trick of manufacturer championships and celebrated once again by releasing a new special edition Impreza. The Subaru Impreza Terzo (Italian for 3rd). Only 333 Subaru Impreza Terzos were made, as a mark of the three championships won with the Subaru Impreza. 1997 also saw a few changes to the Impreza road car. Interior styling was updated including an exclusive MOMO racing steering wheel. Meanwhile STI versions were given an newly designed rear spoiler. In Japan a special 2-door coupe Subaru Impreza was released which was used as the 1998 WRC car.


The Subaru Impreza 22B. A label that often conjures up thoughts of what the ultimate Subaru Impreza might be. The 22B (Note: for the computer geeks out there, 22B in hex converts to 555 in decimal.) provided a 2.2l boxer engine, more hardcore styling all round including 2-doors instead of 4 and an adjustable rear wing made up just some of the key features of the 22B. Only 400 22B's were made in order to celebrate 40 years of Subaru and only 16 of those were destined for the UK. I've seen three in total!! UK versions also had tweaked gearing which was specifically optimised to UK roads. How cool is that!


To celebrate the new driver lineup of Richard Burns in the Subaru World Rally Team, Subaru decided it was once again time for a special edition. This time the RB5 named after Richard Burns. Sadly in November 2003 Richard Burns was diagnosed with a form of brain tumour and later died on the 25th November 2005 from his illness. This makes the RB5 all the more special now. Only 444 RB5's were made, with the option of the WR Sport pack.

1999 Also saw the release of another special edition. The Subaru Impreza P1, which like the Subaru Impreza 22B was a 2-door coupe model, and like the 22B it was only available in WR Blue. However unlike the 22B the Subaru Impreza P1 delivered a 276bhp out of the box, and supporting a whole load of new accessories such as 10-spoke OZ Titanium racing wheels, improved quick-shift gearbox, rear-wiper, new front wing/splitter, new fog lamps and a new exclusive rear wing. Unlike the Impreza 22B there were 1,000 P1's made. Despite this the Subaru Impreza P1 remains one of the most expensive Subaru Impreza's to buy today.



For eight years, the Subaru Impreza remained more or less unchanged (externally) until 2000 where Subaru decided to update the Impreza for the 21st century. This change was met with mixed views. The appropriately labeled Bug-eye version by critics, was just that. Bug-eyed! One can only guess it was Subaru's attempt to make the Impreza all cute and cuddly. But this didn't go down well with the fans. Many NewAge impreza's promptly had their headlights replaces with WRC look-alike HI-Definition (HiD) lamps or the more aggressive looking Morette cluster. What was in favour of the fans was the globalisation of the WRX name. Previously only used in Japan, the WRX badge was now stuck to any Impreza with a Turbo!


To celebrate Richard Burns's win in the WRC and the launch of the of the new model, Subaru decided to launch yet another special edition Impreza. This time the Subaru Impreza UK300. Once again just like the 22B and P1 the only colour available was WR Blue. The UK300 supported new prodrive styled spoilers of which the rear wing looked like was picked from bit of an airfix kit and not put together properly. Thankfully the front end was improved slightly, with the addition of improved HiD headlamps which made the car look slightly less like a bug. Yet no matter what they did, it was still going to be remembered as the Bug-Eyed version. 2001 also saw the arrival of the NewAge (Must stop calling it bug-eyed) Subaru Impreza WRX STI to the UK. Just like previous STI's, this was based on the WRX but tweaked a little by the Subaru Technica International (STI) team. If that wasn't enough there was also the option of a Prodrive Performance Pack (PPP). The Subaru Imrpeza WRX STI saw a few key changes over the standard Subaru Impreza WRX. This time, the addition of a 6-speed gearbox as opposed to the WRX 5-speed. Also a nice welcome was similar headlamps which were found on the UK300.


It didn't take long before Subaru had to give in to pressure from fans and go back to the drawing board (literally) to come up with a new style Subaru Impreza. So in 2002, Subaru announced yet another NewAge Impreza. The MY03. Main difference here was the front end. More or less everything else stayed the same, but those bug-eyed headlamps were out and replaced with slightly less ugly ones. Also a bigger bonnet scoop was included. Not to be outdone, the Subaru Impreza WRX power was increased by 10bhp. Not surprisingly many Bug-eyed Subaru Impreza's were made available on the 2nd hand market as many owners wanted to change their driveway accessory for the new style Subaru Impreza.

Although Turbo versions of the Subaru Impreza were available in Japan and Europe from more or less day one. The US favoured their muscle cars and not these Japanese breed of performance cars. Which meant the Subaru Impreza Turbo's never "officially" reached US soil until the 2002 model. Any previous Subaru Impreza's were Imports. Unfortunately for the US market the famous 2.0l boxer engine had to go. The fuel regulations in the US meant that the high performance expected from the Subaru Impreza could not be achieved from the 2.0l engine with US fuel. Instead, the Subaru Impreza was given a nice new 2.5l boxer engine for the US market, in order to keep the power and performance up.


Another Subaru WRC title win with Petter Solberg at the wheel. Once again sticking with tradition a new special edition was released, known as the Subaru Impreza WR1. I must admit the WR1 is one of my personal favourites, if only because of the unique Ice Blue colour. Only 500 WR1's were made, but Subaru decided to throw everything at it, including PPP and Driver Controlled Centre Diff (DCCD). The Subaru Impreza WRX STI also saw further improvements in 2004 with upgraded mechanics from the Japanese models. This new revised STI saw a new front diff, along with the DCCD system which was found on the WR1 and UK300 models. Nice!


Towards the end of 2005. Again just 2 years after the previous model was replaced, Subaru decided to release another new bodied Subaru Impreza, the MY06. This time with new crystal rear light cluster and yet another new front end. The jury is still out about whether or not it is a hit or a miss. I personally think it looks Awesome. Almost as though Subaru have forgotten the last 5 years and gone back to the aggressive styling of the original Subaru Impreza from the 90's! I admit, it did take a few days to get used to, but after you see past the SEAT grill and BMW headlamps you soon realise that this is the sort of car you want other people to see you in, in their rear view mirror. (Admittedly briefly as you scream past them shortly after words :) Sadly the MY06 marked the end for the traditional 2.0l boxer engine. Instead we saw the introduction of the 2.5l boxer engine into the Subaru Impreza. A sad end which seems to have gone relatively unnoticed. But then think of what they can do with that extra 500cubic centimetres of space. Mwaahaahaahaa!...


Towards the end of 2006. Subaru / Prodrive announced the realease of a new Special Edition Impreza. Sadly without recent success in the WRC. This time the special edition was to celebrate the life of previous Subaru WRC Champion Richard Burns who sadly died 12 months previously due to a brain tumour. The New Special Edition Subaru Impreza was to be named the RB320. That's 320bhp and a limited number of 320 to be produced. Essentially the RB320 is a 2006 model Subaru Impeza WRX STi PPP with just abotu ever add on you can think of, along with bespoke prodrive/blitsen dampers, exclusive obsidian black paint work, black alloys and full dront grill set. All in all making the RB320 very exclusive and ver agressive looking with only small markings on the passenger, drivers doors and boot lid of a small orange RB320 logo. The rest of the car is very much black in respect for the late Richard Burns. A true trubite to a great champion!



I have yet to come up with a word that describes Subaru in 2007. At the time of writing Subaru had recently announced the drascically redesigned 2008 model of the Subaru Impreza (You can see some photos here) Make your own mind up about what you think of it. My initial thoughts are yuk.. And I have to say my thoughts are still more or less the same. The car does NOT look agressive as it shoudl and just looks like any other family hatchback on the road. a fair pecentage of the Impreza's appeal has always been it's agressive shape and styling. Even teh bugeye version admitedly wasn't welcomed by many had the trademark styling that for every other angle you knew it was an Impreza and more importantly a car to be reckoned with!. This new one doesn't do much for me I'm afraid. Doesn't excite me when I see pictures of it like previous styles. The same recipie is still there usign the same 2.5l boxer engine from teh MY06 models, a new intercooler has been shoved in. Power remains teh same at 225ps for the WRX model, awd as standard of course :). However the tyres are narrower than previous versions. Also it's worth noting that at time of writing there are no plans for a WRX version or saloon version for the UK. Instead we'll have the basic models then a jump up to the STi's I see this as a mistake as the WRX hits a just about affordable market for most peopel who cant afford te £25k price of the STi. However somethign new for the MY08 Impreza will be the introduction of a 170bhp Diesel Impreza. Thats right diesel. Should be interesting...Watch this space...



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Ferrari Testarossa driven - Maranello again, old friend
Ferrari Testarossa In 1988, this very Ferrari Testarossa starred in an Autocar comparison and just happened to be owned by the father of Andrew Frankel, who takes it for a blast after tracking it down 27 years later

Back in 1988, testing a Ferrari in Britain was up there with cracking time travel, proving Fermat?s last theorem and anyone other than McLaren winning a grand prix: theoretically feasible but almost impossible aims. 

Back then, Ferraris were imported by Inchcape, whose PR agency took pride in ensuring what it regarded as the grubbier elements of the fourth estate ? the motoring press, mainly ? were kept as far as possible from its products.

Take its flagship, the Testarossa. It had come out in 1984, but four years later we?d had not one whiff of its 5.0-litre flat 12 motor. Its reputation said it was a bit of a duffer: quicker but uglier and less involving than the Boxer it replaced. But we didn?t actually know.

Now you must forgive a small, self-indulgent digression, because it is central to this story. I joined Autocar in June 1988 and by July the editor had already realised his mistake.

You won?t find my name in any magazine published at the time because, as said editor was kind enough to point out, ?I?d only have to take it out again?. I was sinking fast and needed a lifeline, something to make me indispensable to Autocar, for long enough for me to figure out where I was going wrong. And this car, this actual car, was that lifeline. In short, my dad had a Testarossa.

He let us borrow it because he recognised I was already in the Last Chance saloon and about to fall off my bar stool. I?d like to say the resulting story about an Exmoor encounter with a Lancia Delta Integrale did the trick, but I didn?t even write it. But I did drive both cars, crashed neither, showed I was at least not incompetent behind the wheel of a genuinely quick car and therefore provided some grounds for keeping me. So this car saved me.

It was another former Autocar employee, Ben Oliver, who 27 years later alerted me to its reappearance. He spotted an ad on the Graypaul Classic Cars website, name-checking my father and asking £185,000 for the car ? a lot even these days.

So I rang Graypaul?s Robin Simpson, who said that after my father had sold it to Graypaul, having done a few thousand miles in it, they?d sold it to a man who kept it as an ornament for a quarter of a century. In its 28 years, the car has done just over 8000 miles, most of them with various Frankel backsides behind the wheel. Apart from the £8k Graypaul spent getting it road ready again, it was as I?d last seen it in 1988. Could I borrow it for a few hours? It would be a pleasure.

It was odd seeing it there. Even now, it is the only Testarossa I have sat in. Yet I remembered it all, my fingers automatically finding the door handle under those dramatic side strakes, how to open the bonnet and engine cover, where to find the fly-off handbrake and how to adjust (rake only) the three-spoke steering wheel. I remembered also that when the gearbox oil is cold, you use second only with a slow double-declutch shift or, ideally, not at all.

In its day, the Testarossa was criticised for being so wide as to be barely usable, but it?s about the same width as a 458, and few have complained about that. Now it feels almost compact and visibility is superb for a mid-engined car. The steering lock is exceptional and luggage space is vast. This would be a very easy car with which to live.

But I?m here to drive, and one twist of the key brings it all flooding back. Old-school Bosch mechanical injection ensures the engine fires instantly on all 12, so smooth there could be 24 in there. It?s not a true ?boxer? flat 12 any more than was the Boxer?s, because opposing pistons move in the same rather than different directions. It?s actually a 180deg V12. It has four overhead camshafts and 48 valves, but only 390bhp, just half what the F12tdf has today on only 1.3 litres more.Its civility still surprises.

For culture and class, I?m not sure this engine has ever been beaten, but you?d be amazed by how quiet it is. And the Testarossa?s ride quality would boil your brain. The old Ferrari breathes with every undulation in the road.

But does it still feel fast? Not at first. At low speeds, it feels rapid but no more ? top-of-the-range Boxster pace at best, even if you use most of the 6800rpm it permits. What it retains is that weird old Ferrari ability to feel quicker the faster you go. Above about 80mph, it seems to break free from unseen shackles that have hitherto held it back. And, yes, here it still feels properly, exhilaratingly fast. This is a wide-open-space kind of car. To find such a road and row it along in third and fourth, savouring the scrape of that fabled open-gate gearshift, is to unearth a form of motoring pleasure lost to those who drive today?s supercars.

This is not a world defined by numbers, be it a Nürburgring lap time, a 0-100mph sprint or maximum recorded lateral g force. It?s about feeling the road surface replicated in the rim of the steering wheel, engine noise not synthesised in some semi-anechoic laboratory but the combustion chambers of one of the greatest road car engines of all time. It?s about your right foot being the only traction control you?re going to get, adhesion limits you can actually understand and, above all, you being in control and on the stage, not sitting in the stalls bedazzled by a pyrotechnic light show in whose creation you played no part.

Back in 1988, my boss, the late Howard Lees, wrote about this very car: ?The Testarossa emerged as a much better road car than I had been led to expect. It has towering performance, perfect manners and very good visibility; all that talk of it being too big is sheer nonsense. It?s a car of genuine quality, worth every penny of £90,000.?

At the time, I rather wished he?d been somewhat more fulsome in his praise, but now I think his words were fair enough. Even then, it wasn?t one of the greatest supercars and wouldn?t now make it onto anyone?s list of the top 10 Ferraris of all time. But it was a good car, and I know that now because only good cars mature with age. Without exception in my experience, bad cars just get worse.

And this time around, the Testarossa wasn?t just good; it was wonderful.

With no need to prove itself any more, it could simply be enjoyed for its sound, looks, character and superbly relaxed attitude to the open road. I always knew this would be a day to enjoy, but not until I?d handed it back in the almost certain knowledge that I?ll never see it again did I realise it would also be one to remember. 

What it was like to own a Testarossa

To him, it was the trip of a lifetime. My father bought the Testarossa as a semi-retirement present to himself. In place of the daily grind, he bought a share in a small business in the north of England and the grand plan was to use the Ferrari to travel maybe once a month between there and where he lived in Jersey.

But first he had to get it home. So he flew to Italy, collected the car from Maranello and, pausing only for the obligatory lunch in the Cavallino, set off for home. A stickler for obeying running-in instructions, he was still able to cruise at more than 100mph in the early stages and then, after a few gratuitous detours took the mileage past 1000, rather more than that, for hours on end.

I then used it for our feature, after which it did briefly become his commuter car before he realised that, even in 1988, sitting in heavy traffic on the M1 isn?t much fun whatever you?re in. It was also the era of Thatcher?s bull market, where any new Ferrari was a rapidly appreciating asset. Graypaul made him an offer he felt unable to refuse and the Testarossa was gone, never to be seen again. Or so I thought.

More classics driven:

Three generations of the Porsche 911 GT3 tested

Driving the iconic Ferrari Dino

Modern classics - finding the best retro sports car for the 21s century

Ferrari F40 review

BMW i5 decision 'in final stages'
BMW i3 in London Stablemate to the i3 and i8 is tipped to appear in 2016 - as board member confirms verdict on body style is imminent

BMW is in ?the final stages? of deciding which type of model it will add to its line-up of i electric vehicles, according to the company?s board member for sales and marketing, Ian Robertson.

The German manufacturer is said to have been weighing up the merits of two different vehicle configurations for the next car, which is widely tipped to be badged i5. One car is a lengthened version of the i3 - almost a mini-MPV - while the other is said to be a saloon that could rival Tesla?s forthcoming Model 3.

?You will see more i products,? said Robertson, ?and we are in the final stages of deciding what the next car will be and when you?ll see it.? An unveiling to coincide with BMW?s centenary celebrations next spring seems likely - and Robertson said, ?We will look back 100 years at that point, but mainly into the future.?

Robertson also admitted that the i3?s modest sales figures are being governed by demand, rather than the industrialisation and production issues that troubled the vehicle at the start of its life. ?We see lots of outside factors involved,? he said, ?including range anxiety, incentives in some countries but not in others, and the price of fuel [in the United States]. But sales of the i3 are up 60% year on year and it?s the third best-selling EV in the world. We?re convinced the i steps have been right.?

The i8 sports car is considered more of a retail success than its smaller brother, with a healthy waiting list of orders.

Sprint test - Jaguar, Ariel, Radical and more take on our 0-120-0 challenge
Radical, Ariel and more take on our 0-120-0mph challenge No fight is straighter than this, in two senses: standstill to 120mph and back to a standstill as fast as possible. Supercars, lightweights, coupés and even a hot hatch battle to be quickest

The Ariel Atom is to blame. For years we ran a competition called 0-100-0, an acceleration and braking test for cars that was, as the name suggested, a sprint from rest to 100mph and back to rest again.

In the earlier years, there was an unpredictability to the results. Lightweights and supercars vied for supremacy, while race and rally cars set non-production records.

And then came the Ariel Atom with a supercharger strapped to its engine, and with it the unpredictability ended. What?ll be quickest? It?ll be the Atom 300. Again. So we canned it.

But, as you may have heard, Autocar turned 120 years old this month, which gave us an idea: reprise 0-100-0 but, to even things up, increase the target speed to a poignant 120mph, thus giving significance to the anniversary and allowing a broader range of cars ? those weighing more than half a tonne ? a greater chance of competing.

Step forward, then, the running order. Ariel?s Atom 3.5R is here, of course, but it?s joined in the lightweight corner by the Caterham Seven 620R and a sort of lightweight, the Radical RXC500. To line up against those, we have what could well be the fastest current supercar, because it has 641bhp and a set of astonishing stoppers, in the shape of McLaren?s 650S. Porsche?s 911 Turbo is probably the only thing that?d run it close, so that?s here, too, as is Nissan?s GT-R and the nowfour-wheel-drive Jaguar F-Type R.

Then there are a couple of wildcards. Ford?s Mustang GT is here because it?s interesting to see what a big coupé can do, and Mercedes? facelifted A45 AMG represents the apogee of the current hot hatchback.

Nine contenders, then, and Blyton Park Driving Centre is our host.

Meeting the contenders

As you might expect from Lincolnshire in early November, Blyton Park is cold when we arrive. But the track is dry and the surface much better than some of the airfields we often use for features. Conditions are good enough, in other words, but will play a little into the hands of things with better traction. Shall we crack on in ascending order? Let?s.

First, (or rather last in this company) then, is Ford?s Mustang. This is not a complete surprise, especially given that traction is at a slight premium, but it?s a newsworthy car and I?m interested to see how it goes. It?s also highly unusual in this company in that it comes with a normal H-pattern gearstick and three pedals. Old school. Tellingly, nothing else here does.

It?s not the easiest thing, in other words, to get off the line, but once you get the rears hooked up after a gentle getaway, the 5.0-litre Mustang takes full throttle in first gear, although its 0-30mph time, the slowest of the day at 2.35sec, sets a theme to come. It is the slowest through 60mph and 100mph and to 120mph ? especially because it needs an upshift to fifth gear at 118mph ? and, by a whisker, is the slowest to stop from 120mph.

We?re using Blyton?s back straight for this, straight-lining a chicane (obvs) that?s usually in place halfway along. It?s plenty wide enough forone car at a time, as flat as anywhere else we?ve used for 0-100-0 and smooth in the braking zone. But is it long enough?

In the Mustang, not quite. The run time you see is a patch of two runs ? one from rest to 100mph, the other 100-120-0 after a rolling start onto the back straight. Its 21.66sec run would be flattering in much company, but not this.

Next comes the A45 AMG, which again I aim at the horizon from the earliest straight start point I can line up on, and engage its launch control.

In the Mercedes, there?s a tiny amount of slip as power is diverted to the rear, but the A45 is only seven-hundredths of a second off the fastest time to 30mph that we record all day. Pulling 60mph in 4.13sec is also very respectable ? although it?s a number that would have needed to start with a three to be at the sharper end of things here.

Aerodynamics overwhelm the A45?s modest power output above 100mph and it wants the second longest time to reach 120mph, by which time quite a lot of the straight has passed and the end is looming rather quickly.

Our VBox GPS data logging gear shows the car?s current speed extremely accurately with barely a delay ? much more quickly than our equipment used to ? but still, as 120mph approaches, you have to anticipate the arrival of your terminal velocity and decide to start braking before 120mph registers on the monitor (which, in this case, is my phone suckered to the windscreen).

There?s always a ?reaction time?, then, and you?ll do well if you keep the speedo below 121mph. (In no case does the time affect the final results, but we?ve left them in.)

The A45 AMG stops with about 30 metres of the straight to spare, thus avoiding the nearby field and giving an overall time of 20.5sec for the 0-120-0 run.  I know it won?t trouble the top order. But few other hatchbacks would get close to it.

Jaguar?s F-Type R AWD is next. The F-Type has plenty of traction but no launch control. However, if you wind a little tension into the drivetrain, it gets away very well ? covering 0-30mph in 1.62sec, just two-hundredths of a second slower than the fastest car of the day. It?s under braking that the Jaguar loses out. Its nose pitches forward, and although it?d never trouble you on the road or a track day, it has a few tugs at the wheel as it pulls to a halt in 5.22sec. That?s still good and takes it almost three seconds clear of the A45 AMG overall, but next up the road is more than a second quicker than it.

That turns out to be the GT-R in Track Package specification, which brings tyres that appreciate being warmed through and some Nismo aerodynamics but no increase in the standard 542bhp. So although it has launch control, the Nissan is no faster than the Jaguar from standstill, and there?s a shimmy from the rears, as they struggle to hook up after launch engages power, which isn?t evident in the Jaguar.

But by 60mph it has redressed the balance and overcome the Jaguar ? 3.46sec is quick in any company, except among this lot ? as would be 0-120mph in 10.94sec. The GT-R takes some slowing, mind, because it weighs 1740kg, and asks five seconds precisely to come to a halt.

Then comes the first of what we think of as the lightweights ? although the 1120kg Radical RXC500 isn?t strictly a lightweight like the Caterham or Ariel, but you take the point.

What it shares with those is a transmission that features three pedals and whose clutch can be forgotten about as soon as you?re rolling. The RXC feels like a genuine racing car from the moment you slip inside it, and beavering around to warm the rear tyres is one of the most evocative moments of the day.

There?s no launch control per se, but if you flatten the throttle, the turbocharged V6 will hold a few thousand revs, which are unleashed as soon as you drop the clutch. It?s relatively easy to hook it up, then, but it pays to short-shift to second as the turbocharged power overwhelms the rears in first gear. This shuffling means the leggy Radical is the second slowest to 30mph, a situation it has improved considerably by the time it reaches 120mph, to which it is fifth quickest. This is the lowest-placed car without ABS, but pedal feel is excellent and retardation strong.

Launching a Porsche 911 Turbo S, meanwhile, could scarcely be simpler. You stand on the brake pedal and then rapidly apply some throttle. The clutch of the PDK ?box stays disengaged and the revs will sit at 4000rpm. Release the brake and it fairly lets go. Because it?s cold, there?s a touch of slip, but with a 3.8-litre engine sitting over the back wheels, traction is the least of its issues. A 1.41sec 0-30mph time is faster than anything else by two-tenths.

Left in drive, it?ll upshift itself rapidly, past 60mph in 3.01sec, the fastest of the day, although that?s not an advantage it retains by the time it passes 100mph, at 6.67sec.

But it?s under braking where the Porsche loses out. Not that it?s a big criticism; only three cars here wanted less than five seconds to stop from 120mph and the 911 modestly asked for 5.08sec. It?s good enough to put the Porsche fourth.

Those sub-5.0sec-stopping cars were all in the top three, and two of them weighed precious little. Third overall, then, is Caterham?s 620R, fitted with a sequential gearbox that, like the Radical, needs clutch off the line but not afterwards.

The trouble with a 310bhp Caterham, though, is that, even after a couple of tyre-warming laps, traction is not a strong point. You ask for a few thousand revs, slip the clutch slightly to get away and there are two main probabilities: the rears light up, or the engine bogs down.

In between those two, you can get it about right, though, and the Seven will reach 30mph in a respectable 1.74sec and 60mph in an impressive (given the conditions) 3.5sec. The manual sequential gearbox?s lever ? there are no paddles ? wants a firm pull to engage the next gear, but the shifts are extremely fast if they?re shoved through firmly.

Better, though, is the way it stops. Brake pedal feel is exceptional and all four wheels approach a locking point at the same time ? so at 4.72sec, it?s the second-fastest stopper here, a hundredth quicker than the Ariel.

The Atom, though, holds the advantage ? and second place overall ? because of the way it gets off the line. Thus is the way with Ariels.

There?s no launch control on the supercharged Atom 3.5R, but it doesn?t need it, such is the traction. On manual supercharged Atoms, the fastest way is a full-bore start in second gear, but such is the quickness of the gearshifts on the sequential manual ?box, with a pneumatic actuator for the diddy paddles,that it?s no longer necessary. Only the 911 Turbo S (1.41sec) gets to 30mph quicker than the Atom (1.6sec), and by 60mph the Ariel has clawed back all but two-hundredths of that time, at 3.03sec.

Once, lightweight cars with small-capacity engines and poor aerodynamics would have run out of puff by 120mph, but the Ariel does it in 9.2sec, still three-tenths quicker than the 911. The brake bias needs winding a long way forward to prevent the rear wheels from locking up, but once done, it stops well and the Ariel?s overall time of 13.93sec is a full half a second quicker than the Seven 620R.

Even so, it?s more than a second behind the quickest car here. Perhaps 0-100-0 would have been fairer on the Ariel after all, because it just can?t live with McLaren?s 650S.

That the McLaren is only rear-wheel drive means its launch control is fighting a battle from the off, but once it has passed 60mph in 3.26sec, it is uncatchable; 100mph goes in 6.19sec ? equal first with the Atom ? and 120mph in 8.34sec, far quicker than anything.

But it?s the way the McLaren stops that marks it out as exceptional. Hit the left pedal and the air brake pops up, the 650S dives and thuds echo through its carbonfibre chassis as the brakes sweep off speed at an incredible rate. Just 4.39sec after applying the pedal, you have stopped from 120mph ? a decelerative phenomenon that has to be felt to be believed. And one that contributes to the 650S?s inaugural 0-120-0 title-winning time of 12.73sec.

Maybe 0-121-0 next year, then? Sure, why not? Only ? I confess ? I got to about 122.5mph in the McLaren before it started slowing down. So it has a bit to spare.

The ranking - see more of our contenders in action

1 - McLaren 650S Spider

2 - Ariel Atom 3.5R

3 - Caterham Seven 620R

4 - Porsche 911 Turbo S

5 - Radical RXC500

6 - Nissan GT-R Track Attack

7 - Jaguar F-Type R AWD

8 - Mercedes-AMG A45

9 - Ford Mustang V8 GT

BMW launches radical online ordering system
New BMW online ordering system BMW customers can now order a completely new car in less than 10 minutes with the launch of its new online ordering system

BMW is promising that customers will be able to buy a new car online in only 10 minutes, after announcing that the UK will be the first market globally to get the company?s next generation of internet retailing.

Introduced with the co-operation of 137 dealers in the BMW UK network, the new system combines BMW?s existing configurator and ?car suggestion tool? with online Genius chat operators and a tie-in with used car valuations specialist Glass?s. Nine dealers have piloted the system in the UK, selling around 50 cars.

Car manufacturers have been experimenting with increasingly diverse ways of interacting with their customers - including more retail-focused experiences at shopping centres and ?virtual showrooms? that don?t feature any vehicles.

BMW believes it is the first to offer the full ordering and finance process as part of the system, though. The company?s global boss of sales and marketing Ian Robertson said: ?Ten years ago the customer went to the dealership an average of 4.5 times before buying the car; now it?s 1.5 times. So we already know there?s an enormous amount of research being done online - more than 90% of buyers do preparation there before going anywhere near a showroom.?

He admitted the new experience was a challenge to BMW?s existing sales network. ?There was clear nervousness to start with,? he said, ?but during the pilot the dealers have been seeing customers they?ve never seen before, and sold cars in the middle of the night. It was enough to persuade 137 dealers in the UK to sign up to it. We have to reflect the fact that the sales process is becoming more transactional than experiential.?

At present the system is exclusively for BMW vehicles. However, high-level sources admit that a roll-out to the Mini brand is likely.

Six steps - how BMW's E-Tailer works

1. The system asks questions about your needs - typical journey, number of family members etc - and then suggests a few possible choices from the 280 models in the BMW range.

2. Configure a car from scratch or adapt the model suggested by the system. ?Genius? advisors are online to offer any advice between 8am and 10pm, seven days a week.

3. Check the delivery time of the car and spec you want - and see if near-matches to it are available more quickly.

4. Choose the dealer you want to handle your sale - and then open a dialogue with them. BMW says that you can ?haggle? at this point.

5. If you?ve got a car to trade in, you give its registration plate and mileage and the system gives you a rough idea of what it?s worth. You can then feed this figure into the system for the final step.

6. Payment and ordering. Use of a finance calculator allows you to play with annual mileage, monthly payments, deposit and the length of term. You can also apply for finance; an answer takes 90 seconds, BMW claims.You can pay your deposit using a credit card or bank transfer - and the system informs you that the car will be delivered to your home.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion 1.0 TSI review
We try the turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol version of the Golf Bluemotion. If you're not doing mega miles, it's a better bet than the diesel Volkswagen's first petrol-powered full-on Bluemotion model - not to be confused with those models carrying the Bluemotion Technology badge. Using the 1.0-litre engine fitted to the Up as a base, VW has added a turbocharger and intercooler to increase power to an Ecoboost-rivalling 113bhp at 5000-5500rpm.Furthermore, torque is up to a healthy 147Ib ft between 2000 and 3500rpm. Thanks to some cunning design and plenty of aluminium, the whole engine weighs just 89kg, which helps the model weigh under 1300kg even with a driver.Not only does the relative lack of mass help account for the 10.5 sec 0-62mph time but it also helps economy. Claimed fuel consumption is just 65.7mpg and CO2 emissions are 99g/km.As with other Bluemotion models, there are further changes to achieve those figures. Up front, you get an active air shutter that can close off the engine bay when cooling air isn?t required. There?s also a small rear spoiler, flat panels to cover the oily bits underneath and 15mm lower suspension. All of these modifications reduce drag, helping this car slide through the air more cleanly than regular Golfs.


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