Land Rover Freelander facelift

Here’s a scary thought. It was six years ago almost to the day that we went to Land Rover’s Gaydon HQ to pick up the brand new Freelander. We got a bit excited about it. We group tested it against a Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and a Subaru Forester and it won. And then we drove it 4,431 miles right around the coast of Britain to see if we could break it. But we couldn’t.

Owners, it has to be said, haven’t been that lucky with their baby Land Rovers as our TG survey shows. The Freelander languishes in an appalling 98th place. But now there’s a new one to try, so fresh start and all that.

It looks good, definitely more classy than before thanks to new big Range Rover style headlamps and a revised front bumper. With its pouty new snout, the Freelander now looks more aggressive and, at this wussy end of the off-road market, that’s no bad thing. The rear’s been tidied up too with a redesigned bumper, while the light clusters have been changed and moved higher up.

There’s been a spot of mild tinkering inside and those fiddly steering-column controls have been moved. The aluminium-look plastic trim won’t have bust the bank, but the seats are good – they come from the top-spec ES model and are now standard across the range.

That range remains pretty much as before, but there’s a new three-door Sport model which is likely to cost around £24,000. For that you get a set of 18-inch alloys and the suspension lowered by 3cm. But the suspension is the same MacPherson set-up as before, and so is the 175bhp 2.5-litre V6 and the five-speed automatic gearbox.

While some relationships work out with the parties growing ever closer to each other over the years, others don’t. And alas this marriage of engine and ‘box is not a happy one. The V6 is a pretty good lump, but it needs a lot of revs to get the most out of it, while the gearbox doesn’t always change when you want it to and can make for pretty jerky progress, especially out of tight corners.

While the lowered suspension has tightened up some of the body roll, it hasn’t done a lot for the ride. It will settle down on a smooth road, and around town the handling feels tidy enough, but crashing, banging and bouncing are very much part of the repertoire. Basically, it still feels very much like an off-roader, yet from a limited foray off-road, the lower suspension and fat tyres haven’t enhanced the Freelander’s ability in that area. 2007-2010_Land_Rover_Freelander_2_(LF)_HSE_TD4_wagon_01Overall, the revised front and rear, new seats and tweaked interior are good news and will improve the rest of the range, but the new Sport doesn’t feel like it is going to be the star of that line-up. Six years have passed since we first drove the Freelander, but sadly not enough has changed to blow us away again this time.



Delfino Feroce

So, you didn’t get your deposit down on one of the thousand P1 Imprezas and you don’t want a WRX grey import, but you still yearn for something a bit special – and it must be four-wheel drive with all the whoosh and twitter of a turbocharged powerplant to satisfy your cravings. Then say hello to the Delfino Feroce!

Yes, the Delfino Feroce, which means Ferocious Dolphin. No, I’m none the wiser either, as the words ferocious and dolphin don’t usually go together, but this is the creation of a Dutchman who was born in Italy under the name Allard Marx, and it’s his dream come true. The Subaru’s turbocharged flat-four powerplant and its four-wheel drive Impreza underpinnings may not be the final spec when the car goes into production, but it looks favourite for the job and, while our test car had just 215bhp, Delfino is threatening to launch a 280bhp option which will hit 60mph in less than four seconds.

Stuck on standard Subaru running gear, the Feroce is instantly driveable and feels well sorted from the word go. If passers-by don’t hear you coming – with all the twittering from the front and a raucous exhaust note from the back – they’ll certainly see you, because the car’s ‘all angles’ stealth styling definitely stands out from the crowd.

I should, perhaps, say shouts out, because I’m not sure I’ve seen anything quite so, well, odd for a long time. It’s not that it’s ugly, it’s just that it has so many angles that it looks as some kid had mixed up five different Airfix kits! But forget its bizarre looks for now, clamber on board – if you can find the TVR-like electronic door release button – and sit uncomfortably high with the steering wheel in your lap and most of the dash hidden behind its top half.

But ignore that – as this is, after all, only a prototype. Just fire up that flat-four and give the throttle of few blips… Ah, now I’m with the dream. Why hasn’t this been done before? Why has old Auntie Rover’s V8 been lobbed in so many sports car dreams instead? This is brilliant. Acceleration seems to go on forever with the benefit of four-wheel drive traction and a 900 kilo chassis.

Of course, there’s no roof – this is only a prototype – and the fact you’re sitting too high – this is only a prototype – means the wind beats round your head, but it still induces an ear-to-ear grin.

At first, you think it’s got no brakes – this is only a prototype – but use a bit more muscle and they are impressive. Indeed, I actually prefer this in a lightweight sports car, as systems that lock the fronts at the slightest touch are far worse than ones that demand a bit more effort and will only lock when you’re really aggressive with them.

The ride and handling are well sorted. OK, it crashes over harsh bumps and understeers whenever pushed near its limit, but that limit is at such a high rate of knots that you’d be a lunatic to reach it on public roads. The problem, as with most four-wheel-drive machines, is that once it’s reached, you’re straight into whatever is just wide of your line.

The trouble with analysing any proto-type is the fact that it is a prototype, therefore the manufacturer expects you to excuse all its faults so it’s impossible to come up with a serious appraisal.

The concept of the Feroce is brilliant, but we’ve yet to see any form of roof – and it promises both soft and hard versions – so we’ve no idea how well it’ll work. The driving position needs a major re-appraisal and its angular looks will be debated forever, but the prototype is well put together and the performance pretty mind-blowing, so it’s well worth a follow-up call.

With an on-the-road price tag of £39,500 and that 280bhp engine, you are getting a lot of action for your money. OK, so it’s eight thousand more than that Subaru you promised yourself, but it’s right smack in the middle of the TVR range and might even prise the odd buyer off the Boxster and M Roadster waiting lists. This Flipper is hardly ferocious, but let’s hope it can keep its head above water, because it is a fun alternative.




There always seems to be a defining moment or journey at the beginning of the relationship with a new car when you just know whether or not the two of you are going to get along. Ours – the M3 and me – came on a 400-mile slog in the wee small hours. The BMW had been devouring empty lanes of motorway at 100-plus for an hour or so, feeling oh-so-planted and within itself, surprisingly little extraneous noise interfering with a Moby CD but, frankly, I was a tad bored. Well, what would you have done? Exactly. Foot to floor, exhaust note from nothing through tingling metallic rasp to blood curdling racer’s scream in seconds. Mph piling on in tens not ones. From civilised autobahn cruiser to animal. Fast. Yup, we’re going to get on.

At the other end of the scale, plant the throttle at as little as 2000rpm and, unlike its predecessor, this M3 punches forward instantly – and keeps going, wailing and howling all the way to a VTEC-rivalling 8000rpm.

Given that I had already been more than impressed by the M3’s abilities during evo’s recent visit to the twists, turns and yumps of the North York Moors, I’m a very happy bunny.

By keeping additions to the already comprehensive standard spec down to 19in wheels and a few minor bits and bobs, I reckon that at a tad under £42,000 I’ve got a genuine Porsche-bashing bargain.

Niggles? Well, the every-which-way multi-adjustable seats never seem to end up quite spot on, a problem I remember from the 330Ci. And initially I thought that the throttle response was a tad ‘fuzzy’, not picking up quickly enough on the blip during heel-and-toe downchanges. But the ‘sport’ button cures that and the default ‘soft’ setting makes for smoother town and traffic driving.

Despite contrary advice from Messrs Barker and Meaden, I ordered 19in – as opposed to 18in – wheels. OK, because they looked good, I admit it. I haven’t driven on 18s so can’t comment on those but the level of mechanical grip on 19s is eye-watering in the dry and excellent in the wet without any electronic wizzardry coming into play. When it does, the ‘assistance’ is pleasingly subtle and late in arriving. Now that the car’s fully run- in, the DSC off button is due for some use. I’ll let you know the results!

As you can probably tell, I’m really quite taken with my new toy. I will try to be objective over the coming months – honest.


Lotus Elise Sport 190

We motoring journos often talk about cars you should get up early on a Sunday morning to drive, but when it actually comes down to practising what we preach, more often than not you’ll find us observing the Sabbath from the sanctuary of our down-filled duvets. But the other Sunday I did it – out the door by 6.30am, four-point-harnessed into a Lotus Elise Sport 190; it’s one of those sort of cars.

evo has already driven the Sport 190 – the number refers to its power output in PS; in old fashioned money it’s 187bhp – but only on the track. This is to be a trip on some of Her Majesty’s highways, because the beauty of this conversion, carried out at Hethel by Lotus Sport and Performance (LSP), is that it’s emissions-compliant and road-legal, yet still a lot like a track car. But just because it’s a circuit star doesn’t necessarily make it king of the B-roads.

LSP does a basic Sport 190 upgrade package that comprises heavily modifying the 1.8-litre K-series to produce the aforementioned horsepower at a banshee 8000rpm, together with 145lb ft of torque at 5000rpm; it also includes chucking some ultra-short-ratio cogs into the gearbox, uprating the clutch plate, lowering the ride height, stiffening up the springs and dampers, upgrading the brakes and adding Exige-size wheels. Our test car also came with optional slippery diff, carbon airbox, 340R-style seats (to accommodate the harnesses), extinguisher system, and kill switches for the battery.

Oh, and Yokohama AO48 tyres, which have a handful of grooves cut into them for road use but have a fairly strong track-bias to their construction. That was a bit of a shame given that while we had the car water-skis would have been more appropriate footwear. To the AO48s’ credit, though, they coped admirably with puddles the size of boating lakes.

A slightly uneven idle and a savage bark when you blip the throttle are early indicators this is an Elise with extra fizz. So too is a loss of tractability at low revs – you need at least 2500rpm on the dial to move away swiftly from rest and out of junctions. It’s not that the engine won’t pull – in fact, it’ll trundle along in fifth at barely more than 1000rpm – it’s simply that at low revs it lacks any real vigour.

It’s plenty noisy, though. Below 4000rpm and on part-throttle, the induction system blarts and whumps with a steam-hammer rhythm. Click the throttle pedal against its end-stop and hold it there and the sound segues from industrial to animal as the Very High Performance Derivative, or VHPD, cylinder head gathers pace and voice. The change-up light in the tacho suggests shifting at 6800rpm but is best ignored if you want to be treated to the full-on, and manic, racecar soundtrack of a charge towards 8000rpm.

With all the commotion comes motion, and lots of it provided you keep the engine howling along in the sweet spot. The Sport 190’s pace is of the sweaty-forehead, ‘dare I keep my toe down?’ variety, and on deserted back roads can lead to some nerve-stretching moments as you play ‘hit the redline in fourth’. Its acceleration is brutal. We were there when Lotus ran some figures on this car and they supported our gut instinct – it’s outrageously quick. In the wet it posted a 4.8sec 0-60 and cracked 100mph in 12.1.

The firmer suspension is very tolerant of even quite grim road surfaces while nicely limiting the amount of body-roll through corners.

Add the basic Sport 190 package to the price of a pre-registered standard Elise and you have a £33,000 car. It’s a stack of cash, certainly, but it’s buying a very large pile of performance, thrills and fun, all bundled into a machine that’s the perfect size for running ragged down your average British B-road. Some of the bike-engined specials are faster on the track, but at sparrow’s on a rainy Sunday morning in January, I promise you I wouldn’t have got out of bed for any of them. The Sport 190 may be devilishly loud, yet for a near-racer it makes a captivating road car.the ballsier brakes, too, although in the wet you have to get on them extra-early to clear the water off the discs.



Daihatsu Model Copen

On the basis that the Peugeot 206CC has been voted the Gayest Car in the World, players of the pink oboe are going to think all their Christmases have come at once when Daihatsu’s Copen goes on sale in November.

Based on a shortened Cuore chassis, the Copen proved such a motorshow crowd pleaser that Daihatsu promptly changed their minds about selling it outside Japan.

The first thing that strikes you on climbing aboard is the roof. A smart clip across the top of the head. Though there’s plenty of headroom once you’re installed, the door aperture is low and it’s almost impossible to climb in or out with decorum. Should the Copen prove popular with well-upholstered celebrity femmes, they’d best substitute G-string for Big Pants before venturing near the paparazzi.

The interior layout is tidy enough, with splashes of chrome hither and thither, shades of MX-5 about the air vents and a chrome-ball-tipped, short-throw gearlever without enough weight in the knob. Specification levels haven’t yet been finalised, but are expected to include aircon, electric everything, ABS and a fiddly, retro-fit stereo. A Momo helm is also standard fit, but this feels disproportionately large for the cockpit, eliciting elbow and door panel conflict until you learn to drive in the exaggerated, elbows-in manner of meal times in the back of a Jumbo.

After releasing two window-head catches, the hood mechanism works well, with less mechanical fuss than the 206CC. But boot space with the lid stowed is restricted to a couple of well-thumbed copies of Playgirl, at best. Happily, the absence of a body-coloured cover panel aft doesn’t detract overmuch from the looks of the open Copen, whilst revealing that, disturbingly, the chromed roll-over hoops play K2 to the seat backs’ Everest.

Japanese ‘K’ car regulations restrict the power output of the 659cc 4cyl turbocharged engine to 63bhp. Good for a quoted 0-62mph in under 10 seconds and over 100mph.

The ride’s quite tough, courtesy of sports suspension fitted to this specimen, which may or may not make the UK specification cut. Frankly, I wouldn’t bother. The short wheelbase has enough trouble coping with poor surfaces as it is and, though well controlled with the roof in place, the open Copen is no stranger to scuttle shake.

As a sporting proposition, the Copen proves quite tenacious, accurate and entertaining. Probably this car has an strong competitive advantage. The front end displays vastly improved grip over the Charade, which wouldn’t be hard, but the car’s not quick enough to thrill. That’s OK, though. The Copen’s aimed at those with a sunglasses collection, cactus hair and jeans halfway down their bottoms. Enthusiasts will still save for an MX-5. And there’s the rub. Daihatsu hasn’t yet finalised a price for the Copen. If it comes in at around £:12,000, it should cut the moustachioed mustard. But if it comes closer to £:14,000 it’ll stray dangerously close to Mazda territory, which very much leaves it selling on looks alone.


Trip in Italy with a car?

Italy travel by car can be one of the best experiences that a traveler can have. The landscapes are breathtaking. But what is the best car to have this adventure?

There are different options. We can do it with a more classic car or we can do it with a more modern car. Everything has its advantages and disadvantages.

Doing it with a classic car leads to perhaps enjoy more the experience more authentic. However, it will probably take longer to get to places and is also likely to have to stop to refuel fuel more often. In addition, the classic cars are less safe, so you have a risk.


On the other hand we can do it with a more modern car. The modern car is safer and more mileage can more comfortably. Furthermore, it is generally more efficient for what to recharge times less fuel. However, it is also true that the experience will not be as authentic. Italy with a mini tour can be great, though, it will be slow and sometimes heavy.

Rent a car in Italy is not complicated. Prices may hover between 80 € to 200 € per day depending on the car. It is not cheap.

The roads are very good to travel the country and see the history it has. It is evident that we find rural roads in worse condition. But overall the country is fine.

In short, Italy is a great country so we can go by car. Renting a car is not cheap, but travel the country in other media would have a similar amount. So it’s no big deal.


Nissan 350Z Roadster Review

Coupes always look a bit odd when they undergo reconstructive surgery to become convertibles. A roof-ectomy on a sports car like the 350Z is similar to giving a supermodel plastic surgery – chances are, things will get worse. That’s definitely the case with the Nissan 350Z Roadster. Bulbous, high-waisted, and porcine, the Roadster looks like the less expensive child of the Lexus SC430.

But once you’ve got over the modified looks, the Roadster – its commercial viability for the UK currently under consideration – offers quite a chunk of performance for not a lot of cash, an endearing characteristic that it shares with its tin-top sibling.

Structurally, the 350Z Roadster differs from the coupe with extensive reinforcements that stiffen the floor, windscreen and sills. The result is a structure from which only the worst roads will elicit a brief shudder. The downside to all the gusseting is a weight gain of 127kg, although acceleration numbers suffer only slightly compared with the coupe: just two-tenths of a second are added to the 0-60mph time.

Dropping the top is a one-touch, 20sec affair. Stop the car, hit the button and after the whirring of solenoids and electric motors subsides, your headroom becomes limitless. The top stows neatly behind the two roll-hoops and under an elegant tonneau and is fully lined, weatherproof, and quiet. With the top in place, the Roadster retains the interior space of the coupe. Boot space is essentially unaffected by the conversion to convertible, and provides ample room for two people’s gear.

The sound that comes into the cabin is the same melodic exhaust note produced by the coupe but, with less tin and glass between you and the two fat tailpipes, its effect is amplified. The Roadster uses the same 3.5-litre V6 as the coupe. What makes the Roadster an engaging partner on a country road is the relaxed nature of the engine. The V6 has variable valve timing giving it excellent flexibility, so changing gears is an entertaining diversion rather than a necessity. More highly-strung roadsters, like the Honda S2000, require you to be vigilant to keep the power on tap; that’s not the Z’s way.

The Roadster’s handling gives away little to the coupe’s, with the gain in weight hardly being felt on the track. It does have ‘issues’, however; the brakes get spongier sooner in the Roaster and it shares the coupe’s tendency to understeer. What is nice about the understeer, however, is that if you’re prepared to abuse the front tyres, you can enter corners at a pace that would frighten you in an S2000. Around slower corners the torque-rich engine easily overwhelms the rear tyres to provide delightfully dramatic oversteer.

Off the track, at less than ten-tenths, the massive grip from the Bridgestone Potenzas is rarely challenged. The public road persona of the Roadster ends up being satisfying and confident, requiring minimal effort for maximum pleasure.


With the top down, passers-by will notice the Roadster’s show-car interior style. Look closer, though, and they (and you) will spot plastics that seem to have been chosen on price rather than their longevity or appearance. Odd bits of trim suffer a transitory buzz when you run the engine through its higher register.

The cloth seats in our test Roadster were great on and off the track, being supportive in all the important areas for motorway runs and properly bolstered for high-g manoeuvres. The seating position in the Roadster is sunken, with the top of the doors at shoulder height, so you feel like you’re sitting on the floor. That sinking feeling is compounded when the top is raised. Being this low does have an advantage, though, because even at high speeds the wind flows over your head without re-entering the cabin from the rear. Men with toupees, trolling for floozies, will be impressed.

Although the Roadster doesn’t cede much performance to the coupe, the characters of the two models are entirely different. The coupe is more of a pure, no-nonsense sports car, for the hardcore brigade. The Roadster, on the other hand, is a bit of a boulevardier, as much for show as go. But the ragtop is immensely capable all the same, and on a hot summer’s night its allure would be very hard to resist.


The NASCAR Points System: The Longest Running Joke In Racing

Rockingham, NC. Well, after the circus-like atmosphere at Daytona, NASCAR supposedly got back to real racing at The Rock. And yes, the racing was excellent, up and down the field. But there is something glaringly wrong with NASCAR (besides all the other things we’ve pointed out–AE#26-ed.) and that is the ludicrous points system. So, let’s pretend you’re Bobby Labonte, okay?

DAYTONA MOTOR SPEEDWAY, Fla. -- The Air Force Ford-sponsored Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford Taurus, driven by Ricky Rudd, is shown here during a practice run Feb 11. He is preparing for the Daytona 500 race, which will be held here Feb. 15. (U.S. Air Force photo by Larry McTighe)

You struggle in the first half of the race at Rockingham, but you work and work and dial it in with your crew, and you make adjustments until you get it right and finally, you barge your way into the lead…and go on to the win. For that, you get 175 points toward the NASCAR Winston Cup Championship, and for leading a lap you get an additional five points and, because you also led the most laps you get an additional five bonus points, for a grand total of 185 points. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Except when you see what happened with all the other finishers. Dale Earnhardt finished 2nd, led a lap and came away with 175 points. Ward Burton, in 3rd, collected 170, including five bonus points. Tony Stewart?

He finished 4th, receiving 160 points. Dale Jarrett got 155 for 5th. How about Steve Park, who finished 9th? He took home 143 points, including five for leading a lap. John Andretti, two laps down, in 12th? He got 127. And Terry Labonte, three laps down in 17th? He still took home 112. Not a pretty picture, is it? NASCAR artificially skewed their points system back in the real old days, when they wanted teams to show up for all the races and keep fans interested to the end. They also didn’t want teams to “cherry pick” races, like the Woods brothers liked to do in the David Pearson years. But what sounded like a good idea at the time is now the longest running joke in racing. The old saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.”

Well, in NASCAR’s case it’s really true. Along the way to their “ascension” as a big-time sport, they’re getting big-time media scrutiny. The kind usually reserved for football and baseball. And as more and more traditional “stick and ball” media types get assigned to the NASCAR beat, the whole “artificially enhanced” points system is going to be in for some intense dissection. It’s well-deserved and long overdue. But since NASCAR is worse than the Federal Government when it comes to making substantive changes in a timely manner, we don’t expect any changes at all in our lifetime. Last year’s

points “chase” was a snoozer, except for Tony Stewart’s rookie run. And this year, besides our usual gripes (going to the same track twice, races too long, etc.,etc.), we have another season of watching paint dry to look forward to, with NASCAR’s antiquated point system.

pit-crew-583533_640It would be too sensible and forward thinking for NASCAR to address this problem too. They’re too concerned about “The Show” and their next mega-marketing deal to actually do something positive on the racing front. We have a simple recommendation for those kings of “not invented here” down in Daytona: If you win a NASCAR race, it should mean something besides the money. The winner should be twenty points clear of the second-place finisher, before you calculate bonus points. And the top ten finishers should have a clear advantage over the rest too. If NASCAR ever wants to expunge the word “circus” from being used in media coverage, they need to look no further than their points system for a place to start.

The NASCAR Points System: Or, “Strokin’ Around Ain’t So Bad After All.”
Each driver who competes in a race is awarded national championship points. The winner of each event is awarded 175 points. Five additional bonus points are awarded to each driver who leads a lap, and an additonal five bonus points go to the driver who leads the most laps.

First — 175
Second — 170
Third — 165
Fourth — 160
Fifth — 155
Sixth — 150
Seventh — 146
Eighth — 142
Ninth — 138
10th — 134
11th — 130
12th — 127
13th — 124
14th — 121
15th — 118
16th — 115
17th — 112
18th — 109
19th — 106
20th — 103
21st — 100
22nd — 97
23rd — 94
24th — 91
25th — 88
26th — 85
27th — 82
28th — 79
29th — 76
30th — 73
31st — 70
32nd — 67
33rd — 64
34th — 61
35th — 58
36th — 55
37th — 52
38th — 49
39th — 46
40th — 43
41st — 40
42nd — 37
43rd — 34
44th — 31
45th — 28

Bobby Labonte Wins The Kmart/Duralube 400 at Rockingham, NC. Not much of a factor in the first half of the race, Labonte and his Joe Gibbs Racing crew kept at it and persevered all day. He made his first move in to the lead on lap 242 of the 393 laps, then held off a very racy Dale Earnhardt at the end for the win. Bobby Labonte is one guy everyone is expecting a big year from in 2000, and he’s giving every indication early on that he expects to be a major factor too. And his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Tony Stewart, finished fourth.

GM NASCAR Teams. So much for the bitchin’ and moanin’ at Daytona by the GM teams. As expected, Rockingham was a whole ‘nother story. It was Pontiac (Labonte), Chevrolet (Earnhardt), Pontiac (Ward Burton) and Pontiac (Tony Stewart) in the first four places at Rockingham. They were followed by the Fords of Dale Jarrett, Ricky Rudd, Jeremy Mayfield and Mark Martin, with the Chevys of Steve Park and Jeff Gordon rounding out the top ten. Gordon came from two laps down to grab his finishing position, contesting for the lead at one point before falling back. Only the first four cars finished on the lead lap.



Chip Ganassi, Toyota, Target, Budweiser. Chip Ganassi made it official yesterday, when he announced that Target/Chip Ganassi Racing would enter two G Force-Auroras (Olds engines prepared by Comptech) for Indy 500 veteran Jimmy Vasser and defending CART champion Juan Montoya in the 2000 Indy 500. Target will be the primary sponsor, with Budweiser serving as the associate sponsor. Former NASCAR Winston Cup crew chief Andy Graves will be the team manager for the entries, and Tom Anderson and Mike Hull will help oversee the program. Toyota gave its blessing and Ganassi was off and running. He did not know whether the team would make the April 22nd IRL race at Las Vegas, or not. Good luck Chip & Company…and kick ass!



Jaguar’s new S-Type

Let’s take care of this right from the start: Jaguar’s new S-Type sedan is the result of a joint development project with Lincoln’s upcoming LS sedan. But there are significant differences between the two cars. And Jaguar’s best engineering and design brains were involved from the very beginning, so let’s not have any talk about this not being a Jaguar.

I went to England in late summer for a background briefing on the new Jaguar and met with Dave Szczupak, the man in charge of the program, and Geoff Lawson, Jaguar’s chief of design. Michael Dale, president of Jaguar Cars North America, was there too, and we had the benefit of meeting with a variety of managers who are bringing this midsize sedan into the market place.

In his opening remarks about the S-Type, Mike Dale stated that Jaguar didn’t want to do a cookie-cutter car, but rather wanted to break new ground. After showing some designs to focus groups, however, it soon became clear that people wanted the car to be clearly identified as a Jaguar, so the styling was altered somewhat and what you see in the photographs here is essentially what you will see when the car appears in American dealerships in May.

Addressing the Lincoln connection, Dale explained that while “suspension castings can be similar, the bushings and spring and damper rates are unique.” Dale went on to say that “if you’re prepared to invest the time and money, which we were, the parts can be similar but the gap in performance can be enormous.” And clearly underlying Dale’s comments is the appreciation that the deep pockets of the Ford Motor Company are what have allowed Jaguar to continue to exist and develop into a multiline car company for the future.

Getting to the heart of the car, the base engine is a new one from Jaguar, a V-6 design that begins life with the Ford Duratec block and soars from there. The Jaguar name is AJ-V6, and it’s an all-aluminum engine with a 60-degree vee, double overhead camshafts and a displacement of 3.0 liters. It shares design features with Jaguar’s 4.0-liter V-8 engine, which also will be available in the S-Type. The V-6 will deliver 240 bhp at 6800 rpm, but these are DIN horses, not the SAE we have in America. Seeing as how the 4.0 V-8 has 290 bhp SAE versus 281 DIN, we can expect that the V-6 will have something approaching 250 bhp. The European torque figure is 221 lb.-ft. at 4500 rpm, so it’s a good bet that performance will be lively. And knowing Mike Dale as I have for many years, I know he’s not going to allow a less-than-spirited performer to carry a Jaguar badge out onto American roads. Dale tells us that he expects the initial mix to be about 50/50 between V-6 and V-8 S-Types, but that when things settle down the V-6 will dominate North American sales.

The S-Type is slated to be a competitor for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series sedans, which means pricing will be in that same ballpark of $40,000-$60,000. By comparison, the Jaguar (overall length of 191.3 in.) is about 3 in. longer than the BMW 5 and perhaps 2 in. longer than the Mercedes-Benz. In terms of weight, the S-Type slots between the two German sedans, being slightly heavier than the BMW and a touch lighter than the Mercedes.

One area of enormous importance to Jaguar about this car is the suspension. As a car company that is justifiably famed for great ride characteristics and very good handling, it is incumbent upon Jaguar to be sure its newest model measures up. Unfortunately, we were not permitted to drive the prototypes that we examined, so I can’t say what the ride and handling are like. But the components argue for a true Jaguar character: fully independent with unequal-length upper and lower A-arms, coil springs, tube shocks and anti-roll bar in front; double A-arms with anti-lift and anti-squat geometries, concentric coil springs and shocks and anti-roll bar at the rear.

The brake system features 4-wheel discs with ABS, and the brakes are good sized: 11.8 in. front, 11.3 in. rear. There is electronic traction control that uses both reduced engine power and brake intervention, and there is a shutoff switch for those who so desire. The steering system is rack and pinion with variable-ratio power assist, and there are 2.8 turns, lock to lock, and a turning circle of 37.7 ft.

Image is all-important with any new car model, so we didn’t see the final take on the wheels of the S-Type, but Jaguar says the V-6 models will have 7-spoke alloy wheels measuring 16 x 6 in., while the V-8 cars will have 5-spoke wheels at 16 x 7 ½ in. Tires are Bridgestone all-season 225/55HR-16s on both cars at this time.

In the American market only a new 5-speed automatic transmission will be available. It features electronic controls and a mode switch to select either Normal or Sport shift patterns. It’s shifted via Jaguar’s J-gate selector that offers the enthusiast driver the opportunity to row up and down through the gears for spirited motoring. Or, of course, you can simply put it in Drive and leave the selection process to the computer. During our briefing, the question of a 5-speed manual came up, but Mike Dale stated that this sort of car really works best with an automatic gearbox in most driving situations in this country, so they opted to not offer a manual.

The Jaguar S-Type is a car that reflects the heritage of Jaguar’s Mark II sedans of the Sixties. Many car stylists around the world have commented at one time or another on how much influence the Jaguar Mark II had on them, and we have seen bits of its shape appear on a variety of cars such as the Infiniti J30 and others. Geoff Lawson told me that he never even went down into the museum section at Jaguar and looked at the Mark IIs on hand. “I just had a vision of what I wanted this car to look like and this is it,” he said.

I am a big fan of the car’s styling. In all of the spy photos we’ve seen over the past year or so, I have not yet found an angle that looked good. But, seeing the car in person and having the opportunity to walk around it and sit inside it, I find it wonderfully exciting. It’s filled with the character of Jaguars — those swooping flanks and a marvelous hood that undulates over the tops of the headlamps, plus a distinctive roofline that may be a compromise in head room but certainly retains the essence of a Jaguar.

The interior, too, is recognizable as a Jaguar’s as soon as you slide into the leather seats. The wood trim and the excellent, large gauges set amid a rational instrument panel all reinforce the car’s Jaguarness. If the driving character is everything the Jaguar people promise, we’re in for quite a treat.

One of the best ways to enjoy this Jaguar is lead by countries with a great climate. In southern Europe, we can choose several such as Spain, Italy or Greece. Although now in Greece are not very well with the economy … Here a spanish website if you want more information about how get a loan for a Jaguar or any car.

In any case, as we recommend making a trip to Italy, now we’d recommend doing in Spain. Especially if you are from the northern Europe probably you know the Balearic islands, with spectacular landscapes.

In the Balearic Islands, we are the largest of the three, Majorca. Mallorca really do have a handful of offers to enjoy. The weather is super good, taking about 300 days per year sun. I highly recommend trying sports such as footballbasketball, running or Crossfit in Majorca. Thanks to the climate and infrastructure is a joy.

Late Night Bolts Of Lightning, Ominous Emails And The Concept Of ” We”

Dateline Austin, Texas. Howdy to all you occasional readers out there in WebVille. And by the way, I do this little column every other week, which is why we still get emails all the time wondering where my new column is. Let’s see, what’s new around here? I’m feelin’ like a hundred bucks, feeling real good as a matter of fact…thanks for asking. I still get some pains in my leg and arm, but my head is clear and my aim is true.

Jolene and I are still having a Big Time, I’m happy to report. I came in from an errand the other day to find her with her hair up in a pony tail, spandex workout shorts, a sports bra and her cross-trainer shoes on, dancing and gyrating to 455 Rocket, by Francine Reed (from “Shades of Blue” in case you’re interested), while she was vacuuming. She had the stereo on so loud she had no idea I was standing there, so needless to say, I really enjoyed the show. The song ended and then she turned to see me and burst out laughin.’ Life’s little pleasures have a way of making the days go by, don’t they?

We’ve been out looking for a new car for Ms. Jolene lately and believe you me, it has been a real experience. She liked the Ford Focus, but not enough to buy one, so she just wanted to see what else was out there. We’ve run the damn gamut, from the Audi TT to the new Acura TL Coupe, to a used Porsche, to a new BMW 3-Series, to a New Beetle Turbo, to a new VR6 Golf GTI, to a low-mile E-Class Mercedes, to a Chrysler 300M, to a Honda S2000, to even stopping at the Buick and Cadillac stores. We actually drove a LeSabre Custom because I wanted her to drive a big American car for the hell of it and she was like, “why?” At any rate, we found it’s a pretty good car if you’re content to drive around at 6/10ths all the time. And I know you’d never get a ticket in the damn thing because it’s damn near invisible.

We put the Soprano’s Sound Track CD on while we were on our test drive, and we had to admit that the sound system was damn good, but Jolene said she’d feel retired in it, so that was the end of that. She thought the Catera was a deal (they’re about givin’ ’em away down here), but she said it was boring to look at and she hated the name, so all she did was sit in it, refusing to drive it. She liked the Beetle for about five minutes, until she saw a heavily pierced 22-year-old woman, accompanied by her equally pierced boyfriend pick one up in Lime Green, while we were at the dealer. “I’d like owning it for about five minutes, but I do like seeing ’em drivin’ around,” was all she said, so on we went.

She liked the idea of the Honda Insight, but she wanted more power than that. And the Honda S2000 was basically unobtanium, with the dealer specifying a mandatory package of spoilers, car cover, tonneau cover, mud flaps and enough bullshit to make you physically ill, before you can get around to actually buying one. The sales guy said, with a slimy smile, “‘Course, you don’t have to put any of that stuff on if you don’t want it, but you’ll get charged for it anyway. And we couldn’t get one for you before October, but we’ll be happy to take your $1,000.00 deposit today.” I thought Jolene was going to physically attack him. “That’s the biggest bunch of bullshit I’ve ever heard,” she said, before storming out of the showroom. Peter has ranted about this very subject before (AE#4). These car companies can spend a bazillion dollars on all the research, brand imaging, “customer first” initiatives, new showrooms, elite service programs and all the other bullshit they want, but if the damn dealer is going to sit there and gouge the shit out of the public in the interest of short-term profits, there is no amount of money in the world that can save the damage that’s caused to that car company’s image.

The guy actually shouted to us as we were leaving the showroom, “It’s just the law of supply and demand, folks.” Oh really? That incident sent Jolene into such a tirade it took me all afternoon to calm her down. We didn’t go to another dealer for four days, after that little episode. We finally ended up at my buddy’s BMW dealer and she really liked the 323i, and he had a very low mileage (4,800 miles!) E320 on his used lot that was immaculate, so that’s where we’re at. She’s trying to decide between those two cars as we speak. She did have a revelation as we drove home from the dealer, though.
“Honey? I have an idea…”

She said it with her best “sweet little Texas girl” accent. You know the kind…the kind that can melt cotton candy from a hundred yards away…

“I can hardly wait,” I said, half-knowing what she was going to say anyway.
“Seein’ as you’re always drivin’ different cars for the web site and all, how ’bout if we just keep my car for a beater and I’ll drive the Boxster.

IN THE past three weeks, it has been invaded by a plague of crickets and grasshoppers. They can be a nuisance, but the situation is “not alarming”, according to local authorities. Experts reported that the reason for the high number of these insects at the moment is due to the unusual weather conditions this summer. A biologist, explained that the summer rains had increased ground humidity making these insects more fertile. Lawyers are working about this issue.

A pest eradication company, agreed with the biologist saying that it was often the case during humid, wet weather which affected the reproduction cycles of some insect species. “These insects are harmless although very noisy but pest eradication will not be needed as the situation was not disturbing. They are warm weather insects and will disappear with the first cold weather”, he added. Crickets breed in warm, damp areas such as basements, garages or inside patios where they remain hidden during the day coming out at night for food. Male crickets ‘sing’, to attract the female, by rubbing their wings together.

“Uh-huh. And what if I don’t have a test car and you have the Boxster and I have to be somewhere?”
“I’m sure we can plan ahead…” Then she leaned over and gave me a little tickle kiss on my ear. I don’t call her the irresistible Jolene for nothing, folks.

As a matter of fact, I’d say things are heating up at the ol’ homestead. We’ve actually found ourselves engaging in what I like to call “heavy” couple conversations, which Jolene manages to start just as I’m starting to nod off in bed. How do women know how to do that? It’s like a bolt of lightning hits them all at once, and they want to talk about life-altering “things” right now…at your weakest possible moment. Issues like: “Do you Love Me?” “How Much?” Or, “Bud, what are we doing?” “Do you like having me around?” Or, “Are you happy, Bud? With Me? With Us?” Of course by that point, in true guy fashion, I’m reduced to responding with a series of one or two syllable grunts like, “Uh-huh. Lots. Having fun. Yes. Uh-huh. Of course. Yeah.” You get the idea.

But, when she sits upright in bed and turns the light on, I know we’re going to talk, whether I want to, or not. Like last night, when she was talking about Letterman’s first show tonight since his heart surgery…