Tag Archives: Audi Sport

Drive Review: Ferrari F430 vs. Audi R8

19 Sep

Scuderia Ferrari. No other name in the world of motorsport evokes the same level of pedigree, prestige and exclusivity as cars emblazoned with the famous Ferrari prancing horse. With 15 drivers’ championships and 16 constructors (manufacturers) championships in Formula 1 alone their reputation for winning is unsurpassed. So, when I had the opportunity to pilot on of their modern sports cars I didn’t hesitate.

Now, before I go on a longer rant about Ferrari you need to realize that as a journalist I need to be fair in my evaluation and assessment of both vehicles featured in this comparison. You also should know that Ferrari isn’t the only manufacturer with a laundry list of top-tier accomplishments at some of the world’s best automotive competitions.

Audi was founded in Germany by August Horch in 1909, a full 20 years before Enzo Ferrari established his own company in Maranello, Italy. And, although the Ferrari nameplate is synonymous with victory, it has been the company with the four rings that has dominated the world of endurance racing. Audi has claimed the overall title at the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans in 11 of the 13 races at the French track since 2000.

So, has all of the experiences these manufacturers have amassed on the racetrack really translated into their road cars. The answer is a resounding one, YES.

Both the F430 and R8 were driven on two different occasions at the Imagine Lifestyles autocross track at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. This allowed me to fairly test each car on an identical track.

The particular R8 I drove in June was an earlier production version that was equipped with Audi’s 4.2-liter V-8 engine, as opposed to the optional 5.2-liter V-10 found in the limited-production R8 GT. Because of this I had a total of 430 horsepower available at my disposal, compared to 525 with the larger V-10. Both engines have plenty of torque of tap, but I found these naturally-aspirated, rear mid-engine monsters really have to be revved up high to squeeze all the juice out. At W.O.T. (wide open throttle) the sound of the Audi all-aluminum V8 was wonderful, but it doesn’t match the sheer scream of the Ferrari’s V8, but was certainly satisfying.

The V8 in my R8 was mated with the optional six-speed R-Tronic automatic transmission. And, as I quickly realized the combination of the V8, R-Tronic tranny and Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system was a perfect combination of the tight, twisty corners of the autocross track. This was the first all-wheel drive vehicle I had even driven and I was smitten with just how good Audi’s quattro system really was. Behind the wheel I felt confident as I made my way around the course. The feeling of the all-wheel drive transferring power from one wheel to another depending on the situation presented. The transmission was in fully-automatic mode (not my choice), and while I didn’t get to test out the paddle shifters to maximize the power of the engine it performed well nonetheless. The biggest qualm I had with the R-Tronic was that upon applying full load the transmission took long than expected to kick down to the proper gear before launching the car forward.

The Ferrari was very similar in many ways to the Audi, with the main difference being it was a spyder (convertible). It performed well, but it had recently rained so the track was wet. Because of this I was unable to push the Ferrari as hard as I had with the R8, and thus it affected the test. It featured a high-revving V-8 that was only one-tenth of a liter larger (4.3-liter) than the R8. The F430 had a 53 horsepower and 27 lb-ft on the R8, but the difference was minimal considering the Ferrari was rear-wheel drive and the R8’s all-wheel setup allowed for less wheel spin and greater traction. Although in rain-mode the F1 transmission was much quicker and more razor-sharp than the R8’s R-Tronic box.

When thinking of the final verdict on these two cars it was hard to come up with a solid conclusion, especially because of the major difference it weather that had a large impact on the drive. I enjoyed the all-wheel drive of the R8 and the engine and transmission of the F430. The interior of the R8 was far superior to the F430, which had a ton of tan leather, but lacked the stylistic design of the R8 and felt almost plain. While the engine sound and transmission was better in the Ferrari, when I put all the pieces together I found myself drawn to the Audi. I attribute this to the style and setup of the track and the stark differences in New England weather. If the sky had cooperated and the venue had been large and more spread out with room to stretch the cars legs the outcome very well might have been different. I guess I just have to spend some more time in these wonderful machines.

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Imagine Lifestyles Autocross Review

16 Sep

Many dream about driving or owning an exotic car. The aggressive looks, powerful engines and legendary names like Ferrari and Lamborghini are all something car nuts want. But unless you’re friends with the rich kid in the neighborhood or have plenty of disposable income your chance of getting into ones of these machines is slim at best. Unless of course you take part in something such as Imagine Lifestyles autocross event at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

THE COMPANY

Imagine Lifestyles is a luxury rental and charter company based out of multiple major metropolitan locations throughout the United States; including Miami, New York and Chicago. Their website states they offer everything from exotic car and yacht rentals to private jet charter and concierge services. However, for this review we’ll stick to the automotive driving events, or as Imagine Lifestyles calls them “Ultimate Driving Experiences.”

What is Autocross?

For those who are unfamiliar with what autocross is, it consists of a series of cones that are set up in a relatively tight configuration. At autocross competition the goal is to navigate the course in the fastest time without hitting any of the cones. Imagine Lifestyles isn’t exactly like that. Yes, there are still cones and they are set up to form a course, but you’re not racing either the track or anyone else.

The Venue

The Imagine Lifestyles Boston autocross event was held at Gillette Stadium, a place known more for New England Patriots football than automotive events. Ideally the event would be held at a slightly larger open area in the area, such as the United States Army base at Fort Devens in Ayer, Mass., a site for many autocrosses throughout the summer and fall months. However, since Devens is a popular location it was probably easier to rent out one of the large lots surrounding Gillette. I have taken part in Imagine Lifestyles’ autocross events twice, once in June and on Saturday. In both cases the track was set up in lot number 10, directly across from the main entrance from Patriot Place and Gillette Stadium.

The Cars

This is why you come to events like this, so they better be up to par. Thankfully all of the cars Imagine Lifestyle had at both events were what they should be. While walking to the entrance I even noticed a mobile detailing company cleaning one of the cars before it was set to take to the track. That’s a good thing because track time, from the bits of rubber from tires and other factors can do a number on a vehicle. All of the cars were in excellent working order and performed as expected. In addition to maintaining their vehicles they also had a decent lineup of different models and manufacturers to choose from. The event on Saturday only offered Ferraris and Lamborghinis, but among them was a Ferrari 599 GTB, two F430’s (one coupe and one spyder) and a F430 Scuderia. The Lamborghinis consisted of Gallardos, both hard and soft top. The one disappointing things was the fact that the Scuderia sat parked in the corner of the lot. I was hoping to drive it, and later learned that the vehicle was used later in the day when the weather improved. At the event in June there was a larger selection of manufacturers to choose from including an Audi R8, Mercedes SLS AMG in addition to the Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

The Driving Instructors

While you navigate the course you have a driving instructor in the passengers seat. Both instructors I drove with were both knowledgeable and knew what they were doing. Some of the staff claimed that the instructors are “professionals.” This title is somewhat misleading. You won’t find Michael Shumacher, Walter Rohrl or Tony Stewart giving you driving tips. They aren’t so much professional drivers as they as very experienced drivers who have been taking part in autocross and other high performance driving events for years. Professional might be a little stretch, but the instructors are all fully qualified for the job and provide useful information for getting around the track fast, safely and efficiently.

The Staff and Event

All of the individuals working at the Boston event were polite and performed well. There were plenty of “please” “thank you”  and “how was your ride.” The lines were relatively short and moved at a decent pace. On the Imagine Lifestyles website it says to allow adequate time (2-3 hours) from the time you arrive until you leave. The amount of time you wait will depend on what time you sign up for and what car you want to drive (Lamborghinis and Ferraris are popular). I have never waited even an hour and a half for the entire process. Sadly, the amount of time you spend driving the car all boils down to a couple minutes at most. The track isn’t very long and if you drive at a good pace the three laps goes by very quickly. You can purchase an additional three laps ($89), but even six laps doesn’t last long. The event takes place rain or shine, so if it pours (Saturday) then you just have to make the best of it.

The Cost

When you purchase the package on a daily deal website such as GroupOn it says $500 value. It’s not worth that, nor would I recommend anyone pay that to take part in an event such as this. Prices vary. The first event in June cost $159, but that isn’t the only thing you have to pay for. Autocross track insurance is required for anyone who is going to drive. Cost ranges from $49, which gives you $50,000 in coverage with a $5,000 deductible, up to $99 that covers you for the entire cost of the vehicle ($250,000) and only has a $1,000 deductible. If this freaks you out don’t despair. There is really no need to buy anything except the basic $49 insurance. The only thing you can hit are rubber cones, a chain link fence and a few light poles (you would have to have thing go very wrong to hit the latter two.)

The Verdict

If you’re looking to get a special birthday, graduation or other unique gift for the car-crazed person in your life then this would be a good thing to get them. The cost, while not cheap is not going to break the bank either. The Boston location at Gillette Stadium is a good location due to its generally located in the state and isn’t overly far from the North Shore, South Shore, Cape Cod or Metro Boston. The cars are fun to drive and you leave with a satisfied feeling that makes you want to drive more. On a scale of one to 10 I’d give the Imagine Lifestyles autocross event a 7.5/10, with the main downsides being it cost some $$ and it doesn’t last long.

© 2012 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

Concepts Abound at 2012 Beijing Auto Show

24 Apr

It’s not surprising the world’s largest automobile market would receive one of the most expansive and encompassing auto shows, and that is exactly what’s taking place at the 2012 Beijing International Auto Show. With the Chinese market growing by leaps and bounds each month German manufacturers Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche all have debuted new vehicles at this year’s show, with a large majority being in the form of concept vehicles.

Audi A6 L e-tron Concept: Photo courtesy Audi North America.

Audi’s has a total of three concepts, the first is the A6 L e-tron, based on their luxurious full-size A6 sedan. The the other is the RS Q3, a high-performance variant of the already-existing Q3 crossover SUV and the last is a Chinese-exclusive Q3 model.

The A6 L e-tron is a plug-in hybrid capable of operating for just over 49 miles exclusively on electric power, while maintaining a consistent speed of 37 mph. That’s not practical for highway use, but with the amount of vehicles on China’s busy roads it’s perfect for stop-and-go traffic and low-speed driving. In addition to the 95 horsepower electric motor the A6 L e-tron has a 2.0-liter TFSI gasoline engine with a maximum of 211 horsepower. Audi’s decision to produce an e-tron on the A6 platform comes as no surprise. The A6 is extremely popular among Audi’s Chinese clientele, and the Chinese have always associated the A6 with success, prestige and power.

Audi RS Q3 Concept: Photo courtesy Audi North America.

On the other end of the spectrum is the RS Q3. This tuned version of the Q3 is powered by a 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine with a peak output 360 horsepower, 152 more than the top engine option in the regular Q3. The power plant together with a seven-speed S-Tronic automatic transmission allow the RS Q3 to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds and hit a top speed of 164.66 mph. Like many performance models, the modifications extend beyond what’s found under the hood. The suspension has been lowered by 25 mm as well as being widened to improve handling. Weight has been reduced with the use of carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRP). The front spoiler, door mirror housings and diffuser on the lower rear bumper all employ the use of this lightweight material. As with other RS models like the TT-RS the engine bay of the RS Q3 has a valve cover painted in red with carbon fiber trim pieces adorning various other parts.

Mercedes-Benz Concept Style Coupe: Photo courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America.

Not to be outdone Mercedes-Benz introduced their Concept Style Coupe. The four-door concept has a number of unique design features that could potentially make their way onto future Mercedes vehicles. The front end of the Concept Style Coupe has two distinct powerdomes that are slightly reminiscence of the one on the current BMW M3. Below the hood, the grille is nearly identical to the Concept A-Class that made its world premiere at the 2011 New York International Auto Show. Under the hood is a new 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine with 208 horsepower and Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system. The headlights are aggressive in their design and are illuminated in red when in standby mode. Ultimately the Concept Style Coupe has many features normally found on concept vehicles. The majority of these won’t make their way onto the production model due to government and safety regulations, but they’re are always cool to look at.

Finishing off the list of German concept vehicles is the BMW i8 Spyder. The two-door, drop-top hybrid is being proclaimed by BMW as their vehicle of the future along with the i8 Coupe and smaller four-door i3. At the front of the i8 Spyder is a 131 horsepower electric motor, and at the rear is a 223 horsepower turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine. Together the unit is estimated to achieve 70-80 mpg.

BMW i8 Spyder: Photo courtesy BMW Group.

Audi, BMW and Mercedes all Unveil Sport Compacts in Geneva

8 Mar

With the 2012 Geneva Auto Show press days now over it’s now time for the masses of enthusiasts, families and other spectators to crowd the floor of the convention center. As with all autoshows, Geneva 2012 had its share of crazy concept vehicles and every type of transportation. From the stunning 760-horsepower Ferrari F12 Berlinetta to the eye-catching and outrageous all-electric Tata Megapixel the show has all the bases covered. Along with hundreds of vehicles, Geneva 2012 exposed new trends within the industry.

One of the overriding examples of this was the number of sport compacts. Three German manufacturers; Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz all had their own creations, ranging from Mercedes’ five-door and family-orientated A-Class, to the three-door Audi A3 and BMW M135i.

BMW M135i: Photo Courtesy BMW Group

Mercedes’ A-Class was by far the most economical of sport compact shown, and with 5-doors it’s also the most practical. Two engine variants power the new A-Class, both of which are turbocharged. The smaller 1.6-liter produces either 115 HP in the A120 or 156 HP in the A200. The top A-Class, the A250 gets a larger 2.0-liter four-cylinder, bumping the peak output to 211. Putting the power to the ground come via a six-speed manual transmission, or an optional seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. Numerous features and stylistic and design cues round out the A250. On the exterior 18-inch AMG alloy wheels and brake calipers finished in red. On the under side, an AMG-derived front axle and suspension, which should give the relatively small A-Class excellent road handling. The A-Class is scheduled to arrive in European showroom later this year, while the U.S. market will likely have to wait until 2013.

On the complete opposite end of the sport compact spectrum is the BMW M135i. As the “M” in M135i might imply, BMW Motorsport has done extensive work throughout this hot hatchback. On the outside the new BMW M Performance three-door resembles its older cousin the BMW M Coupe, produced between 1998 and 2002 and fondly nicknamed “The Shoe” by enthusiasts for its unique profile. Like the M Coupe the new M135i is powered by a inline six-cylinder engine, but that’s where the similarities end. Unlike the naturally-aspirated 3.2-liter in the M Coupe a smaller displacement 3.0-liter turbocharged unit propels the M135i (the same one found in the two-door 1M Coupe.) Engine size might have decreased, but peak horsepower is up, to 300 in the M135i. This beats the shoe’s by 60-horsepower, and beats out the more fuel friendly A250 by 89-horsepower. Similar to the A250, the M135i rides on 18-inch alloy wheels and has extensive suspension modifications when compared to a regular 1-series.

Mercedes-Benz A250: Photo Courtesy Mercedes-Benz USA

Falling in between the Mercedes A-Class and the BMW M135i is the new Audi A3. It’s been over 10 years since the A3 has been redesigned, so its unveiling has been long anticipated. With eight different engine options available for the European market there’s something for everyone. From the miniscule displacement of 1.2-liter TFSI, to the 1.6-liter TDI with just-horsepower, one might not get going quickly, but you’ll surely get great fuel economy (Up to an estimated 60 mpg with in 1.6-liter TDI). All of these different engines are paired with an equally larger number of available transmissions. While many are connected via a traditional six-speed manual, customers can choose the S-Tronic duel-clutch gearbox with either six or seven speeds (depending on engine).

With a mix of sporty and agile handling, practical, everyday usability and in the case of M135i, world class performance it’s not surprising the sport compact market is expanding and becoming more competitive. Whether its the economical five-door, four passenger Mercedes A-Class or the enthusiast and speed-junky approved BMW M135i the likelihood of these types of vehicles will become more popular as manufacturers create more models and variations.

© 2012 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

The 560 HP Audi R8 GT Spyder, the most expensive R8 to date

2 Feb

Audi R8 GT Spyder: Photo Courtesy Audi USA

Audi has introduced their newest version of their top-of-the-line sports car. The R8 GT Spyder and its hard-top sibling are the most powerful R8 ever produced, it’s also the most expensive. With a base MSRP of $213,800 (inlcudes $1,200 destination fee and $2,100 gas-guzzler tax) the special-edition drop-top costs $38,650 more than the regular 5.2-liter Spyder. But what do you get for an additional 38 grand?

Well, just as with the R8 GT Coupe the Spyder will be limited to only 333 units worldwide, with 50 coming to the U.S. Beside the exclusivity you get an upgraded 5.2-liter naturally-aspirated V10 that ups the peak horsepower from 525 to 560. The added power is transferred to the road via Audi quattro all-wheel drive and a six-speed R Tronic sequential gearbox.

Audi R8 GT Spyder: Photo Courtesy Audi USA

More horsepower is always a good thing, but it’s useless if their is too much weight. To improve the power to weight ratio engineers have eliminated over 187 lbs with an engine frame made from lightweight magnesium along with carbon fiber-reinforced polymer and carbon fiber composite used heavily throughout the vehicle.

On the road the Spyder will be more agile and nimble due to a sport suspension with stiffened calibration. This tweak also lowers the GT Spyder by 10 millimeters.

The first deliveries of the Audi R8 GT Spyder are scheduled to take place this month. If you’re in the market for this four-ringed beauty you better hurry as only 50 units will come to our shores.

Interior of the Audi R8 GT Spyder: Photo Courtesy Audi USA

© 2012 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

Toyota will Return to Le Mans 24 Hours with All-New TS030 Hybrid Race Car

25 Jan

Toyota TS030 Prototype: Photo Courtesy Toyota Motor Corporation and Autoblog.com

Yes, it’s a hybrid. Toyota has unveiled its all-new TS030 Hybrid race car. It will be the first car of its kind to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship when it makes its racing debut on May 5 at the six hours of Spa-Francorchamps. Toyota also hopes to complete head-to-head with Audi Sport’s R18 TDI at the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans. It has been 13 years since the Japanese manufacturer last took part in the 24 hour race with the TS030’s predecessor the TS020, also known as the Toyota GT-One. Since Toyota’s decision to forgo the 2000 race Audi has dominated the top LMP1 ((Le Mans Prototype 1) class winning 10 of the last 12 races.

Powering the TS030 is a 3.4-liter, naturally aspirated V8 gasoline engine with a hybrid system consisting of capacitor storage areas at the front and rear of the vehicle. The hybrid system allows the vehicle to recoup lost power during braking. However, current racing regulations limit the amount of power stored to 500 kJ (kilojoules). The chassis is comprised of carbon-fiber and was developed by Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG).

Ironically, on the same day Toyota annouced their return for this year’s race, Audi’s recent rival Peugeot has suddenly and unexpectedly withdrawn their 908 LMP1 prototype, which defeated the Audi R15 TDI in 2009 at Le Mans. Without Toyota’s entry the race for the overall crown would have been a foregone conclusion, as Audi would have been the only serious contender in the class.

Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima have been chosen to pilot one of the two prototypes, but the line-up for the second car has yet to be determined.

Video courtesy of Toyota Motorsport GmbH

© 2012 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

Mercedes’ large, yet compact gamble

13 Sep

By Matt McCarron

Mercedes-Benz Concept A-Class at the 2011 NYIAS

On the same day of its world debut The New York Times Wheels page has reported Mercedes-Benz plans to bring their all-new B-Class to the United States in the coming years. This isn’t the first time Mercedes’ has toyed with bringing a compact vehicle to U.S. shores. The Concept A-Class made its world premiere at the 2011 New York International Auto Show in April.

The reasoning behind the move might seem simple enough. In the past four or five years Mercedes-Benz has fallen behind arch rivals BMW and Audi in an ongoing battle to control the compact luxury vehicle market in the U.S. BMW has the 128i, 135i and more recently, the 1M Coupe. Audi has countered BMW with their five-door A3 Sportback.

Although Mercedes’ has sold small, compact luxury vehicles in other markets for years the prospect of making them a success in the SUV-obsessed U.S. is a risky proposition. Not only does Mercedes have to contend with opposition from BMW and Audi, but they must also take into account the U.S. market as a whole. Typically U.S. drivers have been reluctant to put a premium of a small luxury vehicle. Instead of opting for the B-Class those with young families look to something family friendly like a minivan, or mid-sized SUV, while younger, performance-orientated drivers are drawn to lightning quick four-doors such as the Subaru WRX STI.

According to Mercedes the European model of the new B-Class features a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with direct injection. Transmission choices include a high-tech dual clutch transmission as well as a traditional manual transmission. While many of the specifics might vary between the European and U.S. models major models aspects and options should remain relatively the same.

Only time will tell if Mercedes’ wager on bring the B-Class to America pays off. The B-Class is scheduled to arrive in European showrooms beginning in November. No arrival date for the U.S. has been set, but the Times’ article reports it should be sometime in 2013.

© 2011 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com