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McLaren 12C

Text by Dr Kevin   With the launch of McLaren’s new 650S, the 12C can be easily forgotten in the background. McLaren wants to stress that 650S is not a replacement for 12C but a brand new model which slots itself between the 12C and the P1.   Including the rumoured baby McLaren codename “P13” coming up next year, I am absolutely loving McLaren’s new line up.   All the hype about the 650S is justified as it looks like a P1 and it is astoundingly gorgeous. So what happen to our beloved 12C then? Just to reassure everyone that it is still bloody good, I took it out for an overnight drive.   The last time I drove the 12C was with the touch sensor doors. It was unfortunately the most ridiculous system ever. So they changed it to a real button instead, thank you McLaren engineers!   The car still looks stunning; the silver paintwork makes the car less “look at me”. This is why I adore British sports cars, unassuming to the masses but respected by the few.   When both the dihedral doors are opened it is one of the most marvellous spectacle ever. I still appreciate the distinctive exhaust location, which is just utterly special.   It’s one of those cars that appear fast even if it is stationery.   The twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 produces 616bhp, which is brilliant for the relatively small engine size of a supercar. This brings the car from 0-100km/hr in 3.1 seconds…yup that’s a lot faster than any car on the road. The amazing thing is that when I floor the gas pedal it doesn’t scare me to bits, so it enables an average driver to push the car with confidence.   My advised is the go for the optional carbon ceramic brakes, it is definitely worth it.   The 12C now already legendary carbon fibre monocell chassis is still what really makes the car stands out. The upgraded transmission setting is much better as the throttle response is improved with faster and smoother clutch control. This translate to better driving dynamics and to me lots more fun!!   When driven hard the sound that you get from the 12C is unquestionably spine tingling, the other sensory experience that you get at 8000rpm on track mode is something that I cannot explain fully… but it’s awesome.     I tried putting on my son’s child seat which was effortless; just make sure the passenger airbags are off. Multi-storey and underground car parks are simple to manoeuvre. Always get the vehicle lifter option, trust me it’s really not worth saving on that.   The boot up front is spacious enough for most shopping and day trips up north. Not surprisingly the fuel consumption is comparable to most supercars which is basically abysmal, but I really think that’s the last thing on your mind if the 12C is sitting in the drive way.

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KEVIN C

 

Aston Martin DB9

Text by Dr Kevin   With the new James Bond movie going back to its roots featuring the DB5 and the introduction of the new DB9, this is a great time to pay homage to the DB series Aston Martin.   DB5 is no doubt the most famous Bond car ever, so much so that Aston Martin is always associated as the James Bond car. The formula is so successful that one wonders the reason why there are so many forgettable cars featured in the first place.   The history behind the DB bloodline starts when Sir David Brown took over the company and debut the first of the DB in 1948 at the London motor show. It is the beginning of a very successful series that will go on to have fourteen models till today. The world fell in love with Aston Martin when DB5 was featured in James Bond’s Goldfinger, and the brand has never looked back since.   I am glad to have a chance to look back and drive one of the most popular Aston Martin in recent time, the DB9. The DB9 was launched in 2003 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Aston Martin skipped DB8 as they think that it may mean a V8 engine instead of the flagship V12. The truth is they can call it whatever they want and it will still sell as it looks absolutely fabulous. You are not just buying a car, you buying a piece of art with British heritage. The timeless and elegant design grows on you and it doesn't look tired and old even after almost 10 years. The famous styling of the front grill has survived relatively unscathed from the DB4 since 1954, which is a testimony of the company commitment to it’s rich history.   Honestly, the DB9 is not for the flashy crowd. It is a supercar that doesn't get stares every time you stop at a junction, you barely get much attention from the public compared to a Ferrari. This is a perfect gem of a car for the discerning clientele that prefers an understated profile.   I drove the 2008 face lifted DB9 for a couple of days. I am still impressed by the crystal key and start push button. The instrument panel is one of the nicest that I have come across, very sleek and clean layout. The car is built on the aluminum VH platform shared with the DBS. The huge 6-liter V12 engine (also the similar to the DBS) is a beauty to look at and the sound of the V12 is just a dream. Although the exhaust note is not aggressive enough, there are aftermarket options easily available. The handbrake is still my least favorite part of the Aston, as the lever doesn't stay up when the handbrake is activated so it feels clumsy to release. The ride is very comfortable and the drive is delightful but predictable. Therefore, it is a superb everyday car but it does lack that panache supercars are typically stereotyped, which the Italian counterparts do pretty well.   The weather was terrible on the first day I got the car, the rear visibility was almost zero with the torrential rain and it doesn't help that it was a convertible with a microscopic rear window attached to the fabric roof. But the car was not the least affected by the wet conditions, confidently strolling along the slippery tarmac without a hint of any hesitation. Just as I was starting to get comfortable with the car, I realized that the fuel cap release button is not working. Well, some things are still better with a mechanical switch. Especially if you are talking about a V12 supercar, which drinks plenty of petrol.   Thankfully, I was blessed with superb weather the next day. With the roof down, the crisp refreshing morning air stream into the cabin. In front of me, an almost deserted winding road surrounded by foliage glittering in the gentle sunlight and the addicting sound of the V12 engine…I completely fell in love with the car. There is a sense of serenity that makes me want to keep going, almost into the realm of mediation. The pleasure of driving has never been so refreshing.   Although I have to admit that the DB9 coupe does look more gorgeous than the Volante with the sweeping curves. But both are brilliant cars that anyone will be proud to own.   A true gentlemanly supercar that is sophisticated yet powerful the DB9 is a legend that most manufacturers can only dream of having in their lineup.   Power, Beauty, Soul…

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Jaguar F-type V8 S

Text by Dr Kevin   The F-type is the newest kid on the block and it is good. The 5 litre V8 supercharged engine churns out 488 bhp and does 0-100 km/h in 4.3 seconds, and it can be done topless. The dynamic suspension is absorbs all the imperfections brilliantly.   Being a Jaguar, the interior will be leather + more leather, always a welcomed prospect away from cheap plastics that most cars are fitted with. There is an interesting built in passenger grip bar in the middle of the console; my guess is for the passenger to hold on to dear life if the driver decides to have a bit of fun? J The soft top deploys in 12 seconds and can be done on the move. If you intend to give your kid a ride make sure you deactivate the passenger airbags. I sent my son to school and the child seat adapted nicely even with the contoured seats.   The ZF 8-speed gearbox is excellent, although not a dual clutch system, the shifts are nippy. The best part of the car is the sound! It growls so ferociously that almost all cars on the road can hear you coming and somehow subconsciously give way. Even the backfire of the exhaust is savagely loud. I think I probably woke the whole neighbourhood up in the middle of the night.   But interestingly you tend to slow down as the loud exhaust makes our sensory believe that we are going very fast but you are actually not. Reverse psychology perhaps? It’s like those slow cars with modified exhaust that you can hear from miles away and you were expecting to see a Ferrari zoom past in the next few seconds but you waited and waited … and waited, then a Perodua Kancil appeared.   And if you are wondering, YES! You can turn off the exhaust sound with a push of a button. But I haven’t found any reason to do so.

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The 600Nm Twin Turbo XFS Diesel

Text by Dr Kevin   It has been a difficult past 10 years for Jaguar as old, mediocre products and poor marketing has made the brand hide behind in the shadows. However, with the introduction of the XF in 2009, Jaguar is poised to make a comeback. And what a comeback it is! The XF already has more than 50 international awards to it’s name. In the past, everyone would love to own a Jaguar but bought a BMW instead. However, in the last few years things has changed dramatically. All thanks to Ian Callum the genius behind the new Jaguar design. He also previously directed the design for Aston Martin, which explains why the XF rear looks so familiar.   Most people would agree that the XF saloon is stunning in appearance. The gorgeous lines, the original 1968 XJ inspired grill, the aggressive styling… it totally defies the traditional jaguar profile.   As you slide into the driver seat, flawless leather with twin-needle stitching greets you. The red pulsating start/stop button makes the car feel alive, especially with the opening ceremony of the textured aluminum concealed air vents and the rising of the rotary shift knob from the centre console. The stylish user-friendly instrument panels with a 7-inch full color touch screen display complete the interior look. The overhead cabin lights are controlled by touch, which can be too sensitive sometimes. The boot is big enough for golf bags and baby prams to fit easily. End of the day it is very much still a classy and comfortable cabin with quality materials and build, which is exactly what a luxury saloon should be like.   At the heart of the XFS is a 3 liters Twin Turbo charged V6 Engine with 600Nm of torque and weighting 2000kg, with acceleration from 0 - 100km/hr in 6.4 seconds. Just by looking at these figures, make me wonder how many trips to the petrol station I need to make in a week. However, it is a diesel engine! Therefore, despite its size, weight and performance, the diesel delivers an amazing 11.8 L/100 km in the city and 8.2 L/100 km on the highway. So the savings at the pump is significant compared to the petrol engine as price of diesel is lower than petrol. With the gear knob at “D”, the car is well behaved and calm. The adaptive suspension soaks up all the bumps on the road pretty well, perfect for normal day driving. The standard 10-point surround speakers really make the drive very much enjoyable.   With the dynamic mode engaged (which is a small chequered flag logo, how cool is that!) and with the gear knob at “S”, the XFS becomes a totally different animal. You can hear the grunt of the V6 engine and the feel the full force of the 600Nm of torque; it is very addictive to drive indeed. The dynamic mode makes the transmission shift faster, increase the throttle sensitivity and traction control becomes less intrusive, which equals to more fun as the driver have more control over the rear wheels. The balance of the car thru the corners is fantastic so it really gives the driver confidence to push harder. It’s a joy to be at the driver seat. For the adventurous, the XFS can be easily chipped up to a crazy 700Nm without the need for any physical modifications. But the truth is you probably already have problems keeping within the speed limit.   The other problem is that you may get some clueless pump attendants whom will still try to pump petrol into your car. Which is a really bad idea basically, so there is a safety mechanism jaguar put in place called the misfuelling protection device. How it works is that it detects the diameter of the filler nozzle, as apparently petrol has a narrower nozzle head. But I am seriously not going to try my luck.   The good news (Singapore Budget 2012) for diesel is the Special Tax for Euro 5 compliant cars will be lowered from $1.25 per cc to $0.40 per cc from 2013, a reduction of 70%. This means for the XFS annual tax is now lower by about $2600 a significant difference. Looks like there is going to be a bright future ahead for diesel vehicles in Singapore.   So you got a handsome looking luxury saloon car that is fast enough to keep put some purpose build sports car to shame and still have the fuel consumption of a Toyota. What more can you ask for?

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