Turning 10 isn’t easy. So, to deal with the inevitable growing pains, we recruited the help of our partners in Italy to ensure a celebration in true style.
So, how do you celebrate a tenth anniversary? Well, sometimes you need help from people in high places. In this instance, not only did we get a helping hand – and then some – but serendipity pitched in as well. You see, once every few years Quattroruote invite all their international partners to their test-track outside Milan to sample some of the finest machines on the planet. And this year the invitation was timed to coincide with our tenth anniversary issue – perfect!
And so I arrived like a kid in a candy store to the track where an eclectic collection lay in wait – Godzilla (a Nissan GT-R), a Teutonic Titan (an Audi R8 V10 Plus), a legend (the Porsche 911 Turbo S), a Prancing Horse (a Ferrari 488 GTB) and a bolshie Brit (the mad McLaren 675LT). What do these machines all have in common, you ask? Well, with the exception of being some of the finest examples of automotive engineering on the planet, they all accelerate from 0-100km/h in under 3 seconds. On this occasion, though, the Nissan took 3.18 seconds to eclipse the three-digit mark – so we’ll just have to forgive it that extra eighteenth of a second.
That apart, the GT-R was the one machine in this quintet that I had most recently piloted at another racetrack – the Spa Francochamps circuit nestled in the Eifel mountains in Belgium a few of months ago. Since then, Nissan dealers in India have begun accepting bookings and the official Indian launch of Godzilla is imminent. I said at the time that it appears as though Nissan has managed to squeeze Godzilla into a tux, because the GT-R is a lot more civilized than it’s ever been. The cabin is now lined in leather, and its face appears friendlier and more approachable than ever. But, make no mistake, the driving experience is as ferocious as ever – as I found out once again on the three-and-a-half kilometre loop that we were using of the Quattroruote test track.
The section at our disposal at the vast Quattroruote test facility consisted of sweeping bends, hard braking zones, varied track surfaces and some very technical corners – so a little bit of everything then! We would get three full laps in each car, and since I didn’t know the track particularly well I figured that the GT-R would be the best machine in which to get accustomed to the venue. The grip levels are insane, the all-wheel drive is unflappable, and, most importantly, the hydraulic steering provides a level of feedback that’s simply a thing of the past in this age of electric power steering.
So, on this day, Godzilla was the most welcoming of the lot as I went out for my first couple of laps. The first thing that strikes you is the sheer ease with which you can immediately start pushing the GT-R. Despite its forbidding image, it’s an incredibly easy car to start manhandling right away. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, Godzilla can be remarkably tolerant. The steering gives you sensational feedback, as it provides a real feel for the texture of the road below – something that the new electronic power steering systems simply can’t do, no matter how good they’ve become.
But the truth is that, with 562 horses on tap, the Nissan is simply outgunned in this company. Sure, the Porsche is rated at not much more – 573 – but the ponies from Zuffenhausen just seem to be that little bit more energetic than they are from elsewhere in the world. Moreover, the GT-R (at 1,827kgs) is a couple of hundred kilos heavier than every other car here – which means that it’s also a couple of seconds slower around the Quattroruote test track than the Europeans in this bunch.
Next up for me was the Audi R8 V10 Plus. Now this is a car that I’ve waited to drive ever since it was launched early this year. It just so happens that I finally got to drive it not only at a track in Italy but also at the BIC in Greater Noida within the span of a couple of weeks. Let’s just say that you don’t see me complaining!
Some folks have complained, however, that the new R8 just doesn’t look like enough of a departure from its predecessor, but I just don’t see the problem – since I always thought that the first-gen R8 was a very handsome supercar. This one looks sharper and more aggressive, but I do have to admit that in this company it does struggle to vie for your attention. And a sober shade of silver doesn’t help either, especially when it’s parked alongside a blood red Ferrari and a really rather green McLaren.
Step inside the R8 and it’s much the same. Everything is exceptionally well put together – in typical Audi fashion – but it’s just missing that sense of occasion of an old school supercar. Where I do need to compliment the R8, though, is in its use of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit technology – which is absolutely sensational. One press of a button ensures that the tach is front and centre, and all the information that you need to drive at light speed is perfectly displayed directly in front of you in high definition.
And boy, does the drivetrain deliver. The naturally aspirated V10, which produces in excess of 600 horses, is as progressive as it is punchy, and it sounds just as good as you imagine it would – although I do have to admit that I wouldn’t mind entirely if it were louder still. The effectiveness of the drivetrain, meanwhile, is never in question – as the R8 surges forward at ludicrous velocity and bangs through the gears with all the grace and precision that you would expect thanks to its lightning fast dual-clutch gearbox.
The urgency of the steering and chassis, meanwhile, compliments the drivetrain perfectly. But that’s until you start really pushing. If you try and coax the R8 through the corners, it tends to veer towards safe understeer followed by tremendous four-wheel traction coming out of a corner. But if you really throw it into a corner, its sharp steering and chassis will respond willingly – right until the point where its reminds you of its mid-engined layout by resorting to snap oversteer as the weight transfers rearward when you get back on the power. Fortunately, the chassis responds immediately as you correct the steering and you can focus once more on putting the vast reserves of power to the ground via the Quattro all-wheel drive system. It can actually be quite entertaining. But, at the same time, it feels a bit clinical. It just doesn’t get under your skin – unlike the Porsche!
From inside the cabin, the Turbo S feels like any other 911 in the range. You would never guess that you’re seated in the driver’s seat of a car that can out accelerate just about any hypercar of a few years ago. In fact, the Turbo S is the fastest car here to breach the three-digit mark – as it accelerates to 100km/h in just 2.78 seconds, thanks to its rearward weight bias and all-wheel drive. The beauty of the 911, however, is not merely its pace – nor the ease with which it’s achieved – but the everyday usability of this machine. Not only does the Turbo S egg you on and urge you push harder into each corner at the track, but it’s equally adept at allowing you to relax when you’ve chosen it for the school run – presumably for a couple of very lucky kids. But we weren’t at the track to practise for the school run. I only had three laps with this very special 911, and I intended to use them. I have to say that within two corners I felt like I had been driving the Turbo S my entire life – it makes you that comfortable behind the wheel. The surge of power is endless, the brakes – like in all Porsches – are tremendous, and the rear end stays stuck no matter what you do. Really and truly, this is supercar performance for ‘idiots’ – because you really have to be one to get into trouble in this machine. But, equally, it rewards you when you know what you’re doing. Again, I just wish it sounded better.
But, speaking of sound, next up was the McLaren. Now, cars with turbos just aren’t supposed to sound this good – and this has two of them sticking out of its mid-mounted V8 lump. But before I could get in and thumb the starter, I had to just stand back and admire this very striking – yet purposeful – machine. While the Ferrari is breathtakingly beautiful, it looks a little delicate in front of the McLaren. All the polished carbon fibre trim on the Ferrari looks exceedingly vulnerable when compared with the slightly more industrial finish on the swathes of carbon fibre on the McLaren. One look at this otherworldly machine will make you gasp in much the same way as a Lambo or a Ferrari, but this looks very functional at the same time – purposeful even! And I suppose it is, since earlier that day the Quattroruote test driver – the supremely talented Davide Fugazza – had wielded his magic around the track in the very willing McLaren. The end result was a new lap record – with a time that was over half-a-second faster than the astoundingly rapid Ferrari.
Well, clearly the 675LT puts its 665bhp to good use. In this group, it’s the fastest to 200km/h (in an eye watering 7.78 seconds), and also the fastest to one kilometre from a standstill (in just 18.59 seconds). And it’s not just speed where the Brit excels, it’s also the quickest stopping machine here from 200km/h – needing just 124.9 metres to come to a rest. The thing is, though, these figures do absolutely nothing to communicate the manner in which this machine corners. It may look intimidating from the outside, but once you contort your limbs enough to find yourself in the driver’s seat you find that you’re sitting far more to the centre of the car than any other machine here. Combine that with a wraparound windshield, short front end, and low seating position, and it feels as though you’re sitting directly on the tarmac – floating on a very fast (and loud) magic carpet! When it comes to slowing for a corner, you have to give the carbon ceramic brakes a proper shove – but boy does it get slowed down in a hurry. Meanwhile, the drivetrain – and the accompanying sound – is the stuff of legends. But it’s the chassis that leaves an indelible mark. It just rotates around its centre line so perfectly that you forget completely that you’re driving a frightfully expensive (and fast) supercar. And that’s the mark of a truly impressive machine – one that immerses you so much in the driving experience that you simply forget about everything else.
With the traction control in Sport (forget about Track mode) you can get the 675 to wag its tail perfectly on the exit as you mash the throttle pedal and revel in all the power and noise. I would give anything to do a hot lap at the BIC in this baby. Not only does this car look like a race car, but it drives like one too. That’s not to say it won’t be able to pop down to the shops for a case of eggs – but it would be a miracle if you could make it back home with the egg shells still intact. I was so taken with the McLaren that I’m willing to go so far as to say that it’s the best production car I’ve ever driven… but it’s a shame that you won’t be able to put your life savings down for one anytime soon however. McLaren have confirmed that they’re looking at India with great interest at the moment, but we’re not yet part of their immediate expansion plans – which extend to 2018.
What you can spring for, if you’re fortunate enough to be able to do so, is the Ferrari. I wish I could tell you with complete certainty that you ought to do so, but – alas – I never got to drive the 488 GTB. Now I’ve driven its predecessor, the 458, which was absolutely epic – there’s no other word for it. So, on this occasion, I was saving the Ferrari for the very end. But, before I could savour being in the driver’s seat, one of our European colleagues seemingly got a little carried away with his right foot, and while he didn’t completely stuff it he did enough to ensure that the car was no longer drivable. Fortunately, Davide had already had his way with this bella Berlinetta and so we have the performance figures to gawk at. 100 comes up in just 2.86 seconds, 200 in 8.11, and one kilometre from a standstill in 18.66 seconds. But to define a thing of beauty like a Ferrari by its numbers is to judge the Sistine Chapel by its square footage. Setting your eyes on a Ferrari, and sitting in its hand-made cabin, is an event. It’s a special occasion. But it looks as though I’ll just have to wait to experience this turbocharged motor at the racetrack. Well, something to look forward to I suppose… but there’s no getting away from the fact that the McLaren eclipsed the Ferrari on the track. It is truly an astonishing machine.
If I had to pick one car, it would have to be the Porsche – for its ability to blend everyday usability with rapid ground covering ability and honest-to-goodness driving pleasure. For track carving precision, however, it would have to be the McLaren. What Ron Dennis has been able to achieve with McLaren’s renewed road car program is nothing short of extraordinary. To go up against the best in the world and come out on top is not something that McLaren is unfamiliar with – but to do it on track is one thing, to do it on the road is something else altogether.
As for me, perhaps if I meditate hard enough I’ll be able to imagine what it would have been like to drive the McLaren and Ferrari back-to-back. Next year I suppose. Let’s just hope that turning eleven is as much of an occasion...
|Nissan GT-R||Audi R8 V10 |
|Porsche 911 |
|Ferrari 488 |
|Lap Time||1 min 15.72||1 min 13.79||1 min 12.94||1 min 11.51||1 min 10.9|
|Acceleration (in seconds)|
|Speed (in km/h) at 1 km||254||271||268||283||282|
|Stopping Distance (in Metres)|
- Nissan GT-R
- Audi R8 V10 Plus
- Porsche 911 Turbo S
- McLaren 675LT
- Ferrari 488GTB
Engine: 3,799cc / V6 / Front Mid-Mounted / 24 Valves / Variable ValveTiming / Direct Injection /
Transmission: 6-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 562bhp @ 6,800rpm
Torque: 637Nm @ 3,300rpm - 5,800rpm
Price: To be announced
X-Factor: Not nearly as forbidding as its ‘Godzilla’ moniker suggests, and magical steering from the pre EPS era.
Engine: 5,204cc / V10 / Mid-Mounted / 40 Valves / Direct Injection / Variable Valve Timing
Transmission: 7-Speed DSG Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 602bhp @ 8,250rpm
Torque: 526Nm @ 6,500rpm
Price: Rs. 2.61 Crores (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-Factor: An exercise in precision, but could do with a bit more soul.
Engine: 3,800cc / Flat Six / Rear-Mounted / 24 Valves / Variable Valve Timing / Direct Injection / Twin-Turbocharged
Transmission: 7-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 573bhp @ 6,750rpm
Torque: 750Nm @ 2,250rpm - 4,000rpm
Price: Rs. 2.66 Crores (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-Factor: The consummate everyday supercar.
Engine: 3,799cc / V8 / Mid-Mounted / 32 Valves / Variable Valve Timing / Twin-Turbocharged
Transmission: 7-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic / Rear-Wheel Drive
Power: 665bhp @ 7,100rpm
Torque: 700Nm @ 5,500rpm
X-Factor: The best production car I’ve ever driven. Period!
Engine: 3,902cc / V8 / Mid-Mounted / 32 Valves / Direct Injection / Twin-Turbocharged
Transmission: 7-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic / Rear-Wheel Drive
Power: 660bhp @ 8,000rpm
Torque: 760Nm @ 3,000rpm
Price: Rs. 3.88 Crores (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-Factor: An automotive masterpiece that goes as fast as it looks...
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