My third visit of 2022 to Caffeine & Machine came just a week after the second. This is a year-round venue, and at weekends, even a rather grey one in February, such as this one was, there are likely to be quite a variety of cars on site even if the venue may not be quite as full as it is in the middle months of the year. I called in as I had been up in the Midlands for other purposes and this was a tempting stop-off point en route back home. The site was not as full as it had been on my previous visit, as numbers on that occasion had been swelled by large presences from a couple of different Car Clubs whereas this time there was only rather smaller Club presence. Even so, there was enough of interest to keep me entertained on site for the duration of the validity of my ticket. Here is what I saw:
There are usually a few Abarths here, regardless of whether any of the many Regional Groups have organised a meet on site or not. And that was the case here. I actually saw the owner, Rich and Liz Guy, before I saw the car. This is a 595C Turismo. The story of the modern 500-based Abarth starts in the UK at the end of 2008, following a launch at the Paris Show that year. Since that time there have been a number of detailed changes to the standard cars and a lot of limited editions. Those who really know the marque can spot most of them, but some are so subtle that unless there is a badge you can see, you will not be quite sure which version you are looking at. It used to be relatively easy, when the model was first launched, as there was only one version as shipped ex works called the 500. It had a 135 bhp 1.4 litre turbo-charged engine coupled to a five speed manual gearbox, with 16″ alloys as standard, and the option of 17″ wheels, and a colour palette comprising of two whites (BossaNova White, the standard colour, or the pearlescent Funk White), Red (Pasadoble), Pale Grey (Campovolo) or Black. If you wanted more power – 160 bhp – then you could order an Esseesse kit, which came in a large wooden crate, containing new wheels, springs, an ECU upgrade, the Monza exhaust system and badging. It was dealer fitted and could be applied at any time within the first 12 months or 10,000 miles from registration. Needless to say, it proved popular. As were many of the optional extras, with stickers for the sides, a large scorpion for the bonnet and even a chequered pattern for the roof among the personalisation options offered. Whilst a sliding glass sunroof (Skydome in Fiat/Abarth parlance) was an option from inception, fans of open air motoring had to wait until Geneva 2010 for the launch of the 500C models, with a roll-back roof which provided the best of open-topped motoring and yet still with the rigidity of the regular body style. For the first few months these cars only came with the robotised manual gearbox, which limited the appeal in the eyes of some, but they also introduced us to the “bi-colore”, a series of two tone cars, with upper and lower halves of the body painted in different colours. It took us a while to get used to this, as no other production road cars had been painted like this for some time, but now this is seen as yet another of those marque defining attributes, and (perhaps with the exception of the rarely seen Rally Beige and Officina Red combination that would come for 2014) in the eyes of many this distinctive look enhances the appeal of the cars still further. Having used the legendary 695 badging from the 1960s on the Tributo cars, at the 2012 Geneva Show, Abarth dusted off the 595 name that had been used on the less powerful of the Nuova 500 based cars of the same generation, and created two new versions which we should think of as Series 2 cars, the 595 Turismo and Competizione, both of which could be bought in either closed or open top C guise, with either the 5 speed manual or robotised automated gearshifts. Both models had the 160 bhp engine as standard. Effectively they were a replacement for the Esseesse kit, and it meant that the cars were produced complete at the factory, rather than needing the dealer to undertake the upgrade (and the associated paperwork), though Abarth did not withdraw the Esseesse kits from the market for some while. Turismo, as the name suggests was aimed slightly less extreme in intent, featuring standard leather upholstery, upgraded dampers and climate control, Xenon headlights and Alutex interior details. The sportier Abarth 595 Competizione replaced the leather seats with Sabelt cloth sport seats and Alutex with aluminium, while adding p-cross-drilled brakes and the Record Monza dual-mode exhaust.
Also here was an example of the Series 4 car. After rumours had circulated all winter following the launch of the facelifted Fiat 500 in 2015, Abarth finally unveiled the Series 4 at the end of May 2016. Initially, we were told that the cars would not be available in the UK until September, but that came forward somewhat, with dealers all receiving demo cars in June, and the first customers taking delivery in July. Three regular production versions of both the closed car and the open-topped C were initially available, all badged 595, and called Custom, Turismo and Competizione, as before, though numerous limited edition models have since appeared and in most case disappeared. The most significant changes with the Series 4 are visual, with a couple of new colours, including the much asked for Modena Yellow and a different red, called Abarth Red, which replaces both the non-metallic Officina and – slightly surprisingly – the tri-coat pearlescent Cordolo Red. as well as styling changes front and rear. The jury is still out on these, with many, me included, remaining to be convinced. At the front, the new air intake does apparently allow around 15 – 20 % more air in and out, which will be welcome, as these cars do generate quite a lot of heat under the bonnet. Competizione models for the UK retain the old style headlights, as they have Xenon lights as standard, whereas the Custom and Turismo cars have reshaped units. At the back, there are new light clusters and a new rear bumper and diffuser. Inside, the most notable change is the replacement of the Blue & Me system with a more modern uConnect Audio set up, which brings a new colour screen to the dash. Mechanically, there is an additional 5 bhp on the Custom (now 145) and Turismo (now 165 bhp) and the option of a Limited Slip Diff for the Competizione, which is likely to prove a popular option. Details of the interior trim have changed, with a filled-in glovebox like the US market cars have always had, and electric windows switches that are like the US ones, as well as a part Alcantara trim to the steering wheel in Competizione cars. These cars have now been on offer for five years and with Abarth sales on the rise are the most commonly seen variant.
Following the unveiling of the AMV8 Vantage concept car in 2003 at the North American International Auto Show designed by Henrik Fisker, the production version, known as the V8 Vantage was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 2005. The two seat, two-door coupé had a bonded aluminium structure for strength and lightness. The 172.5 inch (4.38 m) long car featured a hatchback-style tailgate for practicality, with a large luggage shelf behind the seats. In addition to the coupé, a convertible, known as the V8 Vantage Roadster, was introduced later in that year. The V8 Vantage was initially powered by a 4.3 litre quad-cam 32-valve V8 which produced 380 bhp at 7,300 rpm and 409 Nm (302 lb/ft) at 5,000 rpm. However, models produced after 2008 had a 4.7-litre V8 with 420 bhp and 470 Nm (347 lbft) of torque. Though based loosely on Jaguar’s AJ-V8 engine architecture, this engine was unique to Aston Martin and featured race-style dry-sump lubrication, which enabled it to be mounted low in the chassis for an improved centre of gravity. The cylinder block and heads, crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, camshafts, inlet and exhaust manifolds, lubrication system and engine management were all designed in house by Aston Martin and the engine was assembled by hand at the AM facility in Cologne, Germany, which also built the V12 engine for the DB9 and Vanquish. The engine was front mid-mounted with a rear-mounted transaxle, giving a 49/51 front/rear weight distribution. Slotted Brembo brakes were also standard. The original V8 Vantage could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds before topping out at 175 mph. In 2008, Aston Martin introduced an aftermarket dealer approved upgrade package for power and handling of the 4.3-litre variants that maintained the warranty with the company. The power upgrade was called the V8 Vantage Power Upgrade, creating a more potent version of the Aston Martin 4.3-litre V8 engine with an increase in peak power of 20 bhp to 400 bhp while peak torque increased by 10 Nm to 420 Nm (310 lb/ft). This consists of the fitting of the following revised components; manifold assembly (painted Crackle Black), valved air box, right and left hand side vacuum hose assemblies, engine bay fuse box link lead (ECU to fuse box), throttle body to manifold gasket, intake manifold gasket, fuel injector to manifold seal and a manifold badge. The V8 Vantage had a retail price of GB£79,000, US$110,000, or €104,000 in 2006, Aston Martin planned to build up to 3,000 per year. Included was a 6-speed manual transmission and leather-upholstery for the seats, dash board, steering-wheel, and shift-knob. A new 6-speed sequential manual transmission, similar to those produced by Ferrari and Lamborghini, called Sportshift was introduced later as an option. An open-topped model was added to the range in 2006 and then in the quest for more power a V12 Vantage joined the range not long after. No fewer than 18 different versions would feature before the car was replaced in 2018 with a new model.
Making a relatively short pause at the venue was the latest and largest model to join the range, the DBX.
The Audi R8, based on the Audi Le Mans quattro concept car (designed by Frank Lamberty and Julian Hoenig) first appeared at the 2003 International Geneva Motor Show and the 2003 Frankfurt International Motor Show. The R8 road car was officially launched at the Paris Auto Show on 30 September 2006. There was some confusion with the name, which the car shares with the 24 Hours of Le Mans winning R8 Le Mans Prototype (LMP). Initial models included the R8 4.2 FSI coupé (with a V8 engine) and R8 5.2 FSI coupé (with a V10 engine). Convertible models, called the Spyder by the manufacturer, were introduced in 2008, followed by the high-performance GT model introduced in 2011. The Motorsport variants of the R8 were also subsequently introduced from 2008 onwards. An all-electric version called the e-Tron started development but would only reach production stage when the second generation model would be introduced. 6-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx described the R8 as “the best handling road car today” and the car was well received by everyone who drove it. The car received a facelift in 2012 and a new model called the V10 Plus was now added to the range. Production of the Type 42 ended in August 2015.
One of the rarer cars of the morning was this rather splendidly presented E28-generation M535i. The BMW E28 was produced from 1981 to 1988 and replaced the E12 5 Series. The E28 has a self-supporting body that is welded to the body platform. The passenger cell is a safety passenger cell with deformation elements both in the front and rear of the vehicle. Unlike its E12 predecessor and E34 successor, the E28 has a rear-hinged bonnet. The boot has a volume of 460 litres. Most models have a fuel tank capacity of 70 L with some models having a smaller tank of 63 litres. The kerb weight is 1,140–1,410 kg (2,513–3,109 lb). Cruise control, an ‘on-board computer’ (to display trip information) and a “check control” panel (to alert the driver about fluid levels and lighting faults) were introduced to the 5 Series on the E28. The glazing is made of single-pane safety glass, the windscreen has laminated glass. As part of developing the air-conditioning system for the E28, several of the BMW engineers in charge of this program drove a previous generation E12 5 Series during the middle of summer in Texas. The E12 528i was painted black with a black interior, and driven 500 mi (805 km) in one day.The styling was developed under BMW’s chief designer Claus Luthe, with development of the E28 beginning in 1975. At the time that BMW was designing the E28, the company had only one computer, which was used for payroll management and spare parts logistics. Wolfgang Matschinsky and his team borrowed that computer to perform the calculations necessary to develop the new drivetrain and chassis. This was due to the fact that the addition of an ABS system necessitated a redesign from the previous model due to excessive vibrations under heavy braking. The four models available at the launch of the E28 were the 518, 520i, 525i and 528i, with the 518 using a straight-four petrol engine and the other three models using a straight-six petrol engine. Over the course of the E28 model, the following models were added: the 524d and 524td using diesel engines, the 518i (a fuel-injected version of the 518), the 525e/528e as fuel-economy models, and the upper-specification 533i, 535i, M535i, and M5 models. Production ceased at the end of 1987 in readiness for the E34 generation. A total of 722,328 cars were built.
There were a number of other BMWs here, as is typically the case. Standing out by virtue both of the fact that it was parked by the main building and its distinctive wrapped hue was this M5.
There was a group of the latest M3 here, most of them painted in the signature green colour that featured on the press and launch cars. Opinions are still firmly divided on the styling even a year after launch. I suspect many of us – me included – will never really come to terms with it, The owners – who all appeared exceedingly young, which is a bit of a surprise for what is now a seriously expensive car to acquire and to run – are clearly more positive about the car, or prepared to overcome the looks for its other virtues.
The S2000 was first alluded to at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show, with the Honda Sport Study Model (SSM) concept car, a rear-wheel-drive roadster powered by a 2.0 litre inline 4-cylinder engine and featuring a rigid ‘high X-bone frame’ which Honda claimed improved the vehicle’s rigidity and collision safety. The concept car was constructed with aluminium body panels and featured a 50:50 weight distribution. The SSM appeared at many automotive shows for several years afterwards, hinting at the possibility of a production version, which Honda finally announced in 1999. It featured a front mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout with power being delivered by a 1,997 cc inline 4-cylinder DOHC-VTEC engine. The engine produced outputs of 237–247 hp, and 153–161 lb/ft depending on the target market., and it was mated to a six-speed manual transmission and Torsen limited slip differential. The S2000 achieved what Honda claimed as “the world’s top level, high performance 4-cylinder naturally aspirated engine”. Features included independent double wishbone suspension, electrically assisted steering and integrated roll hoops. The compact and lightweight engine, mounted entirely behind the front axle, allowed the S2000 to achieve a 50:50 front/rear weight distribution and lower rotational inertia. An electrically powered vinyl top with internal cloth lining was standard, with an aluminium hardtop available as an optional extra. Although the S2000 changed little visually during its production run, there were some alterations, especially in 2004, at which point production of the S2000 moved to Suzuka. The facelifted car introduced 17 in wheels and Bridgestone RE-050 tyres along with a retuned suspension to reduce oversteer. The spring rates and shock absorber damping were altered and the suspension geometry modified to improve stability by reducing toe-in changes under cornering loads. The subframe has also received a revision in design to achieve a high rigidity. In the gearbox the brass synchronisers were replaced with carbon fibre. In addition, cosmetic changes were made to the exterior with new front and rear bumpers, revised headlight assemblies, new LED tail-lights, and oval-tipped exhausts. Although all the cosmetic, suspension and most drivetrain upgrades were included on the Japanese and European S2000s, they retained the 2.0l F20C engine and remained designated as an AP1. A number of special editions were made, such as the more track-oriented Club Racer version offered in the US in 2007/8 and the Type S for Japan in 2008/9. The UK received a GT for 2009, which featured a removable hard-top and an outside temperature gauge. The S2000 Ultimate Edition (continental Europe) and GT Edition 100 (UK) were limited versions of the S2000 released to commemorate the end of production. Both included Grand Prix White body colour, removable hard top, graphite-coloured alloy wheels, red leather interior with red colouring for stitching on the gear lever gaiter. The Ultimate Edition was unveiled at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show and went on sale in March 2009. The GT Edition 100 was a limited run of 100 units released for the UK market. In addition to the Ultimate Edition’s specification, it featured a black S2000 badge and a numbered plaque on the kick-plate indicating which vehicle in the series it was. The car was never replaced, as Honda decided to head off in the same direction as Toyota, producing a series of very dull appliance-like cars that focused on low emissions and dependability but of no appeal to the sort of enthusiast who bought (and probably kept!) an S2000.
This is an example of the post-facelift F-Pace in potent but quite subtle SVR guise.
It is now over 20 years since Lotus launched the Elise, a model which showed a return to the core values of simplicity and light-weight which were cornerstones of Colin Chapman’s philosophy when he founded the marque in 1955. The first generation Elise was produced for just over 4 years, with a replacement model, the Series 2 arriving in October 2000. It came about as the Series 1 could not be produced beyond the 2000 model production year due to new European crash sustainability regulations. Lacking the funding to produce a replacement, Lotus needed a development partner to take a share of investment required for the new car. General Motors offered to fund the project, in return for a badged and GM-engined version of the car for their European brands, Opel and Vauxhall. The result was therefore two cars, which although looking quite different, shared much under the skin: a Series 2 Elise and the Vauxhall VX220 and Opel Speedster duo. The Series 2 Elise was a redesigned Series 1 using a slightly modified version of the Series 1 chassis to meet the new regulations, and the same K-series engine with a brand new Lotus-developed ECU. The design of the body paid homage to the earlier M250 concept, and was the first Lotus to be designed by computer. Both the Series 2 Elise and the Opel Speedster/Vauxhall VX220 were built on the same production line, in a new facility at Hethel. Both cars shared many parts, including the chassis, although they had different drive-trains and power-plants. The VX220 carried the Lotus internal model identification Lotus 116, with the code name Skipton for the launch 2.2 normally aspirated version and Tornado for the 2 litre Turbo which came out in 2004. Fitted with 17 inch over the Elise’s 16 inch front wheels, the Vauxhall/Opel version ceased production in late 2005 and was replaced by the Opel GT for February 2007, with no RHD version for the United Kingdom. The Elise lived on. and indeed is still in production now, some 15 years later, though there have been countless different versions produced in that time. Whilst the first of the Series 2 cars came with the Rover K-Series engine, and that included the 111S model which had the VVC engine technology producing 160 hp, a change came about in 2005 when Lotus started to use Toyota engines. This was initially due to Lotus’ plans to introduce the Elise to the US market, meaning that an engine was needed which would comply with US emissions regulations. The selected 1.8 litre (and later 1.6 litre) Toyota units did, and the K-series did not. that MG-Rover went out of business in 2005 and engine production ceased confirmed the need for the change. Since then, Lotus have offered us track focused Elise models like the 135R and Sport 190, with 135 bhp and 192 bhp respectively, as well as the 111R, the Sport Racer, the Elise S and Elise R. In 2008 an even more potent SC model, with 218 bhp thanks to a non-intercooled supercharger was added to the range. In February 2010, Lotus unveiled a facelifted version of the second generation Elise. The new headlights are now single units; triangular in shape they are somewhat larger than the earlier lights. The cheapest version in Europe now has a 1.6 litre engine to comply with Euro 5 emissions, with the same power output as the earlier 1.8 136bhp car. Lotus has been through some difficult times in recent years, but things are looking more optimistic again, with production numbers having risen significantly in the last couple of years,
Sole Maserati, as is often the case, was my Ghibli. I was able to secure quite a central parking position for it.
Mazda introduced rotary-powered vehicles in 1971, beginning with the R100 and eventually introduced the RX-2, RX-3, RX-4, RX-5, and three generations of the RX-7 sports car in the US and worldwide markets. However, due to the lack of conveniences and user-friendliness, coupled with the high price tag and declining interest in sports cars and coupés at the time, Mazda decided to withdraw the RX-7 from most major markets except Japan. After 1995, Mazda suffered from a relatively undistinguished and ordinary product line in the US except for the MX-5 Miata. As popular interest in import tuning and performance cars resurged in the late-1990s due in part to various popular cultural influences, Japanese automakers waded back into the performance and sports car market in the US and in worldwide markets. In addition, Mazda endeavoured to rejuvenate itself around this time, partially with financial and management assistance from its new owner Ford, and successfully developed a new product line of high quality cars with desirable styling and superior driving dynamics compared to their competitors, beginning with the Mazda6 and followed by the Mazda3, paving the way for the arrival of Mazda’s next-generation rotary powered sports car. The RX-8 combined two previous products (the internationally sold RX-7, and the Cosmo which was exclusive to Japan), with the exterior dimensions of the RX-8 to be slightly smaller than those of the Cosmo. Mazda chose not to install the 2.0 L three-rotor 20B-REW, which was discontinued in 1996 when the Cosmo ceased production. In Japan, sales were affected by the fact that the RX-8 did not comply with Japanese Government’s dimension regulations, and Japanese buyers were liable for yearly taxes for driving a larger car. The rotary engine had financial advantages to Japanese consumers in that the engine displacement remained below 1.5 litres, a significant determination when paying the Japanese annual road tax which kept the obligation affordable to most buyers, while having more power than the traditional inline engines. The development of the RX-8 can be traced as far back as the 1995 RX-01 concept car, which featured an early iteration of the 13B-MSP engine. Naturally aspirated with side exhaust ports, this engine has a power output of 210 bhp Because of Mazda’s financial position at the time and the growing market interest in SUVs, the RX-01 did not see further development or production. However, a “skunkworks project” engineering team within Mazda kept the development of the 13B-MSP alive using an elongated MX-5 chassis known internally as “gokiburi-ka”, or “cockroach car” translated to English, eventually catching the attention of management, which was by then heavily influenced by Ford. Development of the 13B-MSP advanced and eventually led to the RENESIS name debuting along with the RX-EVOLV concept car which began to bear semblance to the production version of the RX-8 with the “freestyle” rear suicide doors. The styling was further refined, in Mazda tradition, by competition between its design studios in Japan, the US, and Europe. The lead designer was Ikuo Maeda, the son of Matasaburo Maeda (the lead designer of the original RX-7). The project obtained official approval from management under one condition, that the resulting car should have four doors, and eventually the RX-8 concept car (design/engineering model) was produced and shown in 2001, closer resembling the production version. A near-production “reference exhibit” RX-8 was shown shortly thereafter at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show, pending final approval for production. The production version of the RX-8 closely resembles this vehicle save for minor trim details, and “Job 1” began in February, 2003 at Mazda’s Hiroshima plant in Japan. The RX-8 was designed as a front mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, four-door, four-seater quad coupé. The car has a near 50:50 front-rear weight distribution and a low polar moment of inertia, achieved by mounting the engine behind the front axle and by placing the fuel tank ahead of the rear axle. The front suspension uses double wishbones and the rear suspension is multi-link. Weight is trimmed through the use of materials such as aluminium and plastic for several body panels. The rest of the body is made of steel, except for the plastic front and rear bumpers. The manual gearbox model uses a carbon fibre composite driveshaft to reduce the rotational mass (momentum of inertia) connected to the engine. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a torque-sensing conical limited-slip differential for improved handling. While under-powered in comparison to the final variant of the RX-7, the RX-8 is considered its successor as Mazda’s rotary engine sports car. A prominent feature of the RX-8 is its rear-hinged “freestyle” doors (similar to suicide doors) that provide easier access to the rear seats. The RX-8 has no B-pillars between the front and rear doors, but the leading edge of the rear door acts as a “virtual pillar” to maintain structural rigidity. Because of the overlapping design, the rear doors can be opened only when the front doors are open. The RX-8’s cabin was designed to allow enough room to house four adults, making it a genuine 4-seater rather than a 2+2. In designing the RX-8, Mazda’s engineers were able to achieve a chassis stiffness rating of 30,000 The earlier models of the RX-8, having chassis codes SE3P, and JM1FE, were produced from the 2003 model year, though the car’s U.S. debut was for the 2004 model year. It is powered by the RENESIS 13B-MSP (2-rotor, multi-side-port) Wankel engine displacing 1.3 L (1,308 cc). The 4-port standard RENESIS was rated at 191 bhp and was coupled with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. The 6-port high power RENESIS was only available with a six-speed manual transmission and was rated at 238 bhp. For the North American market, Mazda revised the reported output rating of the standard and high power RENESIS soon after launch to 189 bhp and 237 bhp, respectively.With exhaust ports now located in the side housing, the RENESIS boasted improved fuel efficiency and emissions rating over the 13B-REW employed by the preceding RX-7, thereby making it possible to be sold in North America. At launch, the RX-8 was available in various models in different markets around the world. The variations according to different markets are as follows: 6-speed manual with a claimed output of 232 bhp at 8,250 rpm and 159 lb⋅ft (216 Nm) of torque at 5,500 rpm with a 9,000 rpm (redline limited) (Sold in North America). This model was equivalent to the “Type S” trim in Japan; 5-speed manual with engine tuned to 189 bhp with the redline reduced to 7,500 rpm. This powertrain combination was not available in North America; 6-speed automatic with manual paddle shifting option (introduced in the U.S. for the 2006 model year, replacing the 4-speed automatic transmission of 2004–2005) with the engine rated at 212 bhp and 159 lb/ft (216 Nm) of torque with a redline at 7,500 rpm. This was the revised standard RENESIS, now with two extra intake ports like the high power version. The 2006 automatic RX-8 model also was given a second oil cooler, as was standard in the manual transmission model. Automatic versions all had lower output/lower rpm engines due to the lack of availability of a transmission that would be able to reliably cope with the engine’s high rpm limits. In 2003 Mazda announced a factory Mazdaspeed Version of the RX-8 exclusively in Japan. Based on the Type S and tuned by Mazda’s in-house division Mazdaspeed, the car included both mechanical, suspension, and aerodynamic improvements over the standard RX-8’s. Mazdaspeed RX-8’s were considered the highest performance model of the pre-facelift RX-8. Mechanical and suspension improvements included a new performance exhaust system, upgraded spark plugs, grounding kit, lightweight flywheel, re-balanced eccentric shaft, performance brake pads, stiffer anti roll bars, four point front strut tower brace, rear strut tower brace, as well as a set of height and damping force adjustable coil-overs. Mazdaspeed also redesigned the aerodynamics of the car, giving it a new front bumper, with enlarged venting and oil cooler ducting, as well as side skirts, rear under spoiler, and a rear wing. The Mazdaspeed RX-8 was offered in either Strato Blue Mica, or Sunlight Silver Metallic as exclusive colours. A total of 480 factory Mazdaspeed Version RX-8’s were built, and had a suggested retail price of JP¥3,650,000.00. Mazda also sold Mazdaspeed accessories worldwide through their dealerships. These accessories included both parts that weren’t equipped on factory Mazdaspeed RX-8’s as well as nearly all the parts equipped on the factory Mazdaspeed Version. This allowed standard RX-8’s to be upgraded to Mazdaspeed standards through dealerships around the world. In November 2008, Mazda improved the RX-8 body rigidity through the addition of structural reinforcements, by adding a trapezoidal shock tower brace and enhancing the local rigidity of the front suspension tower areas. The rear suspension geometry was revised for better handling, and the final-drive-gear ratio on manual transmission cars was shortened from 4.444 to 4.777 for improved off-the-line performance. While minimal, these changes gave the updated RX-8 increased acceleration and performance. Mazda engineers claimed that the 2nd generation RX-8 was (slightly) faster than the previous generation due to the lower gearing and improved suspension. The Renesis II engine iteration that was launched in the 2009 model year included a third oil injection port in each rotor housing to feed oil to the middle of the rotor facing, making this their first all-new EMOP (Electric Metering Oil Pump) with a total of 6 lubrication injectors, plus an all-new engine oil pump with higher pressure rating that requires specific oil filter rated for the higher pressure. New catalytic converter was used to reduce clogging that resulted in overheating exhaust stream forward of the catalytic converter and eventual rotor side seal failure, which was responsible for majority of RX-8 engine failures. Ignition coil packs, which suffer reduced performance over time and leads to unburnt fuel and oil that eventually clogs the catalytic converter, was not upgraded from series 1 RX-8. Due to higher usage cycle that is two to three times higher in Wankel compared to Otto cycle, ignition coil packs on RX-8 can degrade much sooner than Piston engines using similar hardware, and cause unburnt fuel to reach the catalytic converter, clogging it and cause engine overheating leading to side seal springs failure. The updated RX-8 also received design enhancements that were meant to freshen the styling and give the RX-8 a new look, without impairing the basic design theme. Refinements for the 2009 model year included a more aggressive restyled front and rear bumper as well as a new front fascia. The updated RX-8 also came with sporty, high-quality finish front and rear headlamps as well as larger exhaust pipes (now measuring 90 mm (3.5 in) across). The 2009 RX-8 also offered a new five-spoke wheel design featuring a symbolic and sporty design reminiscent of the rotary engine, with different arrangements for each wheel size. A rear spoiler was also added dependent on the trim level selected. There were three trims available to consumers from 2009 to 2012: Sport, Grand Touring, and R3. European production ended in 2010 when the car could no longer meet emissions standards.
Much rumoured for some time, the Cayman GT4 was officially launched at the 2015 Geneva Show, positioned to sit between the Cayman GTS and the 911 GT3. By the time of the official unveiling, the car was supposedly sold out many times over, though more recently it has become apparent that at least some Porsche dealers have been holding onto cars claiming that the first purchaser changed their mind, and then offering them to those who did not get one of the allocation a year ago, at vastly inflated prices. If true, this is very sharp practice indeed, but seems to be the sort to tricks that are becoming increasingly common as enthusiasts are being fleeced in the name of extra profit. For a starting price of around £65,000 in the UK, the lucky customer would get a car which used used a stiffened and strengthened Cayman bodyshell as a starting point, but lowered by 30mm . Porsche say that in fitting as many GT parts as possible, they did not make it out of a Cayman GTS, but rather they produced an entry-level mid-engined GT3 car. That sounds like PR spin to me, as of course the car does use an awful lot of parts from the regular Cayman. However, plenty is changed, too. There is a reworked version of the Carrera S’s 3.8-litre flat six engine, producing 380bhp at 7400rpm and 310lb ft at 4750-6000rpm, hooked up to a modified version of the Cayman GTS’s six-speed manual gearbox. A PDK dual-clutch automatic was considered but rejected, meaning the Cayman GT4 is manual only. This is enough to mean that the 0-62mph sprint takes 4.4sec and the top speed is 183mph, with combined fuel economy of 27.4mpg and CO2 emissions rated at 238g/km. The front axle and suspension are borrowed from the 911 GT3 and the rear axle and forged aluminium double wishbone suspension are completely new. Dampers are taken from the 911 GT3. The electric steering system from the 911 GT3 does make it onto the Cayman GT4 but is given new software. Stopping power is provided by standard steel brakes, or optional carbon-ceramics from the 911 GT3. The forged 20in alloy wheels were new and are shod with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. The rear 295/30 ZR20 tyres are bespoke, but the front 245/35 ZR20s were borrowed from the 911 GT3 as they were “a perfect match”. design-wise, the goal was to create a “zero lift car”, but thanks to the extensive aerodynamic and cooling package on the car – which includes a front splitter, a larger front grille and increased frontal air intakes, side air intakes, not one but two rear spoilers and a fully functional diffuser – the Cayman GT4 produces as much downforce at speed (100kg) as the 911 GT3. Every single part on the Cayman GT4 has a functional use. Other design features include “cool” black glass on the front and rear lights, blackened twin central exhausts and quality stitching on the twin lightweight bucket seats, taken from the 918 Spyder, as small details adding to that ‘want factor’.Despite all the extra equipment, the Cayman GT4 weighs no more than a Cayman GTS, tipping the scales at 1340kg dry. You could delete items such as the sat-nav and air-con to save weight, but few customers did, just as with the 911 GT3 RS were just 2% of buyers deleted the air-con. Inside, the steering wheel was new. The sports seats were trimmed in both leather and Alcantara. Standard equipment included bi-xenon headlights, a sports exhaust system, a Sport Chrono Package with dynamic engine mounts, the Porsche Torque Vectoring system, a mechanical limited-slip differential at the rear and the Porsche Stability Management system. On the options list were items such as carbonfibre-reinforced, plastic-backed seats for the two-seat interior. These weigh just 15kg each and were inspired by the 918 Spyder. A customised version of the Sport Chrono Package was offered, as is a Club Sport Package. Initially it was declared that production would be very limited, but Porsche soon relented and far more were built than had originally been declared.
Also here was a “regular” version of the Cayman in 981 generation form.
A rather different sort of Renault is this Renault Clio V6 Renault Sport, to give the car its full and rather cumbersome name. This was a rear mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout hot hatch based on the Renault Clio launched in 2001, very much in the same style as the earlier mid-engined R5 Turbo models of the 1980s. Designed by Renault, the Phase 1 models were built by Tom Walkinshaw Racing and Phase 2 were designed and helped by Porsche and built by Renault Sport in Dieppe. The Clio V6 was based on the Clio Mk II, though it shared very few parts with that car. The 3.0 litre 60° V6 engine, sourced from the PSA group. It was the ES9J unit as used in the Peugeot 406, 407 and 607, and the Citroen C 5 and not the one that Renault used in the 3 litre Laguna engine, which had an PRV (Peugeot, Renault & Volvo) an earlier development 90° V based on a V8 that never was. For this car it was upgraded to around 227 bhp and placed in the middle of the vehicle where the more ordinary Clios have rear seats – making this car a two-seater hot hatch. In order to accommodate the radical change from front-engine, front-wheel drive hatchback to mid-engine, rear-wheel drive two-seater quasi-coupé, the car had to be extensively reworked structurally, leading to the Phase 1 version being some 300 kg (660 lb) heavier than the sportiest “regular” Clio, the 172 Cup. Due to this, even though the V6 model had significantly more power, it was not remarkably faster in a straight line accelerating to legal road speeds than the 172 Cup – accelerating to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds compared to the Cup’s 6.7 seconds – though its maximum speed was significantly higher at 146 mph compared to 138 mph. Opinions varied on the handling, but many found it very twitchy and the car soon a gained a reputation for breaking away with little warning. That was largely addressed by the Phase 2 cars which were launched in 2003. The front end took on the same sort of new design as had been applied to the regular models. The engine was upgraded, to make the Phase 2 Clio V6 the most powerful serial produced hot hatch in the world with 255 bhp exceeding the 247 bhp of the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA and the 222 bhp SEAT León Cupra R. Based on the Phase 1 engine, its extra performance was helped with assistance from Porsche and although the Phase 2 gained even more weight, the result was a a reduced 0–60 mph run at 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 153 mph. Though based on a utilitarian hatchback, the Clio V6 was not a practical family car. With an average fuel consumption of 24 mpg, this resulted in an empty fuel tank in just over 300 miles. The loss of the back seats and most of the boot space, due to the engine placement, resulted in a severe restriction in luggage space – there was only a small space in the front where the engine used to be, suitable for a holdall or week-end groceries, a small netted area behind the seats plus a small stash area under the tailgate. The enhanced steering made tight manoeuvring a little challenging, the turning circle being a rather awkward 13 m (42.7 ft) – around three car lengths – turning what might normally be a three-point turn into a five-point turn. Standard equipment in the car was good, this was not a stripped-out special, and it included rain sensing windscreen wipers, automatic headlights, air conditioning, and six speakers and CD changer. The Phase 2 Clio V6 retailed for £27,125 in the United Kingdom, until it was withdrawn from sale in 2005 coinciding with a facelift for the Clio range. The Phase 2 was received far more enthusiastically by the ever-critical UK press. These days there is no doubting the fact that this is a a modern classic.
Subaru introduced the “New Age” Impreza, the second generation car, to Japan in August 2000, and it arrived in Europe towards the end of that year. Larger in size compared to the previous iteration, the sedan increased its width by 40 millimetres (1.6 in), while the wagon notably increased by just 5 millimetres (0.2 in)—placing the two variants in different Japanese classification categories. The coupe body style from the first generation did not reappear for the new series, and the off-road appearance package that included contrasting-coloured bumpers did carry over forward. Marketed as a separate model line, this North America-only variant was, as before, badged the Outback Sport. Naturally aspirated flat-four (boxer) engines comprised the 1.5-litre EJ15, the 1.6-litre EJ16, the 2.0-litre EJ20, and the 2.5-litre EJ25. Turbocharged versions of the 2.0- and 2.5-litre engines were offered in the WRX and WRX STI models. STI models featured a more powerful 2.0-litre (2.5-litre outside of the Japanese market) turbocharged engine. WRX models featured a 2.0-litre turbocharged boxer engine until 2005, after which they switched to the 2.5-litre turbocharged engine. As with the first generation, the turbocharged STI variants were available in numerous specifications with a myriad of limited edition variants sold. The bug-eyed styling was not well received, and Subaru had two further attempts at the front end, neither of which was entirely successful, either, but enthusiasts were happy to overlook the gawky looks because the way the car drove. Subaru issued yearly updates to the STI, tweaking cosmetics and equipment levels, and also improving performance and handling. The car was replaced in 2007 by the third generation Impreza, widely regarded as inferior in many ways to this version.
This is a fourth generation Supra. Known as the A80, work began in February 1989 under various teams for design, product planning, and engineering. By the middle of 1990, a final A80 design concept from Toyota Technical Centre Aichi was approved and frozen for production in late 1990. The first test mules were hand-built in A70 bodies during late 1990, followed by the first A80 prototypes being hand-assembled in 1991. Again using subframe, suspension,and drivetrain assemblies from the Z30 Soarer (Lexus SC300/400), test model pre-production started in December 1992 with 20 models, and official mass production began in April 1993. This redesign saw Toyota placing great emphasis on a more serious high-performance car. The new Supra was completely redesigned, with rounded body styling and featured two new engines: a naturally aspirated Toyota 2JZ-GE producing 220 hp at 5800 rpm and 210 lb·ft at 4800 rpm of torque and a twin turbocharged Toyota 2JZ-GTE making 276 hp and 318 lb·ft of torque for the Japanese version. The styling, while modern, does seem to borrow some elements from Toyota’s first grand touring sports car, the Toyota 2000GT. For the export model (America/Europe) Toyota upgraded the Supra turbo’s engine which increased the power output to 320 hp at 5600 rpm and 315 lb·ft at 4000 rpm. The turbocharged variant could achieve 0–60 mph in as low as 4.6 seconds and 1/4-mile in 13.1 seconds at 109 mph. The turbo version was tested to reach over 285 km/h (177 mph), but the cars were restricted to just 180 km/h (112 mph) in Japan and 250 km/h (155 mph) elsewhere. The twin turbos operated in sequential mode, not parallel. Initially, all of the exhaust is routed to the first turbine for reduced lag. This resulted in boost and enhanced torque as early as 1800 rpm, where it already produced 300 lb·ft (410 N·m) of torque. At 3500 rpm, some of the exhaust is routed to the second turbine for a “pre-boost” mode, although none of the compressor output is used by the engine at this point. At 4000 rpm, the second turbo’s output is used to augment the first turbo’s output. Compared to the parallel mode, sequential mode turbos provide quicker low RPM response and increased high RPM boost. This high RPM boost was also aided with technology originally present in the 7M-GE in the form of the Acoustic Control Induction System (ACIS) which is a way of managing the air compression pulses within the intake piping as to increase power. For this generation, the Supra received a new 6-speed Getrag/Toyota V160 gearbox on the turbo models while the naturally aspirated models made do with a 5-speed manual W58, revised from the previous version. Each model was offered with a 4-speed automatic with manual shifting mode. All vehicles were equipped with 5-spoke aluminium alloy wheels, the naturally aspirated model had 16″ rims and the turbo models were 17″. The difference in wheel size was to accommodate the larger brakes equipped as standard onto the turbo model, but in Japan were optional extras. Both models had a space saver spare tire on a steel rim to save both space and weight. Toyota took measures to reduce the weight of this new model. Aluminium was used for the hood, targa top (when fitted), front crossmember, oil and transmission pans, and the suspension upper A-arms. Other measures included hollow carpet fibers, magnesium-alloy steering wheel, plastic gas tank and lid, gas injected rear spoiler, and a single pipe exhaust. Despite having more features such as dual airbags, traction control, larger brakes, wheels, tyres, and an additional turbo, the car was at least 200 lb lighter than its predecessor. The base model with a manual transmission had a curb weight of 3,210 lb (1,460 kg). The Sport Roof added 40 lb while the automatic transmission added 55 lb. It had a 51:49 (front:rear) weight distribution. The turbo model weighed 3,450 lb (1,560 kg) for the manual, automatic added another 10 lb (4.5 kg). Weight distribution was 53% front/47% rear. The Supra was heavier than the spartan Mazda RX-7 and all aluminium bodied Acura/Honda NSX, but it was lighter than the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4. The Supra soon became something of a legend, establishing itself as an effective platform for drifting in Japan, and for roadracing, with several top 20 and top 10 One Lap of America finishes in the SSGT1 class. Despite its curb weight, in 1994 the A80 managed remarkable skidpad ratings of 0.95 lateral g’s (200 ft) and 0.98 lateral g’s (300 ft), and the car has proved popular even as it ages in the UK, with several “grey market” cars having been brought here over the years.
Final car of note was the latest model to bear the iconic Supra name, the GR Supra that was developed jointly with BMW. Although well reviewed by the press at launch, sales have been relatively modest.
Not perhaps a bumper showing, then, but still plenty of variety, and the chance to grab a welcome coffee and a bacon sandwich before heading off home. With the diary looking a bit more congested in the coming weeks, it may be a while before I get back here, but return I most definitely will as I always enjoy time spend here.