2011 Bentley Mulsanne “I have been in this industry for 30 years and I have done a lot of cars,” said Bentley CEO Franz-Josef Paefgen at the reveal of the all-new 2011 Bentley Mulsanne at Pebble Beach. “And this,” he said, pointing at the elegant champagne-colored Mulsanne in front of us, “is all I can do.” For Paefgen and his senior management team, including engineering chief Ulrich Eichhorn, and designer Dirk van Braeckel, the new Mulsanne represents nothing less than the sum total of their considerable automotive knowledge, experience, and car-guy passion. The Mulsanne is a car that was never meant to be. While Paefgen and his team fought hard to keep the Arnage alive after Volkswagen Group’s purchase of the storied British marque, there was never a plan -- nor the money -- to replace the flagship Bentley with an all-new vehicle. As recently as four years ago, the Arnage successor was to be a pumped up Continental Flying Spur. Paefgen was never completely happy with the idea, and when the reworked CFS fared poorly in clinics, he abruptly canned it, and sold the VW Group board on developing an all-new vehicle that retained two key elements of the Arnage’s DNA -- rear drive with the front axle centerline pushed as far forward as possible, and a 6.75-liter pushrod V-8 with twin turbochargers. You can fit the number of Mulsanne components carried over from the Arnage in a reasonably sized briefcase, say Crewe insiders. Despite rumors the new big Bentley would be based on the forthcoming A8, its platform is unique; a mixture of high-strength steel and lightweight aluminum. The engine shares its basic architecture with the Arnage’s legendary L410 V-8, whose design dates back half a century, but apart from the two turbochargers, every single component is new. The Mulsanne’s V-8 is lighter, more powerful and much more fuel efficient than the L410, and drives the rear wheels through an eight speed automatic. Dirk van Braeckel’s elegant exterior design looks deceptively simple. A strong, sharply creased bone line defines the car’s profile, emphasizing the prominent hips over the rear wheels. The Mulsanne’s bodysides are clean and simple below that line; above it, however, are complexly rendered surfaces that give the car an emotional presence Rolls-Royce’s new Ghost sedan doesn’t have. There are also strong elements of the Brooklands coupe in the low roofline and rakish C-pillars. The most controversial styling elements are likely to be the front bumper and giant inboard headlights, though there’s no mistaking the front end graphic for anything other than a Bentley. Standard wheels are formal looking 21 inchers; sportier five-spoke 22s will also be available.
Audi e-tron Concept Although photos of the Audi e-tron concept leaked onto the internet days before its official debut at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show, Audi managed to keep a tight lid on its technical details until the cover was taken off at the show. From a design standpoint, the e-tron looks like an R8 that has gone backwards through the concept-to-production process, receiving futuristic-looking headlights, taillights, and wheels on the outside and a spartan, futuristic cockpit featuring an LCD display in the middle of the gauge-cluster inside. At 167.7 in. long, 74.8 in. wide, and 48.43 in. tall, the e-tron is slightly smaller than the R8 and its 102.4-in. wheelbase is slightly shorter. Powering the 3527-lb all-electric sports car are four electric motors generating a combined 313 hp and a semi-truck-like 3319 lb-ft of torque, which propel it from 0-62 mph in 4.8 seconds though top speed is limited to just 124 mph. Power for the motors comes from a lithium-ion battery rated for 42kWh that provides a range of approximately 154 miles.
Posted by Alt at 9:01 AM
2010 Aston Martin Rapide Don't call it a sedan. The 2010 Aston Martin Rapide is, according to company insiders, "the world's most elegant four door sports car". And for once the PR hype is right -- the first production Rapide, unveiled at a private party the night before the first press day at the Frankfurt Show, looked damned elegant under the lights at the hip Roomers Hotel. And it is a sports car. Let's cut to the chase: The Rapide's back seats are nowhere near as roomy as those of the Porsche Panamera. Elegance has a price -- whereas my 6'2" frame will fit behind a driver's seat set to my optimum driving position in Porsche's four-door with an inch of kneeroom to spare, my knees are brushing the backrest in the close-coupled Aston. Surprisingly, I have an inch or so of headroom in the Rapide, but that swoopy greenhouse means I can't see much out the side window without stooping. And getting my big feet out from the deep footwells involves some ungraceful contortions. Okay, so it's not like a limo back there. But does that mean the Aston Rapide is a failure? Not for a moment. The reality is that the Rapide, like most S-class Benzes and 7 Series BMWs, will only occasionally carry four adults, and then only for relatively short trips. "This is perfectly okay for a half hour trip to a nice restaurant," says Aston CEO Ulrich Bez of the Rapide's rear cabin. And he's right. The rest of the time, the Rapide owner can bask in the warm glow that, unlike the Porsche Panamera, his fast four-door is turning heads for all the right reasons. You can bet he won't be spending a lot of time explaining why the Aston looks the way it does. It's viscerally gorgeous. The car is built on Ulrich Bez's clever VH flexible architecture, which means it shares a lot of hardware under the skin with existing Astons. Front and rear suspension is similar to DB9. Only one engine -- the 6.0-liter V-12, tuned to develop 470 hp and 443lb ft of torque -- will be available, driving the rear wheels through an upgraded "Touchtronic 2" version of the ZF six-speed automatic.
Posted by Alt at 8:48 AM