The Truth About Cars » british car The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:01:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » british car Capsule Review: 2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith Tue, 12 Nov 2013 13:45:15 +0000 desertside

As part of TTAC’s reboot, we promised you, the readers, many things. One of them was “no more luxury car puff pieces”. Jack and I had every intention of adhering to this rule as well, until our staff email inbox received a message from Rolls Royce Motorcars, asking us to come drive the all-new Wraith.

“Go on the program,” said Jack, “and imagine that you are reviewing a Camry”.


The Wraith is not the car that one would typically expect from Rolls-Royce. It used to be that Bentley focused on cars that one would personally drive, while Rolls-Royce was the vehicle of choice for those who preferred to sit in the back seat. But ever since the forced seperation of the two marques in 1998, the two have been competing for the same buyers.

Rolls-Royce won’t expressly say that this car is targeted at Bentley customers, just that it’s sportier, with more of a focus on driver engagement and outright performance – the sort of cars that Bentley traditionally offered alongside Rolls-Royce. What they really did say is that the Wraith targeted at “young entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s”, an assertion that is as starkly detached from reality as Steve Cohen’s remark that the $100,000 sum needed to replace the dead shark in his office was “inconsequential”. Or perhaps there are customers in the BRIC nations who are under 40 and have made their fortune by building a better mouse trap, rather than collecting a parental stipend. Only their marketing team knows.


In person, the Wraith is as dramatic as the Phantom itself. The enormous front end is a concession to the aesthetic of contemporary high-end luxury goods, which our social betters have decided must be gauche and ostentatious. But the fastback profile is undeniably elegant, with a gently sloping roof line that recalls the coach-built cars of the pre-WWII era. The two-tone paint of my test car highlights the Wraith’s forms, but remains incapable of doing it justice. Another example, finished in a royal blue shade known as Salmanaca, looked like a modern interpretation of a Bugatti Atlantic from aft of the A-pillar.

The overall atmosphere of “bespoke” extends to the interior as well. Whereas contemporary Bentleys leave you with a lingering sense that you’re in a very nicely appointed variant of an Audi A8L, there is but one clue that today’s Rolls-Royce shares its bones with something as upper-middle-class as a BMW 7-Series. The gear selector, mounted on the steering column, will remind you of the very first Bangle Siebener. The newest 7-Series has abandoned the stalk setup for a proper gearstick. but it doesn’t have the superlative interior finishings of the Roller. The wood trim in the Wraith has more in common with a fine hardwood parquet floor than any of the Zebrano veneers that most people are familiar with, while the upholstery wouldn’t be out of place in the leather goods section of  Bergdorf Goodman. Every single panel, knob, switch and interior component is jewel-like, perfectly placed and installed, and for good reason.

The interior is the focal point of this car. It’s what you are supposed to take in as you glide down the road in utter isolation. For all the talk of this being a “driver oriented” Rolls-Royce, it’s more akin to a two-and-a-half ton drawing-room with four club chairs. Even with a 623 horsepower twin-turbo V12, there is nothing beyond a vague sense of forward motion to indicate that you are piloting the fastest production Rolls-Royce ever.  This boosted bent twelve is the last word in linear power delivery. Press the throttle, and the car summons all its might instantaneously, almost like a Tesla Model S with just the briefest pause before you feel maximum torque.

The 8-speed automatic uses a GPS-based system to change gears based on the type of terrain you are navigating, downshifting on grades and upshifting on flat roads to make sure the car is in the right gear at the right time – all without you ever knowing. There is very little feedback from the oversized steering wheel (another beautiful component, but one more at home in a marine application), while the handling and braking capabilities of the car are merely an afterthought. This is a slow speed cruiser, not some sort of grand tourer capable of carving up back roads if need be.


That impression is only furthered by the Wraith’s concerted attempt to filter out every single bit of sensory feedback from the driving experience. Wind, engine, road and tire noise are perfectly isolated, as are most potholes, bumps and road imperfections. The overall silence borders on eerie – stopping in the middle of the desert to take photographs, I was struck by how the still, motionless desert was actually nosier than when I was inside the car, on account of the passing cars on the two-lane highway. Get back inside the Wraith, and it is utterly silent, something that I’ve only experienced sitting in a canoe on a remote lake in Northern Ontario hundreds of miles from civilization.

The only thing it couldn’t filter out was the homeless man sitting at the end of the freeway ramp, eyeing the Wraith intently when I exited. Lacking any American currency smaller than a $20 bill, I was utterly paralyzed in this situation – to give him spare change would have been an insult. To roll down the window and say “sorry”, or dismiss him with the wave of the hand would have been acceptable in a normal car, but even more distasteful given the circumstances. In a $300,000 Rolls-Royce, there is no option that isn’t unseemly or downright cowardly. Especially if it’s avoiding eye contact and praying for the light to turn green like I did.

There was a time when Rolls-Royce claimed to make the best car in the world. The cost was a by-product of that mission. But in 2013, quantity of MSRP has a quality all its own, and the company now finds itself in the uneasy position of attempting to build vehicles that justify a particular price.

Although I’m far from averse to automobiles that attract attention, there’s a big difference between driving something that makes an advertisement of personal wealth as its primary mission, and an exotic car full of visual and aural drama. When you leave the lights in a Jaguar F-Type, an Audi R8 or a Ferrari F12, you can revel in the noise of the motor, the clacking of the gated shifter or the sheer occasion of being behind the wheel of a front-engined, V12 supercar. Those cars are able to transport you to an alternate world where you are the star of a 9000 rpm music video in full-on sensory overload.

Not so in the Rolls-Royce Wraith. Instead, you glide away in utter silence, feeling, hearing and experiencing nothing that is not in your own mind – sophistry in motion. It is very easy to become disconnected from the rest of the world, to avoid making eye contact with the homeless man and lose touch with the rest of life’s other unpleasant realities. Being alone with your own thoughts, conflicts and internal misgivings is difficult enough. In a $300,000 four-wheeled sensory deprivation tank, it’s downright terrifying.

Rolls-Royce provided airfare, meals, lodging and transfers for the media drive of the Wraith, as well as the vehicle, insurance and a full tank of gas.

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Jaguar F-Type To Be Offensively Loud Wed, 11 Apr 2012 15:46:33 +0000

Among the various rumor-mongers in the automotive world, UK rag Auto Express has a pretty good track record of publishing “spy photo renderings” that look just like the real thing. So when they published some drawings and a video of the Jaguar F-Type, it was worth paying attention.

The F-Type is Jaguar’s long-awaited sports car, designed to be more focused and less expensive than the XK grand tourer. Styling is said to be “95 percent of the C-X16″, that lovely concept that Jag debuted a year ago. The F-Type will apparently use a 3.0L V6, which will be a cut down version of the XK’s 5.0L V8. Like its big brother, there will be normally aspirated and supercharged versions, as well as an aluminum spaceframe chassis.

Two notable absences for the F-Type; a hybrid powerplant, as was used on the C-X16 (it’s apparently not yet ready for production) and a manual gearbox. The only option is said to be a six-speed automatic, something that will doubtlessly attract its share of criticism from the sports car faithful.

A ragtop will debut first, followed by a coupe in the next 18 months following the launch. Jaguar decided to release the droptop first, since it required more engineering, and the release of a coupe down the road could help capitalize on the unending search for novelty that many sports car buyers undertake. Speaking of which, the F-Type’s hallmark is said to be a fantastically loud exhaust. Auto Express claims it resembles the legendary D-Type, but it’s hard to think that a fuel-injected modern V6 could ever equal a carb’d race-spec I6. Check out the video (which was produced for Jaguar’s New York Auto Show press conference)

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MINI Turns 10 In America Sat, 24 Mar 2012 16:00:53 +0000

A decade ago, MINI launched in the United States, at a time when gas was cheap and small cars were decidedly not in vogue. The original Cooper has given birth to the Clubman, Countryman, Coupe and Roadster, in a brilliant display of making many lengths of sausage from one pile of meat.

MINI hasn’t always been a bright and shining success story. Reliability problems have plagued the brand, even though they make some of the most fun vehicles at any price. Issues with the CVT gearbox, for example, have been manifold and the transmission is staggeringly expensive to replace.

On the other hand, cars like the Mini Cooper S offer a sublime mixture of performance and style. Of course, you’ll pay for that. Today’s MINI no longer resembles the original iconic design and MINI’s future seems to be oriented more towards “mobility” than the automobile. Nevertheless, we salute MINI here at TTAC, and the above photo, taken in a Clubman S JCW at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will always be one of my most memorable drives, from the parade lap of the circuit to the meandering journey I took in it through the Eastern Seaboard, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana over 4 days. If only they weren’t so damn expensive.


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Review: 2012 Range Rover Evoque Mon, 12 Mar 2012 16:43:04 +0000

Last May, I had the chance to drive the Range Rover Supercharged, the alpha dog of the Range Rover lineup. Though I was charmed by the incredible power and opulent cabin, I felt that the Range Rover was afflicted by a curse that affects many upper echelon vehicles – all the flash and features were spoilt by an underlying impracticality.

The Range Rover’s footprint was so large that it could have had its own branch of the Occupy movement, and its drinking problem was in league with Amy Winehouse. The Range Rover was conceived as a luxury vehicle to take you from your Scottish country estate to the theater and back again in total comfort, but lately, the Range Rover has been the mode of choice of wealthy urbanites, ignorant of the fact that the Range Rover’s original purpose was to serve double duty on one’s Scottish country estate as well as arriving in style at the theater. Living in in a dense, downtown core, the Range Rover was too large to quickly maneuver through traffic or parallel park with ease, and its truck roots made themselves known often.

The 21st century luxury SUV consumer may wear Barbour jackets (as an ironic fashion statement), but they’re far more likely to be an entrepreneur pitching their one-person marketing agency rather than living off an inheritance and setting off on fox hunts. Range Rover knows which way the wind is blowing it has adapted its formula accordingly with the Evoque. Gone is the big, boxy profile and the Jaguar derived V8 of the full-size Range Rover. The well-appointed cabin full of leather and aluminum remains, but the Evoque is compact, taut and futuristic looking, with a silhouette more like a MINI Countryman than a Defender 110. Sharing a platform with the Land Rover LR2 (which in turn is based on the Ford Mondeo), allows for the Evoque to opt for a much smaller form factor, and makes it the kind of vehicle you want for darting in and out of traffic, or parking in tight downtown spaces.

A transverse-mounted 2.0L turbocharged 4 cylinder (again, based off of Ford’s Ecoboost engine) makes 240 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox. The Ecoboost is well-matched to the Evoque, with a broad torque band and minimal turbo lag, and the 6-speed automatic allows the Evoque cruise at a comfortably low rpm on the highway. Over 380 miles of mixed highway and city driving (and doing a steady 75 to 80 mph on the highway), the Evoque returned 24 mpg, 2 mpg better than the EPA rating. The Evoque’s demographic is likely to be the same type of person who doesn’t know if their BMW 128i is front or rear-wheel drive; the absence of a rugged track platform and V6 or V8 engine won’t bother them one bit. Despite its front-driver underpinnings, the Evoque still has a rudimentary all-wheel drive system, with classic Land Rover technologies like Hill Descent Control, but we’d give up Starbucks for a year if anybody took an Evoque on rougher terrain than a gravel driveway.

Inside, it’s clear to seasoned veterans that Land Rover (which operates the Range Rover brand as its “premium” line) has been dipping into the parts bin in a big way. The switchgear is an 80/20 mix of Land Rover and Volvo bits – hardly a bad thing, but the common usages were immediately apparent. A few Jaguar parts are included for good measure, such as the rotary shift knob that rises from the center console, and the touch-screen HVAC and audio control system, which is easy to operate and fairly intuitive. My litmus test involves asking a passenger to operate the iPod interface without any directions, and most cars tend to frustrate my guinea pigs. Not so with the Evoque, as multiple riders were able to easily and quickly navigate it without any annoyances.

The Evoque’s road manners were largely solid, but the combination of big wheels and low-profile tires, an unavoidable concession to the automotive aesthetics of our era, delivered a pretty harsh ride over less-than-perfect pavement. Road noise was kept in check much better than the ride quality, as engine sounds and wind noise were isolated from the cabin. The Evoque’s seats were especially comfortable on long jaunts, and the driving position was a good balance of both the “up high” SUV feeling that crossover buyers want, without the unnatural “lording over the commoners” stance that one finds in larger SUVs.

Such a small footprint does lend itself to some compromises. Rear seat comfort for two is fine up until the front seats are moved back to accommodate a driver or passenger over 6 feet – at that point things get a little cramped. Ditto for 3 passengers in the back. Cargo room was also diminished by the Evoque’s “evocative” styling. A grocery shop for two (at the local farmer’s market, natch) was fine, but trying to stow a full set of 15” snow tires was impossible. We ended up stuffing three in the small cargo area (which took some careful arranging) and rested one on the rear seat before the automatic tailgate would shut itself. The sloping roofline and small side windows are an obvious concession to form rather than function, and it was helpful to have the optional back-up camera on hand. To get the camera, buyers have to pony up another $1,900 for the “Vision Assist Package” or $4,000 for the “Premium Package”. Our Evoque Pure (yes, that’s the trim level) came out to $48,995 – roughly half the price of the Range Rover Supercharged we had last year. The base price of $43,995 is nearly $7,000 more than a BMW X3 xDrive28i, which seems to be the most appropriate competitor, given the X3′s turbo 4-cylinder engine and sporty nature. Other competitors, like the Volvo XC60, Mercedes-Benz GLK and Audi Q5 start closer to $35,000.

The main takeaway here is that the Evoque does everything that current Land Rover customers want – to look good, impress others, and have the satisfaction of owning a “luxury vehicle” – with only minimal drawbacks. Cargo space is reduced compares to the rest of the lineup, and rear seat comfort may not be the Evoque’s strong suit. On the other hand, the Evoque has style and presence in spades, and the overall packaging is unique, fairly practical and well-engineered (thanks in part to pilfering from other automakers). For childless young professionals, empty nesters or dog owners, the Evoque will be more than adequate, with better fuel economy and a smaller footprint than the full-fat Range Rover. For the supremely insecure, the thought of driving the “cheap” Range Rover may be paralyzing, but an informal survey of people during our photoshoot suggests that the Evoque draws a lot of positive attention from bystanders, more so than the ubiquitous black Range Rover Supercharged that so many bad drivers tend to favor in this town. Even though it is more expensive (and, for some, less practical) than the aforementioned competitors, Land Rover will sell every single Evoque they can make – and with the LR2 platform already paid off, the Evoque should be a cash cow for the brand, as well as parent company Tata.

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Ask The Best And Brightest: Should Bentley Redesign The EXP 9 F SUV? Mon, 12 Mar 2012 15:22:58 +0000

A report from Britain’s “WHATCAR?” magazine suggests Bentley will go back to the drawing board before their EXP 9 F SUV hits the market in 2015. I, for one, am not so sure this is a good idea.

Before we start the discussion, it would make sense to establish a couple of things; any discussion of “betraying brand values” is null and void. Bentley “lost the plot” some time ago, depending on who you ask (I say it happened when they made watches with Breitling. Jack thinks the Continental GT was their death knell). The locus of affluence has shifted East, and Chinese, Russian and Emirati consumers want this car. Therefore, it will be made. There is no sense in trying to negotiate with reality.

Personally, I think the design is perfect given the vehicle’s intentions; to be an obnoxious, gaudy display of wealth in countries where inequality is rampant. It looks like a Range Rover with the front of a Mulsanne grafted on to it. Such a design has an obvious precedent – the Bentley Dominator, famously built for the Sultan of Brunei, really was a Range Rover with Bentley styling – and therefore a spiritual predecessor to the EXP 9 F.

According to Whatcar?

the redesigned EXP 9 F will have ‘more traditional SUV proportions and less retro surfacing’. The large round headlights and foglights will remain, but the headlights will be slightly smaller and set farther inward.

I’m not sure how the EXP 9 F can look any more like an SUV, unless the reduced “retro surfacing” means it looks more *ahem* Continental than Mulsanne. Alternate proposals are welcome. Unfortunately, “lighting it on fire” is not a valid option.


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