Review – Ford Falcon XT Wagon

4 SP Auto

This review was written for the website caradvice.com during the summer of 2007.

The Ford Falcon has always been the dependable car to the everyday Australian family, a part of the modern car legacy of Ford Australia, and when there’s dependability and sensibility for a large practical car to be found the Ford Falcon has always filled that space very well. The Ford Falcon, that was designed, developed and built in Australia has been in our market for over 6 generations now.


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The very first generation that was released in 1960 and now we are up to the current generation that was unveiled in October 06 known as the BF. The BF generation Falcon is what we are looking at today in the wagon format which is quite possibly one of the most useful cars you could own in practically terms certainly if carrying lots of things around and a full family in tow is just the name of the day.  

Interior –

The interior of this model isn’t the most exciting Ford you could ever be in but it has to be one of the most practical and dare I say it, very comfortable. The dashboard and interior look designed along the brief of clean and simple lines, nothing too fancy but all still functional and reachable. On looking at the dashboard you notice un-interesting Silver plastics are mixed with black rubber and other hard wearing materials with a medium sized LCD screen in the middle for heater and radio display controls. A very large steering wheel grabs your eye instantly, it feels easy to grip and features all your handy radio and cruise controls within easy reach and are easy to find.

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The radio and heating controls all feel solid enough not to come to foul from over the years of use and are all easily reachable from the passenger side to use also. The radio itself is of a good enough volume and although not up to the level of quality Bose systems found in more premium cars nowadays, it is easily good enough for listening to music on a good volume at motorway speeds.

The auto gear box fitted to the Wagon model is a standard 4 speed affair as found in the previous generation car which originally came from the 1980’s design. It has 3 modes Adaptive automatic mode, Performance automatic mode and Sequential Sports Shift manual mode. This is an area which could have been updated in design but was left alone without improvement I don’t know why. It features the standard gear stick operated steptonic operation by shifting + and – through the gears when in this mode by moving the stick forwards and backwards.

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Electric windows are found in the front but manual winders in the back, that’s an option, if you want electric windows in the back as standard then these are found on the slightly more option fitted Falcon Futura Wagon model. The instrument cluster is again another functional and designed to the point part of the car. It’s clear enough and gives basic but useful trip computer readouts such as Fuel range, Fuel consumption, Trip distance, Trip remaining details e.t.c. There is an absence of an outside temperature gauge which I find strange in a modern car designed for our climate.


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The seats are more suited alike to comfortable armchairs than car seats, I’m looking for arm rests as I find myself sinking into the seats which I found very comfortable for long journeys just perfect. For the rear of the car the back seats fold-down to give a massive 1254 Litres of luggage capacity that’s so large you could nearly get a full double bed in the back, the days of packing a tent for car camping are over!

Exterior –

This is one huge car which you really enforce the fact when you stand back and look at the thing. It gained the nickname of ‘Tank’ during its time with me and at 506 cm’s long I’m not surprised it did. It also gained the nickname of ‘Taxi’ being in White in this example, the same colour and look of all Sydney taxi’s. This resulted in a couple of people trying to ‘hail’ me before realising I was just another White Falcon, this brought a sly chuckle when it happened as I was driving around the Sydney CBD. The cars very wide too at 186 cm’s and its height coming in at 148 cm’s, this thing is BIG.  


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The shape isn’t the most interesting but it doesn’t need to be this is a practical car. From the midway forwards it’s the same as any other Falcon but the rear jets back with the long flat roof to give you that massive interior boot space. From the front with the car driving dead towards you, you would think this would be any other falcon, it’s only as the thing gets closer and starts to turn you notice its longer back and that it’s the wagon before you. The rear styling of the car is again just functional with the taillights being on the far sides of the rear to give a huge opening rear door to allow easy access to that rear boot.

The wheels are 16″ with full wheel covers that come as standard on the Falcon XT Wagon, Alloys are not included on this workhorse of a car, if alloys are a purchase deciding choice for you then the Falcon Futura Wagon comes with 16″ 9 spoke Alloy wheels as standard as well as a few other luxury’s. To maximise the practicality of the car a towbar can be fitted as an option, this is rated to 1600kg towing capacity at a cost of $509 or a super heavy duty towbar that is rated to a 2,300kg towing capacity can be fitted for $1,722.

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Looking at the huge optional extras list for the falcon range there is no rear full wing spoiler from the Falcon XR6 & XR8, it is not an option for the Wagon, there goes the P platers’ sales! Unfortunately bright modern Xenon lights are not an option that can be fitted to the BF series Falcon currently. Items such as a roof rack, a bike carrier, Canoe/kayak carrier and a roof luggage box are further exterior options, but the options list goes on and on.

Under the hood –

The Falcon wagon can be fitted with either the Ford Australia produced Bara 190 4.0-litre in-line 6 petrol engine or the super economical E-Gas engine. The Bara 190 you can tell from the name produces 190kW of power and at 5250rpm,although not the most modern of designs it does now use variable cam timing know as DIVCT, Dual Independent Variable Cam Timing. This helps the engine produce more torque and fuel economy from its 6 cylinders and is the most economic petrol engine in the Falcon range producing a claimed 10.7 L/100km. Maximum Toque is very impressive from a naturally aspirated inline 6 with 383Nm from as low down as 2500rpm.

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The engine is made from in parts semi-modern materials with the cylinder heads made from aluminium but the engine block is made of cast-iron. There are 4 valves per cylinder running from a chain driven system and the compression ratio of 10.3:1 allows petrol as low as a 91 octane to be used. The petrol tank is a large 69 litres in size which allowed long journeys on the motorways finding myself the driver running out of steam a long time before the fuel tank ever did.

On the road –

From when you start this car up you notice how much sound deadening there is as you really can’t hear much in the way of engine noise and external noises at all inside, very good for conducting hands free mobile calls being nice and quiet inside. Slot the 4 speed Auto into D or S for sporty if you’re in the mood and your away nice and easy. The inline 6 Bara engine generates so much torque down low it pulls the 1.8 ton car from a standstill with ease. Acceleration from down low is also easily taken care of and the 4 sp auto box changes though the gears at fairly low RPM’s just simply as it doesn’t need high engine speeds to generate its power.

If you put the auto box in S mode so it changes up later on the red line, you plant your foot on the gas and it doesn’t really feel like it pulls any harder as you go through the rev range bottom to top. As you accelerate It feels pretty linear in its power output, just pulling strong. As you rise up above the 100 kph mark it still feels strong and pulls further and further, not feeling like it will taper off until you reach license loosing speeds.

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The main difference between the Falcon Wagon and the rest of the range except the Ute under the skin is the use of a live rear axle instead of the Independent rear suspension. This ultimately affects the road holding ability of the rear of the car over bumpy roads but allows the rear boot of the car to carry very heavy loads independent suspension couldn’t cope with. The suspension does employ a Ford technology, ‘Ride Assist Springs’ though which helps even the game up a little.

This works by allowing the main suspension springs strength to be reduced to give improved ride and comfort as you are driving straight down the road and moderate cornering. Then as more wheel travel is required on larger undulations and heavy cornering, the spring rate can be progressively increased with the use of the ‘Ride Assist Springs’. In real life, actually driving the car with an empty load and 2 passengers it feels very comfortable and has a confident road holding ability with the weight of the car keeping it firmly planted on semi twisty roads.

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When you venture onto tighter roads you do find the size of it car limiting you on your speed though the corners but it’s still great fun to drive as it does feel so well planted from the weight. I found it at times fun to push the car a little, leaning on the throttle and the engines torque as you come out of the corners it pulls through nicely. Brakes feel solid and strong as they need to be with a car of this size and weight, looking down at the brake pedal looks large enough to be able to stop an aircraft carrier it seems so big at times.

Price, safety and options –

Aussie Fords have always been affordable cars and the Falcon Wagon is no different, for the RRP of $37,720 you are getting a lot of car for your money. The options list can be reeled off over many pages, but just some of the options are, Alloy wheels, roof racks, Weather shields, Towbar packs, Bonnet protectors, window shades, a Fridge even and a Disabled drivers kit offered as a very commendable no charge option if ordered at the time of purchase with the car.

Safety technologies are a plenty fitted to the modern Falcon range affording all the luxury of a large car. These technologies include dual stage inflation airbags, which activate as needed, front seat belt pretensioners which reduce any slack and energy management seat belt retractors that limit the amount of force on the occupant during a crash. Also fitted are front crumple zones, a reinforced safety cell, collapsible steering wheel and more, all working towards offering its occupants a safer driving experience.


FalconXT10jpg.jpgABS is fitted as standard as found on all modern cars now but a system called Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) is also fitted. This works in tandem with ABS, and adjusts the braking force to the rear axle depending on the rear load conditions. For example, EBD takes into account the number of passengers the vehicle is carrying and adjusts the braking force accordingly. Unfortunately Falcon safety systems such as Side airbags, Dynamic Stability Control and the Reverse Sensing System don’t make it onto the Falcon Wagon model.

As a further safety option for the Falcon Wagon you can have a clear polycarbonate screen for $606 or a steel wire mesh $400 fitted between the rear boot area and the rear seats. This can help stop heavy items sliding into the cabin space and the driver during emergency braking or during a crash where several deaths have resulted from this happening in the past.

Conclusion –

This car is primarily designed to be the workhorse of the family or business, to move the kids around, for the holiday away when you take everything with you and for generally being handy in its carrying capacity at all other times. It’s for this reason you’ll probably be everyone’s friend when they are moving house, you can just fit so much in it! For what it was designed to do in this sense, it’s a perfect car.

It has the Ford robustness that you’ve come to expect, not in good quality materials and brushed aluminium you’ll find in European cars I mean in the quality that things don’t usually break and if they do, you know the part from the dealer will just cost peanuts to replace. This car ticks all the right boxes if you are looking for a practical car of this type, the engine has enough power, its fuel efficiency isn’t that bad, it has stacks of carrying capacity and it just goes and goes. Another dependable Ford that doesn’t amaze but will do its designed job as a long distance carrier and will do it well for years to come.

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Summary –

Spec as tested: Base model (no optional extras)

Base Price: $37,720
Price as tested:
$37,720

Positives: Smooth ride & road holding, Good torque’y engine, Cavern’s of space and practicality
Negatives: Looks not an improvement over the previous generation, Outdated 4 sp auto technology, Fuel efficiency

Rating of out five: 3.5

 

Words and photography by Mark Bedford.

New Maserati Quattroporte Unveiled – modernising more than anything

Announced today by Maserati AU the Quattroporte which has always been the grand daddy bread earning luxurious grand tourer in the Maserati line-up has been updated to keep it with the times.  The new model brings a host of new minor technology changes along with a little styling refining from Italian styling house Pininfarina to boot.

The exterior has not been played with too much by fitting a new grille with vertical chrome inserts (Black on the Sport GT model) proudly supporting the Maserati three pronged badge and slightly reshaped side skirts and bumpers. Front and rear LED lights have been designed in now, which seems to be the current car design ‘fashion’ across most prestige brands.


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Still un-ashamingly smart

On the interior they have redesigned the center console with the addition of a new Maserati Multimedia system with improved satellite navigation features and of course supporting connection to you favourite portable music player and Bluetooth connection to your favourite mobile.  Lastly the seats have been given a going over to try and provide both a bit more support and comfort; these can now be opted in two new shades of leather, Marrone Corniola and Sabbia, lovely.


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Lashings of wood for the Executive spec, Carbon fibre for the GT spec 

The engine for the new model comes in two flavours, Automatic or DuoSelect, this is actually the gearbox type that comes with the car and the colour of the cylinder heads of the engine, Blue for Automatic and Red for the DuoSelect shows the version fitted. Both versions are a V8 outputting 298 Kw (400 HP) of power at 7000 rpm and 460 Nm of torque at a not overly low 4250 rpm.

The automatic box gives a smoother driving style whilst the Red headed DuoSelect uses a clutchless gear system derived from Maserati’s successful track cars. Performance of this 2 ton heavy tourer comes in at a 0-100 kph time of 5.7 seconds approx, not exactly fast by today’s standards. If it’s a fast Maserati you’re after then your eyes, and lead weighted foot should be looking at the gorgeous GranTurismo S model.


Quattroporte 3.jpgThe V8’s Red cam covers showing the DuoSelect version

To further complicate your buying decisions once you have chosen between Automatic or DuoSelect gearboxes there is a further Executive spec giving increased levels of driver and passenger comfort all round and a Sport GT spec that fits carbon fibre parts to the interior, larger 20″ wheels, sports setup suspension and cross-drilled brakes.

On the safety side, the front airbags are now of the more advanced two-stage type and there are 6 curtain airbags fitted all round for front and back passengers.

The new model is tipped to be released in spring but by the time it reaches our Australian shores, will likely be next year before you can get your mitts on one.

Source Maserati AU

Its lightweight fun and its ‘Green’ too

Gazing around today’s press releases like I do every day, I spotted Lotus AU bringing the Green angle into their marketing. It’s obvious we are going to see more and more of this type of ‘Green’ issue marketing from motoring company’s over the months coming. We are leading up to the future where we will most likely have government stipulating that all CO2 outputs have to be clearly shown on all car advertising just like health warnings are shown on cigarette packets now, it’s coming guys!

Car marquee against car marquee battling out over the CO2 figures from their vehicles but boasting the most power efficiency from their engines. Technologies like DFI (Direct Fuel Injection) are the start, by having a ‘double positive’, bringing more Horsepower but lower emissions, its coming we all know, along with the “my cars lighter than yours” battles.


 
lightweightlotus2.jpgLotus is on the front foot in this area in that they have been building their cars their founder Colin Chapman’s lightweight philosophy with small engines since the start and now they’re coming of age using this to their advantage.

Here are a couple of tables released in Lotus AU’s press release this week:

SPORTS CONVERTIBLE COMPARISON:

MODEL

L/100km

0-100km/h

CO2 output

Price

Mazda MX-5

8.5

7.8

174g/km

$42,870

Lotus Elise S

8.3

6.1

196g/km

$69,990

Nissan 350Z Roadster

11.7

5.7

280g/km

$73,990

BMW Z4 2.5

8.4

6.5

216g/km

$78,200

Mercedes-Benz SLK200K

9.2

7.9

220g/km

$89,990

Lotus Elise SC

8.5

4.6

202g/km

$104,990

Porsche Boxster 2.7

13.8

6.1

222g/km

$109,300

 

PERFORMANCE COUPE COMPARISON 

MODEL

L/100km

0-100km/h

CO2 output

Price

Porsche Cayman S

11.6

5.4

254g/km

$149,000

Lotus Exige S PP

9.1

4.1

216g/km

$149,990

Aston Martin V8 Vantage

14.0

4.9

358g/km

$269,000

Lamborghini Gallardo

17.0

4.2

400g/km

$414,993

Ferrari F430

15.6

3.7

345g/km

$416,850

 

It’s not much of a surprise really to see a car manufacturer marketing in this way really, but I think it really is for the better.

Ok I am a little biased being a happy owner of a Lotus Elise but even if I wasn’t, its known by all that lighter cars: – require less HP to accelerate faster, corner better, brake better + there brakes last longer, use less petrol and to top it off, require less oil to build as there’s less car to actually build.

Having a look through the figures, I wonder how the forthcoming Lotus Eagle and Lotus Espirt’s will fair against the competition once there designs have been finalised? Can’t wait.

Source Lotus AU

Whats going on around here then?

If you’ve been keeping up with Beddysblog.com since I started it just over a year ago you may of noticed a distinct increase in me writing about all things on 4 wheels and a bit less about my life. Fear not I have not decided to allow my life to be taken over by cars and there is nothing else going on in my life, far from that, I’m really busy with work in the day and having fun with Sanna, Damien and my friends in the spare time I manage to get around that.

What I have been doing though is putting some time into writing about my love (as well as Sanna), my fascination of the motor industry and my entertainment, which is cars and the motoring industry in general on here more and more, as you can see I have been doing. Im trying to get some work together which is mainly around news articles on car marquee’s I find interesting and the odd review of a car here and there whenever I can get my hands on one for a day or 2 to review.

So as I said fear not my life is still going on behind the scenes having fun and when a holiday crops up to escape Sydney I’ll be posting the photos up here like normal, just  now im writing a lot about my passion in life, the motoring industry and as the UK’s EVO magazine says,

‘The thrill of driving’

Beddy



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The next generation 911 is released – 3 letter marketing acronyms at the ready

From the sports car manufacturer that loves its 3 letter acronyms, Porsche bring you the new next generation 911 with Direct Fuel Injection technology & a Double-Clutch Gearbox with the most RIDICULES name ever ‘Doppelkupplung’ (its actally German for ‘double-clutch) as the biggest new features.

The full information was released to the world this week. In typical German style I have analysed with my White coat through all the Press release material, collected up as many 3 letter marketing acronyms from it as possible and brought you the changes. 


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Here it comes the next generation 911

New features:

Direct fuel injection (DFI) – Injects fuel up to 120 bar directly into the cylinder this results in the Carrera now producing 254kw (345hp) and the Carrera S 283kw (385hp) These new performance figures is supersedes the previous generations outputs of 239 kw (325hp) and 261 kw (355 hp). Smoother torque delivery, better fuel economy and lower exhaust emissions are also a side benefit to the Porsche flat 6 engine now using DFI technology.

 


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The newly tuned engine with added DFI’ness

Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) – uses a double clutch design simular to what’s found in cars like the VW R32 but with 7 forward gears. The new steering wheel has two thumb paddles (either left or right can be used), press either to shift up and pull to shift down. If you opt for this new PDK gearbox option, that’s if you can say it to the dealer without being laughed out of the showroom, it will shave 0.2 of a second off the 0-100kph times due to faster shifting speed compared to a manual.


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The new Porsche Doppelkupplung (just say PDK it’s safer) gear stick  

Launch control – coupled with the PDK system, when enabled holds the engines RPM at 6,500 rpm for a perfect launch when the brake pedal is quickly released.

Dynamic cornering lights – As standard on all new 911 models are bi-xenon headlights previously this was an optional extra. As an extra now though are the dynamic cornering lights which actively swivel the lights left to right up to 15 degrees according to the tightness of the corner to light up the bend ahead. Woohoo safety that looks cool!

Improved Porsche Communication Module (PCM) – Now fitted as standard and with the screen size enlarged to 6.5-inch and also now touch screen. Full Bluetooth support, as an optional extra, all PCM functions can be controlled using voice control system. TV Tuner available as an option, capable of receiving digital TV broadcasts, switches off as you start moving.


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The newly designed 6.5 inch widescreen PCM

BOSE Surround Sound System – made up of 13 loudspeakers (12 in the Cabriolet models) combined wattage 385 watts, includes an active subwoofer and central speaker, great for popping out to the car and watching a surround sound movie in the garage for when you’ve had a argument with the wife.

Universal Audio Interface – the central armrest storage console contains 3 connections of iPod, USB stick/MP3 player and stereo jack input, about time!


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For the first time iPod and 911 see i to i

Seat Ventilation, heated steering wheel options – As the final  interior changes you can now optionally specify ventilated seats that can help cool down your bod on those hot sweaty peak of summer days and a heated steering wheel for those bitter cold winter mornings, no one likes a freezing steering wheel brrrrrrrrr.

 

Features carried over from the previous generation 911:

Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM)

Porsche Stability Management (PSM)

Sport Chrono Package Plus

Spring loaded automatically deployed roll-over bars (On the cabriolet model)

Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPM) – Although this has been redesigned to read tyre pressures in much quicker times now.

 

The visual differences

Porsche are pretty famous in the motoring press for not really playing with the look of the 911 through the generations and this new generation of 911 really isn’t breaking that mould. Ok you can look on this in two ways really, either they are just honing a nearly perfect look of their near 40 year old original design or they are just bloody lazy buggers and would rather be out driving their cars.

I have put together a few shots comparing the looks of the old & new models and as you can see at first glance there really looks like there’s very little difference, but there are some differences if you look closer.


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The New 911 and old, very little changes

Taking the front we can see they have aligned the front indicator lights with the front air intake and also incorporated some daytime LED running lights which seems to be the fashion now since first started by Audi last year. On the rear the only change apparent is the slightly drawn out shape of the rear lights towards the ‘hips’ of the car and also showing LEDs are being used for the entire rear lights cluster.

Moving to the interior you can see the changes are very subtle also. The new 6.5 inch, wider touch screen display being the main change with a few small changes to the heater controls too.


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The new 911 and old interior, same news here also

So there you go they have done it again and refined there 40 year old creation just that little bit more and Porsche purists will be very happy with the changes I feel. Still, some say the engine is still in the wrong place ๐Ÿ™‚

No prices of the new models are marked for the Australian market yet but the European prices show that we’ll probably be paying the same as for the current 911 models new, that’s around $201k for the 911 Carrera and $227k for the Carrera S.


new911d.jpgThe four new flavours of 911, Carrera, Carrera Cabriolet,
Carrera S and the Carrera Cabriolet S
 

Now the rest of the 911 range will surely follow with these design and technological updates and most likely a few of their own. I have heard rumours that the new GT3 marked for release around early to mid 2009 will feature a sport/track tuned version of the dual-clutch PDK system for example, I can’t wait to see the new GT3’s spec’s when released and my deposit on the next generation GT3 RS will be riding on this.

Source: Porsche AU

Review – Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder

6 Sp E-Gear

4.2 seconds and a simple click of a right hand gear paddle…….  that’s all it took for me to pilot 490 thousand dollars of Italian supercar to 100kph along an Eastern beaches road in Sydney last weekend.

I managed to let Lamborghini Australia to set me loose on a half a million dollar car on a sunny Sydney day but how did this event occur? Well a close friend Mr X (we shall have to call him) is in the market to part exchanging supercar A, a very accomplished well awarded supercar of a Bavarian nature for supercar B which could be a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder. I was asked by my close friend Mr X to come along and test out the car on a bit of an advice basis.


P5100416.JPGNot something you find parked in the middle
of the pavement on a normal Sydney day

Ok to put it another way, normally when friends ask for some help it’s to drive a rusty old pickup van full of dusty belongings as they move house at the weekend in return for a thankyou Pint down the pub afterwards. But when the call comes in to help test drive a brand new Lamborghini for a 2nd opinion for the morning, all bets are off.

In actual fact I spent 2 days with the car, a morning with the car in Eastern Sydney followed by some socialising with Lamborghini Sydney and onto the racetrack at Eastern Creek Raceway in Western Sydney in the following days.

Where’s the Keys

Picking up the car from the Lamborghini dealer we went over the usual mass of buttons configuration you normally go over when taking a luxury car for a drive. The most important buttons in this car (apart from the key of course) were the roof up and down button for the Spyder’s roof, equally as important is the button to raise and lower the front lip of the car by 3 inch’s . This is an $8,200 option but I’m sure it would pay for itself in saving front lip replacements in no time at all, saving a lot of embarrassment at the same time, and trust me in a bright Orange Lamborghini everyone is watching you from the pavement.


P5290491.JPGThe key to an Italian powered heart

Lip raised by 3 inches we pull off from our temporary parking space on the pavement of a busy Sydney street and down onto the road and were off into the busy inner city roads. The first thing you notice driving in traffic is that this isn’t such a hard car to drive as you would expect relating to older supercars. The Lamborghini development 6 speed semi-manual gearbox know as E-gear does a very good job at letting a pretty bad driver, if you were, safely control the 382kw (513hp) V10 engine nestling behind your back in its mid engine configuration.

In traffic the paddle controlled E-gear really is easy to use with a simple up and down automated-manual shift action which shifts incredibly quick. Advice by Lamborghini when city driving was to shift up when comfortable but let the e-gear system downshift automatically when it drops to around 1000rpm for you, just concentrate on the perfect up-shifts.

This did start to feel natural after around 20 minutes of driving I found. If you do decide to downshift at slightly higher rev’s the system carries out a short and punchy throttle blip simular to the Ferrari 360’s first introduced semi-manual system just a lot quicker. This downshift blip generates a little bark from the V10 engine as if it’s complaining about slowing down; fortunately this is usually as you’re coming into a corner and you’ll soon be putting your foot down to exit the corner and keep the engine happy by releasing its long legs again.


P5100417.JPGEntire rear decking engine cover made from a painted Carbon Fibre panel

The E-gear is a rather costly optional extra at $25,700 and I would love to compare the Gallardo with a 6 speed traditional gated manual box but with sales figures showing that approx 75% of Gallardo’s sold in Australia are E-gear equipped there must be some converted die hard E-gear lovers out there putting their money where their mouth (or fingertips) are.    

Onto the engine, the heart of what a lot of this car is about. It really is no secret this is probably one of the best engines I’ve come to experience so far in my life, it really is,  eclipsing my previous most impressed engines of TVR’s Speed Six and Porsches GT3 3.6 flat 6. Let it be known, no one builds a large capacity rev hungry engine like the Italians do, it must be something in the pepperoni that does it, they seem to come out spicy and smooth in one.

The amount of power and more importantly waves of jaw smacking torque on tap from the 5 litre V10 really makes your brain wake up like it does to a double short black with added Tabasco sauce. You see from a V10 engine there really is no lack of power down low like there is with 4 or even 6 cylinders, there’s no need for superchargers, no need for turbo’s and defiantly no need for nitro or anything else you care to bolt or squirt into your engine. With 10 cylinders at your control it’s all about just pure on demand power right through the rev range on command like a court order to a judge.


P5290487.JPGTypical Lamborghini angular lines of the engine cover and wing mirrors

I found with the torque delivery of the car you could be on a flat bit of road, a hill, straight or corner, you didn’t need to recognise what gear you were in, you request power and it delivered and boy does it deliver. Anything over 5000 rpm and the flaps in the exhaust open up, combined with a shove in your back of pushing torque is produced with a scream from heaven from the exhausts bouncing off any object in the vicinity back to your ears, it’s just so much to take in at once. It makes you want to place the engine into this 5000+ rpm band again and again (we did on the track but more on that later) as it is just an intoxicating experience you savour.

I’ve often wondered watching old Clarkson on Top Gear for years when driving Lamborghini’s, he looks like he’s going to explode with excitement like a kid in a lolly shop if a bit over the top, but I found myself re-enacting the same emotions inside. Finding a section of inner city tunnel with no speed cameras around I wanted to keep blasting though this tunnel creating this symphony of Italian V10 singing to my ears again and again and from the thumbs up of other drivers in the tunnel I didn’t seem to be the only one enjoying this Italian petrol fuelled opera.


P5170431.JPGUnlike the coupe version the engine is hidden from view normally

Taking one of my favourite twisty test routes in the Eastern beaches area I drive often I started to learn to trust the sheer amount of grip this car has. This is due to 2 things really, its super wide tyres with 235’s on the front and 295’s on the rear and very low centre of gravity, but also due to the 4 wheel drive system putting all this 500 odd HP down on the road so efficiently like only 4wd does so well.

A series of sweeping left right turns showed also that although the suspension is setup slightly softer than the hardtop coupe version to comfortably absorb all the roads little battle scars of badly done road repairs, it is still resistant against body roll as the cars weight shifted from side to side. I have to say the suspension in the Gallardo is really sweetly setup in my mind; it communicated the feeling of the road but blotted out its imperfections nearly as well as a German tourer would in its stride. Comparing to a Ferrari 360 I had the pleasure of driving a few months ago; the Gallardo certainly had it licked in body control and controls feedback to the driver.


P5290486.JPGInterior a mixture of Italian sculpting and German functionality

An interesting thing happened during my drive which I felt just would not be the same if I was driving the same road on the same day in the like of a Ferrari model. People actively old and young were really positive to me in this bright Orange Lamborghini driving around with the roof down. Not once was there a frown of ‘snobbyness’ regarded to me with in fact a multitude of thumbs up and shouts of “that’s one sexy car” from people of different ages and backgrounds.

In fact there was a fun 15 minutes when a young guy in his old Blue Alfa Romeo, he must have been in his early 20’s chased me around the windy back roads with one hand on his steering wheel and one using his camera phone. Crazy I know but he was having the time of his life chasing down a rarity of a car like this in his neighbourhood grasping for footage on his mobile phone to bragging rights to his mates down the pub later that night it felt.


P5290485.JPGNot a tourer of a car by any means, best to send
the luggage ahead for the weekend away

Back to the task in hand, surveying the neatness of the interior it seems very more German by design than the Italian’ness extravaganzas of an Italian Ferrari or ‘plushness’ of a Maserati or Aston Martin. Everything is laid out stylishly and purposefully where function and design are equal although you cannot help noting all the borrowed items from the Audi parts bin. Like certain switches laid out throughout the cabin and of course the steering wheel which shouts ‘RS4’ at you with its flat bottomness every time I look at it, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we all know the build quality and reliability your getting.

I found the $6,700 rear view camera option, which can just be toggled on and off at any time, to be quite useful when reverse parking as it is hard to judge the length of the rear of the car as there is a lot of space between where your sitting and the rear end of the car. This could save some embarrassing/costly nudging during tight parking. Lamborghini are swift to always tell you that the car is no larger than a Ford Focus but somehow when driving it you always feel it is a little bit wider than it actually is but that confidence of size will surely come with time of ownership of the car.


P5170439.JPGOptional rear view camera mounted into the electronically raised rear wing

The fabric folding roof is very efficient and quick at raising and lowering but has to be done at a complete standstill unfortunately. Porsche has been creating convertibles what you can open and close the roof at speed for many years now, it would be nice to see a roof design of this type on a car in this premium price bracket. That said the roof does open and close cleanly and quite quickly. When the rear engine cover opens, you can look back and see this entire engine cover is made from carbon fibre to save some rear end weight. When the roof is in the closed position you can lower the rear window with a button to allow some natural cabin air circulation and with a side effect of this it allows the engine noise to roll into the cabin from behind which is a welcome addition to the cabin when in the mood.

Let’s test some numbers, to the Track squire!

A couple of days pass and I am joined again with the Gallardo Spyder but this time it’s at Eastern Creek Raceway Sydney to test some of its big performance numbers out. There were no briefings on how to handle this car on the track but after completing a morning on the track in my own Lotus Elise pulling in some competitive lap times and some coffee and complimentary pastries, my brain was switched into gear ready to tackle the task.

Piloting half a million dollars worth of car travelling at very much past drivers license destroying speeds is no task to be taken lightly, needless to say my first couple of laps were taken at nana speeds to embarrassment of those colleagues watching in the pit. Remembering how focused the cars driving experience was from two days previous helped me sink back into feeling that the car is capable and I started to exploit it.


P5290478.JPG

Eastern Creek is blessed with one of the longest straights of any racetrack in Australia and coming onto it from the last corner free from any entanglements with the law I was determined to experience what this 382kw (513hp) and 376 Lb ft of torque felt like. Hovering the rev’s Mid way through 3rd gear coming onto the straight I floor the accelerator and the car lunges towards the horizon towards its peak at 8000rpm, before I know it we’re there and a pull on the right paddle and we’re in forth, air pushing against the car now as we are really picking up speed but the engine has surges or power relentlessly pushing again towards its 8000rpm limit but now in 4th. Another flip of the paddle and we’re into 5th and now pushing 240kph, a good 30kph’s over what I’ve ever had my own Lotus going at this point but I’m starting to run out of straight track and nerve.

 At this point I let off the gas and cleanly slide through turn 1 of the track at 200kph, the now warmed up tyres and aerodynamic forces helped by the now automatically raised rear wing pushing the car down firm as we corner at such high speed. The rear section of the track is a series of twisty corners which are easily dispatched in 2nd and 3rd gear. I could have easily stayed in 3rd gear with all that torque from the engine on demand on the majority of the track but it’s just too much fun to hear those angry loud barks from the exhaust when the throttle blips on the downshifts, ok so yes I was enjoying this a bit too much now.


Lambo.JPG

Bull loose on the track

Top speed, if you had a long enough straight, is measured at 315kph (195mph), due to aerodynamic drag to handle this speed I’d imagine this would have to be undertaken with the roof up and a tot of rum for the driver of course. Acceleration comes to 0-100kph in 4.3 seconds for the E-gear version unless you’re a seriously fast manual shifter. With a weight of 1570 Kg’s you can see just how well the 4wd system deploys the power and torque of the V10 engine so well to attain such great figures.

The brakes stayed solid throughout the session with 365mm 8 pot disks at the front and 330mm 4 pot disks at the back both made of steel. There is a carbon brake disks alternative on the options list, I believe, but for the duration of my session I did not experience any brake fade to talk of, despite the fact they probably cost the same as the GNP of a small African country.

Back into the pits and a few throttle blips in neutral to announce the fact the Lamborghini is back and its clearing its lungs and I park up to relax and collect my thoughts of the experience.


P5290489.JPGBeautiful curves and a late afternoon sun only
an Italian supercar can create this look

Conclusion –

An amazing car of power and finesse when driving and strangely enough from its steering feel and precession handling I would liken it to a Porsche GT3 in many ways. Maybe this is from Audi’s thought process behind the car, “Ok you Italians create a V10 revving masterpiece engine like you do, make sure you add some Italian flare and passion and it must create a soundtrack that makes all revheads go weak at the knees and us German professors at Audi will create a working car around your engine”.

I think this has led to a car with the passion of Italy but the knowhow and German reliability of Audi, in other words it won’t have the reliability of a Italian supercar and cost you as much as a Italian supermodel to keep happy. This, for me then, is approaching what car heaven is all about, a usable, reliable, real driver’s car, and uniqueness (well in these parts – Australia) to round it off. I can’t wait to experience its successor the Gallardo LP560 when it arrives on our Australian shores early 2009 and how the experience could be improved.

P5290481.JPGSummary –

Spec as tested: E-Gear transmission, Anti-theft System, Lifting system, Rear camera, Branding package, Electric & heated seats

Base Price: $460,000
Price as tested:
$490,000

Positives: Best current convertible supercar there is, amazing tractable V10 engine, Everyone see’s you coming
Negatives:
Feels larger than it is, V10 engines thirsty, Everyone see’s you coming

Rating out of five: 5

Words Mark Bedford, Photography Mark Bedford & Luke O’Neil

 

Wakefield Park track session

Last Weekend myself Rob, Banzi, Murad, Sarge and a few other friends all went to Wakefield park racetrack for a bit of practice. Wakefields great for track practice its a tight twisty track and with absolutely nothing  to come off and hit well apart from other cars on the track so watch out for them.

We spent a lot of practice time on our racing lines and speed through the corners and I got my personal best (PB) time down by a full 5 seconds to 1:13.5. A professional racing driver did it in my car in 1:11 that’s 2 and a half seconds a lap slower than a paid professional driver, that’s not that bad in my books ๐Ÿ™‚

 
wakefieldfreeze.jpg

At one point on the last turn just before the straight I went from understeer to a big oversteer situation and the back came out but I managed to catch and regain control before launching up the main straight. It’s in the below video I put together although its over so quick in the video it felt like things slowed down for those 2 seconds in time.