Chrysler finds new ownership, and Autocar conducts its fastest ever group test
26 December 2007

In May, big-note industry news dominated proceedings. The marriage of Daimler and Chrysler, which had seemed to promise so much, ended in divorce, with ownership of troubled US giant passing to private equity giant Cerberus.Fears that the new owner would briskly begin stripping Chrysler’s assets were partly allayed by some imaginative Chrysler hirings of top-level executives from rival companies (long-time Lexus boss, Jim Press, was one) and statements from new CEO, Bob Nardelli, that the company would aim squarely to make great cars and sell them in bigger volume.The complicated story of car production at Longbridge came to an end when MG Rover’s Chinese owner, Nanjing Automotive, announced that the MGTF would resume production at the very end of the month. They showed hacks a production line and a couple of cars, and assured everyone that sales would resume in the second half of the year. They’re still coming. Meanwhile, GM took direct control of the failing UK attempt to sell Cadillacs (principally the Saab-based, Trollhattan-built BLS) but has yet to show better results than its original Dutch agent. The Highways Agency astonished everyone by volunteering to clear 44 major traffic obstructions around the country in time to improve traffic flows for the spring bank holiday , but the police made sure we wouldn’t feel too liberated by promising to get tougher with people who contested their traffic tickets. We went to the Molsheim, where the Bugatti Veyron is made, to pick up a car and drive it around Europe for a while, in company with an Audi R8, an Aston DB9 Sport, a Porsche GT3 RS and a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. What ensued was one of our most extraordinary driving experiences of recent years: every one of the cars excelled, but the Bugatti simply showed it was on a different level. The quote we lifted from Steve Sutcliffe’s story in the magazine said it all: “I caned the 911 as frantically as I could, and whoosh….the Bugatti blew by me as if we were standing still.” Watch the video below.We road tested the mighty Ferrari 599 GTB (“Ferrari hits the top of its game with its finest two-seater sports GT since the Daytona, at least”) and also took a drive in the quickest Ford GT of them all, the Roush super-tuned version with 600bhp instead of the usual, miserable 550.The large and well-equipped Jeep Wrangler Unlimited impressed us – like other Jeeps – with its toughness and affordability, but the new Alfa Spider hardly made the grade. It’s pretty and fun to be in on some roads, but whole thing’s very heavy against the opposition and the body is shakey, too. The month’s highlight for buyers of practical cars was the new BMW X5, which looks and acts much the same as the super successful original, but gets more space, the option of as third row of seats and a better front suspension to improve the already-impressive handling. We called it “a thoughtful; and sensible update”.

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