BMW i3 and i8; Porsche 911; Ferrari 458 Spider; Ford Evos, Land Rover Defender DC100 concept
23 December 2011

This is usually one of those pretty quiet months in the motor industry. Bathed in sunshine, southern continental Europe shuts down for most of the month, while the rest of the industry is launching things in a leisurely fashion, too. For a car magazine editor, it’s usually one of the harder months in which to fill pages.

This year, though? No. Take our 3 August issue: we had BMW’s i3 and i8 concepts. The electric and hybrid concepts launched a new ‘i’ sub-brand that promises us the tantalising possibility of having it all. The i8 should put out 66g/km and hit 62mph from rest in 4.6sec. Still, what’s the point of having cake if you can’t eat it, right?

Moving on to the second week in a ‘quiet’ month: Audi’s two-seat city concept was revealed. Skip forward two more weeks: the wraps come off the new ‘991’ variant of Porsche’s 911 and the Ferrari 458 Spider, followed one week later by the Ford Evos and Land Rover DC100 concepts. All before the Frankfurt motor show. So much for a quiet news month.

But we drove some stuff, too, of course. Most memorable in my mind – not just in August, but in almost all my driving life – was road testing Ariel’s Atom V8. Let me give you a few of the numbers it returned at the MIRA test track: 0-60mph in 3.0sec, a standing quarter in 11.2sec at 134.2mph, and 30 70mph in 2.0sec. And a cabin noise level at max revs and acceleration in third gear of 125dB. For the record, that’s five more than a pneumatic drill at one metre. Or just 15 fewer than a “typical unsilenced gunshot”, although I’m not sure which of our testers measured that one, or how…

Also driven in August: some proper American muscle on some rural Lincolnshire roads. Colin Goodwin discovered that the Ford Mustang Boss 302 is more entertaining than a Chevrolet Camaro SS, but that both might just warm the soul more than a BMW M3. “If you bought a TVR Chimaera 450 over a Porsche Boxster then you’ll understand,” he wrote, not unreasonably.

Elsewhere in Lincolnshire, I drove the limited-edition Audi R8 GT, of which just 33 will come to the UK and be loved by everyone who buys one – even at the £145,645 they’ll be asked to pay for it. At 100kg less than a standard R8 V10, the GT is a proper weapon.

So, too, was the line-up we assembled for a new feature that we ran in August called the Grip Challenge. It was a slightly more scientific performance test than we usually run, involving eight performance cars, all of impressive ability, measured against the stopwatch and the g-meter.

The grip and grunt of Nissan’s GT-R won out over rivals as capable as the Porsche 911 GT3 RS 3.8 and BMW 1-series coupé. Given that the Nissan can pull an average of 1.08g under acceleration and hold 1.13g through a turn, perhaps that’s no great surprise.

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