by Ian Wagstaff
Performance At Geneva
The “top end” of the market at March’s Salon International de l’Auto — the Geneva Motor Show — saw a new Audi R8, a turbocharged engine for Ferrari, and the vision of a Bentley sports car.
The first of these, the second generation of the car that Audi named after its first Le Mans winner, is said to be a rival to the Porsche 911. It will initially only be available with a twin-clutch S tronic transmission and a V10 engine with either 533bhp or 602bhp outputs. Performance figures claimed for the faster V10 Plus version are 0-62 in 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 205mph.
The new Audi R8 weighs 50kg less that its predecessor but is 40 percent stiffer thanks to use of the same aluminum and carbon-fiber chassis used for the Lamborghini Huracan.
The dimensions are almost the same as the old car, the main difference being an extra 40mm width. In fact, it could be said that the new car is a gentle evolution. The aluminum skin is wrapped tightly around the chassis, while an arguably more aggressive bumper and a squared-off grille similar to that on the TT are other features. Double-wishbone aluminum suspension is fitted to all four corners with adaptive magnetic dampers offered as an option.
“Motorsport is in Audi’s genes, it has always been a permanent feature of our brand’s character,” said Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Board Member for Technical Development at Audi. “With the new Audi R8, our engineers are bringing accumulated racing expertise from the racetrack onto the road. No other model of ours evokes more dynamic emotion. The new R8 V10 plus is therefore the most powerful and fastest series-production Audi of all time.”
Thanks to the close cooperation between racing engineers, racing drivers, and developers, the Audi R8 has seen a clear performance increase — which is said to benefit both the series production car and the R8 LMS developed on the basis of this.
The new Audi R8 is produced at a new quattro GmbH production site that was specially built for the sports car — the “Böllinger Höfe” site in Heilbronn, Germany.
The Geneva Show also saw details revealed of an all-electric, rear-wheel-drive version of the R8, the R8 e-tron. This will use two electric motors on the rear axles, producing 456bhp at 920Nm. Audi is claiming that this car will cover 276 miles between charges with a mere two hours needed to charge using a rapid charging point.
Over on the Ferrari charge, the iconic Italian manufacturer had taken to turbocharging with its new, V8 mid-mounted 488 GTB. This will replace the 458. More powerful than its predecessor at 661bhp this will sprint to 62mph from standstill in three seconds flat. Visually, the 488 takes its cue at the front from LaFerrari with near identical headlamps and similar creases on the hood.
Bentley reckoned that it had unveiled the future direction of luxury and performance with its EXP 10 Speed 6. This concept was, it was said, “a British interpretation of a high performance two seater sportscar.” Traditional Bentley design cues have been fused with modern technologies and progressive craftsmanship techniques. Copper elements are used as accents to both the exterior and interior features to highlight the performance hybrid potential of the concept’s new powertrain.
“This is not just a new sportscar concept, but the potential Bentley of sports cars,” said Wolfgang Dürheimer, Bentley Motors chairman and chief executive.
Firsts For Aston
The surprise of Geneva was an electric all-wheel-drive GT crossover from Aston Martin. The concept car, known as the DBX, is said to represent a new direction for the brand. The first such vehicle from Aston Martin, it could even lead to a production model.
The DBX features a modern take on traditional Aston Martin styling elements. The wide grille leaves one on no doubt that this is an Aston Martin, but the high ride height demonstrates non-sporting capabilities. Thanks to its heritage, the company has up to now maintained a sporting as well as a prestige. According to Aston’s design director Marek Reichman, the new concept car introduces the idea of a cross over GT with five doors. He regards the electric powertrain as an important requirement, stating that it is inevitability that emission-free driving will come. If the car does go on the market, conventional powertrains will also be made available.
Technical details are scarce, but it is notable that the DBX should be a first for Aston Martin in both the all-electric and four-wheel-drive fields.
The production version of the Honda Civic Type R “hot hatch” was revealed at Geneva. It was, said the Japanese manufacturer, “a race car for the road.”
Type R vehicles are said to have garnered a cult following around the world and Honda is hoping that the new model will lives up to high expectations. Featured are the world-first application of its new 2.0-liter VTEC Turbo engine, aggressive function-led styling, and what are claimed to be pioneering new chassis technologies.
The new 2015 Civic Type R will be powered by what is described as the most extreme and high-performing engine in the 22-year history of the red “H” badge.
The all-new, direct-injected turbocharged gasoline engine delivers power, torque, and performance figures said to be unmatched in the front-wheel drive hot hatch segment. The peak power output is 310 PS at 6,500 rpm, and peak torque is 400 Nm at 2,500 rpm — both higher than for any previous Honda Type R model.
Red-lining at 7,000 rpm, the engine — part of Honda’s next-generation Earth Dreams Technology series — features an advanced new turbocharger with VTEC technology that boosts low-end torque and delivers sustained acceleration.
The Civic Type R’s performance is claimed to be unmatched in the front-wheel drive hot hatch segment: the 0-to-62 mph sprint is covered in just 5.7 seconds — making it the fastest accelerating performance front-wheel drive hatchback — and top speed is a class-leading 167 mph.
Unveiled in Geneva, the Kia Sportspace has been described as perhaps the ultimate “getaway” car — a practical vehicle for everyday business use, yet a stylish and athletic grand tourer in the classic sense.
Conceived and developed at Kia’s European Design Centre in Frankfurt under the leadership of Gregory Guillaume, chief designer Europe, the Kia Sportspace is a car that its manufacturer says spurns traditional compromises. ‘It is neither saloon car nor wagon. It is neither hatchback nor shooting brake. It is instead a vehicle that can meet the demands of those who refuse to be categorized when it comes to their lifestyle or their motoring needs.”
Guillaume is open about its origins: “Kia does not have a wagon in this important segment of the European market, but I was determined that we would not simply create something that conformed to tradition. This car comes from an ambition I had when I was studying design in Switzerland as a young man.
“I always had this picture in my mind of creating a vehicle that I could have used to go for a weekend’s skiing with friends before driving back for it to be displayed at the Geneva Salon. Geneva is a special show for me — it comes as winter starts to release its grip. It has a special atmosphere and a particular appeal. The ideal concept vehicle had to reflect this — and I believe the Sportspace does just that.”
Up Front For Le Mans
This year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will feature four major import manufacturers contesting the top class. Following Porsche’s entry into the LMP1 category last year, Nissan has now joined Porsche, Audi, and Toyota to challenge for overall honors.
The four-wheel-drive GTR LM NISMO, designed by Ben Bowlby, the man who brought us the DeltaWing concept, is unusual in that it is front-engined. While Panoz did run such a car at Le Mans in 2000 to 2003, this configuration is unusual to say the least. However, Bowlby was never a person to think conventionally.
Despite major efforts over the years by Nissan and Toyota to win the Le Mans 24-hours, only one Japanese manufacturer has done so: Mazda in 1999. Now both Toyota and Nissan are back for a battle that features two Japanese and two German brands.
U.K.-based journalist Ian Wagstaff has been covering the aftermarket for over 30 years and has contributed International Dateline for the last 28 of these. He is also an award-winning writer of books on motorsport.