300 km/h and topless
Don’t get too excited, this is not Luscious
Lolita on speed, this is Bentley’s new Continental GTC Speed.
The Continental GTC Speed drop-top follows the GT Speed coupe
released in August 2007. It has the same upgraded (ex VW) 12
cylinder engine that enables the ultimate cruiser to blast from
0-100km/h in around 4.5 seconds.
Continental GTC Speed
With the roof up, giving improved aerodynamics, the GTC Speed
convertible is able to hit an impressive top speed of 322 km/h. With
the top down you lose 8 km/h, leaving you at 314 km/h at full noise.
This new Continental gets 448 kW of power, a 9 percent increase over
the “standard” Bentley from the twin-turbo W12. The torque output is
even more impressive, rising 15 percent to 750 Nm, available all the
way from 1700 rpm through to 5600 rpm. This is fed to the road
through a six speed automatic with manual override if you think you
can emulate James Bond.
Bentley has lowered the suspension 10 mm at the front and 15 mm at
the rear to improve the handling of the GTC Speed. It also has
retuned the power steering to give the driver more response.
Bentley has fitted the GTC Speed with wider 9.5x20 inch alloy
wheels, which have specially developed 275/35-section Pirelli PZero
Whilst Bentley usually has no aero add-on bits, the GTC Speed does
get one on the boot to keep it stable at high speeds.
Like the Speed coupe, the convertible is available with optional
carbon-ceramic brakes with larger 420 mm front discs and 356 mm rear
discs. Quite frankly, at the money you pay for a Bentley and the
speeds it can do, I would have considered that the best available
brakes should have been mandatory. The carbon brakes get
eight-piston callipers which are also 20kg lighter than the standard
So has Bentley (hiding behind the VW symbol) continued to make a
gentleman’s sporting carriage, or as Ettore Bugatti once said, the
fastest lorries in the world? The answer is yes, but how many of
these top end cars will go out the door in these financially
troubled times, I am not sure.
Last week I asked which pre-1970 Bugatti models came in left hand drive? The
correct answer was “none”. Up till then they were all RHD.
So to this week. Harry Ferguson is remembered for the tractor and the four wheel
drive vehicles. He was also famous for something else in Ireland. What was it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
BRM rises from the ashes
Yet another famous British automotive name is to be resurrected in
2009, with the news that Bee Automobiles recently announced 250 mph AWD electric
racing car will compete as the BRM Bee Four ERV in the British Hill Climb
Championships this year.
The car it is reportedly using a new type of electric motor featuring a
segmented armature. Each 13 kg motor (one for each wheel) delivers a peak power
of about 50 kW and peak torque of 130 Nm, making it 200 kW and 520 Nm all up.
Simulations show that the same motor, developed by the Electronic Power Group
within the Engineering Department at the University of Oxford, is capable of
achieving a peak power of over 150 kW and a peak torque of over 200 Nm.
Remember, that is per wheel, as these are in-wheel motors.
BRM being pushed as usual
All of the car’s direct technological influences have not yet been revealed, but
the web site hints at who might be involved when it states the car has been
“designed by a team accustomed to winning Formula 1 Grand Prix” (they must be
pretty old, as that was some time ago when Graham Hill and Sir Jackie Stewart
gave the marque 17 F1 wins and a drivers and two constructors titles). Mind you,
the in-wheel technology dates back to 1902 with Dr. Porsche’s Lohner cars.
Nothing’s really new!
It is 60 years since BRM was founded by Raymond Mays, who had built several hill
climb and road racing cars under the ERA brand before the war, and Peter
Berthon, a long-time associate. BRM had backing (both financially and in kind
and labour) of the British motor industry and its suppliers channelled through a
This proved an unwieldy way of organizing and financing the project, and as some
of the backers withdrew, disappointed with the team’s slow progress and early
results, it fell to one of the partners in the trust, Alfred Owen of the Rubery
Owen group of companies, which primarily manufactured car parts, to take over
the team in its entirety. In fact, between 1954 and 1970, the BRM team entered
its works F1 cars under the official name of the Owen Racing Organization.
According to the press release, “The BRM Bee Four electric racing car will be
consistent with BRM’s long history of innovation and teamwork, and will be a
great demonstration of Rubery Owen’s modern focus on environmental technologies.
It will also be a marker for a new breed of motor sport, one which minimizes
environmental impact and is overwhelmingly cost effective, but at the same time
is phenomenally fast.”
Paul Owen, grandson of Sir Alfred and managing director of Rubery Owen’s
Environmental Technology Subsidiary Rozone Limited commented, “Rubery Owen is
very pleased to see the BRM name once again being used to drive forward an
innovative development to take motor sport to new levels. For the last decade,
our Rozone subsidiary has been seeking to develop technologies under the
umbrella of ‘Sustainable Solutions’ - solutions which try to balance economic,
social and of course environmental considerations, all within a framework of
teamwork and co-operation.
“We believe that the BRM Bee Four project demonstrates this perfectly -
acknowledging the past, enhancing the present, and creating the future. At a
time when we are all examining the cost effectiveness and environmental impact
of many parts of what we do, we hope that the project will demonstrate that
motor sport can be both these things - but without forgetting the ‘social’
aspect or the importance of fun, enjoyment and competition - the main reasons we
all do it in the first place!”
All very lofty ideals, as were the ideals behind the original BRM. However, on
paper the BRM Bee Four should be blisteringly fast (but so was the original BRM
in 1948 - on paper!).
Go park yourself!
Ford is introducing a new Active Park Assist technology on its
2010 Lincoln MKS flagship sedan and new Lincoln MKT seven passenger luxury
crossover. Available in mid-2009 as an option, Active Park Assist uses an
ultrasonic-based sensing system and Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS)
to position the vehicle for parallel parking, calculate the optimal steering
angle and quickly steer the vehicle into a parking spot.
The EPAS system utilizes a steering column mounted electric motor that
provides steering power assistance on demand and typically consumes less
than seven percent of the energy of a conventional hydraulic rack and pinion
power steering system.
Active Park Assist system uses sensors on the front and rear of the vehicle
to guide the vehicle into a parking space. The technology is a major leap
forward in speed and ease of use compared with the camera-reliant systems
offered by competitors, including a video camera-based system offered by
Lexus. Ford’s system requires less driver interface and reduces the risk of
selecting a parking spot that is too tight. Ford’s Active Park Assist is
claimed to also work in downhill parking situations, unlike competing
systems. To park the vehicle, the driver activates the system by pressing an
instrument panel button, which activates the ultrasonic sensors to measure
and identify a feasible parallel parking space. The system then prompts the
driver to accept the system assistance to park.
The steering system then takes over and steers the car into the parking
space hands free. The driver still shifts the transmission and operates the
accelerator and brake pedals, so you don’t give up total control.
A visual and/or audible driver interface advises the driver about the
proximity of other cars, objects and people and provides instructions.
While the steering is all done automatically, the driver remains responsible
for safe parking and can interrupt the system by grasping the steering
Active Park Assist is enabled by Ford’s advanced EPAS technology. In
addition to helping with parallel parking, EPAS improves fuel economy up to
five percent, while reducing CO2 emissions and enhancing steering
performance compared with traditional hydraulic power assisted steering
systems. EPAS saves fuel primarily because the steering system is powered by
an electric motor connected to vehicle’s battery, as opposed to
engine-mounted hydraulic pump steering systems. By 2012, Ford plans to fit
nearly 90 percent of the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury line-up with EPAS.
“As we use advanced technology like Electric Power Assisted Steering to
improve the fuel efficiency across our vehicle line-up, we have the
opportunity to introduce new comfort and convenience innovations like Active
Parking Assist,” said Ali Jammoul, Ford’s chief engineer for chassis
engineering and steering systems. “This is technology not for the sake of
technology, but technology designed to meet the needs and wants of
As Ford introduces EPAS in more vehicles, it will be able to offer Active
Parking Assist in more models. In addition, Ford is working on using EPAS
and other sensors for other smart technologies, including one that could
prevent a vehicle from drifting out of lane on the highway.
Active Park Assist works in tandem with other new technologies that will be
offered on the 2010 MKS and MKT and other Ford Motor Company vehicles,
including Blind Spot Information System (BLIS™) and Cross Traffic Alert.
BLIS employs a sensor on the outboard rear quarter panel that monitors the
traditional blind spot area, and can notify the driver with a warning
indicator light in the corresponding side view mirror if the sensors in this
optional system detect a vehicle in the blind spot. Cross Traffic Alert uses
BLIS sensors to help detect cross traffic when backing out of a parking