REVIEW: Eternally aerodynamic – the Porsche 911 Turbo S

REVIEW: Eternally aerodynamic – the Porsche 911 Turbo S
The Porsche 911 Turbo S is the fastest ever in the long line of iconic 911 sports cars. (Screengrab)
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Updated 19 March 2021

REVIEW: Eternally aerodynamic – the Porsche 911 Turbo S

REVIEW: Eternally aerodynamic – the Porsche 911 Turbo S
  • The German master car maker has produced a roaring tiger of a sports car, with technology to match

The Germans have a phrase for it: “Gibt es keinen Ersatz - there is no substitute”. And when it comes to the 2021 Porsche Turbo S, you just have to agree.

I do like German cars. The engineering and technology is always guaranteed to be top notch, good performance is taken for granted, and - personal view this - the styling and design says quality, efficiency and precision.

On the 911 Turbo S, you can add in mind-boggling speed. It is the fastest ever in the long line of iconic 911 sports cars, with neck-breaking acceleration of 0-100km in just 2.7 seconds. With a comparatively modest 3.8 liters of engine, that is considerably faster than many other super sports cars that have significantly bigger capacity.

The technology is best in class. You want front and rear spoilers at the push of a button? You got it. You want to avoid crunching the speed bumps by lifting the front of the car on approach? Flick of a switch. You want automatic door opening via a built-in finger print reader on the handle? That’s there too.

But it is behind the wheel that the Turbo S really impresses. You just somehow feel that is always has so much in reserve that there is no tricky road situation that could throw you. Instant acceleration - thanks to the powerful turbos - could get you out of any tough spot, and four-wheel drive and state-of-the-art braking ensures you can handle the car with assurance in even the most extreme of conditions.

One quirky detail that shows the attention to fine detail: to keep the front low on the road even in high-speed conditions, the rear wheels are slightly bigger than the front. Fiendishly clever, but simple dynamics.

Different driving modes - controlled by a switch on the steering wheel - take you from “normal” to “supersport” in the blink of an eye, and turn you into a Nurburgring legend at the flick of a switch.

In an era when cars are increasingly being promoted on the levels of silence from their engines, it is gratifying that Porsche has decided against all that new-age messaging.

In “normal”, the 640bhp engine is a growling lion, but slip it into “supersport” and it becomes a roaring tiger, ready to beat anything else on the road. It is a thrilling drive, even in a country where you cannot hope to get near its top speed of 330kmh - as, of course, you can still do in theory on many parts of the Germany autobahn network.

I especially liked the driving cockpit. Easy to get in and out for such a low-slung vehicle, it has everything you need and more in a hi-tech environment that oozes efficiency and functionality. There is no flash gimmickry, just 100 per cent precision.

The Bose surround-sound audio system would allow you to enjoy a Beethoven piano sonata even at top engine revs.

Although there is space for two fairly petite passengers in the back, this is obviously not a family car. The front luggage compartment will take a couple of weekend bags, but that’s about it.

Some people say that Porsche lacks imagination when it comes to body design, that one model looks pretty much like any other, regardless of price or specification. Why pay all that extra money for the Turbo S - around AED750,000 in the UAE - when it looks like any other 911?

I didn’t see it that way. The shape and design of the 911 is the iconic symbol of one of the greatest German car makers, and has been refined and fine-tuned over the decades without ever looking dated, just eternally aero-dynamic.

There is no substitute for class, quality and heritage, and the 911 Turbo S has those aplenty.


REVIEW: Heritage, power and urban sophistication — Aston Martin DBX

British car maker Aston Martin has made an SUV that will appeal to Mr. and Mrs. Bond, says Arab News reviewer Frank Kane. (Aston Martin)
British car maker Aston Martin has made an SUV that will appeal to Mr. and Mrs. Bond, says Arab News reviewer Frank Kane. (Aston Martin)
Updated 01 May 2021

REVIEW: Heritage, power and urban sophistication — Aston Martin DBX

British car maker Aston Martin has made an SUV that will appeal to Mr. and Mrs. Bond, says Arab News reviewer Frank Kane. (Aston Martin)
  • The British car maker has made an SUV that will appeal to Mr. and Mrs. Bond

DUBAI: I was privileged to get a glimpse of the Aston Martin DBX a few years back at the carmaker’s main production plant in Warwickshire in the UK when it was just in the concept stage, and it looked a knock-out then.

A super SUV from the maker of the vehicle of choice of James Bond, the legendary British spy? Who would say no to that idea? Certainly not elite car aficionados in the Middle East, that’s for sure, and I recall telling Aston executives back then that they should get the car to the Gulf as quick as possible, because it was sure to be a winner.

A lot has happened at Aston since then, but it is reassuring to know that the company has lived up to the promise of the super SUV, which can now be seen and bought in the cities of the Gulf. It’s also reassuring to know that my judgement back then has been proved correct — the DBX is a real show-stopper.

Aston has come under new management over the past year, to help it through another bout of financial pressure brought on by a combination of Brexit, stock market woes, and the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it has not let those problems distract it from the main job — designing, manufacturing and selling top-class vehicles that have a distinctive British flavor, as well as an edge of excitement and — even — danger that other elite marks do not possess. The Bond heritage.

But how to combine that with the comfort, accessibility and adaptability of an SUV? Other super-car manufacturers have tried it, with varying degrees of success, but I think the DBX has produced an all-terrain vehicle that retains the pizzazz and glamour of its sports car stablemates better than most.

In the DBX, you could imagine Mrs Bond dropping the kids at school and doing a supermarket shop before handing the keys back to James for a spot of clandestine espionage. Mr Bond would be pleased to have the chance to drive it, I’d guarantee.

The one that I was lucky enough to test in Dubai was a real head-turner. My favorite hotel valet man at one of Dubai’s glitzy five-star hotels — who knows a thing or two about elite cars, having parked all of them — took a sharp intake of breath at the matt Xenon grey body paint that made the DBX look quite sinister, but also very muscular and powerful.

The wheels are big, even by SUV standards and would be sure to get you to the crest of even the most demanding sand dune, if that was your aim, or just to add to the road-holding qualities the DBX has even at high speeds and sharp corners.

A 4.0 litre V8 turbocharged engine — from Aston’s German partner Mercedes — speeds you from 0 to 100km in 4.5 seconds and deliver a top speed of just under 300kph. Mrs Bond will be fine with that. James might want just a little a bit more but that’s a minor quibble — and in any case he could flick it into Sport+ mode when in hot pursuit of a villain.

Aston’s sound system — encased in leather like the rest of the interior — belts out the decibels through 14 strategically placed speakers that allow you to hear the music even above the distinctive deep-throated growl of the engine.

It is an SUV for sure, with plenty of space and comfort in the back and a boot that will carry everything you’ll want, including the dog. (One option is a pet-package that includes a washing facility for muddy post-walk paws, which would be equally useful for sandy feet.)

One thing I really liked was a huge sliding roof that pulled back to give you a skyline view and instantly made the interior look even more spacious. Great for night-time cruising in the high-rise cities of the Middle East.

The DBX starts at AED837,000 ($228,000), but extras — courtesy of Aston’s Q department — will probably make it a near AED1 million investment. That’s well worth it for a car that combines heritage, power and urban sophistication in one very head-turning package.


REVIEW: Super-sport meets SUV — The Lamborghini Urus

Arab News' resident car reviewer Frank Kane tested the Lamborghini Urus on the streets of Dubai. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Arab News' resident car reviewer Frank Kane tested the Lamborghini Urus on the streets of Dubai. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 24 February 2021

REVIEW: Super-sport meets SUV — The Lamborghini Urus

Arab News' resident car reviewer Frank Kane tested the Lamborghini Urus on the streets of Dubai. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • The Italian manufacturer has made a car equally at home on the school run or the racing circuit

DUBAI: It’s confession time: I’ve always been a bit scared of Lamborghini.

The flashy super-sports cars in shocking colors that you see on Dubai streets and on the forecourts of five-star hotels look so downright aggressive and fast that I’ve always had a sneaky feeling that a man of my advancing years would look slightly ridiculous getting in and out of a Huracan or Aventador.

But the lure of the magical Lambo name was too much, and when the opportunity arose I was excited to step into the rather more sedate Urus, Lamborghini’s move into the super-SUV segment.

 

This section of the luxury car market is smoking hot at the moment, especially in the Middle East, which just loves its SUVs. Rolls Royce, Bentley, Porsche, and Maserati have all produced fantastic multi-terrain vehicles recently, and even Ferrari is working on its own thoroughbred.

But the Urus is the sportiest and sexist of the elite SUVs so far and Lamborghini says it is the most powerful. Gulf drivers have taken to it with relish, judging by the numbers on the roads, many of which are being driven by Arab women. Interesting phenomenon.

FASTFACT

Urus

The name of a type of bull, similar to Spanish fighting bulls, maintaining Lamborghini’s link with the powerful animal.

I said “sedate,” but that is not really the appropriate term for a vehicle that will get you from 0-100kph in 3.6 seconds with a top speed of just over 300kph. This is all thanks to a four-liter V-8 twin-turbo engine that gets all that power to a 4WD system the techies say is among the most advanced around at the moment.

If you want to emulate the archetypal Lambo-head by popping and cracking the engine at the signal, you can do that, but during normal driving the engine thunders rather than screams. You can hear yourself think and have a decent conversation in the cockpit, though you may have to shout for the benefit of rear-seat passengers — not a problem Lamborghini encounters in its sports cars, of course.

I had been told to expect superior road handling, and was not disappointed. This is a two-ton car that can take the kids to school in style and safety, or do some dune-bashing at the weekend, but the way it hurls itself out of sharp corners, or sticks flat to the road on hairpin bends, is a marvel to behold.

A lot of that is down to the ultra-sophisticated four-wheel steering that has the effect of elongating and shortening the wheelbase depending on speed and road orientation.

With such handling, it really is hard to believe you’re driving an SUV.

FASTFACT

Tractors

The original Mr Lamborghini also produced farm machines, and you can still buy a Lambo tractor — although that company no longer has anything to do with the sports-car manufacturer.

The interior screams “Italia,” and not just because of the driving modes — including Strada, Corsa, and Terra — that are flagged up on the center console. The others are Sport, and — a nice touch for the Middle East — Sabba (sand). I doubt the Neve (snow) mode will get much use in the region.

And of course you can personalize your own driving experience, in the Ego mode — again, how very Italian.

The cockpit technology is extremely sophisticated, with everything you’d expect from an Italian manufacturer now owned by a German company, VW. A lot of the hi-tech features seem heavily influenced by Audi, which is a good thing of course. Vorsprung Durch Technik, after all.

Lamborghini took a long time to design and unveil the Urus, perhaps while pondering whether it was really possible to mix a super-sports car with an SUV. But it has done it. At times you have to remind yourself that this is a multi-terrain vehicle, rather than something you want to throw around the F1 track on Yas Island.

The 2021 version will cost you around $272,257 for starters, but options can raise that significantly. To get the super-sport SUV of your dreams, you’d better start $354,000 and be prepared to go higher.

The car I drove was in a reassuringly traditional shade of British racing green, but now that I’ve overcome my Lambo-phobia with the Urus, look out for me on the roads of Dubai in a bright lime-and-day-glo-orange Huracan.


Egypt collector accumulated over 100 vintage cars

Egypt collector accumulated over 100 vintage cars
Updated 28 October 2020

Egypt collector accumulated over 100 vintage cars

Egypt collector accumulated over 100 vintage cars
  • Among the famous figures who once rode one of Sima’s cars was former Egyptian president Anwar El-Sadat
  • Sima’s oldest car is an Auburn which he acquired in the 1980s

CAIRO: Sayed Sima says he was around 25 years old when he began collecting vintage cars, attracted by their beauty and rarity. They were also relatively cheap.
More than half a century later Sima, a nickname derived from the Egyptian slang for cinema, says he now owns hundreds of vintage cars, some of which he keeps in Egypt’s Media Production City where directors often rent the antiques for shows and films.


Sima’s oldest car is an Auburn which he acquired in the 1980s.
“This is of course a very rare car, a car that is entirely a piece of antique,” he said, while sitting in the Auburn showcasing its wooden frame and steel coating.
“Its original tank is still inside. It’s a beautiful car. Its structure is all wood.”
Sima remains fascinated by the way older cars operate.
His 38-year-old son, Ayman, shares this peculiar passion. He grew up seeing his father’s cars in movies.


“I also liked how I saw these cars on movie screens. I would see a movie and think, oh it is our car,” he said.
Among the famous figures who once rode one of Sima’s cars was former Egyptian president Anwar El Sadat, whose presidential car was a black 1975 Chevrolet Impala, said Sima.


Elegance with a hint of jet fighter: The McLaren 2020 GT

Elegance with a hint of jet fighter: The McLaren 2020 GT
Updated 04 October 2020

Elegance with a hint of jet fighter: The McLaren 2020 GT

Elegance with a hint of jet fighter: The McLaren 2020 GT
  • ‘It has the threat and power of a shark’
  • Buying a McLaren GT from the showroom will set you back at least $210,000

DUBAI: I like the idea of Grand Tourers — GTs as they are known in the motor business. At their best, they combine the exhilaration of sports car driving with just a little bit more room and comfort, for when you are making the “grand tour” they are designed for.
It is a segment of the luxury car market that British carmaker McLaren eyed warily for a while. Perhaps more than any other super-sports carmaker, McLaren has stuck to its racing car roots. Would a GT not be a betrayal of that long and valued heritage?
But last year, McLaren took the leap into the GT space and has come up with a little gem of a vehicle.
The 2020 version I drove — courtesy of the accommodating people in its Dubai headquarters — was GT enough to make you contemplate a drive through the Rub Al-Khali Empty Quarter, but sporty enough to raise eyebrows on Jumeirah Beach Road.
It looks exquisite. McLaren designers seem to have sat down and picked out all the sexiest, sleekest features from all other supercars and blended them perfectly in the GT — then added some more just as a bonus.
Looking at it head-on from the front, it has the threat and power of a shark. The body is all flowing lines and elegant contours. The rear has just a hint of jet fighter about it.
With a carbon fiber and aluminum body, it is lighter than any in its class, which accounts for the neck-breaking power you get out of its 4-liter V8 engine. You can hit 200 km in nine seconds from standing, and if you put your foot to the floor you will reach 326 km per hour.


For connoisseurs of engine noise, the sound on acceleration is raw and powerful, but not overpowering enough to make you concerned for your hearing. McLaren has stuffed plenty of advance insulation into the car. From outside, there is a gratifying boy-racer power crack, if revving up at the lights is your kind of thing.
A reworked suspension system, combined with McLaren’s hydraulic steering, means you retain the racing car feel but without the bumpy ride some sports cars give you.
It is low on the ground. In fact, you would have to practice entry and exit in private in order to do it with any grace in public. But the butterfly doors give you plenty of access room at least.
So how would I feel embarking on a long drive in the McLaren GT? Well, I would be confident that I would have a reasonable amount of luggage for one thing. The rear opens up to show enough space for two golf bags, and the front boot also has plenty of room for a weekend for two.
Only one small word of dissent here. My wife complained that there was nowhere to put her stuff. “This is a real boy’s car isn’t it — golf clubs but no room for a handbag,” she said.
In fact, I could see women being especially delighted to own and drive the McLaren GT. It is less macho and more intimate than other GTs, and is definitely a car to be seen in. 
The two-seat cabin is well designed and, again, intimate, with a stack of hi-tech features. A British audio system is a novelty these days, but sounded great.
Buying a McLaren GT from the showroom will set you back at least $210,000, depending on the color you choose and the level of interior decor. The one I drove was in a seductive amaranth red, and had plenty of leather and chrome inside.
I loved driving it through the canyons of Sheikh Zayed Road. Next time, the Empty Quarter.

 


The seductive new Ghost — a Rolls-Royce for the pandemic era

The seductive new Ghost — a Rolls-Royce for the pandemic era
Updated 24 September 2020

The seductive new Ghost — a Rolls-Royce for the pandemic era

The seductive new Ghost — a Rolls-Royce for the pandemic era
  • The revamped model was officially launched in the Middle East at a glitzy ceremony in Caesars Palace hotel in Dubai this week

DUBAI: A Rolls-Royce for the COVID-19 era might be an incongruous idea, but that is what the luxury car maker has made with its new Ghost.

Not that the elite motor marque has gone anywhere near austerity in the new car, which was officially launched in the Middle East at a glitzy ceremony in Caesars Palace hotel in Dubai this week.

All the features that have made Rolls-Royce a by-word for iconic luxury are still there, and more: Deep pile carpet made from finest British wool; enough technology — much of it from the hi-tech heartland of Rolls’ German owner BMW — to launch a Mars mission; and a price tag of around 1.8 million Emirati dirhams ($490,000) that will buy you the bare minimum of customization.

But, in the words of Rolls-Royce global CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos, this version of the Ghost is in tune with the era of “post opulence.”

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Apparently, Rolls’ owners wanted something that “didn’t shout, but rather whisper.”

The car that was unveiled at Caesars Palace did not so much whisper, as entice. “Come and drive me,” it seemed to be saying, in a seductive voice.

As ever with Rolls, the car looks a knockout, and you could spend a long time admiring its minimalist lines, but any red-blooded driver simply wants to get behind that wheel on an open road.

What a thrill that will be when the Rolls cognoscenti get their pre-ordered deliveries in the next couple of months. The 6.7-liter twin-turbo V-12 engine has so much power that drivers will appreciate the close control of four-wheel-drive and steering that comes as standard, as well as improved suspension. The “magic carpet” ride promises to be even smoother.

The whole car has been re-engineered from the previous Ghost, which was one of the best-selling cars in Rolls’ illustrious 120-year history, and it has some eye-catching refinements. Doors open from the inside at the touch of a button, and the “spirit of ecstasy” now slips back into the bonnet when you want, rather than into the radiator grill.

The “pantheon” grill itself can be backlit for those occasions when you might want to let other rear-view motorists know you are driving the best car on the road.

Cesar Habib, the head of the Rolls business in the Middle East, quoted founder Henry Rolls: “Small things make perfection, but perfection is not a small thing.”

The launch of a new Rolls-Royce is no small thing either. The huge number of enthusiasts in Saudi Arabia will get their chance to sample the new Ghost next month.