THE FIVE TEST DRIVES FROM DAY 2
KASAI SHINDAI V6 AWD
When standing outside the shiny white Shindai, it’s something of a disappointment. I don’t know if it was the colour that made it, or that just press photos are great at showing products from their better side, but the classy looks that I saw on the black car on the press photo is somewhat gone. I wouldn’t go so far that I’d call the Shindai “ugly”. But there is some lack of harmony. The smiling front end is looking a bit clownish, and very asian, while the middle section could be taken from some premium german hatchback. In the back, the styling of the taillamps instead reminds me a bit of the 60s and 70s IP-Kingston Celestia. On the other hand, that’s not a bad thing but one I wish IP themselves would have done on the new Lifestyler instead of those all red, blocky mid 00s Passat-looking things… For some reason, some jerk had broken off the mirrors from the test car during the night, which didn’t really make it any more fresh looking.
When stepping inside, it is a bit of a mixed bag too. This is a small and sporty car. However, the emphasis in the interior have been more towards comfort than sport. That’s OK, not every hot hatch buyer wants to feel like Stig Blomqvist when driving to work, but the strange decision there was to make the car a four seater. I would have understood that decision with a heavily contoured back seat in a sportier interior, or in a big luxurious limousine that’s chaffeur driven. But now, in the otherwise nice interior, the middle of the rear seat is just a hard hump with no seatbelt or headrest. Sure, families may not be the primary buyers of a car like this, but I really can’t understand the decision to not make it a 5-seater. But other than that, the interior has a nice fit and finish, great choice of materials, the seating comfort is good and there is a decent infotainment system.
Then, when searching for the clutch pedal…OOPS, there was none. Another sign that this is not aimed at the most sporty crowd, but a hot hatch for people craving comfort, is the automatic transmission. On the other hand, it might not be really fun frying the clutch and training the left leg in heavy city traffic, the 355 hp and 375 Nm V6 would require some beefy stuff there.
A 3 litre V6 and AWD in a car like this makes one think of something like a modern version of the early 90s Golf VR6 syncro. But the weight distribution is at least quite good this time, with only 55% up front, but 1870 kg is on the heavy side for a small car like this. Of course, AWD drivetrain and a V6 is showing its less respectable side there.
The turbo V6 itself is enjoyable. On idle, you question yourself all the time, “is the engine running”. It’s only whispering like a soft breeze, better than many straight sixes. When pressing the pedal, you first feel it take off quietly, then a raspy growl comes at 1200 RPM. It’s torquey at the bottom but really comes alive at 3000 RPM, revs all the way to 8500 and sounds like a modern day formula 1 at the higher revs. I might be a straight six guy, but man, a V6 this nice is something that’s not seen every day.
It’s a bit tempting to compare it with the IP Lifestyler I tested yesterday. Sure, completely different animals, but with an engine that’s 50 hp stronger and almost 200 kg less weight, the performance is fairly identical. 0-100 time is a bit slower, top speed a little bit faster at 250 km/h. However, that’s because of the electrical limiter in the Shindai that cuts off at 250, the IP is not limited but can’t reach 250 in standard form. Rumours says that around 270 could be possible in the Shindai, the question is only where you can drive that fast. The AWD is biased towards the front and the handling is quite neutral, and it can take corners quite well. Though there is no LSD, which makes an AWD car a little less useable on rough surfaces that one might think. Spinning on one wheel will not take you anywhere. Brakes are good, the first stop, but they did show a tendency to fade a bit. The suspension tuning is a nice compromise between handling and comfort in my opinion, a bit firm but that’s how it should be in a car like this. ESC and launch control are standard.
Speaking about ESC, we can’t skip the safety part, and there Kasai is promising that it will pass Euro-NCAP and IIHS testing with flying colours. And I believe them there. Not only does the car feel solid and is supposed to have a rugged safety cage, the list of safety equipment is complete with nothing left to ask for. Also, the weight would more or less toast other small cars if they were the competition in a crash, maybe that’s not the right way to build safety, but egoistically speaking it’s true.
So how do we sum up this car? Maybe like the heavyweight champion that doesn’t win over all its competition with a knockout. Especially not at a quite high price at $28432. But if you for some reason need a plush hot hatch with a driveline that is impressive, doesn’t have more than 3 kids/friends/wives/husbands/whatever to put in the car, can stand that it is a tank hidden in a small cars body, and is willing to pay the price?
Then I can recommend the Shindai V6 AWD without a single doubt.
But it is really not as impressive as the Calibri I tested yesterday.
CONQUEROR XCL CONCEPT
First, I have to say that I am biased. I really don’t get the new trend of huge fastback crossovers. For me, it feels like the worst of many worlds, and is like a modern equivalent to some tasteless yank putting dubs rims on an early 50s Chevy Fleetline. Sure, there is AWD…and why? Puddles of water is probably the harshest terrain most of them will see.
And what I really dislike the most is the looks of them. Proportions is not even a thing anymore, I have yet to see one that is looking good. This concept car that is a glimpse of what Conqueror might give us in the future is no exception. I hope that it will be toned down in the future production models, because the headlights look like they have been painted on with a giant magic marker, the grille will probably give skiffle players from the 60s nostalgic vibes, and if you have ever wondered what the designer of the Monster energy logo is doing today, I can reveal a secret. He is designing taillights for Conqueror now. The sides are better, they are only bland.
Under the bonnet there is an impressive 380 hp V12 with cylinder shut off for fuel economy. It manages to do it well for its size and power, in a car weighing 2.3 tonnes, but I still wonder if a V12 is something that will be accurate for the future? Expect fuel economy regulations to become stricter and stricter. 0-100 in 6.1 seconds and a top speed of 288 km/h (if you get nostalgic now, I can guarantee that you have owned an 80s car with digital speedometer) is of course good figures for a car like this, but what else would be expected with that powertrain. Neither the handling or the brakes are up to the task however.
Offroad capability is said to be good for a crossover, this is no offroader after all, but we never had the opportunity to test that. If it was comfortable? Very. Like riding on a cloud.
But is this a realistic vision of the future? No, its something of a mix between the Lamborghini LM002 and a crossover of today. And it feels like a dinosaur already.
One good advice to Conqueror, keep this car as a concept. Don’t make the streets crowded with these beasts. Please!
Because it is both tasteless and expensive so it sure would find buyers…
AL AUTOS ERUCAE RGS DTD
Well, the Erucae, what to say, the first impression left me speechless. This is the stuff that dreams are made of. After my shoes got wet from drooling over this gorgeous pearlescent orange little beast, I decided to have a seat. And man, it was like the racing seats was hugging me. Everything just screamed “take me for a spin” and who am I to say against that?
I pressed the start button and the 30 valve inline six woke up. Sure, the idle reminds me of a Massey-Ferguson 35, but just a slight tap on the throttle told me that this ain’t grandpas old Fergie that I learned to drive on as soon as I could reach the pedals, but a completely different beast. The throttle response is impressive, and it might feel a bit weak on the bottom, but who wants to drive this car like an old lady on her way to church anyway? It needs revving, and when revved it will thank you big time. At 7900 RPM it puts out its maximum power. 512 hp! Sure, when reading some other car rags, that is what every kid has in his riced out Keika Hop, but now you are reading a serious magazine so this time it is the truth.
It does not, however, break the 300 barrier. But it breaks the 100 barrier after 2.9 seconds and if you haven’t tried it out for real, that’s a feeling that is hard to imagine. To put the power down to the ground, there is AWD and an electrical locker. With sticky 245/265 rubber front/rear, it is really like being kicked by a horse to take off, and I really would like to see what this one could do on semi slicks. Cornering at 1.23 G and braking from 100 in 31.3 metres are also figures you will never see or feel in the average family sedan.
What strikes me the most, however, is that comfort is not compromised. To be completely honest, I would probably rather take this on a long drive than the IP Lifestyler I tested earlier. There is also a great infotainment system with built in GPS, but in this car I would almost love to get lost so I could take it for an even longer drive.
So where is the problem? Fuel consumtion? Nah, it’s about what a regular bread and butter sedan got in the 80s. Practicality? You bet, but who wants it in a car like this anyway?
Just as insane as the car. And one of the reasons that I have a very hard time to park the test car when the ride is over. I don’t know when I will get the chance to enjoy something this much again.
HOLTS ALARIS GEN2 TYPE-HS
I don’t know if the hot hatch, the car you HAD to have in your model program in the 80s is making a comeback, but there is a bunch of them on the show. Another one I had the opportunity to test was the Holts Alaris type-HS. This one have a very different powerplant compared to the Kasai I tested earlier, a large 2.5 litre inline four, with 371 hp and something that best could be described as HOLY TURBO LAG, BATMAN! It feels unrefined though, it is quite lame under 3500 RPM and noisy is a nice way to describe the sound.
Combined with a manual transmission, it is even more clear that this is almost the opposite of the Kasai. A car for the active driver, not the passive one. And its performance is almost scary. 0-100 in 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 276 km/h. No wonder it needs an electric LSD and AWD to get the power down to the ground. It’s heavily biased towards the rear, and an untrained driver should take it easy. When finally losing grip, this one comes out tail first, and when that happens, it goes FAST! Cornering at 1.09 G is of course a good figure but it also means that when hell breaks loose, it is pure hell!
And with the thoughts going to the for 2018 low lacking safety equipment, I suggest everyone that is not an extremely skilled driver to leave the ESC engaged. No curtain airbag will be there to help you when you wrap this little beast around a telephone pole! Maybe it is a good thing that telephone poles is quickly becoming a thing of the past. We just wish that low safety ratings could go the same way too.
Brakes are good with a 34.9 metre distance to stop from 100. However, when driven hard some fade is noticeable. And hard is the way this car should be driven. In traffic jams in the city there is much better places to be in. But sports seats are giving great support for your back, the infotainment system is good, so as long as you’re standing still it can be comfortable, but in stop and go traffic…nah! And on rough roads, the stiff suspension setting becomes very noticeable. But that’s a thing in all cars of this type.
So yeah… “Hot hatch” it is, but a completely different take on it compared to the Kasai. And $36122 for a car this size will definitely put most buyers off. This is pure, raw power that is something for an enthusiast as pure and raw to unleash. If you’re not into that category, you probably rather will be looking for other alternatives in this class.
But it sure is a little monster and I am happy that cars like this still can exist in a world of blandness.
TSR TAIKAN GTX
The more expensive cars you look at, the more important is the first impression. And it sure could have been better than this. You get the feeling that you’re looking at a kit car. Because, come on? Sealed beam headlights when the competition are using LED or at least HID? Different lights looking like they were trailer lights bought from the local gas station scattered everywhere. Unfortunately, that kinda ruins the appearance of the otherwise sleek and beautiful body. But when knocking on the bodyshell, it is not fibreglass, it is aluminium. And when looking for the VW Beetle engine in the rear, you find nothing but a 7 speed dual clutch gearbox and a pushrod suspension. So yes, this is serious bussiness, despite its outer appearance.
Entering the cockpit, there is no doubt that it is a sportscar either. You won’t find a dashboard made of MDF with gauges from some dusty corner in a speedshop and switches from a 1983 Minerva scattered everywhere. Instead, everything is modern and very well thought out, and when starting the engine, there is not a 1.2 litre flat four but a 2 litre turbo V6 that comes alive. On top of it there is 4 valve cylinder heads, in the bottom there is parts that is said to be very over engineered. The final result does put out 352 hp and 359 Nm. With those figures so close to each other, it’s easy to guess that it has a quite narrow power band. And it has. At around 5000 RPM the torque curve drops steeply, under 4000 RPM on the other hand it is a bit tame. But of course, the 7 speed gearbox makes up for that quite well, and a 0-100 time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 278 km/h IS fast. And 1.15 G cornering and a distance of 31.5 m to stop from 100 is excellent. AWD with an electric LSD makes it take off like a rocket, glued to the asfalt on sticky sports compound tyres.
Despite the mid engine and a heavy bias towards the rear on the AWD system (28/72), the car is quite neutral and when losing grip it will understeer rather than oversteer. It’s easier to drive for an unskilled driver than one may think when looking at it on paper. And the ride might be a bit harsh but you can still stand the comfort. They haven’t skipped out on safety equipment to save weight. The price of $35590 is not dirt cheap but you get a great amount of sports car for your money. This is, in fact, a sports car that is very suited for everyday use. If it weren’t for two things. 9 cm of ground clearance is a sign that it should be kept on smooth and paved roads. And the fuel economy? 17 litres per 100 km? Give me a break! Selling such a car in 2018 will not be easy.
If you are a rookie looking for a track toy, having another car in the garage already and is willing to spend the money, then this might be the car you are looking for. If it weren’t for the for todays standard horrible fuel economy, this would have been a real bargain of a sports car and one of the best allrounders in its class. But with gas prices of today, even sports car buyers are turning away from the gas guzzlers, especially if it is a car that’s going to be daily driven.