With the Rennen Angeles R roadtested, the next logical step is to test Bonham's offering into the mid-size performance market. The Chaucer Brooklands might sound like a stately homed owned by the National Trust, but it's about as posh as a Primark dinner jacket. It's not cheap, like Primark, however; the Brooklands is currently the most powerful car in its class, with a 511 hp power output courtesy of a turbocharged 3.0l i6. They certainly aren't messing around then, and better still, they've even given me the choice of two variants to test drive. I'll pick the estate, I think, simply for the fact that that rear end looks delicious.
Today, we're back in England. Gloucester specifically - it's about an hour from the factory in Redditch, and being down here gives me easy access to the Cotswold Hills, which hide some surprisingly good tarmac so long as you're prepared to dodge the off Chelsea tractor.
As I've said, that rear looks delightful. The front isn't quite as exciting, but it manages to balance loudness with just enough restraint. Massive cut outs and a gaping bottom grill certainly tell you its a performance vehicle, but they haven't overdone it, despite how big these vents are. The vents on the side of the car are also a nice touch.
Unlike the Angeles R, the Chaucer Brooklands is RWD, with E-LSD and 7 Speed DCT. Vented discs all round, active dampers, and a load of aero work. It's certainly up to date then tech wise, yet the specs aren't too different from the Angeles. 0-60 in the same 3.9 seconds, despite the 40 extra horsepower and the lower weight even on this estate model. Still, perhaps it's all in the drive.
On the road and first impressions are that it feels sharp. Much sharper than the Angeles. The handling is just as precise, but the solid suspension makes it feel more connected to the road. It brakes brilliantly too, and they have the balancing perfect for the weight distribution. Speaking of which, thanks to the extra metal at the rear, the weight balance of this thing is just a smidgen off 50/50, and it really benefits from this. Turn the ESP off and coaxing powerslides out of it is like buttering toast, even on these tight country back lanes. It's more than happy to break loose when you throttle it, but that slight sense of danger keeps it exciting.
But, there is a problem with the power delivery; the torque. It's odd to say the least. Turbos kick in bang on the dot of 3k RPM, which is perfectly fine, and you do get a nice kick from that. But, the torque then dips back down, suddenly meaning you don't quite have as much pull as you expected. So you keep your foot down, and finally it picks up properly after 6000 and peaks 7000. At the top end, this fine, as it means you get to drive a turbo car where peak torque and peak power and close to one another. But in the middle, it gets bogged down. And it feels remarkably unnatural if you're used to, well, just about any other turbocharghed performance car.
And where does that extra power go? It revs very high for a turbo engine, but it doesn't really deliver any more gusto. I'm minded to say it's wasting some of it spinning its wheels, or that it could do better if it had AWD, but something tells me it really in that setup, and that even if retuning a bit to cut out the mid-range dip costs its that 511 hp power figure.
Still, the wain of that 3.0l i6 in the upper reaches of its rev range is gorgeous. It's just a shame its a nuisance to reach that. As a result, overtaking gets a bit of getting used to with the weird torque curve, though it's not like it doesn't produce a lot of torque, meaning when driving around time, its not too noticeable a problem.
Something else the Chaucer does very well is comfort. The interior is great, not quite as high specced as the Angeles (but then again, I felt that was a bit of an issue with that car anyway), and perfectly practical. But it's the ride that really sells it; screw the air suspension of the Angeles, the Chaucer glides over the bump with only the assistance of the adaptive dampers. Some will say it's not quite "purist" with that electronic gear on here, but it's such a nice thing to have for when you're just driving normally. And it means you can still corner as well as this car can when you need it.
I feel like I could live with this car. It adapts very well, drives very well and performs well, so long as you can excuse the slightly odd torque curve. It's the handling that really took me with this car; nothing beats a balanced chassis, and the estate version of this car has just that. I'd certainly say it's worth the extra money just to experience it (plus for the practicality, for those more sensible buyers).
It's also a real looker, and is certainly the one to consider if you want a car in this category that will turn heads without shouting about it. Plus, it's got the Brooklands name - that's not something to argue with. It's got a bit of badge going on, but it's to your benefit, not the company's (in that they can charge you more for no reason). Plus, five hundred horsepower is five hundred horsepower. You've already won automotive top trumps if you have this thing, it's such a powerhouse. The Chaucer then is the one you want if handling is you top priority, and if you want those gaping front vents and a straight-six soundtrack. I just wished they'd tuned it a little more carefully.
Two down, two...three? Maybe four to go? Zenshi are next, Erin after that (although I'm, er, going to 'struggle' to do that) and any other company who wants to challenge in this market. Heck, at this rate, I might even have to compile this all into one review...
- Gavin Anderson