We took a Kumo around the Nordschleife
And we loved it! - Short Articles 1
car by @SpeedLife1
The 2016 model year Reizei Kumo Mk5 SE is currently still up for sale, even though we expect a facelift soon. The Exhaust Note team recently had the opportunity to take it for a drive around the Nürburgring Nordschleife. We also liked the looks of the Kumo we got to drive. The contrast between the pearl white paint and the gloss black alloy wheels is particularly attractive.
For those readers that do not know the Reizei Kumo, it is a Japanese light sports coupe, which we have reviewed positively in its segment in the past. The combination of low weight, a 188 horsepower 1864cc inline-4 Reizei KO5 engine, and a manual 6-speed gearbox make for a fun combination. The gearing is short, fun and spirited, and perferctly suits the rev-happy engine. You can easily let the engine go up to 5000 rpm while accelerating in daily use, which is just such a good feeling. Just imagine how great it is then around the track.
Our lap with the Kumo was over in less than 9 minutes and 30 seconds, but boy did we enjoy it. Apart from the nippy engine, the road feel at speed is great as well. The grippy sport compound tires and good weight balance of the Kumo make sure the car stays stable in the corners. And the corners are where the fun is; top speed was never a goal for Reizei in developing this version of the Kumo.
The most notable characteristics our lap throw at us were the incredibly reliable and performant brakes. We did not notice any fade whatsoever over our lap, and the temperature readings afterwards confirmed that these brakes can probably last hours at high load. The handling as mentioned before is spot on, although one needs to be careful over bumps when the load is taken off the rear wheels.
This is a nice addition to our full review, which already confirmed the Reizei Kumo as an enjoyable sports coupe that is very usable and economic for daily use. Downsides are the relatively bare interior - although by no means spartan - and the non-perfect crash test scores.
|Reizei Kumo Mk.5 SE|
|Displ.||1862 cc||Weight||1310 kg|
|Engine Type||DOHC 4V||Top Speed||208 km/h|
|Cylinders||I-4||0-100 km/h||6,62 s|
|Torque||217 Nm||100-0 km/h||35,73 m|
|Max RMP||8000||Avg. Econ.||5,3 l/100km|
|Drivetrain||RWD||Sticker Price||$ 41,329.99|
I love this. Of course, this is only the SE trim, that’s why it has a pretty mediocre interior. There is the AE-R version that has 300 horsepower and a premium interior although it costs way more than the SE.
The SE trim was great really, it did not feel like it needed more horsepower. And it was actually a joy to drive on normal roads and in traffic as well!
I mean, yeah, the point of the SE is to be easily daily-driveable and fun while the AE-R is just mostly aimed at track days. There also is the AE which is the SE but with a better interior.
Quick sidenote : The Kumo is actually going to have a new generation in 2020.
1975 Gandini Luna V8 prototipo - Interviews 2
car by @OME
Tuscany, the Savo family vineyard.
Mr. Giacomo Savo, I am happy to finally meet you, in the sunshine, overlooking this beautiful landscape and enjoying this mighty good glass of Chianti.
Thank you. Please, just Giacomo. The 2016 is a very good year indeed.
One would almost forget why we came here. We sit here on the terrace. Beneath us we the gorgeous brushed aluminium wedge shape of a futuristic concept car from 1975. The only one in existence. Tell us about the car, if you please, Giacomo.
This the Gandini Luna V8 prototipo, property of the family. We've restored it and it's been on display and occasionally touring for the last three years now.
It is an amazing vehicle! We had heard of the existence of a prototype of the Luna. There was even a sketch and some basic statistics available, but until the Savo family unveiled it, no one had seen it. How did the car came into the family?
It actually has been since the start. I discovered it myself in a barn here on the vineyard after my grandfather passed away.
Describe the moment.
It was a few weeks after he passed away. The moment when you have mourned long enough to start looking into all the non-urgent stuff. It was the plan to clean out the barn slowly and reminisce.
There was something special about the barn?
Not really, it was his place to retreat too. I only new nono Antonio as a wine maker. But he liked to tinker on all things mechanical. He would repair the vineyard's equipment in that barn.
And there was the car?
It was there, but hidden well, behind a ton of other equipment, and under a heavy tarp. And suddenly there was this fantastic looking vehicle. Bare aluminium on the outside. Those vents dotting the front and rear. The spectacular orange leather interior...
You knew it was a Gandini at that point? There are not many vehicles of Gandini Automobili left in general. The brand was quite over the top in many aspects. Many say the craziness of Marcello Gandini took the company down in the late 70s.
We could have had no idea what it was if it had not been for a bunch of documents we found inside of the car. My chin fall to the ground. It showed a side from grandfather I did not know at all. Father of course knew, but he told me that grandfather never again wanted it mentioned.
Antonio Savo, Lead desinger of Gandini Automobili. It must have come at quite a surprise indeed. And this particular car should’ve been his masterwork, the car that the world knew him by, isn’t it?
I believe so. It was in any case a huge disappointment to grandfather when Antonio Gandini pried off the Gandini badge almost immediately after the prototype was shown to him.
It is a very futuristic design, certainly when you compare it to other Gandini’s. But the whole mechanical side is probably even more impressive. A full aluminium body, a modern, small 3 litre V8 with mechanical fuel injection, also out of aluminium, like a racing engine.
Grandfather was clearly proud of his design. He wanted Gandini to drop the massive V12 engine after the oil crisis. He wanted a car that was fast, had great road feel, and was economical.
And the result was there. 245 horsepower, transversal engine giving it good balance, only 1120 kg.
On paper it was great. Only, Gandini despite it, wanted it destroyed.
So Antonio Savo, your grandfather, saved this prototype from the crusher?
That he did. He quit his job that faithful day of its unveiling. He quit his job and basically stole the car, driving it all the way to this vineyard.
It drives again now, thank to you. I’ve seen it at Goodwood Festival of Speed. This is what Antonio would like to have seen.
He watches, I can tell... (solemn silence) There was not much to the restoration as such. We took the Luna apart, cleaned and polished all that needed to be, and re- assembled the car.
How does it drive?
I shall be honest here. You can feel the speed, the potential. But the suspension was ever really optimized or tested at speed. I have never really pushed the car, but you can tell it's too soft to go all out.
But it certainly has some go behind it, we have seen it drive. On the straight lines, you dare to push the throttle. We love the deep sound of the mid-mounted V8. It is a pity that Gandini did not dare to take the jump to modern supercars with your grandfather’s design. The choice to stick to existing design and engine probably caused there quick downfall into bankruptcy and closure.
I have lost my grandfather five years ago. Five years ago, my grandfather gave me his love for cars.
love the writing!
2019 Rigore Caelum SG88 Prestige 260 S4 - Modern Market 3
car by @titleguy1
The fourth generation Caelum of the New York based Rigore has been introduced last year at the L.A. Auto show. The Caelum is the sports compact model of Rigore, a brand known for its quality cars aiming at the higher budget spectrum. While we are looking forward to the announced performance MT-R model, we are happy to have received the new current top trim model, the Prestige 260 S4 trim.
Aiming to be a competitor to mainly Japanese and German manufacturers in the compact premium sedan segment. With a sticker price for this particular car at $52,120.47 it certainly does not attempt to undercut the competition on the price front. For that money, you do get a well equipped sport sedan with all extra options, including modern park and driving assists, high quality sound and infotainment systems – we are the fan of the 11.0” screens –, as well as full localized climate control and heated and cooled power seats with power adjustable lumbar support.
Exterior-wise the Caelum is stylish without being immediately remarkable, with its Rigore grille and distinctive headlights being its main recognizable features. The lightweight mostly aluminium sedan is styled cleanly and aesthetically rather than it being an attention-grabbing head-turner. Our car was finished in Blue Jay Metallic paint, with well-fitting 19” Diamond Finish alloy wheels.
Under the bonnet; the very interesting Boxer-4 Rigore engine in use since 2011. Why reports indicate it might become a bit hot at times, reliability appears to be good. The 2.5 liter turbo-charged unit puts out around 260 horsepower, with a tune that clearly focusses on low engine speed cruising and efficiency.
And fuel efficient it is. The Caelum has been tested at 5,4 liter per 100km (43,5 mpg) – although a some more spirited driving, mixed with heavy traffic sections during our testing period resulted in 8,33 l/100km (28,3 mpg). This is still not bad for an all-wheel drive sedan that despite heavy use of aluminium in its construction still weighs in at almost 1,8 metric tons.
Spirited driving is something that this Caelum invites. We even have the idea that the 260 horsepower is an underestimation from Rigore. With an advertised 7,4 seconds to reach 100 km/h and 15,06 seconds for the quarter mile, our test car managed the 5,9 and 14,18 seconds, respectively. Top speed is limited electronically to 240 km/h.
All of this does not mean that the Caelum is at home on the circuit. Driving on twisty B-roads is a joy, and at sensible speeds the 260 S4 has excellent stability and responsiveness. However, push the car too far, and especially on braking the rear might well come round. Testing in controlled environment lead us to conclusion that the rear brakes are to blame here. We can only hope that this does not lead to any court cases.
We have to stress that the Rigore Caelum is a safe car at any sensible speed and circumstance, including repeated emergency braking tests – although we have not tested emergency braking on ice or snow. With modern construction methods and design, 7 airbags – and not even counting passive and active electronic safety systems – it scores very well on government crash tests.
The Caelum Prestige 260 S4 aspires to be a compact and sporty version of larger premium and luxury sedans and we feel it succeeds well. It’s many standard features and excellent engine and road feel justify the high price. The 8-speed gearbox feels comfortable both cruising economically in high gear as well as getting up higher in rev range. The rumble of the boxer engine is enjoyable, even with the high-quality interior damping. We also in particular like the turbo sound, including the blow off, which becomes noticeable over 4000 rpm.
We have enjoyed time with the Caelum. Comfortable cruising, small and nimble in the city, and a job to drive when the road gets twisty. We are not entirely convinced that this trim has a particularly wide audience to appeal to, and perhaps the smaller engined trims or the upcoming true performance variant fit better in their segment. Despite that, we can only conclude this is a great car in its own right.
(+) elegant design
(+) highly comfortable and very good standard equipment
(+) great driving fun
(+) fuel efficient, well-sounding, reliable and responsive engine
(+) great 8-speed gearbox
(-) steep pricing
(-) doesn’t always know whether it wants to be a premium car, a sports compact or a practical family sedan
Final score: 18/20 (if you seek something in this segment, this is your choice; only what is this segment?)
The (highly affluent) Chinese Invasion - Short Articles 2
car by @yangx2
‘Made in China 2025’ aims to reform China from the factory of the world - fast, cheap, doubtful quality mass production - to a fully fledged powerhouse of high-tech and quality products. A new arrival on the high-end luxury market shows there is potential for China to become a true world player on the luxury car market as well.
Guangzhou Honghu Automotive Co. has provided the government’s officials with domestic luxury cars since the 1960’s. Their different generations of the 88888888 have, armoured and modified, provided the official cars of the Chairman of the Party and other top level officials. It has also always been a popular choice for a number of foreign dictators and the rich but rather infamous in the Asian metro-poles.
This newest 88888888 however might very well claim its place among the established brands in the West, with its mixture of excellent styling, a great engine and opulent interior choices. We have to admit that we are a fan of the design language and the philosophy behind it. It is easy to refer to Feng Shui as a Chinese brand and get away with it. It is much more difficult to make non-Asian audiences fully appreciate the harmony and balance the design encompasses.
Honghu refers to the flowing together of the opulence of the North - imposing, opulent, yet elegant features such as the grille, the sleek sides and the chrome - with the ambition and technological prowess of the South. The impressive use of LEDs and the magnificent infotainment options embody the latter perfectly. We are a fan of the new rear lights, which Honghu describes as ‘emulating the silky flow of a waterfall’.
A result of Southern China’s huge technological development as well is the new Honghu engine. It is a 6 liter V12 – an absolute selling point in this class when much of the competition is switching to smaller turbo-charged units. This massive V12 is modernized and turbo-charged as well. Tuned more towards torque than pure power (about 380 HP compared to 750 Nm) it makes the Honghu drive extremely smoothly and silently.
Usually the issue with V12 power units is fuel economy and emissions in light of modern regulations, but with a non-power oriented tune, Honghu manages great. The average fuel economy we measured was 7,2 l/100km (32,7 mpg) and the emission scores are actually on par with the last generation of small turbo-charged three-cylinder city car engines!
We do notice some parts shared with other Honghu and Jinhe models, including the 9-speed gearbox – which sometimes struggles with the same odd sudden downshifts as in the Jinhe Albatross; the large wheels with 21” rims; and much of the base electronics and infotainment. The modern electronics of Honghu and Jinhe are yet unproven when it comes to long time reliability. However, the engine and chassis are built to be literally bullet-proof and there is no doubt that those will last you.
The Chairman’s model contains fully bulletproof glass, ballistic panels in the doors and behind the rear seats, explosives to eject the door in a crash, excess oxygen supplies, and various other survival. Though technically not included on production models, we have been told that custom orders are possible, only the signal jamming systems can be installed for customers. Prices fluctuate from $405,000 to over $1,000,000 for certain custom examples.
Driving the 88888888 is simple and enjoyable. You do not feel the huge weight of the massive car, there is an AI-based crash avoidance system, and manoeuvring in small spaces is made easier with the 360° cameras. However, the real purpose of the 88888888 is to be driven, and there it excels in comfort. The leather interior is finished with rosewood and jade trim with chrome accents in the normal production model. The front passenger seat can be folded flat and the rear seats reclined to create a bed or a lounge seat with view our of the sunroof. A large rear screen contains satellite reception for television and built-in internet access. Live maps and an internet browser are also included into the system.
While the fake peony in the glove box (a standard feature of the top trim Honghus) will confuse Western buyers, the rest of the package will be recognizable and at times surpassing expectations for those familiar with the established luxury brands. Far-reaching customization options ranging from highly expensive diamond or gold interior trim to heavy duty ballistic protection – and a company policy that is certainly more ‘no questions asked’ than your average German competitor – might make the 88888888 the transportation of choice for those with serious disposable income. Honghu might indeed be well on its way to become a standard and household name in luxury transportation, also outside of Asia. The competition has been warned.
1990 Kitsune RA1S Akagi - Retro Review 2
Car by @schultzie
The yen is high and no idea is too weird to try. That is the philosophy our Japanese friends in the car industry have made their own. That philosophy is now trickling down to the smallest and most affordable car class on the Japanese domestic market, the so-called Kei-cars. Government-regulated in terms of size and engine, with a maximum capacity of 660cc and maximum horsepower of 63 HP, these Kei cars are mainly small hatchbacks and utility vehicles. Mainly, but not all.
This Kitsune RA1S Akagi is a full blown sports car within that regulatory framework. During design it was never really intended to be exported outside of Japan, but two years into its life span, here we are. Now for sale in Australia for AUD $9999,99.
Styling and Utility
It’s a rear-wheel-drive, two-seat, front-engined sports car with a fun, turbocharged inline-three at its heart. This show in the both aggressive as well as jolly playful styling. From fake vents under the small doors and a sporty aggressive front fascia, to the rather cute rear lights and folding front pop-ups. We like in particular the lower front fascia of the Akagi, with the large fog lights and the indicators integrated into the only real radiator.
Practicality is doubtful, with a two seats and no real storage space inside of the cabin (it’s difficult enough to get yourself in or out), but at least a small usable trunk. Said trunk is not large enough to fit the two-part hard-top. At least in Australia some certainty about the weather and expected precipitation that day should not pose too much of an issue.
We love the sound and responsiveness of the engine once the turbo spools up, and it does not take long to get there. The 660cc 63 horsepower engine revs up to over 8000 rpm, meaning that in normal driving you easily go up to 5000 rpm - and the sound will entice you to do so often.
The Akagi is in design a sports car, but with the small Kei engine, it still feels home the best in the city and perhaps on calm B-roads. With a top speed just under 150 km/h, this Kitsune isn’t for highway driving. The engine starts to drone quite a bit around 120 km/h and over, although the little engine can manage for sustained periods.
In the long term, small, newfangled and complex, double overhead cam engines might have their share of maintenance issues. Correcting a repairing the inevitable should not set you back too much, although this requires sufficient Kitsune dealers or mechanics with access to spare parts to be in your neighbourhood.
Interior, Comfort, Safety, and Price
The interior of the Kitsune Akagi is straight forward. The fabric is of decent quality and the plastic dashboard has large gauges and houses a decent cassette player and radio. Comfort is not great. You can feel many a bump in the road, but the sense of speed is absolutely great.
The quirky wiper arrangement, attached in the middle and moving upwards towards each other, is certainly novel, but has the tendency to limit visibility in rain. Other passive safety features are in line with the current Japanese boom in technology and include ABS and electric power steering. Both are extremely rare on small cars produced elsewhere. The Akagi also is outfitted with a limited slip differential, ensuring great corner handling.
Small as the car is, you do not want to run into a full size sedan or truck. We would probably not recommend buying the Kitsune Akagi as a main commuter or if you take a highway a lot. As a fun weekend vehicle or for city traffic this is a car we could recommend. It is also fairly affordable, although certainly more expensive than the average small city car at under 10k.
Driving and conclusions
The Akagi is extremely enjoyable to drive at low speeds, with this sense of speed, sitting so low to the road. The cornering is excellent, with almost perfect balance in the corners. Though if you really coax the rear, it will go round. We have driven the Akagi around our test track and this was extremely enjoyable.
On the road, up until around 90 km/h the Akagi is fun yet civil to drive, with a silent engine while cruising, and that spectacular sound that you wouldn’t expect from an engine this small when accelerating.
The only real issue we noticed was a relatively long first gear, which gave us occasional issues starting uphill. Fuel consumption is great as well, with a combined economy of 6,47 l/100km (36,4 mpg), even with the engine being stressed on the highway and uphills.
In conclusion, we are impressed with this little Japanese sports car. The small and mighty come form Japan, and now you can drive them. They would be your first car, and they are an expensive hobby, but oh boy are these Kei roadsters enjoyable. They will fit perfectly your garage, together with anything you might want to put in there that actually takes up space.
2020 Seongwoo Jimin BTS - Modern Market 4
_car by @doofus _
Seongwoo has come a long way since being started in a struggling Korean Republic in 1962. Producing different consumer items, from white goods to sewing machines, and gaining some expertise in engine building with ventures into agricultural and mining equipment, it took until 1980 before the company switched to cars. The Seongwoo Domestis E was a small and basic city car with a small 3-cylinder engine, a start into a tradition of small-engined vehicles
The Jimin BTS - Boxer Turbo Sport - is the newest roadster of Seongwoo, and immediately we were impressed by its playful appearance. At same time, its front looks aggressive enough to express the sporty nature of the car and appeal to the enthousiast. And to appeal to the enthousiast it should, because this little roadster is fun. Seongwoo is probably hoping so as well, because with prices up to $36000 it is not cheap to manufacture or buy.
Part of the high price for the relatively little car you get out of it is due to some intricate engineering. First there is the engine, a small unit as we are used from Seongwoo. The 1154cc four-cylinder boxer engine is twin-turbo charged and has a very retro five valves per cylinder. Secondly, there is the quite complex rear suspension setup, which is reminiscent of a race car pushrod configuration.
The enthousiasm you should feel for the Jimin is linked to the tried and tested roadster formula. Front-engined, rear-wheel-drive, engine revving to almost 9000 rpm, a very throw-able manual gearbox (a well tuned six speed), a meatier engine sound than its size has any right to, and a solid suspension combining road feel and agility.
It’s sporty and it’s quirky, but how is the Seongwoo Jimin BTS as an everyday car? Interior space and luggage room is predictably limited. The sport suspension makes driving around the corners extremely enjoyable, but does cause you too feel many a pothole while cruising. The interior is comfortable with sporty bucket-like seats and equally quirky dashboard and infotainment layout. At first sight this might appear somewhat overwhelming, but we quickly easily found our way around in it.
At high speed, we are reserve judgement over the brakes. We have the feeling that they overheat quite quickly and cause brake performance loss. At legal speeds this should not be an issue. Likewise, handling with the the driving aids inactivated is highly lively, with the rear wanting to brake loose every change you give it - knowingly or not. The ESC works perfectly though and when not disabling it you can really throw this car into the corners without any fear.
The engine of the Jimin is both an automotive jewel as well as a cause for concern. The now rare five valve configuration on a boxer engine gives it a unique sound. With 131 horsepower and 158 Nm of torque it is not the biggest powerhouse, but it sufficient for a small roadster that weighs barely over a ton. The engine is also economical with between 6 and 7 l/100km (34-39 mpg) on average in nearly any circumstance. The downside at this point appears to be rather abysmal reliability.
Despite the doubt about the engine reliability, despite the relatively high price for a small sporty roadster, we remain impressed. Our only other critique would that the rear does not communicate the same sleek aggressive look as the front. The gloss black accents on the body and the rims and of the removable top are exquisite. The fun of revving the engine up to 5k or 6k rpm in normal street traffic and still getting good economy, the responsive turn-in, and the huge sense of speed you get in this small, low car; there is no way to not love driving this when you love cars.
(+) a little roadster with a great character
(+) driving experience
(+) fuel economy
(-) engine reliabilty
(-) harsh ride
(-) product of a small manufacturer and concerns regarding resale value
Final score: 13/20 (extreme fun, but limited daily use, and potential money drain in terms of maintenance)
Compilation of Short Articles 3
A story of over-ambition
car by @Avanzat0
The 1990 Daimyo Futon “T-Top” is the quirkiest coupe you have never heard of. Daimyo is the title that was given to a feudal lord in Shogun Japan. The brand, not that well known outside of Japan, has produced many types of vehicle, but even with sporty coupes the lordly nature its brand name implies shines trough. These cars are impressively engineered. Over-engineered one would say. Looking like step-in Japanese coupes, the Futons (Ermh… which in a rather non-sports-coupe-related way refers to traditional Japanese bedding, and has been taken over by many a European language for sofa beds) contain among other things an engine with double overhead cams with four valves, high quality stereo high-fidelity sound systems, five well-finished (yet cramped) seats, and ABS and power steering - which are exceptional for this class.
Back in 1990 you had the choice between 3 engine trims of this coupe with its distinctive glass roof panels: a 1.5 liter with 95 horsepower; a 1.6 liter with 110; and a 1.8 with 135, the models being designated γ, β, and α. Gamma, Beta, and Alpha. In terms of exterior you can differentiate between the trim by looking at the fog lights of the Alpha and the plastic middle rear section, and smaller steel rims on the Gamma - it is red reflective glass on the Beta and Alpha. The other difference is obviously price. And this is the reason that the Futon never broke through on foreign markets. The Gamma trim was available at $13.700, which was only slightly below the faster, lighter, and rear-wheel driven Miata at the time. Prices between $18.000 and $18.500 for the other two trims were very steep indeed.
The Futon is front-wheel drive, ambitiously equipped, and excellently styled. Extremely drivable and comfortable for a small coupe - as long as you ignored the back seats - it certainly is a good car. But it lacked the fun of rear-wheel driven competitors. It lacked the potential as an entry race car because it was too expensive, too pliant, and lacked the brake setup for extended heavy use. With is distinctive, modern styling, there was certainly a potential audience for this car in Europe and North America, but its breakthrough was hampered by expensive design choices.
Driving a road legal 1990 BTCC car
car by @Centurion_23
Pemhall was a post-war restoration company, attempting to benefit from - and support to - the restoration of the economy in post-war Britain, by offering affordable commuter vehicles. Production remained focussed on commuter cars, but the top trims were increasingly used in racing.
The biggest success story was probably the late 70s Ascot, the model that formed the predecessor of the Pemhall Bratton GXR that we are driving today. The Ascot was available as a basic family car, but with the top engine trips being used extensively in road and rally racing.
With that history in mind, the Bratton was designed as a sports coupe from the onset with Group A and the then newly introduced BTCC regulations in mind. The GRX trim was outfitted with the top engine - a 2 liter naturally aspirated and rev-happy inline four putting out 170 horsepower - and an upgraded interior and radio compared to other trims.
The Bratton is now the second car we had the chance of driving around the mythical Nürburgring. An integral view of the lap can be seen here: link.
The Bratton GRX was one of the early adopters of the all-wheel drive system on sports cars mainly targetted and road performance. And despite its novelty, the system works well. The Bratton is stable around the corners, with a slight tendency to understeer. We found that when pushed over the limit, you are more likely to end up in a still controllable four wheel drift than losing controlled entirely. It actually made seeking out the limits too enjoyable to be safe.
When really pushed, especially on hard high speed braking, the Bratton will give up on you, but even at high speeds this is a very enjoyable sports car in sensible hands. 170 horsepower is low to modern standards, but this sleek coupe only weighs 1150 kg, and we can assure you that the sense of speed is enjoyable indeed.
Grandpa is on Steriods
car by @vouge
Launched in early 2000, the second generation of the Albany Atlas was one of those SUVs that sat between the initial interest of consumers in the bigger off-road vehicles as daily drivers, and the more finished SUV product that truly sought to combine the advantages of off-roaders and road-going sedans.
Lessons learned from the first generation Atlas, a true off-roader, that became popular for daily use thanks to quality interior and ample cargo space, but suffered from bad road handling, high fuel consumption and a clunky 4x4 system; the second generation focussed fully on the interior and the utility. It dropped the 4x4 for simple rear-wheel drive, cancelling out much of the all-weather and all-terrain capabilities, but making the platform more accessible as a daily driver.
Although popular at launch, numbers sold fell back after 2002 due to competitors better balancing the advantages and disadvantages of the SUV. Albany kept the second generation Atlas in production until 2005, when it also launched this particular SST trim. Only 1000 SST Atlasses were produced. The SST was fitted with a V8 5004cc engine straight from a performance car. With 340 horsepower, the outdated 2005 Albany Atlas SST was suddenly one of the fastest SUVs ever made at the time.
Fastest in a straight line, that is. With slightly over 6 seconds to get up to 100 km/h and a top speed of 240 km/h this was one fast two ton truck. In the corners however, the rear-wheel drive and the traction controlled system that was never really programmed for this power output suffered.
Driving the SST ourselves - thank you to the reader you contacted us and allowed us to take it on a spin - on public roads knowing you have extra power is enjoyable, but apart from that you do not really notice. We think there is not so much difference between this and the standard 3.5 V6 or 4.5 V8 engine choices. Our biggest critique would be that the six-speed automatic gearbox is tuned a bit too short and sporty, increasing fuel consumption at highway cruising speeds (to about 14 l/100km - 17 mpg).
You do not really noticed the lack of all-wheel drive on normal road surfaces and normal speeds, and we can comprehend the choice that Albany made in its development. The SST was probably a smart move to gather attention for a frame that was overproduced compared to its demand at that time. It made sure you remember a model that would otherwise have easily been forgotten.
Really nice writing! Keep up the great work!
Thanks, I had less time that I wanted the last week and a bit. I’ve got four cars for larger articles lined up now though.
2002 Rocco Ruffian LT 4WD 3.5L - Retro Review 3
Car by @micz233
We are a fan of how the new Ruffian by Rocco Industries looks. This is very good looking for a first venture of a brand into this market. And with larger utility vehicles becoming more and more popular as family vehicles, it might just prove to be a good move by Rocco.
Rocco Industries used to be big on the utility market until the 80s recession caused a downscale of their production. Mainly know for heavy duty material, they are a new player on the offroad and family SUV market. A bold move from the company that is still in bad papers after a massive pullout of investors in 1999. Join The Exhaust Note to see if the Ruffian might just prove to be Rocco’s saving grace.
Styling and Utility
The Ruffian looks modern and even playful while at the same time rugged and reliable with those round lights and the interplay of metal and heavy duty plastics. Rocco really nailed the balanced between innovative and recognizable design with this offroader.
In terms of utility, the Ruffian we drove has 6 comfortable seats in three rows. This does take away some of the cargo space. We feel that in this market segment, the extra seating is of added value. That rear row can be removed, though not folded down, relatively easily. This easily doubles the cargo space available.
The Ruffian is not designed as a true-bred offroader, but it remains capable on all surfaces. This adds to its utility as a family car in cold, snowy areas; or where dirt tracks are common.
The 175 horsepower 3.5 liter V6 is not the most modern engine unit on the market, but it gives the Ruffian more power than the 2.2 four cylinder base model engine. As with most larger displacement V6 engines, it rumbles quite a bit. We didn’t find it too loud, and appreciated its responsiveness however.
The automatic gearbox works well, but the short gears can be a nuisance in daily traffic. On the highway and in general out-of-city cruising the Ruffian runs quite high in the revs. This has its impact on the engine noise and on fuel consumption.
Interior, Comfort, Safety, and Price
Safety is another reason why many families, despite living in the suburbs or even city centres, are buying utility vehicles more and more often. The well styled Ruffian will most likely appeal to this crowd, if they get around the relatively high fuel consumption (11.3 l/100km - 20.9 mpg mixed).
Comfort is decent for a vehicle in this class. The seats and interior quality are decent without being luxurious. The seats give sufficient support on long drives - where the only downside is road and engine noise.
Price is certainly a selling point for the Ruffian, with the base model starting as low as $12.300. It is quite amazing how Rocco Industries managed to keep production and development costs so low for what is in our views a quality vehicle.
Driving and conclusions
We took the Rocco Ruffian out on a very demanding offroad course, and it performed admirably for an offroader without proper 4x4 and manual lockers. The Ruffian has permanent all-wheel drive, yes. But it cannot lock the front or rear axle, and the limited slip differential is of the rather basic viscous type, which will need to be replaced after about 75000 km.
In everyday traffic the Ruffian is surprisingly mundane and comfortable, although as mentioned earlier, the gearbox does not appreciate highway cruising all that much. Our test drive that featured more than its share of it ended up with a fuel consumption of near 16.3 l/100 km (14.4 mpg), which we rank as very high.
The Ruffian has its downsides, mainly in terms of fuel economy, but with its cheap price, alluring looks and high reliability, this might be your car of choice, if you want an all-wheel driven vehicle and the fuel prices near you aren’t too high.
2020 Legore Bisango Bi-Turbo Twelve - Modern Market 5
car by @Mythrin
Legore puts the bar very high for themselves when they claim their new Bisango trim is "built with the intention of being the most opulent SUV in the world”. We had the opportunity drive one of the press cars close to the final product of this aggressive big SUV.
The Bisango Bi-Turbo Twelve is powered by a six liter twin-turbo charged V12 putting out a massive 720 horsepower and a road-churning 1300Nm of torque. Set low on its massive 23 inch wheels (285 front and 325 rear), and with only 4 proper places, this is a luxury-sports car in an SUV package. Utility and offroad capabilities rank low on Legore’s priority list.
Legore is an Italian brand that has always focused on luxury and performance. Born from the legendary Scagliati brand, a rogue offshoot as it were, its commercial history has been rickety, with only the last decade turning Legore into a serious player on the market under the ownership of Ceder Automotive Groupe, who also entered into a joint venture with the Apollo Motor Company, the engine developer of, among others, the Legore engines.
The Bisango was first introduced in 2017 with two 4.0 liter V8 engine options, a twin-turbo charged petrol engine, and a turbo-diesel variant. 2020 is seeing the introduction of this V12 option. The turbo-diesel variant - which was very popular on the European market, and which the Exhaust Note also drove - is currently being faded out and will be replaced by a new 3.0 V6 hybrid power plant.
The question that Legore itself obviously invites: is this the most opulent SUV in the world? Our testing can confirm that the Bisango Bi-Turbo Twelve is certainly luxurious. Our Bahia Green test car featured all top trim options. The four seats are bathed in luxury, with rear privacy glass, extreme quality seating, ample leg room and high level infotainment, with personalization possible per seat.
The interior is leather (Punalu Black with Cirrus Grey highlights and double stitching in our case), has a ‘twelve’ signature embroidered on the seats, features deep pile lambswool carpets - slightly too fluffy for our tastes - and has dark stained burr walnut inserts along the dash and doors. The inserts in particular create a nice contrast between old world luxury, and the hyper modern infotainment screens along the dash, in the back of the front seats and on the front and rear center consoles.
If there is any critique from our side, it is that the seats can be quite a tight fit. Comfortable, but shaped somewhat like a racing seat to keep you in place under heavy cornering. And with that we come to the issues we at The Exhaust Note find that this new behemoth Bisango has.
This Bi-Turbo Twelve has massive amounts of power, will accelerate the 2.5 ton (despite all aluminium construction) SUV to 100km in well under 3.5 seconds to a top speed of around 315 km/h (unlimited on the special Pirelli compound tyres), but it is not a sports car. The suspension set up is quite loose, favouring dampening road feel over handling. The brakes are remarkable in normal traffic, but overheat and dangerously lose effectiveness when put on the track.
As mentioned before, we also drove a 2019 V8 turbo-diesel Bisango, and while certainly less powerful and slower (430 HP, 892Nm - under 5 seconds 0-100 and a top speed of 265 km/h) with less aggressive 22 inch 275mm wheels all around, this trim offers much of the same opulence on the inside. The price of this 2019 Bisango: $250.000. Price of the new Bi-Turbo Twelve: $480.000. That is double the price for far less than double the car.
Sure, the ride in the Bi-Turbo Twelve is extremely smooth - you don’t hear the engine or the 9-speed gearbox unless you put your foot down properly. In the V8TD you notice you are driving a diesel (although in higher revs and with the turbo engaging, we are actually a fan of the sound). Sure the interior contains more hand-made components and an updated infotainment system. Sure the tyres are specially made and the drivetrain now contains a limited slip differential. But those changes are still quite minimal to warrant the huge price increase.
As mentioned earlier, the Bi-Turbo Twelve adds in terms of drivability and luxury, but despite those special tyres and that LSD, we had the feeling the Turbo-Diesel actually was more fun in the corners and on braking. Weighing almost half a ton lighter helps here, we presume. The Bisango is a fantastic top level SUV, and we are looking forward to the Hybrid version coming out next year. The Bi-Turbo Twelve on the other hand, looks to be more a prestige buy rather than a sensible buy. But then again, this might be the point with Italian luxury brands.
(+) beautiful on the outside, beautiful on the inside
(+) smooth and silent cruising
(+) extreme luxury and comfort
(+) top level infotainment
(-) tight squeeze in the seats if you aren’t 100% fit
(-) implies sportiness but fails to deliver
(-) money for value compared to other Bisango trims
Final score: 15/20 (opulent, but also a bit of a try-hard - not the prefect well-rounded package)
Excellent! I think you hit it on the head, the Bisango is more of a continent cruising limosine wearing an SUV suit rather than the super SUV that it appears to be.
1912 Zephorus 2000 - The strange, the odd, and the remarkable 3
cars by @Sky-High
"No need for the hand crank. It has an electric starter."
We at The Exhaust Note are not that familiar with pre-war vehicles, but if we were certain about one thing, it would be the stereotypical cranking the engine to start it. But nothing is at it seems in this 1912 Zephorus 2000; probably the first car produced by the somewhat elusive design house.
As a result, we actually do not know that much about this particular vehicle. We do know it has one of the first electric starter mechanisms for a car. There is a crank just in case, but you start the Zephorus by putting your key into the ignition lock, turning the ignition lever, manually priming the fuel pump, opening the throttle (more on that later), and finally pressing the true ignition button.
"Yes, two pedals. No, it's not an automatic. It's the brake and your clutch."
Suffice to say driving without a gas pedal is a quite an alien experience. It’s not that you cannot regulate the throttle. There is a switch on the dashboard next to the ignition that has 4 settings, basically: off, some, more, and full throttle. You should start in “more” or with full throttle in first gear not to stall, and then can cruise in low, more or full in second - being also your top - gear.
It’s difficult to wrap your head around at first, but you get used to it. We don’t actually know the specifics of this particular vehicle, but we guess the engine has a power output of about 35 horsepower. The sense of speed is enormous, but the Zephorus 2000 cannot really go much faster than 80 km/h (50mph). So in reality, the unusual throttle control does not make it that difficult to drive safely. Well, sensibly, rather. Let’s not talk abut safety when you are sitting on a rickety, smoking 105 plus year old machine without seat belts and with sponges for brakes.
"Feels like a Great War fighter plane, doesn't it? You can see why he loved it."
The “he” is Lieutenant Jan Olieslagers, one of the Belgian Great War Flying Aces, and general dare devil and speed maniac and lover of cars. He and his brother Jules were the last known owners of this car. He is said to have bought it in 1921 after being retired from the army. Remaining involved with mechanics and flying, he died during the Second World War a national hero. His Zephorus 2000 then ended up in the hands of the Belgian State.
Now restored and shared between the War Museum and the Autoworld, it is a part of history. But its early years are unclear. We know the Zephorus was not cheap when new, with hand made light-weighed panels and hand made interior; an exciting engine and new-fangled accesories such as the electric starter, it was a luxury tourer, costing probably one to two average year incomes.
"It's a bit of a star in the collection. It sees more action that most of the pieces."
Driving the Zephorus was a truly unique and sometimes scary experience. This is not the only dark red 2000 out there. A number of surviving examples from 1912 to 1914 are in the hands of private collectors, all in the Zephorus dark red, because that was the only option. This is the only model currently in public ownership and exhibited for public viewing. This makes it all the more remarkable that this vehicle is still in working order. Olieslagers himself is claimed to have praised the reliability of the Zephorus - rare for hand-made low volume old cars - compared to his other, newer vehicles at multiple occasions.
The museum staff is proud of this old gem in perfect working order. Sure it’s not fully original with its engine completely restored, the tires changed, and the rear seats replaced by replicas. But this also means it sees more activity than the average exhibit. The Zephorus has featured in historical movie shoots, in Great War re-enactment and remembrance events, and even in a historical rally or two. Keep an eye out for it, should you visit Brussels or Flanders Fields. The poppies might not be the only red thing that catches your eyes.
1963 Alfrezza Potenza GT - Cars in History 4
car by @BF94387
A Sicilian design studio, BF9 Design, was responsible for the 1963 Potenza GT by Alfrezza. It is not a well known car but it oozes that raw sixties Italian flair. It’s big double headlights and the floating thin-pillared roof are the most eye-catching. Produced in limited numbers for only two years, we at The Exhaust Note are grateful to be able to drive the car and give your our impressions.
Created in 1932 - with a hiatus during the war - Alfrezza produced in small quantities a number of rather unremarkable but quintessentially Italian light sports cars. The Potenza and the coorperation with BF9 Design house was its throw at the bigger stage. Introduced on the 1963 Paris autoshow, it received positively for its styling, but with the aim of breaking through in the grand tourer market it fell short of the expectations. Production was cancelled less than two years later.
Technically, the car was not really ready for production. Notoriously hard to drive and uncomfortable for a grand tourer, its troubles started with an unreliable, loud and heavily vibrating 3.2 liter V6. Large for a European sports car at the time, it produced 200 horsepower, making Potenza at least living up to its name in terms of the figures. Weighing in at just over one ton, it was fast in a straight line. Nobody knows exactly how fast though, because over 180 km/h it becomes highly unstable.
The Italian quirkiness does not stop with the engine. From its 180mm wide special made wheels, to its headrests in the rear, which are part of the design but not actually attached to any usable rear seat, the Potenza is a classic car that looks rushed. It did result in a bit of a cult of appreciation for surviving examples.
We went to Italy to get the opportunity to drive the Potenza on home territory, on windy mountain roads. And we can confide in you that we started our drive terrified, having read up on comments of its oversteer, its lock ups on braking - especially of the rear wheels, its unstability. But by the time we exited the city and were on the open mountain roads, we had grown understanding of the cult following of the Alfrezza Potenza GT.
It is, in fact, a tourer. It might lack the size and comfort of a typical one, but the drive should be experienced as such. Going into high rev ranges and taking turns sportively, not anticipating braking sufficiently ahead, you could feel where the negative comment come from. But driving the GT sedately, the engine is neither loud nor rickety; it rumbles softly between 2 and 3 thousand rpm while you go to through the manual 4-speed. Driving with anticipation, the handling is neither unpredictable nor dangerous, but the Potenza glides along the road.
This is not a sports car. This is a Sunday lazy drive tourer. What you lack in comfort, you gain in experience as the engine rumbles lazily but with some kind of old airplane character. It is to be driven as it is to be admired for its styling; somewhat detached, as if you were glancing though a book on Italian car design, with a cigar and scotch in hand. Nothing ought to be rushed, nothing too intensely experienced, just the slow meaty rumble of the engine in the background and your slow determined movements preparing for the next upcoming corner.
Beautifully written! Thanks for taking to time to appreciate the Potenza