Cape Town - Audi builds a crossover coupe, new F-Type is turbocharged and the Silverstone 6-hour is the race of the 2017 thus far... here are some great motoring stories you might have missed over the long weekend in April.
E-Tron evolves along coupe lines
It might not be a great place to drive, or park – or breathe, for that matter – but China ties, with the US, as the world’s most important automotive market.
Demand is so great from the People’s Republic, that the tastes and requirements of first-time car buyers in China, dictate global trends. With the Shanghai auto show due to open its doors this coming Friday, expect many teasers and ‘accidental’ reveals to happen online in the coming week.
The first of these, of any relevance, is from Audi. A brand which has admitted that its conservative future-casting sees a market where every second Audi sold will be an SUV or crossover soon.
China, with its love of the sedan might be a counter to global SUV saturation - Audi even manufactures special long-wheel base derivatives of its A6 for the Chinese market only – but the Germans aren’t taking any chances.
Their marquee debut for Shanghai 2017 will be yet another E-Tron concept, this time one which showcases a blend of aesthetic merits and proportions between SUV and crossover coupe. The sloping roofline and four-doors are characteristic of the SUV niche established first by BMW, with X6, and very profitably copied by Mercedes-Benz with its GLE Coupe.
A collection of teaser images only show elements of the car but expect radically evolved lighting technology, unparalleled cabin infotainment for both front and rear passengers, and driver assistance systems that border on the obsessively autonomous.
Drivetrain? It will be battery powered and all-electric. Audi’s previous E-Tron concept boasted a tri-motor system capable of 370kW, enabling 0-100km/h in 4.6 sec and 500km of all-electric range, effectively matching most internal-combustion, turbocharged rivals.
New F-Type more 'Kitten than Cat'?
Although its F-Pace is currently garnering all the attention, the car most symbolic - and crucial – to Jaguar’s resurgence has been F-Type.
The contemporary E-Type (Jaguar dislikes the comparison, but it’s so glaringly obvious), represents the brand at its purest: as a two-seater sportscar; which you will soon have the option of ordering with only four-cylinders. Yes, a four-cylinder Jaguar coupe. Crisis.
Traditionalists and cubic-capacity conservatives will revile the notion of a 2-litre turbocharged F-Type, but at least Jaguar has done some decent engineering to ensure that beyond the prejudice, there is real performance on offer.
Powering the first turbocharged F-Type is an evolution of JLR’s Ingenium engine family, the F-Type 2-litre being good for 220kW and 400Nm, and surprisingly: it’s quicker than a comparable V6.
Numbers aren’t shy at all: 0-100kph in 5.4 sec (three tenths faster than the V6) and with a mass saving of 52kg, expect it to decelerate and turn into corners with greater agility too. F-Types are renowned for their sound, and Jaguar has vowed that many engineering hours were spend to ensure the turbocharged F-Type is as dramatic as one can make a four-cylinder to be.
The video clip below will allow you to be the judge of that:
Silverstone will host the best GP of 2017
There are few truly great circuits left on the F1 calendar, primarily Spa-Francorchamps and Suzuka.
Silverstone too. Judging from the chaos that reigned at this weekend’s World Endurance Championship 6-hour race, Silverstone has all the elements to make the new, exceptionally quick, F1 cars into a spectacle.
It’s classic configuration, high speed corners and bumpy surface essentially revealed three absolute truisms during the Endurance race.
The first was that Toyota racing cars are as indestructible as their bakkies. Although Toyota’s no.8 TS050 won the race in the final quarter of an hour, after more than five and a half hours of racing, besting Porsche’s 919, it was the team’s no.7 car finishing in 23rd pace which was truly remarkable.
Why? Well, it went straight off into the barrier at Copse corner, an exceptionally fast part of the circuit with transit speeds way beyond 200km/h. Despite impacting the barrier head-on, the TS050 simply bounced-off, limped to the pits, was repaired – and finished. Toyota reliability, it’s a thing.
But there was more greatness to behold at Silverstone. Such as Ford’s problematic no.67 GT, which eventually won it class, despite having its starboard door involuntarily open each time a driver kerbed it, to seek that cornering advantage.
During the last five minutes of the race, the Ford kept wanting to wave at trackside fans, enthusiastically opening its door – and unbalancing the GT through corners – but not sufficiently so to deny Ford victory.
The third great moment from this weekend’s Silverstone racing? The LMP2 class victory by an Oreca. Now, Orecas have won races before and are an established manufacturer, but the one which won, is campaigned by Jackie Chan racing.
No, it was not driven by the great man of martial arts action comedy himself, but he’s a backer of the team – and truly, they must the people’s favourite of 2017 as a result.
All told, a magnificent event. Silverstone, yet again, showing that it remains one of the true motorsport monuments, hosting events where the action on circuit is which thrills – not the petulance of administrators off it. We trust F1 will put on quite a show there too, in July.