Opel is Back, Alive and Strong

From Outer Space: Monza.

Monza.

From Outer Space

The German car manufacturer Opel has had many a bitter pill to swallow. Will America reduce it to the max? Would America mistakingly invest in the wrong industry? Ultimately, America has not lost belief in the very traditional OEM. And no, it is  not all about China. Opel can herald its best car portfolio of all times.

To support this notion of an OEM worth surviving, Opel is back with an impressive motorsports programme which is cost efficient. Motorsports Commercial Director Jörg Schrott can look back on a successful 2013. Among other things, Opel has managed to win a very potent partner, namely the German ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobilclub, e.V.). The motoring association is supporting the Opel Rally Cup.

Fast and futuristic: Opel Monza Concept Car. (Opel/©roe).

Fast and futuristic: Opel Monza Concept. (Opel/©roe).

And, most notably, during Essen Motor Show a new Concept Car was presented to the public: the so-called Opel Monza Concept. “The Opel Monza Concept breaks the conventions of automobile design, particularly in the interior,” says Opel CEO Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann. “With trailblazing LED projection technology, we create a completely new infotainment world with a unique sense of space. This comes with connectivity possibilities between drivers and their family, friends and acquaintances, and even with the entire internet community. Aspects that have been unimaginable to date.”

Susanne Roeder

©roe

 

 

 

Aston Martin VANQUISHes Stuttgart

The new flagship model, the ultimate GT Aston Martin Vanquish.

Black Beauty: The V12 Vantage Roadster.

(Ad)Vantage for Stuttgart: Schwabe Dr. Ulrich Bez

He has seen it all and done it all. At the age of 70 Dr. Ulrich Bez does not have to prove anything to anyone any more. However, he has written a monumental book: Making Aston Martin.

Aston Martin CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez holding the opening speech for the new Aston Martin Dealer in Filderstadt (Stuttgart).

Aston Martin CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez holding the opening speech for the new Aston Martin Showroom in Filderstadt (Stuttgart).

And it is without a shadow of a doubt that the brand owes its success almost exclusively to this passionate car guy. The engineer who started his automobile career with BMW, nowadays lives Aston Martin. Without exaggeration one can say that Bez is the brand. And it is with utmost conviction that Bez says: “Aston Martin is the coolest brand ever.”

"Coolest brand" (U. Bez).

“Coolest brand” (U. Bez).

A heck of a lot could be and has been said and written about this specific man. To reflect things from his point of view Ulrich Bez has had the book “Making Aston Martin” published with teNeues. We will therefore refrain from inventing yet new expressions to describe this giant of the car making industry. Let us use the words of Paolo Tumminelli, professor at the International School of Design in Cologne and director of the Goodbrands Institute for Automotive Culture, who adequately sums up Bez’s main characteristics by calling him “a car manufacturer, one of the last of a dying breed.”

So for Dr. B’s 70th birthday here is a little serenade to one of the last of his kind:

We met up with him during the opening of the new showroom on the outskirts of Stuttgart, where among other things he proved to be a gifted DJ. Whether or not he would like the following film we are not so certain, because it would be a pity to use an Aston Martin for this kind of sporty exercise. But one never knows what strange ideas some nouveaux riches might have. As for us, we prefer the below type of car for this somewhat offbeat but absolutely stunning stunt.

Yet, let it be said: the Aston in the film “Johnny English” is unforgettable.

Susanne Roeder

©roe

see also: http://globaliter.de/constructed-with-love/

Happy Birthday to You, quattro!

happy_birthday_candles

On Many More Outstanding Jubilees to Come!

“30 years quattro GmbH – Pure adrenaline” can be seen as exhibition in the Audi Forum in Neckarsulm, Baden-Württemberg, till 4th January 2014 (free admission, Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6pm, Saturdays from 8 am to 5pm). On account of this jubilee Audi is showing some unique Audi quattro cars, accessories through the ages, Customer Racing and, not least of all, some of the people who have shaped 30 years of incessant success, growth and passion.

Beary sportsman from the current quattro accessories selection.

Beary sportsman from the current quattro accessories selection.

In 1983 the name “quattro” was entered in the trade register in order to protect the name from being copied by other carmakers. The positioning of the new brand was quite a challenge, remember those who were involved with the project in its early days. From 1983 to 1994 quattro GmbH sold nothing but accessories – from keyrings, perfume, glasses, caps, little cars for children and other toys, to watches and leather merchandise like briefcases and wallets. Maria Leichtfuß, assistant to the first director of quattro GmbH, Dr. Jens Neumann recalls the early days of the high-end section of Audi engineering: “We felt like pioneers embarking on an adventure of passion. It was a great pleasure for us to inspire the accessories with the spirit of quattro. These simple seven letters infused Audi with something unique, something very special, the delight of power, empathy, and success. This spirit has persevered for more than 30 years – and it will last – since it  is implanted in the hearts of true Audi customers. quattro, this is more than just a word – it is a passion!”

7 = 7, passion = quattro

Audi debuts with its first individualised car.

Audi debuts with its first individualised car.

The year 1995 marked a decisive turning point in the history of the quattro brand: It is the year in which the first individualised Audi, an Audi A8 was presented during IAA in Frankfurt. 1995 was also the IAA where the Audi TT Coupé was presented as concept car, which as opposed to its predecessors quattro Spyder (1991) and Avus quattro came very close to series production. Designer Freeman Thomas had enjoyed great freedom, which resulted in a concept car from which the series production differed only in details. In 1998 the first Audi TT were delivered. Soon after, quattro had become a fully-fledged carmaker with a particularly sporty edge in the highend segment.

Audi TT concept car. Built only once, in search of yet higher performance.

Audi TT concept car. Built only once, in search of yet higher performance.

As of 1996, quattro GmbH was also vehicle manufacturer with their own chassis number for their vehicles. Werner Frowein is another name inextricably linked with the rise of quattro GmbH. Under his leadership from 1998 and ended only by his retirement in 2012 and Franciscus van Meel as his successor, the Audi RS 4 and RS 6 plus the high-performance models Q7 V12 TDI, RS 5, TT RS and RS 3 emerged and of course the super sports car R8.
Audi motorsports: The quattroworld at a glance. "Successful motorsport is part of our brand DNA," Wolfgang Dürheimer, former Member of the Management Board for Technical Development.

Audi motorsports: The quattroworld at a glance. “Successful motorsport is part of our brand DNA.” (Wolfgang Dürheimer, former Member of the Management Board for Technical Development)

The development of the rather exclusive quattro GmbH is breathtaking indeed – from accessories to handmade Audi quattro cars and, as top of the line, Customer Racing, the commitment to motorsports. Customer Racing started in 2009, and just four years later one hundred racing cars based on the Audi R8 have already been handed over to their proud owners.

In spite of having to jet all over the world, to a large extent living from a suitcase, Romolo Liebchen, Head of Customer Racing, considers his job as very rewarding. Liebchen who has been with Audi since 1989, took over the project management for the R8 LMS customer sport, the racing version of the Audi R8, back in 2008: “This has been the best decision in my life”, he says beaming all over his face.

Invented for passionate wo/men: Audi Customer Racing.

Invented for passionate wo/men: Audi Customer Racing.

quattro’s road to success as a very distinct brand full of passion has reached yet another climax in the 30 year jubilee: For the first time in its history more 200,000 quattro cars will have been built this year. This corresponds to an increase of sales by 30 per cent, comparedt to 160,000 cars sold last year. As site manager Fred Schulze proudly points out: “It is here in Neckarsulm that we develop all quattro models for our clients all over the world.”

13,000 hp can be marvelled at on three floors. Due to the tremendously gripping topic,  for the first time this special exhibition takes place on all three levels of the Audi Forum. One fabulous exhibit chases another, including precious pieces from private collectors. The exhibition conveys what the quattro GmbH has been known for since its foundation: high performance, exclusivity and hightech.

Gimme 5 Cylinders, Please!

Let’s therefore talk a bit more about cars now, as the history of this brand is just amazing. There is for instance the yellow “TT”, which only at first sight qualifies as a TT. Looked at more closely it becomes obvious that for a TT the car is too long. As a matter of fact the car is a hybrid in that it is the percursor of the Audi TT RS. The engineers were were racking their brains how to get more performance into the car. This meant working on how to fit six cylinders into this car rather than the hitherto four. Eventually, they took the A4 platform, a longitudinal platform which provided the adequate aggregates for the performance aimed for, and put the lid on the chassis, i.e. the typical TT top hat. The car in this configuration was only built once. Along with a number of other rare exhibits it can be seen in Neckarsulm till 4th January 2014. Soon after the engineers had the clever idea of reviving the 5-cylinder which fitted nicely into the TT platform. A perfect win:win situation, because not only did it allow them to adhere to the original TT platform, but most notably more performance was reached.

"Ur-quattro", the origin of the gripping quattro success story, owned by an Audi quattro enthusiast.

“Ur-quattro”, the origin of the gripping quattro success story, owned by an Audi quattro enthusiast. Below see some photos of this car in action.

Besides this unique piece there are many more delicious examples of engineering and craftsmanship to be seen. Take for instance the red “ur-quattro”, ancestor to what instigated a “quattro-mania”. For the purpose of the exhibition Audi borrowed this car from an absolute quattro and racing aficionado, whose entire collection of quattro cars wears Walter Röhrl’s signature on their bonnets. Or fancy owning a totally individualised Audi 100

A private collector's car. In immaculate condition and fully individualised: Audi 100 long version.

A private collector’s car. In immaculate condition and fully individualised: Audi 100 long version.

long version with specific leather all around, even the rooflining is clad in matching leather in ribs look. Both cars are in perfect nick and look as if they had just left the painting plant.

On the ground floor what immediately attracts one’s attention in the back are the two representatives of Customer Racing. The racing trim of the first polished to bring out its best shine, the other left in its original state after having completed a demanding race. It is in the eye of each individual beholder which car (s)he prefers.

Two versions of Customer Racing cars.

Two versions of Customer Racing cars.

It was … yes, of course, Ferdinand Piëch who introduced the 5-cylinder petrol engine to Audi, to the Audi 100 back in 1976. The engine proved so successful that the car manufacturer has kept it in its portfolio. Franciscus van Meel, too, is enthusiastic about the five-cylinder in-line turbo with its indistinguishable, particularly sonorous and earthy sound. In fact, van Meel could not resist announcing the new five-cylinder turbo in the Audi RS 3.

quattro Today

quattro means gripping hightech, which is symbolised by the technical quattro lizard that has a lot of grip on whichever surface.

quattro means gripping hightech, which is symbolised by the technical quattro lizard having a lot of grip on whichever surface.

“With eight RS-models and the Audi R8 we currently offer the largest range of models in the history of the quattro GmbH,” says Franciscus van Meel, Managing Director of quattro GmbH. And he is extremely proud to announce that to date more than 90,000 cars have left the manufacturing plant. In the meantime, 850 highly motivated quattro employees make sure that these top of the  line cars can be built.

Audi is benchmark in China.

Luck in Chinese. Audi is benchmark in China.

No end to growth is in sight. And like everybody else in the car manufacturing business, quattro GmbH is set to sell increasingly more cars in China. This is part of the plan for increasing internationalisation. As Fred Schulze points out: “We are by far the most successful premium car provider in China and will retain this position. In the course of the year we have surpassed the two-million mark. The first million sold cars took us 22 years, for the second million we will have taken three years. We were the first OEM in China. And our A6 is the most successful premium sedan in this country.” From these words one may deduce that Audi is not afraid of being overtaken by Mercedes-Benz that have announced a model-offensive in Asia.

One car that really is thrilling, as it looks unsuspiciously unobtrusive, is the RS 6 Avant. A wolf in sheep’s clothing… A perfect one-in-all that answers almost any need – except that of a cabriolet driver. Here is a little film encapsulating the spirit of quattro:

In an altogether different vein Ingolstadt, too, is commemorating 30 years, focussing exclusively on quattro motorsports. This exhibition according to Thomas Frank, Head of Audi Tradition, is a unique display of 30 years of motorsports and should not be expected to be seen in the same constellation for a long time. “Home of quattro” – meaning motorsports, not the place of production, as this is Neckarsulm/Heilbronn – can be seen in the Audi museum mobile in Ingolstadt from 15th October to 30th November, daily from 9 am to 6pm. Admission is free.

The Sport quattro S1 made its debut in 1985 during the Rally Marlboro in Argentina.

The Sport quattro S1 made its debut in 1985 during the Rally Marlboro in Argentina.

Some of us will still remember the breathtaking venture when the brand with the four rings set out to do the impossible and climb a ski jump. As early as 1986, they had rally driver Harald Demuth do the stunt. Watching the later version of this adventure, it looks almost an easy test of courage, which is no doubt why Audi subtitled: Copying not recommended!

But how better demonstrate how gripping in a double sense quattro can be …

As Years Go By …

Customers ask for increasingly more individualisation in their cars. quattro GmbH wants to meet these demands. Xmas Wish edThey therefore have imposed themselves an ambitious target: By 2020 they want to be the best premium car supplier. And who knows – after visiting one or both exhibitions in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria and seeing that Christmas is approaching fast, some of us may well feel inspired to have a word with Father Christmas and urge him to make a childhood wish come true:

Susanne Roeder

©roe

PS: And as can be seen from these photos, the “Ur-quattro” does not simply sit around lazily in a garage, but enjoys lots of rides right across Europe, as for instance in Zillertal (Austria) or Hamburg. Mind you, the owner is naturally so besotted with his car that he does not dream of driving from Bavaria right to Hamburg, but has the car take a ride on the train.

Meeting his mates in Zillertal.

Meeting his mates in Zillertal.

What is snow to a quattro? But a laugh.

What is snow to a quattro? But a laugh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The owner of the Ur-quattro is a genuine "Quattronista" !

The owner of the Ur-quattro is a genuine “Quattronista” !

quattro take you down to their place by the river... Hamburg, here we are.

quattro take you down to their place by the river… Hamburg, here we are.

We can climb the highest mountains ... easy peasy!

We can climb the highest mountains … easy peasy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sa Parlare Italiano? – Si, Certo!

Audi-Logo: Neues Corporate Design /Das neue Audi Markenlogo: Die Vier Ringe werden um den Markenkern "Vorsprung durch Technik" erweitert.Sapere AUDI-re

Ingolstadt, Neckarsulm and the Italian way of life

Amazing things are happening in and around Ingolstadt.lamborghini-logo Imagine driving right into the centre of Munich into the Postpalast for the eve of the Audi annual press conference – what should first catch one’s attention? A Lamborghini! Beside it was a Ducati, the famous motorcycle brand that Audi acquired in 2012; much to the dismay of AMG. In November 2010 this highend modifier of Mercedes-Benz vehicles signed a contract for intensive marketingducati_logo cooperation with the motorcycle manufacturer and itself had encouraged Daimler to purchase the brand. Apart from Ferdinand Piëch being a fervent fan of these motor cycles, on a more rational basis Audi wants to oust BMW not only from its throne as premium car manufacturer but also compete with the Bavarians on two fast wheels. Besides, with the acquisition of Ducati Audi is continuing a great past. Back in the 1950ies, the NSU Motorenwerke AG, or simply NSU, in Neckarsulm used to be the world’s biggest producer of motor bikes. The factory resumed car production in 1957 with the NSU Prinz and engineered such technologically advanced, if commercially unsuccessful cars, as the NSU Ro 80 in the 1960ies. In 1969 VW bought the whole company and Neckarsulm briefly became the headquarters for Audi. Nowadays Neckarsulm coexists with Ingolstadt as German production sites for the premium cars with their increasingly Italian flavour.

Stell Dir vor, Du kommst zu Audi nach Ingolstadt – und denkst, Du seist in Italien. Or, in other words: Imagine driving to Audi in Ingolstadt and ending up in Italy.  A colourful parade of Lamborghinis, Ducatis and Audi cars lined the entrance to the Audi World in Ingolstadt. A similar scenario presented itself in Neckarsulm about two months later during the 124th Annual General Meeting of Audi AG. No doubt about it, Audi has has combined the Italian passion for design with its German dependability and fascination for hightech.italdesign_giugiaro_logo

By now the secret is no longer a secret: Audi has become Audi Group hosting four brands of world renown: The Audi cars as such heralding premium in every respect, the Italian lightweight sportscar Lamborghini, Ducati motor cycles and Italdesign Giugiaro. It therefore comes hardly as a surprise that the company has turned Italian. The overriding idea is is to combine Audi hightech with Italian design.

Quattro-phony - The Audi Family nowadays consists of four members. Lamborghini was the first to join Audi, back in 1998.

Quattro-phony – The Audi Family nowadays consists of four members. Lamborghini was the first to join Audi, back in 1998.

Giugiaro has designed cars for renowned car manufacturers, many of which have become icons of style. One just has to think of the Lotus Esprit, the Lancia Delta and, of course, the first Golf and the Audi 80. The latter, incidentally, was the first Audi that Ferdinand Piëch, then CEO of technology, gave to his wife Ursula. In fact, the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche initiated groundbreaking innovations,  most notably the permanent “quattro” all-wheel drive in 1980 and the diesel direct injection TDI in 1989. Having reached an age where most people enjoy their years of retirement Piëch is still presiding over Volkswagen Group. However, the one person he fully trusts is his wife Ursula. The patriarch and most powerful man in the car industry has consequently bequeathed his industrial inheritance to her.

We are Family …

After being elected member of the supervisory board of Volkswagen AG in April 2012, just one year later,

Ursula Piëch - most influential lady in the car industry.

Ursula Piëch – most influential lady in the car industry.

Ursula Piëch has also joined the supervisory board of Audi AG.  The VW Group no doubt has essentially become a family affair with the Porsche and Piëch family members holding the majority of shares. Presenting herself to the shareholders in a short and rather personal speech, the former nursery school teacher and governess was refreshingly outspoken about her liaison with Ferdinand  and how she became involved with cars. “I have always been curious and thus have had a vested interest in every new car or development.” She went on to narrate that her first Audi was an Audi 80, which as she remembers caused derisive smiles by the public. The same applied to the introduction of the four-wheel drive “quattro”. Audi was anything but a premium brand at that time. Undoubtedly, the rise of the clever, discreet and yet outspoken 57 year old Austrian has only just begun. She is surely on her way to becoming the most influential lady in the car industry, even more so, should VW really become the biggest car manufacturer worldwide, a target that CEO Martin Winterkorn has proclaimed for 2020. No sooner had Ursula Piëch stepped out into public, than she overtook two mighty females in the car industry, namely Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler presiding over the huge supplier carrying her name and Susanne Klatten, BMW heiress and Germany’s wealthiest female ever.

As for Audi, with almost breathtaking speed the car manufacturer has managed to develop from a more or less non-descript VW annex in the 1960ies and 1970ies to a fully fledged autonomous and leading premium car manufacturer.

The Audi Way

And in spite of the overall tense economic situation, especially in Europe, Audi is growing  against the tide, achieving one record after another. From January to 30th April 2013 sales have risen yet again. Approximately 503.000 cars have been sold, resulting in an increase of 6.7 percent. Another record: For the first time in the Audi history the company has passed the 500.000 mark after just four months. These impressive figures are not least due to the popular SUV family Q3, Q5 and Q7. And CEO Rupert Stadler confidently announced further growth for the months ahead: “We want to and will continue to grow.”

On the fast lane: Another member of the RS family and premiere for  a member of the SUV family. The RS Q3 has 310 hp (420 Nm) and a maximum torque of 5,200 rpm.

On the fast lane: Another member of the RS family and premiere for a member of the SUV family. The RS Q3 has 310 hp (420 Nm) and a maximum torque of 5,200 rpm.

Audi is quite obviously mastering the tide against the odds. Spain has reached its lowest market volume since 1986, demand in Italy is back to the level of 1979. The automobile market as a whole has been thrown back by more than 33 years. In spite of all that, Audi has managed to grow, even in Europe. This growth has mainly been due to the United Kingdom where Audi in 2012 achieved a new sales record of more than 123.000 cars and an increase of seven percent compared with the year before. Even in Germany Audi managed to grow by 3.6 percent and for the first time has captured the throne on the home turf  of the “big three” to become premium brand number one ahead of BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Susanne Roeder

©roe

The Lion King à la Française: Peugeot 208 GTi

Era of great rallying reloaded - Peugeot 205 GTi and its successor 208 GTi

Era of great rallying reloaded – Peugeot 205 GTi and its successor 208 GTi

Déjà vu? – The Return of the GTi Era

Der König der Löwen gibt Gas – Peugeot lässt die GTi Tradition wieder aufleben

Pikes Peak, Ari Vatanen, Michèle Mouton, “Race to the Clouds” – great names evoking memories of the great days of rallying for Peugeot. In 1988 Vatanen won the legendary Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in a Peugeot 405 Turbo, ending six years of consecutive Audi quattro victories and introducing five years in which Peugeot held the absolute track record. But the start of these fabulous years of racing were kicked off five years earlier, by the introduction of the 205 Turbo 16. With it Peugeot entered the world of motorsports and managed to secure numerous victories. The 205 Turbo 16 was presented one day prior to the series model 205 GTi. And none other than Jean Todt, five years CEO of Ferrari and from 2009 till this day President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), who till 1981 had been a successful rally co-driver, was asked to take on the motor sport management for Peugeot Talbot Sport. Todt abandoned the Talbot F1 programme and focussed on rallies with the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16. Under his direction Peugeot claimed four World Rally Championship titles with the now-legendary Peugeot 205 Turbo 16, four victories in the Paris-Dakar Rally and two triumphs in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Michèle Mouton, winner of the German Rally Championship 1986, and her 205 Turbo 16.

Michèle Mouton, winner of the German Rally Championship 1986, and her 205 Turbo 16.

Both Vatanen and Mouton celebrated numerous rally triumphs in the tremendously powerful rally version of the little Peugeot 205 16 Turbo (16T). The supermini was said to have had 520 hp, whereas Peugeot officially proclaimed that the Peugeot 205 T16 Evolution 2 group B (1985) had been developed to reach 430 hp. Every year so-called evolution steps were allowed to be homologised in twenty copies of the car and were to be inspected before entering any competition. At any rate, the 205 Turbo 16 turned out to be a rocket that was able to whirl up dust and reshuffle positions in the competitions for championships. So much so that amazon ralllying lady Michèle Mouton won the German Rally Championship in 1986. The “black volcano”, as she was nicknamed on account of her temperament and her long black hair, was the first female driver to win a major championship in rallying. Due to Marc Surer’s terrible accident in the Hessen rally that year the Group B supercars were banned and Mouton withdrew as a rally driver.

Here’s looking at you, GTi

“Je n’ai besoin de personne en Peugeot GTi” (“I do not need anybody in my GTi”) could be the variation on Brigitte Bardot’s Harley Davidson song. No doubt about it, Peugeot has managed to issue another car with cult status. Just like its predecessor 205 GTi the new Peugeot 208 GTi, 30 years later, is the ideal car for rallies and thus revives great memories of rally successes in sequence.

Racy ambiance with red highlights in the interior.

Racy ambiance with red highlights in the interior.

Settling in the comfortable little racer and starting the engine it immediately feels like the perfect little car for speedily roaring round corners with screeching tyres and a lot of adrenalin. Its sporty dynamic interior gives you that supreme cockpit feeling of a little bolide. It is nimble, it is quick, it is great fun to drive. 200 hp allow it to reach 100km/h in 6.8 seconds. GTi is short for Gran Turismo Injection and appeals to individualists who feel passionate about the sporty tradition of the supermini and about its agility.

The supermini segment has always been popular, so the launch of the new 208 in June 2012  was a wise decision, made complete with the 208 GTi for sporty drivers. In fact, the 208 has been Europe’s bestseller in the small car segment since December 2012. In Germany alone, Marcel de Rycker, CEO Peugeot Germany, expects to sell more than 20.000 units of the 208 and about 600 of the GTi within the end of the year. For 22.900 Euro as the starting price the 208 GTi is not exactly cheap, but its package is attractive and sufficient. In spite of being a car with racing genes it includes all current safety features and comfort equipment such as electrical seat heating for the front seats or a multifunctional seven inch colour touchscreen. The chromium plated double exhaust pipe immediately distinguishes the 208 GTi from the other cars in the series.

The GTi and its double endpipe.

The GTi and its double endpipe.

This attention to detail not only applies to the meticulously designed interior, but also to the outer appearance. Apart from a widened track by 10mm at the front and 20mm at the rear, the LED functions of the new headlamps are echoed in the interior where the dashboard is illuminated by LED. To give it the ultimate motorsport feel the new family member of the lion brand is fitted with an aluminium pedal and footrest, inviting its driver to put the pedal to the  metal. The GTi is based on the Allure line, which is the top version of the Peugeot 208.

Pedal to the Metal

Peugeot is back in motosports. For two years the lion brand has recruited ambitious amateur drivers for the 24 hours race on the Nürburgring. With remarkable success. But the French carmaker does not leave it at that. On 30th June Peugeot will come back with a vengeace. This is the date of the spectacular “Race to the Clouds”, with none other than nine times rally champion Sébastien Loeb Peugeot entering the race.

The fast and the furious: Loeb and the Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak.

The fast and the furious: Loeb and the Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak.

The Frenchman is set to repeat Ari Vatanen’s epochal triumph in the Peugeot 405 T16 back in 1988, followed by another victory with the 405 T16 with Robby Unser. The fast Loeb and the furious Peugeot, a menacing looking car that at first sight bears no resemblance to the street version, will contest this pinnacle of racing, and bring home the trophy in America’s second oldest motorsport event. This means climbing  1.440 metres to the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado at 4.301 metres and covering a distance of 19.99 kilometres which involve no less than 156 corners. A real tour de force lies ahead of Loeb who will be tackling the course without the assistance of a co-driver, all to save weight. Needless to say that his racing machine which boasts of devilish 875 hp has been stripped of any features that spell comfort. A spectacular car for a spectacular race heralding the return of Peugeot to real motorsports.

Little red devil: The Peugeot 208 GTi.

Little red devil: The Peugeot 208 GTi.

Summary in German: Der neue Peugeot 208 GTi macht richtig Laune. Der kleine Racer kostet deutlich weniger als der Golf GTI der siebten Generation, verspricht aber genauso viel Fahrfreude. Im Handling ist er phantastisch agil und spritzig. Mit 22.900 Euro in der Grundausstattung liegt er mit dem vergleichbaren VW Polo GTI auf einem Niveau, hat aber 20 PS mehr und ist einen Wimpernschlag, eine Zehntel Sekunde schneller auf 100km/h, nämlich in 6,8 Sekunden. Für Rallye Fans genau das richtige Auto, um zur Pistensau zu werden. Genau das will Peugeot nun in großem Stil demonstrieren – beim Pikes Peak International Hill Climb im Juni in Colorado. Pilot: Sebastian Loeb. Das Fahrzeug: der 208 GTi. Wirklich? Auf den ersten Blick zumindest ist das aggressive, mit unglaublichen 875 PS strotzende schwarze Biest kaum als solcher zu erkennen.

RCZ = Lifestyle for four

 

Peugeot RCZ = cruising in style.

Peugeot RCZ = cruising in style.

Peugeot’s slogan “Motion and Emotion” is further heightened by the facelifted RCZ. Three years after the introduction of this elegant and classy sports coupe with its distinctive double bubble roof its front has been revamped and it has been given a new nose. This two-and-two seater is perfect for cruising and enjoying a relaxing day out.

The side mirror shows the RCZ silhouette and the dominance of small cars taking over German roads.

The side mirror shows the RCZ silhouette and the dominance of small cars taking over German roads.

As before, it is available with three different engines, the two-liter HDI with 163 bhp in GT trim, i.e. the diesel version, being by far the favourite option. Apart from that there are two petrol engines either with 156 bhp or with 200 bhp in the turbo version. Faced with the choice between the RCZ and the 208 GTi I would most certainly go for the 208 GTi.  This car quite simply feels racy, as soon as you sit in it. It evokes feelings of exhilaration, performance and sheer driving pleasure.

Susanne Roeder

©roe

Car for girls? I'd opt for the 208 GTi.

Car for girls? I’d opt for the 208 GTi.

Constructed with Love

AstonRapideS ed

The Sound of Silence of the Mas de Torrent

Another Garden of Eden

Another Garden of Eden

Counterpointed by

Spotlight on Charm

Spotlight on Charm

The Cascading Sonorous Humming of this Wickedly Breathtaking Beautiful Beast, the Aston Martin Rapide S – a genuine example of fully fledged sportsmanship

Are you a member,” intonated the voice behind me. My answer was prompt and perky: “No, I am not, but I have come with a member.” This incident which happened to me at one of the posh golf clubs in Surrey many years ago reminds me of the “U and non U” of the Aston Martin society, a society very much aware of its unique tradition and quite rightly so. Its philosophy embraces exquisite luxury and true sportiness. The mythical attraction is further heightened by the impossible missions which 007 alias James Bond, gentleman and sportsman through and through, accomplishes with sheer prowess and virtue. In short, Aston Martin has become a legend and is going stronger than ever – regarding racing, sales figures and renown.

This year, this marque with its impressive Headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire, celebrates one hundred years of sports car excellence with a Grand Tour from the Middle East through Central Europe and Great Britian to America and ultimately Asia – starring the Aston Martin Vanquish. In fact, the legendary British carmaker has heralded a succession of exquisite celebrations throughout the year. One such unforgettable event was the launch of the Aston Martin Rapide S in Catalonia, Spain, in springtime to which we feel honoured to have been invited. It soon became very clear that the Aston Martin team has managed to unleash yet another iconic masterpiece of engineering and design.

Rapide S evoking the premium brand's 100 year history

Rapide S evoking the premium brand’s 100 year history

A secretive mystique envelops all 65 000 exemplars of these beautiful sports cars. 65 000 is the number of cars sold in the course of a century. A mere 15 000 Aston Martins were sold up to the turn of the millennium, eighty per cent of them in the United Kingdom. Since Dr. Ulrich Bez joined the company as CEO the marque has begun to compete on the international market. Since then a further 50 000 of these handcrafted cars have been sold, world-wide. Just think: this makes even the premium, expensive and highly sought-after Porsche 911 a mass product. The selected few who can pride themselves on calling an Aston Martin their own, are acutely aware of driving an exquisitely special car, a car full of controlled understatement. The marque, like the British  Monarchy, has managed to outlast quite a number of difficult times. It therefore comes hardly as a surprise that this epitome of Britishness in style, demeanour and sturdiness, this first-rate charismatic brand is employed in Her Majesty’s Service. The royal seal “By Appointment to His Royal Highness the Princess of Wales – Motor Car Manufacturer and Repairer” has a definite ring to it and makes these cars so supremely British and so very special.

After all, how many countries can boast not only a surviving monarchy, but one that for centuries has been enjoying widespread acclaim? As for the elitist car manufacturer Aston Martin, the marque has become another uniquely British institution enjoying worldwide acclaim and admiration. An Aston Martin accordingly has to be driven in style. It is a majestic, a royal  and an overtly sporty car – as became obvious once again when the Earl of March and Kinrara, better known as Lord March, host of the Goodwood Festival of Speed and generally Goodwood supremo, chased the new Vanquish up the famous 1.16 mile Goodwood hillclimb with its blind corner and sudden wall towards the end of the hillclimb.

Oh happy day...

Oh happy day…

It has spirit, it has soul, it has sound, it has speed, it has style, and it has luxury. In fact it does not leave any wish unfulfilled. Driving an Aston Martin is racing and revelling on Cloud 9. How is this possible? Any Aston Martin model is quite simply constructed with love. A small dedicated team accounts for the genuine authenticity of these cars, be it a Vanquish, a Rapide, a Vantage or one of the DB models. The latter being named after Sir David Brown, who in 1947 purchased the company for just over £20,500. The most famous of the so far over 14 individual DB models and derivatives is the Silver Birch DB5 figuring in the James Bond film “Goldfinger” and regarded by many as the most beautiful Aston Martin ever, the most famous of the James Bond cars and possibly the most famous car in the world. And, just in time for the 100 years celebration, Sean Connery’s DB5 has made its reappearance in the latest Bond film “Skyfall”, the most historic James Bond film to date.

Skyfall starring the DB5

Skyfall starring the DB5

Over the years, quite a number of different Aston Martins have figured alongside the MI6 agent in Her Majesty’s Service. This liaison has proved very successful as it combines genuine Britishness in the best possible fashion.

Noblesse & Tradition Obligent: Rapide S

Just as the loving hands of the masseurs in the Spa of the Mas de Torrent, which served as headquarters during the Rapide S launch, manage to accomplish a maximum sense of care and well-being, the Aston Martin is handled with maximum devotion during the act of being shaped into existence. This car is yet another example of the designers’ belief in simplicity. The Rapide S’ pure design means that it is incredibly well proportioned, the “S curve” being the typical Aston Martin signature. But design is not only shape. To the Aston Martin team it furthermore includes colour and the play with shades. “The team has looked closely at the individual contour lines of each of the cars to determine not only the right colours and shades, but also to create a template by which the paint changes from dark to light and where the graduated effect sits,”  Aston Martin design director Marek Reichman explains.

As one presses one of the buttons on the lavishly designed dashboard to start the engine, go into reverse or start the sport mode, it feels a bit like acting in her Majesty’s Secret Service as MI6 agent.

Always "Q"ed in.

Always “Q”ed in.

  The car certainly conveys this aura – an aura which in Spain was distinctly augmented by the presence of the men in black servicing the dozen Rapide S sports cars cruising and speeding through flat and mountainous Catalonia. The new luxury Gran Turismo Rapide S with its new 6.0-litre V12 engine producing 558 PS is the most powerful four-door Aston Martin to date. Naturally, it can be ordered in Skyfall silver. This is further proof that the bonds between 007 and Gaydon remain forever strong.

Wings of speed

Wings of speed

More power, more beauty, same soul”. This demand on the new model has been miraculously accomplished. The stunningly elegant four-door silhouette perfectly suits the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Once the naturally aspirated V12 powerplant is started, the beast instantly awakens to life. Its sound just takes one’s breath away. Why listen to the undoubtedly perfect 1000-watt Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system, when the engine of the Rapide S delivers an aural experience like no other! The wolf in sheep’s clothing cannot hide its true character, which besides the race car qualitities of this luxury sports car is further emphasised by the impressive and striking new full grille. It is almost double the size of the Rapide’s front grille, imbuing the new car with an even more sporting, forceful demeanour. And Dr. Bez is extremely proud of the fact that this innovative new front grille design also complies with the latest European pedestrian protection regulations. Aston Martin holds a patent on the construction of its aluminium front grille which will move rearwards on impact, whilst the central and outboard chin stiffeners give rigidity to the lower structure and support achievement of the leg impact regulations. This ingenious solution means that Aston Martin can remain true to its design ethos, and avoid the use of plastic grilles and nose cone bumpers that stretch up in front of the bonnet.

It would be tedious to enumerate all the various changes distinguishing the Rapide S from its predecessor, the Rapid. The fact is: This car is not just a facelifted Rapide, which in 2010 was Aston Martin’s first four-door coupe. The Rapide S has an entirely new engine, rocketing its power from 477 to 558 horsepower and its torque from 600 to 620 newtonmeter.

Handcrafted with love

Handcrafted with love

Moreover, the whole design has been aesthetically further heightened, making this Aston appear very sporty, longer, extremely sleek and elegant at the same time. Needless to say, every sinew, every stretch of hand stitched leather, every appealing detail of the Rapide S is so enticing and full of life because it has been chiselled with the outmost love and dedication.

Congratulations and Celebrations

Aston Martin. This uniquely charismatic brand with its honourable racing history will celebrate its centenary in a racy fashion. As early as 1959 the DBR1 won Le Mans. Many successes in racing were to follow. In fact, with the Vantage GTE, the V12 Vantage GT3 and the V8 Vantage GT4, Aston Martin boasts a full portfolio of race cars. Sir Stirling Moss, an Englishman and sportsman through and through and considered the best driver never to have won the Formula One World Championship – due to his chivalrous and altruistic behaviour towards his rival Mike Hawthorn – likes to remember his races in the DBR1: “At Goodwood I could really push the DBR1 to its limits. And on the Nürburgring, which in my opinion was the best circuit in the world in my time, the DBR1 was a great car to drive around there. It handled beautifully, you could really throw it around, which was how I wanted to drive. The brakes were great and the car had lovely balance.”

Victorious Stirling in Goodwood (1959)The models in the decades to follow have kept their lovely balance and have excellent brakes. And as research and development never stops, one highlight in this year’s string of centenary events will be the hydrogen Rapide S starting in the Nürburgring 24-hour race. In January the FIA gave this car its seal of approval. About 20 per cent of the qualifying laps were driven with zero emission using hydrogen. This hydrogen Aston Martin Rapide S will signal a premiere in racing history. CEO Bez is convinced that in 20 to 30 years to come Aston Martin will be able to deliver sports cars exclusively using hydrogen, thus producing zero emission.

Apart from the Nürburgring in which Aston Martin apart from its hydrogen car will compete with a line of its most impressive cars, the charismatic marque will parade one hundred Aston Martin road cars around the famous La Sarthe circuit. And for the devoted Aston Martin customers there are Centenary Editions of the V8 Vantage, DB9 and Rapide – each restricted to 100 examples. These cars are now available to order in each of the 46 countries in which Astons are sold. Befitting their low-volume status, the Centenary Edition cars feature a bespoke paint finish and solid sterling silver Aston Martin wing badges with tailored ‘trans flux’ enamel inlay.

Will iconic cars like the Aston Martin Rapide S soon be consigned to the history books, as Jeremy Clarkson predicts with sadness? No, never ever. We firmly believe in the ultimate sanity of mankind. It would thus be utter madness and ludicrous to get rid of these beautiful sculptures of speed emitting inimitable sounds of music. We do however go along with the view of the protagonist of the BBC car series “Top Gear” on the 12 cylinder Vantage, which no doubt also applies to the Rapide S, as to any other Aston Martin creation: ”It is fantastic. It is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.”

Susanne Roeder

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Golden Eye - Susanne enjoying the Rapide S

Golden Eye – Susanne enjoying the Rapide S