Inside the Future
With no hint of irony, this year’s Geneva motor show introduced a feature that may spell the end of the motor car as we know it.
Provisionally known as the Mercedes F 015, this lumbering beast, almost twice the size of a normal vehicle, is not a car. It’s a driverless machine that lifts the veil on the future in a consideration of the way autonomous technologies will soon rule us.
More like a boat or plane, it specifically enables all the things that are illegal when driving normally. Seats that are arranged facing each other, can also recline like orthopaedic beds for sleeping. Bored with long journeys? No worries: screens surround you on which to watch movies, select music, browse photos and chat with friends.
Offended by endless suburban vistas of parking lots, automobile concessions and shopping malls? Relax: Mercedes have mooted the possibility of windows morphing into screens that can run ravishing vistas of superb scenery. When this early prototype becomes reality, it will be, for those that can afford it, the ultimate ‘escapemobile’.
Meanwhile the big beasts of the supercar world have reason to get restless. It would be difficult to imagine more polar opposites to the concept of the F 015 than the latest generation of supercharged monsters that can attain speeds of over 200 mph in less than a minute.
If trends continue, private yachts will be the size of ocean liners, corporate jets will fly at speeds close to that of sound itself and luxury cars will travel faster than most small aircraft today.
For the drivers of these fearsome machines, this is the perfect test of extreme precision and fearlessness; these cars are as far as it’s possible to go in exaltation of the pure act of driving for its own sake.
The brands that produce these miracles of engineering are rather like competitors in body building contests. Like the champs of muscle tone, everlastingly striving to ‘bulk up’ their gorgeous glutes and perfect pecs, manufacturers and designers are linked in a firestorm of effort to reach an engineering millennium of untrammelled speed. Half a second saved off the time taken to go from 0 to 100kmph; a couple of extra kilometers in consumption per litre; a touch more torque (or is it less?); ever more explosive throttle; yet lighter carbon composites!
It’s obvious that not everyone wants to drive a supercar – even if they could afford one. Even so, the whole car industry takes its cue from the supercharge category. All cars are sold in terms of speed and capacity and these are presented in ways that place the driver centre stage.
It’s equally obvious that the looming trend towards driverless cars is likely to pinch the miracle workers of high speed cars where it hurts. The reaction is the macho hyperbole increasingly seen in the blurbs written about supercars, which is moving from hype to hysteria with the speed of one of their own supercharged vehicles.
Here for your amusement are two such examples .
Of the Jaguar F type RAW coupe: ‘… staggeringly pretty, big chested power, hairy chested handling…’
Of the Lexus LF: ‘…(the driver) hurled the squirmy, squidging LS into a glorious smoketastic slide…’.
Dreaming of the Future.
The advent of commercially available driverless cars is at least ten years or more away. At that point a widening gulf may open up between itinerant couch potatoes and neurotically competitive speed merchants with not much in between.
Until then, superbly fine tuned instruments of locomotion will continue to hold sway, their owners undeterred that the feeding, protecting and preening of their gleaming monsters compares unfavourably in terms of time and cost with looking after an endangered species in a zoo.
Some of the best were paraded at the Geneva Motor Show.
Audi R8 V10. UK prices for the standard model are now confirmed as £119,500 for the ‘base’ V10 and £137,500 for the 602bhp V10 Plus.
Amongst the interesting options available are, a $500 cowhide interior, (the best money can buy) and a Bang and Olufsen surround sound system which consists of upto sixteen speakers each of which is shaped like the grille of the car.
The car will rival the latest Porsche 911 and will initially only be available with a twin-clutch S-tronic transmission and a V10 engine with either 533bhp or 602bhp outputs. The faster V10 Plus model covers 0-62mph in 3.2 seconds and hits 205mph flat-out.
An even more laudable achievement is Audi’s all-electric 456bhp R8 e-tron model with 920Nm of torque, a range of 276 miles and a 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds. It entirely squashes the notion that electric means creeping about in the slow lane.
“… a vehicle that redefines the supercar of the 21st century” .
Quoted as costing in the region of a whopping £343,000.
This is an extraordinary car that moves from 0 to 100 kmph in just 3.7 seconds. It also can reach a top speed of 325kmph. Another matter of note is that it will feature a carbon fibre plastic shell that has been developed in house. They have also collaborated with Yamaha to produce an engine noise tuned to perfect pitch.
Elon Musk swears that the latest up-market rear wheel model removes all lingering worries about coming to a grinding halt unintentionally. As he puts it:
“Now it is basically impossible for a Model S driver to run out of range unintentionally. Presuming he is right, then this will be the world’s first electric car capable of driving along highways and motorways. The car does 244 miles on a single battery – changed in three and a half hours.
This pioneering vihecle will set you back $109,000 (£86, 950 in the UK).
Jaguar F type RAW coupe.
The show saw the fastest and most powerful saloon in the Jaguar’s history make its European debut. It’s the latest roll-out of the F-TYPE sports saloon range, dubbed the XFR-S. Jaguar Global Brand Director Adrian Hallmark described it as “…a car of incredible potency…a visceral blend of power, driver involvement and control.”
Powered by the same 550PS 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine as the XKR-S, the new model can reach 60mph in 4.4 seconds from a standing start; with a top speed of 186mph.
The new 495 PS F-TYPE was joined by classic Jaguar XK 120, C-Type, D-Type and E-Type sports cars in a ‘Jaguar Bloodline’ sports car convoy to the Geneva Auto Salon.
Cost, depending on model £51,000 to £91,000 (5 models). 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds; top speed 186 mph; bhp
Mercedes AMG GT3.
Cost $ 456,500; 0 to 60mph in 3.2 seconds; 0 to 100 in 7.0 seconds; top speed 187mph.
Like most GT racing cars the Mercedes has been widened drastically compared with the road car. The result is a machine that’s not quite as elegantly proportioned. The racer’s built around the aluminium shell of the road car, comprehensively reinforced with a substantial rollcage. Pretty much everything else is carbonfibre: the bonnet, the doors, front wings and boot lid.
It’s tamer cousin, Mercedes-Benz C63 S is very much a performance car with thrilling touches borrowed from it’s track relative. To remind you of this there are numerous design touches such as front wings that flare out and a low seat.
Also under the bonnet of this sober-looking saloon is a wet-sumped version of the AMG GT sports car’s 4.0 V8 Biturbo. Rest to 62mph is dealt with in four seconds flat but the car is limited to 155mph.
Dual power electric/petrol.
Cost £94,545; 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds; 42 mpg; three hours to charge battery.
So there you have our dream cars. Having stumped up anything from £100,000 to over £1 million, the next problem is finding enough road to run on without speed restrictions.