A LITTLE LUXURY IN THE TIMES OF CREDIT CRUNCH
By Karl Williams
Tuesday, December 9, 2008.
With car sales at a historical low, here are just a few you may wish to haggle over and wet the appetite in the coming months.
Renault Megane Coupe
French quirkiness abounds as Renault offers this rakishly styled Mégane Coupé to tempt the wavering brigade away from Vauxhall’s Astra Sport Hatch and the fresh but definitely odd looking Volkswagen Scirocco. With big nostrils, a bug-eye look, while curvilinear and edgy, the Megane Coupe has to stand out from its lesser stable mates to have any chance of competing with the VW and Astra, the car with which it shares an obvious likeness via its rear end.
The coupe sits lower by 12mm in the suspension than the saloon, with its brushed-metal nose, bespoke lighting arrangements at front and rear, the drama of beauty topped by the curved letter-box rear window combined with a low roofline.
This Coupe has three rear seats, the same way the Astras’ rear can’t seat three due to the couture looking, low impractical roofline. Since I have not tested this car, I hope the manual box is as improved as the last one I drove, which was a reminiscent of eating jelly with a lollypop stick - plain sloppy!
So help yourself to the Renault’s first CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission) with the 2.0 140-petrol engine or try it in the diesel. Curiously, this car also has “an emergency spare wheel”. How virtuous!
January 09 www.renault.co.uk
Alfa Romeo Mi.To
This, my friends, is the car folks at General Motors or any American carmaker would like to see in their portfolio. Less we forget that it was Alfa Romeo and Fiat, its parent company who, ten years ago were as popular at car-making as one Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand were at a Christian convention.
Now with the imminent arrival of its new Mi.To, Alfa Romeo will soon be offering its congregation of Alfa aficionados and new audience alike its most compact sports car to date. It’s also the first new Alfa since the most beautifully iconic 8C Competizione supercar from which its MiTo is styled.
The Alfa MiTo borrows certain characteristic traits like: those frameless side windows, distinctive frontal headlights and rear LED tail lights which underscores the car’s style and assertiveness. It’s yet another lesson in design form the house of Alfa.
A choice of three petrol and two turbo diesels engines ranging from 1.4 16v 95BHP Turismo to the155BHP Veloce should keep pennies in your pocket and moisten your palms with pleasure.
January 09 www.alfaromeo.co.uk
This, for me, will be the most exciting car to arrive on our shores in the New Year. Hailed by the zealous amongst us as one of the best handling, most powerful, and above all most accessible supercars ever.
With its all-new 3.8-litre twin turbo V6 producing 480ps and 588Nm of torque between 3,200 and 5,200rpm, it sprints to 0-62 in 3.5 seconds and tops out at 195mph (provisional).
You may flinch at those figures, however, this car blitzed the worlds most infamous and challenging racetrack -Nordschleife (Nurburgring) where, it torched Porsches’ 911turbo with a lap of 7m 29s, one of the fastest ever achieved by a production car.
Both the Porsche and Bugatti Veyron trail the GT-R’s time by 11secs and within 24 hours of the cars’ announcement in 2007 it had 700 UK orders!
Although the GT-R has always been seen as a rather surreptitious opponent, its zeal also lies not in the speed at which it dispatches rivals; the development ethos was to build a car, which can be driven by anyone, anytime and anywhere. That Nissan has achieved all these in such a superb machine is a strong testament to its engineers.
As a bonus, all GT-R customers are offered the opportunity at Silverstone or Nurburgring as part of an innovative Race Academy Program to make the most of the GT-R in a controlled environment on track and the chance to hone their skills, which could lead to a MSA approved racing licence.
March 09 www.gtrnissan.com