With the Coupe only just launched to the press we hadn’t expected to see the Ford Mustang Convertible any time soon but in an unexpected event the drop top Pony car has ended up in Sydney for its global premiere.
The Mustang Convertible steps up levels of quality and design sophistication in an attempt to challenge rivals such as the Audi A5 and BMW 4-Series as well as home-grown alternatives like the Chevrolet Camaro Convertible. The aggressive styling reflects Mustangs of the past 50 years ( most notably the original 1964/5 car) and blends this with Ford’s latest corporate look. Unlike the Fusion and Fiesta though were pleased to see they haven’t slapped on an Aston Martin grill and design details to try and give it a premium look.
The new Mustang stands out from previous generations for being aimed at a global market. Ford consider there will be enough demand outside America to justify marketing the car worldwide and even producing a left had drive version. They are clearly starting with Australia where there is already a strong muscle car following but will also extend sales to Europe. Original rumours suggested the car would be reduced in size but in fact the dimensions tell us that it will be the same length and 1.5 inches wider than the outgoing car. That might cause problems in Europe’s narrower roads and tight city streets where the compact hatchback is king.
While the Ford Mustang remains the working man’s muscle car it has many attractive styling details such as LED ‘gill’ daytime running lights and matching LED taillights. The interior design and material quality takes strides forward with a stylish well thought out look. The roof remains fabric and should be power folding on all models. Underneath, the cabin is larger with increased leg room for larger drivers.
Engines range from a small put potent turbocharged 2.3 litre four cylinder to the usual V6 and V8. The 305 horsepower four-pot EcoBoost engine aims to bring fuel efficiency to this performance car but figures for this won’t be available until 2014. Transmissions are either 6 speed manual or a 6 speed auto with paddle shifters although this is not a dual clutch system. Suspension is also updated, finally being fully independent with new designs at both front and rear.
Final specifications will be revealed before the Convertible Mustang goes on sale next year.
This week has seen both the Tokyo and Los Angeles Motor/Auto Shows. While LA saw the latest BMW 4-Series Convertible in the flesh for the first time as well as the latest Porsche 911 Cabriolet (which as you might expect would take a serious enthusiast to tell apart from the 2013 model), the really interesting sights were at the Japanese show.
First off is the predicted renaissance of micro roadsters known as Kai cars. The long awaited Daihatsu Copen replacement is now looking like reality and could be on sale as soon as 2014. Called the Daihatsu Kopen, it comes in two versions – a Rmz traditional sports car (above) and a more chunky Xmz SUV-look roadster (below). Power comes from a 660 cc three-cylinder engine with a CVT paddle shift gearbox. While officially still a concept the design looks to be close to completion with a main structure beneath the removable resin body panels, as displayed here, which would allow easy customisation should the owner want to change the look or colour.
Honda also showed their compact kai roadster, the S660 which again is a concept that looks very much like a production reality. This car follows Honda’s futuristic design style both inside and out with strong influences from the brand’s 2011 EV-STER concept car. While the name suggests a standard kai class 660cc turbocharged petrol engine, there may be an electric motor or two in there as well. So far |Honda aren’t letting on.
Moving up in scale a little, Toyota displayed two convertible concepts. First is the FT-86 drop-top version of the Toyota GT-86 sports coupe (sold as the Scion FR-S in North America). There has been much speculation over whether this convertible car will make production but it would appear that Toyota is still undecided and testing the water in Japan.
The Toyota Aqua Air is a convertible hybrid based on the Aqua hatchback (Prius C in North America) which brings a much needed breath of fresh air to the earnest Prius hybrid. An affordable low carbon convertible seems an intelligent move making hybrid cars more exciting and providing an environmentally ‘friendly’ alternative for drop-top fans.
Nissan’s convertible contribution comes in the form of the BladeGlider – a road going sports car based on technology developed in the Deltawing racing car. While the BladeGlider looks like a wild and impractical concept, the car represents one of the biggest developments in car design for decades. Based on a theory of moving weight to the rear of the car and narrowing the front track and tyre contact area resulting in a drop in drag along with handling improvements thanks to the reduced load transfers across the car.
While the theory appears to work, in practice Nissan have a big job to make it a road car reality. The BladeGlider is the first step towards this and winning public opinion, positive road test reports and track results will be vital to all that potential becoming a commercial success.
By the time the hardtop Lamborghini Veneno was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March the three cars planned for production had already sold. Demand among the super-rich was obviously strong however as now the Italian super car maker has announced their intention to build 9 convertible versions.
The styling takes Lamborghini extravagance to new levels as does the use of track derived technology. Carbon fibre is everywhere, both painted and in its raw form. The huge rear wing is almost dwarfed by an even larger diffuser. The all-wheel drive composite chassis uses racing style pushrod suspension while the dramatic body styling cuts drag to a minimum while providing stability through fast corners. There is even a a carbon-fibre ring around each wheel rim which channels air to deliver additional cooling air to the carbon-ceramic brake discs.
The roof? Well there isn’t one. Making this an occasional use roadster driven by practicality as much as the stress of using something so rare and valuable. Should you be brave (as well as wealthy) enough however the 6.5-litre V12 engine is powerful enough to propel it to 60 mph in just 2.9 seconds and then continue on to a top speed of 220 mph. It should sound fantastic in the process as that power plant and the seven-speed ISR gearbox are tuned 750 hp versions of those used in the Aventador.
The bottom line? If you want to get your hands on the limited edition Lamborghini Veneno Roadster your pockets better be deep. The price is €3 million (around $4.5 million USD), the equivalent of about 20 Gallardos.
While there have been concepts floating around for small Japanese roadsters it has never looked more likely that we are about to see a return of the kei sports car.
Both Honda and Daihatsu look likely to show small roadster concepts at the Tokyo Motor Show in November. Pictures of the Honda S660 concept (pictured) have been revealed which takes the previous EV-STER concept much closer to production reality. With 660 being the maximum engine capacity (in cc) of a Kei car it looks likely that this could be destined for the mini-vehicle or Kei classification. The name also reflects the previous S2000 sports car and classic S360 Roadster concept which gave birth to the S500 (Honda’s first production car), S600 and S800. In fact Honda have confirmed that a replica of the original 1962 S360 concept will be shown in Tokyo alongside their new sports car concept.
Daihatsu are also said to be working on a replacement for the now retired Copen and are likely to be showing off their work at the Tokyo show. The company have shown several small roadster concepts in previous years with their smart Daihatsu D-R Roadster of 2012 looking almost ready for production. Let’s hope they give it the go-ahead.
Kei cars were initially introduced to fit in with the Japanese tax and insurance breaks for cars beneath certain size, engine capacity and power limits. From the late 1980s this led to some interesting if tiny roadsters including the Honda Beat, Suzuki Cappuccino and Daihatsu Copen which gained an enthusiastic following in Europe. The trend quietly faded away but latests designs along with a need for light efficient cars sets a scene for the Kei sports car’s return.
As with the later Copens which had 1300cc engines for the export market, these new cars could potentially tuned or re-engined to produce higher performance models.
While today’s roadsters may be more powerful than ever, as cars continue to become further sophisticated the basic driving experience becomes ever diluted. Caterham comes to the rescue with a new base model Seven. The Caterham Seven 160 is free of all the ‘drive-by-wire’ technology of modern cars, in-fact there is very little of anything.
The 160 is powered by a tiny turbocharged 660cc three-cylinder engine made by Suzuki and more commonly seen in vehicles shuck as the Wagen R, Jimny and Alto for the Japanese market. With extensive tuning by Caterham the power output is increased from 64hp to 80hp while also boosting fuel economy and reducing vehicle emissions. This lightweight engine slots into a pared down chassis providing nimble handling and sprightly performance taking it from 0-60 mph in just 6.5 seconds. The top speed is 100 mph which is probably plenty for a car that brings you so close to the elements.
Like the original Lotus Sevens the 160 uses steel wheels and simple live-axle rear suspension which along with skinny tyres should make it an entertaining drive. Inside the the dashboard is race car simple with dials and rocker switches while the high transmission tunnel separating the two bucket seats houses a five speed manual gearbox.
The 160 is launched with the UK market in mind while a 165 model will also be made for the Continental Europe countries that require the EU5 emissions standards.
It is usually the case with roadsters that the most basic, unsophisticated model is the best to drive and this may be the case with the new seven. The Caterham Seven 160 is priced from £14,995 GBP in component form for those who enjoy bolting together their new car while a fully built car comes in at £17,995 GBP. Production is expected to start in January 2014, with the first cars being delivered in the Spring.
Click here to see the Caterham Cars in our Buyers Guide.
BMW have officially released the first images of the new 4-Series Convertible which will debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The BMW 4-Series replaces the 3-Series Coupe and Convertible with the aim of setting these more sporting cars apart from the 4 door 3-Series cars. It will initially be offered in the US as the 428i and 435i with a 420d diesel engined alternative added for the European market.
The BMW 4-Series Convertible continues the use of a folding hardtop roof that divides into 3 pieces and is stored in the top half of the luggage space. BMW have increased the sound deadening to further cut wind noise when the roof is up. The roof folds in 20 seconds at speeds of up to 11 mph. BMW have followed Mereceds-Benz with the use of hot air blowers mounted into the front seats to warm the occupants on chilly days, potentially increasing the number of occasions the roof can be dropped.
While it may not look a great deal different from the car it replaces the 4- Series is longer, wider and lower to the road. Like the Coupe the BMW 4-Series Convertible will be offered in a choice of 5 trim levels (SE, Sport, Luxury, Modern and M Sport), but limited to 3 for the US: Sport Line, Luxury Line and M Sport. The M Sport trim seen here gives us some clues to what the up-coming BMW M4 Convertible might look like. The well appointed interior has changed little from the coupe. Luggage space is cavernous with room for large cases or a set of golf clubs even with the roof down. BMW have added a button to electronically raise the roof a little to aid access when folded.
In order to improve emissions and fuel economy BMW are increasingly using turbo-chargers with smaller sized engines and despite impressive performance figures the 4-Series has followed this trend. Unlike the straight six cylinder engine of past 328i models the 428i has a TwinPower Turbo 2.0-litre 4-cylinder while the 435i gets a TwinPower Turbo 3.0-litre inline six. Each will have the 8-speed sport automatic transmission as standard, at least in America and the 428i comes with the option of the XDrive all-wheel drive system. The 435i will manage 0-60 mph in just 5.5 seconds while still offering a combined mpg of 37.7.
As BMWs become more sophisticated and technology-packed the challenge to keep the feeling of a raw, driving machine becomes greater. As a result of the added tech the convertible weighs in at 1,755kg for the 420d and 428i and a hefty 1,815kg for the 435i. BMW promise sophisticated chassis technology and near perfect 50:50 weight distribution but we’ll have to see how it performs when we get the chance to test drive one.
The BMW 4-Series Convertible will be available to buy from Spring 2014 with prices ranging from $48,750 USD for the rear-drive, 428i Convertible and £36,675 GBP for the 420d.