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Discussion in 'Gran Turismo Sport' started by Racer283, Sep 4, 2018.
Really looking forward to see the replays!
See, we didn't have very good races overall this week. We had yet another stupid kid ramming everyone off the track, a drunkard, two back to back oval races, and even a red flag
I personally had two good races, one of which I mucked up the recording of. Not sure if others have theirs saved.
Man, imagine driving after having a few wine glasses. Disgusting.
Hey, I still won a race, came second 1 tenth off in another and almost finished in the podium in the next one.
Don't think it was that bad.
Sure. Beer is always the answer.
"I hear this week's car is really special", quips Esther the editor suddenly, as I rejoin her in the baggage carousel, having been separated for distancing purposes on the plane.
"It had better be", I mumble in my jet lagged state, grumpy not only because of my lack of (good) sleep, but also because of the extraordinary hassle of taking delivery of this week's car, whatever it may be.
"I thought you'd be more excited to review a four hundred and fifty thousand USD car", says she, hugging her messenger bag to her chest as she surveys my mood with a tilt of her head.
"You do this for long enough, these cars become as common as bread and butter. The Honda Beat we did was actually a hundred times more unique than any Lambo, McLaren..."
"This one should be unique, though. I hear you have to be chosen to even be able to buy one-"
"I am NOT driving ANY MORE Ferraris!", I explode and shout on the spot, causing what little people around us to all turn their heads and stare. It looks like inhibitions aren't a priority for my brain in power saving mode.
"Wh- no! It's... it's not! It's... a GT!", Esther recoils at the outburst, covering her mouth and staggering a step or two back.
"Do you have the slightest idea..."
...how little that narrows it down? Thankfully, I hadn't verbalised the latter half of the sentence, due to a glaring, instantly recogniseable colour combo coming round into view on the carousel. My luggage, wrapped in a cover bearing the colour scheme of the #55 787B, is almost as loud as the car it's based off on. Thankfully in time to cut me off mid sentence, as well, because I didn't mean to make Esther feel bad, especially since she gives me the impression that she doesn't know much about cars.
"Never mind. I'm sorry. I'm just... super cranky right now. I can't sleep at all on planes."
To meet our mysterious (and pain in the butt) contact, we've flown over to Illinois on a short notice, and are now en route to his residence via cab, where the contact wants to meet me in person to ensure my sanity and professionalism, and presumably hold my balls in a vice as a deposit, before handing me the keys to his 450k USD supercar to hoon and race for a review. As soon as we found ourselves in relatively familiar territory, on terra firma and four wheels, the sleepiness and grumpiness gave way to the more familiar feelings of anxiety as well.
I'll admit: I'm very nervous, not just because I'm not good with people to put it mildly, and also because I've serious doubts about my sanity. I mean, it takes a certain type of special people to want to race 1.5 tons of metal going 250km/h in close proximity to each other. In that sense, being essentially interviewed to assess my sanity to race and review a 450k USD asset just feels inherently conflicting, to me. I really don't know what I should be, say or do. I don't know what they want out of me. And that concern can perhaps be extrapolated onto prohibitively expensive performance cars as a whole, to say something about them, as well.
Chief among my reasons for being nervous however, is that I know next to nothing about American cars and culture. I've sampled a few here and there over the course of my career as a racing driver, but none really did strum any heartstrings. I tend to prefer lightweight, arguably underpowered cornering machines to dance with, and I can't name a single American offering that fits that bill. I guess my personal preferences are at a clash with American car culture, which is fine, of course. It just doesn't bode well for me to have to socialise with a rich tycoon/ celebrity, nonetheless, especially because this time, I don't even have my Viper around to make that good first impression for me.
As I watch the bevy of left hand drive cars whiz by me on the expressway, a ragtag mix of sensible family sedans I can't even name, your obligatory crossovers, pickups that must be a barrel of laughs to hoon, a few performance cars like Corvettes and Mustangs, and even the occasional... highly personalised and decorated Civics, my anxiety did swell with anticipation. What could I possibly be needed in America for? At least I can take solace in knowing that whatever it is, it's not a Ferrari.
It must've been a heck of a weird sight: a taxi, dropping off two tourists fresh from the airport at the front gates of a grand mansion nestled deep in the middle of nowhere. We identified ourselves to the no-nonsense looking guards in thick formal wear that makes Esther's usual garb look like school uniforms in comparison. They radioed into the teams deeper in the mansion, and once we were confirmed, cleared, and had our temperatures taken, we were welcomed into the mansion... just not with the warmth one might expect with a welcome, but rather, with a tone so stern and gruff, it almost didn't matter what words the voice was used to say; it couldn't have meant anything other than, "we dare you to try something stupid".
We were guided with the same sternness to one of the many garages at the end of one of the many driveways in the mansion, where a tall man of non native looks in casually adorned formal wear was standing right outside a garage door, overlooking proceedings inside. Upon noticing us, he smiles warmly and, with a somehow assuring zest, welcomes us to his home. "Lee! Mami! Welcome to America! Welcome to my home! You can call me Shad."
"Esther" gives a slight bow of the head in lieu of the now taboo handshake. I follow, saving my confusion for later.
"So polite, so polite! Thanks for agreeing to do this for me!"
"Not at all Mr. Khan. The honour and pleasure is all ours...", replies Esther, with somewhat of an attempt to sound more emotive than her usual self. It's amazing how rock solid her composure is, given her petite looks of young age.
"Now, now, no need to be so formal. Lee, have you been in one of these before?"
I walk up to Shad's side, occupying half the space he made for me upon asking me the question. When I turned to look at which not-a-Ferrari was awaiting me this week, I became slack jawed and my mind went similarly limp for a good while.
My eyes lit up to the unmistakable, instantly recogniseable, highly distinguished shape and stare of a second generation Ford GT that had greeted me. And at that moment, all the last minute travelling, jet lag, and social interactions had become more than worth it.
The original GT40, which this GT is a modern rendition of, is perhaps THE most famous racing car in the history of the sport, and pretty much the antithesis of a Ferrari, with a comeback story of underdog spite and success that couldn't have happened better if someone wrote it as a work of fiction. Since then, Ford has done an excellent job of protecting the GT name and the special feel it brings, only using the name once in 2003 on a concept car as a celebration of Ford's 100th birthday, to critical acclaim. The production 2005-2006 Ford GT remains one of the most beloved, desirable, and limited of American automobiles today, with many celebrities and car journalists seemingly willing to sell their souls to own one, most notably Jeremy Clarkson and Doug DeMuro, to name just a few.
This second generation of the GT certainly looks the business, and then ten times more. It's low, it's wide, and it's long, and it oozes a sense of purpose and uncompromising focus that you would only find maybe in the top echelons of trims and special editions of hypercars today. Every surface, every square millimetre of the car's body appears built with a purpose of directing air over its body, so much so that this car, with its "wind tunnels" for the lack of a better term, both obvious and obtuse, barely looks solid. Every surface of the car looked like they were hand crafted to serve some purpose. Even its iconic, circular tail lights for example, are used as a path to extract heat from the car.
Jon Moxley's Ford GT by XSquareStickIt download link
Hypercars chase numbers not only on the spec sheets, but also in profitability, as well. That's why most of the super and hypercars meant for more general consumption come with creature comforts, conveniences, and psychological aesthetics to make the owner feel fancy and established to be able to afford such a fancy pantsy car. Not so in the GT. It has clearly no interest in being anything other than a barely road legal racing car, as evidenced by the black hole that is its interior, surfaced only with hard, uncovered materials, and lack of anything that isn't a requirement to keep the driver alive long enough to commandeer the car. Cubby holes? Cupholders? If you won't hear the term in the world of motorsports, you won't find it in the GT, either. You get an air con. That's... good enough, right? And that, ironically, makes me lust after it more. It doesn't beg or appeal to you hoping you'd love it; rather, it knows what it is, and it knows you'll love it.
With aggressive intakes, splitters, skirts, and diffusers, coupled with its already squat and taut looks and spitefully minimalistic, purposeful interior, this car genuinely looks like a pair of tow hooks, roll cages, a fixed wing, and a set of centre lock wheels and racing slicks away from being a GT3 or GTE spec racing car. Even special, limited homologation models of most racing cars don't look half the business as this.
There's a saying that's popular in the world of motorsports that goes, "form follows function". Yet, for how much purpose and functionality the body of the GT screams, it nonetheless looks so. stunningly. beautiful. It blends form and function together so naturally and cohesively, it makes me wonder if there was at all any conscious effort to design the car to look good, or if it looks good simply as a natural byproduct of how purposeful and focused it is. It has a beautiful mix of sharp angles and smooth, transitional curves blending different sections of the car and different design elements together. This is a car that leads your eyes through its body as effortlessly and naturally as it does opposing air. An impeccable blending of slim, sexy, and muscular in all the right places, without ever feeling like there was a blemish anywhere in the theme of "purpose". And while most cars struggle to keep their original design elements and theme in the face of ever stringent safety standards and softening customer trends, the second generation Ford GT looks like it couldn't be anything other than a Ford GT. The shape and spirit of the original GT40 is visibly intact in shapes and proportions, while incorporating modern tastes and performance within said shapes and proportions. It's a car that is shockingly, instantly recogniseable even with a glance, and Ford has done an impeccable job with the styling of this car. I really don't think there's anything I could even nitpick on this. It makes me want it, all else be damned, with just with one look at it. And that, I think, is the biggest strength of any super and hypercar, and arguably, their biggest selling point, as well.
"I-I'm sorry, did you... say something?", I snap back to reality after the mesmerising trip of laying my eyes on the GT.
Shad laughs. "Have you driven one of these before?"
"N-no... not even the first gen car."
Shad then gives me some basic specs of the car. In contrast to its predecessor that had a 5.4L supercharged V8, this second gen car too, was bit by the downsizing bug, now sporting a more compact 3.5L Twin Turbo V6... out of a pickup. The smaller engine does contribute to the shocking kerb mass of this car however, weighing in at 1,385kg (3,050lbs), anorexic figures for a car punching out numbers like 655PS, 0-100km/h in 2.9 seconds, and 347km/h (216mph) top speed. Together with a 7 speed DCT however, it's easy to see why this car is a little divisive among Americans, who traditionally prefer big NA or supercharged V8s going through manuals. As an outsider with no real context or history however, the raw numbers this car puts out on paper is already enough to tickle my pickle.
Of course, another important number this car comes attached with is 450,000, that being the cost of this car in USD when brand new, and will likely only appreciate further after the two years chosen owners are legally disallowed to sell the car. To this end, I was threatened in a very kind and friendly manner that it's... not advisable for me to damage the car in testing and racing. Shad got to where he is today owning several sporting teams, and his son founded an upstart, highly successful wrestling company. I may find my family jewels suddenly and aggressively introduced to a 2x4 wrapped in barbed wire, and in that hunched over state, I may undergo a "Paradigm Shift", as he puts it, and also very specifically on the carbon tub roof of the car for some reason. He laughs after he says all that, implying it's a joke. But it's... a very elaborate, thought out, and obscure joke for something he just cooked up on the spot. Are all wealthy people so good at... subtly, yet firmly, asserting themselves?
To get myself familiarised with the car, and most likely to ascertain my sanity and ability, we flew over to California's Willow Springs the next day, where if you got something wrong, the only things to hit are the vast amounts of nothing as far as the eye can see. Of course, that's not to say it's safe; this is inherently a dangerous sport, like wrestling. Hit the desert dunes at a wrong enough angle with enough speed, and you have every possibility of damaging the suspension of the car, or flipping it entirely. It's a possibility more real than one might expect, looking at the rather simplistic layout of Big Willow, nestled in the vast openness of the desert, and the sub 1:20 time needed to lap it for most modestly powered sports cars. But the big, sweeping corners that each go on for an eternity and a half with almost no reference points, some even with changing radii, makes this a deceptively challenging track to consistently nail laps with. Moreso than most sanctioned, more sane F1 tracks, I'd argue.
More than anything though, I just don't want to be the poor chap that has to wash out all the sand from the endless crevices and tunnels of this car should I beach it. Ugh.
Initial driving impressions of the car... weren't very good at all, to say the least. Weight transfer is numb, ambiguous, delayed, and I never know what the tyres are doing at any given moment, no matter how hard I attempt to press on them with weight transfer. It's amazing how numb the car manages to feel; even with a full tank, there never seems to be weight over the front tyres, and they seem to want to bite only in full braking zones. That means it was impossible to alter the balance of the car mid corner with minute adjustments, and the tyres in turn never feel like they want to do anything. It was extraordinarily difficult to nail apexes with this car as a result. I really don't know what the car wants or expects of me, other than slow to a near crawl for every corner.
One would expect from looking at its spartan build and purposeful body that this would be an absolute weapon on the track, unforgiving, intimidating, and with nigh unapproachable limits even for racing drivers, much like other track day toys like the Zonda R. One would then be led to think that the difficulty and numbness in weight transfer might be due to the stiffness in the suspension setup, as a result. Yet, the GT somehow finds, or carves out, a niche in suspension travel grey areas. It's way too soft for what it is and what it can do, yet, for all the softness and uncontrolled body movements mid corner, it... somehow doesn't manage to press on any tyre enough to dig any grip out of them. It's honestly amazing, astounding, even, how Ford has managed to perfectly set up the suspension in this car to achieve precisely NOTHING in this car. It's soft enough to cost you control and grace mid corner, and stiff enough to ensure you never put adequate weight over any tyre. I did not even know that this was somehow possible, for all my years of driving experience.
(Yes, that's the front right tyre phasing through the ground on default Sport Hard tyres, to give you an idea of how FREAKING SOFT the car is.)
It doesn't even end there. The steering is numb and imprecise, as well. Coupled with the astoundingly incompetent suspension setup, precisely placing this car at speed was a nigh on impossible task. More than the suspension, actually; everything in this car feels precisely engineered and set up to work together to create the worst experience you could possibly imagine. The engine, for example, puts out raw numbers that are nothing short of astounding, but it has such ridonkulous power in the mid range, the throttle pedal feels almost like an on-off switch for the engine, especially in lower gears and speed. It always felt like the first 10% of the pedal travel gives you 75% of the torque, perhaps because there's... no weight over the rear tyres when one would think there would be. I also wish the engine had a higher redline, as most of the power is set up to be delivered on the top end. Yes, I understand that the power curve is tapering off even at the redline of 7,200rpm, but for exiting slower turns in 2nd and 3rd, I very often find myself wishing to ride out a lower gear for longer before having to upset the car with an upshift, especially when the car isn't fully straightened out yet.
One would also think, given the barebones, intolerable on a daily basis interior would mean everything in this car is geared towards track use, yet 7th for some reason is an overdrive that bogs the car at 300km/h (186mph), when 6th was still pulling strong and getting you all excited for more. Truly, the engine, the gear ratios, the suspension, and the steering... everything comes together to form a symphony of tailor made displeasure and mismatches in this car, almost as though conflict was an art form.
Over the ten laps I did of Big Willow, I never did find myself comfortable with the car at its ambiguous limits. I survived said laps by essentially crawling and tiptoeing through them. I got out of the car, angry, disgusted, and disappointed, only to be greeted by a beaming Shad, anxious to know my thoughts on the car.
And this is why I hate meeting owners of cars I'm reviewing.
I hesitate. I keep telling myself honesty is the core principle of this job, yet instincts of self preservation and political correctness hold me in a limbo, kind of like the suspension in the GT holding the car in indecision mid corner.
"...a load of sheet."
For this week's meet, I was surprised to find that we were adopting racing slick tyres in attempt to tame the GT. The hardest of racing slicks, but racing slicks regardless. No road car really has any business, need, or for some, even the ability to safely wear racing rubber. As can be seen from the above photo taken at Big Willow, the car was bottoming out even on sports tyres.
The Ford GT however, remains undeterred in its quest of being an awful drive, racing rubber or not. I still could not get it to do anything, nor could I get a read on it. Because I never felt comfortable with the car at all, AND also because of a combination of the car's cost, along with a personal need to redeem myself for my bad driving last week, I was taking it extremely easy during this week's meet with fellow COTW drivers. I never did actively race anyone, and if someone wanted to pass, I'd let them with no drama.
It did however, make me feel guilty. After all, Shad hired me, an ex racing driver, to show off his baby in full light, to drive it like it was meant to be driven, at the car's limits where no non-racing driver can really explore. After the first race, I asked Shad what he thought of my performance at Gardens. He seemed thrilled, nonetheless. Maybe to the untrained eyes, it was difficult to tell when a car is being driven at the limit. All the more true without telemetry and hard lap times, I suppose, even for us racing drivers. Or maybe he's just putting up a polite front. It's hard to know people when you can't push them to the limit like you can with cars.
But it still bugged the crap out of me that I was... being "dishonest"? Not giving my all?
Near the last leg of our weekly world tour, we found ourselves at Spa. I was one of the few who voted for Spa, actually. Spa being a high speed track heavily favouring MR cars, it was the last chance I'm willing to give the Ford GT to win me over. If it isn't good here, it won't be good anywhere else.
An outsider, but not a stranger, showed up for the Spa race as well, and magically had a Ford GT of his own to pull out of his butt. It was McEwen, whom I knew of, and even had a chance to briefly speak with, back when I was an active racing driver. He's insanely quick, easily top split material in the Oceania region.
Bruxelles was one of the only two sections where the car's rear wing would retract, dipping below the speeds of 70mph (~112.7km/h), the other being Bus Stop.
And, well... I kinda wanted to see if I still got it. I kinda got a bit... too excited. It's time to earn my paycheck. You watching this, Shad?
Arguably because I've more experience in the GT, I was closing the gap to McEwen in the lead. A mistake by him into Bruxelles saw me pull side by side with him, me on the outside of No Name. An undercut later, and I had the speed and inside of Pouhon for the pass.
Of course, drivers of McEwen's calibre don't give up just because they've been passed. Now with my slipstream and the pressure switching between drivers, I could not keep outpacing him like I had before making the pass, all while small mistakes kept rearing their heads in the nigh uncontrollable GT between the both of us. All this fighting also meant that Nat, drunk as all hell this week, was closing in on the pair of us quick.
Shad looked to be absolutely enthralled by the performance of his GT, telling me how, in spite of everything, he's really glad that his car could finally be driven at the limit and fully exploited, and that it was a real treat as an owner to see. So much so he's thinking about expanding into motorsport teams as well, instead of just American football. I... had no idea prior that we racing drivers had this sort of value, and could provide this sort of service for society. Hired to play with the toys of the rich and famous? It's almost like I myself have become a toy just like the cars. Jinba-Ittai, I guess.
Race results aside, how did the car perform at Spa?
It felt a little more at home than at the tighter, twistier courses, but by and large, it was same old, same old. In spite of appearances, the car really didn't feel like it was producing any downforce through Eau Rouge, and still required hard braking for both Eau Rouge and Blanchimont, which are both taken near flat out in GT3 cars on equivalent racing hards, weighing only slightly less. At this point, this car was looking like the textbook definition of a Beater: a car that sets up lofty expectations, only to betray them when actually driven.
I have NEVER seen sidewall flex like that before.
But, now that I'm finally home alone, free from threats from celebs and tycoons, I'm free to make an admission.
All the GTs in the meet were stuck in "Sport" mode, which is the exact middle child of the GT's five driving modes, which are Wet, Normal, Sport, Track, and Vmax. Track is the setting I really wanted for the entirety of this week, as Vmax is simply a top speed run mode.
As proof of us running the cars in Sport mode, have a GoPro photo:
As you can see both from the digital dash and the physical knob on the left of the steering wheel, we were in "S" mode, with a "N" and "T" directly above and below. And if that somehow isn't enough proof, I managed to sneak a peek at the setting sheets of the cars.
Of all the cryptic and obtuse numbers, the only one of interest right now is the easiest to understand: Ride Height. As you can see, with modifications locked, the car sits stock with 4.13 inches (104.9mm) of ground clearance, which is the ride height for Wet, Normal, and Sport modes. This Road & Track Article by Bob Sorokanich explains and corroborates this, albeit claiming the GT's ride height is 4.7 inches as opposed to the 4.13 I've seen.
The reason I highlight the ride height of this car is because it is definitive proof that the car was NOT in its most aggressive setting of Track mode as tested. In the same article, it's explained that the GT drops a whole 2 inches (50.8mm) when engaging Track mode; not that you'd need an article to explain that to you if you've ever seen a GT hunch down and spread its wing in a split second when engaging Track mode at a standstill.
So, what does this mean, and why am I making such a big deal out of it? It simply means that the GT's true capabilities were locked away from us in testing, which would explain away almost every. single. problem. I found with the car. Track mode not only lowers the car, but it of course stiffens it as well. The rear wing permanently stays up, and because of this, the air channels in the front end of the car are free to open up and, get this: actually start generating downforce. That's right: for all the bombastic looks and unspoken promises of suspension crushing downforce the body makes, it actually doesn't do much of anything by design until you engage Track mode. This complete lack of downforce is also represented in the setting sheets above, as well. It's a somewhat understandable decision, as you want a slight rear downforce bias for a more stable drive. But this, all this, means that I can't give you a definitive verdict on the car, because I haven't driven it the way it was meant to be driven. I haven't been near the limits of its capabilities all week long.
All I am qualified to tell you after a week of testing and racing is that, like a certain something else sharing the same initials, Sport Mode in the GT is a broken, undriveable mess that achieves absolutely and precisely nothing but frustration, danger, and anger. It is complete garbage that no one should bother with. My verdict this week isn't Beater. It isn't Sleeper. It isn't even a Neutral. It's a big, fat question mark, because I haven't seen this car's true capabilities, character, or tendencies at its bleeding edge limits. I therefore am willing to go as far as to say that I know next to nothing about the car. The only thing I know for certain this week is that I have utterly wasted a week to test a car stuck in an entirely worthless middle child mode to write this entirely worthless review that you hopefully haven't spent too long to read. And believe you me, more than anyone reading this, I am PUH-HISSED at this HUGE missed opportunity.
Why were we disallowed from using Track mode then?
The last race of the week was held in Toukyo East. I haven't any more comments to add, but it was a rather closely contested three way that might be an entertaining watch, especially if I hadn't fudged up the live recording. At least it gives me an opportunity to present a race to you in cockpit view this week.
Yes yes yes yes time to read
Top split material on account that he's currently the 2nd fastest driver in the entire Oceania region, behind Cody.
I've raced with him in quite a few NZ championships, once he's past, he's gone. Can never get close.
Fantastic write up as always. Really enjoyed it.
MAAAN, I KNEW he was top 16 material. Said so in the lobby, but didn't really see his name in the latest two Oceania top 16 highlights on the Gran Turismo YouTube channel, so I didn't want to spout unsupported nonsense.
He's blisteringly fast. He got caught out at the U-Turn of Toukyo East when he hit some barrels, and he was right back on me like a bad rash one lap later. I definitely got lucky to be able to hang with him at Spa when he had very little practice.
Faster even than Metal... Gear?! Oceania is comparatively small, but holy hell why does it have so many Aliens?
I have to admit, I was very surprised to look at the list of recent Car of the Week selections and found the '17 Ford GT hadn't been selected yet. After all, this car created a huge splash when it was first announced and would go on to bring home several trophies in IMSA and WEC in the ensuing years. And while internet issues prevented me from joining you all on Tuesday to try out the road-going version, I did take the opportunity to buy the GTE car on iRacing to see what it could do at one of Endurance Racing's Crown Jewel racetracks: Daytona.
The first thing that struck me about the Ford GT was how long slung it was to the ground, to the point where it almost felt like I was driving a Prototype racer rather than a GT car. The Ford also felt very stable for a hard-core mid-engine supercar, with lots of aero bits and a low center of gravity helping to keep the over-steer demons at bay. And then there's the fact that it just looks so damn cool driving at speed under the lights on the high banks of Daytona.
However, as good as the Ford GT is, it's not perfect. First, because it's a GTE and not a GT3, you don't get anti-lock brakes to help with slowing the car down. Which is not exactly reassuring when you're coming off the tri-oval and hurtling at max speed toward the sharp left-hand Turn One that takes you onto the infield circuit. On the default setup, I found the brakes were too sensitive and would lock up at the slightest wrong input on the left pedal. Switching to lower friction brake pads did make the car more forgiving of my pedal modulations, but it was still difficult to slow the car with any consistency.
Finally, we have to say it. This car has the wrong engine. Instead of the proper V-8 motor a Ford GT deserves, this car gets a turbo V-6 engine instead (because ECOBOOST apparently). It's not that the V-6 is terrible, it provides plenty of power and the engine note isn't even that bad. The big problem of the engine is the LOUD buzzing caused in the car's cockpit when the anti-lag kicks in on the turbo (that you can hear in the video as well). Seriously, it was annoying enough during my 40 minute long hot-lapping session, I can't imagine having to put up with the noise for stints on end during a six, twelve, or twenty-four hour event.
Overall, the Ford GT GTE seems to be a very solid racing machine, but I would definitely need a lot more practice before I took it to an actual race on the sim. It's neither a Beater or a Sleeper. It is dearly missed on the grids of sports car events around the world.
I'm planning to write up some thoughts of mine on the GT tomorrow, but for now I'm sure you guys are itching to know about what the new car is!
A somewhat understated brand, Lexus is still considered by many to be "just a fancier Toyota". Despite still indeed being involved with Toyota, they are very much their own brand these days, with distinctive models like the glorious LFA, the sporty sleeper IS F, and this week's pick. It's the 2014 Lexus RC F!!!
This week's car was chosen by @Alex p.
I have like half a dozen of these but only one I drive... 540hp and max weight loss 1,450kg or so. I found it way too heavy stock. Power was ok if a bit all up top so makes it easy to drive. Also I only ever found one tune for it. Its like a Japanese Maserati Gran Turismo.
The 8 spd auto means you pretty much dont need to tune as you'll have plenty of gears, you just wont need to use the ones up top. But you can always use the tuneable 7 spd flappy paddle.
A bit of a anonymous unmemorable car. It does the job at N400/500 and it'll win but it wont linger in your mind. Its like the Japanese pony car perfected to an impossible degree but it loses something that the Camaro Mustang has that I dont think any Lexus will ever have.
GTS Nordschleife hot lap STOCK Lexus RC F '14: 07.40.272
It feels like it's pushing its claws into the road, that's how grippy it feels. Driven stock on hard sport tyres without any driving aids, except ABS. First lap in third person view, second one in cockpit view and third one in cinematic replay view. All driven laps are the same lap.
With this lap time, it's the 46th fastest road legal car in the game, with its closest rivals being the Audi R8 '07 and the Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary '88 at the places 47 and 45 respectively. At the same time it shares the 33-34th fastest top speed of street legal cars in the game with the BMW M3 '07 at 321km/h=199mph, while its real life top speed is measured at 270km/h=168mph. Its closest top speed rivals are the Ferrari GTO '84 and the Nissan GT-R '17 at the places 35 and 32 respectively.
Ironically I took a stock one, except for that tune but with 520hp and slightly lower weight, I think still 1,680kg or so.... and I did a sub 7'40" in race conditions, ie. say 5th to 1st position against the GT4s. Still ABS on everything else off, race tyres. 2nd lap in a two lap Ring race.
The thing hides it weight very well. The gearbox has a partially useless 1st 2nd and top gear. I just hit 280km/h in 7th gear which is a bit low for 520hp.
There's nothing weird about the handling. The steering is good, the weight feels like its centered. There doesnt seem tobe any noticeable under or oversteer. I think the fact you have 8 gears means you tend to be in a higher gear when indicated... ie. perferred says 2nd, you use 2nd and you redline meaning 3rd is a better choice,
Ok car. I think its driving signature is anonymous. In real life it seems like the car has more oversteer when pushed but you cant see it here.
"The RC F is a high-performance coupé of the Lexus brand, announced at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show. The letter 'F' for Lexus cars denotes the high performance version of the car, much like BMW's 'M' cars, Mercedes' 'AMG', Audi's 'RS', and Honda's 'Type R' monikers. The RC F's main competitor is the BMW M4, which has defined and dominated the segment by and large. You can distinguish an RC F from a base RC by the additional vents aft the front tyres, extra hood vents, and an active rear wing. Being the smallest, most nimble car in Lexus' lineup and with their biggest, most powerful in-house built NA V8 engine, the RC F is the sportiest model Lexus offers today."
Esther the editor lowers the clear folder she was just reading from and turns her head to look at me. I remain motionless from when I had first laid eyes on this week's car, with what I think and hope is a blank expression, but is most likely in reality, a disapproving, disgusted scowl.
"Did I get all that right?", asks she.
"That last part, I have doubts of."
She hastily flips through the corners of the papers in her folder, pulling some out partially by the corners, stuffing them back as quickly, trying to find something.
"You're right, don't worry", I quickly reassure her, realising I should limit my sarcasm around someone taking their first steps to learn more about cars. "It's just... Lexus? Sporty? In the same sentence? Pah. What a joke."
She gives me a confused look with a matching tilt of her head.
"Look, do your notes say how much it weighs?"
"1,790kg, or 3,946lbs", she quickly and tactfully replies, reading off her notes for the exact figures.
"Are you flipping kidding me?! Let me see that!"
I half snatched, half received the personal folder of Esther from her relenting grasp. As my eyes scoured through the taverns of material on the car, my eyelids widened enough to just about accommodate three eyeballs each, and my mouth warped into a mortifying hexagon pinched in from the sides. I simply could not believe what the photocopied brochures of the car, along with the printed out screenshots of the specs from Lexus' website are claiming: a kerb mass of nearly 1.8 tons. I know I was asking the question of the mass of the RC F as a setup to explain why it couldn't possibly be a sports car, or even a sportY car, but the colossal figures took even me by surprise.
"HOW is this car so heavy?! What does it even have?!", I exclaim, clumsily going through every page of research material Esther has gathered, messing them up and ruffling a few pages in the process. Aside from a 5 litre V8 sitting up front, nothing else jumped out at me; no AWD, no hybrid systems, no 57 speed DCT gearboxes, no sunroof, no massage seats... not even rice cookers in the centre console. What gives?
"Are you okay?", Esther asks, slowly, but forcefully retrieving her folder from my fumbling hands, as though asking her notes the question instead of me.
"I... I might not know as much about cars as you think I do", I reply back in a haze of self doubt. "Is this... what passes for 'sporty' nowadays? Back then for 1.8 tons you could have a freaking TANK in a Volvo Estate! Am I really that old and out of touch?"
"I feel old."
"The median age of RC F owners is-"
"Thank you Esther very well done 100% flying colours", I shot up my posture to brisk walk over to the driver's side door of this JDM spec RC F. At my insistence, this week's car was handed over to some intern at COTW, to be driven and delivered to me at an inn. This way, I didn't have to meet the owner of the car, and was more free to take a verbal dump all over it if need be, as I am already liberally doing. That's right: I'm paying extra money to not have to interact with other people. Admit it: you would too if you could, even without the "big 19" messing everything up.
Fancy, high contrast, multi layered paintjob aside, one could almost swear this was some high end rental car with how... hateful, it looks. This tarted up Toyota looks fine from just about every angle, except any that involve the front end. If the Germans have defined this market segment and have dominated it for about a decade by the time the RC F came out, you'd think Toyota would've learned a thing or two about discreet, subtle styling. I've said it once, but it bears repeating every time: I hate the front grille of Lexus cars. It's way too in-your-face and obnoxious even in their smallest coupé, so I'd only recommend you take a look at their SUVs where the grilles are scaled up if you have a burning desire to become legally blind via post-traumatic psychogenic blindness.
Things aren't much more pleasant on the inside. This being a modern Lexus, it comes with their patented, trademark, god awful, counter-intuitive, way too slow and way too attention demanding remote touch interface thing, which has you controlling a screen beside the dash with a laptop-like touchpad, when every automaker and even laptops have since adopted touchscreens. Needless to say, this system is entirely inoperable when you're piloting the vehicle, and is much slower to use in comparison to a touchscreen even when the car is stopped. I was flabbergasted to learn that carbon ceramic brakes weren't even an option on the "standard" RC F. I'm sorry, but this is a 1.8 ton car capable of a claimed top speed of 270km/h (168mph), and you won't even give me an option for ceramics? I have to get the "Track Pack" edition of this higher performance version of the RC just to have the esteemed privilege of having the OPTION of carbon ceramics? Why would you not give me that option? Is it really that hard to swap some bolt on parts on the RC F? Is non sporty people's money not as good as sporty people's money? I'm sorry Lexus, but do you want me to die in this?
A rant that was at the tip of my tongue and fingertips last week is my utter hatred for active rear wings, and my dam of complaints can't handle two straight weeks of pressure. Am I the only one that finds active wings stupid? In the RC F, it comes up at a rather odd speed of 83km/h (51mph). Why would you need to retract it below that speed? How much drag is it causing at speeds that low? I'd argue the mass of all the hydraulic systems and the power it saps from the engine to operate it far outweigh any benefit retracting the damn things would provide. It's so stupid. All the "hardcore track performance" versions of cars with active wings ditch them in favour of fixed ones, like the 911 GT2, Aventador SV, or even Lexus' own LFA Nürburgring Package. Hell, the Track Edition of the RC F has a fixed wing. I can understand if that's too glaring for a sensible, discreet performance sedan, but why put a minuscule hydraulic wing in its place? How much downforce is that tiny thing going to generate for me? If it's there only to look cool, I find it has the opposite effect of showing that I don't have the best version of the car. And besides, how cool is a rear wing that only goes up like 2 mm? My tiny little Asian organ goes up farther than that.
Yep, that's the active rear wing, fully deployed.
The centred tachometer in this car is apparently an influence from the company's legendary LFA supercar... come on. At this point, I can't be the only one sick of Lexus referencing the LFA at every opportunity, can I? It's ten years old at this point, and Lexus has yet to produce another V10 car, or even something that's remotely sporty. The LFA being their only standout achievement however, you can really sense the desperation in trying to harken back to it. A central, round tach being hailed as a further refinement of the LFA's? Are we being serious? My 2002 Viper has a centre round dash. Is that influenced by the LFA, too? Of all the things to inherit from the LFA, why not the actual, important bit of "telling me which gear I'm in"? This stupid thing has eight - count them - EIGHT forward gears, operated by paddles. I'm sorry, but how the FRICK am I supposed to know what gear I'm in without a stick shift if you don't tell me? Is that not important information? Is somehow telling me I'm in "Drive" more important than which gear I'm in? Even my RX-8 with a stick shift tells me the gear number I'm in. I KNOW I'm in drive! How? BECAUSE THE CAR IS MOVING FORWARD.
Seriously, who needs this? Why does it do this? Who designed it to do this? Did ANYONE test drive this? Who greenlit this?
Seeing that the car is in "Normal" mode, I reach down to the knob in the centre console to try the other modes to see how the RC F's other modes changes its handling, only to receive a gentle slap on my wrist.
"Because", she replies looking away, with a tone that signifies she's more than had her fill of frustrations, and then withdraws her hand, trusting I got the message. "Just review the car as-is, okay? I'll research about the modes and tell you later."
I remain silent, the frustration of wasting a second week in a row in crippled car, and having to regurgitate what I'm told from a book was giving me unpleasant reminders of my time in school.
"I take it you don't like this car?"
"That obvious, huh?"
"You're an easy read."
She stays quiet, either not wanting to respond, or admitting that she's hiding a few things from me.
I decide to change the topic. "From one Lexus in nearly two years to two Lex...ii, in three weeks? Are we being bribed?"
"...what?", whatever flow of the conversation might have had up to this point breaks, along with my voice. I wasn't expecting something so... improper, or blunt, to come out of her polite and politically correct mouth. She's usually the one filing down my words in my reviews to make them somewhat palatable enough for a publication.
"By an obscenely rich man. Best not ask too many questions about him. The only thing that came with the blank cheque is a strange note that says this car 'does the Ring in 7 minutes, 40 seconds.' Something about claws, too."
A strange, fleeting pulse of familiarity hit me when she said that. When have I met someone who introduces a car with a Nürburgring lap time...? Unable to place my finger on who, I decide it must've just been my imagination. Must be some weirdo... though, the itch of almost knowing is a hard one to scratch.
The first race this week was held at the Ring. Of Bulls. Specifically of the red variety. While we ran the GT3 version of the RC F on the full layout, this week, we're only doing the short track, which is akin to going to the Red Light District for just a hug - we kn- -REDACTED- (Editor's note: we've been through this before, Lee.)
For all my grievances against this car on the road and looking at it, the RC F is... ten times worse on the track. All it takes is however long it takes to reach the first corner of whatever racetrack you're on to realise that this thing has no business on a racetrack, and that no one should think of this as a viable substitute for a real sports car. The Sport Hard tyres it came to me with does an abysmal job of trying to rein in all the speed and mass of the car, and while the Sport Mediums we ran for this week's meetup does an appreciable job of getting things more under control and feeling more natural, that's like adding sugar to a coffee to say it tastes good. You're just adding more of a good thing to a bad recipe. It doesn't change the fact that the recipe and the dish sucks. You might as well be drinking sugar water if you like the taste of sugar so much. I. Want. Good. COFFEE.
(Disclaimer: I am not sleep deprived this week. In fact, I have taken very good strides in fixing my sleep cycle, thank you for asking.)
The first thing that strikes anyone driving this, I'm sure, will be how heavy the car is, how front heavy the car is, how soft the front end is, and as a result, how difficult it is to just get nose of the car to hit an apex. If businessmen introduce themselves with a handshake and exchanging name cards, the RC F introduces itself to its driver with a crippling lethargy to stop, and heavy, inconsolable understeer. To perhaps remedy this, Lexus have fitted the RC F with a brake vectoring system, which came as a big surprise to me, as brake vectoring systems are usually only employed in AWD cars, unless you happen to be McLaren. So... does it work?
*sigh* ...not really.
Brake vectoring on the car makes it feel rather unsettled under braking, as the car always felt like it was on an arbitrary knife edge of snapping from chronic understeer to horrifying oversteer. This makes trail braking difficult, as the car is either understeering from its own mass and imbalance on hard braking, or sliding its rear end out with slight braking and sharp turning, with very little in between and leeway for smooth and aggressive corner entry. That is to say, it's very difficult to be precise in placing the car on trail braking. It seems to me like someone at Lexus took the rubbish saying of "fix understeer with oversteer" too literally, and the car never feels composed as a result.
The rear end breaking out under braking can admittedly be quite fun in the right corners, and the three corners of the edges of the triangle that is Dragon Trail Seaside fit the car's behaviour like a tailor made suit. The car's soft suspension setup, along with its nose heaviness, means it absorbs and chews up curbs with the greatest of ease, with enough feedback to let you know you've absolutely nailed an apex, but never upsetting the car, encouraging copious and unapologetic amounts of kerb abuse. Even the sausages of death on apexes at Red Bull Ring and Laguna Seca, designed to prevent corner cutting by potentially breaking the suspension of racing cars, the RC F simply sails over with nary a hiccup.
(The Red Bull Ring Sausage Test returns, and the RC F clears them at full cornering loads with flying colours!)
I have to admit that drifting into a corner and cutting corners without worry is something that can be ridiculously fun and instantly gratifying, but the brake vectoring system is sadly not without its flaws. You see, the brake vectoring in the RC F isn't as much a driver aid as it is a tool that attempts to mask some of the car's inherent understeer. There are some corners that just don't suit the use of brake vectoring, like high speed kinks that require just a slight dab of the brakes, where the car immediately wants to drift, or high speed sweeping corners, where you're not on the brakes, and brake vectoring is essentially useless. At these high speed sweepers like Seaside's triple esses in Sector 2, where brake vectoring is powerless, the gross lethargy of the obscene(ly heavy) brick you're driving is exposed and basked in full light at these high speed corners.
Unlike the ATTESA AWD system that this brake vectoring somehow reminds me of, the brake vectoring system in this doesn't really hold your hand. You can very much overdo your entry speed and/ or rotation into a corner, and the tyres simply give up in these situations, causing the entire car to go limp. And at that point, there really isn't much of anything the car can do to save itself and you from disaster, and it's only up to you and your sick drifting skillz bro to bring it back from the brink.
So, in other words, the only people that can drive the RC F "properly" are, Ken Block, Mad Mike, Tsuchiya Keiichi, and Vic_Reign93.
Maybe to most people who aren't motorsports fans, smoking your rear tyres in a big V8 RWD car is just something that looks cool, but even someone who only drifts unintentionally as a means to save himself when his grip driving skills fail him, like me, can tell you that this car simply doesn't drift well at all. The problem here is that this car's suspension and gearing doesn't facilitate drifting well, I find. (What I think is) 2nd is running out of breath bouncing off the redline, and shifting up into (what I think is) 3rd puts the engine to sleep. I also wish this thing redlined higher, as, contrary to what the American offerings might have conditioned you to believe, not all NA V8s have plateaus of torque. Power is all up top in the 2UR-GSE NA V8 of the RC F, and it cuts fuel right as you're getting to the good stuff. Not to mention, it's simply way too soft to really hold a drift for long, as the suspension is always looking to bury one side of tyres into finding grip, resulting in a awkward, twitchy transition from slip to grip.
At the end of the day, the very concept of sliding a car to rotate it into an apex is a flawed concept. Why do I say that? The very same reason why I don't drift as a sport: Unless you find yourself in an ultra exacting situation of being in a severely underpowered, extremely lightweight, low grip car in an extremely tight mountain pass and the skills to actually drift, not just slide, grip will always be faster than slip. And that holds true even in the RC F, where I held up both Vic and Nismo in our three way tussle at Seaside, me attempting to slide my way into the sharper corners, and Vic and Nismo driving normally.
In short, the car has several problems, gives you a tool that fixes maybe one of the problems, but the tool itself brings to the table MORE problems that you aren't given the tools to handle and solve. It's just a sad mess. The brake vectoring is at least not very intrusive or in your face in most situations, only showing itself when you really wring the crap out of it with aggressive trail braking, so I don't find it as detestable as most driving aids in modern cars.
The car also has an antiqued automatic gearbox, which I surprisingly don't find much wrong with. It shifts quickly and smoothly enough for a road, and even a sports car. Ratios aside, I never found it to hamper my driving experience. When I might start taking issue with it however, is if I knew how much power the auto box is sapping from the engine, but this means that it doesn't feel bad, which I value over any numerical achievements in a sport...y car.
All in all, the driving experience in the RC F is by and large, as grating as the hexagonal spindle grille on the front, and feels as precise and intuitive as Lexus' patented horrendous Remote Touchpad that they are for some dog poop reason adamantly insisting on, almost as if they were tasked to be a public exhibit of the sunk cost fallacy. Perhaps the biggest sign that "This is not a sports car" is that the harder you drive it, the more it falls apart. This is a car that requires you to know its (very low) limits, and conscientiously keep within said limits. It doesn't reward hard driving, nor does it behave with much composure once past those limits. It therefore is a car that needs to be babied around a racetrack, which is very much the antithesis of a sports, or even sportY car in my mind. Instead of feeling free and alive driving this "sporty" car, I feel like I'm back at school, doing my math homework in a very exacting way with very exacting methods with no leeway for deviance, under a very stern watchful eye of a teacher who won't hesitate to snap on me with every small mistake. Trust me, I'm Asian. I'm speaking from experience. And I'm sorry, but does that sound fun to anyone? Do you really want to get into a car on the weekend after a poop week at work, only to feel further governed, controlled, and metaphorically slapped across the face? I don't. And any car that makes you feel that way has no business being called a sports, or even a sporty car.
For Race 4 at Spa, I hopped into the RC F's biggest, closest competitor, both in the market and on the track. You know I'm sick of the car when I hop into something else to try to beat it in these weekly races.
"Is that your car?", asks Esther as she chances upon me overseeing the delivery of an Austin Yellow car.
"What? No! Why would you think that?", I blurt in retort, already on edge and caught off guard.
"Is that not a Singaporean license plate?"
"There are other M4s in Singapore aside from mine, you know?"
And for a while, the only sound in the paddock was the engine of the truck operating the hydraulics of the lift, and the distant shouting of the truckers coordinating the lowering of the M4 onto the ground. I'm not sure if I said something wrong, but something I said leading to awkward silence isn't new to me, even if it's something you never get used to.
Esther breaks down into a smile and... a... giggle? "You have the most important trait as a reviewer, I guess!" She... smiled! She giggled!
"It's weird, though! Usually people are proud to drive BMWs", she continues, showcasing a super captivating smile through the gaps of her delicate fingers barely covering her mouth, now that her head has risen again from hunching over.
Am... am I still talking to Esther? Did she get possessed? "Did you research that?", I ask, bewildered.
She freezes for a moment as the smile quickly melts away. "Um, yes, of course...", she clams up, reverting back to the Esther I had known for so long.
I'll admit, I haven't driven the M4 either, having just taken delivery of one from a second hand sale. In fact, due to... circumstances, this is actually my first time seeing the car in person. My first kilometres in the 2014 M4 will be hard track ones, and I had about the entirety of one lap of Spa to get used to it before being recalled into the pits to prepare for race start.
Oops! I did it again! I put on hazards in a BMW!
As I pulled up in my pit box, my anxiety was worsened with me catching a glimpse of an upmarket LC500, donned in a camo livery that made it look like it was ready for some Tactical Espionage Action. I knew nothing else about the car however, so this is going to be... fun. The same sort of fun like -REDACTED- on a first date, awkward and dangerous as all hell, but let's see how "The Benchmark" handles herself jousting with others with an inexperienced Mr. Awkward in her.
While we're in the mood for admissions, I should also admit now that I... know nothing about this car I just bou- I mean, leased. It's down on both power and mass in comparison to the RC F; the 3.0L S55B30T0 twin-turbocharged I6 (seriously, who comes up with the names of these engines?) produces 430PS and 550N⋅m (405.9ft-lb), redlining at 8,000rpm, plopped in a car that then weighs 1497kg (3,300lbs) kerb. In comparison, the RC F's 5.0L 2UR-GSE NA V8 puts out 475PS and 528N⋅m (390.5ft-lb), redlining at 7,500rpm, and weighs in at... well, 1790kg (3,946lbs) kerb, in case I haven't kicked up enough of a fuss about it already. The M4 cost a hell of a lot more new than the RC F; 120k USD versus 95.3k. Hard to believe they're even in the segment, given the gigantic chasm of a price gap between the two, so the M4 had better be good.
Of course, that entire paragraph above is just me tarting up a spec sheet into a few sentences and then mashing it into a barely legible paragraph. The only thing I can tell you about the M4 that isn't on a spec sheet is that it has not one, not two, but THREE speedometers; an analogue one, a digital readout, and then a HUD that tells you nothing but the speed, I know nothing else about the M4 beyond that. Prepared to race this thing then, I am not.
Three speedos, and you somehow find the room to tell me which forward gear I'm in? You Germans are WAY too kind!
Still, there's a saying that goes something like, "A good car should instill you with confidence the first time you turn the wheel in it". Does the M4 deliver on that front?
Well... no. In fact, the exact opposite.
My initial impressions of the M4 is that it's like an overly excited puppy wagging its tail faster than your eye can follow. If you were to take any corner at anything above civil speeds, the car seems to go, "OH, WHAT'S THIS? IS THIS PLAYTIME?! PLAYTIIIIIME!" and starts wagging its tail... er-hem, rear end, left and right with incessence. Corner entry? I KNOW MY OWNER! HE MUST WANT TO DRIFT. DRIFT I SHALL! Corner exit? I KNOW MY OWNER! HE MUST WANT TO SLIDE. SLIDE I SHALL! Gear shift? I bet my owner will be SO SURPRISED and HAPPY if I... SLID OUT MY REAR END!
Unlike the RC F however, getting into a mess in the M4 is actually... fun. It has plateaus of torque across the entire rev range, and geared similarly highly to hold a drift. There's also... something... magical about the chassis, that makes it rotate about its dead centre like a swivel chair, and is just as easy to induce a spin, precise, and easily controllable with your body as your office swivel chair as well. No doubt the much better balanced chassis, with a "near as makes no difference" 50/50 mass distribution helps tremendously in that regard.
This week, we test and conclude - with evidence! - that a 2 door sports coupé is faster around a racetrack than a pickup truck. COTW Weekly Reviews and race videos, for only 10,000 USD per month! Common sense sold separately.
A weapon to surpass Metal Gear?!
I can understand these cars needing to be soft, for a bit of comfort and civility, even in their most aggressive settings. However, in the M4, the softness feels a bit... artificial. It seems set up like a ND Mazda Roadster in that it seems deliberately too soft, so that you can break the car sideways with low effort and enjoy sliding at speeds that won't immediately kill you, so that people of varying skill levels can look like a superhero to an undiscerning audience. In the hands of a racing driver, under the pressure of a race trying to perform however, that kind of behaviour is just disgusting. The M4 is one of those very rare cars where you have to continuously steer to keep straight. While the RC F can be buttoned down and well behaved if you treat it well and drive conscientiously within its limits, there seems to be nothing you can do as a driver to get the M4 to behave on the track. Its over eagerness to rotate rears its head if you're even somewhat in the upper half of its performance envelope. Is it fun? Absolutely. But not every day is a Sunday, and not every hour is playtime. I appreciate the fun of a puppy, but there are times when I just want to get things done, and the M4 simply doesn't cooperate with you when that time comes. It's so twitchy on corner entry and exit, I can hold a smoother, more consistent line in an air cooled 911 than this. And it's... stressful, to be in an M4 in a competitive setting, i.e. the antithesis of fun, ironically.
Metal Slug vs Metal... Gear?!
Speaking of unnatural feeling, I think the engine is a big part of why it feels unnatural, and not just because it pipes in fake engine noises into the cabin. Rather, it seems that BMW has deliberately limited the max power output of the S55 engine to create a flat table of a torque "curve".
You thought I was speaking metaphorically when I said the M4 had "plateaus" of torque?
Not even electric motors have curves this flat. A tabletop of a torque curve like this is a sure sign of limiting power output, by adjusting the airflow into the engine according to the revs; a common practice and result with race regulations that limit maximum power output in cars. A flat torque line like this is ideal in theory, but in practice, it... makes the car feel unnatural. In lower revs on the apex of a corner for example, you would be conditioned from driving internal combustion engines (ICE) to use more of the throttle pedal at low revs, but doing that in the M4 causes it to break out the rear end, because you have more torque in the M4 at low revs than you're conditioned for decades to believe, and this explains a bit of why the M4 is so tail happy all of the time. Personally, I hate that it does that. You could've had a more powerful, more natural feeling car, but NOPE, this is what you end up with instead, presumably to hide the power deficits of a highly boosted 6 banger. I could, in theory get used to the tabletop torque of the M4 if I had more time in it, by driving it like an electric vehicle (EV)... while having to change gears... but at this point, why would I want to drive an ICE like an EV? If I want the driving characteristics of an EV, I'd go drive an EV.
Vic: What a pleasant surprise -- brother.
Rob: Save it. You're NO brother of mine.
Square, we're not tools of the FIA, or anyone else.
Everything in this car feels bogus to me. And usually, when things feel phony, they're meant to give off a better experience than if the product were more honest, like making someone look prettier in Photoshop. In the M4 however, in trying to hide things from me, it just makes itself look like a complete clown. It all feels like a deliberate, conscious act. The suspension could easily be stiffer. The diff could easily be tighter. The engine could be allowed to breathe just a bit more. And just like an acting clown, it can be a little bit of fun at the right times, sure, but it's ultimately not something I'm likely to fall in love with. It's so... deliberately dishonest. Consciously crippled. And that makes it feel more like a product off an assembly line than something that feels like it has... a soul.
I returned to the M4 in the last race of our session at Yamagiwa. At the end of lap 3, having just been passed by Vic in his RC F, I gave him a bit of a push out of the last corner, to match our speeds going into the home straight. It was a bit of a rude and impromptu drag race test for me, as I wanted to see if the RC F could gap the longer geared, less powerful, but lighter M4. I pulled out of his slipstream for this, obviously, given that I was already on his rear bumper going out of the corner.
Surprisingly, and very counter intuitively, the M4 actually pulled up to the side of the RC F to about its door opening area by the braking point of T1. Very minuscule difference in straight line speed, but an advantage, nonetheless. With the RC F's standout, selling point being its hulking NA V8, an endangered rarity in today's market, and making more power on paper, one would think, and hope, that the NA V8 car would out accelerate the M4, IF NOTHING ELSE. It really makes you wonder how much power the auto box in the RC F is sapping away. I'd love to run a wheel horsepower test between these two cars to satiate my curiosity about a moot point, but alas, we didn't have the equipment on hand to do that.
Spoiler: After the Race
Surrounded by imaginary race queens and drowning in their high pitched screams and squeals of celebration, I got out of the car like a martyr awaiting long overdue celebration and recognition. The car was pouring smoke through the panel gaps in the bonnet, the distinct smell of engine coolant pungent in the open air pit lane. My assigned team of mechanics rush over to my car in the poisonous haze, signalling for me to release the bonnet latch. I do so, and leave them to stun the crowd with a volcanic display of smoke.
Wearing a self assuring smile, I beamed with the enthusiasm of a school boy who finally managed to get a B for math class as I looked over to Vic, similarly exiting his RC F, surrounded less by mechanics but even more imaginary race queens. The modest Brit was already trying to downplay his achievement of winning most of the races that week to his legions of adoring fans. The dented door panels now causing the door to refuse to close properly, I slammed the door harder to get it to close, in a not-at-all weird second slam, and waltzed up to Vic to let him know what I thought of his performance this week.
"What are you smiling about?", confronts Vic.
"Dude I almost had you!", I assert with a casual jab of the air in front of me. The imaginary crowd gasps and cheers at the audacity of the truth bomb I just laid on Vic.
"You almost had me?", he points to me, and then him, as he said that. "You never had me. You never had your car." He had the imaginary crowd eating out of his hand with every sentence, causing them to "ooh" and "aah" as though they were his punctuation. Some technical gibberish about intakes and clutches later, he says:
"It doesn't matter if it's by an inch or by a mile, winning's winning."
After the meet, I scheduled one more flight to Australia for you-know-what.
22.589 / 0:22.589
53.328 / 1:15.917
37.577 / 1:53.494
34.505 / 2:27.999
Top Speed: 267km/h (165.9mph)
Fuel consumed for 5 flat out laps: 26ℓ
22.356 / 0:22.356
52.997 / 1:15.353
37.285 / 1:52.638
34.290 / 2:26.928
Top Speed: 269km/h (167.1mph)
Fuel consumed for 5 flat out laps: 22ℓ
So... Lexus. Did you benchmark the M4 or not when you made the RC F? And if you didn't, why not? It is the class defining car! One whole second around one lap? That's an eternity even by road car standards!
(Disclaimer: I did the time attack only AFTER this week's races, so I really didn't know the M4 was that much quicker than the RC F when I brought it to this week's meet.)
I will admit, neither of those two laps were the cleanest, and I definitely had more pace in me with both cars than the results I posted, but I was getting SO ANGRY trying to get either of these two cars to set a clean, decent lap without any obvious mistakes, I even smacked the wheel of my M4 in frustration. And that's when I knew I had to stop, and the verdict decided.
What did I learn from my little time attack session at Bathurst, comparing the two cars directly on the same track, with the same driver, in the same conditions, back to back? Both cars are horrendous to drive for the exact opposite reasons: the RC F with understeer, and the M4, oversteer. Any enthusiast reading this might immediately default to, "well, oversteer is more fun". Na-uh. The snappiness of the M4 is SO BAD, I might actually prefer the RC F to drive in a time attack setting than the M4, even if it's a second slower per lap, even if it has more power and hits a lower top speed... which is utterly shameful. For as much as I loathe the driving dynamics of the RC F, I got out of the M4 and into the RC F with a big sigh of relief. It felt like a great weight was off my shoulders not having to continuously rein in an overly hyperactive child five times every corner exit. The RC F offers a very calming, very predictable drive in comparison, even with my complaints about its brake vectoring.
For as disgusted as I am with the RC F's stopping distances, the M4 uses largely the same braking points for every corner, in spite of being lighter, actually having carbon ceramic brakes, and only going marginally faster. I haven't any theories as to why that is so.
I find that the M4 has more consistent behaviour through the five lap stint I did for both cars, being the lighter car that consumes less fuel and tyres. The RC F feels vastly different over a short ten minute stint, and I never precisely know where its absolute limits are as a result, which I suspect is what made me lose my lead to Vic on the last corner of the last lap at Laguna; watching the video back, I was going at the exact same speed and braked at almost the same point as the previous laps, but I still braked too early for that last corner. If you watch the video, you can tell Vic wasn't even expecting to make a pass at the point; he was forced into it.
So, at the end of this ramble, what are the verdicts on these cars? Beater or sleeper? Which is better than the other, and which would I recommend over the other?
I'll start by saying that both of these cars are Beaters to me. Keep in mind however, that this doesn't necessarily mean that they're bad cars for what they are and are meant to do; rather, it's just that I'm spoiled silly by bona fide sports cars, and I will readily admit that I am not the target demographic for this segment of luxury coupés. When I say that they're Beaters, it simply means that they don't offer me the driving experience that I'm looking for, which you may argue is an unfair evaluation, but I've had one luxury coupé surprise me before, and I rated that a Sleeper. It absolutely can be pulled off. I stand by my verdict of Beaters, because if you're going to make a 2 door coupé, you're offering the same practicality as a spartan, bona fide sports car for more money, and that's the standard that I'm going to hold these luxury coupés to when it comes to driving dynamics, as well, especially if companies are going to tout these things as "high performance vehicles" and boast about their handling.
I can't really comment on how both cars will be to live with, or how they'll coddle you in everyday, sensible driving. I daily an FD RX-7 for some context. Stuff like that isn't very important to me. What is important to me is that the cars make me feel alive when I'm pushing them. That they let me know all about themselves. That they communicate clearly with me at all times, and cooperate with me. I maybe even want them to bite me once in awhile if I push them too far. Above all else, I am a simple man who prefers simple, honest cars. And looking for that in this segment, or even in this era, is nigh impossible. I'm not ashamed to admit it: I'm an old man who isn't aging well, but I like what I like and I can't change my preferences.
Could you still have fun in these cars? Sure, I guess... but it will always feel like having intercourse with five layers of rubber on at all times; there will always be a bit of a disconnect, you won't really ever feel everything you want, you won't ever truly get to know your partner, and there will always be that bit of frustration in lamenting that lack of knowledge and communication. You won't ever feel a deep, meaningful connection with them. And maybe you'd forgive them for being a bit numb and bogus if they looked or sounded better, but they don't. I have better looking and feeling cars at home. (Esther PLEASE don't edit this out, I'm so illiterate I don't know how else to present this.) (Editor's note: okay, it's your reputation and account at stake.)
Lap times aside, I couldn't really tell you which is better on the track. That wholly depends on what kind of person you are, and what you prefer. Do you prefer a rock solid drive that can excite you a little if you absolutely asked for it? Or would you prefer something that continuously and endlessly encourages you to play, to be a hooligan? These cars are very different on the track, but they have their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses of equal magnitude, so I think the choice of which of these two to pick ultimately comes down to how the car behaves and how well it meshes with your driving style, the luxury features they offer, or entirely subjective stuff like "how well do the seats coddle you", "which of these two cars' styling do you prefer", "which of these two cars stigmatise you more to own and drive", or "which of these cars' infotainment you find less of a pain in the butt".
If you had me at gunpoint and forced me to choose which of these two cars I'd buy and live with, I'd kindly request you pull the trigger, but for argument's sake, I'd... most likely take the M4, simply because the remote touch thing in the RC F is an instant deal breaker for me, along with its styling. The M4 also has the advantage of being lighter on fuel, as well, and I think it has a bit more street cred. Its faults seem like easier fixes than those of the RC F's. You might have noticed that most of what I just said didn't have any relation to how these two cars drive. And that I think is the main takeaway from my week with these two cars: that people buy these cars not for absolute, bleeding edge performance, as evidenced by their showboaty driving characteristics and shoddy behaviour at their limits. People buy these things almost as a status symbol, to be comfortable, to impress dates, for going maybe 5mph above the speed limit on British B roads and pretending they're Ayrton Senna without actually being near the limits of the cars. That's just not the sort of person I am. These cars aren't for me. For the money these cars cost, I'd buy a Camaro ZL1 1LE, and have a healthy chunk of cash left over. Heck, I'd even go buy a GT86.
The RC F is ugly. It's not at all sporty. It's infotainment is an indecipherable mess. It's unpredictable to drive. It's powerful and thirsty, but doesn't put out numbers to match. It's not very practical. It looks and feels like a sumo wrestler trying to wield a Katana. I find very little to like about the RC F. Even its main selling point, its engine, isn't that good. I really don't understand who would buy this hunk of junk. While Lexus would like everyone to believe that the "F" in their "high" performance models stands for "Fuji Speedway", it feels more like the letter grade any car reviewer would give it, and perhaps also as a prompt for the public to pay their respects to the looming demise of this segment and the RC as a whole.
Erina Mami Today at 1:24 PM
I found an article that describes the different drive modes of the RC F.
Dino Lee Today at 1:35 PM
Doesn't look like much, mostly just how the auto gearbox selects gears, which is entirely out the window when you shift manually.
Erina Mami Today at 1:35 PM
So it's not a big deal?
Dino Lee Today at 1:35 PM
Completely irrelevant from the looks of it. Still would've liked to try it to make sure, though.
Erina Mami Today at 1:35 PM
I thought you hated the car. Hard to believe you want to drive it more
after your temper tantrum at Mount Panorama
leaving the car on the track and walking back some 2km to the pits
Dino Lee Today at 1:38 PM
I might hate it less if Sport+ Mode actually got its act together
I hate not knowing a car entirely. Makes me feel like I didn't do my job.
Then again this car is always going to hide things from me.
It seems to have an Expert mode, and another unnamed mode, that Lexus doesn't even tell customers how to engage.
Erina Mami Today at 1:42 PM
You're doing fine.
Dino Lee Today at 1:50 PM
Erina Mami Today at 1:53 PM
I quite like the cars, actually.
Dino Lee Today at 1:54 PM
Erina Mami Today at 2:06 PM
I don't know.
Dodge has made some iconic tv and movie cars spanning the likes of Duke's of Hazard and Fast and Furious Series but there is a little unknown car that took part in another 1970's movie about a white Dodge muscle car. This week we are testing the Dodge Challenger R/T '70. This weeks car is chosen by @05XR8
I've always found the Challenger to be nice to look at, capable of epic 1/4 miles, but sorely lacking in the top end speed.
Guess tomorrow night we'll need short straights, open corners and plenty of room for braking!
GTS Nordschleife hot lap STOCK Dodge Challanger RT '70: 08.28.245
Basically the same as the Mach 1. Same top speed etc. Is more drifty and slidy though and thus much more fun.
With this lap time, it's not even in the top 100 road legal cars in the game (at least on tracks with longer straights), with its closest rival being the Mach 1. At the same time it is one of the slowest road cars in the game regarding the top speed, together with the Mach 1 (and other muscle cars, though they are not quite as slow as this is).
The car is also good for observing tyre flex in slow-mo. Check out 29:17 @ the following video:
Verdict: somewhat sleeper, because on tracks with short straights, it's actually a really quick car.
I just driven just about all of the 60s/70s US muscle cars recently and I'm sad to say the Challenger is about the worst of the lot.
Granted if you choose to run these you should choose the track correctly... to me these are great on say Monza or even Le Mans but do not suit twisty tracks like Tsukuba to the 'Ring.
The Challenger has a real bad rear end. It doesnt seem to want to put the power down cleanly or without the tail breaking out.
I thought the Mach 1 would be bad but its actually a lot better. The Super Bee is also pretty good and I think the Camaro is better again.
I also concur, the Challenger has a poor top end... and it takes ages to get there.
I suppose you can try to tame the rear end with diff settings but the tune I got didnt do that much and then you may go on an use say sport soft at the rear and sport hard on the fronts.
Eh... this is sad because I like car in real life and when PD doesnt do a good job with their version its disappointing.
Soo, what exactly did you expect how it should behave? It's an overpowered American 70's muscle car.
I was already thinking of testing it and ALL other muscle cars against each other on Tsukuba, but wasn't sure I would really do it. Now I really wanna do it though...and I bet it won't be really that much worse, than the others. Though the Camaro and especially the Mustang are clearly better cars...on normal tracks. I feel especially on very tight tracks like Tsukuba this one will be barely worse, if any, than the Camaro or Mustang.
I once did an absolute super lap with it on Laguna Secca and its time really impressed me. Maybe I should upload the replay someday?
My initial train of the thought, was the Copen. Looked through the list of past tests and thought of the Dodge.
I've felt it's been an underdog in the early Trans Am series. A red Challenger with white top, was actually my very first Matchbox car, when I was about 5yo. My older brother had the Matchbox collection.
Even though I haven't raced with you all in a minute, figured I'd read the reviews of this car that: has the power to jump start the earth, with the top speed of a Mk1 Golf.
A Track like Lago Centre II, should have just enough character, for the Challenger to be fun to drive.
This week for me began late at night in my near silent man cave, the only sounds in being streaks of clattering away at a mechanical keyboard, punctuated by several clicks of a mouse, and the occasional sigh.
"The hell even IS a pony car...?"
This week's definition of a pony car, according to Wikipedia, is "an American car classification for affordable, compact, highly styled coupés or convertibles with a 'sporty' or performance-oriented image."
So... these things are just for show? Are these things actually sporty or not? Need I turn up in a Challenger adorned in a sparkly pink colour shifting My Little Pony livery?
Even before having been assigned a car this week, I was already worrying. I know nothing about American cars and culture. Asking me to review a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T is like asking me to read and review the Holy Bible written in Braille. I am just about the least qualified person to offer critique on the matter, and am most likely going to completely miss the point and not understand a thing. It most likely is something I'm completely disinterested in, to begin with.
Okay then, what's a Challenger?
A Challenger, to my understanding, is a mangled mess bolted onto a chassis and four wheels. I knew nothing about it to begin with, but the more I read, somehow it seemed like the less I knew about it. It was offered with a choice of - get this - EIGHT different engines. That's right, if I thought the Lexus from last week had an excessive number of gears, "I ain't seen nothing yet". This car has the same number of engine choices as a modern "sport" luxury coupé has gears. Some people claim that a car's engine is it's heart, and I can definitely see where that argument comes from. What is the identity, personality, and intent of a car then, with EIGHT different engines to choose from? Are these things built with Legos?
So then which is the best engine? The biggest one with the most power output, right? In the Challenger's case, the biggest engine would be... the 440 Cubic Inch (the hell is a cu in? 7.2 lit- SEVEN POINT TWO LITRES?!) RB440 engine, producing... 395PS? How the hell do you manage to make so little power out of so much displacement? And torque... 490 lb⋅ft, which is... 664 N⋅m?!
That's... more than double what my 2002 FD makes.
So then, back to the Challenger... which engine is the best?
Is the biggest engine the best engine? It has a 7.0 L Hemi. Isn't the Hemi Dodge's... special... signature... trademark... thing? Is that the best engine, or is the 7.2L better? Or the badass sounding "Magnum" engine the best? Or is a smaller engine with a lighter mass and better balance the better engine? I DON'T KNOW.
My head hurts even before having laid eyes on the car I'm going to be assigned. Thankfully, I didn't have to choose an engine; the COTW officials are just going to assign me a car, and I'm just going to have to trust that everyone else has the same car, mechanically speaking.
Unfortunately, I'm extended the courtesy of getting to pick the colour of my Challenger.
There are twenty factory paintjobs for this car.
Is this... what Freedom feels like?
I must've spent about half an hour just looking at the car with paint samples superimposed onto it, trying to decide which colour looked best/ fit the image of 70s America best/ best represented my personality. There was a lot of quirky charm to the paint selection as well, and some names, like "Go Mango" and "Sublime" made me chuckle a lot. Everything, from boring like "Beige" to whack butt wild like "Panther Pink" was on offer, and I even recognise some colours that has carried onto modern Dodges, like "Plum Crazy". What a treat!
I ended up with "Light Gold Metallic". It wasn't too attention grabbing like lime green, pink, or purple, and not completely, abysmally flat like beige. The hue really did seem to fit the overall shape and time period of the car... I think. Over the email exchange, I was given a link to a collection of liveries and designs of the car, since I'm getting to be known as "Mr. Boring", or the "license plate guy" in the weekly races. As if the Challenger needed any help being unique with all the factory options with engines, paints, and other bells and whistles. I mean, come on, in a sea of customised cars and wild liveries, being completely stock is a good way to stand out too, right?! Kind of like coming across an unmolested 180SX at a car meet.
I bite anyway, out of curiosity. There are a lot of what looks like NASCAR designs, which I, of course, know nothing about. A few Hot Wheels designs of varying quality, cop cars of dubious authenticity, and even some... *er-hem* simplistic designs with flames. People really like these things, huh? After seeing a few orange cars with flags on their roofs however, I decide to just roll up to this week's meet with a factory fresh, museum worthy Challenger, complete with its dealer license plate. I'm just going to try to not ruffle any feathers this week.
I arrived at Sardegna for the first race this week, still not knowing what really to expect out of the Challenger. I've done all the reading I can about the car, and even did Esther's little anime spectacle pushy thing to look smart a few times, to no real avail. American cars of this era just seem to lump together without much to differentiate them; they're all 2 door FR cars with V8s, 4 speed manuals at best, open diffs, soft suspension, no ABS, and bias ply tyres. With a combination like that, there's a very exacting way to drive these cars, and you can only really expect so much from them. About the only way to really separate these cars from each other is how much power and mass each has, and how tall each car is geared, or simply subjective stuff like styling, sound, and brand loyalty.
From what I've read, the Challenger has the most horses among its stable mates (aha, get it? Pony cars? Horsepower? Stable...? Okay I'll see myself out). The car I wound up getting was the 7 litre Hemi, which makes 430PS. In comparison, the Camaro Z/28 makes a paltry 293PS, and the Mustang Mach 1, 306PS. It however also weighs the most, at a whopping 1,724kg (3,800lbs), which isn't a long ways off from the RC F from last week. The Mach 1 is a little lighter at 1,615kg (3,561lbs), and the Z/28, a featherweight by comparison, light even by today's standards at 1,415kg (3,120lbs).
As per tradition however, the first few races were all done in the Car of the Week, just to get a feel for the car before we start throwing other things (like a F150 Raptor!) into the blender.
First to last, Racer, Nismo, Rob, Rick, me, Vic. Nat's... been uncontactable and MIA since two weeks ago. I can only assume she didn't do well on her tests...
Because most of us racers are filthy millennials that can't wipe our own butts trying to eke out a living in this mad world, our cars are all fitted with optional ABS, traction control, and brake bias controllers for the meet. Using TCS only for launch as I would a modern car, the Challenger bogs down in 1st gear severely, so much so that it was much quicker if you simply let the wheels spin when you drop the clutch, simply because a wheelspinning car is faster than a car with a dead engine.
Comparing the wheel spinners to the non spinners. Nismo, Vic, and I spun, while Racer, Rob, and Rick didn't.
The scene at T2. Vic basically shot up from last to 2nd, just from smoking his tyres at launch (like god intended, if I understand the Bible correctly), with me being forced to the outside of the slight left kink of T1.
That's right: the V8 Hemi in this thing I find has a ridiculously, spitefully narrow powerband; it redlines at 5,500rpm, and it simply goes limp at anything below 4,000. For crying out loud, even a 1967 Cosmo with a Rotary engine has a wider powerband than this almighty 'MURICAN V8. With all the hype that was thrown at me in my last minute researching about muscle cars and great thumping V8s with mountains of torque, the Challenger was as disappointing to me as walking into a McDonald's and finding out they're all out of fries, or going to Monza and finding out they don't run the oval anymore. At this point, what even is the point anymore? Why am I still here, just to suffer?
As if this dead horse needed more beating (aha, get it? Pony car, dead horse- I'M NOT SORRY!), the engine and its slim jim narrow powerband is perhaps to blame for another one of the car's glaring faults: its gearing. The gears on this car are so narrow that you're in 3rd for less than three seconds at full throttle on a flat road. Not only does this mean that you're fumbling around with the stick in this car a lot, losing precious milliseconds on the track, the low gearing on this thing means that the Challenger tops out at a gear limited top speed of 184km/h (114mph). I've seen longer skirts in anime than the gearing of this Challenger. The short gearing means that I often found myself drowning the engine mid corners. Shifting down would cause it to immediately run out of breath, and even light up the rear tyres. Unfortunately, because of the peaky muscle car engine, it's faster to shift down into a lower gear, get the rear end lively, and power out of the corner with a hint of both power oversteer and one tyre fire than to crawl out of a corner in a higher gear, as Vic and I will demonstrate to you:
Because of this car's abysmal gearing, we were running short versions of most tracks this week, like Sardegna C, Suzuka East, and Maggiore Central, in spite of my disdain for these short tracks, likening them to going to a Red Light District for just a hug. In this case, I'd rather just a fling and flick, than to have to spend an entire night at redline to a woeful drone of an asphyxiating car. No amount of research I could do could get me to understand how the American public and engineers both could accept these ratios. The car was nearly topping out even at a relatively tight, technical, home grown track of Laguna Seca, and I'm sure America has many, many more wide open tracks that let cars stretch their legs more. WHAT are these cars made to do? Just a quarter mile and nothing else? Did no one else find issue with driving a car at its redline constantly?
With a modern day ABS, the Challenger can actually be pushed quite hard on corner entry, and the bias ply tyres really do require a lot of weight on them before they start to bite. That is to say, without the assurance and precision that ABS affords, the Challenger is a sloppy mess to drive. It really makes one appreciate just how much ABS is doing for the driver, driving this back-to-back with ABS on and then off after the weekly meet. I began to realise the thousands of adjustments it needs to make a second, how quickly it needs to calculate and make those adjustments, while balancing out braking force left and right, all while accounting for changing road surfaces and undulations.
With this assured increase of deceleration power, the rear end of the Challenger just about reaches up for the sky in each braking zone, causing it to slide out in most situations, especially with aggressive heel and toe, which can be easily caught by manually easing off the brakes a little and applying a quick flash of counter steer, which gets the car obediently back in line. With an aftermarket brake balance controller, this problem is better massaged out of the car. Of course, I only remember I HAD a brake balance controller at race 5 at Suzuka...
Corner exit, however, is a little more... hairy.
In addition to the earlier mentioned indecision when it comes to the car's gearing on corner exit, the Challenger exhibits every shortcoming of a car of its era. You simply can't put the same weight over the rear tyres on corner exit as you did corner entry, so the car needs to be babied out of a corner. You'll need to account for both over and understeer when you apply power out of a corner, as you'll need to carefully and gradually shift weight over the rear with the gas pedal well before hitting the apex to ensure you won't make a mess of the rears when it's time to actually put power down. And once you do, you'll need to watch for the understeer as well in this extremely nose heavy car.
Other traits common to cars of its era, the Challenger shares as well, such as having a completely open diff, bias ply tyres, and soft suspension. What this list translates to in driving is that the car is very liable to snap on you if you induce awkward lateral weight shifts mid corner, as all the power simply flies to the side without grip, causing a torque vectoring effect that sends you only in the completely wrong direction at any given moment. You therefore need to avoid any road imperfections when driving this thing hard, such as rumble strips, and really plan out a rock solid line way in advance, as the car doesn't take mid corner adjustments well. It is nigh impossible to get this thing back once it starts fishtailing as a result. While I did fishtail it in a race that never happened at a track that didn't exist, I was lucky enough to recover it unscathed. The only way I could describe the sensation is attempting to navigate a cargo ship through a slalom at sea... while time is flowing a hundred times faster.
So, what's my verdict of this car?
If you hadn't been bored to death my my review of the car yet, you probably can't tell that I really don't give two poops about the car. I've never felt this bored writing a review before. The charm of COTW is that I get an incentive to drive cars I usually overlook, and I can tell you after driving this that I really don't feel any less apathetic towards the car before and after driving it, simply because there's no real point to it. I can hardly be bothered to give it a Beater and Forget Her verdict. I just want to walk away from it as quickly as possible.
Its completely useless gearing makes lap times completely out of the question for most tracks, with only very few exceptions like Tsukuba, Laguna Seca, and Horse Thief Mile. Needless to say, a 50 year old muscle car isn't going to corner, so putting it on these tight, technical tracks is torture for both man and machine. It really does appear to me, someone who knows nothing about this segment of cars, that they're simply built for the quarter mile, and nothing else. No exaggeration.
To put this theory to test, I arranged for a very unscientific Zero-Yon- I mean, quarter mile test, at a top secret location. The folks in charge of this salivating test track are so secretive with its location, that I had to be blindfolded, put to sleep via drugs, and then locked in a black box every time I access and leave it. There appears to be an infield layout to this track as well, but that's so secretive, no outsider has yet been allowed in.
Given the great lengths to keep this track a top secret, and the great pains to go through to even rent it for an exorbitant price, it's not a track I like to have to use to test a car, even if it is undisputedly THE best place on earth (?) to test a car at its top speed, with two 12km straights linked by two enormous, generously banked corners not even a LaFerrari or Veyron would have to brake for. I only needed about 402 metres of straight road that day, but the owners of the track seemed to really like muscle cars, so I was actually invited to their test track free of charge to run the quarter mile... using distance markers in metres. Without proper timing equipment. And yes, I was drugged and put to sleep all the same on the way there.
I wasn't really doing the Zero Yon for a time, though. I know if I quoted a time, people would be all up in arms, saying crap like "you don't know how to drive (in a straight line)", "you don't know how to launch it", "you're running the wrong tyres and pressures", "you're carrying too much fuel, stupid", and "you shift slow af". I only had a stopwatch at hand for this, which was far from scientific, so I really, REALLY, didn't care how long the Zero Yon took. All I was here to do was to test a theory.
I crossed the 400m line at about 5,300rpm in fourth gear. If you recall, redline was 5,500rpm, and this car has only four forward gears.
This "car"... was really built to just do the Zero Yon, and quite literally NOTHING else. I now know why this segment of cars is called the "Pony Car" - because these cars are all one trick ponies.
To explain further my apathy towards this car and this segment: what's really the point of reviewing this car if the one thing it's meant to do can be read off a spec sheet? The only thing that separates a Camaro, a Mustang, and a Challenger to me therefore is price, styling, and the standing quarter mile times, and deciding on a car based on just those three factors feels very... shallow, to me. I don't think I can offer any new perspectives, or explain anything new of any significance by driving the car in the place of someone who couldn't. You really don't need a review to tell you that a muscle car can't corner. I'm not going to change the minds of anyone who's passionate about any particular pony car into liking another. It's also not a hill I see any merit dying on.
Ultimately, I need more than price, styling, and a standing quarter time from a car to really fall in love with it. None of them are going to corner. None of them will have gearing tall enough for most tracks. This effectively also means that whichever has the tallest gearing will be faster around most tracks. And, again, you can read gear ratios and top speeds off a spec sheet. There's zero reason to test them. They therefore all meld together in my mind in a barely distinguishable, completely irrelevant, never entertaining lump.
LITERALLY the same.
If I wanted an American fix, I'd get into my Viper, a Corvette, a modern day ZL1, or an F150.
or... even... *GASP* a Tesla.
I think I just became the most hated man in all of motorsports.
Yes, this Model S Signature Performance - not even the P100D, leaves muscle cars, and even the RC F, for dead at launch. Even though EVs are known for their abysmal lack of top speed, the Model S did just hit 200km/h (124mph) on the shared straight of Sardegna - 16km/h (9.9mph) more than what the Challenger does gear limited, which it can't even hit with slipstream due to the slight uphill at Sardegna's home straight. The ONE thing pony cars are meant to do, a family sedan does better, as one of the very many other things it does, which includes behaving well and cornering. There therefore is no point whatsoever any more to these classic pony cars.
Editor's note: I thought you didn't want to ruffle any feathers!
Writer: Look, there's no denying the truth, okay? These cars are GARBAGE! EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM! And I have very little patience, you know that!
There are lots and lots of things that were better in the past, mainly, the economy and lack of deadly viruses. Thankfully, cars have only gotten better since then. The best thing I can say about these cars is that they're at least a nice reminder that not everything was better in the past. As someone with no sentiment for these cars, who never grew up with them, these cars, if they can even be called that, are entirely pointless to me. There are entire WORLDS of better cars that do the quarter mile faster, and fulfill other roles nowadays. A modern pickup would make this "performance car" sweat on any given track, for crying out loud.
You have NO IDEA how fast I had to set my shutter speed for this shot, just so Nismo would show up as more than a blue blur.
Don't get me wrong; that's not to say that this car, or these cars, are worthless. They may be pointless, but I don't think they're worthless. I'm sure I don't need to point out the legions of fans these cars have all over the world. So much so you get distinct groups with... passionate rivalries between them, so much so that these cars have survived oil crises and recessions to still be with us today in genuinely impressive builds and guises, and even painstaking restomods. Looking through the livery design catalogues for the Challenger, I think I understood at least that these cars were to a generation older than me, what the Viper is to me: completely useless and unjustifiable, and nigh impossible to explain, but loved nonetheless.
And that's fine. But the Challenger, and other cars of its era, just don't speak to me at that level. These cars aren't for me. And it's okay to not know everything.
A small little detail about the Challenger: it actually stays on bias ply tyres even with a livery, unlike the C2 Corvette from a few weeks ago! It even has three different bias ply tyre patterns for Comfort, Sport, and Wet tyres (both Inters and Heavy Wets share the same pattern). Racing slicks are grooveless as you'd expect.
Livery by rgbob3 Download
Again, very entertainingly written. I agree on all points. Serious question: do you write professionally? 'Cause y'know, your writing is like...really, really good? Native speaker? Asian ethnically?
Thank you, as always! Comments like that are what keeps me going, because I don't really feel that I write that well, or that people are interested in these long winded pieces of writing.
I write my reviews in Japanese, and Esther trnaslates them for this forum KIDDING!
I don't have a quick and easy answer for your question, though. Singapore is a multi-racial country in Southeast Asia, formed when people of different ethnicities settled on it. We're thus a mix of mostly Chinese race, but have many Malays and Tamils as well, from all over Asia like China, Malaysia, etc.. Culturally, we draw from any and everyone, like Korea, Japan, and the UK, to name just a few.
To ensure that no one has any advantages in school and society, our official language was chosen to be British English. So, while I'm born in Singapore and of Singaporean nationality, my biological race is Chinese (not proud of that by the way... kind of suicide to say that out loud nowadays). I speak Chinese at home, but because of how useless it is in schools and even society, I've neglected it so much that I can't read and write Chinese to save my life. So, my main language is English. I'm most proficient at it. My native language should be Chinese. I really don't know how to explain this cleanly, but cases like mine are so common, I'd say that they're the norm here. That is to say, most Singaporeans of my generation speaks English better than their native languages. And we all have a very uncouth, barbaric sounding accent when speaking English.
On a side note, if you ever feel like picking up a foreign language, don't EVER pick Chinese or Japanese (Japanese actually uses largely the same character set as Traditional Chinese). I think they've been proven to be the most difficult languages in the world, and even native speakers struggle with it, to give you an idea of how F-ed up the languages are.
I don't write professionally, as I feel that my writing really isn't that good. And I'm not just being modest here. Even in COTW, there are much better writers than me who can get their points across in a much more entertaining fashion with less words, and even more historical knowledge. People like @JackRyanWMU , @MisterWaffles , and especially @McLarenDesign write WAY better pieces than I do. I just happen to have the most time on my hands to write these reviews, is all.
I don't really think I could ever write professionally. I write as a hobby, as a way of self expression. Writing professionally I expect would require me to sell others an idea, a cause, and I simply could not do that if I personally don't feel that way. It would also require me to be more politically correct, and swear less... oh man. I'm having enough trouble with that even with my casual reviews.
Heck, I have to admit, even writing these casual pieces, I have very severe doubts as to whether I'm being cringey, and the imposter syndrome really did kick me in the nuts hard when I had to split hairs in the RC F GT3 week... after driving like an idiot in the meet.
Sorry for the ramble. I'm really happy you like my work, but it never feels like I'm deserving of such praise.
Also, @Nismonath5 , any chance we'll see videos of you vs Vic at Laguna, Maggiore, and Big Willow from this week?
Definitely!!! T'was the plan for tomorrow!!
Interesting! Thank you for the elaborate and honest answer.