Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Super Car: 2011 Honda NSX super Car

story source: Goauto

This is tipped to be the next-generation Honda NSX.


The show-stopping Acura Advanced Sports Car Concept, which debuted at this week’s Detroit motor show, is designed to incorporate a powerful front-mounted, rear-drive V10 engine with Honda’s super handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD), which also underpins the Honda Legend.

Visually, the concept’s exterior demonstrates a dynamic fusion of advanced technology and emotion.

The long, pronounced bonnet features deeply sculpted lines and embossed air vents while the exterior lines run the length of the body, creating a ribbon-like effect from the headlights to the rear wheel arches.

Although modern in its appearance, the car retains the subtle cues associated with its predecessor, the NSX.

The concept’s slim, LED headlights arepushed wide and designed to mimic the pop-up headlights found on the first generation NSX. Other styling hints include a modern take on wraparound rear tail-lights and the all black cockpit.


"Our intention was to design an exotic sports car that gracefully combines advanced technology and strong emotion," according to Jon Ikeda, principal designer of the Acura Design Center.

"The technical, machined surfaces and keen-edge design are balanced with sweeping curves and dramatic lines, all of which results in the ultimate exotic sports car."

Wide and low to the ground with a 2763mm wheelbase, the concept is anchored by grippe 19-inch front and 20-inch rear performance tires mounted to custom billet-machined, polished aluminum wheels.

Braking is via powerful, ventilated carbon ceramic brakes with eight-piston calipers. Bold wheel arches and flares add to the concept’s aggressive appearance.

The low slung cabin is constructed entirely of tinted glass and sits flush against the body. Door handles are also flush mounted, allowing the sports car to retain a clean and aerodynamic appearance.

The car has a carbon fiber under body and the rear is finished with aggressive quad exhausts and integrated rear diffusers.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Super Car: Off the chain Trident Iceni

story source: Super Cars

This is the new Trident Iceni. The makers claim that this thing will go beyond 200mph, but even better it will get to an amazing 70 miles per gallon. Do you believe it? No, I’m not so sure that I do either actually.

Unlike almost every other super car built, this one is running on diesel. While many will draw comparisons to the Audi R8 diesel, the Iceni uses a 6.6 liter V8 turbo diesel engine that produces 550bhp and an insane amount of torque – 950lbs per foot. This should be enough to snap your neck, uproot trees or pull ocean liners to shore – whatever your weekend preference is.

Perhaps putting the figures in another way is more meaningful. All that power allows the car to zoom to 60 in just 3.7 seconds, which is as quick as a Ferrari F40. Even better, take it on a long, straight road and you can push it to the 200+ mile per hour top speed.

I’ve no idea if this is true as you’d think that they would then sell it to every diesel manufacturer in the world, but there we are. Amazingly though, it looks as though the claim is true. A recent test at the Mill brook proving ground showed the car returning 69mpg. Even better than this, at town speeds there’s talk of having a range of 2,000 miles on a single tank of diesel.

The body is also pretty impressive. It is made from stainless steel and is guaranteed against corrosion for 100 years. So, what’s not to like? I’ve no idea really. Apparently, the icing on the cake is the price. It weighs in at a not wallet unfriendly £75,000. Well, it’s a good alternative to an Aston Martin right?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Super Car: 2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed

Source: Super Car

The 2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed adds more onto the genuine appeal of Bentley’s symbolic GT coupe line, as the car is allowed to reach higher and purer speeds. It was first launched on the 1st of August 2007, and is the most powerful production car Bentley has ever created to achieve optimum speeds with high-end performance. Bentley was inspired to create the car from the ultimate success of the Continental GT coupe, and the renowned Speed models from the iconic era of the 1920s. The result is a beast full of powerful response and handling that keeps the Bentley name in spite of its edgier, hardcore look and feel. It is a complete piece of the Continental series, and a potent piece of machinery.

The Continental GT Speed’s objective was to communicate all the possibilities of its design but still holding firm with everything that made the Continental GT coupe model successful. The exterior design of the new Speed is similar to its predecessor, but has a few subtle variations to it, as it is defined by a chrome matrix grille to assist in the airflow to the more powerful engine. It also has wider and lowly positioned air intakes as well, as the engine needs excellent ventilation. The very vertical grille also helps in intensifying the unique Continental look with a more prominent square edge, plus the new lower bumper positioning that has a wider air intake centrally located to create a very sporting look and hold of the Speed. There are also chromed bezels situated around the headlamps to complete the sporty design. The customer can specify the interiors from a wide range of veneers including Piano Black, and Burr Walnut with diamond quilted hide seats along with embroidered Bentley logo, three spoke multi purpose sports steering wheel, Speed logos on the tread-plates, proposed hide headlining, drilled alloy foot pedals, and a sports alloy gear lever.

The Continental GT Speed carries an impressive 6.0 liter W12 engine that has been improved substantially from its predecessors in the Continental line with aspiration consisting of twin turbochargers. The engine outputs a horsepower of 600bhp (610PS or 449kW), which is a 9% increase from the Continental GT coupe, and a torque of 750Nm (553ft-lb) at 1750rpm, a 15% increase from the coupe. The engine itself is crafted out of light weight components combined with lower friction and a new engine management system, therefore the car optimized its potential and achieved a top speed of 202mph (326km/h). It also achieved acceleration of 0-60mph in 4.3 seconds and 0-100mph in and astounding 10.3 seconds with seamless overtaking performance with 50-70mph in an eye blink of 2.3 seconds.

The car weighed in at 5180lbs with a stiffer, enhanced chassis to make the drive sportier, as the stance of the car became lower with upgraded spring and damper framework, anti roll bars for tauter body control, handling and agility. The alloy wheels that measure 9.5J x 20 is bespoke Pirelli P-Zero high performance tires as standard. The braking system consists of fade resistant carbon ceramic brakes, with modified steering response through revamped speed sensitive Servotronic system on a solid front positioned sub frame and harder rears bushings. The car is also outfitted with extended rifled sports exhaust pipes.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

US electricar-makers Tesla and Fisker on target to build luxury sedans by late 2010

by: GoAuto

GENERAL MOTORS may have put on the table its plans, pending “satisfactory government incentives”, to produce the world’s first mass-produced electric family sedan in the Chevrolet Volt by late 2010, but some unlikely US rivals have stepped up their campaign to deliver luxury electric sedans in the US before then.

Last week luxury electric car-maker Tesla Motors announced plans to build a $US250 million production facility in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley at San Jose, to manufacture its zero-emissions five-seater luxury sedan, the Model S.

Formerly known as the WhiteStar, the Model S is expected to start being shipped out of the 89-acre site, to where Tesla’s corporate headquarters and research and development centre will be relocated, in late 2010 – when the facility is expected to employ about 1000 workers. Factory construction is due to commence in mid-2009.

Left: Tesla Roadster and Fisker Karma.

President and CEO Ze'ev Drori said Tesla selected the San Jose site, 32km from Tesla’s current HQ in San Carlos, because of its high concentration of skilled engineers and support infrastructure, and to minimise the inconvenience for m
ore than 250 of its current staff.

“Big deals like this happen when both parties have something significant to gain,” said Mr Drori in reference to San Jose mayor Chuck Reed’s 15-year job-creation initiative dubbed ‘Green Vision’.

“Locating Tesla’s headquarters, manufacturing and R&D in San Jose will allow us to proceed with minimum disruptions and virtually no dislocations.

“Clearly, no one would argue that Silicon Valley is the center for electronics and electrical engineering. The heart and soul of the electric car is the electric drivetrain, and for that, we need the type of skills available here.”

Assembly of the current $US109,000 ($A131,000) Tesla Roadster two-seater, 27 of which have so far been delivered in the US and Europe, will remain at the Lotus factory in Hethel, UK and is scheduled to increase to 40 per week by early 2009.

Some 1200 deposits have been taken for the Tesla Roadster, which commenced production in March, while the Model S sedan, which will be powered by a lithium-ion battery pack, is expected to cost about $US60,000 ($A72,000).

Central to the production of both the two-door Tesla Roadster and four-door Model S will be a “final powertrain solution” from US transmission specialist BorgWarner, which was announced two weeks ago.

The new single-speed transmission, which will be retro-fitted to the 27 Tesla Roadsters sold to date free of charge, is claimed to deliver 30 per cent more torque as well as a 10 per cent better travelling range of 355km.

“Last December, when the two-speed transmission designed by a previous supplier proved not to be durable, we announced we would modify our approach,” explained JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technology officer.

“By using a more powerful inverter and an enhanced motor design, we were able to implement a single-speed gearbox and still achieve our original performance goals. In fact, the new set-up is superior in almost every way.”

The new BorgWarner gearbox is designed to cope with the Roadster’s increased performance, which now includes 380Nm of torque (up from 286Nm with the “interim” transmission). The Tesla Roadster is claimed to accelerate to 100km/h in less than four seconds.

“Successfully implementing the new gearbox in less than a year was an incredible technical challenge and huge accomplishment for Tesla’s engineers,” said Mr Drori.

“Now that we have a final powertrain design, in a matter of months there will be hundreds of Tesla Roadsters across the country. We’re heralding nothing less than a new era of the automobile.”

Meantime, an even newer US-based plug-in hybrid vehicle maker, Fisker Automotive, also announced two weeks ago that it has secured a further $US65 million ($A78 million) in funding, from the Middle East's Qatar Investment Authority.

The Irvine, California-based start-up car-maker, headed by former BMW and Aston Martin designer Henrik Fisker, says it is now on target to produce its Karma EV by the fourth quarter of 2009, with peak production volume of some 1250 vehicles per month due to occur by late 2010.

The 15,000 Karmas Fisker plans to have built annually by Norwegian contractor Valmet will also be bankrolled by Palo Alto investors and Kleiner Perkins, while their electric powertrain was developed by Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, which co-founder Fisker Automotive with Fisker Coachbuild LLC in 2007.

Dubbed Q Drive, the Karma’s drive system is claimed to offer 80 miles of emissions-free motoring if it is charged overnight. Fisker claims to have taken more than 500 deposits since the Karma made is global debut at the 2008 Detroit motor show in January.

“We are extremely pleased to have closed our financing round at this time, particularly in light of the current market conditions,” said Mr Fisker on September 10. “This shows that Fisker Automotive has a solid business plan and a globally experienced automotive team with very strong investors behind the company.”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Super Car: Audi R8

story source : Super Car

The Audi R8 has an acceleration of zero to sixty two mph in 4.60 seconds. It can reach top speeds of 187 mph with at six speed manual transmission. The design of this vehicle is a sports model with a displacement of 254.042 cubic inches. It has a maximum Bps of 414.0 at 7,800 rpm. The front and rear tires are the sizes of 235/30 R19. The length of the vehicle is 174.4 inches, the width of 75 inches, the height of 49.2 inches, and the weight of 3,439 pounds.

The Audi R8 is a mid-engine sports car that has announced its release in 2005. The R8 was officially launched at the Paris Auto Show on September 30, 2006. This car was based on the Audi Le Mans Quattro concept car.

The Audi R8 will be available for public purchase

sometime in mid 2007. With the 4.2 L V8 screaming under the hood everyone will enjoy a spin in the car. The 3439 lbs of this machine makes for an immaculately smooth ride when cruising down the highway. Also, to look forward to, is the future upgrade to a 520 hp, 5.2 L V10 upgrade, similar, but larger than the Lamborghini Gallardo engine, currently available in the Audi S8.

With a V8 engine this low laying vehicle hugs the road at tremendous speeds. This car is equipped to accelerate quickly and change gears effortlessly. The design on this model one of a kind for a street vehicle. This beefy machine appears to be showing some muscle as it sits at an idle in the street. It has the typical layout of a race car. The motor can be found behind the drivers seat. The stalky set up is for optimal performance at high speeds thus allowing the vehicle and driver to become one with the road.

One way of noticing the intense dynamics of this design is by the two large format diffuser openings coming out of the rear bumper. The tail pipes are large and have an oval shape to them. And they rest just above the diffuser openings.

The interior is definitely more for the driver than its one possible passenger. This is true of the cockpit area meshing in with the driver. The switches and console are leaning slightly towards the driver of the vehicle. Audi, known for producing some of the best, futuristic looking interiors ever seen, may surprise the Audi fan with the rather basic, or "normal" interior design command center for the R8. Audi has also dabbed a few carbon fiber components in the R8, which doesn’t actually enhance the comfort level any, but does come in quite handy when remembering the R8’s overall potential for performance.

The only downside that comes to mind is the amount of production taking place at the Audi plant, or rather, lack of production. Only 15 cars are manufactured daily, which makes for a overwhelming yearn for a higher productivity count after considering all the countries worldwide that sell Audi products. Nonetheless, Audi guarantees it is definitely worth the wait.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Super Car: Aston Martin DB9

Make:Aston Martin


Acceleration:4,9 sec.

Top speed:300 km/h.

Transmission:6 - speed manual

Design:6.0 liter V12 engine

Displacement:5935 cc Maximum Bhp450 hp / 6000 rpm

Tires Front:235/40ZR 19

Tires Back:275/35ZR 19

Length:4700 mm

Width:1880 mm

Height:1320 mm

Weight:1650 kg

Striking Balance DB9 is a thoroughbred sports car with GT levels of comfort and refinement. Its design philosophy is uncompromising and brings together everything that makes a sports car great with that unique Aston Martin character, borne out of craftsmanship and use of the finest quality materials. So what is it that makes a great sports car?

Most cars are a series of compromises. The result is usually rational – even impressive on paper – but often bland and soulless in reality. Sports cars should be all about character and driver involvement. They need to look great, sound great and have power and performance to stir the soul.

But what is beauty without aerodynamic efficiency? Power encumbered by weight? Straight-line performance without agility? Great sports cars balance these apparent opposites, creating an experience that is both unique and unforgettable. What the driver sees, hears and feels is in harmony. The reward is total involvement: a level of engagement that truly stimulates the senses, that re-ignites the passion for driving.

DB9 meets all of these challenges. Undeniably beautiful yet efficient. Power in proportion to weight. Harmony of sound and performance and dynamic ability inherent through good design. But an Aston Martin is also luxurious. On those occasions when top speed and maximum acceleration are not really necessary, indulge yourself.

Be uplifted by the magnificent styling; revel in a sumptuous, fully equipped cabin trimmed in the finest quality materials; enjoy the superb Linn audio system; select Drive and let DB9’s 6.0-liter V12 and shift-by-wire fully automatic transmission do the rest.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mini slams down premium Coopers

story source : GoAuto

BMW’S Mini brand has wound up the wick with two new John Cooper Works (JCW) models, offering higher levels of performance for both the second-generation hard-top and the longer new Clubman model.

This means 155kW of power and a 0-100km/h sprint claimed to be as low as 6.5 seconds – an improvement over the previous JCW kit for the Cooper S that released 141kW/250Nm and enabled the small car to complete the 0-100 dash in 6.8 seconds.

John Cooper Works is a tuning house run by John’s son Mike Cooper, which built performance kits for the first- and second-generation BMW-built Mini that could be ordered as an accessory or fitted as an option at the factory.

The German manufacturer has now bought the JCW operation, bringing it in-house and creating a full model rather than an after market-oriented special.

The latest iteration of the 1.6-liter direct-injection turbocharged engine generates 155kW at 6000rpm, up from 128kW in the regular Cooper S.

Torque is up from 240Nm to 260Nm from 1850rpm to 5600rpm. As is the case with the Cooper S, there is an over boost function that releases another 20Nm of torque for short periods.

The gain is achieved using fine-polished camshafts, a stronger cylinder head and valves, a new air intake, 0.4 bar more boost pressure and a free-flowing exhaust.

The result makes the JCW model – for the first time in second-generation guise – faster than the previous supercharged 1.6 (with a Chrysler-sourced engine), which completed the 0-100km/h benchmark in 6.6 seconds, a tenth outside this new model. Fuel consumption is rated at 6.9L/100km.

The new Club man JCW model manages the 0-100km/h sprint in just 6.8 seconds and uses 7.0L/100km.

In order to withstand the extra torque over and above the standard Cooper S, Mini has fitted the JCW with a strengthened six-speed manual that uses closer gear ratios. No automatic transmission is available.

Other features include re calibrated sports suspension with firmer dampers and stronger anti-roll bars front and rear, which lowers the ride height by 10mm. More potent brakes are also on board, with red-painted four-piston calipers up front.

As is the case with other Minis, the JCW cars use run-flat tires. The wheels are no larger than the Cooper S, measuring 17 inches, but are a custom design made from lightweight aluminum.

As is the case with regular Minis, the JCW models come standard with electronic stability control, but they have an additional feature called Dynamic Traction Control, which allows the wheels to slip a little in the name of sportier driving.

Drivers can also completely switch off the stability control system. In order to put as much of its power down to the ground as possible, the JCW models run what Mini refers to as an Electronic Differential Control Lock.

Rather than using a traditional mechanical system, this simply brakes the inside wheel. Mini claims this system enhances traction while limiting torque steer.

The exterior features that distinguish a JCW from a Cooper S are subtle, to say the least. Apart from the wheels and the red calipers there are some badges at the front and rear and slightly larger exhaust pipes (85mm).

As is the case with Chilli models, JCW cars come with bi-Xenon headlights, the option of bonnet stripes, leather/cloth combination seats, climate control, a premium sound system, dark rear windows, piano black interior and Anthracite roof lining.

The Clubman models also come with Blue tooth connectivity and a USB interface, an armrest and a removable false floor.

The JCW hard-top is priced at a hefty $8900 more than the standard Cooper S and $5300 more than the Cooper S Chilli. Choosing a JCW Club man will cost $8100 more than the Cooper S model and $4300 more than the Cooper S Chilli.

As is the case with all Minis, there is a long options list, plus some exclusive JCW accessories including a large rear spoiler, more aggressive bumpers, sportier suspension, strut braces, perforated brake discs, carbon-fiber gearshift knob and gearshift lever surround, and a gearshift indicator light.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Super Car: Bugatti Veyron

Story source: Super Car


Model:Bugatti Veyron

Acceleration:2,9 sec.

Top speed:406 km/h.


Design:8,0 litre

Displacement:7993 cc

Maximum Bhp1001

hp / 6000 rmp T

Weight:1890 kg

After four years of development, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4, as it will now be called, is ready for series production. The most exclusive sports car of all time is following in the footsteps of the legendary Bugatti, those universally-coveted limousines and unbeatable racing cars of the 1920s and 1930s which today are among the most sought-after creations from the early days of automobile construction.

This brings to an end the era of design models and concept cars which since the late 1990s have signposted possible paths to the Bugattis of the future. Design and technological concept have finally become reality in the Veyron model?s final form and will be available from the beginning of 2004 as a strictly limited edition of just 300 cars. Technologically futuristic and packed with creative engineering, the first Bugatti of the 21st century has arrived.

Merging the Past and the Future

The Bugatti Veyron 16.4?s home is in Molsheim-Dorlisheim, the French town where, almost 100 years ago, Ettore Bugatti began to realize his lifelong dream of being a car manufacturer. The new workshop is not just where the engine and vehicle are assembled and tested, it is also the place where customers collect their Bugattis and drive them out onto the streets for the first time.

The aim is to turn Molsheim into an all-round Bugatti centre once again. While up to 70 new vehicles a year are built by hand in the new facility, neighboring specially-equipped workshops are the scene of expert restoration work on historic Bugatti vehicles. Both past and future have found a new home here.

High Performance

The car?s safety systems have been designed to cope with its extraordinary performance, acceleration and speed. The single-piece carbon fiber monocoque alone scores maximum points in crash tests, while airbags give the driver and passenger additional protection. The high-speed tires designed specially for the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 (for vmax. > 350 km/h), sizes 265-68 R 500 A (front) and 365-71 R 540 A (rear), incorporate a further innovative safety feature in the form of the PAX System fitted to the wheels and tires, ensuring safe handling even after sudden pressure loss. Another Bugatti Veyron 16.4 component with a safety element is the rear spoiler. As well as providing the necessary down force during high-speed travel, it acts as a kind of ?parachute brake? during emergency braking. Once precisely-defined deceleration forces are registered the spoiler tilts and the additional air resistance this generates reduces the braking distance to that of a lorry.

The Art of the Machine

The W16 alloy engine developed by Bugatti for the Veyron 16.4 will have a special and absolutely unique place in the history of sports car construction. Its design employs the space-saving VR principle with two particularly slender eight-cylinder blocks arranged at a 90° angle to each other.

1001 horsepower equip the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 with a level of acceleration unheard of in the sports car segment, propelling it from 0 to 60 mph in just three seconds and past the 200 mph mark in a mere 14 seconds. Thanks to its 923 lb-ft, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4?s enormous propulsive power is not exhausted until it reaches 252.3 mph (406 km/h): the maximum speed for which chassis and drive train have been designed. Any further performance escalation is limited by current design and construction.

Also unique is the power transmission via an innovative directshift gearbox. Without any interruption in the power flow, the sequential seven-speed gearbox transmits the engine?s power to the wheels via permanent four-wheel drive. Put simply, this means uninterrupted acceleration from a standing start to maximum speed: a feeling previously known only to jet pilots.

Exclusive, Classical, Functional

Both exclusive and highly functional, the interior of the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 will transport you to a world of your own. Superb leather, also two-tone if desired, quality metallic trim and beautifully designed and ergonomically laid-out controls characterize the Veyron cockpit.

The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 instruments, with a large central rev counter surrounded by four smaller additional instruments also conjures up memories of the marque?s legendary motor sport past. The deliberate avoidance of superfluous instruments and modern extras are an unmistakable statement of the car?s uncompromising sportiness.

Unchanged on the series version of the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 is the classical two-tone paintwork. The designers have selected five separate color combinations for the car: Each of the combinations features the bonnet, roof and rear in the darker of the two colors, with the sides and front wheel arches in the lighter color.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Super Car: Maserati Spyder

story source : Super Car

When Ferrari took over 50 percent of Maserati in 1997, many wondered what sort of products the two Italian marques would ultimately produce, especially after being arch rivals for five decades. The biggest question, similar to when Mercedes-Benz had a "merger of equals" with Chrysler that same year, was obvious: How do two brands with such disparate reputations join together without negatively altering each marque's image?

DaimlerChrysler's original position was that no parts sharing would occur between Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler, but seven years later the company has launched four Chrysler products that are heavily based on Mercedes platforms (300, Crossfire, Pacifica and Magnum). The company seems to have realized what everyone else already knew: The only reason to share corporate assets is if you can also share development and manufacturing costs.

While Ferrari has yet to drop a Maserati body on an otherwise Ferrari platform (à la Crossfire/SLK), the company is sharing major drivetrain, suspension and electrical components. For instance, the 4.2-liter V8 under the Maserati Spyder's hood shares its basic structure with the 3.6-liter V8 in the Ferrari 360 (a model that will use a 4.2-liter engine starting in 2005, hmmm?). Similarly, the Formula One transmission in the 360 and 575 is essentially the same unit that serves as the "Cambiocorsa" electrohydraulic transmission in the Maserati Coupe and Spyder. Does all this technology and component sharing mean you can buy a Maserati Spyder and get Ferrari performance and passion for half the price of a 360 Spider? Well?sort of. The 4.2-liter V8 in the Maserati does offer such high-performance features as a dry sump lubrication system, dual-overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, all good for 390 horsepower, 333 pound-feet of torque and zero to 60 mph in about 5 seconds.

Compare that to the 360's engine with 400 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. The numbers are relatively close, yet the larger engine in the Maserati gives it a considerable advantage in peak torque (likely a reason Ferrari will be punching up the 360's engine size next year). We can confirm that the Maserati possesses plenty of low-rpm pull, along with an intoxicating exhaust rumble that had us exercising the torquey V8 at every opportunity. Also similar to the 360 Spider F1, the Spyder Cambiocorsa uses steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The Maserati system allows for manual operation or a fully automatic mode, and it also offers both "Sport" and "Low Grip" modes to accommodate driving conditions.

As with previous Spyders we've driven, this one's transmission doesn't quite live up to expectations. It does match engine rpm to rear wheel speed when downshifting, making this action a no-brainer compared to a traditional manual transmission. And it can be set to fully automatic mode, but you have to use the "Sport" setting to keep it from causing massive "head toss" between gears. Compared to the 360's F1 transmission, the Cambiocorsa feels clunky and abrupt when you try to pull away from a stop, though the fact that it holds the brakes for a second or two when you go from the brake pedal to the accelerator makes starting on an incline easier. It will also shift into first gear automatically when you come to a stop, but you have to come to a complete stop or it stays in second (and causes even this torque-happy engine to lug). Because the transaxle is mounted at the rear of the vehicle and incorporated into the differential (similar to the Corvette's design), the Spyder boasts a nearly fifty-fifty weight distribution between its front and rear wheels. Certainly, it's not as pure in design as the 360's midengine layout, but the Spyder's double-wishbone suspension design does offer exceptional road manners. Our test vehicle was equipped with the optional computer-controlled active suspension system, called Skyhook, that can be set to normal or "Sport" modes for altered ride quality and body roll control (not to be confused with the Cambiocorsa's "Sport" mode, which has a completely different button labeled "Sport" in the center stack area).

The suspension's capabilities are exceptional, as is the car's sublime steering feel and feedback that indeed border on "Ferrari-like." Both areas were revised in 2003 to improve the vehicle's handling performance. But these traits are offset by the Spyder's considerable chassis flex when traversing bumps, which shows up in the form of cowl shake and is enough to stifle any serious comparisons between this vehicle and Ferrari's own 360. This is after a 20-percent increase in chassis rigidity that was implemented during the 2003 model year. If the Spyder's chassis dynamics are off the mark - at least in relation to its related marque - the car's interior and exterior design are some of its most compelling features. When we first drove the Spyder in 2002, we found the interior materials quality and style to be well below the expectations established by its $90,000 MSRP. We weren't alone in our sentiments, and it's encouraging to see that Maserati listened to the car's critics.

Where the 2002 version's interior was drab and plasticky, the 2004 Spyder looks and feels sumptuous. Our test model was painted a rich Rosso Bologna (cranberry) with matching Bordeaux dash/door panels and Avorio (crème) seats. The contrasting colors graciously complemented each other, as did the optional Bordeaux piping along the lower dash and door panels. Materials quality, including seat leather and plush Bordeaux carpeting, lived up to the Spyder's premium appearance (and price tag).

Functionally, the Spyder's seats proved comfortable over several hours of driving. Lateral support could be better but, when driven aggressively, the point at which lateral support proves lacking is about where the chassis's lack of bending resistance makes an appearance, so maybe there's a method to Maserati's madness. Additional features, like the dash-mounted analog clock, the large clear gauge cluster and the effective climate control system were appreciated, as was the effective air management with the top down. Below 50 mph, wind buffeting was minimal with the side windows down; the same held true at speeds up to 70 mph with the side windows up. The top itself is fully automatic and lowers/raises in less than 30 seconds. We did notice that the front locking points clunk loudly as they bang into the windshield header.

With the top up, road noise is minimal but wind noise was louder than we expected in a premium convertible. Remember that a comparable Mercedes product exists, one that features a retractable hardtop with, as you might expect, coupelike silence at highway speeds. And that last point really gets to the heart of what puts the Spyder in such a difficult position. While its basic nature is highly reflective of its Italian bloodlines (and Ferrari influences), its final execution doesn't offer a substantially more attractive package than similarly priced models from Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. The Spyder arguably has the Porsche and Mercedes beat in terms of style, but the Mercedes offers greater refinement and the Porsche offers superior performance. The Jaguar doesn't outperform the Spyder, but it looks as good, or better, and provides equivalent levels of refinement and luxury. For the Spyder to be effective in this segment, it needs to maintain its Italian passion (as displayed by its seductive exhaust tone, rich interior design and sublime steering feedback) while addressing its lack of chassis rigidity, overly clunky transmission and chunky rear styling.

We've spent enough time in the new Quattroporte sedan to know that Maserati can indeed bring all of these elements together. And with Volkswagen rumored to soon be collaborating with Maserati, it would seem anything is possible. Until then, the Spyder remains the first effort by a Ferrari-controlled Maserati. With the first upgrades since its introduction in 2002, it is a more appealing package, but we think the companies can and will do better next time around.