McLaren Produces Its Fastest Car Yet In Speed Tail

Fans of McLaren will probably be across the brand’s legendary F1 vehicle produced in the mid-90 s, a car which pushed boundaries further and faster than any of its rivals in its day. It was followed in 2012 by the limited-production plug-in hybrid McLaren P1 which hit new performance targets with ease.

‘An impressive amount of work has gone into the aerodynamics of this car, giving it the look and feel of something truly other-worldly.’

Now McLaren’s gone one better, releasing details of a car which will be the fastest the British luxury marque has ever produced, the McLaren Speed tail. It’s unlikely anyone in Australia will reach the hyper-GT’s possible top speed of 403 km/h, but this latest addition to McLaren’s Ultimate Series range brings with it an astonishing display of form and set of figures.

electric car

Full details of the engine are yet to be revealed but the new technology used in the petrol-electric power train will apparently allow the car to rocket its way to 300 km/h in 12.8 seconds. For those who like their numbers, that’s almost 4 seconds faster than the P1 could manage over the distance.

An impressive amount of work has gone into the aerodynamics of this car, giving it the look and feel of something truely other-worldly. Viewed from above, it has a tear-drop shaped cockpit leading to bodywork displaying gaps of no more than 1 mm, making it the most aerodynamically drag efficient vehicle out of the technology company’s factory. Turbulence is dispensed with as airflow is efficiently directed to the rear.

In fact, every element of this car is designed to reduce turbulence and maximize speed, from the vents and outlets to the way the body curves and bends under force. Even the front wheels are covered in carbon-fibre aero plates to keep airflow as “attached” to the car as possible as it passes the door blades on the dihedral doors. And the mirrors are replaced with retractable digital rear-view cameras. Inside, the seating configuration mirrors that of the F1 with a single central driving position and seating for two passenger set slightly towards the rear. Believe it or not, there’s also space for luggage in both the nose and tail of the vehicle, and bespoke luggage can be matched to the interior specification’s carbon fibre, leather and metalwork.

Importantly, the McLaren Speed tail is the first of 18 new cars or derivatives that McLaren will introduce as part of its Track 25 business plan. Unfortunately, all 106 Speed tails planned for production have already been snapped up for a price from £1.75 million ($A3.2m) plus taxes.


Audi’s e-tron prototype charges into country Victoria

ANYONE travelling the Hume Highway through country Victoria this week may have caught a sneak peek of Audi’s e-tron prototype which made a surprise appearance almost a year ahead of its due delivery date. The electric SUV was out and about at a petrol station in rural Euroa, north-east of Melbourne, as part of a launch of an ultra-rapid charging station, the first of many set to pop up around the country.

‘All electric vehicles will be able to make use of the charging stations, enabling motorists to confidently cover the distances between Australia’s major cities.’

Australian start-up Chargefox says all electric vehicles will be able to make use of its 21 charging stations, enabling motorists to confidently cover the distances between Australia’s major cities.

Chargefox CEO Marty Andrews says his company’s chargers are the fastest available in Australia, with a power output range of 150kW to 350kW. That makes for quick charging time, delivering up to 400km of range in 15 minutes.

“Our network of ultra-rapid charging stations will play a significant part in improving the infrastructure of this country and remove one of the major barriers that limits the adoption of EVs,” Andrews says.

Anyone who has an EV, or is considering buying one, can download the Chargefox App to track down charging stations across Australia and New Zealand. They can also use it to pay charging costs on their mobile phone.

Tests have shown that Audi’s e-tron can cover more than 400km on a single charge thanks to clever use of recuperation technology which kicks in during deceleration or braking.

The dual electric motors are said to deliver immediate and impressive pulling power, accelerating from 0 to 100kmh in 5.7 seconds. Its top speed is probably sensibly limited to 200kmh.

At almost 5m long and just shy of 2m wide, the electric vehicle looks like it will deliver on spaciousness and comfort typical of Audi’s full-size models. Five people will fit inside, and there’s heaps of boot space, too.

I have a few girlfriends who get a kick out of helping their husbands dig their fully-equipped 4WDs out of deep sand during long and arduous treks through the Australian outback. They might find it interesting to hear this car was tested in similar terrain and was apparently up to the task.

The photos at bottom here shows the Audi e-tron prototype in action in southwest Africa testing its quattro electric all-wheel drive capabilities on salt flats in the Kalahari Desert in Namibia.

Audi says the porous, hard surface topped with fine-grained gravel provided the perfect conditions on which to push the SUV through controlled drifts. Its versatile suspension, low centre of gravity and powerful electric motors combined to provide powerful traction, as well as impressive dynamics and stability on varying terrain, according to testers. That should please the girlfriends.

We also like that six-time world champion Australian surfer Stephanie Gilmore has been signed on as a global e-tron ambassador. The surfing legend was in San Fransico earlier this month for the SUV’s world premiere. She explains her passion for sustainability and the environment in this short video.

The e-tron is the first fully electrically powered production model from the German brand and one of three all-electric vehicles that Audi will debut by 2020.

And there are many more to come, apparently. Audi Australia’s managing director, Paul Sansom, says the company will produce 20 either full-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles across its entire model range by 2025


Audi R8 Helps Drive Upmarket Home Design

When cars are a big part of your life, and they take up a disproportionately large amount of space at your home, adequate garage space can be a big deal. Given that most of the big ones tend to be underground these days, the pitch of a driveway can make or break a property for potential buyers.

‘If credit conditions continue to bite as expected, more new cars may stay parked in dealerships for a little longer, opening up wriggle room for negotiation.

So Madam Wheels discovered when shopping around for a new home recently having decided her currents digs would no longer do given the little available space she has for the number of cars she often has on rotation.

Imagine her delight, then, when viewing a new off-market property in South Yarra’s tightly held Domain Precinct to learn that the developer had had the foresight to ensure the driveway would accommodate the lowest car on the market. To his mind at the time, that was the Audi R8.

What a clever man! It’s attention to details like this that matter to those who are paying out the big bucks, be it for a car or a home to keep it in. On the latter, ongoing uncertainly around credit lending has taken the heat out of real estate markets around the country, so Madam Wheels has decided to cool her heels after selling her own home in the hope of snapping up a bargain as the price softening continues into next year.

Those in the market for a highly desirable R8, however, will be lucky to get a price break given strong demand for the highly-coveted standout vehicle from the German marque. Then again, if credit conditions continue to bite as expected, discretionary spending may take a hit into 2019, and more new cars may stay parked in dealerships for a little longer, opening up wriggle room for negotiation.

luxury car

The new R8 is certainly a beautiful thing to behold. Fans will be pleased the 2019 iteration will retain the model’s powerful naturally aspirated V10 engine. More exciting, though, is that it will also pick up some serious race-ready DNA. Almost 50 per cent of the R8’s components are being brought in from the R8 LMS GT3 competition car revealed at the recent Paris Motor Show.

Perhaps that helps explain how the new production car has passed the 320 kph mark for the first time, and how it brings with it the promise of more power, torque and performance. Also on board will be modifications to the R8’s suspension which Audi says will provide even more stability and precision to the ride. Drivers should also notice an improved steering response and smoother transitions between drive modes across the speed range.The new R8 range will include two power variants in both Coupé and Spyder moulds – the “standard” R8 quattro and the top V10 performance (which will reportedly be available off the production line in a sexy-sounding matt titanium look).

It’s unclear at this stage, however, how many of the four variants will make it to Australia but all of them will be quick. The Audi R8 V10 quattro apparently manages the sprint to 100kmh in 3.4 seconds (Coupé) and 3.5 seconds (Spyder) to a top speed of 323kph (Spyder: 321kph). The Audi R8 V10 performance Coupé will sprint to 100kmh in 3.1 seconds, the Spyder in 3.2 seconds.

Audi is yet to announce local pricing of the luxury sports cars, though one suspects we’re unlikely to see them drop below the range of the current crop of R8s which sit between around $300,000 to $400,000.

Other cars selling at about that level include the new Aston Martin Vantage, Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S, Porsche 911 GTS and Jaguar F-Type SVR. “Entry-level” mid-engined sports cars like McLaren’s 540C and Lamborghini’s Huracan sit at the more expensive end of things and are definite possibilities.

But for die-hard R8 fans, Australian Audi dealerships will be ready to start taking orders in the second half of next next year.


Why It Matters To Be Match-Fit For McLaren’s 720S

IF YOU’RE into buns of steel and thighs of iron, a car from the British luxury automobile maker McLaren may just be the car for you. If you haven’t already got said physical attributes, you’re likely to end up with them anyway – either by force or design – because getting into and out of a car like this requires strong thighs and glutes. And while core stability and a sense of balance help matters, it’s not necessary to have over-the-top agility and fitness. Perhaps the need to stay in shape, though, is reason enough to own a car like this.

Because the 720S attracts a lot of attention – lots of thumbs-up signs from passing drivers, admiring or curious glances from pedestrians, wide-eyed astonishment from children.

“For a car like this, upmarket Toorak Village can be a danger-zone given the seemingly carefree way the locals throw their Bentleys, Beamers and Benzs through radical three-, four- and five-point turns.”

Not all of the attention is good, though, as Madam Wheels discovered while cruising South Yarra’s Chapel St on the day of Victoria’s most beloved sporting event, the AFL grand final. Every corner, it seemed, had a heavy police presence, which was slightly disturbing for one behind the wheel of a $650,000 super car with an outstanding bespoke colour from McLaren Special Operations (MSO).

So focused was Madam Wheels on keeping her speed below the requisite 40km/h (in a 720S?!) in the heavily populated shopping precinct, she might (and I say might) have accidentally driven through a very-dark-orange light right in front of a cluster of six officers, all of whom had eyes locked on to her crawl-like approach. Clearly, they were focussed solely on the serious business of maintaining law and order in the pre-final fray rather than employing revenue-raising tactics designed to punish well-meaning drivers for questionable minor infringements. Maybe they just liked the look of the 720S. Either way, it was my lucky day, so I drove on.

The 720S has been turning heads since it was unveiled at last year’s Geneva Motor Show. Earlier this year, it was named Most Beautiful Supercar of the Year in the 33rd Paris “Fashion Week” for cars, the Festival Automobile International. The hand-assembled beauty fought off fierce competition from Aston Martin’s V8 Vantage, Ferrari’s Portofino and the Porsche Panamera to take the title.

The problem with having a car that attracts this much attention, though, is that it’s not easy to park and leave on a public road, no matter how crime-free you may believe that area to be. For a car like this, upmarket Toorak Village can be a danger-zone given the seemingly carefree way the locals throw their Bentleys, Beamers and Benzs through radical three-, four- and five-point turns (most points of which are completely unnecessary but all of which are completely illegal. Just saying).

Apart from the risk of having the 720S inadvertently “tapped”, even in Toorak people stare at it, slow down to ogle at it and passers-by produce mobile phones to photograph it from every angle.

So whenever you go shopping and return to pop the front bonnet to sequester your load in the surprisingly roomy booty space, it can be more than a little unnerving. Almost embarrassing, in fact. As if the onlookers suspect you might be a Kardashian (God forbid). Of course, all of this could be 100 times worse (or not) if you had just “ducked out to do the groceries” in your athleisure-wear – depending on your form. Which brings us back to where we started. Buns of steel and thighs of iron.

Honestly, in the scheme of things, that might be a great goal if you’re in your 20 s. And we’re being flippant about the need to put yourself through the necessary dietary and physical steps required to achieve these results even in your 30 s. But most people would have to work incredibly hard to own a car like this, so you might as well apply the discipline to your body a well. After all, no health, no wealth.


Put your faith in your godmother

AS The godmother of a late-teen daughter of good friends, I’m supposed to have been responsible for the religious upbringing of their child. All I can say is, good luck; asking me to teach someone about religion is like asking me to teach a pig to whistle – it’s a waste of my time and it will annoy the pig.

It’s much better that a godmother teaches a godchild about practical issues, and about things that will actually be of significant use to her throughout her life. I’m keen that she grow up to be independent, self-confident and happy; discussions about imaginary friends might be of only some help in this regard.

One thing I am learning, though, is that a godmother is often a useful first port of call when a mother or a father is better avoided. That’s when the role can be particularly useful.

I should add that this is not a goddaughter-godmother relationship where I withhold things from the child’s parents. That would be improper and disrespectful, and it would undermine the family relationship. If there’s things they need to know, I tell them. My goddaughter knows this and is OK with it. Even so, there are moments when a call to a godmother at 3am is clearly the preferable option to waking the mother.


This happened one night (or morning) during September, and it reinforced my belief that the practicalities of life are sometimes far more important than any faith-based instruction.


The call roused me from sleep only slowly but when I saw the name on the screen I snapped wide awake. A call from her at this hour meant something serious. But it turned out to be only a flat tyre, in the middle of nowhere, on the way home from a party (she was completely sober). Change the wheel, I helpfully offered, drive home, and we’ll sort out everything else in the morning. That’s when she told me she didn’t know how to change a wheel. No-one had shown her how.

‘There’s really no excuse at any age or stage of experience to be unable to handle the mechanical aspects of driving – changing a wheel, keeping an eye on the warning lights, topping up the washer fluid. You know, really basic stuff.’


There’s a lot said about the preparedness of our kids to drive at the moment when we hand them the keys to the car and send them out on the roads on their own for the first time. And it’s true their skills are rudimentary, and their ability to read traffic, assess situations and moderate risky behaviour is woefully under-developed. Those things only come with regular practice, experience, training and the patience of good instructors.


But as I drove to the location she’d sent to me from her phone, I reflected on the thought that there’s really no excuse at any age or stage of experience to be unable to handle the mechanical aspects of driving – changing a wheel, keeping an eye on the warning lights on the dash (and telling someone when they come on), checking the oil level occasionally, topping up the washer fluid (and using a suitable additive). You know, really basic stuff.

I arrived, and it took about 20 minutes by torchlight (me holding the torch and issuing instructions; she doing the physical stuff so she’d know how to do it next time) to change the wheel. She also knows to get the flat replaced and have a matching, second new tyre fitted to the front, with the two least worn of the remaining tyres fitted to the rear and the third-least worn tyre stowed in the boot as the spare for next time.

(Oh, and never skimp on tyres. Too often they’re the only thing between you and disaster and it’s worth many extra dollars to know they will do their job properly when needed. Go with a great brand and avoid cheap stuff, even – especially – on your kids’ cars. Here endeth the lesson; amen.)

Now it all makes sense to her – she’s not silly; she just hadn’t been shown before. This is a conversation I’ll have with her father at another time. As we departed she told me she didn’t know what she’d do if I wasn’t her godmother, and as I drove away I wondered what purpose faith-based religious instruction might have served in this particular situation.

But then I thought of the joke about the man who hears on the radio that there’s going to be a flood, but thinks to himself, “I’ll be OK; my faith will protect me.” The rain starts, and the floodwaters rise, and he soon finds himself sitting on his roof. A boat goes by and the driver asks him if he’d like a lift. “No thanks, I’ll be fine; my faith will protect me,” the man replies.

The water rises until it is close to the roofline, and a helicopter appears overhead. “Can we winch you out?” the operator calls. “No thanks, I’ll be fine; my faith will protect me,” the man replies.

When the water sweeps him off the roof and he drowns, he finds himself before St Peter. “What on earth are you doing here?” St Peter asks. “I don’t know,” the man says. “I thought my faith would protect me.”

“Well, I’m not sure what else you needed,” St Peter says. “We sent you a radio bulletin, a boat and a helicopter.”


Motorclassica shows how ageing gracefully can have massive monetary upside

AGEING gracefully may seem an almost noble pursuit these days, but it might be easier for some when there’s money to be made from it. Human adjustments aside, new research suggests old can be beautiful where sales of classic cars are concerned where annual uplifts as high as 28 per cent are apparently a reality.


But we’ll get to that in a moment.


Those into classic, vintage or veteran motorcars or cycles can get their fill of antique metal this weekend at Melbourne’s Motorclassica 2018 extravaganza. More than 160 pristine, rare and desirable machines representing the best from collections around Australia and beyond are being displayed during the two-day event.


There’s impressive new stuff in the mix, as well. Peppered among the old beauties in the World Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building are an array of modern desirables that are defiantly worth a look.


British technology company McLaren is showcasing its newest Sports and Ultimate series additions in the 600LT and Senna respectively.


And Mercedes-Benz is celebrating its sixth annual partnership with the event by premiering some of its latest editions alongside historic favourites.


The yet-to-be-released member of the C-Class performance family, the 2019 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S, is parked beside its predecessor, an original C 36 AMG. That car was Formula One’s first official safety car in 1996, a tradition continued this year with the use of the Mercedes-AMG GT R as the 2018 safety vehicle.

‘If new research is anything to go by, picking up something old over something new can provide something much richer than pure driving pleasure.’


The latter was one of two notable sports car stars from the German marque on display at Motorclassica 2018 – the second of which happens to be a beautifully restored example of Madam Wheels’ dream car, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster.


The so-called “G-Wagen” – celebrating its 35th year since first being sold into the Australian market – appears in new – and old-form with its latest iteration, the Mercedes-AMG G 63, standing alongside an original Australian-delivered 1983 G 300 GD.


But Motorclassica fans will wisely not overlook the investment-grade talent among the classic pool cars in the mix. If new research out of the United Kingdom is anything to go by, picking up something old over something new can provide something much richer than pure driving pleasure.


Following the record-breaking sale of a Ferrari 250 GTO in August at RM Sotheby’s for $US48,405,000, British price-price-comparison website MoneySuperMarket created an infographic illustrating 17 of the world’s most valuable classic car sales. Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Bentley feature prominently as favourites.


We feature the top three here:


1. Ferrari 250 GTO: Built in 1962, only 36 of this car were made. This one, made specifically for Formula One racer Sir Stirling Moss, sold for $48,405,000 in August 2018.


2. Mercedes-Benz W196: A former Formula One frequenter, the 1954 W196 won nine of the 12 races it entered, and earned $29,600,000 at sale in 2013.


3. Aston Martin DBR1: One of three race cars to have won both the 1958 World Sports Car Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours, this car sold in 2017 for $22,550,000.


See the full list on the MoneySuperMarket site.



The W Series Will Be Good For The Girls – And You Can Quota Me On That

new W series

NEXT year a new motor racing series will kick off, exclusively for female drivers. The so-called W Series will feature 20 drivers in identical cars competing in races across Europe. My first reaction was that developing a female-only motor racing series is all well and good, but why not put the same kind of effort and resources into supporting women to compete in the real thing: Formula 1? But I’ve come around to thinking that there may be a really good reason for that, and why we should all get behind this new series.

‘I wish that it were obvious to more people that by ignoring women they’re overlooking half the potential talent pool.’

We’ve talked about the male domination of F1 before. In the long, rich history of the sport, less than 0.2 per cent of its participants have been women. Lella Lombardi scored half a championship point in 1975 in an accident-marred Spanish Grand Prix; and before that you have to go back to the late 1950s to find a female competitor. Women more regularly are test-drivers for F1 teams, but for some reason they far more rarely make it onto the grid. There is no good reason for this.

If we assume that the performance level of the best female drivers is on a par with the best male drivers then the lack of race seats occupied by women is even more difficult to explain away. So much of F1 revolves around non-sporting issues – the glamour, the riches, the perceived danger (in reality significantly less than it used to be) – that an F1 team would be nuts not to have a woman in at least one of its cars.

But even if we allow ourselves to assume that the best female drivers are not (yet) up to the standard of their male counterparts, their absence is equally mystifying. It’s been a long time since talent was the sole arbiter of who gets to play in F1 and who does not.

There are plenty of phenomenally gifted drivers who never made it, and there has been a veritable conga-line of male drivers who were on the grid not through talent but by virtue of the sponsorship dollars they brought with them. There are some on the grid today who are there because Daddy is rich or because some petro-chemical conglomerate or telecommunications giant has decided to back them.

(I might put Red Bull in a different category to those others -while the energy drink company tips a ton of money into developing young drivers and getting them into F1, we can’t really dispute the talents of Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen or Sebastian Vettel.)

More likely we’re just seeing the same thing we see everywhere else: a cohort of men frightened silly that they’re be shown up for what they really are, and fighting hard to preserve their boyish little fantasies.

The W series looks like the motor sport equivalent of affirmative action, and I have mixed thoughts about this idea. I believe in a meritocracy, and I can see the potential pitfalls of appointing less talented people to roles simply because a set of rules says we should. We run the risk of senior positions being filled with sub optimal talent.

On the other hand, a meritocracy can only work where there aren’t unfair and artificial hurdles placed in front of half the population, which is the situation we’re facing right now. A close friend of mine, who is very successful in a male-dominated corporate environment, is the last person I’d expect to favor quotas, but she does, and her reasoning is simple: force organisations to appoint (appropriately talented) women to senior positions, until those organisations wake up to themselves and figure out the benefits they reap from having females in meaningful senior positions.

Those benefits will more often than not include better decision-making, better workplaces, and – critically – the embedding of female role models who younger women will seek to emulate. When there’s a deep pool of unquestionably qualified women competing for all positions in all organisations, there won’t be a need for quotas anymore and they can be removed.

The W series in motor sport may prove to be valuable by providing clear career progression for women. It’s been touted in some forums as a pathway to F1 but it’s not really that. The W Series features Formula 3 cars and it will allow women to showcase their talents up to the point they can move into established competitions from where F1 draws its talent, and compete head-to-head against the men also aiming for the top.

In other words, the W series doesn’t necessarily have to get anyone directly into F1, and it should not be judged a failure if it does not. But it does have to operate as an effective feeder series and equip its participants to compete in the recognized and established F1 shop windows.

So on balance, I’m behind the W series as a concept. I wish we didn’t have to do it; I wish that it were obvious to more people in positions of power and influence that by ignoring women they’re overlooking half the potential talent pool. But to date nothing else has worked effectively to get women into F1 race seats, and like the saying goes, insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result. We have to do something differently.


New W Series To Unleash A Slew Of Female Race Drivers

ANYTHING that promotes getting women into amazing cars gets the thumbs up from Madam Wheels. But this week’s announcement of a new all-female race category designed to propel more women drivers into Formula One has to be one of the most exciting development yet.

‘W Series drivers will become global superstars – inspirational role models for women everywhere.’

Eighteen to 20 women of the world’s more talented female racers will participate in the new W Series which will involve 30-minute races in identical single-seat Tatuus T-318 Formula 3 vehicles (pictured here).

Kicking off in May next year, the six-round series will take place in Europe, with one event in the UK, though there is every possibility – fingers crossed – the event will one day come to Australia’s high-profile F1 season opener at the Melbourne Grand Prix. W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir says W Series drivers “will become global superstars” and inspirational role models for women everywhere.

“Every organisation, every company, every sponsor and indeed every single person who helps W Series’ winners and champions achieve those ground-breaking successes will be able to celebrate their part in it, publicly, to lasting worldwide acclaim,” Bond Muir told told Australian motor sport site Speedcafe.

Key industry figures including David Coulthard and Adrian Newey support the W Series, and Bond Muir rightly heads it up after conceiving of the idea while she was on maternity leave three years ago.

“There are just too few women competing in single-seaters series at the moment,” she says. “W Series will increase that number very significantly in 2019, thereby powerfully unleashing the potential of many more female racing drivers.”The W Series will see the world’s best women race drivers compete for a share of the $US1.5 million prize fund, with $500,000 going to the winner and the payouts continuing to the 18th competitor. This week’s announcement of the W Series received a mixed reaction from women racers who have differing views about whether it’s the right thing to do.

Some say it’s great because it provides them with an opportunity to progress their racing careers. Others criticize it because they believe those with funding are choosing to segregate them. GT Racer Stéphane Kox says the Series will be a positive addition to the global motor sport scene, and a big help to ambitious female racing drivers everywhere.

“Speaking for myself, I want to be a racing driver at the highest level possible and to be able to race against the best drivers, men and women. In order to be able to do so, it’s important that first we gain the kind of experience that W Series will provide.” Only two women have ever raced in F1, the most recent being Italian Lella Lombardi who raced in 17 Formula One Grand Prix, wrapping up her career with half a point by finishing sixth in the shortened 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.