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Spy Shots – A Trio of British Luxury Cars

Pour yourself a pint of Bass and whip out that Grey Poupon, ’cause it’s time for an all-British, all-luxury future car round-up! In fact, in honour of these English saloons, we’ll be using the British spelling wherever applicable!

First up: the all-new Jaguar XJ. Now, the current XJ has been around since 2003, more than long enough for a new model; however, considering the ’03-’09 version looked about as similar to the 1994-2002 version as a jaguar does to a leopard (relevant humor! Yay!), it’s fair to say anyone holding their breath for a new-looking XJ has long since asphyxiated.

However, with Jaguar busting out a full-court-press of stylish, inventive new models capable of clawing (hah hah!) their way to the top of the segment, it’s time for a fresh take on the company’s full-size sedan.¬† Jaguar will be officially unveiling their new S-class and 7-series fighter on July 9th, but until then, they’ve given us a “preview” image to whet our appetites.

That's not a sunroof; that's for Austin Powers to jump through.

That's not a sunroof; that's for Austin Powers to jump through.

Test mules have also been spotted roaming about. Below, a fairly finished-looking XJ tries to camouflage itself with a BMW-like psychedelic body coating. (I would have just assumed it was an attempt by Jag to try and inspire fond ’60s memories in Jaguar fans, but no, they even stuck on a fake BMW grill.)

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According to Britain’s CAR Magazine, the upcoming XJ will be the lightest car in its class, due to extensive use of aluminium. Engine choices Stateside will be limited to a 5.0-litre 380-hp V8 or a 503-hp supercharged version of the same; Europeans also get diesel and V6 choices. A stylish, modern interior (like Bang & Olufsen modern, not IKEA modern) will come with a bunch of cool electronics, such as dual-display monitors (letting driver and passenger see different things on the same screen, which is pretty cool shit), digital instrument panel displays and – I swear, we’re not making this up – “improved electrical reliability.” Wow, this IS a new chapter for Jaguar!

(CAR’s drafted a couple artist’s conceptions of the new car, which can be seen below.)

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Next up in our English revue (I think that’s actually French, but whatever. American arrogance rules!) comes another replacement for a model that’s been around since Larry King was riding to school on a woolly mammoth – the Bentley Arnage. First introduced in 1998, the Arnage continued Bentley’s then-tradition of obese luxury cars – but like a fat man with diarrhea, it could sure move fast when it needed to, thanks to its 4.4-litre 350-horsepower twin-turbo BMW V8. (Yes, back in 1998, you needed two turbos to get 350 horses out of a V8.)

But then BMW and Volkswagen started brawling over Rolls-Royce and Bentley, and when the dust settled and VW had snagged the alphabetically (and pretty much every other way) superior brand, BMW retaliated by cutting off their fancy new engines. So VW stuffed Bentley’s old six-and-three-quarter-litre V8 into the cars. And when we say old, we mean old; the engine traces its basic structure to a General Motors V8 from the 1950s, and was first used to power a Bentley in 1959.

Since then, the Arnage has trucked along mostly unchanged; a power boost here, some added legroom there, a new transmission for fun. In 2005, Bentley introduced its first all-new car developed under Volkswagen, the Continental GT; despite sharing a platform with the $90,000 VW Phaeton, it proved a massive success, becoming the ride of choice among royalty and rappers alike. Its spin-offs, the Continental Sedan and GTC convertible, only served to further overshadow the slower, pricier, and uglier Arnage.

But after over a decade on the market, the Arnage is finally riding off into the sunset (apparently it’s going to Dublin), paving the way for what Bentley is describing as the “all-new Grand Bentley.” The image below is the only hint Bentley’s giving of what the new car will look like, but given the (admittedly veiled) image, we can probably expect evolutionary styling – think a sleeker-looking Arnage.

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Powertrain details haven’t been made available, but expect either a 600+ horsepower version of the Continental’s twin-turbo W12 or a souped-up version of the old 6.75-litre V8 again making 600 or more horses. (At this rate, the 6.75 V8 is on track to become the automotive engine version of the B-52 bomber.) Pricing will probably be somewhere between $250,000 and $300,000, with options to include anything you can goddamn think of, because it’s a Bentley. They made station wagon versions of the Arnage.

The new model may or may not actually called the “Grand Bentley” when it goes on sale either next year or the year after that (isn’t it wonderful when nobody knows anything?); let’s hope it’s called something else, because I’m not ready to deal with trying to figure out whether the full name would be the “Bentley Grand Bentley” or just the “Grand Bentley.”

Finally, let’s take a look at the all-new Aston Martin Rapide, caught for the first time without camouflage this week in the UK by a sharp-eyed CAR Magazine reader named Simon Gregg (and man, are his Google hits spiking). While the car is supposed to be officially revealed this fall at the Frankfurt Auto Show, one was driving around in the nude on public roads for some reason.

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Then again, I don’t think any of us really have a problem with such a beauty going around in the buff, do we? (At least, that’s what I keep telling Jessica Biel when I see her. Which is rarely.) When it comes to styling, Aston’s been knocking it out of the park like Barry Bonds on the ball-shrinking juice lately, and the Rapide manages to pull off four doors without looking awkward or staid. (Okay, the car’s tail looks a little…elevated in the picture below, but maybe it’s just excited. Or aroused.)

Look, Stephen - she's presenting!

Look, Stephen - she's presenting!

The Rapide should go on sale early next year, equipped with the 470-horsepower 6.0-litre (okay, that’s getting old) V12 found in the DB9. Hopefully, an “S” model with the DBS’s 510-horsepower V12 (and Daniel Craig looks) will be along soon after. Expect to pay around $175,000 for your Rapide – more than the competing Porsche Panamera Turbo, but hopefully less than the Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG.

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Spy Shots and Curiosities

It’s been a while since we featured any spy shots here on CCO, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to throw a couple interesting ones your way.

First up, the 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour. Now, that name is still just a rumor at this point, but that will probably be what it’s called when it rolls into showrooms this fall. (At least it’s better than BMW’s name for their similar 5-series-based car, the Gran Turismo. Sorry, BMW – we love ya, but calling a wagon a gran turismo doesn’t make it a gran turismo. I can call myself Tom Brady all I want, but that won’t get me Gisele Bundchen.)

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Between this car, BMW’s Gran Turismo, and a few other examples, it seems as though the Next Big Thing in car design is to blend the hatchback/wagon bodystyles – much in the way the blending of coupe and sedan has proven popular since the Mercedes-Benz CLS appeared a few years ago.

Rumors have bounced around regarding the…miniwagon‘s platform and powertrain, but figure it’ll be pretty much based on the Accord beneath the skin – after all, the Accord’s platform serves as the basis for the Pilot SUV, so it’s proven quite flexible. As on the Pilot, all-wheel-drive will probably be an option. In terms of engines, we’d expect Honda’s corporate 3.5-liter V6, making somewhere around 275 horsepower; there have been rumors of a 200-hp turbo four as well, but seeing as how Honda already makes a 201-hp naturally aspirated I4 for the TSX, it seems more likely they’ll throw that under the hood.

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Next up, we have the BMW X1, part of the German automaker’s plan to craft a vehicle for every single niche, no matter how razor-thin. The aforementioned 5-series GT is another example of this phenomenon; when it is released next year, the 5-series line will include a sedan, a wagon, a miniwagon/hatchback, a coupe, a convertible, a sport-utility vehicle, and a sport utility coupe. Overkill: not just for nuclear weapons anymore!

Anyway, the X1 will be BMW’s smallest SUV, slotting alongside the 1-series coupes and convertibles at the cheap end of the lineup. Frankly, we’re not sure what the X1 is supposed to compete against, given the X3 already competes against the smallest SUVs offered by other luxury manufacturers; perhaps BMW is hoping they can steal away Subaru Forester owners. And given that Mini will soon be introducing their own tiny SUV, it’s hard to see how the X1 is worth the trouble.

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Still, it should be a hoot to drive, especially since it’ll be coming Stateside with a 272-hp 3.0L inline-six. (BMW offers a 204-hp diesel model in Europe that supposedly gets around 37 mpg; however, as usual, it hasn’t been confirmed for the States yet.) Expect to see it in BMW showrooms next year; a correspondingly larger X3 will probably be along less than a year later.

(By the way, those psychedelic swirls you see on these spy shots are all the rage in the car disguising business these days. They’re supposed to make it harder for the human eye to pick out distinguishing¬†characteristics – though it seems just as likely to cause acid flashbacks in passing drivers.)P90047890

Our third and final spy shot of the day is of the long-rumored BMW M7. Now, for nearly the last decade or so, Mercedes-Benz has cornered the market on souped-up full-size luxury sedans with the AMG versions of the S-class. (They currently offer two – the V8-powered, 518-hp S63 and the turbocharged V12-powered, 604-hp S65.) Surprisingly, BMW hasn’t seen fit to challenge these cars directly through their M performance division as they do in the compact and mid-size luxury markets; rather, they’ve let their semi-affiliated tuner Alpina fight back with their B7 sedan.

However, with the M division (and BMW in general) moving towards turbocharged engines, it appears they’ve decided to pull up their lederhosen and man up by sticking the twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 from the X5 M and X6 M into a 7-series. Expect 550 horsepower, a 0-60 time of under 4.5 seconds and some heated competition between it and the Porsche Panamera Turbo around the Nurburgring.

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Finally, we want to wrap things up with a couple of unusual vehicles. Galpin Auto Sports, or GAS (a.k.a the guys from Pimp My Ride) have just unveiled a pair of cars the Air Force commissioned them to make (for recruitment purposes, not warfare), and…holy shit. These things may be the coolest cars we’ve ever seen…and we’ve seen pretty much everything.

First up is the GAS X-1. As is pretty obvious, it’s based on a Ford Mustang – but it has about as much in common with those cars in the Hertz Fun Collection as Pierce Brosnan’s Vanquish in Die Another Day had with a stock Aston Martin. How badass is this car? Well, let me put it this way: in place of the twin buckets in most Mustangs, this one has a single ejection seat.

Yes. That’s right. An ejection seat.

USAF Theme Cars

There’s also a GPS transponder, night and thermal vision cameras with in-cockpit touch-screen displays, and an actual flight stick in place of the steering wheel. Oh, yeah, and the 4.6-liter V8’s been played with to make 500 horsepower, but that’s a footnote at this point. Nobody’s gonna listen past “ejection seat.”

USAF Theme Cars

The second car, based on the Doge Challenger, is called the Vapor – apparently because the Air Force wanted everyone to think they were building a lame, unsubstantial vehicle when they were actually putting together a car that could kick Optimus Prime’s ass.

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Take the matte-black paint job. Looks like the same stuff on every “murdered out” car on the road, right? Well, it’s too bad you can’t see radio waves – because then you’d realize this sucker’s paint job absorbs radar. It also packs a roof-mounted 360-degree-rotating camera with night and thermal visions, which can be displayed on the twin instrument panel screens.

Of course, there’s also the full-windshield head-up display, the proximity sensors, the dual yoke controls (yes, the passenger can steer the car too), a stealth exhaust that allows the car to drive around in complete silence, and an advanced computer system that allows the car to be driven remotely from anywhere on Earth using the Internet.

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We don’t know about the rest of you, but to us at CCO, this black bastard screams one thing: Batmobile. All it needs is some bulletproofing and a Hennessey HPE800 engine upgrade (800 horsepower should offset that added weight nicely), and you’re ready to clean the scum off the streets of Gotham City. \

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But what do you think? Let us know below!

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