Cars & Motorcycles

Wheels July 2019

Wheels is Australia’s original motoring magazine. Launched in 1953, we’ve been trusted by generations of Australians to provide entertaining and forthright opinions on the good, the bad and the ugly of new and used cars. A world-class car mag with a formidable international reputation, Wheels covers the full gamut of cars – from sports cars to four-wheel-drives, economy to family cars – but it also covers the people, personalities and the power plays behind one of the world’s most dynamic industries.

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6 Issues

in this issue

3 min.

PERHAPS THE BEST day I’ve ever had at Wheels is one I’ve never written about. It was at Sandown, years ago, and through some bizarre fluke of circumstance, I found myself with an empty circuit and two cars at my disposal – an electric blue Lexus LFA and a red Mercedes-AMG C63 507 wagon. I’ve been thinking about that afternoon a lot this month, trying to understand why those few hours – spent mostly at 9000rpm in the Lexus and on the lock-stops in the deranged Benz – were so seminal. It was the engines, of course. For all the LFA’s and the AMG’s dynamic talent, it’s not the steering feel or the handling poise that comes back. It’s how they behaved under full load, how each donk dictated the character…

2 min.
this horse has vaulted

WHILE THE NEW SF90 Stradale is the first plug-in hybrid Ferrari, it won’t be the last. Petrol-electric propulsion soon will be a staple of the prancing horse stable. “This is the [step]-off project for the new architecture,” Ferrari’s chief technology officer Michael Leiters revealed after the Stradale’s Maranello unveiling in late May. It would be the foundation for future mid-engine models, he said, and contained little carry-over content from the company’s existing mid-engine 488 family. Ferrari’s embrace of hybrid tech promises a new era of four-figure power outputs – at least for Europeans. The Stradale’s combined system output is 1000 metric horsepower. In the unit familiar to Australians, the number is 736kW, enough to vault the Stradale to the pinnacle of performance for a road-legal Ferrari. It has lapped the company’s Fiorano…

2 min.
flexible motors

Add up the outputs of the SF90’s motors and you get more than the 162kW electric boost maximum claimed by Ferrari. The front-axle motors make 85kW each and the one between engine and gearbox 150kW. Problem is, the car can’t use it all. “This is due to the limitation of the battery,” tech chief Michael Leiters said. The good news? “This installation of about 320kW allows us to be very flexible in apportioning torque to the rear, or to the front, on the left, or on the right.” The SF90 Stradale blends overt visual drama and covert aerodynamic sophistication. Its two-section active rear spoiler that Ferrari describes as a “shutoff Gurney”. This patented design varies downforce according to a control logic that takes multiple factors into account. The car’s interior also marks…

3 min.
return of the king

WE USED TO know what to expect from a BMW M car. Razor-sharp responses, an exotic hand-crafted powerplant and a level of handling genius beyond any of its immediate rivals. And then we didn’t. It’s not easy to pinpoint quite where the dilution in these brand values began, when we started to get overweight and underbaked M Cars, but it’s clear that the M division is delivering once again. The BMW M2 was a stunning return to form and the next-generation M3 and M4 twins could well put Garching back on the top step of the podium. What we know so far is indeed tantalising. Frank van Meel, the ex-quattro boss who introduced all-wheel drive to M cars, is gone, replaced by Markus Flasch, the youngest person to head the division.…

1 min.
grandmaster flasch

BACK IN 2011 while he was at Magna International, Markus Flasch was nominated by Automotive News Europe as one of the industry’s rising stars. His bio listed his engineering work on aerodynamics at Audi and NVH at Magna. At the bottom was his daily driver, the iconic BMW Z3 M Coupe so, yes, he’s one of us. After ascending to the director of program management at the Austrian company, Flasch was recruited by BMW and headed quality management before stepping into the big chair of 8 Series development and then succeeding van Meel at BMW M in 2018.…

3 min.
forgiven and forgotten?

UNDER THE IRON-FIST rule of CEO Martin Winterkorn,Volkswagen, the world’s largest car maker, had tunnel vision. Diesels were the future, it would do anything to crack the US diesel market and be the dominant European player within it, and it would take a watching brief before investing in perceived marginal ideas like electric mobility and autonomous cars. The company was not innovative but it was motivated, albeit by flawed reasoning. But a black swan landed and blew apart the German establishment. VW’s clean diesel campaign was a lie. It had duped customers into thinking that its diesel-powered cars were green when they were brown. In September 2015 it was revealed that VW had engineered software to detect when government bodies were testing vehicles and switch to a ‘clean mode’ that was…