2013 Mercedes SLS Electric Drive

Chris Harris issued an interesting challenge at the end of his review of the electric Renault Twizy last year. The Twizy is essentially a beefed up electric golf cart made for city commuting. Harris reviewed the car and found it competent but boring despite of the fact that he was able to get it to drift. He then ended the video with some fast driving in one of Renault’s hot hatchbacks because he felt his viewers expected more excitement. That led him to pose a question/challenge of “The Twizy has slightly put the writing on the wall for me. If I’ve got to test electric cars and generate exciting content for you guys to watch, how the hell do I do it if the thing makes no noise and doesn’t do much? I’m kind of out of a job.” He then asked for people to post suggestions.

It probably didn’t happen this way, but I like picturing somebody at AMG tweeting Harris and telling him to try their 750 horsepower SLS Electric Drive (most powerful AMG built to date) if he wanted help generating exciting electric content. Either way, I’m glad Chris got the chance to drive the car and tell us what it’s like. The SLS Electric Drive looks like the standard SLS AMG (if you don’t count the chrome blue paint job), but the actual body in white has been changed to accommodate the battery pack which lives in the center of the car. The front suspension was also changed to make room for the front drive axles. Each wheel has its own independent drive motor. Electronic control does the job of traditional differentials as well as providing advanced torque vectoring thanks to the ability to generate instant negative torque (like braking) of the electric motors. Harris ends up saying the car’s ability to change chassis balance with the torque vectoring is actually more interesting than the fact that it’s electrically driven. Chris marvels at the car’s ability to apply the tires’ maximum grip on the wet track and then has a blast drifting the car with the torque vectoring shut off.

Thanks to AMG for making a car that proves that electric performance isn’t an impossible concept. If Chris Harris can be convinced of it, then maybe there’s hope for the rest of the gearheads out there, too.

Source: DRIVE on YouTube

The Singer 911

Usually when you hear that something has been “re-imagined,” you can assume it’s going to be total crap. Just take a look at Hollywood’s desperate lack of creativity over the last few years if you don’t believe me. That’s why you could be forgiven for being skeptical about Singer’s re-imagining of the Porsche 911 upon first hearing about it. They’ve basically decided to cherry pick the best features from the various cars that populate the air-cooled era of the 911 and combine them into one. If you think about it, the fact that the general shape of the car has not changed since its inception makes the 911 probably the only car where you could Frankenstein the different models and still end up with a coherent package in the end. Toss in custom carbon fiber body work, Ohlins suspension, an engine by Cosworth and top it off with maniacal attention to detail and you could say thing Singer really did pull off a legitimate re-imagining of an iconic car. Chris Harris pays the Singer workshop in LA a visit to discuss car building philosophy and to see what goes into each car. He then takes one out for a spin on California roads and at the track to see where theory meets reality. The video is long, but it’s definitely worth checking out to see what a deep passion for the 911 combined with basically an unlimited budget can birth.

Source: DRIVE on YouTube

Ice Driving Porsche 911 Rally Cars

Chris Harris heads to a frozen lake in Sweden to partake in what he calls “leisure oversteer” in some classic Porsche 911 rally cars. He discusses why Porsche’s signature rear engine layout is so good for rally drifts and then finishes up with a pretty in-depth discussion about the studded snow and ice tires used in the World Rally Championship.

Source: DRIVE on YouTube

Ford Focus ST vs. Europe’s Best Hot Hatches – Chris Harris

It’s looking like Ford has built something special with their new Focus ST. All of the reviews I’ve read so far have picked the ST over the standard benchmark of the hot hatch class, the Volkswagen GTI. The new Focus has a 2.0 liter direct injection EcoBoost engine that puts out 250 horsepower and 26 mpg combined. With a base MSRP of $23,700, the new ST achieves a phenomenal balance of sportiness, practicality and frugality that defines all hot hatches. Chris Harris’s latest video puts the Ford Focus ST up against a couple of Europe’s best hot hatch offerings, the Renaultsport Megane RS and the Vauxhall Astra VXR. He mentions that the test is a little unfair to the Focus because the other two cars are halo models more appropriate for the Focus RS. It ultimately works out for the ST because it manages to hold it’s own while punching above its weight class. The review starts out with seeing how the cars perform on British B-Roads and then ends with a lap around a pretty technical track. All of the driving was down in wet conditions.

The most useful bit of footage is watching Harris throw the cars around the track. All three cars dance around the turns without ever pushing into understeer which is a prominent problem with high power front wheel drive cars. The overall chassis balance on all the cars is well done with “mobile rear axles.” The key to great front wheel drive grip is a stiff rear anti-roll bar. This lifts the inside rear wheel on corner entry which drives the outside front wheel into the tarmac giving it a bit more grip and preventing dreaded understeer. You can really see this working in the Focus ST since it has more of a daily driver soft suspension when compared to the other two track focused cars. I’d say the Focus ST is the Ford product that I’d be most likely to buy new until they come out with a Mustang with the 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6.

Source: DRIVE on YouTube

The Nissan Deltawing Explained

The Nissan Deltawing finally got a chance to prove itself two weeks ago coming in fifth at the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. The car survived two collisions, one at Le Mans and one during practice for Petit Le Mans, before finally getting a chance to finish a race and showing the world what it could do.

The entire Deltawing concept has revolutionized how people think of race cars. The car has proven that it has competitive speed while using half the power, fuel and tires thanks to greatly reduced aerodynamic drag and a well thought out design. Now we get the privilege to see how it drives and to understand the engineering that makes it work up close thanks to Chris Harris and the DRIVE channel. Harris takes the car around Road Atlanta for 5 laps to get a feel for its character before having the its creator, Ben Bowlby, guide him through the suspension systems. They touch on a few interesting engineering concepts. Watch the video and we’ll talk about them afterwards.

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