Monday, 24 October 2011

The Focus ST170...

The Focus RS is an annoying car. Not in terms of its handling, engine or aesthetic - they're all fantastic. No, it's an annoying bastard because it dances around the room shouting "look at me, look at me" like that annoying child on You've Been Framed videos who inevitably gets hit in the chops by an angry younger sibling. It wants to be the centre of attention because it sports the RS badge, and in its eyes that's the best there is.

Well, actually, you flare-arched, one-colour-only show off, there's an option for people who don't want to spend £10,000 on a 10yr-old Ford. It's an option that carries no RS badge, its engine sports no turbo and its gearbox contains no Quaife differential. It does, however, offer just as much driver satisfaction, just as much exclusivity and just as much fun, all for less than £2000. It goes by the name of the Focus ST170 and it's the sibling that wants to punch the RS in its expensive face. And rightly so - it's a corker.

You could get five of these for the cost of one RS. Then you could commit a gang war RS hate crime, or something...

The Focus set the motoring press alight when it was released back in the late '90s, even with a humble and fuel-hungry 1.6 powering the front wheels. It wasn't the engine that caused the media raucous though, it was the chassis. Even if you bought a poverty-spec 1.4 with manual windows and a coal heater, you still got fully independent suspension and on a family hatch that's a big deal.

There's all kinds of suspension trickery going on under here, which is why it's not wrapped around a tree

That suspension resulted in a car that gripped the road tighter than X-Factor contestants grip stupidity. Like we said earlier; that makes even the hum-drum Focus varients fun to drive. Shove a 2.0 170bhp engine under the bonnet though - complete with 145lb/ft of torque - as well as a six-speed gearbox, and you've got a car that's a huge amount of fun on the twisty stuff. Plus, it only weighs 1200kg in three-door guise, which is pretty light for a modern car full of airbags, computers and other electronic faff.

Okay, so it's no RS, but it's also not £10,000. It's also worth remembering that the ST170 is only 40bhp from the RS, and for £8000 less that's not too shabby.

This is the engine. It's full of valves and pistons and POWAHHHH!

Inside there's cloth, leather, air-con and even a CD player - it's all very swish. Plus, as it's a Focus, there's more than enough space for you, your kids and all their associated fodder - this really is a practical sports-car for all the family.

So, it's got funky seats, nice alloys, it looks a bit sporty and you can put your kids in the back. WHO CARES? The ST boasts practicality as a bonus, not as a sales factoid. The Focus ST170 doesn't care about your kids or any of your passengers for that matter. All it cares about it rewarding you, the driver. And oh, how it rewards you!

The combination of that engine and that suspension results in one of Ford's finest driver's cars of that era. Every journey in an ST170 is a joy, no matter how mundane the reason for that journey may be. Stick one of these on a glorious, rising, falling and swooping Welsh A-road and you'll be smiling from ear to ear - we guarantee it. In terms of the cars we've splashed over N2G, the ST170 is easily one of the most exciting, and crucially one of the most rewarding to drive. That in itself makes the £2000 well worth spending.

Sorry, this is quite a 'serious' update, but then again we love the ST170 and we're confident you would too, if you bought one. You should, there's no reason not to. Oh, and if you're going to complain about a hatch being too short on space we'd like you to shush your pretty mouth right this instant. Y'see, they made an estate, too...

Go on, off you toddle, you know it's the right thing to do.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Toyota Supra... you live your life 10 seconds at a time? And for those ten seconds or less, are you free? Does nothing else matter then? Not your store, your mortgage or your team an all their bullshit? Well, you need a Supra, because for £2000 you'd have to work hard to find something cooler. Plus, you can pretend you're in The Fast and the Furious, too, and that's cool, right?


He was in my face! I'm in your face!

So much torque, the chassis twisted coming off the line...

Okay, that's enough of the F&F gags (as in the Fast and the Furious, not Tesco's clothing range). Let's focus on the goodness that is the sub-£2k Supra. This is the kind of thing you'll get...

Oh, and Harry, I need two these, and I need'em by tunnite...

Looks a lot better without all that fibreglass bollocks and silly chrome graphics, doesn't? So it should really, it's a handsome looking machine.

This is the mk IV which was introduced in 1993. The three previous generation Supras were good, too, but with the IV Toyota went a bit more balls out in a bid to build a real sports car. It was something of a gamble, but with Mitsubishi knocking out the 3000 GTO and Nissan with their oh-so pretty twin-turbo 300ZX, hardcore really was the direction Toyota needed to move in.

Based roughly around the underpinnings of the Toyota/Lexus Soarer, the Supra was a more hunkered down, hardcore, tightened up driver's car. On its release it trounced the wallowy Mitsubishi and the delicate Nissan, not only by being better looking, but also through being a mechanical master-class as well as being amazing to drive. The front-engined, rear wheel drive set-up may not have been revolutionary but it was practical and constructed perfectly, offering real driver satisfaction. Yes please!

Edwin happens to know a few things. One of the things Edwin knows is that it's not how you stand by your car, it's how you race your car - you better learn that

Powered by a 3.0 straight-six engine, the Supra was no slouch. Even in naturally aspirated guise it churned out 220bhp which was more than enough. The twin-turbo 2JZ (we don't know what that means, but it makes Japanese car lovers go all funny in the trousers when you say it) kicked out a beastly 276bhp, and that's enough to make your head fall off. Turbo or not, the JZ engines are tough as a tough thing that got a reputation for drinking in the toughest pub in Toughsville. Rock'ard, double'ard bugger, so it is. Look after it and it'll run forever, unless a turbo lets go.

When it came to cog-swapping, there was a 5-speed manual, a 6-speed manual and a 4-speed auto. All good, though the sixer was best - sadly they're going to be a little out of the budget. Sorry about that.

No shit? A Two jay-zee...put about fifteen grand into it, and overnight parts from Japan if we have to, and this will decimate all...

So, what will your £2000 get you? Probably a mid-nineties 3.0 N/A auto with plenty of history and hopefully no silly modifications - don't get us wrong, we like a mod here at N£2G but the Supra is just fine in standard guise. Also, if you see a cheap twin-turbo, don't buy it. It'll be cheap for a reason, and that reason will be its willingness to blow up, taking half your postcode area with it. No one wants that.

We also suggest you don't do this, either...


...just sayin'.

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Audi A2...

First of all, sorry for taking 18 years to do an update. We've just gone and got a proper job and it's sort of eaten up all our time. As for word-carver, Bevis, he's been busy too. Though how busy you can get in a dark basement eating scraps of toast is beyond us. Still, he should have some words to add soon enough, probably about an Austin Princess or something. Anyway, we digress. ON WITH THE BLOG!

The Audi A2!

No, honestly, it is an Audi. It just looks a bit like a foil-wrapped R2-D2, that's all

We've no idea what the woman by the wall is doing, apart from being in a silly-hat-induced strop. Maybe she doesn't like Star Wars. Or Bacofoil. Anyway, she's not important here. The A2 however, is very important. Not only is it a great little car, it's also an engineering marvel, miles from any other car in its class in terms of technology and design. No surprise really - if Audi were going to build something so out of character it had to be pretty special.

Is that guy? Is he just standing in a big circle? Er, who directed these press shots? Good job he doesn't look like a berk or anything

Born in 1999, the A2 was the road going interpretation of the earlier Al2 concept - which looked even more like R2-D2. It came about when Audi charged its designers with the task of building a car that would comfortably seat four adults. It also had to be economical and crucially, to paraphrase the company itself, the new design had to be a small Audi, not a cheap Audi. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the concept itself...

No, wait, that's not right...

...ah, yes, that's better. Sorry about that

Constructed using space-frame principles via the medium of aluminium, a collection of lightweight alloys and a lot of clever German thinking, the A2 ended up weighing about as much as a thimble. If you then strap a 16V 1.4 engine to a thimble, much like Audi did, you find yourself getting 60mpg. That's a good thing these days, especially as petrol stations have recently started accepting children as payment, such is the cost of the golden go-go juice. They also built a diesel version which achieved somewhere in the region of four lifetimes to the gallon, but they're exceptionally desirable and somewhat pricey - you'd have to sell at least three children to get your mitts on one of those.

Hold a mirror to the screen for a UK representation of the A2's cabin

It was, and still is a fantastic car. It's comfortable, it's incredibly economical and it doesn't cost much to run. Sadly though, because it was built from aluminium, funky metal alloy, frankincense and so on, its OTR (on the road) price was far higher than other cars in its class. The result? It was a sales disaster. That, however, means you can now pick one up for hardly anything...

So, there you have it. Petrol is expensive, Audi A2s aren't and they don't use much er, petrol. Oh, and it's great for Star Wars fans. Beep boop wheee been boop wap beep!