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Posts by Ben Robertaccio
Attending a major US auto show is something that every auto enthusiast needs to do before he dies. The shows in LA, Detroit and New York completely blow away shows like we have here in Minneapolis. These shows are the only places where you can see the latest and greatest offerings from the brands we sell — Bentley and Maserati. We were fortunate enough to attend the 2013 Detroit Auto show earlier this week and can say with confidence that Maserati and Bentley did not disappoint. Continue reading for full details plus images of other exciting new cars at the show.
It’s a no brainer that whenever someone offers you the keys to a Maserati for the weekend you take it. Needless to say when the keys to a 2012 Granturismo Convertible were put in front of me I did not think twice and took them immediately. Short of a quick ride down the block I had never logged any real seat time in a Maserati and was looking forward to the opportunity to really get acquainted with the car. Italian cars are undoubtedly beautiful, sound great and provide a visceral driving experience, but I was really curious if all the negative idiosyncrasies I’ve heard about Italian cars were true. Is the car more than just a pretty face? Without giving too much away, I’ll tell you that the positive attributes definitely outweighed the negative and just plain strange attributes.
Admittedly, I do not fit the Maserati driver profile. You see, I was on daddy-duty this weekend and used the car to transport my 8-month old, and all the associated gear that comes with an 8-month old, around town. My first experience with the car was trying to get the car seat base tied into the back seats L.A.T.C.H. system. This, I must say, was not easy and quickly learned that the folks in Italy who built the car must not have chubby sausage fingers like I do. After a few attempts, though, I got the base situated and was ready to hit the road.
With the top down, sport button engaged and manual mode selected I headed home and picked up my wife and son for the obligatory Friday night drive in the Maserati. It was during this drive home that a horrible thing happened – upon engaging 2nd gear and running the car from 3,500 to 4,000 rpms I heard the most intoxicating sound from the exhaust. My old-world relatives on the Italian mainland might compare the sound to Pavarotti, Gigli or Bocelli, and it was this noise that singlehandedly reduced my weekend fuel economy to embarrassing low levels. I just could not get enough of the sound and the associated burps and burbles when letting off the gas.
Surprisingly, the whole family fit in the car comfortably and my wife had more than enough leg room in front, despite the child seat directly behind her. During my younger years I suffered through a number of family road trips in the backseat of a 911 and I must say things would have been much different if I were in back of the Gran Turismo. When a friend hopped in the back seat for a ride across town she said it was surprisingly comfortable. This is undoubtedly something you will not find in most 4-seater convertibles.
Behind the wheel the car offered great comfort on short neighborhood runs and also on longer trips across town. With 450hp on tap the Gran Turismo definitely gets the job done and you can quickly find yourself exceeding speed limits, not that I ever did (wink wink). I could easily see someone driving cross country with ease, and probably a few speeding tickets. Just be sure to check your mirrors frequently, because there is a chance that you might unknowingly adjust the mirror with your left leg. When faced with a hairpin turn, the Gran Turismo took it with ease. Despite its positioning as a grand tourer, the Maserati is no slouch in the twisties, offering good steering weighting and flat handling.
I’ve driven a lot of nice cars before and this car ranked in the top five for head turners. I’d argue that people enjoyed seeing it nearly as much as I enjoyed driving it. Much like the Romans turned blocks of Carrara marble into awe inspiring monuments, their modern day ancestors have turn sheets of steel, aluminum and leather into beautiful sculpture. And of course they have brought a strong touch of exclusivity and Italian culture to the brand. This was all appreciated when I brought the car to Wheels of Italy (WOI), Minneapolis’ annual celebration of all vehicles Italian.
Despite an abundance of multi-million dollar vintage Ferraris, exotic Lamborghinis and cute old Alfas at WOI, the Maserati garnered a lot of attention. A number of people commented on the beautiful color combination. While you might say the car is gray with brown interior, the Italians would quickly rebuke saying it is Grigio Granito Metallic with Marrone Corniola interior. Doesn’t that roll off the tongue nicely? The highlight for me, though, was when a woman looked inside and asked what the child seat was for? I wanted to tell her that it was just for decoration, but I held my tongue.
All in all the Granturismo honestly took everything I threw at it with stride. Rush hour traffic? Check. Rainy weather? No problem. Three passengers? Nessun problema. A trunk full of groceries? Fuhget about it! It is a Maserati convertible after all. You should be taking it out to dinner and parking it in front of your favorite Italian restaurant, not exploring how many roma tomatoes you can fit in the trunk. Reminiscing on my weekend date with the Maserati, I could easily see a 2nd date down the road.
Wheels of Italy took place last Sunday, August 26th near Lake Calhoun. This event showcases everything Italian on wheels. Attendees are able to enjoy the Italian bicycles, motorcycles and cars on display and check out the vendors and entertainment. A great community of people are brought together by this event and we took some photo’s of the festivities for you to enjoy.
The 2013 GT Speed is the fastest production Bentley ever made with a top speed of 205mph. Orders are already being taken for the all-wheel drive performance flagship. The car is equipped with the iconic 6-liter twin turbo W12 engine and achieves zero-to-sixty in just 4 seconds. The Continental GT Speed model include exclusive 21-inch, ten-spoke alloy wheels and a dark tint to the lower grille. The interior of the car features perforated leather and metal detailing with a wide range of optional finishes. The GT Speed has been fitted with an energy recuperation system to optimize the use of the electrical system and the alternator so that energy is stored for use later. The 8-speed can now shift from eighth to fourth gear to gain faster acceleration. The enhanced steering and suspension changes on the vehicle included with the anti-roll bars are guided by new software to make the most out of Bentley’s fastest vehicle.
The Bentley 4 ¼ liter Embiricos Special is currently on display at Bentleys Lineage showroom in Crewe, England. The rare and valuable vehicle comes from the Derby Era in the 1930s and was commissioned by wealthy Greek racer André Embiricos. French designer Georges Paulin produced the aerodynamic vehicle with an age-hardened aluminum alloy to allow it to reach top speeds of 114MPH. The next owner of the vehicle raced it in three 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance races, receiving 6th place in 1949. You don’t see many Bentleys like this due to the development being interrupted by World War II. You will be able to find this vehicle on display at Pyms Lane until September and then at the Windsor Castle Concours d’Elegance.
Check out some of the classic British cars that were showcased at the AutoMotorPlex this weekend for the Royal British Car Show! This event highlights many different British car models, a British fashion show, live British music, authentic fish & chips and tea beer. Some of the cars at this event included Bentleys, Aston Martins, Jaguars, McLarens, and many more!
An annual tradition at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, the Hawk with Brian Redman is the Midwest’s largest vintage racing weekend with hundreds of cars from across the country flocking to this legendary race track. The weekend consists of a number of other activities that are sure to get any car enthusiasts engine pumping.The main event is the races with cars spanning 10 race groups, from early-fifties production races cars to open wheel racers to modern era Le Mans prototypes. With nearly 500 race entries this year there are cars that cater to a broad range of interests.
Besides the racing, two other fan favorites are the Friday night race car and Saturday night street car concourses. For the Friday night race car concours, race cars are led from the track by a police escort into downtown Elkhart Lake where they greeted by thousands of spectators who get to see the cars up close and personal. Despite weather in nineties there was a strong turnout of fans and racers alike. Undoubtedly there are people already counting down the days until next July when the event returns to Road America.
Admittedly, I am a huge fan of endurance sports car racing and had the opportunity to attend the 60th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring earlier this month. If you are not familiar, the 12 Hours of Sebring is a European Style endurance race held every March at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida. Arguably the toughest endurance race there is, the race takes place on the 60 plus year old, 3.7 mile course which began it’s life as an Air Force training base for B-17 bomber pilots. Portions of the track consist of original runway sections that have not been repaved since the 1950’s. As a result, the track is characterized by a number of rough transitions that can wreak havoc on the competing cars. For this very reason, many teams see the 12 Hours of Sebring as a test session and precursor for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, based on the notion that 12 Hours at Sebring is much harder on a race car and driver than 24 Hours at Le Mans.
This year there were a record 64 entries combining cars from the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the FIA’s World Endurance Championship (WEC). Cars were classified into prototype groups and GT based run groups. Amongst the prototypes, Audi Sport’s trio of R18 TDI‘s were favored to win overall and did so, although the margin between their P1 class diesel prototypes and the P1 class petrol powered prototypes was much narrower than in past years due in part to the strong running from the Muscle Milk Honda Performance Development (HPD) prototype and the Dyson Racing Lola-Mazda prototype. Surprisingly, the lesser classed P2 prototypes from HPD were able to break into the top four places overall and as always the racing was tight amongst the bottom rung LMP-C prototype classes.
The production-based GT category is always my favorite to watch since the competition is always fierce, with privateer and factory entrants from the likes of BMW, Corvette, Ferrari and Porsche. During the pace lap Dominik Farnbacher, driving the Luxury Racing Ferrari 458 Italia, took his team out of the race when he collected the Flying Lizard Porsche 997 GT3 RSR driven by Joerg Bergmeister. This left Joerg stranded on the track for nearly 30 minutes before a safety car could bring his car back to the pits for extensive repairs putting the typically front running team 26 laps down and out of contention. As the race went on it was plagued by a number of yellow caution periods that kept the GT cars close with two entries each from BMW Team RLL and Corvette Racing leading the pack. Despite a collision in the closing lap, the number 155 E92 M3 of BMW Team RLL managed to cross the checkered flag first and claim its second consecutive GT class win at Sebring.
The 2012 12 Hours of Sebring is just the beginning of the ten race ALMS season , which resumes the weekend of April 13 in Long Beach. Based on the action at Sebring, the season is sure to be exciting and I cannot wait to see how things unfold.