Auto Express on the hill: our Goodwood 2014 rides and drives
Find out all about the amazing cars the Auto Express team experienced on the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2014 hillclimb course.
This may shock you but the Goodwood Festival of Speed isn't isn't all reclining on freshly mown lawns with a glass of champagne in one hand and a lightly grilled lobster tail in the other. Sometimes the Auto Express team had to push the seafood platter to one side, make their excuses to the members of The Saturdays and do some real work.
As usual at Britain's premier petrolhead shindig, our intrepid reporters went right to the heart of the action to get you the biggest and best stories. We've been up the famous Goodwood hill climb in some of the finest cars at the festival and here's where we tell you what they were like…
BMW M4 drive
By Jack Rix
To avoid us spinning across the grass and crashing through the front door of Goodwood house, our BMW co-driver insisted we kept the traction control on – a shame in a car famed for its loose back end. But even driving the new M4 coupe well within its capabilities up the Goodwood hill is enough to reveal a depth of character.
Gunning it away from the line and tipping it into the first right-hander it felt aggressive enough for track days, but on the more sedate drive back down the hill to the paddock the M4’s comfort and refinement shone through – in other words this is a genuine ‘M’ car. Our only complaint is the synthetic exhaust note that’s pumped into the cabin, highlighted by the raw sound of the old racing cars firing up in the paddock nearby, but in all other respects it’s an epic machine.
Nissan GT-R Nismo Time Attack ride
By Dean Gibson
If the Nissan GT-R Nismo is a GT-R turned up to 11, then the heavily camouflaged Time Attack blows the dial off the board. Rising British star Jann Mardenborough is the man who rocketed this extreme machine up the Goodwood hillclimb course, and we were lucky enough to join him on one of his Friday practice runs.
Sitting at the start line, Jann is cool and collected before his run. And when he gets the green light, he lets the Nismo electronics take care of the car's launch, but then is in manual control for the rest of the run. He's blisteringly quick with his inputs to the top of the hill, making the most of the car's 4WD grip and strong Brembo brakes.
Jann beat all comers, including FoS expert Anthony Reid in a Noble supercar, to set the fastest time of the supercar field, and the Time Attack GT-R wasn't much slower than his GT3 race car, either, with a time of 49.27 seconds (Jann came fourth overall in the Sunday Shootout in his GT3 car, with a time of 47.52 seconds). And according to Jan, apart from luxuries like air-conditioning, the hardcore Time Attack isn't much different to drive, either.
Alfa Romeo 4C ride
By Sam Naylor
As a road car, the Alfa Romeo 4C is undoubtedly compromised - it's difficult to get in and out of, impossible to park and the engine is boomy a cruising speed. However when it's put out onto the Goodwood hillclimb and driven in anger the 4C shines brighter than its price would suggest.
It's telling that the 4C is included in the 'supercars' batch at the Festival of Speed - despite a price tag of around £45,000, its exotic looks and impressive performance mean it draws just as much attention as the cars that cost twice the price.
Driven by ex-Formula 1 driver Rupert Keegan, the 4C feels brutal from a standing start, and the four-cylinder turbo engine behind the cabin has loads of character, entertaining the crowds all the way up the hill.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde drive
By Owen Mildenhall
The mouth-watering array of classic Alfa Romeos at the Goodwood Festival of Speed is a reminder that the charismatic Italian firm has a heritage to die for. And with its evocative name and famous cloverleaf badge, the new Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde hopes to tap into that history to lure hot hatch buyers away from big selling models like the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
It’s certainly among the prettiest hatchbacks you’ll find and the updated 1.75-litre, turbo four-cylinder engine has an exhaust tuned to sound like a sixties Alfa, yet with a dual-clutch gearbox and 237bhp output there’s nothing old fashioned about the performance on offer, although despite being 22kg lighter than the outgoing engine, power is only up by 2bhp.
Taking our first UK drive on the famous Goodwood hill the exhaust note is pleasantly fruity and traction is decent, but with slow gearshifts and numb handling, plus steering that lacks feel and feedback, the Alfa lacks the sharp reactions and driver engagement you’d expect from a top-line hot hatch. It’s expensive, too, so you’ll need to be a real fan of the badge, looks and image to choose one.
Ford Fiesta Black Edition drive
By Jack Rix
After unprecedented third consecutive win in the International Engine of the Year awards (hence the stickers on our test car), Ford’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost is an engine everyone’s talking about. And now its been boosted from 123bhp to 138bhp for the Red and Black Editions, it’s got some impressive firepower, too.
With a 50mph limit in place on the hill climb course (although it’s rarely adhered to) there’s only so much performance you can deploy, which is why the plucky three-cylinder felt perfectly suited to the job. Just as smooth as the lower-powered version, the 138bhp engine pulls noticeably harder but we had our right foot welded to the floor for most of the course.
The suspension and dampers have been firmed up slightly, but it feels a distant relation to the rock-hard Fiesta ST, preferring to bounce along and dive into corners much like the standard car. If you like the bold colour scheme and want to make the most of the Fiesta’s superb chassis, then with prices starting from £15,995 this is the new pick of the range.
BMW M5 30 Jahre ride
By Sam Naylor
Legendary touring car racer Steve Soper was our driver for this ride up the Goodwood hillclimb in the new, limited-edition BMW M5 30 Jahre. It's been built to celebrate 30 years of the M5.
With 592bhp and a talented driver like Steve at the wheel, the M5 30 Jahre lights up its rear tyres without hesitation - and the car handled the startline burnout easily. The 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds meant we covered the first straight in seconds, and the extra 40bhp over the standard M5 meant the rest of the hillclimb course flew by in a blur as well.
Just 30 examples of this car will make it to the UK, and only 300 will be built overall - there's a sticker in front of the passenger seat that lets you know that fact - so it's certainly a special version of the M5. Is the extra £10,740 worth it, though? We'll have to drive it to find out, but perhaps the limited production run will keep residuals high.
Fiat Abarth 695 Biposto ride
By Luke Madden
There are very few hot hatches that are as extreme as the Abarth 695 Biposto. It’s the only street-legal car fitted with a race-style sequential manual and it’s stripped out to weigh just 997kg, so Auto Express jumped at the chance to get a ride up the hill.
We lined up on the start line and it quickly became obvious that this is a Fiat 500 unlike any other. There’s an LCD display behind the wheel, a simple rev counter in the centre console and that industrial-looking gearlever. This is clearly a serious car as the £38,000 price tag confirms.
And as our driver floors the throttle the Biposto’s stripped-out nature becomes even clearer. It’s loud and it’s raw but it’s also really quick. The 187bhp 1.4-litre turbo punches you forwards with ferocity you just don’t expect and the driver makes lightning quick clutchless upshifts using the ‘dog box’.
As he throws it in to the first bend it turns just like a touring car – no body roll, no fuss, just plenty of grip and traction
In terms of getting a raw, racing experience out of a road car the Abarth Biposto is about as close as you can get. It’s not for everyone, clearly, but it really does feel like something special.
Jaguar F-Type Coupe R ride
By Sam Naylor
We've already driven the Jaguar F-Type Coupe R, but we couldn't say no to a trip up the famous Goodwood hill with Le Mans winner Andy Wallace.
As we're queueing behind the startline ready to take on the course, Andy says he's not planning to set a blistering time - but he does want to put on a show with a huge burnout. However when it comes to it, the Jag slams on the brakes - the traction control has come back on. It's a quirk of the car's system to improve safety, and there is a way to turn it off, so Andy's promised some big burnouts up the track on Saturday and Sunday.
The F-Type Coupe R, though, is a rowdy sports car with loads to love about it, especially the loud exhaust, complete with pops on the overrun. Not the ultimate track car, perhaps, but most owners will be happy blasting about on public roads - keeping the tread on the rear tyres intact.
Alfa Romeo GTA 1300 Junior drive
Be Sam Naylor
What would you buy if you won the lottery? When I was asked that question, the Alfa Romeo Guilia Sprint GTA was my answer - and to be able to drive a race-tuned 1300 variant up the Goodwood hillclimb was an incredible experience.
The 1.3-litre engine dominates the driving experience, needing to be kept above 3,000rpm to stop it from bogging down and with a deafening exhaust situated right next to the driver's door. It produces 168bhp, which is incredible for its size and age, and the car is great fun to drive, especially thanks to the engine's high-revving nature and wonderful exhaust note.
It was the first time I'd driven up the hill, so I took it easy, espeically on the tricky molecomb left-hander, but the car's light weight, comunicative steering and small size mean it's a delight to drive. It's just a shame that the course is so short.