Posts tagged ‘bmw’

Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team


I don’t get to ride motorbikes that often. But when I do, it’s always a feast for the senses. Better than any caffeine hit in the morning, a bike ride will invigorate you, work some rusty muscles and have you break a sweat. It’s macho stuff, but I can almost swear it is almost like waking from the dreary routine of life.


So I can’t really say how well the R nineT rides compares to its peers, neither can I say either how quick it is benchmarked to the competition. What I do know is, I enjoy riding it, and it puts a smile on my face every time I start it up.


Like many things these days, retro is in, which is why the R nineT has a place in the BMW Motorrad lineup today. People want to re-live the good ol’ days, to hear the sounds and see how things were done before.


It sure looks the part. With its gold forks, lovely polished exhausts and brushed metal accents, it somehow manages to blend modernity with a nostalgic look to the past. It’s even marketed as a blank canvas for customisation, so you can literally change many parts on your bike to differentiate it from another R nineT. The bike we rode was especially spartan in spec though, maybe because it remained a blank canvas for future customisation. It did not even have a fuel gauge, only a warning light that comes on if the reserve tank comes to play.

The riding position is easy going, with no need to lumber down your back or hang your ankles uncomfortably. This could almost be the easiest bike I’ve ridden so far.


The engine helps, a generous 1,170cc flat-twin boxer engine with heaps of torque. You can move off easily in 2nd gear, maybe even 3rd. It’s always relaxed, preferring to surf on its torque curve rather than aim for the redline. But it suits the bike very well. It’s air-cooled though, so if you’re stuck in a jam, you might have quite a hot time. It also protrudes out from the sides quite obviously.


Because of its relaxed riding position, it’s also an easy bike to handle. The turning radius is reasonable, there is a lot of ground clearance and you have great visibility and a sense of how the bike is placed on the road. You tend not want to push it too hard though, as it’s just not that sort of bike.


As a cool addition to the garage, perfectly suited for the daily commute (sans panniers) and with heaps of style, the R nineT certainly fits the remit very well. A tourer it is not though – best to keep it within the urban setting, in which it unreservedly excels.

Leave a comment

Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team


Most potential buyers wouldn’t be bothered, and probably wouldn’t care much either, but the most significant change of the new BMW X1 is discarding its old rear-wheel drive platform for an all-new front-wheel drive one.

This is significant for BMW, but perhaps less so now that there is an assortment of FWD vehicles already in the line-up, like the 2-Series Active Tourer. However, the X1 would still be available with all-wheel drive, though as an option, so it’s not just all for show.


Being forward driven also now means it can fully maximise its interior packaging – it is now an inviting place to be, with ample legroom in the rear and an airier, more open environment that was absent previously.

Somehow, it also managed to look a lot angrier and menacing than the last model, with a buffed up front that resembles its larger sibling, the X5. The proportions are a lot better now, and the X1 is really an attractive looking SUV, with an almost coupe-like roofline.


All this bodes very well for the car, of course. In urban Singapore, the difference between FWD and RWD can hardly be felt, especially for an SUV, so the new car gives more benefits to the driver, than it takes away with its new platform.

A turn of the steering wheel already suggests this car is a lot sportier than what you’d expect of an SUV. It feels direct, meaty and full of feedback – not unlike what you will find in a Mini. It won’t come as a surprise if we found out that Mini has had some part to play in the handling of this car. It has been the only brand in the BMW Group with FWD vehicles, after all.

Show the car some corners and it will dance with them willingly. The suspension is also very well-judged. It’s firm, but also very pliant over humps and sooner than later you will be finding yourself going faster in urban roads than some supercars. The way it tackles the cityscape and suburban sprawl is commendable, it’s as if it’s built for it.


The drivetrain is also nothing to scoff at either. Even though it is essentially the base trim you can get in Singapore, it actually has an engine from the cooking Mini model, the Cooper S. So you get nearly 100bhp/litre, and plenty of low-end torque to dart in between traffic. The gearbox also suits the engine very well, shifting fast and responsively.

In all, it’s a huge step up from the last model, and a small SUV seriously worth considering. Even if it’s a FWD BMW, it’s just better than it ever was.


Leave a comment

By The Lenspeed Team



After an agonisingly long wait, we finally received our 435i GranCoupe!

Apparently it is the only unit on the island that has an automatic gearbox and LED headlights.


Not a significant point, but it did cause an extra month wait than initially planned. Because LTA homologates cars to very specific options, my car had to go for its very own homologation process due to this oddity. And it arose because of a fault in the order system. Well, have to say it built my patience…

So anyway, back to the car proper.


We’ve already covered 2000 or so kilometres in the month and a half or so we had it. It’s nice being back into the BMW fold again; the last and only BMW we ever had was the E46 320i, and our experience wasn’t so pleasant with that one. It had stalling issues, and for a 2.2-litre neither the power nor fuel consumption was great, although it had a great inline-6 exhaust note.


But this one is a lot more tech-laden, modern and hopefully reliable too.

It has a 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbo engine, with the famed ZF 8 speed gearbox, but you’d know that already as this drivetrain is just so well known. It’s reportedly tuned differently in various applications though, and I can verifiably say this is true. The same engine in an X5 I drove, for example, seemed to feel smoother and more torquey, but maybe that’s because it’s already well run-in. We shall see.


We chose Estoril Blue as the exterior colour because, well, we think it’s the most fitting hue for the car, especially with an M Sport kit. It’s got everything in it – or at least nothing I’m missing out on.

Can’t wait to drive it to some proper roads. Initial impressions?


The steering feels positively lively, and the handling is just fantastic. The low-slung chassis gives it terrific ability to make full use of the RWD drivetrain. Not so much roll, a lot of rear-initiated action. Driving one in Sport will make you feel like a hero. If driven in Sport+, some serious caution must be taken because it can be quite a handful. And with all that, you still get a ride that is seriously stupendous for something on 19″ rims. Thank the M Adaptive suspension.



However, it must be said the weakest point of the car so far is the engine. It doesn’t really have a very good low-end, neither does it have a really explosive shove anywhere on the rev range. There is no doubt it’s quick, but it could do with more character. The sound it makes is also classic BMW I6, but I wonder how much of those is merely engineered.


So that’s where we are, an update next month with some more miles logged!

Leave a comment

By James Wong


It’s been a while since I got myself on a Class 2 bike (that’s any bike above 400cc in Singapore), so when the time approached for me to ride the K1300R, I was filled with equal parts of fear and exhilaration. Was I being reckless, riding a 173bhp bike that makes more power than even a Ducati 1198S superbike? Should I have had more time behind lesser, more forgiving bikes before I plunged to test ride the K1300R? These thoughts flooded my mind but there was a stable, underlying feeling that it was going to be OK, that modern bikes these days should be easy enough to handle. Time ran faster than rational thinking and there I was, with helmet in tow and planting myself on the 1,300cc urban road superhero.

The first thing I noticed (with relief) is that the riding position puts one in quite an upright position, which is great for giving more steering control and is infinitely more comfortable too. The clutch lever is heavy but not unbearably so, and the foot paddles are all within easy reach. This ride, at least, is starting to look like a plausible scenario.


Twist the key, press the ignition and the engine catches almost immediately, firing into a sweet-sounding warm-up phase that envelops the enclosed area of the underground car park. I teased the throttle a little and its sensitivity is quick yet predictably measured, sending an escalating crescendo from the exhaust pipe. Slotting my head into the helmet, I kicked the bike into first gear and moved off.


The really amazing thing about this bike, after the first few kilometres, is how easy it is to ride. Although it looks formidably large and weighs 243kg (with fluids), it feels agile and really manoeuvrable. Brakes are easy to modulate and are powerful, at least at the speeds I was going at – and ABS comes as standard too.

Because of the massive size of the engine relative to its weight, giving an equivalent of nearly 1000bhp in a 1,400kg car, at almost any gear the bike can accelerate effortlessly, allowing one to stay on a high gear in a majority of situations. Power is also linear, so it won’t result in an unexpected wheelie if you so decide to really put down all 173bhp.

But there really is no doubting the ferocity of the power. In a 0-100km/h acceleration test on a quiet road, it was as if the bike brought me on a momentary time warp, being so fast that it was useless making comparisons to anything I have driven or ridden in before. It was just in a whole different league, something that truly rivals ultra-supercars (pundits have clocked the K1300R in at about 2.8-2.9 seconds to reach 100km/h). That said, I wondered if the engine could have been a tad smoother, as racing towards its redline it seemed to vibrate more than I expected.


On the highway, the bike sat at a higher RPM than expected, so it felt fine at 100km/h but anywhere higher than that it could be a bit of a strain for a long distance jaunt. Again, this is where vibrations from the engine would come into play. Wind buffeting can get severe too with no plastic protector up front to cover the face.


The build quality on the K1300R is good. It feels well-made and worth its asking price, with some details like a small BMW logo on its tail and LED licence plate illuminators as notable delighters. Although its headlights are a subject of constant consternation, it did not bother me so much but it definitely feels more methodological than alluring. Perhaps to make up for it, the red illustrious paintwork offers a beautiful contrast to the black and silver detailing.

I wished there was more storage space however; a quick check beneath the seat cover yielded no result! Instead of a small space, there was none at all. Though, I am sure there are optional extras to get panniers fitted.


As time wore on, I enjoyed the bike so much that the initial fear ebbed away and I rode as much as I could over the weekend. Even dad came by to the garage and grinned widely as he throttled the bike a little to hear how it sounded like.

There is an adventure seeker in every one of us (probably more so for men…), and for a blend of both sensibilities and thrills, the K1300R feels like it balances both extremely well. For Singapore roads, I’d pick this over a typical superbike that requires you to lean forward uncomfortably and rev high to get any useful forward thrust.

Thank you to the K1300R for reacquainting me so well with the joy of riding again. I wonder how 173bhp can feel any friendlier on a bike.

Do you have any thoughts about this article? Feel free to comment below.


By The Lenspeed Team


As many reviews out there would now have already emphasised, the BMW i3 is quite unlike any car out there, even when compared to its electric peers.

BMW i’s vision of an electric future gave us the BMW i3 and i8 in the last two years – both of which came to market in a more convincing way than any previous efforts in electrifying the automotive world.


Billions of Euros of research and development resulted in bespoke carbon fibre chassis for both cars, and drivetrains that have never done work in any other BMW before. However, Brand New Things can also mean high risk. Apart from trying to gain acceptance in a market used to combustion engines, BMW i also has to contend with the possibility that being the first market mover may also mean it bears all of the consequences if consumers don’t open their wallets for BMW i.


However you slice it, this is a noble venture indeed, and one Lenspeed is keen to explore. Especially with a 0-100km/h sprint time of only 7.9 seconds for the i3, which we recently drove.

How does it manage it? In a couple of ways: because of all the weight-saving measures the car weighs in at only 1,315kg. Coupled with a 170bhp / 250Nm electric motor, its acceleration times start to make sense. There is, of course, instantaneous torque with electric power, which gives performance that would seriously give supercars a fright, at least at the traffic lights.


Of course, to use all of this power would sap the battery charge substantially. Officially claiming an electric range of 190km, the i3 only managed about 110km on my test drive – and I did this twice (after a recharge overnight). Suddenly the seemingly superfluous range extender (standard on all Singapore-bound i3s) becomes such an asset. With the small petrol engine, you do get about 110km more range. That works out to be about 220km in total, which is decent but remember you do have to fill up 9-litres every time if you do that often.


Sadly, the range extender does come with a price. It compromises boot space, which is below average at best for a group of 4 going for a road trip (then again, an i3 probably wouldn’t be suited for this purpose either due to its limited range). It is also rough, a 647cc two-cylinder petrol combustion engine better suited for a motorbike, or a generator. It also mars the acceleration of the i3, which would otherwise be 7.2 seconds for the non range extender version – because of an additional 120kg. It doesn’t power the wheels directly, however, only working in the background to charge the battery. Thus, it is still an electric drivetrain and quite distinctly different from hybrid cars.


Like all electric cars, you have to get used to the regenerative braking that activates the moment you let go of the throttle. It’s easy enough to modulate, but for anyone who loves cruising as a car coasts along, you can’t really do it in the i3 except with cruise control.

After accustomed to the feisty throttle, the i3 is simply a joy to drive. Steering is direct and accurate and handling is fantastic thanks to the stiff body shell. Even on ridiculous 155/70 R19 and 175/65R19 tyre dimensions front and rear respectively, you get more grip than you’d think and if you broach the limits, the ESP safety net kicks in (yes, in an electric car!). Blind spots are virtually non-existent thanks to windows that extend into the C-pillar. Certainly, the i3 is perfectly suited for the city.


That also applies when you park in congested city lots. It’s more a blessing than a curse that the rear coach doors open as such. It seems to allow rear passengers to get out even in very tight parking lots. The only inconvenience is the front door has to open first before rear passengers can get out.


As a first project of BMW i, the i3 is a stunning achievement. It feels like an electric car already 2-3 generations ahead of its peers. But limitations of an electric car do remain – range anxiety still applies if you do a lot of miles every day, and then finding charging points are a bit of a pain. The car also has its quirks which make an already revolutionary car even more difficult to accept, like its coach doors, tiny boot and 4 seats (as opposed to 5). Oh, and if you don’t stay in private housing, if may be a bit of a challenge to fit in the BMW i Wallbox (charging station) too. Challenges aside, Lenspeed hopes that the BMW i venture will blossom to a tremendous success. It’s forward looking, and now it’s time for the market to catch up.


Leave a comment

By James Wong


This week Lenspeed witnessed the addition and departure of staff cars. It was glorious news when we found out that a BMW 1M was to join the fleet, as it was unanimously agreed that the M car was a bona fide Lenspeed choice. However, a tinge of sadness quickly settled in when we learnt that the pinnacle of our fleet, the Porsche 997.1 GT3, was going to a new owner very soon. In fact, so soon that we will not see it again after tomorrow. It’s been an emotional week for the team here, that’s for sure.

To add a bit of cheer, we did a little homecoming for the 1M just this evening when each of the team got to feel again just what the car could offer. It’s been more than 3 years since I test drove the 1M proper, where I emptied its fuel tank in one day driving about what must be one of the smallest islands in the world. So to return again to the driver’s seat of the smallest M car in modern history was something I frizzled with anticipation. It, by the way, is also the M car that broke tradition by coming with a turbocharged engine, something that obviously worked for BMW M as now the M3, M4, M5 and M6 are turbocharged.

The first thing that struck me was how close the clutch pedal felt to the brake pedal. I thought it would cause a bit of a kerfuffle when I got on the move, but it was all fine and dandy once the legs found their way around the footwell. In fact, the theme that constantly came to mind was ‘ease of driving’. For this much performance, it’s pretty amazing how easy it is to drive the car. Every mistake you make with a gearshift is not amplified, but hushed away. And with every brilliant gearshift you make, the car ensures you feel like an absolute hero. There is a layer of ‘forgiveness’ in the car which is hard to explain, but permeates every part of it. As one staff member said, the car feels “well damped… I could see someone upgrading from a MkV Golf GTI to this, because it offers accessible performance”.

To feel this ease is of course a refreshing experience again, something a bit unexpected after getting used to the manly and brutish looks of the car thanks to the wide wheel arches and squat stance. But the other thing that brought sheer pleasure was the exhaust note. Although clearly with a stock exhaust the car was already sounding more like a naturally aspirated engine rather than a turbocharged one, for all the good reasons, this one came equipped with Akrapovic slip-ons which were a very subtle, but very effective touch. Adding a layer of supercar air to the car without seemingly any drawbacks, it brings the exhaust note to another level, with pops and cackles evident from the moment you start the car. Every well-timed gearshift brings a small atomic bomb explosion at the top end, while mid-range throttle lifts give you the most incredible burbles. There is very little to fault with this Akra system, and feels absolutely OEM+.

Even the aftermarket short-shifter was a joy, although initially it can confuse you about which gear you’re in due to the reduced lever travel. It seems like everything modified in this car was done to add to the car, not detract from it. What a used car buy and what a find!

Our founder Mr FD2R, had this to say: “Memories came back from years back when we drove the car. Woah. A whole different philosophy for the road as compared to my Honda, and what a great daily because of that.”

And the owner? As he drove the whole Lenspeed team for the first time in the 1M, there is only silence from him as he focused intensely on perfecting every gearshift, and extracting all the performance the car can muster. Which is easy, and therefore an absolute joy.

Leave a comment

By The Lenspeed Team
















BMW i is The Next Big Thing.

It could be the brand allure, or the hundreds of millions poured into making sure everybody knows about BMW i, but there’s no doubting that the new electric BMWs are garnering a lot of attention. It’s not really the BMW M cars, or the new wild creations at BMW these days that’s really gaining the brand kudos (front wheel drive 2er Active Tourer, 3-Series GT?). It’s the courage to step out and make your shareholders tremble a little, to make a big difference to the automotive industry. And from the very start, the BMW i project was always going to be ambitious. But that’s what we like about it.

Lenspeed unfortunately cannot give you a first-hand experience of how BMW i cars drive (yet!), but sitting in an i3 at BMW World yesterday at Marina Bay Sands Singapore was a sweet taster of what is to come.

The genuine care to create a carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) chassis is something we love very much at Lenspeed. Seeing at in all its raw glory at some parts of the interior is fantastic. Why hide a wonderful thing underneath?

Then you look at the slightly frizzy door panels and then realise they are recycled natural materials, almost like cardboard but stiffer and more durable. It’s refreshingly different, not W220 S-Class coconut shells different, but in a way that speaks of quality and development at length. Even the seats, which are fabric, feel expensive to the touch, not unlike high-end furniture – we’d pick them over the predictable leather options.

As your eyes gaze over the wood panels on the dashboard, you appreciate the elegant and beautiful architecture. It reeks of space, simplicity and modernity way more than any new Volvo can (until we see the new XC90’s interior!). Then you look at iDrive, and it’s so familiar, as are the A/C controls. There are so many familiar things, but so many new features as well that just delight, like the flat floor front and rear, which makes the car feel really airy.

Pity then, that the rear can feel slightly hemmed in, especially when you can only open the rear doors if you open the front! A design flaw there in our eyes, something that the Mini Clubman suffered with faint praise, but I guess quirkiness comes justified with an electric car. That probably explains the exterior design as well, which is just plain… Weird.

As a whole though, we really like the i3. At $230k ish, that’s almost the price of a Lexus CT200h, and I think our money will safely be in the hands of BMW with this one. There is just so much BMW is putting into these cars, we almost can’t help but feel the price is reasonable.

And let’s not forget the i8. Which looked simply stunning on the show floor. A 1.5-litre engine in a supercar? You’d better believe it, because it’s true. It could well be good value simply because of its low road tax and fuel consumption!

BMW is out on its own, at least for this year, among the German carmakers or indeed every car manufacturer with electric vehicles. And we applaud them – it’s a risk worth taking. We can’t wait to get our hands on them, especially an i8, even more than any contemporary M car.


Leave a comment


BLT takes to the treacherous Nürburgring Nordschleife … and returned home alive


Like any racetrack, the Nürburgring Nordschleife inspires both exhilaration and trepidation. But for me, it represented more of an enigma; a bucket list item any petrolhead needs to strike off his list at least once. We’ve all seen the Top Gear videos of Sabine Schmidt and Jeremy Clarkson going at it on the ‘ring. We’ve seen the manufacturer test videos of their cars doing a blistering lap time. And yes, we’ve all seen the epic crashes and YouTube ‘fail compilations’ of exotics crashing when flogged too hard from corner to corner.

Even with all those premonitions and expectations, I wasn’t scared. I was confident. I wouldn’t call myself a veteran, but having driven many Californian racetracks in fast cars and gotten second in a Porsche race day, I arrived in the sleepy town of Nürburg with my head held high. To me, this was just another track, albeit one with a lot of unnecessary hype and fuss. She was just another conquest.

Boy was I wrong, though it would take me a day to realise it.

After checking in at the Tiergarten Hotel (owned by none other than the Sabine Schmidt’s parents), my friends and I thought it wise to do the Ring Taxi to whet our appetite. We were hooked instantly. The instructor took his M3 E90 to limits beyond what BMW must have intended and we did an impressive 8:30 with four people on board. My friend and I then decided to rent Suzuki Swift and do a ‘practice lap’ each in anticipation of the next day’s race. My friend pulled a 12:15 on his first lap, no small feat considering he had never driven left-hand-drive before.

At the helm, I pushed that little car harder than gravity intended and started passing car after car. My proudest moment was when I managed to pass a latest-gen Porsche Cayman S in the inside line. The thrill of passing a 300+bhp car in something with 200bhp less pleased me almost as much as my respectable 10:23 timing, and I went back proud to the Schmidt hotel proud of my achievements and hoping I would run into Sabine to boast about my exploits.




It all changed the next day when I woke up to the thickest fog I’ve ever seen, or rather, not seen. Indeed, I couldn’t even count my fingers with my hands stretched out. I was as if I were a tick lost in Santa Claus’s beard. The fog was everywhere, and to make matters worse, the fog’s moisture soaked the ground like a sponge. Perfect racing conditions… if one were suicidal.


Despite that, we headed off to the racetrack expecting the competition to have turned tails because of the fog. And even if they were silly enough to persist, how many weekend racers in their GTIs/Lotuses/”pre-F30” M3s were going to be a match for my rental today – The latest generation Porsche Cayman S (981). Fog or no fog, I was going to rock it. Again, I was severely mistaken.

Instead of a bunch of midlife crisis men with salt-and-pepper hair rocking M3s and hot hatches as old as their pensions, the parking lot was filled with chiseled alpha males with cars one only saw on Top Gear. Audi R8s, Latest-Gen BMW M3/M4/M5s, C63 Blacks, Race-Spec Aston Martin Vantages, Koenigseggs, Ferrari 458 Italias, McLaren MP4-12Cs, 650S, even a P1, not to mention a whole assortment of Porsche GT3s, GT3RSes, and Turbos. The value of the cars in that lot exceeded the GDP of some countries. I felt like the guy who brought a Super Soaker up against guys packing bazookas, and actually knew how to use them. All of them had roll cages, fire-retardant suits, helmets, lots of machismo, and perhaps one too many ‘Nürburgring veteran’ bumper stickers. Germany’s motoratti were out in full force. Gulp.

“Up against such competition, the only thing that prevented me from turning tail was the fact that I had already pre-paid for 16 laps; one lap of which was pricier than 10 lap dances from the most exotic of exotic dancers.”




photo 1

photo 4

Up against such competition, the only thing that prevented me from turning tail was the fact that I had already pre-paid for 16 laps; one lap of which was pricier than 10 lap dances from the most exotic of exotic dancers. Put in that perspective, the money-conscious Asian American in me (and the only one in the whole race) could not walk away from that opportunity cost. After I signed the innumerable amount of waivers, I was made to put a deposit on my credit card for the replacement value of the car if I so much as scratched it: E$24,900. Yes, “only” a third of what a base Cayman costs, but one too many zeros for my comfort level. I crossed my fingers and hoped it would exceed my credit card limit, thus allowing me a face-saving exit out of the race. Needless to say, it didn’t, and I found myself cursing AMEX as I fired up the car, its raspy Boxer 6 defiantly croaking against its V8, V10 and V12 counterparts in the mist.


“Predictably, I was terrible, pushing too hard on the straights and braking way too late to clip the numerous apexes properly. The 150+ turns, already a challenge in the dry, were downright impossible in the mist.”

I had hired an instructor for the first six laps so I wouldn’t be culpable to doing anything overtly stupid (at least not initially), and he was in charge of teaching me the proper racing line. Michael, a veteran of more than 20,000+ laps and current touring car champion, was the epitome of Teutonic cool as he guided me around the track. ‘Zis ist nicht playzstation, you dzon’t get rezet button!’ he yelled many times as I flew through the corners carrying way too much over-confidence-induced speed. I had to place full trust in Michael, because all the corners were not only blind, but downright invisible thanks to the fog. Yesterday, I remarked to my friends that the ‘ring was almost beautiful, even if one weren’t driving at 250km/h. Now, I couldn’t even see a meter in front of me.

Predictably, I was terrible, pushing too hard on the straights and braking way too late to clip the numerous apexes properly. The 150+ turns, already a challenge in the dry, were downright impossible in the mist. As Michael scampered for the door after his six lap obligations were done (I don’t blame him at all), I tried my best to memorise where and when to turn and make it out of the numerous corners carrying the best possible exit speed. He did a fantastic job of teaching me, but I simply couldn’t memorize all 150+ turns at full throttle.

As luck would have it, the sun came out, but as the mist slowly dissipated, so did everyone’s inhibitions for speed. I found myself up against fast and furious racers relentlessly pushing my 6 o’clock in their 458s, P1s, and GT3s. With the fog gone, it was hard not to ogle at the supercars in my rear view mirror and think I was in a surreal dream – Except the dream was quickly shattered when all of them easily passed me without so much as even downshifting. Dream quickly turned into nightmare as I ended up being overtaken by one of the few hot hatchbacks at the race. How quickly the tables had turned since yesterday and I buried my face (and my dignity) in my hands at lunchtime.

Chain-binging on nuggets and fries, I resolved to give it my best after lunch. My passenger after lunch, Janina, was not used to screaming, but she did. Which, being German, is a big deal for her. That certainly inspired confidence in my driving. My next passenger and travel compadre, Malcolm, had the brilliant idea of navigating with the car’s GPS and with his help, I was starting to rock it. Like a rally team, he would give me directions right before a corner and give me a few milliseconds of much-needed anticipation. I finally felt confident enough to press the “Sport Plus” button on the center console and blew past a few cars.



“I now understand the allure of the Nürburgring Nordschleife. It’s not so much outright dangerous, but like a sexy vixen in a Bond movie, lulls you into a false sense of security with her luscious curves, then bites your head off right when you get overconfident.”

With our new strategy, I managed to pull a decent 9:53 hot lap. As I was going for another fast lap with my ego glowing, disaster struck. Right as I was about to take a corner at high speed, a GT3 appeared out of nowhere. Trying to cut him off so he couldn’t clip the apex, I pushed a centimeter too hard on the accelerator and the car spun out explosively.

Having been a victim to a few motorcycle and car accidents, I am no stranger to the sensation. Everyone experiences it differently and for me, it’s always in slow motion, yet I am always powerless to change the outcome. As we spun around the Nordschleife like a roulette dice, I remember thinking it was going to be expensive crash and cursed my AMEX again for its high limit. Thankfully, I smashed the brakes and downshifted quickly, stopping the car from catapulting me into bankruptcy and cutting short my ‘idiot drives Porsche into wall’ stardom on YouTube. After we took stock of our near-death experience, I noticed we were half a meter or so away from hitting the metal-plated barrier and becoming another Nürburgring casualty figure.

I was done. Like a sportsman trying to master a comeback and failing repeatedly, my subsequent laps were pathetic. I was scared, and knew it. I came face-to-face with death and blinked. Though my luck had not worn out and I was still in God’s good graces, I knew pushing it would be foolish. Normally I would have continued, but for some reason that day, logic won. As I sat at the starting grid watching others gambling with their lives with every kilometer above 200, I made the decision to stop and turn in the keys. At 12 out of 16 laps, my Nürburgring career was unequivocally and undoubtedly over.

I now understand the allure of the Nürburgring Nordschleife. It’s not so much outright dangerous, but like a sexy vixen in a Bond movie, lulls you into a false sense of security with her luscious curves, then bites your head off right when you get overconfident. I pulled a 9:53, which was respectable, but not noteworthy. Under Walter Röhl, the Cayman is capable of 7:56. I was two minutes away from the car’s true potential. My fantasy of running into Sabine and impressing her were all but the stuff of pipes.

With my self-worth in tatters, I bought some kitschy ‘I survived the Nürburgring’ bumper stickers for my Cayman back home; feeling that I might be able to bandage my ego with them by bragging to other petrolheads back in the States. Indeed, I comforted myself with the solace that I had crossed something off my bucket list without kicking the bucket itself. I figured no one in the States will know about my cowardice, just that I had raced at the ‘ring.

As I walked back across the parking lot past all the supercars and into my friend’s Seat Ibizia, I knew that I would be back, sans overconfidence. I was beaten and humbled, but not out of the fight. Perhaps that is the ‘ring’s true appeal – Once you’re smitten, you never let it go, and I wondered if that was what possessed men like Nikki Lauda to return. As I sat in the car contemplating my comeback, I started asking myself which corners I could improve on, what I would change about my racing line, and what car I would take next time.

What caused me to spin out? Why did I rent a Porsche Cayman when a much more basic car would have sufficed? What on earth had caused me to commit to 16 laps? Even one lap, basically 10 minutes and 23+ kilometres, was an eternity. They say pride comes before a fall, and the Nürburgring was the ultimate experience of my confidence not matching my actual skill. I was, in other words (specifically those of Jeremy Clarkson) ambitious, but rubbish.

At least I have those bumper stickers.


1 Comment

By The Lenspeed Team


Lexus was first in the game for luxury hybrids. Resolutely sticking to the formula while its key German competitors focused on turbo-diesel technology, Lexus has taken a risky and unconventional path towards efficient motoring.

It seems it hasn’t fared too badly – since 2004 when the first-ever Lexus was fitted with a hybrid drivetrain (it’s the RX 400h), the company has sold more than half a million hybrid Lexus vehicles. What’s more striking is that in Singapore, Lexus owns a commanding 82% of the market share for luxury hybrids.

Having tried variants from both competing camps (hybrids and diesels), Lenspeed tends to lean towards the latter due to its simpler internals (just an engine) versus an engine mated with a battery. In most driving conditions, a diesel can at least match the fuel economy of a hybrid, if not beat it. Also, in terms of tractability on the road, the low-end torque from turbo-diesels is also difficult to resist, compared to the more artificial battery-driven torque of hybrids mated to largely more inefficient petrol engines.

Lexus has to contend with more sophisticated competition nowadays. While the Germans have focused on turbo-diesels for a large part of the past decade, they’ve also come in a strong way to introduce hybrid variants of their cars. Just look at the E300 diesel-hybrid and the 535i ActiveHybrid.

Shoring up their capabilities in hybrid technology, Lexus’ competitors are now gaining competencies in both camps. Worryingly, we haven’t seen any diesel engine from Lexus worth shouting about, which will continue to severely restrict their appeal in the European market. Also, with the advent of diesel-hybrids, this means even more efficiency than petrol-hybrids, beating Lexus in its own game.

Lexus argues that petrol engines will continue to be its bread-and-butter due to their inherently superior refinement. Would this be enough for consumers to pick one over a diesel variant, hybrid or not? This is one strategic decision we’d love to watch unfold.




Leave a comment