THERE REALLY is no better time to be a car nut, is there? While the price of avocados seems to spiral ever skywards – at least the smashed ones on grilled linseed loaf, anyway – the real-world cost of a car keeps tumbling as performance levels keep rising.
For the 2016 iteration of Bang For Your Bucks (The Expensive End of Town), there’s a real mix of abilities and philosophies across the board, but one thing holds true across the ranks of the eight competitors in the $50K-$100K half of the game: there’s lots of car for the money from the top to the bottom of the price structure.
Of course, those less well endowed in the Bucks department are always going to fare better than one with a heftier swing attached to its door mirror, but there’s a couple of contenders this year that are almost born to do well in an annual test that’s now in its 23rd year (incidentally, that’s the same length of time since David Morley visited a barber).
At this point you might also be wondering why we’re back at Winton, the saucy old minx of track in country Victoria. Older than Campbell, Newman and Cordony all put together – or just Morley, and not by much – the 3.0km National circuit was repaved last year, and has subsequently been repatched in
The guy you wanted to be… drives racing cars, married Wonder Woman? He IS that guy
The man, the legend.
Still owns the fi rst pair of underpants bought with his own money
Not getting any more handsome – or better tempered – as the years add even more grey
Ed, ringmaster, style maven. Nailed the ‘GoPro in most inconvenient location ever’ look
A chap of hidden talents. Takes delight in thrashing cars to eke out the best times
In case you missed BFYB Round 1 last issue
Aussie V8 once again claimed line honours in its swansong and never failed to induce smiles. 1
Defending outright champion scored silver in class thanks to its plucky engine and dynamics. 2
As the new challenger in the group, it joined Bang days after its launch to return a podium finish.
How we weight everything Lap time (overall performance) 25% Judges’ ranking (subjective) 20% 0-400m (acceleration) 10% 0-100km/h (acceleration) 10% 100-0km/h (braking) 10% 80-120km/h (overtaking ability) 5% 400m terminal speed (power) 5% Apex speeds at T4/T10 (grip) 10% Lap maximum speed (power) 5%
key areas, which adds a challenge to the approaches of several corners. Its short, sharp nature draws out the best – and worst – from a chassis, while its short straights highlight power deficiencies quick smart.
However, that’s enough background. Let’s find out what motley mass of metal has fronted up in 2017 to an uncharacteristically dry and sunny Winton to stand up and be banged? And, er, bucked? Heading the alphabetical list is the Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce, a car with more weight around its neck than Dr Dre and Lewis Hamilton combined. The beginning of a new age of greatness, Alfa reckons of the Giulia, and this is the first time we’ve had a play with the non-Ferrari’d version of the rear-drive 3 Series/CClass rival. If any car is going to prove that Alfa is serious about making a genuine driver’s car that isn’t a QV hotrod, this is it.
Next up is Audi’s pretty S4. No RS3, you say? The sedan version, in case you’re curious, hadn’t been released in time for the contest, and it’s a similar story of bad timing for the TT RS (although its pricing keeps it well and truly benched for 2018). No matter; the S4’s all-new turbocharged V6 and all-paw drivetrain should serve it well around Winton’s tight confines.
BMW’s M140i is next, in what is kind of its third-straight appearance at BFYB. Sure, it was in 135i guise in 2015 (where it claimed class honours) and 2016 (where it, err, didn’t), but it’s still essentially the same jigger – large sixpot turbo motor in a small car with power going to the correct end. And the Bucks quotient of the fiendishly clever BFYB equation has always been kind to it, too, even though it’s now more expensive.
On the face of it, the presence of the patently oldschool Caterham 275 can be seen as a stroke of pure evil genius. With its Sigma 1.6-litre four-potter and a distinct lack of mass – a result of having, well, no spec to speak of – the Caterham should be at home around a track that rewards finesse and mid-corner prowess, even if its drag strip numbers are likely to bring it down a bit. One shall see, old boy, won’t one?
Our next contestant missed out on a 2016 debut by the skin of its oversized grille opening – and it’s fair to say that the weight of expectation for its 2017 BFYB showing has grown exponentially as a result. Ford’s fearsome four-pot, all-paw Focus RS has already claimed its fair share of bloodied and battered reputations, and its razer sharp Bucks figure is sure to play into the final result today.
In what is bound to be a farewell fling for an Australian-built car in any BFYB, Holden’s Commodore SS-V Redline Ute is a hell of a fun way to sign off a run of appearances that dates all the way back to 1994. And, like the Focus, the numbers – on paper, at least – blow strongly in its direction, thanks to a sharp RRP and that muscly 304kW V8 (the only one in the category, and one of only two naturally aspirated motors on show today).
Another that’s proved its mettle in the cauldron of BFYB is the Mercedes-AMG A45, thanks to a powerful combination of enticing chassis and raucous power output. It returns after a scintillating debut last year to throw another fist in a suede and leather-lined glove at a field that has some real depth to it.
All of our contenders will undergo the same set of tests, including performance testing by Messrs Morley and Luff, who will not only measure 0-100km/h prowess, but mark each car over a 400m stretch and see how it stops from 100km/h. After that, our resident hot shoe, Luff, will pedal each car around the twisty, tricky Winton layout as only a Supercars race winner can.
Our remaining judges will use Winton not as a measure of how fast they can bury a car in a sandtrap, but as a venue to objectively sample each entrant on its relative merit in an appropriately safe way, and their opinions will make up 20 per cent of a car’s total.
The rest of the result is pure, unadulterated mathematics, where the time-proven equations of our Bang and Buck indices come together to produce a result that’s not left (exclusively) to the vagaries of opinion. It’s just the facts, ma’am. The BFYB facts.
Our $50K-$100K contenders
If this were a horse race, the Focus would be an unbackable favourite. No Cup tyres today, though
The latest iteration of John Cooper’s fi nest works is the biggest Mini ever
It’s time to farewell an icon of BFYB – and we can’t think of a better way
Could this lightweight, retro-tech British beauty bring something new to the BFYB party?
New engine for our BFYB 2015 class champ – will it be what it needs to nab outright honours?
The reputation of a reborn brand rests on its pumped guards
A ferocious four-paw feral dressed in a Paul Smith suit. Back to crack skulls in 2016
Four-door sophistication that cleverly hides a surprising turn of speed and chassis talent