Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Lamborghini Aventador Review

Lamborghini Aventador Review

In the fantasy world of aspirational cars, you can’t daydream much higher than the Aventdaor LP700-4. This chimera, which evolved from the MurciĆ©lago, is a magical amalgam of brute force and precision engineering, made mortal in a supermodel’s body and draped in Arancio Argos – which is Lamborghini speak for in-your-face orange.
Inspired by a Star Wars Executor, this carbon-fibre monocoque spaceship has a redesigned driveline, while licentious use of carbon fibre throughout makes her lighter and more nimble than her predecessor.
Named in honour of a bull that was goaded into a ferocious and ignominious battle in October 1993 at the Saragossa Arena, she certainly bears all of that ill-fated beast’s aggression and pent-up fury in her demeanour.
Sitting extremely low on her haunches, atop 19-inch front and 20-inch rear Dione alloy wheels, every aerodynamic line of her body is cruelly cut and curved.
Despite her super-sleek appearance and a height of just over a metre, she’s a big girl, with a length of nearly five metres and a width of just over two metres.
The surprisingly spacious cabin, as you might expect for the best part of £300,000, features swathes of soft leather and fine Italian craftsmanship, blended with state-of-the-art technology. The dashboard, a mind-boggling array of knobs and switches, is dominated by an LCD screen and multi-function steering wheel that resembles an X-Box console.
My test model also came with an array of extras, such as front and rear sensors, electric heated seats and an upgraded sound system.
The luggage space, under the bonnet, is surprisingly accommodating for anyone brave enough to park a supercar in a Sainsbury’s car park – they might also be thankful for the hydraulic nose lifter, which raises the front suspension to avoid damaging the low front splitter.
If she looks every inch the part, the Aventador also packs a punch; powered by a 6.5-litre V12 engine that generates 690bhp, she takes just 2.9 seconds to reach 60mph. Flipping up the bomb-release style starter cover and hitting the button unleashes all the sound and fury of the naturally-aspirated V12. Constructed of aluminium-silicon alloy, this gargantuan powerhouse is on display through the transparent lid, meaning you can gawp unashamedly at its open-deck construction and steel cylinder liners.
Moving off on to the A1 and slipping into the stream of midday traffic, the revs climb dizzyingly quickly and the soundtrack changes from a bark and a roar to an accompaniment of whirring and rude screaming that brings out childish excitement and abject terror in equal measure.
Feathering the accelerator creates an instant kick that flings my brain to the back of my head. If I were a lawbreaker, she would be happy to take me all the way to a top speed of 217mph.
The instant-response, paddle-operated manual transmission system is an ISR 7-speed automatic that operates in three modes: Strada, Sport, and, whatever-you-do-don’t-touch Corsa, which switches off the life-saving driver aids and is reserved for the track and lunatics.
The steering feels always on the mark and the suspension, akin to that used to ferry Formula 1 racers through Monaco, combined with the all-wheel drive system, creates assured handling, with barely a hint of rock and roll even in the tightest turns.
I spent most of our time together on our dream date in Sport mode – which sharpens the handling and offers on-demand yet progressive acceleration – and all the while thankful for the huge carbon ceramic brakes with instant, fade-free stopping in heavy traffic on the M8.
Solid, sexy and surreally fast, it would take much more than a toreador to quell this Aventador.

At A Glance
Make: Lamborghini
Model: Aventador LP700-4
Engine: 6.5L V12 DOHC
Acceleration: 0-60mph in 2.9 seconds
Maximum Speed: 217mph
Fuel economy: 13.5mpg, combined
CO2 emissions: 398g/km
Price: Test model, £266,325

Test car courtesy of Lamborghini Edinburgh. For more information telephone 0131 629 9159.


Monday, 28 January 2013

The Antler

Sloping Off to Val d'Isere

MANY’S the Saturday afternoon spent in face-numbing horizontal sleet, shuffling along in a switchbacked queue, waiting for a crotch-tugging tow to haul my tired body up a piebald mountainside. Alas, such are the all-too-regular hazards of being an occasional skier in Scotland.
It was nothing short of a miracle, then, that the morning light found me waking in the heart of a winter wonderland, a landscape spied through my bedroom window that was entirely dominated by majestic Alpine peaks and swathed in deep, fresh, powdered snow.
All this on my chalet doorstep and it was only the very beginning of the French ski season.
I’d arrived in Val d’Isere via a three-hour private coach transfer from Geneva the night before. Along with its near neighbour Tignes, Val sits within L’Espace Killy – named after World Cup racing hero Jean-Claude Killy who learned to ski here – and is not only the highest snowsports playground on the planet, but this morning is living up to its reputation for excellent snow fall.
It may be the best known of France’s ski resorts, with an attractive mix of on and off-piste skiing, but Val’s old-fashioned charm remains comfortingly intact. Despite the modern and vibrant nightlife – many of the bars and clubs, such as Dick’s Tea Room have become tourist attractions in their own right – the resort retains an almost but not quite twee sense of the traditional in the humble architecture of its wooden lodges and random intertwining of its narrow streets.
Immediately, it makes me feel that I’m in the very best place to seek skiing perfection . . . and that’s before I’ve clunk-clicked my boots, strapped on the planks and looked up and up and up the mountainsides to see the myriad meandering pistes and vertigo-inducing vertical runs.
Unfortunately, perfection proves something of a vaulting ambition. Skiing can be about adrenalin-fuelled, lip-curling speed. It can be about sashaying, hip-swivelling grace and agility. It can be about star-shaped leaps and turns and all kinds of airborne acrobatics. Or, when it comes to yours truly, it can be about falling down a lot and laughing through gobfuls of snow.
Thankfully, my guide and tutor was both encouraging and understanding in equal measure. A member of the local Oxygene outfit, Andre was impeccably Italian, terribly professional and unwaveringly patient. He even managed to produce a couple of spectacular carthweels himself, just to make me feel better.
In fact, Oxygene prove highly adept helping mere mortals improve their snow skills without the pressure and regimen of a formal school environment. It seemed to work, even for someone like me, who skis with the precision and panache of a splay-footed Yeti: if I was still horizontal in the snow much of the time, at least the inbetween spells spent upright grew longer. I even managed to unwittingly follow our small group of intrepid derring doers down a black-flagged run . . . and the only thing that was permanently damaged was the elastic in my so-called waterproof breeks.
Next time I’m on the slopes with pros, I really should bring the right gear: there’s nothing more debilitating than being caught in a sudden blizzard without goggles and in supermarket sallopettes that offer the waterproofing qualities of wrapping your legs in newspaper.
Tight-lipped, blue-faced perseverance was the order of the day and it paid dividends as we criss-crossed our way from mountain to mountain, piste to piste, with every thrill and spill growing in confidence. The slopes proved remarkably uncluttered, spread over the flanks of Bellevarde, Solaise and the high Col de l’Iseran, accessed via Val or the satellite hamlets of La Daille and Le Fornet. The main lift stations are all linked by a free shuttle bus, which is how I returned heroically to base camp.
A little soggy, a little dizzy, I’d survived my first day and so it was back to the luxury of my VIP Larch Suite in the Aspen Lodge, where in slippers and heavy-eyed serenity I warmed heart and belly with homemade cakes and tea – thank you mine chalet hostess, Milly! – followed by an invigorating back and shoulder kneading – thank you, Pamper Off Piste masseuse!
Served a three-course dinner, poured one glass too many of fine wine by the log fire, it was time for bed . . . where I dreamed of being catapulted, skis and all, clean off the mountainside and into a giant fondue – I blame my late-night interest in the cheese board.
I’d like to report that my second day’s skiing showed a vast improvement in skill and aptitude. In fact, the only flamboyant manouevres were those made by our lunch host and singer, Kelly, at La Fruitiere restaurant, located high on the slopes next door to Val’s famous La Folie Douce nightclub.
What Kelly lacked in body mass index and lyrics he made up for in vocal and Spandex-legged gymnastics.
I was laughing so hard it was all I could do not to drown in my two huge jars of delicious onion soup ¬– one for the white, one for the brown.
After lunch it was straight home for me – after just a day and a half my limbs were aching, but in that good way of exercise-induced fatigue, while the incessant d’Iserian hospitality and Milly’s homebaking had transformed my body into an overstuffed vegetarian roulade.
Still, it would have been churlish not to sample some of Val’s infamous apres piste and repair later that evening to the aforementioned Dick’s Tea Bar – there to share generously in a flagon of ice-chilled vodka so gargantuan and potent that it had the physical presence and destructive powers of an abandoned Scud missile.
I think we can safely draw a veil of charity over the level of skiing prowess that followed next morning. Suffice to say, a faceful of fresh snow has a wonderfully invigorating effect.

VIP SKI has 13 chalets in Val d’Isere. Aspen Lodge is situated at the centre of the resort and makes up four of the accommodation options. The Larch Suite sleeps six in three en-suite bedrooms and has its own living and dining area and a dedicated chalet host.
VIP SKI prices for seven nights start from £829 per person based on two sharing. Included are return flights from London Gatwick, with departures from Glasgow or Edinburgh available, coach transfers, accommodation, catered chalet board of breakfast, afternoon tea, three-course evening meal on six nights followed by cheese board and coffee and mints, wine, wake-up drinks and canapĆ©s on the first and last evening.
Also included are complimentary ski and snowboard hosting service on three days, towels, mid-week bed linen change, toiletries and daily newspapers.
For more information call VIP SKI on 0844 557 3119 or book online at www.vip-chalets.com
Ski pack items can be pre-booked: Lift passes for the Espace Killy area (Val d’Isere and Tignes) start from £206 with child and senior lift passes starting at £165.
Ski hire starts at £134 for boots and skis or snowboard with children’s hire starting at £61 for skis and boots.
Oxygene offers group lessons from €219 for group adult lessons spread over a 5 day period www.oxygene-ski.com
Check the tourist board’s website www.valdisere.com for the latest news and snow conditions. 
Pamper Off Piste www.pamperoffpiste.com offer a range of massage and beauty treatments and a 30 minute massage starts at €52.


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Slightly tardy, but, whatever the weather, finally the latest issue of The Antler ...

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Antler, September issue

Hi everyone. Here is the September issue of The Antler,
Carradale's community newspaper, produced by Words HQ.