Advertisement
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Advertisement feature
WELCOME TO HYUNDAI’S HAPPINESS MACHINE
View the latest news
Car Review

Gordon Murray Automotive T.50 review

1010
Published: 09 Nov 2023
Advertisement

Driving

What is it like to drive?

Let’s start slowly and build up, because there’s so much to digest here. Flick up the titanium cover over the start button and press it. The V12 bursts into life. Only that’s not the engine, it’s the integrated starter generator, a 48V system that does the heavy lifting of spinning the crank before it fires so it needs less fuel, starts more cleanly. After a few seconds of ISG action a bam-uhhh (it makes everyone jump) announces the engine has not only fired, but instantly settled into its idle. It does everything fast, this motor.

I GET THE PICTURE, BUT WHAT ABOUT AT LOW SPEEDS?

It’s firmly sprung, feels pretty solid but the suspension is brilliantly well insulated and supported, so any movements are dealt with instantly and there’s little noise and vibration. You do get engine sound, and it’s pretty plain low down, a high frequency whistle of valvetrain that’s similar to, but nothing like as raucous as, the Aston Valkyrie – the other supercar to use a Cosworth V12. In that you need ear defenders. In this you can chat to passengers, hold phone calls, listen to music. The engine is bushed to the carbon tub here, not solid mounted.

Advertisement - Page continues below

GMA hasn’t tuned the engine or exhaust at all. This is pure noise. The only thing they’ve played with is the thickness of the carbon panel on the engine intake tube. That’s been made thinner so it vibrates slightly, enhancing the induction noise at the lower end. Which means up to 5,000rpm here.

YEAH, BUT WHAT’S IT LIKE AT 12,100RPM?

First thing you need to know is that you don’t get to go there often. Beyond 10,000rpm the propulsion is so vivid, so wild, so nerve-jangling, it’s all you can do to keep your foot down. The noise is pure 90s F1 scream, the Monaco tunnel. So much information is coming at you that you struggle with the processing. Everything – road, traffic, visibility, surface – needs to be aligned when you pin it at the top end.

We dare say other cars are as fast, but none feels as fast: the noise, the savagery, the response, the way the needle flicks around the dial, the intensity of the T.50 sets it apart. Electric will never do what this does. You’ll only find the opportunity to unleash it a couple of times each day. Good. It makes it more special when the stars do align.

BUT SURELY THE ENGINE’S ALL ABOUT USING HIGH REVS?

You’d imagine so given that torque is low (353lb ft) and doesn’t peak until 8,000rpm, but it’s this engine’s flexibility, manners, tractability and response that are just as noteworthy as what it does at 12k. For most quick road driving you’ll use 6,000-9,000rpm, because that’s where the containable magic happens: energy, crescendo, leaping charisma and this compelling, addictive, lips-peeled-back snarl.

Advertisement - Page continues below

It's not the most musical or operatic sound, just this raw, blood-curdling howl. Plus occasional flames. And boy is it fast enough, jetting between corners, pinning you into the firm seat and reeling scenery through the widescreen view out. It’s an absolute wonder, this Cosworth V12, the best road car engine we’ve ever used.

CAN THE GEARBOX LIVE UP TO THAT? CAN IT COPE?

At low speeds and when you’re just cruising about, it can be tricky – the revs die so fast that they’re back at idle by the time the gearlever passes through the centre of its open gate. And that’s despite the throw being very short. So you’ll need to adapt your technique, leave a fraction of throttle on to smooth the shifts.

But, wow, the instant sense of connection, back to the gearbox, the lack of slack, the crispness of it. This is not the light fluency of a Civic Type R, this is something more deliberate and mechanical, more demanding of concentration. Special mention to the second-to-third shift. That cross-gate is always tricky, but here the lever seems to lead you through it, so there’s no concern about dropping into second for hairpins.

WHAT’S THE STEERING LIKE WITH NO ASSISTANCE?  

A bit of power steering is clutched in at low speed, but above 10mph you’re on your own so there’s weight to deal with. After a day of driving on mountain passes you feel it in your triceps and shoulders (yes, we were lucky enough to find that out after four days and 900 miles across the Pyrenees).

The sweet spot is third and fourth gear sweepers. The steering dances in your hands, super accurate and tingling with gorgeous feedback, just this ultra-clear line of communication to the front wheels. This is the T.50 at its best. We had half expected it to have a semi-GT vibe based on its lightness, that it might scamper along like an Alpine A110. Not so. It’s more stiffly sprung than that, taut in its movements, but the R53 springs and dampers are genius bits of kit (remember they’re completely passive, have no switchable modes), so the T.50 skates over the surface, always composed and confidence-inspiring.

WHAT’S IT LIKE SITTING IN THE CENTRE?

It feels natural immediately. “Why don’t others do this?”, you find yourself thinking. It puts you in the perfect position to see out, and position the car on the road. Forward visibility is wonderful (rarely the case with hypercars), which eases positioning and makes driving less intimidating. And then there’s the T.50s width, just 1,850mm. No other supercar, let alone hypercar, is that narrow. The T.50 is narrower than an Audi Q3 for heaven’s sake. It means you fit on small roads, that the car feels wieldy, that you have options for lines through corners, aren’t wincing when cars come the other way or constantly pinging off cats eyes.

SO IT’S A USEABLE ROAD CAR?

More than that, it’s a delightful one. Clutch aside, it’s easier around a city than any other hypercar because of the view out, the ground clearance and the compact size, and we’d have no qualms about batting out 1,000km in it on a cross-continental blast. Have the T.50 with the longer sixth gear because it gives the car another dimension – the rev drop is huge and you’ll knock out distance more easily. It’s not luxurious and there’s nowhere to easily rest your elbows, but it’s quiet enough, smooth enough and relaxing enough to consume kilometres. Plus it’s very efficient.

YOU MENTIONED FUEL ECONOMY AT THE TOP. WHAT’S THE SCORE?

It’s light, aerodynamically efficient and features a very clean, lean-burning engine (that’s another side of the character) and that means it doesn’t use much fuel. On motorway sections of our trip we were up above 25mpg, and even though most of our driving was in the mountains, overall the T.50 averaged 20.3mpg. GMA has even managed to find space for a generous 80-litre fuel tank, meaning a cruising range of around 400 miles. Put that in your EV and smoke it.

IT SOUNDS VERY MULTI-FACETED…

That’s a good way of putting it. It’s fabulously rewarding to drive in any situation. But it doesn’t reveal its secrets all at once. Driving it is a learning process, a partnership. Sampled in short blasts it’s overwhelming, you need time to digest it.
We will say this: the harder you go, the better it gets. It wants to be driven with proper inputs, heel and toeing is best when you’ve got some actual travel into the brake pedal, using those mighty Brembo CCM-R carbon ceramic stoppers, building up speed and confidence.

Everything starts to come to you. On initial impressions or at low speeds it can be occasionally frustrating because it doesn’t suffer foolish inputs, it doesn’t fluff your ego. It demands accuracy. But now the magic is revealed. You feel everything, yet nothing throws the T.50 off balance. We doubt it’s got more outright grip than other hypercars on its skinny 235/35 and 295/30 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, but frankly we’re not bothered. It’s not what this car is about.

It’s not for everyone, the T.50. Some will want cars that are more ostentatious, that make more of a statement. But at the end of the day, cars, even hypercars, are about driving. And this drives better than any other. It is the pinnacle.

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

subscribe