Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Interesting model strategy from Volkswagen

Yesterday VW announced prices for the Scirocco and Golf R models. The surprising thing, for me at least, was that the Golf is the more expensive, more powerful, four-wheel drive version. The Scirocco seems quite reasonably priced at £26,945 whilst the Golf is nearly £30,000 which seems somewhat expensive but I’m sure Volkswagen knows what it is doing.

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What puzzles me is why, if front-wheel drive and ‘XDS’ electronic traction control is enough for the 252bhp coup√©, the hatchback with only 14bhp more (a 5.56% increase) needs to send power to all four wheels. I’d have given both models the same power and the ability to send power to the back wheels.

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Just one thought remains, is Volkswagen planning an even more powerful, four-wheel drive Scirocco? How about a 300bhp, six-cylinder coupé? Well, it is nice to imagine.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Good things

Here are a few things I’ve seen in the last week that have cheered me up.

First is this concept by Daihatsu.

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Called ‘basket’ it is designed, if I recall the press release correctly, for family trips to the vegetable patch. It is such an odd design brief and I feel I should hate it but it is so quirky I’m quite taken with the idea. Although production seems unlikely maybe Daihatsu has designs on the market vacated by the Mini Moke and Citroen Mehari.


Then I saw a retro-styled Honda electric car.

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The EV-N is an electric city car with solar panels on the roof and a strong resemblance to the 1960s Honda N360. It has a similar ‘cute’ appeal to the Fiat 500 and MINI and it looks as though it would make a good rival to Toyota’s iQ. Sadly, it seems there are no plans to put it into production. On the other hand I can’t help thinking that it would be even better with a small, high-revving engine in place of the battery drivetrain.


Finally, it isn’t just small cars that appeal.

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McLaren’s new supercar didn’t appeal to me when I first saw it, however I was asked to do a news story on the MP4-12C. Familiarising myself with the 12C’s details left me feeling rather more positive towards the new British supercar. Obviously McLaren’s web site would talk-up its latest offering but just looking at some of the components is a reminder that good engineering can be beautiful. I particularly like the carbon tub with its smooth curves.

The Honda and Daihatsu will be on display at the Tokyo Motor Show. The McLaren can bee seen at www.mclarenautomotive.com
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Monday, 5 October 2009

Arrivals and departures

O.K. Sorry for the lack of updates but things have been pretty busy here. If I'm not at work I'm either writing or at the gym. It is all good but leaves the poor old blog a bit neglected. Since my last update covered part of my search for a new car it seemed logical to resume by saying that I have found one. A 1998 Honda Prelude VTi, a rare manual example. Despite my general enthusiasm for automatic transmissions I think the synchromesh gearbox is the one to have if you're going to buy a Prelude. Given the rumours of problematic auto-boxes the DIY-transmission certainly seems like a safer bet.

So far I am delighted with it. Some minor details feel a little penny pinched compared with my old 1989 Preludes. Things like the lack of seat memory and unlined coin tray suggest that the accountants took their pound of flesh. Somehow fake wood on the centre console is poor compensation for what has been lost. At least the double wishbone suspension and four-wheel steering escaped the axe - a large part of the pleasure of driving the Prelude is down to the way it handles and steers. Unfortunately I can't make a direct comparison with my old Preludes but not only is there an improvement in grip and responsiveness but also the ride is much more comfortable.

Other noticeable improvements over the old Prelude include more performance and surprising smoothness from the V-tec engine. Especially gratifying is the smoother transition between the two cam profiles - the 1992 Prelude I drove, which gave me my first taste of Honda's variable valve timing and lift technology, suffered a noticeable step between the two stages. Despite the improved performance fuel economy seems no worse than my old, automatic Prelude and a 60-litre fuel tank gives more than adequate range - at the expense of a big bill if you have to refill and almost empty tank.

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Getting the Prelude meant saying goodbye to my Citroen BX14. Sold to a BX enthusiast I'm happy that it has gone to a good home. I must admit I never bonded with 'Pierre' in the way that I did with the BX I had before, Claude. Funny how both French cars gained nicknames but neither my current Honda nor any of the others received that honour.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Car buying blog

Just been to have a look at a 4.0-litre Jaguar XJ. It was a Sovereign which means it has all the toys (if that matters) on a J-plate.

What an interesting car. Objectively it ticks all the boxes. Decent performance, refinement, lots of leather, air conditioning that seems to do its job, nice power steering (not over light, despite what the press often said at the time) and the sort of ride and handling mix that puts almost everything else to shame. I took it for a reasonably long drive over roads I knew well and it did everything I could ask without complaint.

And yet doubt remains. Some of it is doubt over the condition of the car I was driving. Nothing too serious, but a bit of rust here and there which you’d want to deal with sooner rather than later and a rather more serious question mark over the ABS warning light. Maybe the sensors just need cleaning (a common enough case on the XJ40) or maybe they need replacing? It all looked like a bit of a gamble.

Final nail in the Jaguar’s coffin has to be the colour. Metallic gold is somewhat more “pub landlord” than “young gentleman”. My search continues.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Been too long

Well I've been rather neglecting the poor old blog. The problem is a pleasant one, I'm directing most of my effort towards writing for [url]www.carenthusiast.com[/url]. If I could turn out news stories more quickly then I might have more time for bloging but if it is a choice between writing for someone else and writing for myself then I have to put others first.

Hopefully I'll have some more stuff to report soon. I've got some events to go to and a new car to buy. As the saying goes, watch this space.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The next big thing?

Matt-finish paint.

Mercedes-Benz CLS Grand Edition

Last week I wrote about a special edition of Mercedes’ CLS, which was offered in matt platinum paint. At the time I wondered if it would be the start of a new trend. Now Lamborghini is also offering four matt-effect paint finishes it looks like it could well be the start of a new trend.

It is hard to say how these colours will look in the metal but the Lamborghinis on the Detroit Motor Show stand look pretty stunning. The paint appears to have a sheen, an effect more like a satin paint than a true matt. The Italians don’t say anything about the paint’s practical qualities but the ever logical Germans claim that Mercedes’ matt paint is “highly scratch and dirt resistant”.

What neither firm mentions in its press release is how you’re meant to polish matt paint!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Hopes for 2009

Looking forward to the New Year one wish is for sense from the government on speed and speed limits. Given that excessive speed is not the biggest threat to life and limb on the roads the emphasis on speed seems misguided to say the least. There must be a more enlightened approach. Some sort of understanding that on the open road bad driving and inattention are the problems while in urban areas it might make sense to include speed along with not concentrating as the risks. On the open road let’s have Police watching for dangerous behaviour in both marked and unmarked cars but no more camera vans and visible cameras only at known danger spots if speed over the posted limit is the root cause of the problem.

It would certainly make a change from being offered ever more inventive ways to enforce limits.