I’ve been thinking about what a rhino would sound like if you put it in a suit of armour and then had another rhino in a suit of armour give it a thorough and a very vocal seeing to. If you heard a Vauxhall Mokka diesel start on a cold morning then you’d be thinking about pachyderm sex too.
I’m picking my next company car and I like the way the Mokka looks. The Tech-line version is full rep spec. It has sat nav, Bluetooth, cruise control and dual-zone climate control. Not that any rep has anyone ever in the passenger seat but it’s a nice touch. There are parking sensors front and rear so that you don’t have to explain unfortunate little dings and scrapes to your boss. There’s an iPod controller which I couldn’t get to work properly with my iPhone all the time. It has automatic stop-start which I kept forgetting about so that when the engine cut out at lights I was taken by surprise only to be surprised again when the engine restarted on its own. I have one of those goldfish memories. Some of the controls are only intuitive if you think like an Opel engineer. On which subject, the sat nav couldn’t identify the Sanger Institute but found the European Bioinformatics Institute which is on the same campus in Hinxton. I swear it’s only because the EBI is German and so is the Opel Mokka. My trip to Luton in it today is probably the first time it’s even seen the place.
It has no storage pace for rep snacks. There is a cubby between the seats, a lower glovebox full of manuals and who-knows-what and a completely pointless little lidded compartment above it which in days gone by would probably have been full of airbag and in days gone by even further might have provided somewhere to stash a half bottle of whisky, the thing every old-style rep needed to get through the day in his Cavalier.
I thought it rode nicely and once I got used to the idea that I wasn’t going to go round corners quickly, I began to enjoy what passed for handling. You just calm down, slow down, enjoy the view and everything becomes slightly less stressed. I know that it’s basically a Corsa in a fat suit, a faux-by-four – although you can have it with four wheel drive – but it does look good, is very well equipped for the price and the trip computer claims I got 58 mpg out of it today. I can’t believe that’s correct but I haven’t had time to empty the tank and I didn’t brim it to start off with. I’m no road tester. The gear lever is in a slightly awkward position for me; it feels just an inch or so too far back. I ended the day with tight neck and shoulder muscles. The seats feel flat but I don’t think I’ll be able to persuade my boss to let me have an SE with its sports seats.
Nor could I have the Yeti which would probably be a better long-term bet. It’s slightly larger but is more expensive than the Mokka, at least now that the Yeti Urban is no longer available. The SE Plus with roughly comparable equipment retails at about a thousand pounds more than the Mokka Tech-line but we need to see what leasing deals are available.
Whatever, I’ve enjoyed my day in the Mokka. Whether I can cope with the flat seats, the slightly awkward gear change and the noisy engine for three years and the best part of 80,000 miles is another question.
The M5 is something of a holy object for the Church of Petrol. Even the new F10, which has a turbocharged V8 instead of the soaring, naturally-aspirated V10 of the E60 version, is venerated and blessed with super unleaded. It has five hundred and sixty-odd horsepower instead of five hundred and seven. It looks glorious. It’s an M5 and that’s basically enough for canonisation as far as the Church of Petrol is concerned.
The pure white car in the picture above isn’t an M5 or indeed anything from the Holy Lands. It drinks from the Black Pump. It may look righteous but it’s a diesel. It’s the M550d xDrive. It has a tuned version of the 3.0 litre six-cylinder turbodiesel which has a third turbocharger bolted to it. God alone knows where they’ve put it. Or maybe the Other Fellah. I certainly don’t. I do know that it produces 381 German horses and 546lb-ft of torque. Lumme. That’s 126 horsepower per litre. That figure sticks in my head because it’s in the same area as a Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale. So the diesel exec is as highly-tuned as a track-inspired supercar. That’s kind of scary.
Left-hand drive versions are available with BMW’s xDrive four wheel drive system. The right-hand drive versions for the British market will be rear-wheel drive only and about 80kg lighter as a result than those on sale over the Channel. You can have it as a saloon or Touring estate and it’s going to look like an M5. It’s not going to have an M5′s fuel consumption. BMW claims a ba’ hair short of 45mpg. You’re not going to get that in real life but it’s going to be better than the petrol car’s. A few years ago, 45mpg would have been a fine result for a smallish hatch and now it’s claimed for a 380-brake sex exec. A diesel and that’s a small miracle.
In line with everyone else at this time of year, I’m going to be handing out awards to my favourite cars. The Rotties have to be the least prestigious awards in the automotive world and I can’t imagine that terribly many Rottie laureates are going to be all that chuffed to be on the winners’ list. I have absolutely no budget for hosting a posh dinner anywhere and we all know that drinking and driving don’t mix in any case. I’d hate for an award winner to get a ban on the way home from the Rotties awards ceremony down the Dog and Sprocket. On the other hand, it might be something to put into a press release on a quiet day in Ulan Bator, so here goes.
Least Memorable Car of the Year
The shortlist for this award was quite long. There is stiff competition among the forgettable cars on sale in Britain in 2012. There’s the Thingie, you know, the Thingie. You know it. You must. You go past enough of them on the way to pick up some more Cornflakes on a Saturday morning. It looks quite nice in that anonymous dark blue shade. Then there’s the Whatumacallit. You must know that one. It has a very nice handbrake button. It’s driven by genial people. You’ve never seen one cut anyone up because it’s quite slow and the drivers are too amiable. Neither the Thingie nor the Whatumacallit is the winner tonight. Each has at least one feature which brings it to mind. No. This year’s Least Memorable Car is… Nope. It’s gone. Can’t remember. We’ll come back to it later.
Dysfunctional Family Car of the Year
The dysfunctional family has very particular needs. Mum and Dad, (or Dad and Dad, or Mum and Mum – this is 2012 after all) are not going to be talking to one another. The children are going to be bored, hate one another and on the point of pre-pubescent violence pretty much all the time. Had the Rotties been around in 1995, the Renault Espace F1 would have been a shoe-in to win. Everyone wears a crash helmet and it’s incredibly noisy so communication would be impossible. The four seats each have multipoint harnesses so the children would be restrained from striking each other in the few brief moments when the terror generated by its acceleration subsides. An 800bhp V10 engine from a Formula 1 car will cause enough acceleration to subdue the belligerence of even the stroppiest 10 year old and drown out their screams anyway.
My arbitrary rules have excluded the otherwise perfect Renault Espace F1. It’s too old, too singular and has too much black paint on its otherwise acceptably yellow bodywork. Instead, the Rottie for Dysfunctional Family Car of the Year goes to the remarkable new Land Rover Discovery. The parents up front can avoid talking to one another. This new one has the screen which allows the front passenger to watch a movie (The Witches of Eastwick or The Wars of the Roses for example) while the driver uses the sat-nav on the same screen. There would be no point in asking the front seat passenger to help with directions. They’d only point out where you’re going wrong in your life. You know exactly where it all started to go wrong in any case: getting involved with them. You can have it with a rear seat entertainment package which allows the passengers to watch films instead of scream at one another. The seat backs are durable enough to cope with the most inisistent of rhythmic kicking. The 3.0-litre diesel engine is joined to an 8-speed automatic gearbox as used in the Range Rover and assorted Jags so while the family may be dysfunctional, the car itself does everything one could possibly reasonably ask of it.
Least Memorable Car of the Year – Take 2
It’s on the tip of my tongue.
No, sorry it’s gone. We’ll have to come back to it again.
Sports Car of the Year
2011 was a good year for sports cars. We’ve had the Porsche Boxster Spyder (almost like a Boxster S, just a little more powerful, slightly lighter and with a tent thing instead of the powered folding roof) and the really rather smashing Morgan +4 Supersports about which I have really been dreaming. I talk in my sleep fairly often. Her Indoors says that she is sometimes bamboozled by my nocturnal mutterings. I may have been mumbling about leather bonnet straps in the night.
So, why is there is a photograph of a Transit minibus at the top of this section? You’ll have to bear with me a little on this explanation. If you actually play any real sports at all, you’re not going to be able to use your Boxster or Morgan. If you play darts or snooker, you could. A set of ‘arras’ or a snooker cue would fit into either one easily. If, God forbid, you commit golf you’d have to put the clubs and their stupid, stupid bag onto the passenger seat so you couldn’t carry a passenger. That would be all right though because people who commit golf don’t really have friends. Real sports get you sweaty though and no darts player has ever got sweaty playing darts except just before his heart attack.
I’m a skinny runner and I can carry a pair of cross-country spikes in a very small canvas bag which would fit on my equally skinny friend’s lap. I could get away with the Porsche and or the Morgan. If you play another real sport like rugby and have any friends then you need a Transit minibus to take you and your friends to matches. Rugby players can be largish chaps (or chapesses, 2012 again) and they have lots of kit including all that poncy body armour. Dysfunctional Dad could use his Discovery, I suppose but he’s probably not allowed to play sports any more. He needs to take the boy or girl to their Saturday morning misery session instead. Some of my friends used a Transit minibus for their Three Peaks Challenge during the summer and found it an admirable way to get from one mountain to the next.
So, because sports cars are of limited use to anyone who actually plays sports, the Rottie for Sports Car of the Year goes to the Ford Transit minibus. It sort of makes sense.
Least Memorable Car of the Year – Take 3
Nope, still can’t remember. Moving on.
Most Over-engineered Shopping Car of the Year
I have no idea whether Keira Knightley has a sister, nor do I care. If she does, she’s probably nearly as gorgeous as Keira but not quite. In the same way, the five door version of the Range Rover Evoque isn’t quite as gorgeous as the three door. I’m not going to give in to the marketing people and call it a coupe because it’s not. Neither am I going to cut off my own nose just to spite my face and ignore the smallest Range Rover. Every time I see one of these things, it acts like an attention-hoover. It just looks right. The proportions are unusual so that it looks bigger than it really is. That those same marketing people are quite clever is a given. This very wonderful car is going to be badly parked in the better shopping areas of the world’s costlier cities. It’s capable of doing so much more but like Keira – and her sister – nobody is going to be interested in it for anything other than it’s looks and that’s a crying shame.
Least Memorable Car of the Year – Take 4
Ummm… Oh, forget it.
Repmobile of the Year
This is the only car I have driven of all the ones I’m handing out awards to. I’ve racked up over 30,000 miles this year in my Octavia Elegance. It’s done everything I’ve asked of it without complaint and with only a couple of small faults. Last winter, on the coldest of cold days, the windscreen washers froze on a motorway journey and I had to stop on the hard shoulder to wash the salt and grime off the screen myself. It was -12 Centigrade and the wind chill would have been horrendous so I’ll forgive it that. Rather more inexplicably, just last week I came out of the house to find all four windows wound down. The car was locked and the ignition was off. My step-son is not a practical joker so I have ruled out one particular reason why this might have happened. I’m slightly worried that it will happen again in a less safe area or on a wet and wild night but so far it all seems normal. No more ghosts in the machine. Oh, and the headlamp doesn’t want to come out so that I can replace a blown bulb but that might be my cack-handedness. I’m not good at things like that.
Those are the only faults or frustrations I’ve registered in 18 months and 52,000 miles. I have driven from Darkest Aberdeenshire to the Fens in a day with no backache, no ringing in my ears and on much less than a tank of diesel. The 1.6-litre common rail engine is powerful and torquey enough in this car to let me get on with driving without beimg stuck in a queue of slow moving traffic unless I have one of those nervous passengers. The dark upholstery even hides chocolate stains admirably. It has plenty of stowage space round the cabin for the little bits and bobs of a rep’s life on the road. The boot is gigundous and easily swallows everything I throw in there. I love this car and I’m already dreading the day I have to replace it because it may have been replaced itself by then.
The Muttering Rotter’s Car of the Year
You know that this is a car blog of uninformed opinion, don’t you? So my Car of the Year is not based on long exposure in road tests. Sadly. My Car of the Year is the one which I have most wanted to spend time with. The Morgan 3 Wheeler is that car. I’ve read every word written about it. This is the car I’d have in my garage while the Audi A7 and McLaren MP4-12C – the other cars on the shortlist – sat alone, cold, unloved and lightly vandalised on the pavement outside. The A7 is beautiful and beautifully appointed and the McLaren is scandalously fast. The thing is that while I can imagine either of them taking me to my happy place quite quickly, my happy place is the driver’s seat of a Morgan 3 Wheeler.
I have documented my weakness for orange cars before in this blog, when I was talking about the McLaren MP4-12C. I think I might have mentioned it when the BMW M3 was up for discussion. I definitely talked about it in Men Are Weak which was mostly about kittens and breasts but mentioned the 1-Series M Coupe in passing. Today I have a new object of for my orangey affections: the C63 AMG Black edition featured in this week’s Autocar.
It really does look like as menacing as a satsuma covered in razor blades. You would not leave a small child in its company. It can’t be trusted with the hamster for the school holidays. It will call your pint a poof. It’s as hard as Biffa Bacon’s Ma. It’s even harder than the CLK63 Black and the Mk1 RS Focus, the two previous holders of The Muttering Rotter’s Hardest Car in the World title. It’s fucking heroically orange. Check the pictures out on the link above if you haven’t yet seen them. It’s just so orange. I can’t get over that. The example Matt Saunders drove must have all the performance options fitted including the one which gives you the two little dive planes on each front corner. My boring red one above doesn’t have them. I want the orange one with all the added AMG Aerodynamics Pack goodness. It’s just so ridiculously, gloriously orange. Autocar says it’s also going to cost £110,000 which is a shed-load for even a lottery winner to drop on a small coupe. Don’t care. Just want.
I was recently at Sytner’s BMW dealership in Nottingham. I was doing my usual thing of wandering around, daydreaming uselessly. Dealership staff must be used to people like me who stroll around. I try to take up as little of their time as possible in case a real prospect should come in. I’d hate someone to lose out on a sale because they’ve been talking to me.
BMW dealerships are strange places. New BMW saloons and estates are almost invariably a shade of grey or blue. It leads to a very cool atmosphere as you walk around. I like the BMW aesthetic even if its palette is somewhat restricted. I said in my last post that the 5-series in particular is graceful and restrained. It’s a fine thing to watch as it passes you on the road and God knows, there are enough of them around now.
As I was leaving the showroom, I looked over and among all the cool blue and grey BMWs there was a lone Jaguar XF. It wasn’t a red one but even so it was a striking sight. It’s a very beautiful object, an XF. It was parked nose-on to a wall, otherwise alone in a line of 3s and 5s. Sometimes, you’ll see an utterly gorgeous individual just going about their business and everyone else will seem just a little less attractive in comparison. I was once at a party and Helena Bonham-Carter was there, sitting under a tree in the garden, talking to a couple of her friends. It was that kind of party. She was in jeans and trainers, no big thing, but she still managed to look just a little brighter than anyone else there. That XF managed to pull off the same trick in a car park full of BMWs.
The new XF has been out for a few weeks now and I’ve begun to see it in some numbers. The lights are new and it’s the lights which bother me. They’re spoiling the car. They’re like those on the XJ and those on the concept which introduced the XF and that’s a good thing. What spoils the car is the LED running lights: they’re overwrought. BMW’s rings of light and Audi’s strips and bars both work well for them. The Jag’s hooky things just don’t. If you have one of these rather lovely cars, do me a huge favour and turn off the running lights. You’re making a spectacle of yourself.
This could be another in the occasional Things I Like series. I like the M5. I have always liked the M5. I liked the M635CSi which was the first rendition of the M-car for the masses. The M1 was too rare and exotic and nothing like a practical day-to-day proposition. The M635CSi used the M1′s straight six engine in combination with a delicately pretty coupe bodyshell. The first E28 M5 came along a little later and used the same engine. I was mesmerised by the concept of it. I remember that CAR didn’t quite know what to make of it. They tested it against the Citroen CX for its ride and Jaguar XJ6 for its refinement. There was probably something against which they could compare its performance but that wasn’t an AMG Mercedes saloon. AMG was still a niche tuner of Mercedes cars and not as mainstream as it is today.
The second generation E34 M5 used the same classic straight six engine, ultimately in a 3.8 litre capacity which produced 340bhp, a considerable increase on the original’s 286bhp from 3.5 litres. It was the last of the truly exotic M5s. It was hand-built in small numbers at the M-Division in Garching. From the V8-engined E39, all M5s were built on the same production line as other 5-series. The E60 had a V10 which revved and revved and then revved some more and a sequential gearbox which confused with all its various settings. It had two states of tune depending on whether or not you pressed the M button, although why you wouldn’t press the M button is beyond me. It took the engine from about 400hp to 507hp. To go Twitterish for a moment; nom, nom, nom.
And now there’s a new one. It’s a twin-turbocharged, petrol, 56ohp V8 related to that in the 550i but heavily reworked. It’s also similar to the engines in the scabrous X5M and pointless X6M. Unlike those four-wheel drive munters, the new M5 is really quite handsome. The E60 broke with M5 tradition in being quite shouty. The new F10 version is slightly calmer than the E60 but still louder than the M5 norm. When you have more or less the same amount of horsepower as a Ferrari 458 you’re allowed to shout a little.
I think that the current 5-series is one of the more attractive BMWs of recent years. I’m not going to bash Bangle like so many have done. His BMWs were beautifully proportioned but had unusual surfacing and strange detailing. He also cam up with the frankly astonishing Fiat Coupe. That car drags my eyeballs around after it each and every time I see it, not that that happens very often. Anyway the F10 5-series is a calm, dignified but assertive design on the outside and clean and comforting on the inside. It has none of the unhappiness of the E60 or ungainliness of the 5GT. The M5 is a 550i Sport which has been to the gym for some intensive training then to a very good tailor for a new suit to cover it’s muscles without hiding them completely.
If I were to have a spare £75,000 and could only buy one car, it would probably be this one. The AMG is lairier, the XFR has silly lights now (that post is coming shortly) and the XJ Supersports is too big. The Audi S8 has also recently downsized from a V10 to a twin-turbo V8 and has one of those gorgeous places to be interiors the Gas Station Podisode would go “Ping!” at. I don’t have the necessary readies, though. Previous generation M5s are much more affordable. An E60 has been seen in the wild for £18k and that has to be some kind of bargain. It’s possibly with the Devil but that’s still a bargain. The V8-engined E39 is much less expensive – from about £6k with lots to choose from around £10k – and an E34 isn’t quite banger racer material but it’s not far off. An E28 is what the Germans call a Youngtimer and will only appreciate in value if you look after it. The least expensive I found on Pistonheads is £16k. It’s the one I would have and then keep for special occasions. Mind you, going to the shops for bread and milk is a special occasion if you make the journey in an M5.
According to Siobhan Ni, the philosopher William Godwin conceived of a “a politically and socially reformed society populated by a people who had perfected their rational minds to the point where the mental process had gained supremacy over physiological nature.” I’m not at all sure of the mental processes involved in the creation of the new Mercedes Benz ML63 AMG except that most of them ought to be prefixed with “utterly.”
The AMG version of the new ML uses the twin-turbocharged V8 with a mental 525hp. Just to put that in context, the supercharged V8s eased gently under the bonnets of Range Rovers and Range Rover Sports have but 510hp. Poor things. So, you can kick sand in the windscreen and sparkly headlights of the two and a half ton weakling Range Rovers in your muscly new ML. That’s just the mental version. The utterly mental version, the one with the optional Performance Pack, has 557hp. Five hundred and fifty seven horse power. That sort of power deserves to be written out in full. It comes from turning up the boost on the turbos, chargecooling the air entering the engine and burning not quite as much fuel as you might have thought. Clever engine management can do a lot these days and Mercedes claims fuel consumption of 23.9mpg and 276g/km of carbon dioxide.
In the politically and socially reformed society of 2011, a twin-turbo petrol V8, hot rodded Chelsea tractor isn’t the wisest of purchases. Philosophy is literally the love of wisdom. What is wise about endowing a school run chariot with as much power as a supercar ad then pretending that it’s acceptable because you’ve given it some stop-start tech? It’s not exactly utilitarian, this one. Russian writers in the Nineteenth Century came up with the idea of the superfluous man and in the Twenty-first Century Russian oligarchs can roll around cities from Petersburg to Paris in superfluous cars like this.
There is still something to admire in this daft car. Getting one of these things to accelerate from 0-62mph in less than five seconds is worth cheering because fundamentally it is a silly thing to do and we need silliness in our lives as much as wisdom. Mercedes has sold 13,000 ML AMGs worldwide. I’d be surprised if there were more than a couple of hundred in the UK, most of which go nowhere at all. They do nothing much other than depreciate and make their owners look silly. They also act as a hate magnet for environ-mentalists. That in turn means that the rest of us can get on with sensible discussions, like who would win in a fight between the Hulk and pre-menstrual Wonderwoman?
Moderation in all things, especially moderation.
*‘Why may not man one day be immortal?’ Population, perfectibility, and the immortality question in Godwin’s political justice (The History of European Ideas 33, 2007) **
** I’ve been practicing my academic referencing.
A scant few years ago, Honda sold its exciting range of revvy, racy Type-R cars. There was an Accord for the saloonatics. An Integra might better suit those who wanted a coupe. The really rather special NSX Type-R wasn’t imported into the UK. One example was brought over and touted round the magazines. It even made an appearance on Top Gear where its weight-saving measures were mocked. The gaiter round the gear lever was famously made from mesh instead of leather in order to save a few grammes. All the Type-Rs had a few things in common, most notably engines which lacked torque but revved to the heavens in order to make their power and metal gearknobs which were chilly on the palm of a cold morning.
The last survivor of this slightly unhinged bunch was the Civic. Some people gave the current version a bit of a kicking because its torsion bar rear suspension wasn’t as sophisticated as the wishbones on the previous one. Others thought that the spaceship styling was a little odd. What wasn’t in doubt was the fireworks display under the bonnet and the snickety-snick-snick gearbox. It was revised and revised again and received a limited slip front differential and a white paint job. It was lovely.
Honda stopped making the Civic Type-R when the Muttering Rotter Hot Hatch Revviest Engine of the Year 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 was no longer compliant with emissions regulations. Or something. The LTI TXII taxi can pollute and carry on polluting but the Civic Type-R can’t. This could easily develop into a Type-Rant so I’d better stop.
Mugen do lovely things too. They take mad Hondas and make them madder. Mugen Europe is based in Northampton, in the Rose of the English Counties. I can’t really imagine somewhere more different from Japan with the possible exception of Antarctica. They’re not far from Motorsport Central so it does make sense for them to be there. What you see above is the Civic Type R Mugen 2.2. Last year, Mugen Europe took 20 Civic Type-Rs, stripped them, rebuilt them and made them anew. They became lighter, more powerful and had reworked suspension and brakes and a rather sudden bodykit. Those cars had 2.0-litre engines. This one has a 2.2 version of the same engine for 30% more torque and power. It’s gone up from 240 pesky little German horses to 260. I thought that the Type-R had gone the way of all flesh but Mugen Europe thinks otherwise, bless their little mesh gaiters. There are four unsold 2.0-litre cars remaining. They may receive the new 2.2-litre engine or the other 16 examples loose on the streets of the UK might have the option of an upgrade made available. Whatever, that really will be the end.
Honda has ceased production of this amazing engine and it’s possible that we will never see anything quite like it again. For environmental reasons, engines can no longer scream like banshees to make their power. BMW’s M Division have turned to turbocharging and if Honda ever free themselves from their beige slacks, they’ll have to do the same to get sufficient power from their engines. I suppose they could use a version of their IMA hybrid technology to boost performance but that would require a different approach than they have yet shown, even on the CRZ coupe. In the meantime, lets mark the passing of the four-cylinder, hot hatch screamer with this wonderful, wonderful little engine and this rather odd car.
I was going to write a very interesting post about Moskvitches, GAZes and Ladas today. There is lots to say about the role of class analogues in Soviet society. It was riveting. Then I saw this.
Jaguar, you completely screwed up my carefully planned, closely argued post and I hate you, you bunch of bastards. Who is going to be prepared to read about Homo sovieticus motoris on a day like today? This is the Jaguar C-X16 Concept and is going to appear in a Jaguar showroom near you some time next year as the fabled New E-Type of myth and legend.
The C-X16 has an intriguing drivetrain. It’s front-engined and rear drive and has an eight-speed automatic gearbox which also has a 90-odd bhp electric motor-generator built into it. This combines with the 375bhp, supercharged, direct injection petrol V6 to do uncomfortable things with your innards when you fully depress the accelerator pedal. So, it’s a hybrid. Bit nicer than a Prius or Insight, eh?
Take another look.
If you were to present me with Keira Knightley, naked except for a light slathering of chocolate mousse, I don’t think I’d be drooling more. It has a side-hinged hatch just like an E-Type and those slim rear lights which remind me of an E-… You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? The quad exhausts and diffuser-doodah are very contemporary expressions of power and motorsport and all that good stuff. See, nothing like a Prius or Insight.
The interior of the C-X16 is redder than a Lada driver’s face on a hot day. Note the gear lever. The rotary knob selector Jaguar is using in the XF, XJ and XK doesn’t make it to the new car. There are paddles to control the gear selection too. The big red button on the steering column to calls up additional electric power in a racy ‘push-to-pass’ stylee. All very motorsport again.
The performance is zoomy. 0-60mph in not much. The maximum speed is lots. Confusingly, the carbon dioxide emissions are low for the performance. It’s really got that hybrid thing going. You can see it in Frankfurt next week if you’re going or in every magazine and motoring website in the country right now, including this one. Sorry.
When I was a very much younger man than I am now the Fiat dealer in Edinburgh regularly advertised very low deposit deals on Unos and Pandas. Every night there would be an advert for Unos costing £3,499 and Pandas at £2,999. I think they were asking for £99 deposit and thirty quid a month for ever, certainly for longer than I would expect a mid-Eighties to last. I was tempted so sorely that I remember being really pissed off with my dad who thought I’d be really stupid for signing up to a deal like that. I wasn’t much bothered about the Uno; it looked dull and contrived in comparison to the simple, little Panda. The Uno had an engine called FIRE which had a plastic cover on it which was – pause for shock, horror – styled. Oh, and FIRE stood for Fully Integrated Robotised Engine. As if.
The Panda had flat glazing all round and the four-wheel drive version looked for all the world like a baby Range Rover before the Evoque’s brand manager was a twinkle in his father’s eye. I liked the pre-facelift version best. It had a simple metal grille at the front and an ashtray which slid back and forth across the dash. The revised car suffered from the usual Fiat problem of a head-on collision with the ugly tree. Fiat hasn’t had a single car in the last thirty years which looks as good after its facelift as it did before.
The original Panda died and a few years later there was a new one which had 5 doors. You could have it with four wheel drive or in the rather delightfully named 100HP version which was the cutest warm hatch in history. It was like a kitten in Doc Marten’s boots. This Panda formed the basis of the 500 and the Ford Ka and was a better, more honest car than either of them.
And now there’s a new one. It suffering a little from used soap syndrome. I mean that it looks as if someone made a model of the previous version out of soap, left it in a trucker’s toilet by the A1 for a few weeks and then just used what became of the model as the styling buck for he new one. It’s better equipped than the old one. Fiat wants everyone to know about its Blue&Me TomTom LIVE doodah which allows you to listen to music, talk on your phone hands-free and find your way home from wherever you’ve just been almost as if you’ve got a TomTom which costs about half as much as the option is going to cost.
I’m more impressed with the engines. There are two petrol twins available; turbocharged and normally aspirated. The turbo is the same TwinAir which you can get in the 500. The other one is new. They produce 85 and 65bhp respectively. There are a couple of fours as well; a petrol of 69bhp and a diesel of 75bhp which will appear after the petrols are launched. The twins and the diesel come with a stop-start system. The petrol four does the stop-start thing as well, but you have to do it yourself with a device called a key. Technology, eh?
If you’re one of the beknighted souls condemned to wander the halls of the Frankfurt motor show for what will seem like eternity you will be able to see the new Panda on the Fiat stand. Everyone else need only wait until it appears at a Fiat dealer near you. There’ll be deals available soon enough.