Archive for August, 2013|Monthly archive page

The Ultimate Driving Machine?

In BMW on August 12, 2013 at 8:10 pm

photo copy 3Take a pretty ugly car, add some fancy headlights, a more aggressive nose, silver mirror casings and what have you got?

A beautiful looking 1 Series BMW.

Not quite, but it looks the business.

After 15 minutes behind the wheel I felt unbelievably privileged to be given the key.

“What have I done to deserve this?

How is it that I’m able consider purchasing something this wonderful?”

Why was such a sense of well being seeping through my very pores?

I’ll tell you.

Just like the little Fiesta ST reviewed earlier this car talks to the driver.

Although the 320 bhp engine considerably out punches the Ford.

Press the accelerator and an orange light says the traction control is on, but you’d have to be ill not to sense it communicating through your backside.

We’re talking proper rear wheel drive, luscious amounts of creamy power and an awesome 8 speed auto.

The one I drove was wearing adaptive suspension, which ironed out the speed bumps, and made the drive a magic carpet experience.

The seats are comfy, but support in all the right places and the legendary iDrive is so much better than rival touch screen alternatives.  I really like the wide screen 3D view.

So it looks OK, accelerates well, can theoretically do 31-34 mpg it’s all beginning to look like an attractive proposition.

One last test.

How does it stop?

Take a a long straight road with no traffic and hit the brakes.

Wooo, it made me feel dizzy.

Way better than our old 135 coupe.

I think I can live with the fairly small capacity boot, but can I find the necessary cash?




Avant any interest

In BMW, Cadillac on August 12, 2013 at 4:59 pm


A brand for the upwardly mobile.

The A4 is Ingolstadt’s answer to the class leading BMW 3 series.

Motoring mags continually berate the manufacturer for creating cars that are utterly boring to drive.

Push one hard and it’ll just understeer in protest.

Where the brand often scores is in showroom appeal.

When Ocean made rival brands available for test I took the opportunity of forming my own opinion.

Sadly I didn’t gel with the car at all.

I absolutely loved the big digital speedo readout (a conventional dial is also present), but other than that it left me stone cold.

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There are silver embellishments around the cam shaped dials, which unfortunately reflect in the side window!  Doh!

The Sat Nav was visible, but fairly small by modern standards, and somehow very dreary.  I was in a mid range 6 speed manual version, which lacked any sense of urgency when I hit the loud pedal.

I guess the engine was more refined than the gravelly Merc A Class oil burner, but really I just couldn’t get excited about this machine.

The boot was good, the “new car smell” was fine, but were’s the emotion?

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Don’t tell me that’s reserved for VAG group Seat brand.

If forced could I live with this car 5 years and 140,000 miles?  Probably, but it would only serve to expunge my love of motoring.

If you like boring quality and need a fairly spacious estate then pick an A4 Avant.

If you want to enjoy the journey of life then forget it.

For me “Okay” isn’t good enough.

I’d rather have my old Cadillac BLS than this teutonic facsimile of a motor car.



116D at Hatton Quay

In BMW on August 12, 2013 at 9:05 am

photoI jumped out of the A Class auto into a basic BMW 1 series 116D manual.

Somehow I missed one obvious truth, Mercedes and BMW are neck and neck on ugly front ends!

It’s only when I sit here posting the pictures I’m reminded how the Munich offering looks pretty ropey in base trim.

Funny how I missed that when picking up the keys for a run down to the River Tamar.

Years ago down at Hatton Quay I witnessed my first ever swirling Starling roost.  Today the tide was out, and the height of activity was a sweet old lady wondering if I was trying to get her in the photo!

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So what’s the I series like in poverty spec?

There’s none of the wow factor “indoors” that you get in the 3 pointed star.

However there’s one huge leap forward when it comes to driver involvement.

Despite having a lowly 116 bhp lump the 2 litre diesel seems far more refined than the lame A Class alternative.  Perhaps that’s just the result of a snickety snick manual gearbox?  Whatever, it didn’t seem too pedestrian even in the £22,000 “cheap” version I was driving,

All the controls were well weighted, and I was able to whoosh along with confidence, no I’d even go beyond that with “enjoyment”.

I like the alloys, the seats and red trim line inside were nice too, and somehow cloth works well in this car too.  Why do the cloth spec 3 series seem so naff?  That’s a mystery to me, or is my memory reminding me of a previous generation of 3 series?

After my 12 mile acclimatisation run I flopped the seats down, got frustrated by the parcel shelf and wondered where BMW had hidden the interior space.  On the outside this is bigger than my Volvo C30, but in luggage carrying mode it looked much shorter and less spacious.

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I never did clamber in the back, but I may want to try that trick in a different version to be reviewed shortly…..

A class act?

In BMW on August 12, 2013 at 8:25 am

photo copy 3The first time I saw the new A Class was on the M20 motorway shortly after decanting from the channel tunnel.

A spectacularly weird black AMG version with BLIS door mirrors came whizzing up behind me, and I thought “Whatever’s that?”

The shape was so different to any other car I was quite surprised, as we jockeyed for position in the London bound carriageway.

When I was alongside, or just behind I could see a bright red light beneath the mirrors alerting the driver to vehicles in his blind spot.  Clever?  Certainly.  A welcome “extra”?  I’m not sure, unless of course you’re driving on the wrong side of the road like this LHD car in a  Right Hand Drive Britain.

Perhaps you can switch the system off?

Anyhow one things for sure, the gawky front end hasn’t grown on me.  Like so many Mercs this one has a clumsy style, which is a shame because I really rate the interior.


It’s a long time since I owned a car without leather seats, but the honest truth is I’d rather have a velour or good cloth if only the manufacturers made them available.  The standard check fabric finish on this 180 oil burner were just fine.  The car I drove was purely to get a feel against the rival BMW I series, and in many ways it had the blue propellor licked for interior appeal.

I’m not convinced by the iPad style “floating screen”, but then this “boggo” spec came without the “Comand Sat-Nav” so I couldn’t avoid feeling short changed.

One thing that surprised me was how intuitive the little stalk was for selecting “Drive, Neutral, or Reverse”.  Very American, but actually neater than any conventional floor mounted lever or knob.  Mind you I have an inherent distrust of electronic hand brakes, and didn’t gel with the little dash mounted lever.

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So what’s it like to drive?

Noisy!  At less than 40 mph I was checking the electric windows, as the road noise was quite pronounced.  Then there was the agricultural DERV engine.  Quite why anyone is so keen to protect their wallet they think this unit makes sense is beyond me, what about protection against headaches?

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Being a hum drum version I can’t report any terrific sense of involvement from the helm. In fact I only went a few miles before deciding enough was enough.  I checked out boot space (good), rear comfort (good) and thought I’d take it back and try something else.

Something like the equivalent 1 series…..