I spent the first half of this week driving around in Europe at reasonably decent speeds in a Nissan GT-R. It is not the most soothing of cars in which to cover big distances, it must be said.
I drove through France, Belgium, Italy, Austria and Germany, accruing a total of just over 3000 miles in four fairly manic days, and yet the entire time I kept thinking how wrong I’d been about the Nissan’s ride.
In Europe, on a mixture of motorways, the equivalent of some A and B-roads and the occasional Z-road such as the insane Stelvio Pass, the GT-R was the perfect weapon. As is often the case on epic long journeys such as this, I fell right back in love with it as a result.
And yet the moment I drove off the ferry in it at Dover and started driving again on English roads, the GT-R felt, relatively speaking, like an absolute shed. Its ride became instantly dreadful again, and all the noises from the transaxle and the rear brakes all came flooding right back.
But it wasn’t the car that was the problem; it was our roads. And the further I drove the GT-R back in England, the worse they – and it – seemed.
So why is it that our roads are so very rubbish here in dear old Blighty? Why do we put up with such appalling road surfaces, and how come there are so many badly repaired bits and road works all over the place nowadays?
I spent some time discussing this with a chap from Prodrive a few years ago, and he was convinced that the reason our roads are so very awful is that we have a unique substrate here in England. His theory is that because our climate involves so much water, our road surfaces can’t help but deteriorate eventually, no matter how much money we might throw at them.
But surely England isn’t the only country in which it rains rather a lot? Every time I’ve ever been to Holland it has been hosing it down, for example, and in Scotland – where the roads are miles better than they are in England – there are places in which it hasn’t stopped raining since 1843.
No, the reason why our roads are so rubbish in Engand is because, fundamentally, we don’t spend enough money on making them better. Or building them well enough in the first place.
Instead, we spend our money on making everyone else's roads in Europe better, leaving just a few pounds here and there to make do as best we can with our own roads. Plus, our highways tend to be rather busy here in England, so even if we were to perform some kind of nationwide, Hitler-style rebuilding operation, the entire country would grind to a halt instantly, and we’d all be penniless as a result.
Still, at least it keeps the German car manufacturers on their toes, working out ways of making their cars ride and handle properly on our uniquely dreadful English roads, as well as everywhere else in the world. Maybe they should all club together and stop spending endless amounts of money trying to perfect the impossible, and help fund a campaign to make English roads better instead. It would probably cost them a whole less to do so in the long run, after all.