MONDAY - Drove my first Kia Sorento for six years in Barcelona today at the launch of the third-generation model, due here in April.
Last time I tried one, the current model was fresh from the oven, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised what a terrific vehicle this new edition is. Kia and Hyundai have been charging towards a goal of market-leading excellence for years, seemingly at twice the speed of everyone else.
What stood out was the relaxed, supple gait of this machine, plus what I’m pretty sure was its class-leading refinement - made all the better by classy cabin design and top-quality manufacture.
My one caveat is that Spanish roads are all like billiard tables (thank you, EU) so I’m now impatient to hear what Prior, Saunders and Co say when the Sorento hits its first UK-spec rut. Kia seems confident: it's pricing the top-spec KX4 to shatter the emotive £40k barrier, which takes it close to the Land Rover Discovery Sport, a tough rival. So while all the omens are all good, Kia still has things to prove.
TUESDAY - Convivial trip to the RAC Club to hear new Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer deliver the annual Walter Hayes lecture on behalf of the AMOC. Palmer was great - reassuring about the company’s future but very much alert to his challenges.
If body language was anything to go by, the 150 attendees (149 of whom, I’d say, were Aston owners) were well impressed. Aston Martin, currently 102 years old, has had a wonderful revival since 2000 under Bob Dover (happily present) and Ulrich Bez. But I get the feeling its greatest days are still to come. In fact, whenever I’m not in the best spirits, I think of the revivals under way at Aston Martin and Lotus and I feel better.