MONDAY - Disaster. Worse, a predictable disaster. Drove away from home on a routine mission to collect a car, with the Steering Committee assisting.
As is becoming increasingly common, we were in a ‘keyless’ car, its all-important fob in my pocket. You can guess the rest. We arrived at our destination and, engine still running, swapped seats. I got into the other car and drove off on a reporting job.
The Steering Committee then went to head for a different destination, at which point – of course – she discovered her car wouldn’t restart because its ignition controller was now some 30 miles away.
There ensued a flurry of phone calls, fuss and inconvenient dashes, during which both of us railed against this gigantic built-in drawback of keyless systems that makes any apparent advantage seem minuscule. I ‘get’ remote locking, but not the keyless thing. The convenience so often cited is illusory, especially since these systems have evidently also been aiding thefts of upmarket cars. Who wants one?
TUESDAY - Funny how your opinion of a car changes with time. When it was new, I thought of the Peugeot 407 (2004-2010) as an inoffensive car of no great merit, its plus points all but obscured by the better credentials of the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo.
Now I’m starting to see 407s as special because of the Ferrari-derived front-end styling that starts with the ‘mouth’, the rakish lights and the wide egg-crate grille.
All of a sudden it seems remarkable – and as history flows it will inevitably become more so – that a big-selling family model was styled to echo the best points of the Ferrari Daytona by a French designer (Gerard Welter) who simply could not disguise his admiration for the Italian supercar.
But then, Welter was very special himself. He was the only chief designer in history ever to run his own, private Le Mans team – Welter Racing – from workshops in his own back yard.
WEDNESDAY - I love little cars with little engines but still felt a tinge of apprehension at being dispatched on a 470-mile, day-long round trip in the five-door Audi A1 Sport powered by the latest 97bhp 1.0-litre turbo triple, which the tyre smokers have just had in for test. Perhaps, said my more traditional self, it’d have been better to tackle such a relentless journey with the quicker and more powerful 1.4 TFSI. Or even a nice Range Rover Sport?
Not for the first time, my inner traditionalist was wrong. Within five miles I discovered that this new A1 three-pot is not only beautifully smooth and quiet but also gives up its healthy 94bhp with the utmost willingness.
I revelled in the compactness of the car and its fine driving position but soon appreciated what I’d already been told by our testers: that the Sport’s stiffer suspension and bigger tyres promote a poorer ride with more road noise than the standard SE.
As a half-way house, you can order a Sport and delete the stiff suspension at no cost but keep the better-looking wheels. The A1’s big strength is the way it keeps its small-car advantages while offering a decent helping of big-car luxury.
FRIDAY - There are (at least) two things wrong with having friends in Wales. One is that it costs you £6.50 every time you want to visit them in a car, because that’s the iniquitous price you’re charged to cross either of the bridges that lead there.
The second is that you have to queue for 10 to 15 minutes for the privilege of paying the dosh.
I’m amazed residents across the Bristol Channel aren’t moved to more frequent protest. Compared with the new procedure attached to crossing the Thames Estuary at the other end of London – or even the system it superseded – this is a trip straight back to the 1950s.
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