Reflections on Autocar Stars; driving economically; why I'm missing Top Gear; my first go in a new Volvo XC90
Steve Cropley Autocar
31 May 2015

MONDAY

Exhilarating time at our annual Autocar Stars bash in Chelsea’s swanky Hurlingham Club, watching Mr Holder dish awards to the purveyors of the cars that have achieved our testers’ ultimate five-star accolade this year. When that was over, I was privileged to present our two ‘people’ gongs: the Sturmey Award to Citroën’s master designer Mark Lloyd and the Issigonis Trophy to Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche’s high- flying director of R&D.

Autocar invented car awards 25 years ago but gave up when they became an industry-wide craze and guests started dying of boredom. No one should be asked to feign excitement over ‘Best Small Estate with Shiny Hubcaps’. Now we reckon we’ve found a way of rewarding those who’ve excelled, without obliterating their achievement with verbiage.

TUESDAY

Dashed to the Midlands to see my new Lotus Elise (currently being fitted with a four-point harness so we can sprint it). Took the Suzuki Celerio because it’s quick through the traffic between our office and the M40 out of London.

However, since I find it hard not to drive economically in economy cars, I tried my best to save fuel while pressing on a bit and felt rewarded with 64mpg on the trip at the other end. Then things got urgent at home so I had to hurry back and forget frugality. Result: 64mpg again, which was good but sort of bad as well. Decision: I’m giving up on feathering accelerators. I’m simply going to let my right clog weigh what it weighs.

THURSDAY

Never thought I’d miss Top Gear, but I do. Despite the fact that every two-bob Freeview channel is dedicated solely to the rib-tickling antics of May, Hammond and Clarkie, I feel weirdly bereft, because I can’t get satisfaction on what has always been the essential TG question: what will they do next?

And since I can still remember William Woollard reciting compression ratios while standing in front of the same green hedge every Tuesday evening, I can’t say I feel all that optimistic about the ‘formula’ the Beeb’s 68-year-old Alan Yentob and his chums are reportedly dreaming up as the trio’s replacement.

As a tiny boy int he Australian bush, I vividly remember my old man explaining that the funniest thing about The Goon Show was that the BBC management had no idea what a property they had on their hands. It’s the same with TG.

FRIDAY

After a drive home and back in the latest Volvo XC90, I can report that the new SUV is a fit and proper replacement for the 13-year-old original. There’s a nicely designed cabin full of Scandinavian textures and touches, they’ve found more interior room and the styling will please those who liked the previous one. Best of all, its four-pot diesel refinement matches our V6 Range Rover.

I’m impressed with Volvo at present. I like its straightforward claim that the V40 has been adapted for British conditions – because I watched the engineers making it happen on the roads of Surrey a couple of years ago. When Geely acquired Volvo, I was concerned it might not allow future Volvos the cool Swedish character that distinguishes them. The XC90 shows there’s no need to worry.

AND ANOTHER THING...

Yep, this is a car mag, but it can’t be too widely known that this is the final flying season for the only active Avro Vulcan, XH558. It’ll be everywhere, not least at Goodwood. Just another reason to go.

Our Verdict

Volvo XC90
The new Volvo XC90 costs from £45,750

It has big boots to fill and talented rivals to face. Is it up to the task?

Join the debate

Comments
3

1 June 2015
I'm no expert on Top Gear, I stopped watching it ages ago when Clarkson, Hammond and May got too irritating to watch. But the odd bits I've seen and heard about more recently suggest it wasn't a case of "what will they do next", because they were mostly going to do more or less the same.

1 June 2015
Autocar no more invented car awards than Frank Heathcote built his Hurlingham Club in Chelsea.

4 June 2015
Re. the Suzuki mpg, incidentally I noticed a similar thing recently with my own small car - for months I've been trying to drive economically but for the past few weeks I've gone almost the opposite route to see the difference it makes in terms of mpg...and it's pretty much the same if not better! (Admittedly I don't have a trip computer so all calculations are done manually in a rather imprecise manner, but still...I would've expected a significant difference)

 

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