VW's emissions scandal continues to create headlines; Fiat 500 joins my family fleet; fast times at Silverstone in our McLaren 650S Spider
Steve Cropley Autocar
5 October 2015

MONDAY - Stunned, as you must have been, to hear Volkswagen’s bosses admit they cheated so blatantly and for so long over US exhaust emissions, grievously damaging the integrity with which so many of us have credited their cars. Personally, I started believing in VW excellence the first time I ever slammed the door of a Beetle, 50-odd years ago.

Questions tumble over one another like rats escaping a sack. Who would devise such perverted technology? How could anyone in authority be so unprincipled as to use it? Or naïve enough to think experts out there in compliance-land wouldn’t discover it? And could nice, cuddly, car-loving Martin Winterkorn, first of the fall guys, really have known nothing about this?

Then come the practical questions. Do we really believe VW is the only culprit? (I recall stories about motorbike manufacturers building ‘holes’ into engine torque curves to meet drive-by noise regs.)

Is it appropriate for me to feel glad – as, guiltily, I do – that my missus has just changed from diesel to petrol? If I owned a healthy 50,000-mile Golf diesel, what would its value be today versus last week? How sorry are we for the innocent 99.9% of VW’s 600,000 employees? And, above all, how will this thing play out? It strikes me as a proper new-age mess when the owners of problem cars will still need to drive them home tonight, next week and next month.

TUESDAYHappily, I have an errand in Norwich, away from the news-heavy screens of the office, and my transport is an 89bhp, 1.5-litre, common-or-garden five-door Mazda 2, our departing long-term test car. Rightly or wrongly, I have the strong feeling that Japanese manufacturers would never get into VW-level dishonesty – although a colleague drily points out that, as sellers of mainly petrol cars, they wouldn’t need to.

Heading north, I discover how much better this car’s infotainment system is than many at twice the price. I coin a new term – soft precision – for the Mazda’s control responses (my only quibble is a rackety secondary ride on some surfaces), and after weeks of torquey autos, I rediscover the joys of flicking a lever between gears and deploying the enjoyable kick of a free-spinning engine that percolates pretty well beyond 3500rpm.

WEDNESDAY Pleasant duty: my job is to pick up and pay for the Steering Committee’s new Fiat 500 at a central London dealership and take it to the Cotswolds, where it will be based. The new owner is instantly pleased with the refinement and response of the 104bhp Twinair, especially when its much-maligned fuel consumption settles at a decent 48mpg on the trip computer. We will wait until later to assess its veracity. This is not a day to be disappointed by hard facts.

THURSDAYWhen first news arrives that Porsche boss Matthias Müller is nailed on for the top VW job, I have two immediate thoughts. First, how confident is a bloke who puts his head over the parapet in a battle that has done for so many high-achieving colleagues? Second, I’m remembering Müller from the Macan launch in Los Angeles in 2013 – a deadpan and somewhat charisma-free sort of bloke. Makes me wonder at VW’s future relationship with the hackdom. Will they want to build a new Jerusalem, or shoot the messenger?

FRIDAY To Silverstone, for a few innocent laps in the McLaren 650S Spider we’re running. What strikes me is how far and how well this car has moved on from the 12C we had last year. Key feature for me is the almost Citroënesque ride, demonstrated best on ordinary roads rather than the track. The comfort is simply beyond the realm of other supercars.

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Comments
9

5 October 2015
- is that what Olympus shareholders thought, 2000-2011?

5 October 2015
Many motorbikes have that torque drop for drive by regs. The key difference between VW is that the bikes do it all the time, not just when they detect they are being tested and change modes!

 

 

 

5 October 2015
Many motorbikes have that torque drop for drive by regs. The key difference between VW is that the bikes do it all the time, not just when they detect they are being tested and change modes!

 

 

 

5 October 2015
Just goes to show that decent for a tester is crap to the buying public

5 October 2015
Just goes to show that decent for a tester is crap to the buying public

5 October 2015
Very little different, then, from smartphones that claim several hundred hours standby on one charge but in the real world need charging every 1 - 2 days. But then the Suzuki Celerio breaks all the rules by being a bigger and more economical car. I have little doubt the 500 will improve with miles, though.

5 October 2015
With the deadline for the "fix" looming by only two days Volkswagen is in a right mess.

5 October 2015
I cannot believe that VW are the only cpompany to have come up with a "defeat device", after all most cars of similar size/engine capacity produce similar emissions., so either VW group engines are unbelievably worse than everyone elses' or they are all at it. I have never owned, or wanted to own, a diesel car as I have always thought they were dirtier than petrols. The way that the EU have always concentrated on Co2 emissions rather than all the other stuff, seemed like rather skewed thinking (like so many things to come out of the EU, I'm afraid) and the push to encourage buyers to opt for diesel over petrol seemed short-sighted and deeply flawed. Hopefully their popularity will diminish now.


Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

5 October 2015
Maybe with the current swell of turbo petrols, that could happen. Not so many years ago, though, insurers saw red with anything petrol "turbo". The current popularity surely arises from the manufacturers finding that with them they can meet the emission regs during test (small engine, probably running off-turbo for much of the test sequence) rather than customer demand per se. I take it the Fabia VRs is the DSG 1.4tsi? What is your experience of economy in the real world - just interested.

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