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.
TUESDAY - Happily, 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.
THURSDAY - When 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?