MONDAY - Probably sounds weird, but this morning I’m seized by a powerful desire to boot myself right up the behind. Why? Because I’ve never taken the trouble to own a Volkswagen Golf and now I regret it.
I’ve been driving a Golf 2.0 TDI 150 DSG and am thoroughly sold on it, to the extent that I feel like hiding it from the bloke who arrives tomorrow to take it back.
How can a car this ordinary be so exceptional? After much weekend brain strain, I reckon the secret is in how brilliantly it adapts to every mode of ordinary driving. I’ve always known VW chooses its best people to work on a new Golf but have never before seen the proof so clearly.
It’s the tiny details that make you love it. The relationship between rear-vision mirror and rear screen is the best I’ve encountered in a car. The way the VW roundel protects the rear-facing camera until you need it is genius. The gearshift paddles fit my fingers better than any Bentley’s or Ferrari’s. And there’s stuff like that wherever you look.
One tip, though: make sure you kill the horrible ‘adaptive lane guidance’ before you drive. It gets our wrinkled roads all wrong and makes a great car feel like a Reliant Robin.
WEDNESDAY - Now we know the Rolls-Royce SUV is coming, talk will surely turn to its name. If the latest BMW-overseen trio is anything to go by, it’ll use something familiar from the past.
The company is unlikely to ‘do a Bentayga’, especially since it will have seen what even polite Bentley enthusiasts have been saying about that. Looks to me as if the choice is Dawn, Cloud, Spirit, Spur, Shadow, Camargue and Corniche. I’d choose Camargue, the name of a marshy French national park region where the Rhone divides before it hits the Med – just the sort of place a luxurious 4x4 might thrive. No one will care that 40 years ago it was attached to a slow-selling coupé.
THURSDAY - Talking of Bentley, I see they’re holding a ‘jobs fair’ at the Crewe HQ next weekend, aiming to fill 300 new technical positions as part of their £40 million expansion.
Makes the heart swell, doesn’t it? I hate to think what might have happened to Bentley and Rolls had Messrs Piech (Volkswagen Group) and Pischetsrieder (BMW Group) not each set their hearts on buying a prestige British marque in the later 1990s. They competed honourably then, they’re still competing honourably today, and the UK reaps a big share of the benefit. More at bentleycareers.com.
FRIDAY - To Solihull, to investigate what Land Rover calls its Celebration Line, the latest part of a year-long programme to venerate the 67-year-old Defender, which goes out of production this December. We started by walking the modern Defender line and soon arrived at the heritage display, which had a flavour, via huge period pictures and early Land Rover components, of how post-war life must have been in this now hallowed place.
Period Land Rover parts and curios are on show in every space, but the best thing is the atmosphere, which gives you a great feel for the post-war optimism and endeavour that must have run through Solihull, as its 4x4 grew rapidly in export demand and as a farm vehicle that enthusiasts also liked. My guide was former Land Rover engineer and historical expert Roger Crathorne, who had to drag me away.
Best news is that visitors can now do exactly as I did by booking through Land Rover Experience and parting with about £40. They can also drive Heritage Land Rovers on the nearby Jungle Track, for a similar outlay. Great day out.