Currently reading: Cropley on cars - Big cat parade, ghostly Porsches and B-SUVs are nothing new
9000 staff line the roads as Jaguar arrives at Lode Lane; Porsche 918 impresses for its normality when not on the limit and how the Volkswagen Up! remains a king among small cars


To Solihull, by Ferrari, for the official welcome of the Jaguar marque to the famous Lode Lane plant that has been known, since 1948, as the Home of Land Rover. In future, aluminium bodies for Jaguar’s XE and F-Pace will be made in a magnificent new Solihull body plant before joining the Range Rover Sport on a similarly up-to-the-minute final assembly plant.

After some speeches, the company stopped operations so the whole workforce of 9000 people could line the roads of the plant to watch a cavalcade of 50-odd Jags from all eras, led by a Jaguar SS100, in which your humble servant was a passenger. It was a great moment, missing only the presence of Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth, who was visiting principals of the Tata Group (JLR’s owner) in Mumbai. Speth always shrinks from compliments about his achievements, but this sight would have made him proud.


Out of the Ferrari FF today (it’s busy) and into a Volkswagen Up Club, a move those who don’t care about cars as much as you and me would dismiss as a come-down. But it isn’t. The Up may be a few years old, but it remains a phenomenon among cars, a machine that beautifully expresses the virtues of smallness (agility, light controls, great visibility, amazing fuel economy, ease in traffic) and concedes very little to much bigger cars in refinement and comfort. Supercars are wonderful, not least because their creators have money to burn. But if you really want to witness and enjoy the resourcefulness and skill of the modern motor industry, start with an Up.


Flying visit to Porsche HQ in Stuttgart, for reasons soon to be revealed, but I can at least tell you that the trip involved being picked up from the airport by a company man in a Porsche 918 Spyder, driving it at 140mph on the autobahn to my meeting and subsequently lapping the impossibly tight and scary Weissach test track as a passenger in it at speeds of up to 170mph.

Frankly, the 918 is beyond amazing in the sense that the reflexes of its petrol-electric powertrain put a new cast on the word ‘instant’, and its cornering grip would be enough to lever you over the cockpit sides were it not for the harness and the superb shape and retentive properties of its bucket seats. Yet it’s remarkably ordinary in the way you troll it about town like a smooth, slightly bigger Boxster.

Porsche has always been brilliant about maintaining the ‘Porscheness’ of its creations – to the extent that once or twice I even felt a ghostly relationship between this exalted 2015 machine and the late 1980s 911 that for a few fondly remembered years served as our family transport.


Back from Stuttgart, I couldn’t resist boasting to colleagues about the cards and models I’d bought in the Porsche museum shop, near the original Zuffenhausen works.Stuttgart is an extremely car-minded place. Even in the airport shop, you can find Lego models of LaFerrari, the McLaren P1 and the 918 Spyder, all displayed together (left). For €50, you can own the lot – an irresistible bargain.

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Drifting westwards at 65mph in the Range Rover Sport, heading for the Cotswolds and the weekend, I was passed on the M4 in the space of five minutes by a Mitsubishi Shogun Sport, an early Suzuki Vitara and a Daihatsu Terios.

It struck me that all this talk about the B-segment SUV being a recent invention is entirely wrong. Such cars have been available for decades, even if none of the named trio was very distinguished. It’s the demand from buyers of these cars that’s new. It just goes to show how affected the car market (and any other market) is by surges in buyer demand.  

And another thing

My colleagues tweeted this image of a Porsche 918 Spyder that some idiot parked outside the company’s HQ with its nose in a rosemary bush, without saying who did it. Time to own up, I guess.

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superstevie 24 April 2015

Funnily enough, I drove past

Funnily enough, I drove past a tidy 06 plate Terios today, and thought exactly the same thing about cars that size not being new. What is different is the approach to them. The Terios, Vitara and the tiny version of the Shogun were all small off roaders, unlike the current cars, which are just tall small cars.
289 23 April 2015

@ Cropley

Hi Steve, I do envy you the FF. Having owned Ferrari's in the 70's, I am still a Ferrari man deep at heart although I don't particularly like the current image of the brand. I would rather have a 60's 330 GTC or a 365GTB/4, or even a Dino 246 GTS again. However, I think I could just about live with an FF out of all the models, this one appeals most of the current crop.
On the subject of B segment SUV' the risk of being labelled pedant of the week, I think you meant Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin, not Sport. The Sport (previously named Challenger) was based on the L200 pick-up and was a bigger vehicle altogether ...definitely not B segment, and nothing like a Terios or Vitara.
It was actually a very effective vehicle off-road with BF Goodrich All Terrain tyres. I had a V6 auto version for 3 years as a company car, and it spent a substantial portion of its life up to its axles in mire...never getting stuck, as well as pounding up and down the motorway network. If somebody needed a good, cheap tough workhorse, they could do worse than picking up a well looked after example.
RPrior 24 April 2015

Mitsubishi - Shogun (Pajero) Sport

Mitsubishi's SUV naming protocols produced some confusion.

The model to which the name most frequently applies is as described by 289.
This was a no frills and functional work vehicle, that tended towards the Agricultural........... The Shogun (Pajero) Sport nomenclature was also applied to the 3 dr version of the Top model. Neither of which were B Segment. The Mitsubishi Pajero Pinin (Shogun) was an unmitigated disaster that collapsed like an aluminium beer can when involved in an accident.

I would be very surprised to see the Pinin on the streets today.