Being a motoring journalist is something of a privilege, but we don’t spend all our time hooning about in supercars. Occasionally, though, the heavens are in alignment and you end up having one of your most interesting motoring weeks.
Last Thursday Vicky Parrott waved the keys of a 530bhp Porsche GT2 in my direction. I didn’t leave the office until 2.30 in the morning, so a quick run across West Sussex was out. So I took the long way home.
There’s not much you can do with a genuine supercar at 2.30am that you can’t do at 2.30pm, save taking great joy in attacking roundabouts. That and accelerating very hard up to the speed limit (0-60mph 3.5sec), ‘cos there’s no law against acceleration, is there officer?’ In any case, who could need more supercar than this exceptional machine?
The next evening I had my first run our loan Focus RS. To my surprise, the extravagance of the exterior and interior is at odds with a remarkable engine.
Certainly, when prodded hard, the RS really flies. But in more normal motoring, this is a stunning engine. Exceptionally smooth, muscular, tractable: if I was Ford, I would consider a Q-car version of the RS (which is already surprisingly civilized) to make even better use of this five cylinder gem.
For the weekend I need something with decent carrying capacity to shift sold some shelving I sold on ebay. So I spent two days with our Land Rover 110 Defender. Although it is full of unremovable seats, it did the job.
I expected to dislike it intensely, partly because of the ridiculously cramped seating position, ridiculous turning circle and general crudity. I fact, despite a weekend of using it town, I really liked it. Perversely, it can be a very relaxing car to drive, despite the mechanical cacophony.
I was also surprised to find that it fitted into a central London car parking space. I can only guess that these spaces were defined in the late 1980s when all Chelsea families had W124 Mercedes estates.
After another evening in the RS, I was handed the keys for the Aston Martin V8 Roadster. This is a huge improvement over the rather wobbly DB9 cabrio I drove a couple of years ago. Finally, Aston has the all-of-piece feel that marks the best upmarket mass-made cars and an interior that outranks them. What a pity about the heavy clutch action.
And last night I swung back to the other extreme with my first run in Autocar’s Toyota IQ. I had the privilege of being the first staffer to drive this car and it’s lost nothing in translation from the test route near Nice.
The combination of the very wide cabin and brilliant chassis design (the front chassis legs are very close together, allowing for an unmatched turning circle, and the fuel tank is under the floor releasing space in the rear) make this definitive urban car. And the underpinnings could yet to be used to rewrite the rules in the Fiesta and Golf segments.
And while I’m all in favour of auto ’boxes for town driving, when matched to the 1.0-litre three-pot engine, performance is only adequate. Toyota’s new 1.3-litre engine would transform it.
So, after a week like that, I can only take my virtual hat off to an automotive industry that demonstrates so much brilliant engineering and genuine innovation.