Saturday – Image Problem

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I have a problem with things that pretend to be something they are not. Cars with paddle shift gear change which are really family hatchbacks, 2+2 coupes that have no rear legroom at all, and seven-seat MPVs that are only suitable for elves, or very small mammals.

And then we come to cars that look like SUVs but actually have no off-road capability at all. It probably started with the Rover Streetwise and let’s hope it ends with the Volvo V40 Cross Country.

I have to admit, the V40 Cross Country fooled me. Even the Volvo website suggests 4×4 ability with the offer of all-wheel drive ‘available’ on this model. It is – but only on the top of the range petrol version for around £35,000. Are you going to pay that or opt for a two-year-old Range Rover Evoque I wonder?

You certainly can’t buy a diesel-powered all-wheel drive V40 – that won’t be available until around 2016 when the XC version is launched.

So, all that plastic trim to beef up the car’s image and make it look more robust is just for show – you are paying a £1000-plus premium for no off-road ability at all.

Volvo isn’t the only manufacturer to offer this, Nissan, Kia and several others all do the same. Which makes that secondhand Evoque look even more attractive…

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Christmas Day – What Car Would Santa Drive?

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Might Santa choose a Volvo V40 Cross Country as his delivery vehicle? It may be built in Scandinavia and therefore tick the loyalty box but we reckon the man in red would select a vehicle with four-wheel drive, rather than being just a lookalike.

No, SC would require something fast, good in all weathers and with a decent amount of luggage space too. The obvious choice would be a Range Rover Sport – lashings of reindeer power and brilliant in the snow. Or what about a Mercedes G-Class? Both a tad bling perhaps?

A Bugatti Veyron would be able to dash around the world at speeds in excess of 200mph, although constant fuel stops would be required and space is tight. A seven-seat MPV doesn’t go with the image, while the Fiat Panda 4×4 has loads of street creed but might be a little uncomfortable over the rough stuff.

No, after serious consultations with Mrs Claus, we think there is only one car that is guaranteed to get the job done and in style. It’s exclusive, fast, boasts four-wheel drive and is usually provided in a colour to match his work clothes. Yes, it can only be the wildly untamed Ferrari FF.

You read it here first. Merry Christmas…

Tuesday – Key To A Good Christmas

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After embarrassing central locking moment, today we had embarrassing key moment. Last minute Christmas shopping isn’t for the feint hearted – and so it was that we found ourselves on the top floor of a multi-storey car park in central Bristol, in driving rain, loaded down with presents and minus the V40 key. All to the soundtrack of the Salvation Army brass band.

In the mayhem of Christmas, this is just about your worst car-related nightmare. With half the West Country under water, trying got get this one fixed was going to be interesting. I had given the key to Jessica on arrival and she promptly, erm,  misplaced it.

Volco Assistance must have been giggling in their mulled wine when I explained what had happened. The first idea was to recover the car to a dealership, who would wave the magic wand and open the doors. But then it was decided there wasn’t enough headroom to get a recovery lorry into the car park and perhaps a hire car would be a better option?

That would mean driving to Marlow to collect the spare key from the Volvo press office, returning to Bristol and unlocking the car. In this situation, being British it is always best to sit down and have a cup of tea.

As Jessica rummaged for her wallet, she spotted a small hole in the the lining of her handbag. Small but just big enough for a car key. And being British, we didn’t panic once, honest…

 

Sunday – It’s A Lockout

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Possibly my most embarrassing car moment of 2013… I noticed yesterday that the V40 wouldn’t lock when I pressed the key fob. `New car, broken key fob seemed unlikely but with Christmas shopping looming, it seemed wise to get it fixed.

After an hour of pointless fiddling under the bonnet and battling with a encyclopaedic manual, I called Volvo service. There was a nice man standing on my doorstep within 90 minutes.

His remedy, according to the Volvo Bible was to disconnect the car battery for 30 seconds, which should reboot the system. Failing that, it was off to nearest dealership for a diagnostic check-up. Painful.

The disconnect did nothing and I waved goodbye to my cheery chap envisaging a trip to the dealer. That was right up until the moment I set off for the garage and notice a rather discreet warning diagram on the dashboard that showed the boot was ajar.

The V40 is SUCH a super safe car, with every type of flashing warning light to tell me of impending doom. So, although it was my own fault for leaving the hatchback slightly open, why didn’t it give me a more audible, visual alert?

Friday – Volvo V40 Cross Country

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Planning to spend the festive season with distance relatives, who live up a muddy track in the middle of nowhere? Hmm, we’re not expecting a white Christmas but if we were, the V40 Cross Country would make a great companion.

A rival for the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, the Volvo is less in your face than the competition and more akin to a conventional hatchback. However, it’s been given plenty of butch styling cues to express its 4×4 abilities.

Our D4 model is loaded with an incredible list of safety features too, from a steering wheel that vibrates when you change carriageways without indicating, to a system that warns you of overtaking cars in your blind spot.

All these features, plus the Bluetooth sound system and sat nav, should give us plenty to talk about as we crisscross the country and Ireland over the next few weeks. More tomorrow…

 

Thursday – Bonding?

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So here’s the thing… Aston Martin won’t say if one of their cars will feature in the next James Bond film, due for release in late 2015. Will it be the last time we see Daniel Craig in his swimming trunks, I wonder.

The Aston press office reels off the usual line about the company’s ‘long association’ with the film brand but refuse to go any further. Which, I imagine, means somebody with a large wallet is already negotiating the terms for the ultimate product placement.

So, if 007 is going to get his license to thrill in a Vanquish, will he opt for the quilted white leather, or a more conservative black trim?

I mean, can you imagine Sean Connery – the most masculine Bond ever – turning up for a job in a white trimmed Aston? Alarming thought that I will leave with you to ponder…

Wednesday – The Real World

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All the ‘issues’ that you might have living in the real world with the Aston Martin Vanquish Volante would disappear if you could afford the £200,000 required to buy it in the first place.

Zero leg room in the back seats? You’d probably own a Range Rover as a second car. Worried about cleaning those white leather seats? Surely you just get somebody in to clean them? Slightly concerned by 18.1mpg? Here’s my Coutts credit card

Driving an Aston Martin around for a week is not living in the real world for the majority of us. I’ve driven faster and more expensive cars but the Vanquish just has a little something that is best described as the X factor. You can’t put your finger on it but it makes all the difference.

For me, it’s the ‘made in Britain’ tag, the rasping exhaust pipes that provide the perfect soundtrack to every drive and the breathtaking interior. Even though I would never pick white leather…