RIP Combustion engine? Time to drive old disgracefully…

It’s all over the media this morning – the death of the combustion engine. Everybody’s talking about it, the fact that diesel and petrol cars will be banned in the UK from 2040.

Massive news but we all saw it coming. There were enough warnings but it still sounds rather shocking if you like the sound of a V8. What is a petrolhead to do, I wonder?

It’s odd to think that my friend’s baby daughter will probable never drive a petrol or diesel powered car. Instead, she will be whisked to 60mph in silence – assuming autonomous cars will have already sucked the joy from motoring.

I know we have to change to save the planet but I can’t help feeling pangs of sadness and regret. Today I’ll be thinking about the first time I drove an Aston Martin, roaring through the Alps in a Maserati – and ripping up a racetrack in the Caterham Seven.

We have 23 years left to enjoy mad, ‘bad’ combustion cars and I for one intend to drive old disgracefully…

McLaren 570S Spider vs Caterham Seven. No contest? Read on…

Just back from driving the new McLaren 570S Spider in Barcelona. The mountain roads are sensational – the Spider a dream to sling fast into a bend. It costs £165,000 but would I really swap one for a back-to-basics Caterham 7?

Well, the way I see it, most people would choose the McLaren every time. It’s a genuine supercar, with a heritage to match the Caterham. It’s six times the price and you can even complete a phone call with the top down.

The Seven doesn’t even have a radio. You wouldn’t hear it anyway. This anniversary special model isn’t that quick either and just climbing inside with the roof in place requires yoga classes at my age.

Yet, there is something pure about the driving experience in the Caterham. Minus the carbon cermaic brakes, the driver aids and the three dynamic driving modes of the 570S.

I’m a huge fan of the McLaren but there are so few places to push a supercar to the limit these days, there’s actually more enjoyment to be had in a Caterham on British roads than the 570.

Think I’m wrong? Well, the McLaren is an experience – a dream car. The Caterham reminds me of a 1950s go-kart. But the fact it thills just as much for a sixth of price must tell you something…

Caterham Seven Sprint – bring your own wooden mallet

‘Scarlet red, Muirhead Scottish leather adjustable seats’ – the key word being adjustable. No sooner had the Sprint been delivered, I was battling to move the driver’s seat forward a notch or two.

Now, I appreciate the Seven is iconic and a thing of beauty. But for this sort of money, I think I’d like my seat to move when required. And so it was that ten minutes later, I reached for the toolbox and started whacking the mechanism with a wooden mallet. Seemed to do the trick.

The last Seven I tested came minus windscreen wipers. Well, the 620 had wipers but they didn’t work. Am I missing the point here?

I love Caterhams – heck I used to have a savings account to buy one. But building a retro car doesn’t mean you can get away with old-fashioned build qualities. Theresa May is Prime Minister, not Harold Wilson.

I took the Sprint for a drive later and things got better, although the handbrake can’t be lowered without catch your thumb against the tunnel housing. Ouch.

Oh dear, as Tony Blair said, things can only get better…

Rolls-Royce Dawn

Not so much a test drive this week as an occasion. The Dawn is a convertible of epic proportions, be it the price (£264,000 before you even add on a hand-stitched, RR monogram to the seat, or a set of lambs wool floor mats), or the tech spec of the engine (V12, 563bhp and 20mpg combined). Everything about this four-seat convertible is above and beyond. In fact, the only downside for German autobahn users might be a limited top speed of 155mph. It’s smaller than a Phantom (thank goodness) but looks better proportioned too. Join us for a long weekend of outrageous opulence…

Difficult name but otherwise the Rolls-Royce Dawn is charming

It’s not Rolls-Royce’s fault they called it the Dawn. How were they to know I once had a ‘difficult’ girlfriend with the same name.

And just like the naming of your new puppy, you won’t give it a moniker that reminds you of somebody you don’t like. Which rules out quite afew names, actually.

So, a weekend with the Dawn. Relaxed, comfortable driving sat on a well plumped pillow. Serenely peaceful in the cabin – apart from a glovebox that pops open on harsh bumps. Why is that?

I’ve actually been tootalling around at about 55mph. Not to save fuel (17.9mpg so far) but because you just don’t need to travel any father.

And it’s a car that commands respect too – until anything from Porsche or BMW.  Provided you don’t drive it like a knob, people seem to part out of your way. Lovely.

It may be the smaller Roller but it’s still mighty big to handle around town. Rerversing can be a nightmare with restricted visibility. I ended up relying totally on the cameras.

A lovely car for wafting about in. And about as British a feeling as you can get in any car these days …

Rolls-Royce Dawn. More an ocassion than a car

Nobody has managed to pass the Dawn on my driveway without making a comment. Not one person. Everyone, from the local squire to the village idiot has had their say.

And surprisingly, most of those comments have been good. I mention that because driving a car this ‘in-yer-face’ often brings out the worst in people. Little do they know I couldn’t afford a new set of wheels for a Dawn, not without a bank loan.

A smaller sibling of the Phantom, the Dawn is still bloody huge. I’ve already discovered it’s a nightmare for three-point turns and don’t even think about squeezing into a tight parking space.

But then it’s quite a wondrous thing to just stand back and admire too. Long drive up the M6 tomorrow when I can report back more…

Mclaren’s 540C is automotive dynamite. Kicks dirt in the face of the 911 Turbo S

I just can’t think why anybody would buy a Porsche 911 Turbo S instead of the McLaren 540C.

Ah yes, it’s supposedly more practical. An argument I always find a little strange when paying six figures for a supercar.

The porker has a back seat large enough to carry a small child/shopping/dog. I seem to remember there are cupholders too.

Me? I’d go for the McLaren every time. There’s a sense of occasion whenever I walk out to the driveway. It boasts an epic pedigree and is so much rarer than the 911.

Two great cars but only one winner.

Exhausting? Why you don’t need comedy tail pipes in a McLaren 540C

If you’ve never driven a supercar the odd thing is that sometimes the impression of speed is not as great as you might have anticipated.

I’ve often wondered why this is – then I realised it’s because these cars are so good, so competent that you just don’t realise how fast you are travelling.

Maybe that’s why accoustic exhaust systems have become regular fit on so many models. They create the drama that feels like it is missing!

Th McLaren doesn’t have a screaming exhaust button and it’s all the better for it. The 540C is the cheapest car in their stable but it’s perhaps the most usable on an everyday basis.

I think I could have given my granny the keys to a 540C and she wouldn’t have felt intimidated.

You just need a bit more time inside the cabin to work out how everything works because that side of the McLaren does take some getting used to…

McLaren 540C – lets enjoy V8s while we still can…

Bad news usually comes in threes. Except when a friend announces he has cancer and it feels like the whole world has caved in.

I’ve been scrabbling around for words – what do you say to somebody who is younger than you and suffering like that?

That was yesterday. After kicking it around in my head for 24 hours I’ve decided the best way to cheer him up is to look forward and try and be as strong as he is.

So today, I’m going to buy him a fat, Havana cigar (he has one or two a year max) and take him for an outrageously fast drive in a McLaren.

I’m not sure either are that good for your health but WTF. According to Volvo, it sounds like V8s won’t be around much longer either.

Let’s enjoy them and life while we can…

The £25k DS 3 Performance – you’re having a laugh, Citroen…

If you’re of a certain age, you might remember the Peugeot 205 GTI. It was the only serious rival to the Golf GTI back in the day – cheaper fit out but tremendous fun on Saturday afternoon dash in the country.

Yesterday I took the DS 3 Performance to Goodwood Festival of Speed. Apart from the usual A27 snarl up and speed camera frenzy, there was limited chance to give the accelerator a tickle.

When I did, what I soon discovered is that the Performance is very much in the same mould as the 205 GTI. It’s a buzz-bomb of a hatch that demands to be driven hard.

The six-speed box encourages you to flick through the ratios – and you will soon be making changes like a rally driver. Well, almost. 205bhp in a car this size is quite a handful.

Issues? Well, this is a three-door and access to the rear seat is difficult, not helped by the heavyweight front seat backs. Surely Citroen could have fitted a more user-friendly system?

And then there’s the trim. Did the French have a warehouse full of leftovers from the 1980s? Cheap, nasty and nearly all the cubby spaces are useless. There’s nowhere to keep a small bottle of water in place on a fast corner.

£24K Citroen? You’re having a laugh, aren’t you?