Friday – Aston Martin Vanquish Volante

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I used to live near a Government listening station in Cornwall. Early one morning in 2011, I followed an Aston Martin up to the entrance. The window glided down and I watched a cuff-linked sleeve reach out holding an official entry pass.

If James Bond does exist in real life, then we all know he has to drive an Aston Martin. Not a BMW, a Ferrari or a Mercedes but a proper, British built car.

The new Vanquish Volante has only just come onto the market.

I’m no Commander Bond but there’s no doubt that driving a car like this makes you feel special, very special indeed. Just eyeing the glass key in my hallway is enough to make the pulse race. I’m constantly looking for reasons to pop down the shops or head in to town.

First impressions? Well, OK, what’s not to like? Just from the outside, it certainly looks like it is worth £5 less than £200,000. Shades of Jaguar XKR perhaps, a touch of F-Type in the profile?

The most expensive and most powerful Aston Martin has a lot to live up to. Join us over the next week to find out how it measures up…

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Sunday – Weather Warning

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‘Big storm coming…’ The woman in the newsagents wasn’t wrong. The coast of Cornwall has been battered by winds all day. It’s gusting so badly down here that the alarm on the Veloster went off twice this morning.

The drive down last night was a rain-lashed affair. Four up in a coupe is never a pleasant prospect but the Hyundai behaves more like a saloon than a 2+2. And that single rear side door comes in really hand for adults getting into the back. No fighting with front seat mechanisms.

Plenty of head room in the back too – although like the Audi TT, you have to be careful shutting the boot lid with the potential for heads getting in the way. Unlike the TT, the Veloster has plenty of rear leg room, mainly due to the deep seat base.

At night time, the large display screen on the dashboard is exceptionally bright and can be a distraction. It can be turned off easily enough but every time you adjust the heating, it comes back on again!

Fuel consumption was also a disappointment. At motorway speeds, the Hyundai is only averaging 33mpg. Shame because it was returning 42mpg in slow moving traffic on A-roads the day before.

Saturday – The Right Handbag

cropped-608061_velosterturbo_014.jpgYou might think that testing a different vehicle every week means we always have the right car for every occasion. You might think that but you would be very wrong!

Today we are taking the Veloster down to Cornwall. Four adults in a coupe – one passenger in the back is 6ft 3ins tall. There’s also a whopping storm coming and the last 800 yards are down a heavily rutted, often washed away track.

I like an adventure and still feel the Hyundai will be man enough for the job. It may look like a designer handbag on wheels but so far, it has proved immensely capable.

That single rear door is obviously going to be an asset too. I completely forgot about it when I tried out the back seats yesterday – you just don’t expect an extra door in a coupe.

And our two backseat passengers are both in their early twenties – just the sort of youthful audience Hyundai is hoping to capture with the Veloster. They will be trapped in the back for four hours, so plenty on their views of the car tomorrow…

 

 

Saturday – Style & Substance?

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Jeremy The Cascada is turning headings in Cornwall. Today we were picking up a mammoth supply of pasties from the village Post Office and received admiring glances from tractor drivers and caravan owners alike.

I’m going to side with them. The ‘stubby bonnet-high boot’ look works on Vauxhall’s four-seater cabriolet. The rear end, in particular, has an uncluttered and rather chic appeal. A good deal of style for your £24,000 – but is there any substance?

As pretty as the Cascada is, the 1.4 suffers from being woefully underpowered. To achieve any kind of performance, you have to work the gearbox very hard indeed, straining the engine and reducing everyday performance down to around 37mpg max.

Changing gear through the six-speed manual transmission is also a tiresome ordeal. There’s nothing sporty about the experience, with a long throw gearstick and rather clunky changes in first, second and third. Ouch.

On a positive note, the Cascada is quiet at motorway speeds despite the canvass hood and comfortable. You can genuinely fit two adults in the back seats too, although headroom is a little claustrophobic.

Maybe we should be testing the more powerful 2.0 diesel? Vauxhall has announced new engines for the Cascada this week. I would strongly suggest you wait and purchase one of them – unless you buy a car on looks alone?

 

Friday – Don’t Drive Angry

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Jeremy It’s not as a bad as beating your dog or eating a McDonald’s but I’m going to admit to road rage. Actually, it wasn’t so much road rage as ‘driveway‘ rage. I’m 50 years old and I should be over it but the Cascada got the better of me today.

Jessica and I were rushing to get on the road to Cornwall. The Cascada has a soft-top roof which folds into the boot and eats up on space when it is hidden away. For the mechanism to work, an internal boot liner has to be in place to ensure there is enough room for the roof to fit in.

This means you lose a large chunk of luggage area (100 litres out of 380 litres) but I packed what I could underneath the liner and threw the rest of our kit on the back seat. They it all went wrong when I pressed the one-touch button – and the roof refused to budge.

With my blood pressure soaring I checked the boot. Everything was in place so why wouldn’t it fold down? Then I had to find the right part of the manual to see what the problem might be. Manuals aren’t what they use to be, they are complicated and designed for the whole range of Cascadas, not just your model.

When this failed I went back to the boot and ripped all my luggage out, tossing it across the driveway. After repacked again, it worked. I still have no idea what the problem was but the effect was similar to a wasp sting.

The bigger point here is why does a folding soft-top have to fold into the boot? A folding hard-top needs the extra storage space for all that metal but if a tiny Mazda MX-5 can store a convertible top without touching boot space, why can’t a Vauxhall Cascada?

Wednesday – Summer Bug

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Jeremy  Owning a Beetle was a right of passage back in the 1970s. Jessica drove hers from the family home in Cornwall to the south of France to ‘study French‘ – my blue convertible was a complete disaster and ended up in a court case!

Even so, just like a classic film that should never be reworked by modern day Hollywood, there were plenty around who argued that VW should not have brought the Beetle back 13 years ago in a modernised form.

I owned one of those too, to go with my 1963 VW camper van. But while one of them had bags of charisma and oozed cool, the other didn’t. No prizes for guessing which.

So, the arrival of the new ‘new’ Beetle this morning was greeted with mixed emotions. More butch, better looking and equipped with a much stronger range of engines, how does the latest model fare?

Well, all I can tell you so far after a quick drive to the shops, is that the Beetle is considerably better than the last one. I’m loving the stylish interior, the attention to detail – and that fact the sun started shining the minute it pulled up on the driveway.

More tomorrow when I’ve soaked up the atmosphere a little more…

Tuesday – Knickerbocker Glory

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Jessica I know it isn’t all about colour or indeed size, however, a Range Rover in cherry red that looks like it should be proudly sitting on top of a Knickerbocker Glory is somewhat of an anomaly.

Colour does matter and how the colour ranges are put together for any car manufacturer is a mystery to me, colour has its own visual language and interpretations, it speaks volumes.

Driving around in a red Range Rover Evoque was a little disconcerting, I didn’t feel a proud moment when I met it for the first time at the station en route to (rainy) Cornwall, I wanted to get in quickly and drive away before anyone would stop and wonder what I had been thinking when I chose that colour for that car.

Colour aside what does the Evoque evoke, what is it trying to be, is what I found myself asking.

Well, it’s sporty in an urban, I want a four wheel drive way, the lines are stylish and it does say Range Rover on the bonnet!  The price tag suggests a deep pocket so I found myself wondering on the target demographic …
Too small to fit a family and their luggage, too urban to warrant having one if you lived in a rural area where winters are a problem.  So that leaves a school run car for a 2.2 family or a weekend run around for a professional person or professional couple who want to play at sporty country pursuits (not polo as you would have trouble fitting the kit in!) still not really sure as the week comes to a close.
Either way it leaves me wishing that the handling on the motorway was more refined, although it drives well in town and on B roads, but the exterior does not fit with the driving experience for me and I would be prepared to bet that professional sporty types might want a more refined motorway experience too.
There was a rather strange rubberised covering on the dash area and sorry to mention colour again but red perforated leather look seats (not matching the exterior colour ) which although comfortable were looking a little worse for wear after only one week of use.
Overall, because the Evoque looks good so I  was very much looking forward to a dash down to Cornwall, despite the colour,  but for the £40,000 I found this Range Rover a little disappointing.