Monday – Sun Out, Top Down


It’s been a long wait but the sun has finally got his hat on over the Cotswolds today – perfect weather for woolly chapeau and a Porsche 911 Cabriolet. And I actually have to drive to Banbury for a reason, so I don’t feel bad about leaving the office and ‘making progress’ in the Porsche.

I believe the sign of a great cabriolet is when it looks as good with the top up and is does down. With the Porsche it’s the other way around. The 911 is sensational roof on – and just exquisite with it tuck away under the automatic tonneau cover.

The roof mechanism is fast too and there’s a separate button for the wind deflector which keeps the draught away from the back of you neck and deadens the noise front the rear-mounted engine. Although that rather adds to the excitement…

One fact I have found about the 911 is that either the seats or my backside need a little extra padding. While the Porsche can be a very usable everyday car (unlike a Ferrari F430, for example), my bum is numb after 45 minutes behind the wheel. They are great sports seats for throwing the 911 around a corner, just not soft enough for a well-trimmed driver…

Saturday – The BMW Factor


The Saturday morning run along Wiltshire‘s Great Ridge almost came unstuck today. Not because of the large number of shooters out, or the horse that spooked my dog. No, I just completely forgot that this X1 isn’t four-wheel drive.

So when I parked on the slippery bank, about 100 yards down a farm track, I didn’t take into account the ‘BMW Factor’. As everyone knows, rear-wheel drive Beemers are just rubbish on anything other than tarmac. Really rubbish.

My 6 Series refused to budge on a virtually flat track in the Cotswolds last winter  – an older 3 Series Touring was even worse, unless you chucked a couple of bags of coal in the boot.

My problem with any car that looks like a four-wheel drive is that it SHOULD also behave like a 4×4. What’s the point of paying for all that extra ground clearance if you can’t even pull away smoothly from a grass bank?

So while our xLine X1 is loaded with £5,000 of extras, I’d ditch the lot and go for the four-wheel drive model. Then I could park on grassy banks without any worries.

Sunday – Ready For Winter?


It’s lashing down in the Cotswolds – it must be to mark the arrival of our Subaru SUV. Summer ended last week and I’m mightily happy to be splashing through the ever-deepening puddles in the Forester.

This is definitely the sort of car that lives and breathes bad weather. You could say it looks better splattered in mud than clean – even the interior seems to have been designed for bad weather too!

There are loads of storage spaces and cubby boxes, many of them with practical rubber linings that are easy to clean. Our XC has fabric seats but any dirt seems to  disappear easily enough. Not sure it’s worth going for the more expensive leather option.

The XC does have some luxurious, like the electric driver’s seat, a USB socket, 17-inch alloys and obviously air con.

In fact, I’d say there’s little point opting for a more expensive Forester, unless you want the leather and sat nav. This is one SUV that, rather like a Land Rover Defender, is better for being basic.




Saturday – No Clown


Jeremy Apparently, when I was five-years-old, I wanted to run away to the circus. I became a journalist instead, so I got there in the end…

Tonight we drove the low-slung XKR-S across the bumps and mounds of Rodborough Common in Gloucestershire to attend Giffords Circus. Giffords is a traditional, family-run touring circus with clowns, horses and a goose.

All afternoon I had been scorching around the Cotswolds with the Jag in ‘sport’ mode and making a lot of noise. So I was worried it would be impossible to drive a supercar like this in to a circus car park and hope to avoid turning heads.

But that slow  meander across the common proved something else about the supercharged XKR-S – it can keep a low profile if it wants to. At low revs those four tailpipes aren’t outrageously loud, the gearchange is slippery smooth you don’t feel like a clown.

And with a car so screamingly blue as this, that is a very good thing. Believe me.


Monday – Split Decision


Jeremy Monday evening and it feels like the weather is about to break over the Cotswolds. In fact, I’m sure I could hear the distant rumble of thunder as I climbed out of the RXH earlier, or could it have been from the back seat…?

The 508 is proving a mixed back in terms of build quality. While the seats are wrapped in sumptuous leather, there is  every type of electronic gadget – from auto-dip headlights to massaging driver’s seat – the squeaky leather rear seat has now been joined by a rattle, which seems to be originating from under the floor of the boot where the battery packs are located. This is starting to annoy me and it would definitely be back to the dealership if I had spent £35,000+ on a luxurious, 4×4 estate.

At least I have got the hang of the DAB radio now and the sat nav is behaving beautifully. The automatic rear boot door opens from the keyfob but I can’t get it to close using the same button!

So, I’m still not 100 per cent over whether I like the RXH or not. It’s all minor niggly stuff but to compete with the Audi allroad or a Volvo V70, I think it just needs to up its game a bit.




Tuesday – Air Conned?


Jeremy – Gone are the days of annoying rattles from the dashboard and squeaks that drive you mad on even the shortest of journeys. My father seemed to suffer more than most – every car he owned had a habit of developing a rattle from somewhere deep in the heart of the trim.

Thankfully, that’s one trait I haven’t inherited but there is something quirky about the Mazda2 that I have never experienced in any car before.

It started today when I was driving up a long, steep hill towards Painswick, in Gloucestershire. With temperatures touching 30 degrees all week, the air conditioning has been on for every journey.

So, as I wound my way up and into the Cotswolds, I noticed the air con only kicked in for short bursts, which is perfectly adequate to keep the cockpit cool. However, every time it did come on, there was a noticeable drop in power from the engine.

I know air conditioning can increase fuel consumption because it draws so heavily on the engine but I had no idea it would also have such an impact.

And now that I have noticed it is happening, I can’t seem to ignore the power loss! Just like one of the annoying rattles, the 2 has a small Achilles heel that isn’t going away anytime soon. Now, where’s that squeak…

Friday – Fun In The Sun


Jeremy Another scorcher – I’m writing this in the garden as the sun still burns down bright over the Cotswolds. I have the cricket on the radio and Malin the dog is waiting for me to chuck a tennis ball into the long grass.

The Mazda2 has had a long run today and I have to say it’s remarkably refined for a small car. Despite the short wheelbase, the modest price tag and slightly budget interior, it’s another of those vehicles that does exactly what you expect of it.

The 2 reminds me of the Suzuki Swift – another great little runabout that you can read about on Car Couture. As I’ve already said, it’s not a head-turner like the Alfa Mito or Citroen DS3 but it’s just as much fun to drive and immensely practical. Having five doors and a decent-sized boot is a great advantage.

The Mazda2 hasn’t changed much since it was launched about five years ago but it still has a freshness about it. The new Mazda3 is out later this year and the design cues of that car will do doubt extend to the next version of the 2 too.

Monday – The Rise Of The SUV


Jeremy Driving back from the Cotswolds today I had plenty of time to ponder on the Honda CR-V and the rise of the SUV in Britain. The CR-V didn’t arrive here until the late 1990s and it was one of the pioneers of the breed. Since then, everybody has started making them, from Porsche to Mercedes and all manufacturers in-between – even Bentley is planning one for 2015!

Car owners demand so much from their vehicles these days that many people, especially families, want a machine that does everything, space, 4×4, practicality and neat styling included. Not everybody gets it right (have you seen the Skoda Yeti?) but the choice these days is mind boggling.

The CR-V does come with an excellent pedigree and being a Honda, it will also holds its value and be remarkably reliable. Our expensive EX model won’t be the best seller of course, many will opt for a lower spec car but apart from some of the average interior trim quality, the Honda feels every bit as good as a BMW X3, or Audi Q5.

Surprisingly, the exterior styling has grown on me over the last few days. It looks especially good from the rear, with privacy glass and the dark blue metallic paint splashed on our test car. The front is less desirable but perfectly adequate. Overall though, this new 2013 model is a step up from the last version and I look forward to driving it every time I have to reach for the key. A good sign with any car…



Saturday – Metal Fatigue


Jeremy I thought having the hard-top option of the MX-5 Roadster Coupe wouldn’t present any disadvantages – especially as the folded steel of the Mazda doesn’t eat into the boot space of the car, unlike so many other convertibles.

However, after a fantastic day of driving the two-seater in the sunshine, what I have found is that the MX-5 looks so much better with the fabric roof fitted than the metal one. Not only that, it’s a much prettier and dynamic car with either roof down and stowed away.

I’m looking at the Roadster Coupe parked outside now with the top down, as the sun starts to disappear over the Cotswolds. It’s far and away the best-looking two-seater you can buy for £23,000 – and that’s the top spec model we’re testing. Investigate further down the range and you can snap up a bargain model that looks equally as good.

The revised front end is especially neat, with latest Mazda ‘nose’ and a lower air spoiler in black. Low, purposeful and shapely – just as any sports car should be. I’m enjoying every moment in this great little sportster.



Saturday – Badminton in the Wind


Jeremy There’s a crazy wind blowing across the Cotswolds today. The Sorento is a seriously large vehicle but it has coped well at high speeds in a crosswind and there’s limited tyres noise in the cabin.

The roads around Tetbury are packed with 4x4s because of Badminton Horse Trials – if you wanted to go off-road vehicle spotting, today is the day! I’ve just seen a Fiat Panda Sisley, a special edition AWD Panda that dates back to the 1980s and was legendary for its off-road ability.

The Sorento will be joining the pack tomorrow, when 120,000 spectators are expected at the event for the cross country section of the three-day event.

And we have one accessory in the Kia that many other more expensive four-wheel drives don’t have – a car parking pass.