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?
I found myself in the middle of a Cotswold hunt this morning. Usual sort of thing – 70 odd horses careering down a lane towards a £222,000 Aston Marin supercar…
It’s a moment that demands a steady nerve, not for the riders but for me. The Vanquish may sound remarkable when you are driving it across country but those twin pipes are guaranteed to put the fear of God into a galloping mare.
It was the first time I considered the Aston’s rasping exhaust a hindrance rather than a joy. Perhaps a system like the Porsche 911, which allows the driver to turn the sound on or off, might be worth considering?
Incredibly wet roads aren’t conducive to thrashing a 500bhp+ rear-wheel drive car like the Vanquish. So, today’s hot gossip is that we have achieved 18.1mpg in everyday use. Not bad, if you ask me…
Another Mazda6 driver flashed his lights at me today. Is there some Masonic bond going on with 6 drivers that I don’t know about it? Took me totally by surprise I can tell you!
I get fellow Land Rover drivers waving to me when I’m out in the Series III – that’s people in ‘proper’ Land Rover Defenders, not mums on the school run in a Discovery or Range Rover Sport.
I’d like to think that there was a special bond between Mazda6 drivers, if only because the saloon lacks any real character of its own. I’m going to Google Mazda 6 Owners’ Club in a moment and see what I’m missing.
It’s hard not to like the 6, it does everything it should. If only it had a little bit extra to send the pulse racing, apart from fuel economy and uber reliability…
I’m just about to drive to Butlins at Minehead. Why, I hear you scream? Well, I’m playing darts with Adrian Lewis, a former double world champion who is the subject of a feature for the FT.
I mention this because after a day in the Mazda6, I already know I will see plenty of saloons shaped exactly same as mine during the 200-mile round trip.
Don’t get me wrong, from our short time together, it’s clear the Mazda6 is a very fine car. It will do exactly what you ask of it, cleans up nicely after a week hacking up and down the motorways of Britain, and the ‘mouth open’ front grille is attractive.
Then there’s the exceptional economy, a whisper quiet engine and super-low emissions to shame a BMW.
What’s not to like? Unfortunately, the Mazda6 seems to have been built to blend in with the crowd. It’s from the M&S range of fashionable cars – which means mass appeal but very little to talk about at your neighbour’s dinner party.
So, no Alfa Guilietta then. But does it have any remarkable redeeming features? Find out tomorrow
It’s taken a few days but the muscle and character of the Camaro is finally beginning to win me over. Once I’d had the chance to drive it outside of the urban environment, the 6.0-ltre Chevy proved an absolute blast!
I swear the entire front end lifts up when you hit the accelerator and the roar from the twin exhaust pipes is just too tempting to ignore. I’ve finally mastered the head-up display now too, which flashes the speed and various other features just above the line of the bonnet, reflected on the inside of the windscreen. Cool.
While there is plenty of flex in the convertible’s body design – manifested in the odd squeak and rattle – the Camaro is actually a very comfortable and quiet drive. The front seats are vast, like your grandfather’s favourite armchair.
The one place you don’t want to be sitting in this car is the passenger seat on a country A-road. It’s not that my driving is so bad, just that the Camaro is so wide you really do have to keep your eye on your lane positioning.
Sometimes you need to stand back a few paces to get the true picture – and that’s certainly true of the Camaro. Compared to your average British car, it’s the size of Texas.
It’s almost five metres long, which for a sports car is BIG. And tipping the scales at just under 1800kg, it’s way heavier than any European competition too.
So that 400bhp of burbling V8 under the enormous bonnet is actually doing a remarkable job powering the Chevy to 60mph in 5.2 seconds. All I can tell you is that when you do hit the accelerator on a straight stretch of road, the Camaro pushes you back in the seat.
It’s definitely not the car for blasting around the country lanes of Gloucestershire but on a decent A-road, the burly Yank is a lot of fun indeed…
The truly great cars are the ones you long to drive every day. Like a faithful hound, they are always there, ready to please and entertain. So does the Lexus IS300h tick that box?
To be honest, I can’t fault the engineering. The petrol-electric hybrid engine is an astonishing performer, returning 49.3mpg during the week and responding in every sense like a conventional car.
The IS is very easy on the eye too, with that BMW-esque rear-end and some neatly cut sculpting on the side panels. Not sure about the bug-eye headlights but still a great looking saloon.
But let’s face it, it’s going to meet very stiff competition in the premium brand sector and there are a few areas where the Lexus simply doesn’t measure up.
First is the painfully designed centre column of the dashboard that houses the sat nav. It doesn’t look anything like premium brand material to me. Then there is the sat nav itself, which doesn’t input full postcodes. Come on Lexus, that’s just not acceptable any more.
And finally, the driver’s seat, which didn’t marry up with my back in all the right places. It probably works for a lot of people but that also isn’t good enough these days.
Overall, a worthy rival to the best of BMW and Mercedes but a class-leader? I think not…
Maybe we’re spoilt because the test cars that are delivered to Car Couture are generally top of the range, or well specified. Journalists are fickle creatures, after all, and easily persuaded by the allure of leather seats and bum warmers.
So driving the SE model of the IS300h has been slightly tainted by the lack of leather and, perhaps even more surprising, the heated seats that are conspicuous in their absence. We’ve just become so used to pressing a button and feeling the warmth filter up from our seats.
My grandfather was actually the man who invented heated seats – he used to park his backside on hot water bottle with the tiniest drop of hot water inside. He was brilliant my grandfather – we could have made a fortune if Ford had heard of it.
These days, cars like the Range Rover and expensive BMWs have a heated steering wheel as standard. My grandfather probably never thought about an invention for that one but it probably would have includes rags and Selotape.
There’s a slightly secret group of people out there dedicated to Lexus. They’re definitely ‘in the know’ and appreciate something a little different.
They’re very likely to corner you after a dinner party and remind you that Lexus is a brand that regularly tops the JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey – the respected industry stamp of happy car ownership, voted for by real drivers, in the real world.
And they are the sort of drivers who stick with a make, year in, year out and can be rather smug about it too. Well, apart from that rather tasteless dashboard described yesterday, I’m starting to see why that is.
The IS300h is beautifully screwed together and oozes quality from every angle. Disappointing our SE isn’t equipped with leather trim or heated seats but I can forgive that when I know I’m driving a brand that has been proved to gives years of happy motoring.
Remember when BMW introduced the infamous iDrive system in their cars? Ooh there was a fuss. Hated by both technophobes and those with conventional hands alike, BMW stuck with it. After a period of ‘refinement’ it’s now a relatively straightforward joystick for the navigation, media and telephone functions alike.
Lexus has a similar type of system in the IS but for some reason it has an oblong joystick, rather than round. That’s oblong in the sense that it’s not that easy to hold, or actually operate for that matter. This morning I was clicking through the screen options and found my cursor skipping all over the place.
It makes a sympathetic ‘bing’ when you want to connect, annoying but I’m sure you can switch it off. It’s my least favourite feature – that and the rather cheap looking centre console in the SE. I mean, this is a luxurious business car but it just doesn’t marry with the rest of the interior design, which is a cut above.
Apparently, the cockpit was inspired by the limited edition and very cool Lexus LFA. At least its bigger than previous IS cars, thanks to a wider wheelbase.