Friday – Look At Me!

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Just in case a 911 Cabriolet isn’t enough to get you noticed, Porsche has thoughtfully added the ‘Extrovert Button’. It’s right next to the gearstick and a quick press is guaranteed to turn every head in a 100 yard radius.

The sports exhaust system improves the car’s exhaust note by opening a flap in each of the twin exhaust system’s silencers. It turns the Cabriolet into a snarling beast – although why it’s not a standard feature on the latest 911 is rather surprising.

Shy, retiring types are unlikely to be driving a Porsche in the first place but having just returned from the Bath, I can tell you the 911 wouldn’t have been more conspicuous if I had Kate Moss siting naked next to me.

This latest version of the Cabriolet is around 60kg lighter than the old one and with a more powerful engine under the boot lid, it’s very fast indeed.

However, the best bit so far is the wind-blocker behind the driver’s seat. Wind-blockers are usually removed from a sports car and kept in the garage until the day you sell the car. In the 911, it pops up electronically from the hood well. Brilliant – and you can still hear yourself talking on the Bluetooth phone system at 65mph…

Friday – Red Alfa v Orange Nissan

alfa2It was the start of a lifelong love of sports cars – and it started with Alfa Romeo. While Jessica was riding horses around the family estate, I was getting into serious trouble with my father, selling a ‘safe’ Datsun 120Y in sunburst orange (eek!) for a rust bucket Italian car.

Not just any Italian car but an Alfa Romeo GT Junior. It was red, with optional holes in the floor that probably weren’t there when it originally left the factory in Milan. I can’t tell you how much that car cost me but it eventually rusted to the driveway. I can tell you it was a lot of fun.

Alfa Romeo is no longer laden with a rusty reputation. And in the UK right now, the Giulietta and Mito supermini are their two rather sporty models.

Slipping behind the wheel of our Giulietta still gives me the same buzz as when I was an 18-year-old. Just like the GT Junior. I can spot the flaws too! The steering column that doesn’t adjust low enough, a slightly cramped rear space and a rather uncomfortable driving position.

But it doesn’t matter a jot. I know the next seven days are going to be fun and I can’t wait. A 300-mile round trip to Suffolk seems a good way to start…

 

Friday – Light The Blue Touch-paper And Retire…

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Jeremy The car park at Cheltenham Railway Station has probably been the location for many joyous reunions but none more welcome than the arrival of the XKR-S this afternoon.

I had spent last night at the Manchester City season launch – a musical and comedy extravaganza hosted by Jake Humphries which I don’t think any other team has ever tried to stage before. Catching the train up north, I arrived back in Cheltenham to find the Jaguar purring in the car park with the delivery driver.

Jessica and I were told the car was a rather restrained Italian racing red – in fact, it’s a remarkable shade of blue that almost matches Man City‘s sky blue strip. You wouldn’t want to have a bad hair day in a sports car this colour I can tell you.

So, first impressions of the XKR-S suggest it is going to be a week of high performance drama. Surprisingly, it’s remarkably comfortable too, much more civilised than a Porsche RS and quite usable as an everyday GT too. More tomorrow….

Wednesday – Fun Guaranteed

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Jeremy  It’s the last day with our MX-5 – so we need an excuse to get another one quick! Problems have been few and far between and I can even imagine living with the Roadster Coupe during the wicked weather of the winter months.

On the negative side, the 2.0-litre engine isn’t the most powerful around, it’s not that economical and the cabin can be a little noisy at high speed. However, you can overlook these niggles when the drive and handling agility are so good.

So while the MX-5 isn’t as cheap to run as some rival convertibles, the trade off is that is it relatively cheap to buy. Build quality is excellent, the interior is an ergonomic joy for the driver and there’s a decent size boot even when the tin top is folded down.

There’s a new model coming out in 2014 but let’s hope Mazda doesn’t change the MX-5 too much – I suspect they won’t. How can they make a great car even better? Well, a rear screen wiper on the Coupe would be useful, as would rear parking sensors and telescopic adjustment on the steering column.

Otherwise don’t mess with a great little sports car Mazda!

 

 

 

 

Bank Holiday Monday – Buy One Get One Free

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Jeremy The first memorable car I ever owned was an Alfa Romeo GT Junior from 1972. Great machine but like every Alfa of the era, it eventually rusted to my driveway and had to be towed away. I replaced it with an MBG Roadster and that’s when my love of motoring started…

The MX-5 is often compared with the MG – because it is also a sensational, value-for-money, sports car. There are plenty faster, possibly prettier and offering more stylish interiors yet, with cars like the MG and Mazda, it’s all about getting behind the wheel.

If you enjoy ‘enthusiastic’ driving, sportsters the MX-5 usually cost a whole lot more. You could include two-seaters like the BMW Z4, Audi TT and Porsche Boxster in this category. Great cars but considerably more cash.

I’d say the MX-5 is equally as much fun as all of them and the benefits of the folding hard-top roof make it a serious competitor for those three German machines. If £23,000 is out of your range for a new, 2.0-litre MX-5, a two year old model with less than 15,000 miles on the clock will set you back around £12,000.

You could buy a classic MGB with the money you save too…

Saturday – Metal Fatigue

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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.