Archive | June, 2013

If Your Partner Doesn’t Understand You, Your Adam Will.

Ever since John Cleese berated his car in the street whilst thrashing it with a branch and possibly even before that, drivers have tried to make their feelings plain to their cars – sometimes in no uncertain terms. It’s a harmless pastime and one that helps to vent the impotent rage building up inside the owners of badly behaved cars. Now, in some eerie portent of things to come, we have finally reached the stage when the cars can answer back.

OK, this may be overstating things a bit, but it is true that it is now possible to communicate verbally with your car as Vauxhall are demonstrating in their new small car. As if it were not enough that the Adam is offered in more combinations than there are stars in the sky, it can now be enhanced with Siri Eyes Free iPhone Integration as part of the IntelliLink infotainment system.

Siri Eyes Free is an intelligent assistant courtesy of Apple that helps a driver get things done whilst on the move by using voice commands which will get a verbal response from the car. Using a button on the steering wheel linking with a compatible iPhone using iOS6, the driver can chat with Siri and ask it to perform certain tasks without having to take eyes off the road or hands from the wheel. Just like talking to your best pal. Sheldon Cooper would love this.

Best of all, Siri is available free from the day of writing this on any Adam fitted with the IntelliLink system. If owners already have their Adam then Intellilink can be added via a free update starting in July. The whole shooting match can be continually updated throughout the life of the period of ownership.

It works by simply connecting a compatible device via Bluetooth to pair it with the system and activate via the steering wheel button. Other apps can still be running in the background whilst music and navigation is muted for the duration of the chat. Despite the rather alarming SF potential of this system there is no doubt that it brings a whole new level of safety to hands-free.

Additionally, users can make voice activated calls to iPhone contacts, select music from their iTunes library without menu scrolling and even compose and send an iMessage or review appointments. Siri will also advise on the weather, the scores or when the next Bank Holiday falls. Siri seems like one of the better automotive ideas making good use of technology and, unlike the person next to you, won”t criticise your choice of music. Not yet anyway.

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When Petrol Is Best

Say what you like about Citroens – and people often do – but you can’t say that they don’t make an attractive car. Their whole current range are refreshingly good looking with just the right balance of family resemblance and uniqueness of design.

Take the new C4 Picasso THP155 MPV to give it the full title. It will be launched in September and, for the top of the range petrol version, will cost around the £24K mark. The equivalent diesel version will be about £300 more. One of the best features of this car is the sheer practicality. As the family motor it is going to be pretty hard to beat. The boot is the biggest in its class and is extendable by sliding the third row of seats forward or folding them flat. All the rear seats are the same size which means the more fecund family can get three baby seats in a row. That’s good design.SEATS When Petrol Is Best

In this class of car diesel usually rules and Citroen don’t expect things to be any different this time with buyers choosing the 113bhp e-HDI version in preference; but it doesn’t always have to be about economy and running costs. If annual mileage is relatively low or the folding content of the wallet is relatively high, the canny new car purchaser might instead opt for the petrol model for that desirable increase in performance and driving pleasure.

This 153bhp version should achieve around 47mpg – at least according to the official figure, as against the diesel’s more miserly 70mpg. Fair enough, it’s a big difference but on the plus side the THP155 is a sprightly three seconds faster than the diesel in the traffic light sprint, arriving at 60mph in about nine seconds thanks to its turbo-charged engine

With a new and lighter chassis underneath the C4 Picasso is nippy and the engine is quiet, smooth and flexible with plentiful torque which means it won‘t be necessary to keep shifting gears to maintain speedy progress. On the go there’s a lot less body roll and the steering is more responsive than on the previous model – important if you like driving. The overall design ensures almost no wind noise at regular speeds which means that progress should be nice and comfortable in the up-market interior. The luxury of massage seats is even available. Soothing.

Obviously, there’s another price to pay in that this sporty engine emits 139g/km which means road tax is £100 more than the diesel alternative but, just for once, can we not be constantly on this parsimonious route to total economy and instead simply enjoy the drive of a very good car, just like we used to?

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Classic Cream Of The Drop Top Crop

It doesn’t matter how much a car enthusiast might protest to the contrary, they all secretly harbour a desire to own a classic American car. There is just something about them. It might be the sound of an old school V8. It might be because these vehicles remind us of the true golden age of motoring or it might simply be the perverse desire to own something that looks like Liberace’s piano.

Speed and muscle car power are all very well but for pure cruising pleasure the dream drive has to be a leisurely run down California’s Pacific Coast Highway whilst listening to the pet sounds of the Beach Boys. That’s the dream; cruising in our new style British weather through the exotic streets of Swindon or Sawbridgeworth is sadly the reality. Never mind. There are still some days when the sun does make an appearance which means the best Yank tank for true motoring escapism has to be a drop-top.

The beauty of American convertibles is that it doesn’t matter about the drivers age. Older drivers in smaller European or Japanese convertibles – and yes, it is unfair – look to some as if they are trying to recapture their youth. In an American classic they look just fine. Would that it were that easy, though.

With any classic car knowledge is all. It really is important that a potential buyer has done his or her homework. Some of these cars are relatively cheap to buy but are often, unsurprisingly, expensive to run. Mechanical integrity is obviously crucial but the real problem is likely to be the folding roof. Really careful inspection is vital as most period convertibles, even those from fifty plus years ago, mostly have power driven rag-tops. Operation should be smooth and take around thirty seconds. The material, inside and out, should be immaculate and fit properly as leaks are common.dash Classic Cream Of The Drop Top Crop

Otherwise, it’s business as usual. Condition is everything. This applies especially to the interior because, being a convertible, it will have had more exposure to the elements. A car that has been recently imported from a dry American State is likely to be rust free. A car that had been in the UK for a while, possibly isn’t. This is why the history is so vital. Has the car been stored properly when not in use and does the seller seem like the right stuff?

All the usual ifs and buts aside, owning an American classic is just like owning any classic car. There’s plenty about – some at surprisingly low prices – and there’s a big following in the UK, so good advice is on offer. Think about owning a vintage Ford Thunderbird or a Plymouth Fury! Cars with proper names. The magnificent Cadillac Eldorado (pictured). The Pontiac Catalina. Names redolent with the history of the automobile. Who wouldn’t feel just a bit special cruising the sunlit boulevards of Britain – elbow resting nonchalantly on the doorsill – in one of these timeless classics. Protest all you like; you know you want one. Yes you do.

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Advice on buying a used car in Scotland

Shopping for a used car can be a step in the right direction if you want to keep your expenses down. However, there is also a certain element of risk involved, and you should definitely avoid making a hasty decision that you will later regret. There are many used cars in Scotland available click here, so you are sure to find exactly what you are looking for. Cars up north tend to be cheaper, and you can’t get much further north than Scotland! It’s beautiful scenery and charm make it a great place to find a used car. There is not an exact science to buying a used car but a few tips below should help you out.

Here are some things you can do:

1. To feel more confident about the purchase you are making, trace the car’s history by investing in a Car Data Check, which is guaranteed. When you do, you’ll be provided with information on the car’s approximate value, specifications and mileage.

2. Remember to budget carefully by checking vehicle tax rates and obtaining some insurance quotes before you go ahead with the purchase. In addition, make a comparison of used cars listed in the classifieds to learn what various models are worth and avoid being overcharged.

3. Request information related to the car’s history, including reports of regular servicing and previous Ministry of Transport (MOT) certificates. Verify that these records are consistent.

4. You will also want to see the related V5C vehicle registration document, which lists the registered keeper, rather than the owner of the car. Note that this is the individual who should be selling it.

5. If the car is at least three years old, verify that the series of yearly MOT certificates is in order. The car’s recorded mileage should match the service record and it should increase regularly as the vehicle ages. If discover that this isn’t the case, be sure the explanation you are given is plausible.

6. If the mileage on the car is surprisingly low or you are told that you are getting a “real bargain,” you should definitely proceed with caution. As an additional safeguard, you can also get an AA Car Data Check to ensure that you won’t be making a mistake if you buy this vehicle.

Importance of the test drive

This is your chance to check the car’s overall condition and determine if it is going to meet your unique expectations and needs. Be on guard against yielding to any sales pressure when the time comes, and remember that a car definitely exists somewhere that is just right for you. Scotland is a big place so there are many places to go car hunting. One of the best places I have found is Glasgow as there are many used cars for sale in Glasgow. It is also extremely important to buy from trusted dealerships such as Macklin Motors. Doing this means you are guaranteed to get a professional and reliable service, which you may not get from a private seller. Finally, if you make the purchase, be sure to obtain a comprehensive receipt listing the car’s details, terms of sale, and sale price, along with the seller’s pertinent details.

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Beautifully Exotic – Totally European

As readers will know, the car industry has gone global and the multitude of mainstream manufacturers are promoting the idea of the ‘world’ car simply because the idea is so cost effective. The downside is that although cars are generally decent value they can seem to be much of a muchness, distinguished only by the amount and quality of the options on offer.

So, just once in a while, it doesn’t hurt to indulge in a bit of wishful thinking. Despite the current automotive ubiquity it is good to know that there are still dedicated and wealthy car enthusiasts willing to invest their hard-earned cash into the development of what we like to call supercars.

This was the thinking of one Robert Cobben from the Netherlands, who last year established the Vencer company. His idea – to offer the world a choice of supercar that doesn’t say Ferrari or Lamborghini on it. This isn’t a new idea obviously as companies like Koenigsegg and Pagani have shown but it looks like he is on to a winner with this car; provided of course potential buyers have a minimum of £225,000 to hand.

There are certain things that suggest his new car, the Sarthe (named for the twenty four hour race at the circuit of the same name), will be a success. Primarily, Vencer are taking no chances with reliability and will be using a 510bhp V8 supplied by General Motors and found in the Corvette. This in turn is bolted to a six-speed manual gearbox. This is a tried and tested motor capable of propelling the car past 200mph thanks to its light weight. 62mph is said to be achieved in 3.8 seconds. Overall, it’s about the same size as a 911.

Under the very stylish body there are no real surprises either. The car has a tubular steel space-frame chassis and a build that incorporates chrome-molybdenum and aluminium. Nothing too radical or off-the-wall. Inside, all the usual must-haves are there and as ever options will be available. Only ten cars will be produced annually which should give the Sarthe an air of exclusivity. Vencer are prepared to make a RHD version if demand is there.

In addition to cooperation from GM, Vencer have also enlisted the tyre expertise of Vredestein to ensure that all that oomph stays firmly on the road.

It appears that the company have gone down a trusted route with the design of this car and there’s nothing wrong with that. It looks the part but whether or not it can wrest supercar buyers from the established brands remains to be seen. The Vencer Sarthe will be formally introduced at London’s Syon Park Salon Privé in September.

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Opinion – Taking A Fly Swat To Godzilla

In an announcement from the Transport Secretary, the government is going to cough up £165 million to help deal with traffic bottlenecks at various locations around the country. Sixty two schemes in total form the second wave of the so-called Local Pinch Point Fund. This money is to be augmented with local contributions.

Anyone who has any knowledge at all about road building and maintenance costs will know that this is a drop in the ocean. To put it into perspective, in 2011 the BBC reported that one single mile of motorway costs £30 million to build. The quoted £165m would therefore only be enough to deliver the equivalent of just five and half miles of road. It’s peanuts.

The work will include upgrading key roads, bridges and traffic hotspots. The aim is make life easier for the thousands of motorists and business who use local roads daily. Very laudable but it doesn’t really address the whole issue of our third world roads and the many unattended potholes that litter them.

With the usual breathtaking audacity of government guesswork they reckon that the schemes ‘had the potential’ to ‘help’ create more than 100,000 jobs and a similar number of ‘new homes’. Eh? These are the sort of numbers that are usually trotted out to give credence and justification to expenditure. They rarely ever come to anything.

In the South East, twelve schemes have been given a £42m green light and will include a ‘hamburger’ style roundabout with a carriageway through its centre which will alleviate the problems at the dreaded Milton Interchange on the A34 in Oxfordshire. Actually, that is a good idea.

The money is, it has to be said, being spread very thinly. That’s a lot of schemes and some of them seem to be a little under-funded. In the manner of these things it could just possibly result in an overspend. It would be wrong for Motor Blogger to carp too much; after all, at least some money is being spent to make our roads better.

Some of the bottlenecks mentioned have been in need of sorting out for years, so it’s a good thing. The snag is that it is not nearly enough. More money needs to be spent on making road surfaces better and thus safer and less money needs to be spent on massive vanity projects like the £33 billion (and the rest) HS2 rail link which has already cost the tax-payer £50m in bad management before even a blade of grass is has been cut.

We want money spent on our roads but £165m is like watching Godzilla rising from the sea and expecting to beat him back with a fly swat. The issue is much bigger than just some local bottlenecks problems.

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911 is 50

The legendary Porsche 911 is fifty years old this year and to celebrate the company is building a limited edition version for our delight. The trouble is, the average age of anyone who can afford a Porsche is also probably fifty, but if you are in possession of a spare £92k plus then get in quick because only 1963 will be built for worldwide distribution. As if it wasn’t immediately obvious, 1963 is the year the legend began.

Porsche will be parading no less than 911 versions of this great car at the Silverstone Classic at the end of July. The Company were concerned that they would struggle to get that number of old and new Porsches to attend but they underestimated the doughty members of the Porsche Club of Great Britain who rose to the challenge with a will and now the parade is oversubscribed.

The Special Edition will be formally announced at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in September at which point the car will go on sale although it is expected to be sold out on the order book long before that.

The anniversary model is based on the 911 Carrera S with rear-wheel drive and 395bhp from the flat-six engine. The car will have the wider body that features on the four-wheel drive version. Dynamic cornering lights, specially tuned PASM suspension and a ‘music to the ears’ sports exhaust are all standard.

With the manual gearbox the lucky owners can expect to do the traffic light sprint to 62mph in a sprightly 4.5 seconds. Specify the PDK auto and that drops to 4.3 seconds. Economy should be around 29mpg for the former and 32mpg for the latter.

Special 20-inch wheels are a visual tribute to the legendary “Fuchs” wheels and are finished in matte black paint with machine-polished centres. Chrome trim embellishes the front air inlets, the fins of the engine compartment grille and the panel between the rear lights to emphasize the distinctive appearance of this edition.old 911 911 is 50

Also standard on the 50 year Special are a limited-slip diff with torque vectoring, bi-xenon headlights and electrically adjustable seats amongst other delights. Inside there’s detailing that pays homage to those early days. The seat fabric will remind older Porsche enthusiasts of the original tartan design and – a nice touch – the dials are finished in green with white needles.

It’s amazing that Porsche manages to squeeze so many alternatives and changes into a car where the updates and modifications move at a glacial pace. Nevertheless it is so and the automotive world is the better for it.

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Maptastic Days Are Here Again

Somewhere in the bowels of your car there may be a symbol of the great days of real motoring. Hidden away, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, at the back of your boot or under the back seat you might well find – a dog-eared paper road atlas. Technophobes will be familiar with this archaic form of direction finding, often used with limited success by your dad. Technophiles will not understand this reliance on map reading skills when there is a perfectly adequate device on the dashboard to do the hard work for you.

The sat-nav, like sliced bread, has been one of the great inventions. They have never been cheaper or better featured. They are programmable and settings can be altered to suit. How can something so small be so clever? Well, that’s the official line, but there’s an unspoken issue. Your Editor, whilst being forced-marched on a health inducing walk high up on Barbury Castle in Wiltshire, came across a nonplussed German driver coming up an ancient track in an expensive car. Being a man, he blamed, in halting English, a ‘broken GPS’. Therein lies the problem.stuck Maptastic Days Are Here Again

The news is occasionally filled with giant lorries becoming trapped in villages because their device directed the driver down a country lane and they blindly obliged with the inevitable result. Sat-nav’s are great but they are not infallible. Neither are drivers. Especially not drivers. Despite the fact that the chosen route is clearly unsuitable they follow it anyway. Simply by turning round and forcing the device to ‘recalculate’ would probably solve the issue.

This is why more than half of the UK’s experienced drivers still prefer to use maps. Real map-reading is a disappearing skill (which should be taught in schools) but most motorists can understand a basic road map once they’ve got it the right way up. Older drivers with more than twenty five years of driving under their belts prefer to stick with maps. This is according to a recent national survey by a road rescue organisation.

As mentioned above they mistrust some of the information but what they hate most is the constant babble of instructions. The survey mentions that just forty five percent of respondents owned any form of sat-nav at all, whether portable or built-in. That’s a surprise. We are led by promotions and advertising to believe that the latest thing is indispensable to our lives and yet here we are still relying on ancient texts to move about the country.

Many people have no problem with sat-navs. If kept up to date they can guide drivers through complex and hitherto unknown one way systems; they can place a car within ten metres of the required destination whilst avoiding toll roads, ferries and traffic jams. What’s not to like?

On the other hand, it is quite nice to know that some things never change. Maps bring out the pioneer spirit in motorists. They can take married couples to distant lay-bys for spousal arguments about the innate inability of women to read maps, for example. It’s true. There is something special about a map and the more detail on it the better. Perhaps car makers would do well to heed this and start offering a full set of Landranger ordnance survey maps as an alternative option. It’s a thought.

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Euro Targets Will Cost You

Ever wondered how the cost of your new car is arrived at? Construction, parts, labour and a variety of taxes all help to raise the buying price. Add into that profit across the board and the extra money it takes to send all the manufacturer’s creative teams off on extended snowboarding holidays and we arrive at the staggering sum that you that have to fork out at the dealership.

Well, that’s the price you pay for a new car: and now it is going to get worse – at least in Europe. Over the next two years it is estimated that the cost of a new car will rise, potentially, by a figure somewhere between about £850 and £5000 (for prestige cars), with two thousand pounds as the possible average. This is because of new Euro-rules being initiated in Brussels.

These rules, roundly condemned by an industry that is already struggling, will include exhaust emissions and safety equipment, right down to the type of coolant in the air-conditioning system. One example is that a maximum NCAP will be virtually impossible to achieve unless the car is fitted with an autonomous emergency braking system.

Diesels, inevitably, will bear the biggest brunt – see below. Note that this is only Europe; there is no explanation why we, stuck in the middle between East and West, should be lumbered with regulations that are tougher than the rest of the world. Thus, cars built for export to other parts of the planet will not necessarily be so affected.

The regulation that has the biggest impact is called Euro 6. Look it up if you want the full details because they are far too tedious to list here. Basically though, this applies to exhaust gases that are not CO² but rather NOx – nitrogen oxide. The current standard is 180mg/km but this must be reduced to 80mg/km on all new motors from 2015.FORD Euro Targets Will Cost You

This is especially tough if you want a diesel because the figure can‘t be achieved from existing engine stock. Car makers will have to come up with new ones.

Now; everybody wants cleaner cars and cleaner air. We all see the sense in it, but would it not be right to say that the European car industry already knows this? They are in an extremely competitive business and they wouldn’t be much good at it if they didn’t continually push the envelope to satisfy customers who are the people who should really have their ear. They will have no option to comply if they are to maintain their position in the global car market.

BMW’s Chief Executive sums it up best so we’ll quote him, “This is all about political wish lists and nothing to do with technical analysis and feasibility.”

One more thing if that wasn’t enough. Fuel companies will have to include or increase the amount of bio-fuel in both diesel and petrol. This produces less energy so you will spend, it is guessed, somewhere between fifty and one hundred pounds per annum to compensate. Even the Friends of the Earth are against this. Who’d have thought it? Apparently they insist that such a move would increase deforestation to grow the raw materials and that’s probably true. Start saving now. The other picture is a rendering of the new 2015 Ford Mustang just to see how it could have been – once.

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Range Rover Sport & The Pikes Peak Challenge

On the 20th March Motor Blogger reported that the new Range Rover Sport was to be officially announced at the New York Show on the 26th of that month and, as if by magic, it was. Since then it has been gathering plaudits from all sides as being all things to all men and doing those things very well indeed.

Land Rover engineers have pulled off something a bit special. This car is apparently terrific off-road as you’d expect whilst being smooth and calm when ferrying the ankle-biters around town yet still manages to be a great drive. Obviously it’s no sports car but, for a vehicle this size, it makes for very rapid progress with handling characteristics you’d expect from a smaller motor. It’s even the perfect car for driving mud-splattered Labradors up and down motorways.

To prove the merits of the Sport still further Land Rover have decided that it will undertake various challenges around the world in the toughest of environments. The first of these challenges was to pit the car against the might of the Pikes Peak hill-climb in Colorado – ‘The Race To The Clouds’.

This is an event that has been going on now for some 91 years and has shown itself to be the ultimate test of man and machine. It is 12.42 miles of snaking road with 156 corners that clings to the side of a mountain. The actual challenge takes place on June 30th and a host of vehicles are taking part. Even World Champion rally driver Seb Loeb is having a go in a Peugeot 208 T16 with a massive wing and a front spoiler the size of a giant’s snow shovel.

To test the driving merits of the Range Rover Sport an ace American racer and stunt driver called Paul Dallenbach set a new record for a production standard SUV by piloting the thing up the hill in just 12 minutes 35.61 seconds; that’s an average speed of 59.17mph on a highly tortuous and dangerous route.RR2 Range Rover Sport & The Pikes Peak Challenge

Dallenbach used the version with the 5.0L supercharged V8 engine, obviously. A roll cage and full harness was fitted (look for Pikes Peak videos to find out why) but otherwise it’s the car you and I would buy if we had the £51k plus that is needed at the bottom of the price list. Most drivers will probably settle for the V6 diesel. Fortunately that’s no slouch either.

This new Range Rover benefits from the lighter underpinnings of its big brother and a mostly aluminium construction meaning it tips the scales by 800lbs less than its predecessor. No wonder it’s fast.

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