Tag Archive | "convertibles"

Convertible Cruising

In the UK, sadly, there’s not a lot of point in having a convertible when it rains. Yet when the sun does come out there are few things more fun that cruising in a convertible. Many soft-tops only have two seats – or at best are 2+2 – which isn‘t the most convenient thing in a daily driver, so how about a more family friendly option – the Vauxhall Cascada?

Forget what you knew about badge snobbery. The fact is that Vauxhall make very good cars these days and no longer should be out of the running simply because of some lacklustre cars from the past. The Cascada has a premium feel. Although there are some company styling similarities as is usual these days, this is a new car from the ground up.cas1 Convertible Cruising

The inside is spacious and refined. The leather sports seats are supremely adjustable and super-comfortable. I especially liked the pull-out seat squab for extra support beneath the thighs. The two passenger doors are wide and allow easy access to the back thanks to the auto-operation of the front seats. Tilt the back rest and the seat glides forward. Push it back and it reverses. Easy. The rest of the interior is well designed and made with little evidence of cheap materials and there is absolutely loads of kit – sat-nav, connectivity, climate, heated leather steering wheel and plenty more – as standard.

cas2 Convertible CruisingThe large, steeply raked windscreen and rising window line give the Cascada a purposeful stance. The fabric roof creates a low roofline, although the steeply raked back window means a somewhat narrow view in the rear view mirror. Lower the hood and you get frameless windows and a flat rear deck not unlike the stern of a pleasure cruiser.

The roof stows itself very neatly in about 12 seconds into a recessed area which inevitably compromises the boot space although there’s still room for an overnight bag and some shopping. With the roof in place the boot is deep and capacious although not the easiest to access. It’s a convertible – you can’t have it all ways.

Driving with the top down, the Cascada is pretty refined. As speeds increase so there is some wind buffeting, although front and rear wind deflectors are available. The model featured in our images is in Elite trim and drive comes from a 1.6L turbo-petrol engine with 170PS. Inevitably, the car is heavy but the engine still delivers lively performance but, alas, is not the most economical choice. Thinking about economy I rejected the ‘Sport’ mode button in favour of ‘Tour’ but still only achieved an average of 30mpg in mixed motoring. As a long distance tourer I would think that the 2.0L diesel engine would be a better choice.

Handling is good thanks Vauxhall’s ‘HiPerStrut’ suspension but it’s not a sports car so don’t expect sharp cornering attributes. For Motor Blogger, the very lightly weighted power steering lacked feel although the ‘Sport’ mode weights it up a bit. Overall though the Cascada has a composed and supple ride making long trips a pleasure.

So, the Vauxhall Cascada is a poised and comfortable four-seat drop-top. It is quiet and spacious enough for everyday use whilst remaining a great long distance tourer. None of the currently available versions cost over £30,000 which seems like value for money. An excellent convertible.

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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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Better Fuel Consumption? Go Somewhere Warm!

The winter weather in the UK has been relentless. At the time of writing it is April and the weather has only just stopped freezing us. It’s like living in Winterfell, the northern capital of the Seven Kingdoms only without the massive fur coats and swords and with George Osborne starring as the evil Tywin Lannister.

What’s worse in this times of financial misery is that our cars are not as fuel efficient as they should be because the arctic conditions affect fuel use in a number of ways. For starters, engines need to be thoroughly warmed up before they reach peak efficiency. When cold, oil is sluggish and thick and, initially at least, some petrol is in contact with cold metal and condenses.

Fortunately, modern engines warm up quickly but it still takes longer in very cold weather. Unfortunately, they also get colder quicker which means on short trips the motor essentially has to warm up again if left for a while.

Conditions on the road will also have an adverse effect. With everyone taking to the heated interiors of their cars in cold weather your journey is likely to require a lot more accelerating and slowing down which consumes far more fuel than a constant speed. This is made worse by using heaters, heated windows and lights all of which contribute to a greater use of energy.

The pain doesn’t end there because tyres in cold weather tend to be stiffer and that increases rolling resistance; thus the car has to work harder to keep up performance and so on.

The combination of these various negative factors has a small but significant effect on fuel consumption to the tune of about three miles per gallon. On the face of it that isn’t much – true enough – but over the course of a year it all adds up.

The answer clearly is to go and live somewhere warm. Move to a place that all year round the only clothes you’ll need are shorts and a T-shirt. Right now, dealers are stocking up on convertibles in anticipation of that distant time when the sun shines and all’s right with the world. They need to clear that stock.

Imagine yourself driving along the Amalfi coast or parking outside a sophisticated bar in St Tropez. That’s the life you really want. As you sit shivering around the meagre fire in your hearth cheer yourself up by browsing for deals on a rag-top. For most of us a Ferrari is out of the question but if it’s at least warm most of us will probably settle for a used Mazda MX5.

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The Wind In Your Hair

There’s nothing quite like it, is there? Going topless in your car on those balmy, halcyon days of summer – both of them. The convertible car is something of a tradition in these septic isles. Not so many years ago moustachioed smooth operators with oil-slick hair would entice a popsy into the open-top Jag with the offer of a fashionable headscarf, the rascals, and soft-tops have been popular with Brits ever since.

Apparently the UK is one of the biggest markets for soft-tops and convertible tin-tops in the world. We can’t get enough of them, yet in a rather bizarre turn of events, many of us don’t take the tops down – at least according to Audi.

The German company is predicting a late surge in demand for convertibles despite the patchy summer. Perhaps they know something we don’t. Nevertheless it seems that, like a coy boy, we shy away from actually doing the deed and letting the wind do it’s work on our hair. This sort of begs the question, ‘Why buy the things in the first place, then?’

Audi, who have four soft-tops in their range, conducted a survey this August and found to their astonishment that forty six percent of owners rarely or never lower the roof. It seems we admire the sophisticated looks but baulk when it comes to experiencing the great outdoors at speed. In short it is the appeal of owning a convertible that informs our decisions rather than the practicalities.

Women are more likely than men to come out of their shells. Whether this is to do with some sort of feisty female rebellious streak or just to get rid of the late-night kebab smells from the cabin is not known. Nevertheless the ladies lead the way with some 39% electing to slip the top off. Men, on the other hand can only muster a pathetic 32%.

The for and against lobbies are also governed by age. The 25 to 34 age group are most likely to chance it and for some reason that science will never be able to explain, those living in the East Midlands are the keenest when it comes to open-air driving. Living in that region probably hardens them to the elements, like gnarled hill farmers. Who knows?

The British climate is not conducive to convertible motoring. This year is no exception and as a result waiting times for some of Audi’s convertibles are coming down, so if you are anticipating a long Indian summer then get your order in now. Especially if you live in the East Midlands.

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