Big Cat Hunting

We welcome a fellow sufferer to the DTW branch of Kitty-Fanciers Anonymous. 

Image: The author.

My parents have always been baffled by my fascination with cars. The curse is not familial; neither parent has a fluid ounce of petrol in their veins. Dad preferred football to fast metal and never learned to drive. Mam passed her driving test in her thirties out of gritty necessity, her car ownership journey characterised by a series of grudgingly bought and traded-in Fiestas. 

I on the other hand absorbed everything automotive like an oversized Halfords sponge. A yearly highlight was a trip to the Daily Mail British Motorshow. The week long event coincided with my birthday, making a trip to the NEC a great present for a car mad youth. One of my most vivid memories is from the 1988 show; I was ten when Jaguar launched the XJ220 to a seemingly hysterical response. Continue reading “Big Cat Hunting”

As Good as it Gets

The author reviews his four years with a 2015 Porsche Boxster.

All images (c) by the author

In an ideal world, I would report that my current 981-generation Porsche Boxster, purchased in 2016, directly replaced a previous generation (987…don’t ask) model that I owned for six years and enjoyed tremendously. Unfortunately, I strayed and had a two-month torrid but unfulfilling affair with a Jaguar F-Type convertible before coming to my senses and returning to Zuffenhausen.

The Jaguar was too large, in particular too wide, to Continue reading “As Good as it Gets”

Our MINI Adventure (Part Two)

Daniel O’Callaghan concludes his running report on his partner’s 2014 MINI with an assessment of its dynamics, its ergonomics and his conclusions.

Image : The Author

The driving experience and refinement is where the third-generation new MINI really distinguishes itself positively from its fun but flawed predecessors. It has a nice turn of speed, 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds, which is 0.1 seconds quicker than the manual, and a claimed (but untested!) top speed of 130mph.

The torque-converter automatic gearbox is very smooth, kicks down readily and has a manual override if wanted, which we’ve never used. This gearbox has now been superseded by a dual-clutch unit. The three-cylinder 1.5 litre turbocharged engine pulls strongly and has a nice, gruff engine note. Continue reading “Our MINI Adventure (Part Two)”

Our MINI Adventure (Part One)

Daniel O’Callaghan reports on life with a MINI.

All images : The author

In my recent review of MINI over twenty years of BMW ownership, I declared an interest in the shape of a MINI Cooper three-door Hatch, jointly owned with my partner, Murray, who is its main driver. I promised a long-term report on the car, and here it is.

We had owned a 2005 Skoda Fabia for nine years and 55k miles from new, which had served us very well as a runabout and carry-all. We wanted to replace it with something more fun and engaging to drive. It had to be an automatic, as Murray learned to drive in the USA and his UK licence still carries that restriction.

By coincidence, I was aware that MINI was soon to Continue reading “Our MINI Adventure (Part One)”

When Life Gives You Lemons – Make Limoncello

Skipping around the Italian coastline – it’s well for some. Sometimes.

A 2016 Citroen C1 in some white space. Not the Amalfi coast: (c) autoevolution

For Europeans, the idea of driving the Amalfi coastline on Italy’s South-Western flank is akin perhaps to driving West on Sunset Boulevard – suffused with impossibly romantic imagery culled from literature, music and film. At the very least, it would afford one’s passengers, if not the driver, with some rather memorable vistas – and in the right car, under the right conditions, a nice suntan.

Of course, in such a fantasy scenario, one would choose to Continue reading “When Life Gives You Lemons – Make Limoncello”

“I Dreamed I Moved Among The Elysian Fields”

Have the car rental Gods smiled upon our Canary Island correspondent? 

All images by the author

When we make our annual January pilgrimage to Tenerife, I still enjoy a moment of childish excitement as we approach the airport car hire desk, wondering what prize the ‘or similar’ lottery will award us on this occasion. Usually it’s disappointingly familiar VW Group fare such as a Polo or Ibiza, but this time it was the exotically titled Citroën C-Elysée, a name so graceful and poetic that you have to Continue reading ““I Dreamed I Moved Among The Elysian Fields””

Driven, Written: Peugeot 5008 BlueHDI 130

Weeks after an enjoyable encounter with its underdog estate sibling, the opportunity to sample one of Peugeot’s bestsellers presented itself. 

All images – The Author

The SUV simply isn’t for me. While I’d never describe myself as an unrealised racing driver, I don’t like the cumbersome way most of these vehicles handle. Aesthetically, the tall, blocky looks typically fail to trigger any desires the way sleeker automotive forms do. I could go on about this, but will spare you the boredom and myself the typing.

So when the friendly Avis clerk told me that I could Continue reading “Driven, Written: Peugeot 5008 BlueHDI 130”

Driven, Written: Peugeot 508 SW 1.6 l PureTech 180

On the basis of its scarcity, Peugeot’s large estate ought to be an also-ran. After a week behind its wheel, it’s a minor revelation. 

All images: The Author

Estate cars don’t sell the way they used to. Non-German estate cars even less so, which meant that prior to my pre-Christmas trip to the rental car company, where I was supposed to pick up a VW Passat estate (or similar) that was to take two to three people, one to three dogs and quite a bit of luggage all across Germany and back, I’d seen a grand total of two new Peugeot 508 SWs on the roads.

‘Or similar’ turned out to be a Seat Alhambra, which didn’t set my heart aflutter – to say the least. A bit of haggling eventually resulted in a premature Christmas present of sorts, in the form of the metallic olive green Peugeot 508 SW I’d seen on the forecourt and had hoped to be leaving with. So it was to be.

While I always liked this second-generation 508’s appearance – despite a few slightly too busy details and the superfluous ‘lion’s fang’ DRL, I wasn’t expecting an awful lot from the driving experience. At best, I was hoping to Continue reading “Driven, Written: Peugeot 508 SW 1.6 l PureTech 180”

Balancing Act

So much for theory, what was the Lybra actually like?

2002 Lancia Lybra 2.4 JTD

The heel of history can either be a marque’s greatest asset or an insufferable burden, and in the case of Lancia, we can safely deduce which of the two conditions has prevailed. Because amongst the time-honoured pitfalls of managing heritage brands is the inevitable temptation to revert to whatever nostrum of past glories management deem necessary or congruent.

Indeed, the moment a car brand is steered into the heritage category, alarm bells really ought to sound, since one could posit the view that it’s already well on its way to irrelevance and oblivion. Hence when Fiat Auto CEO, Roberto Testore pronounced in 1999 his view that Lancia’s image was confusing, he was tacitly admitting both his and his innumerable predecessor’s inability to either define Lancia’s identity or allow it to Continue reading “Balancing Act”

Driven, Written: Maserati Quattroporte V (2008)

A flawed masterpiece is still a work of art, as our German correspondent discovers in Maserati’s most comely of four-door models.

Sometimes, one can win the lottery without ever having to enter. As on the occasion of our recent trip to Antwerp, when we weren’t at the mercy of the Rental Car Lottery, but had, thanks to a generous friend, a confirmed reservation for the front seats of a car I’d always admired – the Maserati Quattroporte V, also known as Tipo M139 in marque parlance.

First unveiled in 2003, the Quattroporte V re-established the model at the luxurious end of the performance car market, after its immediate predecessor had gone for a more unusual/contrived positioning. As originally developed by Ferrari, Tipo M139 was initially available only with the kind of sequential gearbox Modenese engineers were besotted with in those days. The inherent clunkiness and appalling lack of refinement of this set-up did little for the sales prospect of a model that was otherwise deemed spot-on for its brand and intended market.

The example we sampled during our 1400 kilometre trip across western Europe was, thankfully, a later Sport GT model, which means it was equipped with a more mundane, yet far more serviceable ZF torque-converter six-speed auto. The Ferrari-based V8 engine’s output remained unchanged though, at 400 hp.

To get the most obvious points out of the way quickly, I feel compelled to Continue reading “Driven, Written: Maserati Quattroporte V (2008)”

Long Term Test: No Longer Surprising Skoda (Part 3)

In the final part of our ownership experience review of the Skoda Octavia Estate, we discuss service intervals, sloths and dodgy DRLs.

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They don’t make them like this any more. The glorious Estelle (did the lady with the bag forget the handbrake?). (Source: Honest John)

Living with the Skoda Octavia is a pretty pain-free affair.  As mentioned previously, it’s very parsimonious with respect to fuel consumption, it’s comfortable and spacious to sit in and drive, it rides well enough (with a decent level of pliancy), and it’s reasonably quiet.

The Skoda has also been pretty reliable – but not flawless.

I’ll start with the niggles. The Tyre Pressure Monitor Sensors (TPMS) are irritatingly sensitive, and I feel like I have had an ongoing battle with them.  The near-side rear, in particular, goes off every other journey, and yet every time I check it, it’s only within 1 or maximum 2 PSI of where it should be. I have had the Skoda service centre have a look at it on many occasions and they can never Continue reading “Long Term Test: No Longer Surprising Skoda (Part 3)”

Long Term Test: No Longer Surprising Skoda (Part 2)

In this middle section of our long term look at the Octavia Estate, we review how the mid-range Skoda drives.

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Front three quarter view – still not quite the right colour. Can you see Concorde in it yet? (Source: CarWow)

Driving the Octavia is a bit of an unexpected bonus – it’s a much sweeter drive than I expected. The steering is direct, well-weighted and helped by a well sized, shaped (it’s actually round!) and covered steering-wheel. When I say ‘well weighted’, actually, that depends on which driver setting you choose – in this case it’s ‘normal’ as ‘sport’ is just heavy and gloopy.

One can also Continue reading “Long Term Test: No Longer Surprising Skoda (Part 2)”

Long Term Test: No Longer Suprising Skoda (Part 1)

Continuing a habit of testing cars which other motoring journals have already tested ad-nauseum, here’s a LTT of my Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0L Diesel SE-L

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Brochure-photo of the Octavia Estate – wrong colour, but it does have the chrome window-surround and roof bars (Source: Gateway2Lease)

We have had our Octavia since the middle of July 2017.  In that time, it has travelled over 37,000 miles and proved to be a very capable and worthy steed.  it’s painted in vibrant metallic Rio Red (in the sunshine it looks a bit like Heinz Tomato Soup – other tomato soups are available), with a very fine, tough, finish.

The Octavia arrived as part of my rejig of our car portfolio (pretentious, moi?) where a Mazda3 Fastback (also subjected to numerous LTT articles here) and Xsara Picasso (ditto) were replaced by the Skoda and a FIAT 500 (which I have, again, written about here). A C6 still lurks on the driveway.  By and large, the Skoda is driven by me to get me to Continue reading “Long Term Test: No Longer Suprising Skoda (Part 1)”

Amazing Faith

DTW’s Sheffield correspondent risks his eardrums for your benefit. 

A red bridge. Parking sensors on the blue car not to be trusted here. (c) Carmagazine.com.

The invite arrived by electronic mail some weeks previous; a chance for a trip out to the East Midlands and barring my fuel cost, a free afternoon out. With food. Chores fulfilled, leash slipped and Mansfield here we come. Well, just me, for my better half had found at least thirty-six other more pressing matters to attend to.

Understanding that mention of the Winged Arrow can elicit various forms of abuse from childish schoolyard comments to outright and snobbish denials – most unwarranted and to the great British public, still stemming from Škoda’s wayward seventies products. With Volkswagen’s serious cash inputs from the early 1990’s, the Czech brand has gained much strength, garnered popularity and has become a valuable asset to those in Wolfsburg. Continue reading “Amazing Faith”

Have I come in at a bad time?  The Borgward BX7 TS

Nearly four years have passed since neue Borgward presented the BX7 at the 2015 Frankfurt IAA. DTW’s Borgward-obsessive shares his impressions of one of the first Shanghai-built cars to arrive in the great lost carmaker’s home city.

Image: Borgward AG

The car is a left hand drive BX7 TS Limited Edition, not long arrived at Bremerhaven from Shanghai, but tested in south-east England. The first visual impression is how easily the car fits into the British carscape, registering in the visual continuum as just another big European SUV, not quite an Audi Q5 or XC 60 clone, but only by the grace of some well-executed details of its own. There’s nothing awkward or ham-fisted about the styling, but neither is there much that hints at the brand’s ancestry in a subtle or ingenious way. Continue reading “Have I come in at a bad time?  The Borgward BX7 TS”

Driven, Written: VW T-Cross (2019)

The times are clearly a-changing at Wolfsburg, if Volkswagen’s smallest ‘SUV’ offering is anything to go by. 

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One of the nicknames given to Herbert Diess during his tenure at BMW was ‘Scrooge’. Even though he’s in charge of the VAG empire in general and the VW brand in particular these days, it would appear his business instincts haven’t changed one bit. Certainly not if the VW T-Cross, one of the first products into which he had any significant input, serves as an indication. For this Polo with rugged pretensions barely feels like the kind of car one expects a Volkswagen to be.

Obviously, it wasn’t just Herr Diess’ parsimonious tendencies that cast such an unflattering light onto the T-Cross during the week I and my partner got to sample it. The sometimes merciless nature of the rental car lottery was equally to be blamed. After all, just a few weeks prior, we’d truly been spoiled with the excellent VW Golf GTI Performance – a car that highlighted what Wolfsburg can be capable of, in truly impressive fashion. The contrast with the T-Cross therefore could scarcely have been any harsher.

Obviously, the T-Cross is supposedly one category below a Golf-size car (which is what we’d booked and I insisted upon, to no avail), and a 1.0 litre three-cylinder engine, producing the grand total of 115 metric horsepower cannot hope to Continue reading “Driven, Written: VW T-Cross (2019)”

¿Qué pasa, mi alma?

Eight days and 1100km through Andalucia – DTW introduces reader, Martin Franklin who reviews the new BMW G20 320d.

(c) The Author

As far back as memory goes, I’ve loved BMWs. I’ve owned two to date: a 2003 E46 325i M-Sport Manual Convertible, followed by a 2005 E46 330i M-Sport Manual Convertible; the latter fixing the primary issue with the former, and both a satisfying driving and ownership experience. But living and working in central London since 2009, owning a car hasn’t been a justifiable luxury, so I compensate on holidays by hiring the cars I’d maybe like to own and then designing some good driving into the travel plans.  

This mid-June trip to Andalucia would see us picking up a car in Malaga, and following a more or less circular route through Granada, Cordoba, Seville, Jerez, Cadiz, Vejer, Ronda, Marbella and back up to Malaga. Eight free and sunny days on a mix of Andalucian roads: I was keenly looking forward, pending my luck with the hire car allocation gods. Continue reading “¿Qué pasa, mi alma?”

Driven, Written: VW Golf GTI Performance (2019)

They still know how to design and engineer a decent car at Wolfsburg, as proven by Germany’s premier hot hatch. 

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Three surprisingly meaningful letters, photo (c) Driven To Write

The rental car lottery: Source of frustration, surprise and disillusionment. In the case of myself and my partner, the feeling of an outright win had eluded us so far – until I was handed the keys to the car I’d booked as ‘VW Golf Automatic or similar’, which turned our to be not just a VW Golf indeed – a first in itself. Moreover, this Golf was arguably in the model’s most appealing guise, which meant we would be crossing half of Germany in a Golf GTI Performance. Hurrah!

Typically any special edition model boasting a name like ‘Performance’ is expected to Continue reading “Driven, Written: VW Golf GTI Performance (2019)”

Tin Machine, Tin Machine, Take Me Anywhere

It has been thirty years since the Citroen launched the XM, on this day in 1989. On sale for 11 years and out of production for nearly twice as long, that makes it a real antique, doesn’t it.

1990 Citroen XM V6

(There are now people around who may never have seen an XM in motion, anyone born after 1999, I suppose.)

It is something of a pleasant coincidence (for me) that the self-titled album by Tin Machine came out just one day before Citroen announced the CX´s replacement. If Tin Machine was David Bowie’s way of getting back to what he most wanted to do, the XM presented another step towards watering down Citroenisme.

In the long game of a professional musician at Bowie’s level, Tin Machine was a necessary experiment, a form of throwing paint around and casting off unwanted rules. It was a step toward something else. For Citroen, the XM was claimed to Continue reading “Tin Machine, Tin Machine, Take Me Anywhere”

Test Drive: Kia Ceed

It’s my favourite holiday of the year again and time, once again, to play ‘hire car lottery’.

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Ceed in mid blue (source: Irish News)

Our Easter break trip to the middle of France. Staying in the grounds of a charming chateau owned by a Danish couple who are living their dream. It’s always a peaceful and restful stay in a largely by-passed part of France where the pace of life is borderline somnambulant.

It’s also the time of anticipation and surprise of booking a hire car in advance and then waiting to Continue reading “Test Drive: Kia Ceed”

Munchin’ Miles With The Volvo V40

The final Ford-era car in the Swedish brand’s lineup cannot hope to match the more recent cars’ impact. And yet it still impresses.

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Volvo is the warmest place to hide, photo (c) Driven To Write

“We’ve got something with a bit more oomph than usual – a Volvo V40 T3 R-line. Would that be fine with you?”

The friendly car rental agency clerk may have been slightly wrong about the power output of the car, but that point notwithstanding, the Volvo was very fine with me. After having sampled models from Volkswagen’s, Mazda’s and Ford’s respective ranges recently, this round of rental car roulette marked the opportunity to Continue reading “Munchin’ Miles With The Volvo V40”

Draw Your Fork Across The Surface Of The Soup

Something of a quest this, to drive as many Lancias as possible. So finally I am behind the wheel of a rather miley Kappa 2.0 with its transversely aligned five-banger.

1998 Lancia Kappa 2.0

So far DTW has driven and documented the Trevi, Lybra, Delta Mk3 and the Thesis. I did also drive a Kappa coupé a long time ago but have forgotten much of the experience except the deep disappointment about the ashtray. The coupé is also the car I most regret not buying.

Now, the time has arrived for another Kappa experience as I have had another chance to Continue reading “Draw Your Fork Across The Surface Of The Soup”

Fiesta de Navidad

Spending the Christmas season with the Ford Fiesta Vignale.

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At the risk of repeating myself, I feel compelled to explain the set of circumstances that resulted in myself and my partner crossing Germany (twice) in the finest of small Fords towards the end of the year 2018.

Having sold my better half’s car early in the autumn (and with my own steed in storage), we found ourselves at the mercy of our friendly neighbourhood’s rent-a-car station on more than one occasion. For the holiday season – which entailed a 900-kilometre-trip from Hamburg to the Swiss border and back – we were destined to Continue reading “Fiesta de Navidad”

Vintage Road Test: 1976 Citroen CX Safari

In what appears to be a transcript from an article (“Another New Car From Citroen!”) in the Northampton Mercury (4 June, 1976) Archie Vicar considers the new Citroen CX Safari.

1976 Citroen CX Safari: source

(The original photos were taken by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to extreme fading of the original items stock photos have been used.)

Having driven the saloon version of Citroen’s oddball new CX recently, I approached the new estate with mixed feelings: anxiety, irritation and concern. On the plus side, a tour in France is always accompanied by some excellent chance to Continue reading “Vintage Road Test: 1976 Citroen CX Safari”

Road Test Retrospective : Wolseley 15/60

The Farina-bodied BMC saloons would become ubiquitous Sixties fare. We examine an early verdict, courtesy of The Autocar.

All images (c) The Autocar

The very first of a new generation of Pininfarina-bodied medium saloons from BMC, Wolseley’s 15/60 model was introduced in December 1958 before going on sale in 1959. This new series would take BMC’s multi-marque strategy to previously unheard of heights (some might choose to invert that statement), with a succession of models quickly following, all sharing identical bodies and technical specifications, apart from minor changes to engine tune and detail styling. Widely derided as ‘badge-engineering’, it proved a commercial success for BMC, but one which ultimately came with a reputational cost.

The Autocar published its first road test of the 15/60 on 13 March 1959. The test car retailed at £991.7s, including purchase tax. Not (then) noted for sensationalism, The Autocar writer’s style was drier than a chilled glass of Tio Pepe, but with a little gentle sifting one can Continue reading “Road Test Retrospective : Wolseley 15/60”

Little Monster

Contributor, Chris Elvin returns to our pages to establish whether his Panda really eats shoots and leaves. 

(c) motoringbox

In the Spring of 2018, Driven to Write published the article ‘Small Is Beautiful… and Why Modern Cars Are (usually) Better’ describing my experience running a Rover 75 and its eventual replacement by a Fiat Panda TwinAir Turbo. A number of readers were kind enough to comment that they would like to read more about my experiences with the Panda so, now that I have been running it daily for over a year, I thought I would Continue reading “Little Monster”

Settling Back Into The Deep, Familiar Ruts Of Despair

December 1998: what was being reviewed in those sunny, happy times?

1998 Suzuki Jimny 1.3: source

As luck would arrange it, dear old Car magazine took it upon itself to review the Suzuki Jimny 1.3 JLX as well as the Skoda Octavia estate and the Alfa Romeo 166 2.0 (is really 20 years since the last big Alfa appeared on the scene?). The Jimny is the most germane review subject as the new one has only been launched. Having read the reviews, I think the UK press has been more circumspect about their comments this time around, saying that the Jimny is for off-roading and not biased to the road so, yes, it does a very fine job of that former task. By the end it had become a legend.

In 1998 the critiques did not take account of the Jimny’s (shout it) off-roading focus. Roger Bell, normally a voice of sanity, got this one wrong on behalf of Car. He began the review as follows: “Suzuki’s almost legendary ability to Continue reading “Settling Back Into The Deep, Familiar Ruts Of Despair”

Brief Ride – Dacia Lodgy

A flying trip to Barcelona held an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

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Ain’t exactly pretty, ain’t exactly small … but you can tell she’s got it all! (Source: cars4rent)

I had the pleasure of a taxi ride from Barcelona Airport to the CCIB conference centre on the seafront. The driver was very capable, making smooth but very pacey progress, but what really impressed me was the vehicle.

I am (or was) a Dacia virgin and am now a convert. The Lodgy to which I was exposed was a revelation. Continue reading “Brief Ride – Dacia Lodgy”

Quick Test Drive – Cactus Revisited

Today, Providence has provided me with a chance to drive one of the facelifted C4 Cactii.

Nu-Cactus. Image: Autocar

Sorry, yes it’s another article about the Citroën C4 Cactus. I recall there have been a fair few on DTW. Indeed, I wrote an article on the (then) new to the UK, C4 Cactus in September 2014. It was one of the first things I had published here – courtesy of the terrific trio who founded this splendid site.

Today, I dropped the C6 into a local dealer to have DPF additive – erm – added. I will admit that I had a minor thrill when I realised that my courtesy car for the day would be a new-shape Cactus. Hence, I thought I’d Continue reading “Quick Test Drive – Cactus Revisited”

A Tale Of Two Cars: Mazda 3 2.2D 150

Due to certain circumstances, this author was granted the chance to successively experience two up-to-date (rental) cars up close. The resultant findings led to conclusions not just regarding the (de)merits of each vehicle, but the modern automobile in general. 

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Just a few days after having returned the rental VW Tiguan, it was time to head back to the counter for yet another go at the Rental Car Lottery. After my partner and I had turned out to be less than smitten with VW’s core SUV offering, I had – again – made an attempt at guessing what fate the car rental’s key cabinet would have in store for us this time around. My (figurative) money had been on the VW T-Roc. Continue reading “A Tale Of Two Cars: Mazda 3 2.2D 150”

Welcome to the Cheap Seats

Or to put it another way, a week with an Aygo. How did we get on?

All images (c) Driven to Write

It began with a bump. Somebody reversed into the Jag, while it was innocently minding its own business. The damage while not great, will likely be expensive, given the manner in which cars such as the XF are constructed these days. Still, with the guilty party’s insurers footing the bill, such matters are perhaps somewhat academic. The upshot being that while the Jaguar is in for a course of rhinoplasty, we’ve been slumming it in a courtesy car.

I must dutifully point out that Toyota’s smallest offering is not exactly a stranger to DTW’s pages, our resident Mr. Herriott having already written at some length upon his experience with a conventional manual version, but the example we are considering today has been fitted with Toyota’s X-Shift automated manual transmission.

Employing a manual gearbox with an electronically automated clutch, it allows the driver to Continue reading “Welcome to the Cheap Seats”

Le Tour de Tours

It’s not every day we get our hands on a best-seller. A recent trip to the Loire however, garnered DTW a Renault Clio. What did we make of it?

All images (c) Driven to Write

It’s close to half past seven in the evening as the TGV eases into la Gare de Tours, terminating its one hour and eighteen minute journey from Paris-Montparnasse. The station, a grand edifice dating from 1898, and a designated monument historique, feels as though it’s winding down for the evening, as indeed does the historic city of Tours itself.

The Avis car rental office certainly has, the Chef de Gare being called upon to process our documentation and release our pre-booked hire car. It has been a diverting past time during the train journey to Continue reading “Le Tour de Tours”

Riding the Jet Bird

Autocar gets its hands on a Ford Thunderbird for a full road test. Its conclusions might surprise you.

Image credit: (c) momentcar

While the original 1955 Ford Thunderbird had proven a critical success, its sales were hampered by its two-seat layout and high price; a matter which was remedied in 1958 by the second-generation ‘Square Bird’, a bigger, more ornate looking four-seater personal luxury car.

With sales in the region of 200,000 over its three-year run, the ‘Square ‘Bird’ not only codified the T-Bird template, but became a sizeable profit earner. The third generation, dubbed ‘Bullet Bird’ was introduced in 1961. Its styling, said to have been the work of Alex Tremulis and based on jet fighter iconography and was chosen in favour of a rival design by Elwood Engel, which would itself go on to Continue reading “Riding the Jet Bird”

Ford Fiesta Red and Black 1.0 long term report

As Chris puts more miles on the Festie, both life and frost damage intervene.

IMG_3712

The wheel dropped into the pothole and my stomach followed. CLONNNNNNG, the Fiesta’s front driver’s side alloy rang out in the cold winter air like a dropped bell. The low profile tyre was no protection against Nottinghamshire’s homage to the Rift Valley, a hole both deep and wide running transversely across a join in the tarmac.

SHIT, SHIT, SHIT, I thought. Straight away I pulled into a garage forecourt to Continue reading “Ford Fiesta Red and Black 1.0 long term report”

Gilded Snail

Citroën’s 1961 Bijou, as road tested by Autocar.

Image credit: (c) picautos

The UK’s relationship with Citroën has traditionally not been vastly dissimilar to Britain’s somewhat ambivalent relations with the French nation itself. Especially so in the 1950s, when the motorists of Blighty, secure in the assumed and unchallenged superiority of their domestic Gods, snorted derisively at the 2CV’s rational asceticism.

Assembled, like its (equally shocking to British sensibilities) DS sibling by Citroën’s UK concessionaires, the 2CV was offered in the UK market throughout the 1950s, to ever decreasing circles of Continue reading “Gilded Snail”

Road Test Retrospective – The Grosse Borgward

Autocar’s 23 December 1960 issue contained a comprehensive road test of a technically advanced offering from Bremen – the Borgward 2.3. What did they make of it?

Image credit: (c) Borgward.nl

Something of a technical novelty in the 1950s, air suspension had been offered by a number of US carmakers, including Buick, Rambler and Cadillac at the tail-end of the decade, before cost and complication saw its withdrawal, yet it remained a largely theoretical concept for European car buyers.

Across the Atlantic, while Mercedes-Benz were developing an air suspended system, the Swabians were comprehensively pipped to the market by Hanseatic upstarts, Carl F.W. Borgward GmbH in 1960. Having debuted their largest and most ambitious saloon at the previous year’s Frankfurt motor show, the P100 (or 2.3) was offered with the option of air suspension the following April, which later that year became standard equipment. Continue reading “Road Test Retrospective – The Grosse Borgward”

I Really Thought You Said Sunday

Today I present a meta-review. I haven’t got around to having a chance to try to drive a 508 so instead I’ll report on two articles, one from Autocropley and the other from the Telegraph.

2019 Peugeot 508. Image: R Parazitas (the royalty’s in the post)

It goes without saying that I haven’t got an axe to grind for or against the 508. Like any car it deserves a fair judgement and something about these reviews suggests that whatever Peugeot does, the UK is a lost cause. If you read these reviews nothing would lead you to Continue reading “I Really Thought You Said Sunday”

Vive la France … Vive la Différence!

As well as sampling a 308 SW, our correspondent’s spring break in France also presented a chance to get the local perspective on how the indigenous competition measures up.

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Yes, I did just take a photo of the cover of the magazine lying on the carpet in our spare room.

When in France, I always take the chance to go to a Maison de la Presse and search through the car magazines. In recent years, this has allowed me to discover publications dedicated to ‘classic’ Citroëns, Panhards and other wonders, proving to myself and sceptical family members that there are others out there with a passion for the quirky and yet banal.

I usually also buy a more mainstream monthly, and more often than not it’s L’Automobile; on this occasion, I bought the March 2018 issue.

L’Automobile is, to my mind, the closest that France has to Continue reading “Vive la France … Vive la Différence!”

Ghost in the Machine: Peugeot 308 SW Drive Review

A spring break, (or to put it another way, a break in spring) leaves our correspondent in a mildly disturbed state of mind.

A glossy, brochure view of the 308 SW, showing larger alloys that help disguise the rear-end bulk. (source: Peugeot)

One of the many joys of going to the middle of France every spring is that we hire a car for the duration and it never ceases to provide a chance to sample something new from the automotive smorgasbord. This year, for once, we actually got what we expected; Hertz had promised either a 308 SW or a C-Max and we got the Pug.

I wasn’t convinced about the looks – the added bodywork of the SW over the 308 hatch can make the rear three quarters look bulky and like the basic structure is enveloped by rolls of flab, a look which demands larger diameter wheels in order to Continue reading “Ghost in the Machine: Peugeot 308 SW Drive Review”

Ashtrays: 2001 BMW 728 M-sport

After a bit of a hiatus, Driventowrite’s ashtray series is back. Today, how the decline in the popularity of cigar smoking made in-car satellite navigation possible.

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For this article, I had the pleasure taking a closer look at our Dublin correspondent, Mick’s BMW 728i. At the same time I had a chance for a small and very tame test drive, another one of those revelations that comes unexpectedly now and, to some extent, again.

First let’s Continue reading “Ashtrays: 2001 BMW 728 M-sport”

Quick Drive: Tesla Model S 75D

An opportunity to ‘have a go’ in a friendly colleague’s new Tesla provided me with a first experience of driving an EV.

Tesla Model S
This is not the actual car I drove, in case you were wondering (Source: Getaround)

I fully realise that it’s not that remarkable to have driven one of Elon Musk’s finest, but it’s a landmark in my longish and ever-lengthening motoring life and so I feel driven to write one of my usual streams of consciousness about the experience and the car itself.

One of the guys in my team has a flat black 75D on order and Tesla has lent him a white car to bridge the gap whilst his is being built / delivered, which is a nice touch. Knowing how much of a car nerd I am, he popped in yesterday to offer me a quick go. It turned out I was not the first that day; given he leads an IT department, a load of tech nerds had got there before me. Interesting that, the Tesla appeals to both car and tech enthusiasts … Continue reading “Quick Drive: Tesla Model S 75D”

Catching Up, Part 2

We continue our transcription of Stirling Moss’s review of the 1975 Porsche 911.

1974 Porsche 911 interior: source

“The Porsche is a two seat coupe which does have room in the back for extra token passengers, thanks to an ingenious pair of folding seats, but on anything but the shortest of journeys they would suffer. The front seats are, however, very comfortable, with high seat backs which offer plenty of support. They are beautifully finished and upholstered, and sensibly shaped and positioned, with good visibility all round: you can see both the front wings very clearly, so that pointing the car securely through corners and gaps becomes simplicity itself.

There are all kinds of pleasing little details, which show how much thought has gone into the original design and the improvements which have been added over the model’s lifetime. For instance, there is a knob under the dashboard which unfastens the petrol filler cap, but before the garage man can Continue reading “Catching Up, Part 2”

[Badge] Engineering Failure: VW

I realise it’s an old and oft-discussed issue, but I have experienced VW shooting itself in the badge.

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I was recently loaned a brand new VW Golf Estate for the day whilst my Octavia of similar form was in for its 10k oil-change. I have frequently read over the past few years how the differential between VW Group’s brands has blurred, but this is the first time I was presented with an opportunity to witness the phenomenon so directly. And, although I should not have been, I was a bit taken aback at the experience.

I’ve always kept the view that the Golf is a bit special. A cut above. Very cleverly set aside from Continue reading “[Badge] Engineering Failure: VW”

Rearview: 1987 Honda Integra EX16

Forgive me for insisting on writing about cars I have either driven or owned – I think it’s some kind of automotive catharsis. You may have noticed a taste for what could be described as the slightly offbeat, leftfield, or maybe just unloved. So, humour me as I bore you with the Honda Integra.

Integra Image
Sorry, it’s the best image I could find …. Source: Performance Car

Being precise for a moment, Wiki informs that the version to which I am referring is the AV Series which was built between 1985 and 1989. It was known in other territories as the Quint Integra and also, in Australia, was sold as a Rover 416 (all these years I have thought myself to be a bit of a BL/ ARG/ Rover Group/ MGR officianado and I never knew that until now).

As mentioned by others in previous pieces, Continue reading “Rearview: 1987 Honda Integra EX16”

LTT Reflections: Mazda3 2.2d SportNav Fastback

A few months after having left my now ex-go-to-work wheels in a Skoda dealer’s customer parking bay, I thought I should put a full-stop on the sporadic LTT that I sometimes provided on these pages.  

Mazda3 Fastback
Ex-machina – I liked the looks, even if the colour was less interesting than I had hoped.

Time and the opportunity to compare it with the Octavia which replaced it provide context and perspective on my views. I spent just over two years and 33,000 miles with my Titanium Flash Mica hued Mazda saloon. To recap, I bought the car with the original intent of swapping my C6 in for it, but instead, through the benevolence of my family, I was able to keep the slightly exotic and eccentric Citroen ‘for pleasure’ and have the Mazda to take the burden of my extended daily commute.

I bought the car pre-registered and was fortunate to find one in the spec and colour I wanted. My ultimate preference would have been to Continue reading “LTT Reflections: Mazda3 2.2d SportNav Fastback”

‘Car’, Car of the Year 1970

I recently purchased a reprint of Car’s Car of the Year 1970 feature (printed for publicity purposes for the UK distributor of a certain car company from the March 1971 issue by George Pulman and Sons Ltd Bletchley Bucks).  Almost (but not quite) as old as I am (what’s three years amongst friends?), it served to remind me what we are missing these days from motoring journalists.

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OK, so the cover rather gives the identity of the car and its manufacturer away, but I’m not here to write about either, honest!

First, I refuse to mention the main subject of the feature, the car which won this prestigious award in 1970, on the basis that we get complaints that the manufacturer of said winning car receives far too much coverage on this site. Second, it’s the quality of the journalism which has bewitched me, much as it was the featured car which captured my attention to said publication in the first place. Third, I’ve given up on Citroën these days in any case (damn!).

The first thing to note is Continue reading “‘Car’, Car of the Year 1970”

Pointless Road Test – FIAT 500 1.2l Lounge

There probably isn’t anything left on the keyboard that has not already been written about the FIAT 500, but that’s not going to stop DTW as recent ownership has permitted some real-world insights.

FIAT 500 1.2L Lounge in Pasodoble Red
So familiar, it’s invisible

The new-age FIAT 500 is a car I don’t want to like. It’s a cynical fraud for starters, sharing underpinnings with the previous generation FIAT Panda and Ford Ka. I like the Panda, having an especially fond soft spot for the 100HP which was the meaner spiritual successor to the Cinquecento Sporting that I so cherished in my early twenties.

I think I am also biased by ownership of that car, which I thought at the time to be a logical progression of the Nuova 500’s gene-pool; the Cinquecento of the late 80’s and 90’s seemed to be just that – small, practical, basic and cheap. The pastiche Nuova 500 alike styling of the new 500 – inside and out – is a commercially cynical attempt to Continue reading “Pointless Road Test – FIAT 500 1.2l Lounge”

Sons of the Silent Age – (2)

Part two: We briefly take the wheel

Image: Driven to Write

As Steve fires up the NSU’s power unit, it quickly settles into its distinctive buzz-saw rotary whine. I ask him how often he uses it? “Not as often as I should – I have too many cars. I don’t use it in the winter, but this summer it’s done about 1500 miles.” Mileage incidentally, which includes a trip to the recent 50th anniversary commemorations in Suffolk, where over 30 Ro80s converged. Among the attendees was an owner from Stuttgart who Continue reading “Sons of the Silent Age – (2)”

Sons of the Silent Age

Part one: Driven to Write meets (and briefly drives) one of its heroes.

Image: Driven to Write

A commonly espoused orthodoxy warns us that close proximity to our idols can only lead to disappointment. Some go further, suggesting that the renunciation of hero worship is the mark of a mature mind. This being the case, I can categorically claim not to have attained it. But surely it is preferable to Continue reading “Sons of the Silent Age”

Driving Range – 2009 Range Rover Vogue TDV8 : 2

In this concluding part, we delve further into the Range Rover’s dynamics.

All images: Driven to Write

One could be excused for expecting the Range Rover’s road behaviour to be ponderous and unresponsive, and while one never loses the sensation of driving something quite vast, the RR can cover ground with an alacrity and poise that is both satisfying and deeply impressive. Even on the narrow, meandering and frost-scarred roads of West Cork’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way’, the air suspension’s ability to Continue reading “Driving Range – 2009 Range Rover Vogue TDV8 : 2”