White Goods, the Future of Motoring

Someone observed to me the other day that he considered cars are now just white goods and because we are both hardened Petrol Heads we mourned the passing of motoring as a pleasure, a pastime, a way of life, a source of endless conversation, an interesting method of travel, a trove of stories but above all an endless stream of expense, frustration and joy. I now consider the golden age of motoring to be over and it has gone beyond the usual arguments of traffic, cost and the uniformity of current vehicles.

M25 traffic jam.

Ask any motorist, commuter or someone who drives for a living, what their main issue is and the answer is usually traffic. Hold-ups on the M25, accidents on the M62, road works on the ring road (of any city) and they all contribute to delay, frustration and cost. There are also the stringent rules and regulations that have one overriding objective, financially milk the motorist.

The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a vehicle is an exercise best avoided if one wishes to retain one’s sanity, especially depreciation, but even the everyday running costs can make one squirm. Public transport is touted as a panacea to our travel problems, especially by left-leaning liberal Londoners, but I do not enjoy sharing my personal space with a stranger whose hygiene may be questionable and their taste in music or politics or religion at odds with ones own.

15 Years! Is that all?

And now the Government, in its misguided omniscient way has concluded that battery power is the way to go, having learnt nothing from its disastrous diesel decision. 15 years! That’s all we have apparently to massively upgrade the electric infrastructure and build immense new power stations. We are so poor at building huge civil engineering projects on time and on budget, look at how HS2 has increased in cost!

There is a wealth of information on electric cars on the internet but a very interesting take on the current viability of a Jaguar i-Pace is given by Harry Metcalf (YouTube Video). Harry is a keen Petrol Head and in this video he makes some astute observations about motoring in battery-powered cars, not least that the charging system is very poor (unless you have a Tesla).  Electric vehicles are least economical on motorways at a constant speed, they seem to work best in stop start situations.  The speed of recharging is currently woeful and I understand that these vehicles cannot be towed so running out of volts on a busy road is to be avoided.  In conclusion Harry will use the Jaguar for short town journeys but if he needs to go some distance then it’s the Range Rover!

More power!

Now I am not sure what the answer is, but I do believe that we are headed in the wrong direction. The infrastructure is not there and not just the lack of power generation although several Hinkley Points are not the solution. In the village where I live the grid will need to be upgraded if just 10% of the residents decide to install a 7KW charger, the power lines will not cope. We are also told that gas and solid fuel will soon be verboten and so everyone will have to use electric heating. Madness!

The most likely answer is Hydrogen. These people seem to be leading the way, but there will be others. Quite a good Autocar article here. The future is bright if market forces, driven by demand is allowed to be given its head, just keep the politicians out of it.

Hooray, it’s another Merc.

It’s been a while since I last posted, sorry.  The BMW has moved on to another owner and I have returned to the Mercedes fold.  The vehicle in question this time is a C43 Estate, and it is almost everything a car should be. 

Merc C43

This could possibly be my favourite Mercedes (so far).

It has a 3.0 litre petrol engine, turbocharged to give 362 BHP which gives it quite amazing performance.  The way the engine picks up is staggering and I would argue that it is realistically quicker than the C63 that I used to own.  The 0-60 times are slower but on an overtaking manoeuvre with kick down, the twin turbos spool up very briskly and shove the old girl in a blur of speed and sound. The noise is different from the old V8, that was a delicious rumble that stirred the dangly bits, this V6 sounds like a swarm of angry hornets buzzing around the rear. It is actually very good but I don’t have the optional Active Exhaust ‘loud’ button that would certainly improve things.

Twin Turbos

Because two Turbos are better than one!

On the practical side, it consumes Shell’s finest petrol at the rate of 33 miles to the gallon, it has a full panoramic roof, an excellent sound sytem and is very comfortable ploughing up and down the A19 at a steady 65MPH*. As I travel around 800 miles every week it is perfect.

There are a couple of niggles: I am not enamoured of the gear selection on a stalk similar to an indicator. I worry that I may mistake the lever for the windscreen wipers and put the car into reverse at 65MPH, I am sure that it will be impossible but I’ve not yet dared to try it. The previous owner seemed to lose his bottle with the options list, there is no Apple Carplay, Adaptive Cruise control or Proximity Sensors in the door mirrors.

Mercedes-Benz

Possibly the finest cars – In the World.

All in all it is a splendid car and covers my every need… However it has done over 33,000 miles and I need to change it very soon before its value plummets even further.

The chase is on, fire up PistonHeads and Autotrader!

*All cars seem to have a mechanical resonance where all the moving parts settle in a sympathetic alignment and with this vehicle it is at around 65MPH. It is also very relaxed at 85-90 too but I have just acquired 3 fresh points from the Scottish Constabulary.

The Beemer is Growing on me.

We have covered around 15000 miles since early December and the BMW 520D and I may have come to an understanding. I referred elsewhere to how I compared her to an ugly woman, able to do the business without question but I could never love her.

As a mile munching machine she is without peer, crossing the M62 and plugging along the A19 without missing a beat, averaging 48mpg at a steady 75(ish) there are few cars as capable. Using my new Mileage Calculator I am paying 11.5 pence per mile in diesel costs which for a very large estate is remarkable (the Merc would be about 37 pence). The only fault is with the rear suspension, these big Beemers are riding on big rubber balloons at the back and one of them popped, the ride home being particularly hard! £400 with a local Beemer Specialist sorted that.

There are other annoyances though. I cannot get used to the indicators, the stalk has no travel and I often find they stay on after an overtaking manouevre only for me to overcorrect and therefore confusing other traffic.

I am not happy with the climate control, I am forever fiddling with the temperature to get the system to react, it never seems to work hard to achieve MY desired setting. The AirCon was regassed but although the cold is colder, it is not working as it should.

I don’t like the gear selector, it seems wrong to press a button for park rather than move the lever all the way into P. As a driver who sometimes rests his hand on the lever it is all too easy to slip it into neutral whilst on the move. (It’s a little point, I agree, but you did ask…)

Why does she also not let me move the car with the door open? I’m sure I’m not the only driver who occasionally wants to reverse close to an object and opens the door to lean out and check? Nanny BMW won’t let me, she goes into neutral when the door is opened.

There are other little foibles that sometimes exasperate me, but as I remarked at the beginning of this entry, she is growing on me, a little.

Back to BMW

A Pragmatic Choice

Mercedes C63 after a jaunt round town.

The time has come to say goodbye to my Mercedes C63 Estate, possibly the best car I have ever had (so far). The image here will illustrate the reason why. After some very careful driving I managed to get the average MPG up to 23.2. And careful driving is not really what the car was about. It was about noise, acceleration and more noise. Yet if driven quietly and carefully it was an extremely capable car although the suspension was a little harsh. The rear tyres lasted for 23000 miles, incredible for a rear wheel drive car with 450BHP, and servicing was no more expensive than any other comaparable vehicle. It was the thirst, and the fact that I only ever put Shell V Power in her that combined to make using her as an everyday hack unaffordable.

BMW_Instrument
BMW 520d and its astonishing range.

So we come to the BMW, an ordinary but newer car, a 520D Estate, also capable and solid but soooo boring. It does not make my willy tingle, something the Merc did whenever I got in and it started with a roar like Zeus clearing his throat. The pragmatic part however is it cost around £85 to fill the Merc for around a 230 mile range. The Beemer is a similar price for the cheapest diesel to fill but the range is well over 700 miles. In fact I can confidentally set off knowing that I need not worry about where or when to fill up whereas with the C63 and my Shell V Power pedantry, the smaller range gave me the sort of anxiety that I imagine drivers of electric vehicles suffer.

Essentially then, the BMW 520d is like an ugly mistress; it does the business when required without complaint and who knows, I may grow to love her.

Twisted Land Rover – Yes, it is.

Whilst doing time for Her Majesty in the Queens Royal Irish Hussars during the mid 70’s I had the fortune to be selected for an expedition to Afghanistan, the journey to be undertaken by road from Paderborn in West Germany using the veritable Army spec Land Rover 109 Series III.

Landrover Series III
9000 miles in one of these

The total round trip was around 9000 miles, there were three LR’s, each with a very heavy military grade trailer and three people in each vehicle.  The only modifications to these were the addition of a custom made roof rack and  purpose made outriggers slung from the sides that carried three jerry cans each.  Together with the trailers full of supplies including three months of army ‘compo’ rations, you may assume that their 4 cylinder 2.25L petrol engines were a little under powered.  We must have annoyed countless motorists toiling in convoy up even the slightest incline.  Downhill, with the overweight trailers trying to overtake, was even more challenging, particularly when the brakes overheated.

Pink Landrover
I wanted this one!

So the point of all this pre-amble, if you are still with me, is that I have covered quite a few miles in Land Rovers and I still have fond memories of them.  This has surfaced in the desire in recent years to aquire a Defender, short wheelbase, to use as a second vehicle.  Those of you in the audience thinking about the financial implications of running a second car, please go and join my wife at the back of the room, out of sight.

I am under no illusions about how a Defender is an awful car in everyday use, they are noisy, cramped, uncomfortable and unable to challenge a modern four wheel drive car in road manners and handling.  But I still want one.

Landrover V8
Image courtesy of Autocar

Just a few months ago I nearly plumped for an old 4Lt V8 version, a much sought after special edition, but commonsense prevailed, sadly.  When the lottery finally pays out then maybe one of the new limited edition Defenders will fit the bill.  The new Defender Works V8 produces 399bhp and 380lb ft, eclipsing the output of the discontinued standard Defender, which made just 120bhp and 266lb ft.

It was therefore a very nice experience to be able to drive a Twisted Land Rover the other week so that Number 2 Son could take some photographs for his University project.

Portrait of the author as a show off

We drove the car out of town and up on to the moors for some very good photos, but I must say, the difference between the original that I drove in 1976 and this one is incredible.  The sound insulation that Twisted have added has made the most enormous change, the engine is quite responsive and the gearchange was slick and easy with the clutch being lighter than I recall.  You could tell that the coil springs have improved the overall feel of the car from the medieval cart springs of old.  As for the interior, there was a Sat Nav, with leather and luxurious trimmings aplenty.

Twisted Interior
New!

Old Interior
Old!

However, the car is still quite uncomfortable, cramped and seriously out of date and almost undriveable for anyone over 6 foot.

An icon? Certainly.
A replacement for your daily driver at 12000 miles per year? No.

Of course if you want the ultimate Defender then Harry does it best!

As someone remarked with understated sagacity, “You can’t polish a turd.” to which the swift reply was, “No, but you can roll it in glitter.”