Clarkson’s best car review yet, the Vauxhall Insignia gets taken for a spin and lots more besides – it’s the TalkingMotors.com weekend papers review.
Over at the Sunday Mirror Quentin Willson thinks Pininfarina’s latest design exercise is a great idea. It’s just a shame about the name. “This may just be the prettiest electric car we’ve ever seen. The only unfortunate thing about the Pininfarina BO is its name, although the Italian design house insist that it’s pronounced B-Zero, not B-Oh,” Willson writes. “A four-seat four-door electric hatchback, the BO is no airy-fairy concept, but a production reality that will roll off the Turin factory line at the end of next year for Europe, and reach the US and Japan by 2010. He likes the 153-mile battery range and the top speed of 80mph but has one concern: “Let’s hope that with a name like BO, air conditioning is on the options list.”
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Volvo’s XC60 compact 4×4 is doing the national press rounds, and has reached John Simister at the Independent on Sunday. “You would think Volvo would have created a slightly smaller SUV and gained a more useful range spread,” he begins. “But you reckon without the vital US market, whose needs -pre-credit crunch, at least -dictate a size of SUV below which a carmaker is not taken seriously.” He describes the XC60’s engine in D5 diesel guise as having “a grumbly engine by modern standards, but once you’re moving, the pleasing harmonic of a straight-five comes through.” Despite this, however, Simister is not impressed: “I’m underwhelmed by the Volvo XC60: it should be smaller and lighter. But then I’m not an American buyer.”
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The Daily Telegraph’s Andrew English has been trying out the Vauxhall Insignia. “Apparently the new Insignia was benchmarked against the Ford Mondeo for handling and the Volkswagen Passat for the interior and build quality,” he writes. Although the Insignia does fall some way short of the VW in a number of areas, overall English quite likes the Insignia. “The cabin is clearly inspired by the Passat, with its sweeping trim line across the bottom of the windscreen and into the doors. On the whole, it’s smart and comfortable, with plenty of accommodation front and rear, and a huge and pleasantly shallow boot. It’s not all brilliant, however. The centre console, while easy to use, is finished in nauseously greasy plastic, similar to that of the grubby dismembered doll’s head that our dog found under a hedge. Some of the leather seat options feel like overstuffed armchairs and there are spectacularly bad colour schemes, including a sort of last-in-the-box fondant-filling hue mixed with puppy-poo brown.” It’s not all bad though. “On the plus side, the switchgear is beautifully crafted. The general build quality is good and there’s an aura of toughness about the cabin that suggests it’ll last the course.”
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Meanwhile, At the Sunday Telegraph Neil Lyndon has been to the US to drive “the world’s most powerful diesel SUV -and the most politically incorrect car.” Audi’s Q7 V12 TDI Quattro, which costs £96,295 and gets to 60 in 4.9 seconds, is limited to 155mph and produces 298g//km of CO2 every mile. “It’s as though Bernard Manning has been crossed with Brian Clough, and the resultant character has been inserted into the body of P.Diddy,” writes Lyndon. “The Q7 V12 TDI simply couldn’t give a monkey’s about your limp-wristed agonising over endangered species and polar ice-caps. It doesn’t care a hoot about congestion and depleted oil stocks.” Audi apparently hopes to sell 40 of the cars in Britain and Lyndon thinks that’s possible. He concludes: “Given the number of air-headed narcissists in the Premier League who earn more than its purchase price every week, I’d guess its got every chance.”
Over at the Sunday Express Nat Barnes has been driving the BMW M3 convertible with seven speed, paddle shift transmission. “How you feel about the new BMW M3 Convertible largely depends on your view of that blue and white propeller badge on the bonnet,” Barnes writes. “‘Put simply, BMW has become a brand people either love or hate.” Despite this, our man thinks this is a fabulous car to drive. “Enjoying the M3 with an empty, twisting road ahead of you, particularly on a summer’s day with the roof down, it’s easy to ignore its other shortfalls. Instead, this is one of the most enjoyable M3s to drive for years, whether you like that bonnet badge or not.”
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In the Sunday Times Jeremy Clarkson applied the toe caps of his cowboy boots to the Chrysler Sebring convertible, having hired one in the US. This week we bring you an extended rant, because, even if you hate Mr. Clarkson and sell Chryslers, it’s very funny. Below are the best bits…
“Let us look, first of all, at the car’s only good point. The boot is bigger than the hangar deck of a Nimitz class aircraft carrier. However, the drawback of driving a car with an aircraft carrier on the back is that it doesn’t look very good. No. That doesn’t cover it. It looks terrible. Hysterically awful. Anyone thinking of drawing up a list of the ugliest cars ever made will be forced to put this one at the top. I have seen more attractive boils.
“And disappointingly, if you push the button that lowers the roof – and then push it again because it isn’t working properly – you will find that a) all of the carrying capacity is lost, and that b) with no roof in place, everyone can see you at the wheel. This is very bad. Some, for sure, give you pitying looks. Mostly, though, they point and laugh.
“So how much do you have to pay for the privilege of being a laughing stock? Well in the US, it’s around $29,000 (£16,400). You could buy a clown suit for less and achieve much the same effect. Here, however, a 2.7 litre drop-top Sebring is £25,100 and at that price, I simply don’t know how the salesman keeps a straight face.
“Power? There isn’t any. Spec sheets show that in Britain, a 2.7 litre V6 will do 121mph and 0-62mph in 10.8. But 10.8 what? Years? Let me put it this way. It develops 185bhp, which is pretty much what Volvo can get these days from a 2.4 litre diesel.
“I’m afraid I have no idea which engine was fitted to my rental but I can tell you that all it did was convert fuel into noise. Put your foot down hard and after a while of nothing happening, the gearbox would lurch down a cog and the volume would increase. That was it.
“Sadly, there’s more bad news. Turning petrol into motion, as we know, is an expensive business, but turning it into sound is even worse. We managed just 18mpg. Quite why anyone would buy this rather than, say, a Volkswagen Eos, I simply do not know. You’d have to be so window-lickingly insane that you’d be banned from handling anything other than crayons.
“A Sebring can do nothing well. It was hopeless in crosswinds and the only option you need on a twisty road are sick bags. I n t e r e s t i n g l y , however, while the ride is very soft, the suspension still manages to crash about like a drawer full of cutlery when it is asked to deal with a small pothole.
“And of course, being an American rental car, it came with a warped disc brake and steering that was so out of whack it kept making a beeline for Wyoming. But the worst thing was the overwhelming sense from everything you touched that it had been built by someone who was being deliberately stupid or who was four years old. Life inside that bag of crap plastic gave me some idea of what it might be like to be a boiled sweet.
“We see this with so many American cars. Dynamically, some of them are pretty good these days. One or two are even a match for what the Chinese are doing. And by and large they are still extremely cheap. But there’s a very good reason for this. They are simply not built to last.
“I spent most of my time in America this time in a new Corvette ZR1. It is a fabulous car. Mesmerisingly fast, good looking and amazing value. But after three days the damn thing was beginning to disintegrate. It made me growl with annoyance and despair.
“But I think I know the problem. Because America is a new country, the people who live there have no sense of history. And if you have no concept of “the past”, it is extremely difficult to grapple with the idea of “the future”.
“If you think a bar established in 1956 is “old” then you will not understand the idea of next week. So why bother building for it?
“We see this short-termism in everything from the average American house, which falls over whenever the wind gets up, to the way chief executives are treated. In Japan, you are given 25 years before you are judged on whether you’ve turned the company around. In America, bosses are given two months. And if there’s been no financial about-turn, they are fired.
“And this brings me on to the war in Iraq. They went in there, knowing that pretty quickly they could depose Saddam Hussein. But nobody in power stopped for a moment to think about what might happen next. And there you have it. The insurgency problem in Baghdad and the wonky gearlever on the Chrysler Sebring. They are both caused by exactly the same thing.
“And the only cure, frankly, is time. Give them 2,000 years and they might just start to understand what I’m on about. Until then, do not buy a Sebring. Do not rent one either. Close your eyes, hum and, hopefully, we can make it go away.”
Ouch! CLICK HERE to read it in full.