BusinessCar Office's Blog: March
28 March 2007
Author: Tristan Young
Bringing you the exclusive first business drive of the new Mercedes C-class meant a 700km mission of a drive across Spain. Mercedes agreed to...
28 March 2007: Inter-National performance
Bringing you the exclusive first business drive of the new Mercedes C-class meant a 700km mission of a drive across Spain. Mercedes agreed to squeeze us onto an advanced drive event a week ahead of the main party, but it meant a 4.30am departure from home to get to the airport before 6. As it happened, the Dodge Avenger (okay, if you like that sort of thing.) and Nitro (not good) launch was in Seville, and on a map it doesn't look that far across Spain to Valencia.
A pleading call to the ultra-slick National Car Rental (much more customer-friendly than another rental firm that couldn't manage to sort us out with a car for a one-way trip) secured transport, and our carbon footprint was lowered by substituting two flights for a car journey!
We grabbed the keys to a gleaming Citroen C5 diesel from the exceedingly chirpy and helpful staff in Seville, and headed off across Spain, taking regular breaks every two hours of course.
Not for the first time, came the realisation that mile-munching is so much easier abroad. Be it motorway or single-carriageway road, the fundamental lack of traffic, better lane discipline and driving manners and significantly better quality of roads meant completing the distance well under the time you'd expect in the UK, without resorting to silly speeds.
Which, all-in-all, meant we were able to bring you the definitive verdict on the crucial new C-class at least a week ahead of any fleet title. Read the first drive for the full details, but it won't be spoiling the surprise to say that it's good.
22 March 2007: Tax neutral Budget? Not yet.
The Budget was flagged as being tax neutral, but every time I started digging into the Budget report document yesterday it revealed that although all the 'tax taking is happening immediately, the 'tax giving' doesn't happen for a year or two.
Don't know why I'm surprised by this.
13 March 2007: Sign of the times
I often get asked by friends or relatives about what sort of car they should buy - a hazard of the job I guess.
Normally these car-buying questions fall into one of two categories: how much will it hurt the wallet (mpg, purchase price, depreciation and the like) or is it better than such and such other car (speed, acceleration, size, handling and so forth).
For the first time last week I got asked a question that didn't fit either category: "Can you recommend a car that has the lowest CO2 emissions for my commute to work?"
It took me aback because this friend is the last person I would have expected to ask that question.
This person didn't really care about monetary costs - he could easily afford a £15,000 or £20,000 car if he wanted, and he didn't care about space or pace either. All he was interested in was being able to say to his colleagues when he got to work that he was driving a car that was greener than theirs.
Maybe it's a sign the eco message is filtering to the public in general.
Equally, it shows that there's still a way to go before I get asked by friends about taking the train instead of the buying a car for their daily commute.
2 March 2007: Off to the airport
A large portion of the BusinessCar team are off to the airport in the next couple of days to cover the Geneva motor show.
With a bit of high tech geekyness we should be able to bring you the latest news from the show as it happens.
True world debuts are few and far between with pictures leaking onto the internet or released to the press before hand. However, Nissan is promising one. So far all the firm is saying is that it'll be a model for Europe.
One thing's for sure, as soon as we know, we'll bring you the information in our news section.
1 March 2007: A bit like buses
Last week I was discussing the lefthanded-ness of the handles you get inside car boot lids to close them. The first car I'd ever found that had the handle on the left (only) was the Jaguar XK.
Seems those engineers at Gaydon really are all left handed as the Range Rover Sport I'm in at the moment it also left handed.
22 February 2007: Left handed cars
We all have our eccentricities and one of mine is checking cars to see if the boot is designed with both right- and left-handed people in mind.
The majority of cars we test have the internal boot handle on the right of the boot lid. Some have handles on both sides and last night (having just done the week's shopping) I discovered my first left-handed car boot lid, in other words it only had a grab handle on the left.
The car in question was the particularly lovely Jaguar XK.
Does anyone know of any other cars designed for left-handers?
PS I'm right-handed.
21 February 2007: An email from Tony
Got an email from the Prime Minister this morning, but then so did 1.8m other people who signed the petition against road charging.
Check out what Tony's email said.
Number 10 may have been caught on the back foot when this petition was started, but you can feel the might of Labour's spin doctors rounding on this one swiftly with a host of websites you can visit to get more Government information on the subject.
19 February 2007: Move over now
It's a simple rule. Keep left unless overtaking. Well, in this case keep right, but you know what I mean.
Just got back from a week skiing in France. We drove down to the Alps, which is a bit of a mission of a drive, but rapid progress was made easier by the lack of cars on French roads, a higher speed limit (don't get me started on that one!) and by the fact that they can drive!
Within minutes of hitting UK soil after a week away, I was already having to flick the headlights at a random simpleton who hadn't noticed the eight foot piece of M20 asphalt just to his left. It's infuriating. At any given moment, around a third of the British motorway network is redundant because of the number of idiots that can't cope with the simple task of moving left. Why?
Is it basic pig-headed stupidity, a fear of being trapped in the inside lane and having to mix it with the lorries, or just a pride issue? Whatever, they should be picking up a ticket for driving without due care and attention, because if they can't spot a big empty lane, what else are they missing?
Maybe a total rethink of the driving test would help. I can't see how people that learn to drive in towns or on dual carriageways are suddenly presumed to have the ability to drive on motorways, just because they've passed a test. Logisitically it's tricky to incorporate a motorway test into every driving test because we don't all live next to one, so how about a separate motorway test that every new driver has to pass before taking to the three- (or four, or even five!) laners? If you live in the Scottish highlands you won't need to take it, but you're not allowed to drive on an M-road until you've been taught how to. Because I'm going to buy an old Toyota Hilux pickup and start ramming these middle-lane morons off the road if something isn't done!
16 February 2007: How can we trail the US on green initiatives?
Just spotted this picture on a US media website.
This is just one of a new batch of 40 sites in Colorado set up with help from General Motors and the State. What I find difficult to believe is that the US is ahead of the UK in terms of being green. In the UK we have only 14 E85 biofuel outlets.
How can this be?
It ties in with two other things. Firstly, listening to Radio 4's Farming Today (yes I am up that early) this morning and hearing the much used line that there isn't enough land to grow crops for biofuel if the fuel is successful, which seems very short-sighted.
Because, and this is the second thing, I know there are scientists working in the US to develop transgenic (AKA genetically modified) crops that will give a much better biofuel yield and solving the 'not enough space' issue.
Did I just light a blue touch paper on the subject of genetic modification?
Also, gives a new meaning to GM crops.
14 February 2007: Qashing in
Just got back from a morning with VW near Newbury, driving some of their latest cars.
Had a choice of vehicles to get down to Newbury from the BusinessCar carpark and deliberately took a Nissan Qashqai we've got in at the moment. Nissan have been making some bold claims about the interior of its new Golf rival, so this proved the perfect opportunity for a back-to-back test.
I can report the Qashqai lived up to the claims. The interior quality is excellent, both from a fit and finish perspective and a materials quality.
Two other things to report from my morning.
Firstly, is it just me or does the Qashqai look a fraction like an old Rav4?
Secondly, if like me you spent your youth reading about hot-hatches here's a treat. VW had rolled out a Mk1 Golf GTi. Unfortunately it wasn't taxed, so no test drive I'm afraid.
13 February 2007: Dedicated to the cause
Now I know what it's like trying to write your first blog. In the past few weeks I've had several calls and emails from my fellow bloggers asking what they should be writing about and now here I am trying to work out what to write.
To make this easy for me I'm going to write about one of my fellow bloggers.
My original brief included the lines: "The secret to success (measured by the number of people reading your blog) is to make it as interesting as possible. And for 'interesting' read controversial, informative and funny - although it doesn't have to be all three at once."
Renault fleet boss Keith Hawes' response was interesting. He reminded me he could be quite opinionated (which is why I asked him to run a blog) and that if he failed to live up to expectations he said I could fire him.
I'll give him a few weeks before putting up an online petition about his missives.
Keith is already living on borrowed time - I asked for the words to be sent by email and he faxed them. But then he was half-way up an Alp on holiday at the time, which I think shows serious dedication. Not only that, it's a great read too.