Having faith in the youth of today
At last, a decent chance of a few days in the new BMW i3s, Munich’s first stab at a batterypowered hot hatchback. As you can read on page 31, it’s not very sporty, but the firm suspension, quick steering, extra rubber and instant electric energy make you want to give it the beans quite often. Trouble is, you beat people effortlessly off the traffic-light starting grid, then instantly regret it; there’s a ready supply of battery monitors and bar graphs on the instrument panel to warn you instantly of the hole you’ve blown in your driving range.
Thus my drive consisted of enjoyable short blasts followed by bouts of dawdling. The latest i3s has a reliable-ish 110 miles of battery range and about 80-90 more petrol miles. As a potential buyer, I’d find these amounts still too meagre. I’d need a realistic 180-200 battery miles, plus 100120 petrol miles to get me home. Then I’d view the i3s as a serious proposition for the home fleet.
After a few days discovering the future, I dipped pleasantly back into the past at the wheel of a family sized VW Tiguan SUV – officially dubbed the Allspace SE Navigation 2.0 TDI SCR 4Motion. In many ways, this was the perfect car: smooth, spacious, supple, stable with plenty of traction and ground clearance. It also had attractively durable cloth trim, a flexible engine (yielding 46mpg) and all the gadgetry going for £27,000.
You’ll have detected an impending ‘but’, and it concerns this car’s total lack of character. It’s hard to define, I admit, but for me character is about pride. Your characterful car is unique in ways that give you unpredictable pleasure. The Tiguan, however, is a car for which I reckon I’d always be apologising. Having said that, I have a few handy tasks this weekend for which it’ll be ideal…
The Times annoys me sometimes. Having played a big part in the demonisation of diesel engines – and then expressed surprise at the way car sales have declined – my newspaper of choice is today reporting a 20-year, 40% decline in teenagers’ possession of a driver’s licence as if it’s the end of the car industry as we know it. As any teenager will tell you, the problem is caused by a mix of congestion, lack of affordable parking, stratospheric insurance costs, the rise of the bicycle and (in places) better public transport. The wider media would have it that this is a) the beginning of the end for cars, and b) a threat to Autocar-style car enthusiasm. Neither is true. We know from the reaction of younger people that they love and desire cars as much as ever, and will buy them when they need and can afford them. Last year’s UK car sales, clobbered partly by media-fed diesel uncertainty in the final quarter, still topped 2.5 million, the sixth-best on record.
You beat people effortlessly off the traffic-light starting grid, then instantly regret it
Scanning the proofs of this week’s story about my visit to the Ford GT works near Toronto (page 62) leaves me with one abiding feeling: that Ford is entirely right to vet its potential owners to be sure they’re the sort who will appreciate what they’re getting. Cars like this are so finely designed and superbly crafted nowadays that it’s almost an insult to their creators if owners don’t try their hardest to appreciate what’s been done in their name. Too often, one hears of the mega-wealthy individuals arriving with the intro-line: “My friends reckon I should have one of these…”
BMW i3s can get you somewhere in style – so long as it’s nearby
Tiguan’s personality fails to shine through