Whee, it’s a tax-dodging style guru’s dream ride (Nissan Navara)
“In theory what you try to do in PR is raise awareness and shape public perception. But in reality what you do is také journalists and radio disc jockeys out for lunch and try not to look too embarrassed when they don’t turn up.“ (7)
“Though quite why anyone might want a pick-up truck I have no idea. They are, to the world of cars, what Mexican food is to the world of cuisine. They exist, they are popular in Texas, and, er, that’s it.“ (9)
Wiggle your hips and drive like a Norwegian (Mercedes ML 320)
“This is the weird thing about Norway. On the surface it appears to be a monochrome and rather chilly version of Britain. There’s the same northern European efficiency, the same things make us laugh, and the town centres are full of vandals who like to key your car.” (11)
These Frenchies will never learn (Peugeot 407 Coupé)
“And then they (Peugeot) they made a mistake. They decided to stop making exciting cars, a move that culminated in the arrival of 607, surely the most dreary and underwhelming device in the history of mechanized transport.“ (21)
Get one fast before they muck it up (BMW M3 CS)
“Today I loathe, with a furious passion, all car clubs. The notion that you’re going to get on with someone because he also has a Mini is preposterous. … The Ferrari Owners’ Club is particularly depressing because they all have carpet warehouses in Dewsbury and creaking £10,000 rust buckets from the Seventies and Eighties.” (52)
It’s sex, but not as we know it (BMW Z4)
“Then you stepped inside (BMW Z4) and, my God, it got worse. It was a cocktail of plastics that neither looked nor felt satisfying in any way. Then you discovered the designer was an American and you thought: well, that figures.” (61)
“At £42,795 the new car (BMW Z4 M) is £19,000 more expensive than the cheapest Z4. Which is like building a ten-bedroom mansion in the roughest part of town. And let’s not forget that the base Z4 is not that far removed from the Pifco Z3, which was more a hairstyling tool than a car.” (63)
If you see it in your mirror, surrender at once (Volkswagen Transporter T30 TDI 174 Sportline)
“A pick-up truck, to me, should be nigh on indestructible and designed by someone who only had access to a ruler, whereas the new L200 is all soft curves and brushed aluminium. Furthermore, a pick-up should only be sold in America.” (65)
“In America, everyone wants to be a part of the great outdoors. They like the idea of cutting down trees and shooting critters in the spine.” (66)
“What’s more, in America everyone wants to be a factory worker. They seem to find manual labour and engineer boots rather noble. Bruce Springsteen has more money than God but unlike Britain’s rock gods, who wear tweed and Armani, he dresses like he’s spent all day up a telegraph pole. Only in America could there have been a song called ‘Wichita Lineman’. An ode to a man who spends all day long driving around a useless state, in a pick-up truck, looking for broken telephone wires.” (66)
“Here, Dave Gilmour has never seen a BT engineer in Hampshire and thought: ‘Yes. I envy your clothes, your hairstyle, your life and your wheels so much I’m going to immortalise you in a song.’As a result, we’ve never been treated to a ditty called ‘Winchester Lineman’.” (66)
“Whatever; If you marry a love for the great outdoors to a sense that the ‘working man’ is a king, then you end up with a country where the bestselling vehicle is a pick-up truck.” (66)
“What’s more, we have no real respect for the working man. He’s very useful, of course, when your washing machine breaks. But you’re not going to dress like him. Or talk like him. And you certainly have no ambition to drive the sort of vehicle he drives. Because that would be a van.” (66)
Breaking the law just got easier (Peugeot 207)
“The 207 model I drove was the S version which had five doors and a 1.4 litre engine that produces some horsepower. It comes as standard with power steering, remote central locking, antilock brakes, air-conditioning, many airbags and – get this – body-coloured door handles. You know a car firm is struggling when they mention stuff like this.” (77)
Now the rich can buy a car just like you (Maserati Quattroporte)
“If you are poor, or fairly poor, life is full of exciting choices. Eating out, for instance. You’ve got KFC, Wimpy, McDonalds’s, Burger King, the local Indian, the Chinese takeaway and, for those special occasions, the Harvester. Things, on the other hand, are pretty bleak for those who have a substantial disposable income. Because where are you going to eat? I know of several hundred towns in Britain that have no decent restaurants at all.” (79)
“If you want to spend £15,000 on a new set of wheels, it’s like you’re looking at the marketplace through a kaleidoscope of colour and choice. But for those looking to spend between £60,000 and £120,000, things are considerably more tricky.
‘Pah’, you might think, if you’ve just bought a second-hand Vauxhall Astra. You could buy a Ferrari for £120,000. And indeed you can. It’d be an F430 as well, which comes with just about the best chassis of any car made today and an engine that doesn’t roar or purr. It howls.
Unfortunately, none of this matters because you won’t actually be going anywhere in your Ferrari. It’s too much like hard work, and after a while you will become bored with chiselling a dried-up fountain of phlegm from its flanks.
So, a Porsche 911 then? Of course, this has much of the Ferrari’s appeal and performance but none of the Latin histrionics. It really is a car you can use every day. But it earned a reputation in about 1986 as a car for onanists, and even today some of that image still lingers.
Yes, sure, you could buy a cheaper Porsche. A Coxster perhaps. But then you would be seen as someone who couldn’t quite afford a 911. Or maybe you could buy a Cayenne. But then you would be seen as someone who has no taste or style.
This brings us straight to the door of Aston Martin, whose current and extraordinary success is, I’m sure, largely because of Porsche’s image failings and the phlegm magnet that is a Ferrari.
If you buy an Aston Martin, you will not be spat at, you will not be given the bird, and you will have a very pretty car. Something you will have many hours to contemplate because, as a general rule, Aston Martins have a habit of not starting if you leave them alone for more than a couple of minutes.” (80)
It’s the best but there is a big catch (Porsche 911 Turbo)
“The Germans, on the other hand, do have humour. It’s just tuned a little differently from ours. To prove this, I shall now tell you a German joke. A man is out shooting rabbits with his friend. He takes aim and misses, slightly to ze left. So he reloads, aims again and misses by the same margin to the right. He then puts his rifle away. ‘What are you doing?’ says the friend. ‘Well,’ says the man, ‘on average, ze rabbit is dead.’
To us, this is about as funny as soil. But tell it to a German and you’d better make sure the St John Ambulance people are on hand, with oxygen. … Our humour is based around cruelty whereas there it is based around maths (and farting, obviously.)” (89)
At long last, that hybrid hocus-pocus has a point (Lexus GS 450h SE-L)
“But saving polar bears, of course, is not the point of a hybrid car. The point is not to save the planet but to be seen trying.” (94)
Don’t all point and laugh at once (Nissan Micra C+C Essenza)
‘So let’s begin at the meeting where I presume someone decided that what the world needed most of all was a Nissan Micra with a heavy and complicated folding metal roof.
Now we all know that meetings don’t work.
All of them – with no exceptions – are a complete and utter waste of everyone’s time. Show me someone who goes to a lot of meetings and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t have a proper job.:’ (101)
Ice-cool cutie, you stole my heart (Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder)
“The company began making industrial heaters but quickly the proprietor realised that this was a waste of his name. If you’re called Stan Arkwright you can make industrial heaters, but if you are called Ferruccio Lamborghini you need to start making cars with guns on them, for Rod Stewart.” (104)
My favourite car?
“He appeared to be completely normal, just an ordinary man with two eyes, a nose and a pair of trousers, tootling up the motorway at a reasonable 70 mph. And yet he obviously wasn’t normal at all because he was driving a Lexus SC convertible.
This means that at some point in the recent past he’d spent a not inconsiderable £54.778 on a car which has the ride quality of wood, the style of a burns victim and all the excitement of being dead. Plainly then, he was a mentalist.
Further down the road I saw a fat woman who also carried an air of human-ness about her. But she too was obviously a certified window-licker because she was driving, in public, in a three-cylinder Hyundai Accent diesel. She would no doubt argue that it’s cheap. Absolutely. But so is self-immolation.
The Accent diesel performs with the gust of a light breeze and corners with the relish of an oil rig. It is, I think, one of the three worst cars money can buy. And remember, it’s made by people who think One Man and his Dog is a cookery programme.” (114)
Très bien – a plumber in a tux – Citroën Berlingo Multispace
„It’s also true, of course, that Parisian women are very elegant, but I always think they were put on earth to make Italian clothes look good. And have you ever been in a Frenchman’s house? Holy cow. It’s an orgy or horror: antimacassars, Dralon, floral wallpaper, Formica and chintz. …
France itself is beautiful part of the world and the French language is spoken honey – unless it’s being used in a pop song, obviously; in which case it’s as attractive as an inside-out horse.
But just about everything the French make or do is lumpen, ugly or odd. This is especially true of their cars.
If you asked anyone to name the ten best-looking cars ever made, not a single person with functioning retinas would put a French car on their list. Renault occasionally does something appealing like the Avantime, but mostly it believes we’ll buy its cars specifically because they’ve got big arses. Peugeot can do a good-looking car but only when it pays Pininfarina to design it. Left to its own devices, it mostly does bland, with occasional gusts of awfulness like the 309. That really was a mobile wart.” (126)
“Today, though, Citroën is starting to buck the trend. The C5 is exceptionally good-looking. The C6 has great presence, and if you drive through town in a C4, no one is going to point and laugh. But then, just when you think Citroën has got the idea, out pops the new Berlingo.” (126)
Watch out, this nipper’s tooled up – Ford Fiesta Titanium 1.6
„The anti-car lobby can never win its argument until it begins to understand that here in the West the car is not a tool. It is not a white good. It is not an alternative to the bus or the train. We do not buy cars like we buy dishwashers and toasters. It’s not a decision made on cost or practicality and it certainly has nothing to do with the environment. Otherwise, everyone would have a Hyundai Accent with a three-cylinder diesel engine. Or a bus pass.” (189)
„However, in what we must now call the developing world, it doesn’t work like that. Cars are not substitutes for empty underpants. They are not glamorous. They are white, made in Korea and really nothing more than vinyl oxen with wheels.“ (189)
„In places with earthquakes and mud and flies, zero to 60 is irrelevant. And good looks mean that some of the interior space must have been compromised. A Hyundai van with twelve seats and a diesel engine. That’s what gets them going in Nigeria. … That’s why no one in Vietnam wants a Lamborghini. It doesn’t have enough seats. It uses too much petrol. The import taxes are too high. The roads are too rough.“ (190)
An adequate way to drive to hell – Vauxhall Insignia 2,8 V6 4×4 Elite Nav
„I was in Dublin last weekend, and had a very real sense I’d been invited to the last days of the Roman Empise. As far as I could work out, everyone had a Rolls-Royce Phantom and a coat made from something that’s now extinct. And then there were the women. Wow. Not that long ago every girls on the Emerald Isle had a face the colour of straw and orange hair. Now it’s the other way around.“ (194)
Out of nowhere, my car of the year – Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
„Strangely, however, the Chrysler is not the worst car I drove all year. That accolade rests with the diesel-powered Kia Sedona people carrier.
With the Sebring, you get the impression that the designers and enginess couldn’t be bothered to make a good car. With the Sedona you are left with the distinct impression they simply didn’t know how.
I cannot conceive of how empty, pointless and lacking in ambition or style your life must be for the Sedona to be a solution.” (210)
“It’s said you can’t be too beautiful or too rich but you can have too much power. Because one minute you’ll be overtaking a lorry and the next you’ll go mad and want to invade Poland.” (210)
Perfect, the car for all seasons – Range Rover TDV8 Vogue SE
“When it comes to taking a vacation, we only really need France.
It has beaches on the Atlantic coast where you can surf, and more on the south coast when you can spend all day pretending not to look at breasts. It has mountains for skiing and hiking. It has the best cheese in the world, the best mustard in the world and the best wine in the world.
I could go on, so I will. It has the best weather in the world, the best scenery in the world and it’s even replete with funny-looking little locals who sit outside their houses in baggy clothes. But, unlike poor people in, say, India or Brazil, they don’t pester you for money, or try to sell you paper napkins and hot dogs at the traffic lights.” (244)
“James May once said that France only exists so we can drive more easily to Italy but this, I’m afraid, proves the man is mad. Because France has everything anyone could ever want from a holiday destination and, of course, it’s right next door.” (245)
“Indeed, I have decided there is a simple answer to every choice we face in the world today. Brand of television? Sony. Music? The Stones. Pin-up? Carla Bruni. Religion? Buddhism. Phone? iPhone. Newspaper? The Sunday Times.
And that brings us on to sport. Rugby is too complicated. Cricket is to dreary. Golf is for Freemansons from the Order of St Onyx. The fact is that you can’t beat football. It’s easy to understand. It flows nicely. And there’s always a local team you can support. What more do you want?” (245)
Flawed but fun – Alfa MiTo 1.4 TB 155bhp Veloce
“And this brings me neatly onto the question of watches. For some time now, I’ve been on the hunt for a new one, but the choice is tricky.. I couldn’t have a Breitling because I don’t own an Audi. I couldn’t have a Calvin Klein because they are pants, I couldn’t have a Gucci because I’m not a footballist’s wife, I couldn’t have a TW Steel because my wrist isn’t big enough to sport something that can be seen from space. I coulnd’t have a Tissot because I’m not eight and the only things in the world worse than a fake Rolex is a real one.” (249)
When the beeping stops, you may go (Lexus LS 460 SE-L)
“And to make matters worse, half their [army people] acronyms take longer to say than the words they’ve replaced. The late Douglas Adams once joked tha the nine-syllable www abbreviation was the only TLA [three-letter acronym] that took longer to say than the words it replaces. But he’d obviously never talked to an army chap about an IED. This means improvised explosive device. Which means bomb.
And then you have ACV, which means armoured combat vehicle. Which means tank. Or ADW, which means air defence warning. Which means siren.
Business are similarly guilty. Instead of talking about work in China (two syllables), they talk about going to the PRC (three). And what’s more some even refer to the time it takes to get there as P2P, meaning pillow to pillow, which is just about the most custardish thing I’ve ever heard.” (214)
I saved a little girl’s life in this (Bentley Continental GTC)
“Do not, however, imagine that this is some kind of sports car. It isn’t. Bentley, as Ettore Bugatti once observed, makes very fast lorries. The Continental GTC has more in common with a Scania than a Ferrari, and that holds true even when you push the sport button.” (223)
Trying sooo hard not to be a hatchback (Nissan Qashqai 2.0 Tekna 4×4)
“As you may know, I do not like stretched limousines very much. And nor do I care much about the wellbeing of the planet. It’s big and old enough to be able to look after itself.” (237)
It doesn’t have to do anything but arrive (Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe)
“Apart from Griff Rhys Jones in his underpants and Mazda’s international zoom-zoom efforts, almost all car advertisements are better than almost all the programmes they help to fund.” (318)