I should start this review with a moan. You know, the usual; how the modern car market doesn’t cater for drivers who want to combine fun, practicality, affordability and respect from petrolheads. But I can’t, because as you grow wiser in this game, you learn that the car market is driven by corporate economics and the needs of the regular Joes and Joannes who make up the majority of car buyers. Sure, you get the odd homologation special when a rally programme goes belly-up, but in the real world, away from Motor Trend and PistonHeads, the automobile is a functional commodity.
Rallying is a funny old sport. Entirely different to any of its siblings over in the land of tarmac, there’s always been a romance in the dirt tracks, the terrifyingly thronged crowds, and the crackle of gravel in wheel arches. In the past names like Carlos Sainz, Sebastian Loeb, Tommi Mäkinen, and Colin McRae were as resonant with the public as their glamorous, preening Formula 1 counterparts. These days, that’s no longer the case. Even the highest octane petrolheads would struggle to tell you who is competing, where the next race is, or what channel it’s even on. The popular focus is squarely on F1 and increasingly on Formula E. It’s certainly not on rallycross, the FIA’s attempt to introduce a more accessible gateway to ‘proper’ rallying, let alone rallying itself.
And whilst money talks, this is a shame.
There is no such thing as a discrete delivery of a Morgan Plus Four. Even before the clamshell trailer had swung open to release my test vehicle, a small audience had gathered to watch the spectacle on the otherwise sleepy road. Not one to disappoint a crowd, the grinning Morgan delivery driver rubbed his hands and started the engine. A deep, bassy growl prompted a wave of approving nods as the Plus Four’s elegant form gently eased onto the tarmac for the first time since leaving the factory at Malvern. Talk about making an entrance.
They say only those you love can truly hurt you.
So let’s talk about Jaguar.
Scott Mansell is an expert racing driver and coach with 25 years’ experience in competitive motorsport and driver training. He is also the founder of Driver61, which provides in-depth training videos, circuit guides and practical training programmes to help aspiring racing drivers unlock their potential, drive fast on track and win races. We were lucky enough to sit down with Scott to get his insights on driving technique, racing psychology, and what it feels like to drive at the limit…
There is nothing like a BMW for keeping you guessing. Behind the wheel, it’s a constant interplay between the practical and the aesthetic, and you’re never quite sure whether you’re experiencing a quirk of fashion or a stroke of engineering genius. Shepherding the blue and white roundel through town can be an equally mysterious experience for the BMW driver, constantly guessing whether that was a friendly wave from a passer-by, or another British gesture of greeting altogether.
Whatever the case may be, BMWs provoke strong reactions from both the driving public and the automotive press. It’s also a question of trust. With a stable of legendary models behind it, BMW can bank on the luxury of mysterious, brooding competence to sell cars and impress people; but when you feel that trust is being abused, it cuts deep.
Each morning I get up and die a little. My street is an automotive wasteland, each nondescript utility vehicle slightly duller than the next, in a parade of mediocrity stretching towards the horizon. The odd Prius prowls past, cloth seats smelling faintly of the last ten passengers. A dog-eared Nissan Micra quite literally bats its eyelashes, an icy wind blowing through manky plastic tendrils. I turn my face away in shame, just to see a Mercedes estate with busted rear springs rusting quietly into obsolescence, unloved, with only an old shopping trolley for company.
According to the auto magazines, manufacturers are giving up on performance and beauty, shifting production over to profitable and bloated SUVs in an attempt to grab the grey dollar from a non-plussed public. Feels like a bad time to like cars.
The Bentley had been winking at me all afternoon, a brilliant lozenge of luxury making all the cars around it look decidedly underwhelming. The hour came, finally, and I found myself sauntering towards the Continental GT clutching the beautifully machined key. I was Charlie in the horsepower factory; here was my golden ticket.
What is the purpose of the Audi RS5? It’s a question I had on returning the beast to its holding pen. Not that you’d ask that when you first set your eyes on it. The RS5 squats at rest, all dark greens and blacks, daring you to take a ride. It is a car which looks terrifying and alluring in equal measure. With large aggressive alloys, bonnet slashes and an Audi permafrown, it seems to be telling other cars to back off… or else.
As readers of Fitzroy Motor will be aware, the evocative phrase “Race Car For The Road” is a particular favourite of auto manufacturer marketing departments. And no class of consumer vehicle sees as much warfare over the right to be the definitive example of that as hot hatchbacks. An archetypal hot hatch is the ultimate everyday performance car, able to handle Silverstone’s Copse as well as Folkestone’s shops. And while auto mags never tire of declaring a new king of hot hatches, there’s one car which has always had a rightful, not to mention unnervingly consistent, claim to the throne: the Honda Civic Type R.