I can’t quite work out how they got it so wrong. Maybe there’s a language problem between the Swedish engineers and the new Chinese owner. I can’t imagine there are many translators who can manage that combination.. That’s why I almost skipped with delight to the door of the car of the new 640i convertible, and I was looking forward to driving it very much.. And here’s the best bit. Despite the madness, it is not a stripped-out racing car. Unlike Porsche, which removes even the satnav and the radio from its track cars and replaces the back seats with scaffolding, Mercedes has left pretty much everything you could reasonably expect in place. It will even, if you ask nicely and cross its palms with silver, put the rear seats back.. Handling? That’s terrible. The ride? Terrible. Seat comfort? Terrible. And to top it all off, it was plainly styled by a man who gets tumescent at the thought of house bricks, and finished off on the inside with a range of plastics that feel like Cellophane.. It is a remarkable rags-to-riches story and I should like to have met the man who started it all. But do I want to buy one of his cars? No. For the same reason that I’d rather buy cheese in a delicatessen than in Walmart. The ingredients may be the same. The taste may be pretty similar too. But you would rather buy from someone who wants to make cheese than from someone who makes cheese mainly to make money.22 January 2012. Ford has gone the other way. Its hot Focuses look as though they’ve crashed into a motorists’ discount shop and every single thing in there has become attached. Spoilers, vivid brake callipers, scoops, vents. They’re vajazzles with wheels.. The Q3, then. Not practical. Not nice to drive. And technologically, not thought out well, either. So what’s to be done if you want a car that looks like it could go off road but won’t? Especially if you specify the sports suspension that lowers the ride height to that of a centipede.. It’s a mistress, not a wife. You know that it could cook and sew but you wouldn’t want it to do those things. It would be all wrong. If this car knew what underwear was, it wouldn’t wear any.. Can you see Stella McCartney in a Kia Rio or Mick Jagger in a van? James May drives around in a Ferrari, and I’m sorry, but that’s as hysterical as the notion of
Prince Philip turning up to open a community centre in a Mazda MX-5. With Jay-Z on the stereo.. So the new car uses an old name and the same basic engine that’s been in the DB9, the DBS, the Virage and the V12 Vantage. The same basic styling, the same construction techniques and a six-speed automatic gearbox from ZF’s end-of-season everything-must-go discount bin. And the price tag for this rearrangement? Well, before you start with options, it’s a whopping ?189,995.. There are other issues too. This is a car made from a clever, glued-together aluminium and carbon-fibre tub. It has aluminium side-impact beams. It should be so light that it needs mooring ropes rather than a handbrake to stop it floating away. And yet somehow it weighs more than 1.7 tons. Perhaps that’s why it’s so expensive – because the seats are filled with gold ingots.. The company spent a billion quid on designing the new lightweight chassis. And then clothed it in a modern-day interpretation of what made the last car such a massive hit, not just with people who wear nylon shorts at work but also people who wear tweed shorts at play. It is a fantastic car. Not just the best off-roader in the world, but one of the best cars full stop.16 December 2012. Then we get to the climate control. You used to have a choice: warm or cold. Now you can select a temperature – to within half a degree – for each person in the car. This takes about a week. And you don’t have a week because you are way too busy reconfiguring the satnav.. Today, to get away from the rather toffish imagery, car makers call their estate cars by other names. BMW has the Touring and Audi the Avant. And the Americans, of course, the station wagon. Because over there large, practical cars evolved at railway stations, hauling goods from train to train, rather than on grouse moors.. I recently went to see James McAvoy’s new film,Welcome to the Punch. In it he drives a 159 and it looked so sensational that I lost control of what was going on. I love that car. I wish it was still with us. I miss it..