However, the engineers can make a difference by fiddling with the steering and the suspension setup, and I must say that in the A7 they have. This does not feel like an Audi. It feels better. The ride is beautifully judged, the handling is lovely and the steering is spot-on. It’s not a sports cake but it’s not a Yorkshire pudding either. It’s just right, in fact, for the fiftysomething chap who wants a stylish hatchback that doesn’t break his spine every time he goes over a catseye. Although, when I say stylish… it isn’t, really. The back looks as though it’s melted and the front is just sort of Audi-ish. Mind you, it must be said that it does have an enormous boot and loads of room in the nicely trimmed cabin for four. Not five, though. There is no centre rear seatbelt.. Everyone wins, except, of course, for your local minicab firm, whose drivers would be forced to sell their horrible, sick-stained Toyotas and get a proper job that doesn’t involve quite so much leching.. Yes, the engine is modern, and as a result it produces very little by way of oxides of nitrogen – wow! However, it also produces very little power, and certainly not enough for a car that weighs more than Scotland. The result is a top speed of 108 mph, which is what most automotive experts call ‘strolling’.. I may have to invent a new star rating for that. Because this morning’s plain Jane diesel – despite the wonky dip switch – is an easy five-star car. It may even be more than that. It may be the new forty-two.30 October 2011. You go to the Geneva motor show and every year there’s some poor chap in a bad suit, sitting in the unlit lowlands of the hall, desperately hoping that someone will notice the terrible car into which he’s ploughed his life savings. And you always think, Why?. I’m in northern Sweden – really northern Sweden – slap bang in the middle of Europe’s last great wilderness. For 300 miles in any direction there is nothing but fir trees and snow. Very late in the morning the sun heaves itself above the horizon, hovers for a moment and then slumps out of sight again. It’s pale, the colour of custard, and entirely devoid of warmth. It’s cold here. Really cold. And I absolutely love it.. I admire the Swedes for the stoic way they continue to go about their business. How they dismiss prangs as part of the price you pay for living among the Arctic foxes and the wolves. But let’s dispel any myth that they have superhuman gifts behind the wheel. Because they don’t.. It didn’t even suffer unduly when the going became extremely rough. Yes, two of the airbags deployed over one nasty jolt, but unlike the estate cars chosen by my colleagues – a Volvo 850 R and a Subaru Impreza WRX – it arrived at the finish line with all its wheels still attached.. It’s because,
deep down, we are all penises and teeth. It’s fight, flight, eat and shag. And we know that given the choice of an unarmed George Clooney or Nicholas Witchell with an Uzi, every woman in the world is going to ignore the Hollywood superstar and tear off the royal correspondent’s trousers.. And, what’s more, the interior styling is every bit as successful as the exterior. Maybe the graphics on the dials are a bit 1977, but I did like the bronze-coloured controls and I loved the Range Rover-style facility for changing the colour of the interior lighting. Very Reykjavik vodka bar, that.. And then there’s the biggest problem of them all. Jaguars have been getting firmer and firmer in recent years. The engineers seem obsessed with setting the cars up to be good at the N?rburgring and nowhere else. But with the F-type they have gone completely bonkers.. There are some other interesting faults as well. This is not a small car. It’s a little larger than a Ford Focus and a little smaller than a Mondeo. But inside it has the headroom of a coffin. Speaking of which, it didn’t do especially well in its Euro NCAP safety tests. The airbag didn’t inflate sufficiently well to stop the dummy driver’s head hitting the steering wheel, and while the feet and neck were well looked after, protection for the thighs and genitals was only ‘marginal’. I make no observation about that. Yet. Of course, as it’s a Chinese car that’s assembled in Longbridge, you would not expect much in the way of quality. And it doesn’t disappoint…. And there’s more. There was a time when we were told that F1 was the launch pad for new technology and new ideas that one day would filter down into our road cars. But I suspect it doesn’t even do that any more.. Think of it as a stout brogue. You can use such a thing on a ruddy-faced country walk. And you can use it while window shopping in St James’s. But you cannot use it in a 100-metre race, unless you want to lose. And that’s what the Range Rover Sport is attempting to be: a brogue that works on the moors and in central London… and on a squash court.. And it’s all going to get worse. Because every year the madmen in charge insist on less and less carbon dioxide, and the only way to achieve that is for cars to burn less and less fuel. Which, to start with, will mean more hybrids, and then as the lunatics keep on going, cars that are purely electric..