Saturday 20 January 2018

Stars and go-faster stripes

Campbell Spray looks at the chances of going retro, but is quickly brought back to reality with some very solid motors

JUDGING by recent test-drives, I'm either a pimp-cum-drug-dealer or a taxi-driver. The odd thing is that I was given a bit of respect in both roles although the former probably came before they saw there was a stocky, grey-haired driver rather than a flashy fur-coated dude with flairs, gold chains and red brogues. Actually I might change my name to Cam P. Bell in homage to another funky dude.

In the Time of the Tiger, the Volkswagen Scirocco GTS would have been more than useful in supplying the nose and life-destroying powder that fuelled a lot of madness. With its rather obvious, massive, go-faster stripes across its 'Candy White' bonnet, roof, spoiler and boot-lid, the helicopters could easily spot it and swoop down for their purchases. Anyway back to the present; it was a bit of fun on the 18" Thunder alloys although if the 2.0 TDI 177bhp diesel had been replaced by a good petrol unit, it would have been even more so.

The sound and performance didn't quite match the stripes, yet it did at least come into the B2 Tax Band for an annual €280. I have been driving a lot of coupes recently although they are increasingly not my thing as the cars get lower and my joints get stiffer. However, the specific GTS sports seats were great for helping the sore flesh and bones keep some sort of structure. Yet once again the dog wasn't impressed with the coupe as he does like a bit of air through the back windows.

On this issue, I was firmly put in my place by Kia marketing manager Aidan Doyle when I returned the impressive and well-priced Pro_c'eed coupe and gave him Sam's complaint. "Tsk, my good man," he exclaimed in his best Phibsborough accent, "enough of that malarkey, surely you know that no three-door coupe has rear windows that open?" Anyway, he added, "there were more out than in." This seemed to refer to mad people and criminals alike.

The Pro_cee'd (still a silly name) was white, too, although at €22,900 it is a very different proposition from the Scirocco which starts at €34,845 while my GTS pimpmobile was a hefty €37,265 – all prices before p&p. While the Korean may not have the kudos or power with its 1.4 and 1.6 diesels of the German machine, it does have that seven-year warranty. That €10-€15k extra will also buy you a lot of fun although the Kia will never have the solidness, reputation, head-turning ability or desirability of the Volkswagen for certain people.

If the Candy White of the GTS had its followers, the Polar White of the Mercedes-Benz E200 CD1 on test had its own chances to shine. It would have made a very smart wedding car; however, it was a much grimmer occasion that saw it being used to take a few of us back to the office after a past colleague's funeral.

While a couple of more refined passengers weren't impressed with its interior trappings and wanted more wood and touches of real luxury, the E200 is a very polished executive saloon. The E-Class is the bread and butter of Mercedes and its success or otherwise puts all the nancying around of the A-Class in the shade. Some 11 million units have been sold, and while we see the E as an executive car, it is very much a standard taxi in many parts of the world, including its native Germany. The latest E-Class looks far more sculpted than its predecessors and is coming down with comfort and safety equipment. There is lots of leather, electrics, automatic transmission and parking assist on board even on the standard models, which start at €44,305. However, by the time the press car got the Avantgarde trim and the panoramic electric sunroof, it had put on the guts of another €10k.

The car is fast, with a 0-100km of less than eight seconds but still has fairly impressive economy and emissions which, despite its size as a very solid executive model, put it into the €270 road tax bracket. No wonder the State's coffers are empty.

My son-in-law has just got a job for which he has been invited to choose a car in the sector dominated by the E-Class, BMW 5-Series and Audi A6. These are the cars that pack the corporate sector and unfortunately while these cars are at the very pinnacle of their brand's success, none of them has the personality to set you apart unless you put Quattro into the Audi. I am advising him to look to the Volvo S60, Subaru and Jaguar for a bit more individuality and elan. He can come back to the others in 10 years' time.

In the meantime, he better provide for the daughter and their children, pimping and taxi-driving aren't what they were. There's no white knight riding to the rescue, neither three-door nor three-pointed star.

Irish Independent

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