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Cultural differences: The joy of trim levels

It’s only natural that a manufacturer should offer several variants of each car it makes. There needs to be a basic ‘I can just about afford to get into one of these’ model, and a, ‘look, my car’s got e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g” grade. And, likely as not, there’ll be an ‘it’s got everything I need, I don’t like to show off” version for those kindly, modest folk in the middle.

In Europe, though, three well-spaced specification grades and an abundant pile of optional extras simply won’t do. We like our cars to wear a badge that denotes precisely how much we’ve paid (or borrowed) for our whip. These things matter a whole lot, particularly when we’ve bought a car from the lower reaches of the range but not, repeat not, an entry-level model. Oh no.

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The Carchive: The Opel Manta

Last week, we plumbed the depths of the filthy lagoon of automotive history, and the turgid corpse that bobbed to the surface was the third-generation Chevy Impala and Caprice. This was a car famous all around the world – mainly for appearing in North American films in police cruiser or yellow cab form.

This week’s subject is rather less internationally renown on the small screen, but is a far more familiar sight on the streets of Europe. It was, nominally, a sports coupe, but – like its rival from the Blue Oval, some versions were sportier than others.

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Interface: Too much information.

We have a simply ludicrous coffee machine where I work. It’s a Wittenborg 9100. I know this because it introduces itself with the line “I’m the Wittenborg 9100” on its high-resolution touchscreen display. The latter has a number of uses, the first of which is to display the menu of hot, yummy beverages this bean-to-cup machine can rustle up. Naturally I choose ‘black coffee’, and as soon as I’ve made my selection a whole new world of needless information is presented.

Half of the display is dedicated to a rolling vista of snow-capped mountains, lush plantations and icy tundra, to entertain you during the brief moments that you’re standing there, waiting for your drink to arrive. The other side of the screen shows a countdown, a red circle that gradually closes around a static image of some coffee being brewed, before closing and turning green. Now, when you can physically see that coffee is no longer dribbling into the cup and hear that the clanking has silenced, the display visually confirms that your drink is ready,

At length, you’re reassured that dispensing is complete, with the invitation ‘please, pick up your beverage’. Every time I use this machine, I think about being behind the wheel and ask myself “do we really need all this information?”.

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The Carchive: The ’79 Chevrolet Caprice and Impala

It’s been several weeks since we last last dipped our bucket into the fetid swamp of motoring past, and trawled up the early ’80s Nissan Patrol. We’re creeping backwards just a couple of years this time, but skipping continents to land stateside again. Welcome back to The Carchive.

North America has produced many iconic cars over the years, some of which are are almost stereotypically obvious. Growing up in the ’80s over 3,000 miles from the Eastern US seaboard, though, I was more frequently exposed to one unmistakable shape than anything else – the 1977-1990 Chevy Caprice.

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The true spirit of the Range Rover Velar

Chris Haining October 18, 2017 All Things Hoon

I recently had a go behind the wheel of the Range Rover Velar, namely the emphatically quick and ostentatious P380 HSE. It has 1980s Ferrari levels of grunt, combined with agility that ensures it doesn’t all leach away in a maelstrom of wobbly, noisy indulgence. But I’m not here to discuss how fantastic it is. I’m here to talk about what it means.

Choosing the Velar name was a bold step. It was that name, as you probably know, that graced the castellated bonnet of the first publicly-beheld example of what would become the Range Rover. It was ground zero. The beginning. Genesis. By using that name, Jaguar Land Rover is inferring that its latest model is the very embodiment of what Range Rover means today. Of course, customer expectation has evolved somewhat since 1970 – the typical SUV buyer is very much in favour of showiness and glitz. But what if you want something that truly reflects the original?

The Land Rover online configurator takes us part way there, but there’s always scope for a little extra fiddling.

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Hooniverse Asks: How did you play with toy cars?

Chris Haining October 17, 2017 Hooniverse Asks

Clumsiness in my study the other day saw a number of things rolling from my bookcase and landing on my head. Among them, this Mazda RX500 and Citroen CX Familiale. I held them aloft for close inspection, and suddenly realised that I had done exactly the same thing thirty years ago. In fact, that was pretty much my favourite thing to do.

“Top Gear” was my favourite game to play when alone with a collection of toy cars, but it didn’t involve powerslides, lap times or getting into ‘hilarious’ scrapes. No. It entailed my laying on the floor, looking at the cars close up as if recreating an endless variety of camera angles. Occasionally I’d do tracking shots, moving my eye past the car and blinking slowly to fade between scenes. I’d do my own commentaries, too, of course.

There were times that I participated in group play sessions with other kids, and that didn’t always go well

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Understanding endurance – Feeling it in my bones.

Chris Haining October 12, 2017 All Things Hoon

Every time I commence a challenging journey, I am beset with concerns – not all of which direct to the aged nature of the vehicles at my disposal. I’m talking about really long journeys, the kind that you can’t see the end of, that take on unfamiliar roads and unforecasted weather. This last weekend, I found just this happening – except there was no car involved.

It was called the Saltmarsh 75, a two-day organised trek around one of the most meandering sections of British coastline, that just happens to be within my home county. My wife and I had attempted it back in 2015 – we got 54 miles through it before our mechanical makeup flaked out on us. This time, this wouldn’t happen. This time, we would properly assess our endurance, just like all those times I had taken a frail car on a trip that could end up killing it.

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The futile pursuit of HiFi on the road.

Chris Haining September 29, 2017 All Things Hoon

Whether you’re shopping at the ‘sensible family car’ end of the market, or considering spending gigabucks on a serious luxury bruiser, you’re likely to find an upgraded audio system on the options list.

Their names are eyecatching – Harmon Kardon, Bang and Olufusen, even the contraversial BOSE carries a certain amount of cachet, and the packages they’re attached to can be impressively sophisticated. You’ll invariably find a generous sprinkling of speakers, a subwoofer or two and perhaps a digital sound processor for ‘concert hall’ effects. In the showroom, when spinning a favourite CD (or an MP3 if you’re one of these modern people) as a pre-purchase test, it’ll sound very impressive indeed.

The problem comes when you hit the road.

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Some horseboxes are wasted on horses

Chris Haining September 28, 2017 All Things Hoon

Who didn’t enjoy building dens as a kid? Whether it be in the forest, using fallen branches and fern fronds to build a camouflaged hidey-hole, or taking snacks and a book under the dining room table – there’s something remarkably appealing about setting up a cosy retreat in a confined space. My parents probably assumed it was a phase when they found I had taken to sleeping in the blanket compartment beneath my bed rather than in the regular configuration, but I had a little radio and a flashlight in that secret miniature room, and it was just so much more fun than laying atop the mattress.

I reckon this was the earliest sign of my ongoing fascination with deliberately compact living compartments. I remember being in awe when I peered through the tiny glass porthole into a driver’s compartment for one of the coaches that served school. It looked comfortably padded, with a reading light and a radio speaker. Then I started visiting boat shows and exploring yachts. The biggest ones, thinks like the Princess 66, were alright, but they were too conventional; too spacious to really interest me. In fact, it was the clever space management of a double berth below the cockpit sole in a Maxum 2500SC that really captured my imagination. As well as, perhaps ironically, the cramped crew quarters of that very same 66′ Princess.

I’m 36 now, and the fascination is still with me. So when I spent the weekend at my Aunt’s stud farm for her birthday, I wasn’t too disappointed when all the bedrooms were taken and the pool house was fully occupied. In fact, I was quite excited. My overnight accommodation had a Scania keyring.

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The Carchive: The third-generation Nissan Patrol

After the Nissan Prairie a fortnight back, and the Citroen Dyane last week, we’re still in Utility Mode here at The Carchive. We’re looking at Datsun / Nissan’s entry to the SUV fray – in the early days of that phrase having traction, so to speak.

It’s fair to say that the Datsun Patrol rather lived in the shadow of the Toyota Landcruiser – the latter was famous as the darling of the Australian Outback, even though the Patrol was no stranger to equally dusty climes and certainly substantially more dependable than, oh I don’t know, a Land Rover or something.

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