WEEKLY CAR DIARY – WINDSOR, AUDI A4 AVANTS & VELAR GLUT

An executive kind of week; not a van in sight (not that I would have minded):-

Monday: Audi A4 Avant Sport 2.0TDI (150hp), Leicester to Oakham, Rutland; Audi A4 Avant Quattro S-Line 2.0TDI auto (190hp), Nottingham to Melton Mowbray

Wednesday: Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic S D180 auto, Peterborough to Sheffield

Thursday: Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic SE D180 auto, Long Eaton, Derbyshire to Leeds

Friday: Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic S D180 auto, Peterborough to Windsor, Berkshire

The Audi A4 Avant is such a class act. Unpretentious, no tacky gimmickry, just quality and refinement. I’ve written about the larger A6 Avant before (over here!) and the A4 Avant does everything the A6 estate car does except that it will carry less flat pack furniture in the boot but probably more than enough for most. The drive across country to Oakham in the 150hp version with proper gearbox (manual) was as pleasant as my subsequent walk through the little Rutland town as I made my way to the station. The A4 wouldn’t set many pulses racing but it is surefooted and would be a satisfying car to own. I will add a caveat about tacky gimmickry – the automatic A4 Avant that I drove later the same day had a very ungainly gear selector, a big ugly block. Shame.

IMG_20170922_135539
A Royal presence on the platform of Windsor & Eton Central Railway Station

And three more Velars this week! All three had the same 180hp diesel engine as the one I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. So nothing different in that regard but one was an SE rather than an S – so even more technology! I delivered one of the Velars to Windsor, famous, of course, for Windsor Castle, the largest inhabited castle in the world and one of the Queen’s official residences (and home to the Queen’s stash of chicken tikka). And guess what? I saw the Queen on the platform of the charming little Windsor and Eton Central Station! Only the Queen I saw was a steam engine, a full-size replica of the engine that used to pull Queen Victoria’s Royal train. The station itself has a lovely atmosphere as most of the old station building is now given over to eateries and upmarket shops; the working platform is tucked away almost out of sight. By the way, if you find yourself in a train station in Windsor and can’t see any shops, then you are probably in Windsor and Eton Riverside station (or you need to go to SpecSavers).

If you are in Windsor, a visit to the castle is a must. It is spectacular on the outside and incredibly lavish inside; it’s hard to believe that it was extensively damaged by fire in 1992. The restoration work is amazing. When I last visited a couple of years ago, I was struck by the fact that the castle is right on the flight path for nearby Heathrow Airport. I remember standing in one room with very large windows looking out over the gardens. Planes descending into Heathrow seemed to be coming straight at the castle as if they were going to land on the castle lawn. So, if you do visit the castle remember to hold on to your hat and duck if you hear a plane. I wonder if the Queen wears earplugs at night when she’s in residence?

Windsor is not just about the castle. It is an interesting old town and, if it’s a nice day, don’t forget to wander down and have a stroll along the banks of the River Thames. In the riverside Alexandra Gardens, there is a memorial to Sir Sydney Camm, designer of the Hawker Hurricane and many other Hawker aircraft (including the Hunter). The memorial to Sir Sydney, who hailed from Windsor, takes the form of a replica Hurricane. The Hawker Hurricane, as every schoolboy knows, shot down more enemy aircraft in the Battle of Britain than the Spitfire.

Windsor Hurricane
Replica Hawker Hurricane in Windsor’s Alexandra Gardens. A memorial to the Hurricane’s designer, Sir Sydney Camm.

If you want a proper walk, cross over the old Windsor bridge to Eton (home to Eton College, famous boarding school for rich folk), turn left and keep going. You will quickly find yourself on the Thames Path and in an open meadow from where you will get a great view of the castle towering over Windsor.

Windsor Castle riverside view
Windsor Castle from the River Thames

Finally, going back to the Range Rover Velar – if you think the name “Velar” is a bit pretentious (as I originally did), think again. It has some proper Land Rover history behind it as it was the code name used to conceal the original Range Rover during its development. It comes from the Latin verb, velare, meaning to conceal or cover up. So Land Rover’s marketing folk can be forgiven for that but not for the claim that the Velar has a “Sports Command driving position” (i.e. it’s higher than a normal car). What total, utter …[complete with word of your own choosing]…

Colin

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