A mid-week diary because I’ve finished work for the week prior to our hols. We are off to Cornwall for a couple of weeks in search of Poldark and his scythe (for wife and daughter) and Cornish pasties and clotted cream (for me). The clotted cream is for combining with scones by the way, not pasties but there are probably many ladies up and down the country who wouldn’t mind combining clotted cream and Aidan Turner. My wife’s sister’s husband’s sister (hope you kept up with that) might be one of those ladies. She rallies the troops via Facebook just before every episode (“Come on Ladies, get comfy, glass of wine at the ready…..”) and then I think they keep up a “shirt off” count as the story – and Ross’s clothes – unfold. Apparently, you can get a Poldark app which tells you where they filmed which scenes in Cornwall. Fortunately it took up too much room on my daughter’s phone so she had to get rid of it. Unfortunately that means we will have to spend two weeks looking for the clifftop that Mr and Mrs P gallop along six times every episode. Who knows, we may even bump into the man himself – probably having a chat with Doc Martin about a nasty scythe injury (oh dear, the Doc’s just passed out). Anyway, here’s what I got up to in my shortened working week:-
Monday: New Land Rover Discovery 3.0Td6 HSE Luxury; Jaguar XE S supercharged 3.0 V6 (340hp); Jaguar F-Pace S 3.0TD V6
Tuesday: Bentley Bentayga diesel, Crewe, Cheshire to Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire; Volvo XC90 R-design D5, Lutterworth, Leics to Gaydon, Warwickshire to Leicester
Wednesday: Volvo XC90 R-design D5, two Bentley Bentayga diesels and a Ford Transit Connect in and around Leicestershire
After more than a year of doing this driving work, I have driven a car which I actually covet! Up to now I have only lusted after a van (the VW Transporter Kombi) but the Jaguar XE S is a car I really would like to take home – discrete looking but fun to drive. The journey from Bruntingthorpe airfield (where the local JLR dealer had been displaying some cars at a show) is quite short but covers several miles on twisty country lanes. Perfect territory for the XE. I have driven a couple of manual diesel XEs and described in an earlier post how well the XE goes round corners. However, I wasn’t that impressed by the manual gearbox (despite normally preferring manuals). But this XE S was a very different proposition with a decent automatic box and some fairly serious petrol power. So, think of all the clichés you can about feeling a part of the car, fine handling, balance, grip and turn-in and add smooth gear changes, sprightly acceleration and a decent sound. The sound is not in the same league as a Bentley V8 but interesting enough. A more revvy engine than the lazy V8, it reminded me a bit of a motorbike but with a deep voice. I was following a colleague who said the XE just totally looked the part in his rear view mirror as it negotiated the bendy bits.
By contrast (and I know I shouldn’t really compare), the new Discovery was a bit of a fish out of water on the country roads. Like the Range Rover I drove a few weeks ago, it wallowed round corners and got thrown around by the lumps and bumps. Ironically, it presumably finds its niche on much bigger lumps and bumps off-road and no doubt it would be right at home on the motorway where there are no bumps at all (or rather where there’s not supposed to be any bumps). It was nice inside though.
A fairer comparison would be between the Discovery and the F-Pace so it was interesting driving them back to back. In short, if you like going round bends and must have a 4×4/SUV thing, buy an F-Pace. More accomplished and confidence-inspiring….. unless, you have serious off-road requirements in which case (by reputation not my own experience) you’ll probably want a Land Rover product. It was whilst contemplating the issue of bumpy roads and their effect on the Discovery and the F-Pace that I realised I couldn’t remember bumps registering with me at all when driving the XE. So, along with the Ford Fiesta and my Sprite, I think I have a new favourite car. And guess wot??!! We won the Premium Bonds this month!! So …….. unfortunately, it was only £50. But I suppose that will buy quite a few pasties and tubs of clotted cream. Possibly with some left over for Poldark and Demelza action figures for my wife and daughter.
Finally, a few photos from Birdingbury Country Show that I went to on Sunday. Classic cars, commercial and military vehicles, steam stuff plus loads of tractors. This meant a sixty mile round trip in my Sprite to the venue just south of Rugby. The Sprite performed perfectly.
Quite busy this week so I earned a few pennies. You couldn’t earn a living doing this driving work because it is very poorly paid. I think of it as a pleasant pastime with the bonus of a bit of pin money. Enough for the weekly gruel ration and to fund my wife’s turmeric habit. This golden spice is the latest superfood discovery in our household. Half a teaspoonful in porridge (I haven’t plucked up enough courage to try it myself yet) apparently ensures eternal life and cures every form of illness known to humankind, except jaundice. Well, it may cure jaundice but since turmeric turns you yellow, it is difficult to tell. Anyway, here’s what I drove this week:-
Monday: Jaguar XE 2.0d 180 R-Sport manual and Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 180 HSE auto, Rockingham, Northamptonshire to Leicester
Tuesday: Vauxhall Vivaro van, Bourne End, Buckinghamshire to Aldershot, Surrey; Peugeot Expert van (2012), Aldershot to Blackbushe Airport, Surrey
Thursday: Bentley Mulsanne Speed (2015), Leicester to Southend-on-Sea, Essex
Friday: Mercedes E220d AMG Line auto, Nottingham to Leicester
So, mostly quite posh fare this week apart from the two vans on Tuesday, although the Vivaro (a Renault Trafic with a Vauxhall badge) is a lovely van to drive.
You may have noticed I delivered cars to Rockingham twice last week and collected a couple from there on Monday. That’s because horse trials were held on Rockingham Castle estate last weekend (scene of one of my best driving days out!). Apparently, the atmosphere at the trials was tense as five horses were found guilty and two were acquitted. One horse was sentenced to life imprisonment. That’s a lot of porridge and, if he adds turmeric, a very long time. Daylight Robbery is still protesting his innocence but with a name like that, I think he’s flogging a dead …. Sorry, think I better stop there.
Driving the Jaguar XE back from Rockingham confirmed a niggle about this car that I had when I drove another manual example last year – the whole experience of changing gear leaves a little to be desired. The gear change itself is not the slickest, I don’t find the flat-topped, brushed aluminium gear knob very tactile (maybe that’s just me) and the slightly high, fixed centre armrest under your elbow doesn’t leave your arm in a totally natural position for changing gear manually. Maybe they forgot about the manual version when designing the armrest because it would not be an issue in an automatic (by all accounts, the eight speed automatic available in the XE is very good). Apart from that niggle, the XE is great. You really feel a part of the car, the steering is sharp and precise, it rides well and there is plenty of punch from the 180hp diesel engine.
Taking a Bentley on a trip to the seaside on one of the hottest day of the year sounded nice and indeed, until I got to within six miles of my destination, it was. However, my plans to have a quick peek at the sea en route to the train station after delivering the car were scuppered by a serious incident on the main route into Southend-on-Sea. I sat stationary on the A127 dual carriageway for quite a while as emergency vehicles picked their way between the two lanes of traffic. Eventually, a policeman wandered along (on foot) and started getting the cars and vans just behind me to turn around and drive the wrong way down an entry slip road. Then it was my turn. So, there I was coaxing the 5.6 metre, 2.7 ton, £200k+ leviathan round 180 degrees across two narrowish lanes of the A127 under the watchful eye of the policeman and several of my fellow motorists sitting in Golfs, Clios and Transit vans. Half of them were probably thinking “Damn fine motor car. Best of British”. The other half: “Filthy rich b*****d” or worse. I wanted to wind down the window and assure everyone that the car wasn’t mine. However, that may not have been a terribly good idea in front of a policeman. Could have led to an awkward situation (although I don’t think I look like a car thief but then again, I am a bit biased).
It took me well over an hour to do the last six miles and I had a train to catch, so no glimpse of the sea. The Mulsanne Speed I drove last year had an all-black interior. Thursday’s car had lots of off-white leather to lighten the mood and, in my view, looked much better for it. In fact, the almost white leather together with all the very shiny chrome embellishments gave the interior a nautical feel, like the interior of a super yacht. The fact that the Mulsanne is the size of a pocket battleship and its long bonnet noses majestically ahead of you like the bows of said battleship (complete with winged Bentley figurehead) furthers the nautical impression, so at least I had some sort of maritime experience. If you want to read more about the Mulsanne Speed (and a visit to Middle Earth) check out my epic two-part post here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).