Category Archives: Motoring

One Million Mile Lexus Front

The Dream Road Trip in the Million Mile Lexus

Last Summer, I hopped on a plane from Ireland to America where I spent almost four months exploring, meeting lifelong friends and earning money (and then spending it just as quick). But, the highlight of the whole Summer was driving 1,400 miles through California in something rather special – a Million Mile Lexus.

In 1996, Lexus built a white LS400 with cream leather interior. One lucky and eager customer went to the dealership, signed a piece of paper and parted with their hard-earned cash for this luxury saloon. Today, this Lexus still exists and has now clocked almost one million miles. Enter, the Million Mile Lexus.

The Journey to One Million Miles

Some of you may have heard of The Smoking Tire or Matt Farah. Matt, like me, is a car enthusiast and motoring journalist. He has an impressive car collection consisting of a modified Fox-Body Ford Mustang, a Ford Focus RS, an R129 Mercedes SL500, and amongst others, the first generation Lexus LS400. He bought the car over three years ago for $1,500 with roughly 897,000 miles on it. Now sitting on almost 970, 000, he lends the car to his family and friends to clock up the miles to get to one million.

Matt is the fifth owner of the car. He informed me that the second or third owner did the majority of the miles clocking up nearly 720,000. The fourth owner was not so kind to the car by only doing an oil change every now and then leaving Matt to pick the pieces when he bought it. None the less, he drove it from Florida to Los Angeles in 2014 without fault and christened the car The Million Mile Lexus.

I collected the car early on a Sunday morning. I took an Uber from LAX to Culver City where I agreed to meet Matt. He rocked up in the loudest and sickest Fox-Body Mustang I’ve ever seen. Not many people put love and attention towards the Fox-Body but this thing is menacing! But also behind the gate was the 1996 Lexus LS400 that I was going to cover the next 1,400 miles in. But it wouldn’t be much of an adventure without a rocky start, would it?

The First and Second Hiccup

No, so first up was the battery. The car was sitting for less than 24 hours having been with Matt’s friend for a couple of weeks. But despite that, the car still wouldn’t start. A quick jump start and the V8 bursts into life. Matt told me that the brake lights stick on when the car is parked due to a faulty switch. The way around it? Pretty much bounce on the brake pedal as if it was a trampoline until the red hue of the halogen bulbs has disappeared. All in the name of one million miles, right?

Anyway, I was on my way… almost. I spent couple of days around Venice Beach and doing the Irish proud by getting so sunburnt that I was still paying for it almost two weeks later. This could be considered the second hiccup but instead the second came in guise of a parking ticket. I would like to thank LA for having dedicated days for street cleaning. My fault though because the signs are plastered all over the street telling you to not park your car during the allotted times. Ah, sure look!

Let’s start this Road Trip!

$75 later and I finally started my journey towards San Francisco on Wednesday. I decided to take the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), because when in California… I knew that there were a couple of spots along PCH that had been affected by a landslide in May 2017. Knowing this, I continued to cruise along it for as far as I could. My thinking was that I could just detour close by and jump on the 101, like Google Maps was screaming at me since I left Malibu. But much to her despair, I kept on the PCH until San Simeon. It was here that realisation hit me in the shape of a flashing, orange sign. Said sign was informing me that there was a road block 20 miles up the road without a detour. I gave in to Google Maps at this stage and headed back 10 miles towards the 101. It was now approaching 7pm. The next four hours were spent sitting on cruise control and scrolling Spotify for something to keep me alert.

These four hours were probably the most comfortable hours of my life. Although sitting on galactic mileage, the interior only suffers from minimal wear and tear. 21 years of entering and exiting the Million Mile Lexus, the leather on the door was telling its tale through a worn and torn patch in the leather. The centre console cubby hole is filled with broken phone cables, cassette tapes and numerous empty rolls of Sellotape, probably holding more than a few interior bits together. The Belkin cassette adapter pumps music through the speakers keeping me alert throughout my journey.

This 5-speed auto is at home on the motorway, even if the cruise control is a bit temperamental when wanting to stay on or not. The auto “slush-box” is mated to the 245hp, or 264hp I’m not entirely sure which version I had, 4.0 V8 petrol which lets off a majestic rumble when you pull off. In Ireland, it is understandable that these cars are gently dying off because of our tax system. If the Million Mile Lexus lived in Ireland, the owner would have to put up with €1,809 tax bill.

After rolling into San Francisco at 10pm, a much needed beer was had and then it was off to bed, or couch rather. Thankfully the friend who I was staying with was near to Haight and Ashley, well known for its 60’s movements. Finding things to do in the city was not hard to come by. I only had the day in SF before I moved on so I planned nothing and just strolled around the city aimlessly. That night was interesting spending it in a Tiki Bar drinking some flaming and strong rum based drinks.

Bye Bye San Francisco, Hello Lake Tahoe!

The next morning got off to rough start, for me not the car. Armed with a bucket load of coffee, I headed across country towards Napa Valley. Unfortunately, but thankfully for my liver, I did not get to do any wine tastings but I did drive by countless vineyards and just took in the scenery in general. Having become found of wines like Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, it was cool to see one of the most well-known regions for these wines.

I rolled into Lake Tahoe at 6pm that night to an Airbnb that looked like it was out of a horror movie. The only reassuring thing was that there were other houses beside it who would be able hear my screams, if needs be…

I spent the following day doing outdoorsy things because otherwise I’d feel guilty. I rented a mountain bike and explored the coast of Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake. Having gone from living in Chicago for three months and then spending a week in California, I immediately regret not coming to Cali sooner. Illinois has Chicago. California has San Diego, LA and San Francisco and between these major cities, scenery that puts the “Windows” screen saver to shame.

After a day of exploring Tahoe, a flight to NY beckoned so it meant that I had to drop the Lexus back to LA. Heading down the mountain from Tahoe put the brakes to the test. Stopping every 20 to 30 minutes became the norm as I let them cool down. 8 hours on the 395, a road that can only be described as one of the most beautiful highways in the world, and I was finally back in Santa Monica.

Farewell Million Mile Lexus

I dropped back the Million Mile Lexus to Culver City early on Monday morning. As I turned the key for the final time, the V8 settled down and went back to sleep. A sincere thanks to Matt for letting me enjoy the journey through California in the Lexus, it genuinely wouldn’t have been the same in any other car. Character is the fore front of this car and it doesn’t deserve a better owner than Farah himself. Thanks Matt, I’ll be back. Don’t you worry!

Reflecting back on my week, I saw a state that I could only dream was as actually beautiful as it is. I’ve wanted to go to California for a very long time and being there only made the experience better, it did not disappoint. I could have pestered the PR people from GM, BMW or Audi, and not have got anywhere. Or I could have taken a car that has seen America countless times and has a history to go with it. The Million Mile Lexus was flawless throughout my 1,400 miles with it. I dropped it back with 967, 316 miles on the clock. Except for the battery at the start of the trip, the car did not once splutter. After driving it, why everyone doesn’t have a Lexus LS400 on their drive way is beyond me. Buy one!

Mazda Mx-5 front

Mazda MX-5 – Review

The Mazda MX-5, the Mazda Miata or the Mazda Eunos Roadster – An iconic Japanese roadster that has made its mark globally is now in its fourth generation. I had spent a little bit of time with the car last Summer with CBG in Ireland on a photoshoot . When I drove it, it was exactly what I had expected – a lightweight, open top, effortless car that is cheap. So now that I am both in Chicago and it has been a year since I last drove it, do I feel the same way? Or a better question, should it be overlooked now that the Mazda MX-5 RF is available?

Mazda Mx-5 front

Japanese Architecture Meets Japanese Engineering

For anyone who is interested in architecture will be familiar with the name Frank Lloyd Wright and his most well-known work, Falling Water. Wright began his career in the suburbs of Chicago so it was a no brainer that I had to visit Oak Park. Wright is known for his eccentric yet modern, simplistic houses constructed between 1889 and 1959. He spent some time living in Japan where he brought back some design ideas from the temples which can be seen on some of his work in Oak Park.

Mazda Mx-5 front

Similarities between the MX-5’s KODO design and Wright’s clear and crisp straight lined architecture lines can be seen. The MX-5’s squinty headlights don’t pay homage to the MK1 (NA) MX-5 that we all know and love with its innocent pop-up headlights. Nor do the rear angular lights represent the NA’s ones in all their oval-ness. No, the ND MX-5 is one that is completely new, unseen in today’s automotive world. Nowadays, we settle for the newer model of cars. The BMW 3-Series, for example. The new one is just a slightly different rendition of the previous generation one. This tactic makes previous-gen owners feel like they haven’t been cheated but new-gen buyers feel like they are getting a totally new car. Something in which Frank Lloyd Wright wouldn’t have approved.

Mazda Mx-5 rear

Even from the cabin, looking out over the bonnet the car gives a sense of purpose and presence. What, with the bonnet bulges each side giving it a sense of length. It reminds me of the Triumph TR6. Inside, you begin to see the budgeting side of the MX-5. There are cheap plastics making up the dash, A-pillar, centre console and the cubby hole between the driver and passenger. The leather seats are held together with contrasting red stitching, a familiar sight in Mazda cars. The infotainment system does the job. Mazda still hasn’t found out about Apple CarPlay or Android Auto just yet in the MX-5 but phone connectivity is easily done.

Mazda Mx-5 interior

Out On The Mother Road

But the Mazda MX-5 is best known from the moment the key is turned, or rather from the moment the Start/Stop button is pushed in the ND’s case. The four-cylinder 2.0 155hp engine bursts into life. How do you know? The gear stick vibrates with purpose and the twin-exhausts shout from a stand-still. The sound from the exhaust, is an interesting one. There is no burble or particular song from them. More just, a sound. A sound to let you know that there is an engine there ready to be worked to every inch of the tachometre.

Mazda Mx-5 side

Illinois isn’t known for its great driving roads or iconic S bends. But none the less, I was determined to have fun. So much so, that I met up with the Windy City Miata Club (WCMC)  – A car club dedicated to the appreciation for the small British-esque roadster. But what Illinois, more so Chicago, is known for is The Mother Road. Yep, I was going to take on a whopping 50miles of the 2,451miles of Route 66 with my fellow MX-5ers. This is when I truly fell for the Mazda MX-5. My father and I are Triumph TR6 owners so I understand the sense of obsession around a particular brand or model of car. Each Mazda MX-5 owner from the WCMC had a passion for the roadster and an urgency to keep them on the road. From the 1989 NA all the way up to mine, a 2017 ND, they were each appreciated with no disregard. With an automatic gearbox or manual. Stock or modified.

Mazda Mx-5 front

It’s in the news every day that electric cars are going to take over and that the petrol engine will be dead and gone. But I have no doubt Mazda will be able to pull off the MX-5 for another 28 years. Its iconic design, the way it drives and the fact that it costs from €27,995 makes it so desirable. Frank Lloyd Wright would have been proud to see his iconic home being complimented by something even more iconic, the Mazda MX-5.

chrysler 300c road trip

A Road Trip in a Chrysler 300C

What happens when you get given the keys to a Chrysler 300C for a couple of days? You embrace the oversized American car lifestyle. But, what happens when you get given the keys to a Chrysler 300C for a couple of days while in the States? ROAD TRIP!

chrysler 300c road trip

I went in search of windy and twisting roads up in Wisconsin, 100 miles North of Chicago, Illinois. But once I let the 5.7 HEMI V8 burst into life, I knew that was a lost cause for this big, burly American land yacht. Still, that didn’t stop me from blasting up the I-94 (the Interstate). With it being 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius); I set the A/C to maximum, set the cruise control to 55mph and let Spotify serenade me through the Beats sound system.

chrysler 300c interior road trip

An hour and half later, my time on the Interstate comes to an end and the couch on wheels that is the 300C is back to being the muscle car that it is. I come to a set of lights and can’t help but give the throttle a little blip. The 5.7 HEMI roars back at me, I can feel the whole car sway as I rev. Green; 400hp and 527Nm come into play as I burst away from a stand-still. I refrain from losing my licence quickly. I look at the John Varvatos analogue clock positioned above the Uconnect touch screen infotainment system; it’s 11.45am. I am meeting a group of car people who have an obverse taste in cars at 12pm.

Triumph TR6 TR4 Road Trip

I roll into Silver Lake, Wisconsin, following a Morgan Plus Four. I know I’m in the right place. I arrive at a small industrial unit and outside are an array of Triumph TR4s, TR5s and TR6s, none of which I have seen since I left Dublin three weeks prior. I am meeting with the Illinois Sports Owners Association; the equivalent of the Triumph Classic Owners Club back at home.

Triumph TR6 Road Trip

As I park on the opposite side of the car park, not wanting to offend the British Glory, the 300C John Varvatos Collection’s Phantom Black Pearl paint glistens in the Wisconsin 32 degree sun. I learn that the Signal Red TR6 is a one owner car from new and is very much not standard. The whole car has had work on it over the years with the owner knowing every little detail about the car. He tells me that the front driver-side wing has been painted after someone reversed into him within two weeks of ownership. Both of the doors were re-painted at the dealership before he took delivery of the car. He assumes it was due to damage while the car was being delivered to America. Due to regulations in America, USA-bound Triumphs never got petrol injection. Instead they had dual carburetors putting out roughly 105hp. This is down 20-45hp on the European cars.

Triumph TR4 Road Trip

After we natter about cars and I drool over some of the customer’s cars in the workshop, we head off to Lake Geneva; 16 miles East of Silver Lake. Both Silver Lake and Lake Geneva are where well-off Chicagoans retire for the Summer months and this is apparent in the housing and cars that pass by. Although, the six British sports cars still cause a stir as they rumble through the 20mph zones of these well-to-do neighbourhoods. Not far behind is the Chrysler 300C bellowing through with the V8 happily singing away. Although, it fits in amongst the other American natives.

Triumph TR4 Road Trip

Once I feed on a typical American meal (a chicken salad…), I say farewell to the Brits and go in search of scenic, small country lanes to put this boat to the test. I am recommended that Snake Road is one that fits the bill but is only about a mile long. I reach Snake Road and take off in a giddy fashion only to be slapped right back into reality after the second corner. The 300C is not meant for this, it is not a classic British sports car that loves to be driven to every inch of it’s life in the high rev range. It doesn’t soak up every hair pin corner gracefully. No; it is a loud, mean-looking muscle car that’s purpose is to cause a scene and cruise along a flat, straight surface with the V8 sound track keeping you company.

Triumph TR4 Road Trip

That is the reason why the road out of Lake Geneva was most special to me. It was said straight and flat surface with scenery that made it all worthwhile. Sure, I do love a nimble and quick hot hatch or sports car but it’s good to stray away from the norm every-so-often.

The Chrysler 300C John Varvatos Collection; my choice of V8 HEMI pleasure.

chrysler 300c road trip

Skoda Superb Sportline

Skoda Superb Sportline – Review

It’s no secret that the Irish love a good hatchback or saloon. The Volkswagen Passat is one that is a popular choice. But in recent years, the Skoda Superb has been winning customers over, and too right! But the Skoda Superb Sportline has the potential to be the best sleeper in it’s class.

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A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Skoda Superb Sportline
Engine: 2.0TSI Petrol – 280hp and 350Nm
Transmission: 7-Speed DSG Automatic, four-wheel drive.
Price: Prices for the Superb range start at €27,500. Price as tested – €50,156.

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I’ve always said it, and I have no shame in admitting it either, but the Skoda Superb is miles ahead of the Volkswagen Passat. In terms of styling, practicality and value for money. This leads me to the love of the Skoda brand. Skoda will do the weird and wacky stuff, along with SEAT, that Volkswagen feels it cannot afford to do. The Superb Sportline is one of these. Who ever thought putting a 280hp 2.0TSI in a family saloon would be a good idea only Skoda? Well, for Ireland anyway. The same engine variant is available in the Passat in other countries.  The Superb Sportline is what Nissan and Toyota used to do with their V6s, only the Superb is actually quite “sporty”.

Styling

However, other than the oddball Dragan Skin Yellow Metallic paintwork, which I dig much like that of the VW Up!, the Superb Sportline would make the ultimate sleeper. But more on that later.

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The Superb Sportline, similarly with the regular Superb, is a lengthy, elegant looking family saloon that happens to be effortlessly classy. The whole car measures 4.9m in length and 1.9m in width. This is almost on par with the Passat, but the way it is proportioned, it looks much more elongated.

Interior

Inside, not much differs from a regular Superb. It oodles alcantara and the black headliner is a generous touch. As for rear space, I could rant and rave on it for days on end but that would just be boring. Lets just say, the Skoda could give a  BMW 7-Series a run for its money.

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However, I did find the driving position to be awkwardly high. I forever found myself adjusting the driver’s seat position trying to find a lower position. It feels like you are sitting on the car rather than in it.

On The Road

To start, if someone was to ask me to explain the Superb Sportline in one word I would have to say; BRAAAP! The Skoda Superb Sportline can sing and chant all day long, or until the tank is empty, and leave you smiling every time. The four-wheel drive system, much like on the Skoda Octavia RS, is super grippy. 0-100km/h can be achieved in 5.8 seconds, which is brisk I can tell you that.

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Although the name suggests that the car is a sports one, it is not a full blown sports saloon. The suspension is wallowy and body roll plays a part when hard cornering. However, 350Nm comes in handy when taking off from the lights leaving some motorists in disbelief.

This leads me to the conclusion that the Skoda Superb Sportsline would make the ideal sleeper. It’s suspiciously quick, makes a nice sound and, with the exception of the Dragon Skin Yellow paint, looks just like a regular Skoda Superb.

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Practicality/Boot Space

Just because the Skoda Superb Sportsline has added performance does not mean practicality is compromised. Boot space equals 625l and can be expanded to 1,760l.

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Skoda being Skoda, they have added some simply clever features to the Superb Sportline. These include space for a tablet holder in the rear armrest, umbrellas in the doors and easy-open cup holders. All which can be found in the Skoda Kodiaq.

Equipment

The Skoda Superb Sportline adds Interior ambient lighting, sports seats, Gloss Black boot lip spoiler and black headliner, which makes all the difference.

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Running Costs

I will admit now that I had a bit of a heavy foot with the Superb Sportline and only managed to average 10.6l/100km. However, Skoda claims that the Sportline is capable of 7.1l/100km. However, this would be near impossible for any driver getting behind the wheel of it.

It costs €570 per year to tax down to the emissions figure of 132g/km of CO2.

Pricing

The Sportline comes in two body styles; a hatchback/saloon and estate. The Skoda Superb Sportline Estate with the 2.0TSI 280hp engine price starts from €49,050; a €1,800 premium over the saloon.

Competition

Back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, hot saloons were very much popular with some popular examples including the Ford Mondeo ST220 and some quick variants of Peugeot’s 406 and 407.

Opel Insignia OPC – The Insignia is due an update this year so a new OPC should be on the cards. However, steer clear of the current Insignia OPC for the rate of tax alone; €2,350. If the Corsa OPC is anything to go by, it’s not worth its price tag.

Audi S4 – Although they are in different classes as eachother, the Superb and S4 are the same concept. The S4 is a recent addition to the A4 line-up, as is the Superb Sportline. However, the S4 has a starting price of €69,000. But, it does have more power on tap.

Conclusion

Spec the Sportline right and you will have yourself one of the ultimate sleepers on the road. Spec it in Dragan Skin Yellow and you will have yourself one of the most respected cars on the road. Either way, you will defintely not have made the wrong choice. If you are to take one quote away from this review, let it be; “Brap” (Skoda Superb Sportline, 2017)

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Volkswagen Beetle front

Volkswagen Beetle – Review

From the people’s car to a style icon, the Volkswagen Beetle has come a long way. Since the New Volkswagen Beetle was introduced into Ireland in 2000, VW and MINI have been battling it out for the most retro ride. But what gives the Beetle the edge?

Volkswagen Beetle front

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Volkswagen Beetle R-Line
Engine: 2.0TDI diesel – 150hp and 340Nm
Transmission: 6-Speed DSG automatic, front wheel drive.  
Price: Prices for the Beetle range start at €25,075. Price as tested – €35,350

You Want a Retro Ride? Say No More…

This is the Volkswagen Beetle’s party piece. Subtle retro touches compliment the coupe’s bubble yet masculine-lined Sandstorm Yellow body. Such as, the retro “duck-tail” spoiler, the chrome and black 17-inch Spin alloy wheels and Beetle font. Up front, the big innocent yet focused-eyed headlights take dominance over the two front wings. The thin-mouthed grill breaks the front end. The only thing the New Beetle is missing on the clam-shell bonnet is the chrome handle, otherwise it pays perfect homage to the original car.

Volkswagen Beetle features

Volkswagen Beetle front

Around back, the Volkswagen Beetle features a bubble-butt much like the Volkswagen Touareg. The rounded, bubbly arches give the car the extra bit of uniqueness. Seeing them in the wing mirrors from inside the cabin gives you the feels.

Volkswagen Beetle rear

Interior:

Inside, the Sandstorm Yellow theme continues specifically on the dashboard. The old school panel stretches across the whole width of the dash housing an Original Beetle-style glove box. Above the dash are three dials; an oil gauge, turbo boost gauge and a clock/stopwatch.

Volkswagen Beetle glovebox

Volkswagen Beetle gauges

The interior helps the driver to come to the realisation of the sheer size of the car. The interior is spacious and bright, thanks to the optional panoramic sunroof. The Comfort cloth seats come as standard and are flexible so it is easy to get into a comfortable position for long journeys.

Volkswagen Beetle interior

Although, due to the “bubbliness” of the Beetle, the A, B and C pillars are chunky meaning blind spots are a problem. While the retro, gloss Sandstorm Yellow plastic panel on the dash breaks up the interior, it is surrounding by some cheap, scratchy plastics.

Volkswagen Beetle interior

Do the Beetle’s Bubbly Characteristics Translate Well onto the Road? 

The Beetle can be powered by both petrol and diesel engines ranging from 1.2 to 2.0 engines. The test car I had was the 2.0TDI with the 6-speed DSG. Although the Beetle has a sport mode and is equipped in R-Line trim, it is far from sporty. The 6-speed DSG is hesitant to change gears at times making the 150hp unit feel more sluggish than it is. Throw it into a corner and the body roll holds back your giddiness.

Volkswagen Beetle front

But rather than labeling the Beetle as a sports car, categorise it as a GT cruiser and it becomes a whole different car. The Beetle feels comfortable and composed in normal driving mode. While in this mode, the suspension is giving even with the 18-inch wheels specced. The DSG gearbox lacks responsiveness; up and downshifts can be slow. It would benefit from a seventh gear.

Volkswagen Beetle side

All of this aside, the Beetle is all about the image. The retro looks beat that of the rather dated-looking Fiat 500 and is on par with the MINI.

How Practical is the Volkswagen Beetle?

Up front, the Beetle has enough storage in the glovebox, door pockets and space for a phone in the centre console. The beefiness of the Beetle comes with benefit though as it has a 310l boot. This can increase to 905l with the rear seats folded.

Volkswagen Beetle glovebox

Is the Volkswagen Beetle Well Equipped?

As part of R-Line trim, the Beetle comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with parking assist, cruise control and gearshifter buttons on the steering wheel. Options on this test car included the 171 Pack (€1,217). This includes a panoramic tilt and slide sunroof, 18″ Twister alloys, app connect, discover media and a reversing camera. The Discover Media pack adds Apple Car Play and Android Auto along with a reversing camera, which is built into the rear VW badge.

Now for the Numbers

Throughout my week with the Beetle, I averaged 6.7l/100km. This was mainly based off city, suburban and faster country road driving. The Beetle emits 126g/km of CO2 so costs €270 per year to tax.

Volkswagen Beetle rear

Pricing for the Beetle range starts at €25,075. The test car, including options, costed €35,350.

What Else is on Offer?

The Beetle is a strange one. Obvious competition would be the Fiat 500 and MINI Cooper. But based on practicality and size, that rules the 500 out.

Audi TT – The Audi TT has set quite a trend since it was first seen back in the late 1990’s. It has been a successful coupe for the Volkswagen owned brand but the premium status and badge comes at a price. From €44,500 to be exact.

MINI Cooper – The MINI and Fiat are the go-to-cars in this retro segment. Being an R53 Cooper S owner, I can say that MINI do produce a fun car. Although, they have been making some brave moves lately with the introduction of the 5-door Hatch and Countryman, the latter of which I actually quite like. Plenty of choice from the Brits it seems.

Fiat 500 – Has it been done to death at this stage? Yes. But the 500 still wins over buyers in this segment. Much like MINI, the 500 has expanded it’s horizons with variants like the 500L and 500X. But for me, it’s getting old now. How much life is left in the 500?

Would I Buy a Beetle?

The Volkswagen Beetle is a good Summer cruiser. The 6-speed is sufficient for bopping around town or nipping down the coast. There is also no doubting the coolness of the Beetle. Spec it in a far-out colour and you’ll have the best smile factor car around.

Volkswagen Beetle front

Skoda Kodiaq Ireland

Skoda Kodiaq – Review

The Skoda Kodiaq is Skoda’s first attempt at a 7 seater SUV. Skoda has launched the car into Ireland with a starting price of €28,795. I have put the 2.0TDI 190hp 4×4 DSG variant through its paces. Will Skoda do well with the Kodiaq in Ireland?

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Skoda Kodiaq
Engine: 2.0TDI diesel, 190hp and 400Nm.
Transmission: 7-Speed DSG automatic, four-wheel drive.
Price: Prices start at €28,795 for the Polo range. Price as tested – €46,545.

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Czech Republican Crystal No Less

The designers at Skoda got their muse for the Kodiaq from Bohemian Crystal, a renowned glass art of the Czech Republic. This motif can be seen throughout the car but namely the front and rear lights. The Front lights blend into the grill giving a muscular shape. The rear lights have the triangular silhouettes building up inside the reflectors.dsc_0055-min

Overall, the SUV looks like it was built in two halves due to the styling crease going the whole way around it. The Bohemian Crystal motif is also present on the 19-inch “Triglav” alloy wheels. The Skoda measures in at 4.8m long and 1.9m wide, it is seriously big for its class.

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The Interior is typical Skoda. The test car I had was equipped with the Style trim level, which is the highest currently on offer in Ireland. You mould yourself into half leather/half alcantara sports seats. You grip a leather, almost D-shaped steering wheel. The vastness of the Kodiaq is noticeable before you even set off on your journey. The 8-inch touch screen infotainment is placed dead centre on the centre console so the reach to the far side of the screen is quite long.

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The space on offer is something to be praised, however. With the driver’s seat in my driving position, a 6-foot human, I managed to adjust the middle row seat to a comfortable position for me. On top of that, another, smaller than 6-foot, adult could sit in the most rear.

Out of the Woods and onto the Road; this Kodiaq cannot be Tamed

The Skoda Kodiaq is available with a 1.4TSI petrol and 2.0TDI diesel in Ireland, with my test car being the 2.0TDI 190hp mated to a 7-speed DSG automatic. The 190hp engine is more than enough power to shift all of this 1,795kg Czech SUV along. Although the 7-speed isn’t as snappy as I would like it to be. Although, it is sufficient for the kind of driving that the Kodiaq is meant for.

On the road is where the Kodiaq’s sheer size really becomes a disadvantage. As expected from a 1.6m high SUV, the Skoda Kodiaq certainly has body roll present when entering and leaving corners. However, with this comes comfort from the softer suspension. However, it is disconcerting looking in the rear view mirror and still seeing the back end leaving the corner while you are already sitting on the road. It is THAT long!

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Comparing to its competitors though, mainly the Nissan X-Trail, the Skoda Kodiaq is miles ahead. The manual gearbox in the Kodiaq shifts so much smoother than that of the X-Trail. The cabin is much quieter while on the road than the Nissan, although some wind noise can be heard from around the wing mirrors while at motorway speeds in the Kodiaq. However, overall this SUV feels much better built than its Japanese rival. The quality that is lacking in the X-Trail can be clearly found in the Kodiaq.

Simply Clever

Skoda’s motto is “Simply Clever”. Most Skodas have small unique features that give it a personal touch. The Skoda Kodiaq is definitely not lacking here. Firstly, when you open the door, retractable protectors pop out to save you damaging the door off a wall, for example. Ireland being Ireland, it rains almost 100% of the time. No problem, Skoda have taken a page from Rolls-Royce’s book and added umbrellas into the doors. Have a twist-cap bottle and only one hand to open it? No problem, just push down on the bottle in the cup-holder and it can be opened with one hand. Inside the fuel filler cap door is an ice scrapper and magnifying glass, if you’ll ever need one. All these features are, well, Simply Clever.

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With these features aside, the 5-seater Skoda Kodiaq has 720l of boot space on offer which can be expanded to 2,065l. In the 7-seater Kodiaq, this is decreased to 660l/2,005l with the most rear seats collapsed and 270l with them in place.

What Equipment is on Offer?

In its most basic form, Active trim level, the Kodiaq comes with cruise control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 17-inch alloys and Skoda Connect, including an emergency call system. Skipping the middle trim level, Ambition, and jumping to the highest level, Style, the Kodiaq continues to appeal. Style adds 19-inch Alloys, 4G LTE sim card slot for WiFi services, rear view camera and ambient interior lighting. However, surprising from a Volkswagen Group product, it doesn’t offer adaptive cruise control as standard with any of the trim levels.

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She Diesel?

I spent my week mostly doing suburban commuting but some motorway driving was involved too. I averaged 7.0l/100km. This is some way off the 5.7l/100km that Skoda claims is achievable.

Prices

Pricing for the Skoda Kodiaq starts at €28,795. My test car, specced in Style with options, was priced at €46,545.

What Else is on Offer?

In recent years, the SUV segment has become quite a prominent one in Ireland. Naturally, this means competition for the Kodiaq is plentiful with rivals such as the Hyundai Sante Fe and Kia Sorento. However, other competitors include;

Nissan X-Trail – There is no doubt that the X-Trail is popular amongst Irish motorists, even though I can’t see the appeal. Although the X-Trail is more spec-heavy in its highest trim level, the overall quality of the Kodiaq is much better.

Mazda CX-5 – In my opinion, Mazda’s KODO design is right on point at the moment. Every one of its cars, with maybe the exception of the clown shoe-like Mazda3, looks really good and spec is generous. A new Mazda CX-5 is on the way to Irish shores this year too so it could be a serious competitor for the Kodiaq. However presently, there is no 7-seater option.

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Would I Buy One?

Overall, the Skoda Kodiaq was most definitely worth the wait. It is practical, looks good and is affordable. I’m a 22 year old soon-to-be full blown adult and have no desire to own something that can fit the whole family. But, the Skoda Kodiaq is something I could live with, for sure.

What is Next for Skoda?

Skoda are trying to break into the American market. They have registered the trademark there but have yet to hint any signs to the public. Until now, the Kodiaq may well be the first glimpse that the USA will see of what Skoda have coming for them. Consider yourselves lucky, America; she’s a good ‘un!

Blue Tesla Model S 90D front

Tesla Model S P100D – Review

Increasingly over the years, Tesla has been creeping not only onto roads globally but into Ireland too. Its a rare site but there are a few 2015 and 2016 Tesla Model S electric cars floating around Ireland. But today marked the official launch of both Tesla Motors cars onto Irish roads and also the first Supercharger in Ireland. I went along to have a little drive.

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Welcoming the Tesla Model S and Model X to Ireland

Model Tested: Tesla Model S P100D
Power: 603hp and 967Nm
Transmission: Automatic, four-wheel drive.
Price: Prices for the Model S range start at €83,581 for the 75. Prices for the P100D start at €177,289. As tested – €209,035.

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When you think of a Tesla you think of an electric car, right? Well, its more appropriate to think of it as a driving computer or tablet. This car is so elaborate. I don’t think I have attended a car launch ever where I have gone away thinking to myself how on earth they managed to fit so much cleverness and tech into a single car! From the moment you press the door handle of the Model S and it glides out of the bodywork; you are smirking and shaking your head in disbelief.

But before I get to the tech, let me introduce its artistry and sleekness. The current Model S is a facelifted version that was introduced along with the Model X, both of which share the same chassis. Replacing the faux-grill at the front is a clean, smooth and rounded bumper giving the face of the Model S a more streamlined look. This streamlined design is continued down the side with the door handles popping out once prompted to do so by pushing on them. Around the back, it is very previous generation Jaguar XF-like with the shape of the lights and the chrome trim breaking up the boot lid.

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Open up the sportscar-like rimless glass door and you sit into leather sports seats. Everything is built around the 17-inch touchscreen, off of which everything is controlled. Everything being; the climate control, your phone connectivity, sat nav, the car’s settings, etc. The system includes a 4 year subscription to Spotify through a 3g and 4g connection. The only two buttons that are housed on dash are the hazard lights switch and button to open the glove box. Its all so sleek and, well, streamlined. This all sounds very normal for a modern day car, yes? Well can your Audi A8 close its doors from a button on the infotainment screen? Yeah, didn’t think so…

Tesla Model S P100D touchscreen

When you think of white leather you think of disaster but the white leather that was specced on the Model S suited it perfectly. It all felt very much like a designer kitchen; contemporary and modern. Pair the white leather with carbon trim, Red Multi-Coat paintwork and 21-inch Grey Turbine alloy wheels and you have got yourself a stealthy yet in-vogue sportscar. Oh and if you are a worried vegan, don’t be; Tesla have a vegan leather option.

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The Tesla Model S? A Supercar?

Yes, a Supercar. As practical and as comfortable as it is, the Model S P100D is a seriously quick and agile car for it’s class. Let me explain the name; P100D. P stands for Performance, 100 stands for 100kW, the combined power of the batteries, and D stands for Dual-engine; four wheel drive. Throw all of this into a pot and its a recipe for thrills! In Ludicrous Mode, the Model S P100D can launch the car from 0-100km/h in 2.7 seconds. If you don’t know what this feels like think of being on a roller coaster; when you creep over the crest and then it just falls, the butterflies in your stomach going 90! THAT, is what the sensation feels like. But let me compare the numbers; a Ferrari LaFerrari does 0-100km/h in 2.6 seconds, a McLaren 570S does it in 2.7 seconds and a Porsche 911 Turbo does it in 2.8 seconds. Yeah, the Tesla Model S P100D is quite brisk!

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But not only is it as quick as a Supercar, it handles like one too. Get a nice twisty and quick-cornered road and the Tesla does not disappoint. The throttle response has two modes; Sport or Ludicrous. The ride height can be adjusted to High, Standard, Low or Very Low. Although, these modes are only suspension height so do not enhance the rigidity of the suspension. But just for good measure, I put it in Very Low to maintain the stealthy look. Body roll was kept at a minimum in the Model S, it was all very complete. Whereas in the Model X, body roll was very much present. The two cars are like night and day to drive.

Tesla Model S P100D and Model X

But the million dollar question is, how much does all this cost? Well, you wouldn’t be far off guessing a million dollars… The Model S range in Ireland starts at €83,581, including the government incentive. If you want the full whack and go for the P100D, including a few options, you can expect to fork out €209,035. Ok, ok, yes it is super expensive but lets do a slight comparison. The Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, the closest competitor from Porsche, starts at roughly €115,000. The equivalent Audi S8 starts at €133,000. So unless you want the full package, the Model S is not looking that bad.

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Tesla Model S P100D Range

What you will save in petrol costs from choosing the Model S over its competitors is quite enticing. The Tesla Model S range can vary between roughly 300km and 600km depending on your driving style. But, Tesla have a nifty calculator on their website which allows you to measure how much it will cost to charge the car and how often you will need to charge it. For example, based on an average speed of 70km/h, an outside temperature of 10 degrees and with the 21-inch alloys, the 75 is capable of 564km and the P100D is capable of 681km. Try and achieve those kind of figures in your Panamera!

Tesla Model S Interior with touchscreen

Tesla’s First Supercharger for Ireland

This week marked the unveiling of Tesla’s first supercharger in Ireland too, located at Junction 3 off the M8. The Supercharger can charge the Model S and Model X from 0-50% in 20 minutes and up to 80% in 40 minutes. Tesla say that the Supercharger is used just to get you enough power to get you home. There, you can use the Tesla Wall Connector to charge the car overnight.

Tesla Model S P100D at Supercharger in Ireland

Verdict: Would I buy a Tesla Model S?

Before I even stepped foot inside the Model S or Model X, I had it in my head that I was not going to be sorry driving home in my supercharged MINI, the little pocket rocket that it is. But that was very wrong of me. The Tesla Model S and Model X are both extremely capable cars, even if they will cost you a pretty penny. But I truly believe that the future is here. Welcome to Ireland, Tesla. You are more than welcome.

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2017 Audi Q5 – Launch

Audi Ireland officially launched the new Q5 to the Irish market today.

Design

The old Q5 was a hit amongst Irish buyers. It looked good for a crossover and offered a typical good quality Audi interior. The new Q5 should most certainly not be overlooked going by the design alone. Think of it as a baby-Q7; mature, strong and definitive design lines give the Q5 a sports-coupe like stance. The interior still offers all the technology typically offered by Audi.

Engine and Transmission

The Q5 is not focused towards the driver. This is apparent. The steering feel is quite bland but light so is good around town. The 2.0TDI with 190hp and 400Nm is featured here. Power delivery is good and gear changes are smooth due to the 7-speed S-Tronic gearbox.

Driving

The Q5 is easy to maneuver all round. I took it into housing estates, through town and onto a straight, open road and it felt at home in all environments. Although there was quite a lot of road noise at both low and higher speeds that intruded the cabin.

Overall, the driving experience is good. For the size of the Q5, it doesn’t feel anything like what you might expect. Steering is light and power delivery is good from the engine.

Pricing

Prices for the Q5 range start at €47,500.

Conclusion

The new Q5 is an improvement over its predecessor, Audi have not shot themselves in the foot, that is for sure. In saying that, the cabin could be a little more refined. But sure, you have all those gadgets to keep you distracted anyway!

2017 Audi A5 – Launch

Audi Ireland officially launched the new A5 to the Irish market today. On offer from the range were the Sportback, Coupe and Cabriolet. A Cabrio on a rainy day in Ireland? Ah sure!

Design

I was never a fan of the old A5. I felt it aged very quickly and was just a re-bodied A4, which it essentially was. Not much has changed in terms of the re-body because the A5 is still based on the A4 but the fresh look is well needed. Starting with the Sportback, the proportions are much better than the outgoing model. The rimless windows on the doors and angular lines give it a proper sporty and muscular look. Its a handsome car, do you agree?

The Coupe and Cabriolet are both similar and even better proportioned. Both feature a muscular and angular face giving the car a mature and furious look.

Engine and Transmission

The engine I drove was the 2.0TDI, in each of the cars. It was the 190hp diesel with 400Nm mated to a 7-speed S-Tronic gearbox. I am well acquainted with this ‘box at this stage and it is still as good as ever. It drove it to extent in the Audi A3 Sportback and Saloon Gear changes are quick, seamless and efficient.

The engine, with 400Nm and 190hp on tap, is quick and pulls very well. Around town, never does the power feel like it is too much.

Driving

On the road, the A5 coupe and Sportback felt well planted and steering feel was good. In Dynamic mode, the steering is weighted up a little bit and it feels that little bit more responsive. The Cabrio felt a little wallowy, especially noticeable after driving the Coupe and it back-to-back.

Pricing

The A5 Coupe range starts at €46,660, the Sportback from €48,750  and €60,730 for the Cabrio.

Conclusion

This is a quick look at the A5 range. A more in depth review will be had once I get my hands on it for longer, which I am looking forward to. So in summary; the new A5? It gets a thumbs up from me!

Renault Megane Grand Coupe and Scenic – First Drive

Renault Ireland welcomes the new Megane Grand Coupe, Megane Sport Tourer, Scenic and Grand Scenic to the Irish market.

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The Renault Megane Grand Coupe

The term Grand Coupe and Sport Tourer are becoming the norm for manufacturers now. They give that slight bit more elegance to the name of a car than saloon or estate do, which both terms actually mean. The Megane Hatchback, which I drove last year, is a good car except for the engine. I really dislike that 1.5 dCi 110hp engine, its lifeless. So I was happy to hear that the Grand Coupes at the launch event all had the 1.6 dCi 130hp engine, not that I would have thought it made much difference. It did! It is surprising what 20hp can do. The GC felt full of life and handled much like the hatchback, even though the chassis is just short of 60mm longer.

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This 60mm makes a difference for rear passengers, they have the extra leg room which naturally means more comfort. The car I drove was in Signature Nav spec so had a full black leather interior as standard. The Signature Nav trim level also includes 18 inch alloys, Sat Nav and LED headlights as standard.

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The Megane GC, which replaces the Fluence, prices start at €21,990 with the Signature trim level starting at €27,290. Four trim levels are available; Expression, Dynamique, Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav. Each model comes standard with a 6 speed manual but for an additional €1,700 to each model, a 6-speed automatic can be equipped. No petrol models will be available in the Megane GC. Although, a 1.2(130hp) and 1.6(205hp) petrol is available in the Hatchback and the Sport Tourer. Keep an eye out on the site over the next month for my review of the Megane GT with the 205hp engine.

The Renault Scenic

I know, I know, who wants to hear about family cars on a site run by a young motoring enthusiast? But to be fair, I have been doing quite a mix of reviews over the past year so its not exactly outside of the norm.

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As far as MPVs go, the Scenic is certainly a looker. It stands out amongst its competition with its sleeker body design and, as for the car I drove anyway, more interesting choice of colours. At the moment it is in the running of being one of the best looking cars on sale on France’s equivalent of Top Gear, Turbo.

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The Scenic is available from  €26,000 and €28,400 for the Grand Scenic. The car I drove had the 110hp 1.5 dCi engine which, much like the Megane Hatchback, was dull to drive. The MPV is not beaten on looks and space is not half bad either. The boot measures at 572l.

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Expect to see more Renaults on the road this year as Renault Ireland predict that the Megane will reach the top 3 of new cars registered. It says that there is a Megane for everyone. What do you think of the line-up? Would you be tempted by a new Renault?