Category Archives: Reviews

Fiat 124 Spider Review – New Car Review Ireland

Classic cars have played a large part in my life since a young age. I have been going to the Terenure Classic Car show each year since I was too young to remember. But it wasn’t until December 2007 when my Dad bought a 1973 Triumph TR6 that we started to mingle with these classic nuts. They really are nuts. Owning a 30 year old car and only using it at weekends, spending most of that time in fields listening to Elvis, Buddy Holly and co. on repeat on a crackling speaker in the unpredictable Irish weather. Sounds a bit crap, yeah? But it’s not and only unless you’re a nut will you ever understand the dedication these cars and this lifestyle takes.This leads me to the 2018 FIAT 124. Having partnered up with Mazda, FIAT and Mazda had the same idea – to build a rear-wheel-drive convertible that was both uncomplicated and affordable. While Mazda had been doing this since 1989 consecutively, FIAT stopped production of it’s 124 Spider in 1985 after 19 years of production. But seeing a demand for competition to the already excellent Mazda MX-5 they decided to give it a bash again.The 124 is powered by a 1.4 Turbo petrol engine producing 140hp and 240Nm. The equivalent Mazda has 131 Hp and 150Nm. The Fiat offers only a convertible option whereas the Mazda offers the RF (Retractable Fastback) option too. The FIAT starts at €28,745 for the Classica trim and the Mazda starts at €28,195. Is the FIAT worth that little bit extra?In terms of styling, both roadsters have a lot to offer. The FIAT’s bubbliness is a little bit cuter and the bug-like headlights give it some more character over the MX-5. However, I prefer the sleek, muscular and angriness of the MX-5. The FIAT uses a lot of Mazda’s parts on the 124. Mazda stickers are even plastered throughout to remind you that you are really driving a re-badged MX-5. This annoys me. Getting behind the wheel of the 124, the only differences, I spotted, were the gear knob (which twisted about in your hand), the handbrake lever, the gigantic FIAT badge on the steering wheel and the start-up screen on Mazda’s MZD Connect infotainment system. Everything else is Mazda; the switch gear, the dials and even the seats.Out on the road, the FIAT gets more attention. This is down to the fact that the MX-5 has sold better so the 124 is more scarce, but also because of the nostalgia factor. I was stopped by a man in my local area who reminisced about his first car, a FIAT 124 saloon. He even exclaimed that he hadn’t seen a new 124 Spider on the road before. But that wasn’t my first 124 encounter. Another local guy owns a 2017 Abarth 124 Spider, the only one in the country, apparently. We exchanged a finger wave as we passed by each other, both with the roof dropped. This is where the FIAT has its edge over the Mazda; it’s nostalgic. I’ve even noticed the prices of original FIAT 124 Spiders creeping up since the 2018 FIAT 124 Spider was released.As a daily runabout, the FIAT works better. Not that the 140l boot is much more significant than the MX-5’s 130l one or the cabin storage is better, but I found the suspension to be softer. The MX-5’s is quite crashy, much like my 2005 MINI Cooper S.

So it comes down to the final say, what would I own? Based on looks, cabin design and overall driving pleasure, I would have to go for the Mazda. The FIAT hasn’t done enough to distinguish it from its cousin. However, if you were to buy a 124 Spider, I have no doubt you’ll have many happy motoring memories.

2018 Skoda Superb Laurin & Klement – Irish New Car Review

Anyone who is into 70’s, 80’s and 90’s classics and modern classics will find it hard not to be intrigued by trim lines. Yes, hear me out. We see Ford Cortinas, Mitsubishi Galants and Saab 9000’s around Ireland and find them fascinating with their corduroy cloth seats and simple, but at the time, futuristic features. Embracing them in all their period-correct glory. But we have been missing out on these “prestige” models of everyday cars in recent years. However, Skoda have kept with it and have achieved the ultimate luxury executive car replacement, the 2018 Skoda Superb Laurin & Klement.

2018 Skoda Superb Laurin & Klement

Laurin and Klement, or L&K, was an auto, motorbike and bike manufacturer founded in 1895 in the Czech Republic. Today, L&K is Skoda’s top spec trim on the Octavia and Superb. As for the Skoda Superb, it adds driver select mode with adaptive suspension, rear heated seats, electronically opening and closing boot lid and ambient lighting. This mightn’t sound like it is worth the €43,895 price tag the 2018 Superb L&K commands but it would be hard to get this value for money from its competition.

It’s all on the interior

I’m a sucker for brown leather. It makes any car 100 times better, in my opinion. The Superb is no exception, especially combined with Candy White paintwork on the outside. The Comfort seats impressed me from the moment I slouched into them when I collected the car. I drove a Skoda Superb Sportline and Volkswagen Arteon back-to-back a couple of months ago. This resulted in the Superb winning. But what impressed me most, other than the 1,100km range on one tank of diesel, was the comfort of the saloon on the motorway. So considering the Sportline has firmer suspension, you can only imagine how much more serene my hours spent on the M7 were this time round. Two round trips from Dublin to Limerick and back were helped eased by the 9.2-inch Columbus Infotainment-capable Apple CarPlay and Android Auto System.I must admit, I pulled the short straw everytime it came to driving the Superb. I would much rather have spent the time lounged in the rear, stretching my legs out in front of me. The 2018 Skoda Superb does space so well. Although I’ve driven almost every variant of the Superb at this stage, for some reason the Superb L&K felt a lot larger. This was evident when parking and negotiating tight streets and lanes.The same 2.0TDI 150hp lump that I drove in the Sportline and Arteon was in the L&K. Although, just because of what the L&K is, I would spec mine with either the 190hp version of the 2.0TDI or the 2.0TSI 280hp, also found in the Superb Sportline. I noticed a slight lack of power in the 150hp when pulling away from toll booths on the motorway and overtaking. However you can’t argue with the 6.3l/100km (45MPG) over 1,110km. Having the 7-speed DSG may have compromised this.A simple question to ask would be is the executive car dead? Definitely not, no. The Audi A4 and 2018 Audi A6 are very good offerings from the brand, as is the 2018 Mercedes E-Class. But, while the 2018 Skoda Superb Laurin and Klement might be not be as elegant in every way as these, it’s people like me who would rather one over the E-Class or A4. I don’t go for a certain brand, I go for value for money and, boy, does the Skoda Superb L&K offer that.

2018 Opel Grandland X – New Car Review

Recently, I wrote an article. When I say article, it was more like a rant. Said rant is about popularisation of SUVs. In particular, fast or “Super” SUVs. From it, you can tell that I’m not a fan of the SUV craze but I have no shame in admitting that there are a few good ones on the market. Take the Skoda Kodiaq for example. For its price, the space, comfort and equipment you get is hard to beat. Except, for 2018 Irish motor journalists chose the Peugeot 3008 over it. This leads me to the 2018 Opel Grandland X. Now being owned by PSA (owners of Citroen and Peugeot), the Grandland X is technically a re-bodied Peugeot 3008. But, why should, or shouldn’t, you choose it over its French brother?Up front, the Opel Grandland X shares the Opel face. Centred on the black grill is the Opel logo with chrome trim flowing out into the LED Adaptive Lighting, a €1,250 option. Mimicking this on the lower grill houses more chrome trim bits and a black sensor ready for Adaptive Cruise Control. In this two-tone Dark Ruby Red with Black roof, the Grandland X looks closely related to its French Cousin, the 2018 Peugeot 3008.

What About Inside the Opel Grandland X?

Inside, the SUV is well thought out and not overly complicated. The 8-inch screen housing the infotainment system sits centre stage. Under the screen, the system is old school because it still uses buttons and knobs to control it. I’m very used to having to search within modern infotainment systems to find the Bluetooth settings in order to pair my phone. This wasn’t the case for the Opel Grandland X. Once you turn on Bluetooth on my phone, I was able to connect to the system straight away. This took some time to getting used to.The Grandland and I spent a lot of motorway kilometres together. The cabin was impressively quiet, on par with the 2018 Mazda CX-5. Although while the CX-5 felt stable and comfortable on the motorway, the Grandland felt a little unsettled. While it won’t win any awards for being the most agile car on sale in Ireland, the 1.2 3-cylinder petrol engine is one to be commended. Even on the motorway runs, I averaged 6.9l/100km. At this, the engine didn’t feel insufficient power-wise. The 130hp and 230Nm could overtake with ease. While you might see a better return on your fuel economy in a diesel for motorway dominant journeys, you wouldn’t see much benefit between city runs and motorway jaunts in the diesel. The 1.2 petrol gives you the best of both worlds.

Space?

Plenty of space is on offer up front for the driver and passenger and this is transferred to the rear also. I’m just over 6-foot and had ample head and leg room in the rear. In the boot, 514l is on offer. Collapsing the rear seats jumps this up to 1,652l. This is compared to 521l in the Skoda Karoq and 520l in the Peugeot 3008.On the most basic trim level, the Opel Grandland X SC comes standard with a 7-inch IntelliLink touch screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 17-inch alloys and rear parking sensors. With prices starting from €27,995, it is €1,400 more than the Peugeot 3008 and €280 more than the Skoda Karoq.While the 2018 Opel Grandland X might be a Peugeot 3008 not too far beneath the skin, it’s still one to consider when looking at buying in this segment. The standard kit on the SC trim is enough to attract you to your local Opel dealership alone. The 1.2 petrol engine is a cracker for the size of the Opel Grandland X. Admittedly, I thought it was going to struggle on the motorway but I was pleasantly surprised.

2018 Volkswagen Arteon vs. 2018 Skoda Superb – Twin Test Review

Back in 2016 when I drove my first Skoda Superb in Ireland, the Superb L&K, I thought Volkswagen had shot themselves in the foot with it. It was far superior than the Passat, and still is for that matter. However, is it better than the Volkswagen Passat CC’s replacement, the 2018 Volkswagen Arteon? I conduct a twin test on Irish roads between the Skoda Superb and Volkswagen Arteon to find out.I start on the most obvious point and that goes to the Arteon. The sheer beauty of this four door coupe is not to be overlooked. Volkswagen really worked their magic with its smooth, elegant and swooping lines. The elongated saloon almost pays homage to the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia of the 50’s. Especially painted in, one of my favourite colours on modern Volkswagens, Turmeric Yellow. It really makes this five seater saloon pop.As for the Skoda, the Superb is the Czech Republican company’s Flagship model. The lights are more angular, front and rear. In this Sportline trim, it gets black accents throughout; a subtle lip spoiler, the door surrounds, the grill and 19-inch alloys. What the Superb doesn’t have though, that the Arteon does, are frameless windows. This feature gives the Arteon’s already elegant design more suppleness and classiness. Although, pairing the Moon White Metallic paint of the Superb to the black trim details, it really stands out in Sportline trim. Enough to put it on par with the Arteon.Moving inside, both cars are alike. Both cars get similar tech, similar comfort features and similar novelties. But the Skoda takes the biscuit this time. The Superb now has an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Skoda Connect, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This is a Volkswagen unit so unsurprisingly, the Arteon also has the same system. But while the Skoda didn’t have Sat Nav on the infotainment, the Arteon did. This seemed quite pointless to me. This was because each time I got into the Arteon I connected straight to Android Auto, which has Google Maps.Although the Superb had adaptive Cruise Control, the Arteon had this and predictive speed control. This is self-explanatory. The car recognises speed zones while connected to adaptive cruise control and adjusts the car’s speed to that zone. This might seem convenient going from an 80km/h to a 100km/h zone without having to touch the steering wheel controls, it would also be convenient if the system actually worked as it should. When travelling along the motorway, the system would regularly pick up the 50km/h speed zones on the slip roads and begin harshly brake. This is not good when you are travelling at 100km/h and the cars in your review mirror get frighteningly closer. I didn’t see the advantage of the Arteon’s extra tech for the extra price, I am sticking with the Superb for the moment.As for space and comfort, both saloons are comfortable. Nothing has changed for the Superb’s excellent rear passenger leg room and the Arteon has taken this on board. The Arteon’s sloping roof takes a small hit on taller rear passengers compared to the Superb but really isn’t all that noticeable.As you might have grasped before even starting to read this new car review, the Skoda Superb and Volkswagen Arteon drive very much the same. I covered 1,100km behind the wheel of the Superb and 670km in the Arteon. Both were predominantly motorway kilometres so I got to put the 2.0 TDI 150hp diesel engines in their natural environments. I was very impressed by the Skoda Superb’s average fuel economy of 5.5l/100km, even though it is missing 1 gear on the DSG compared to the Arteon. The 7-speed DSG mated to the Arteon helped return an average of 6.1l/100km.

Both test cars I had were optioned up with 19-inch alloys giving both cars loud-ish cabins while on the move. I say “ish” because it wasn’t so loud that I couldn’t have a conversation with my passengers.Up to now, both cars seem to be on par with each other, in my books. So in this case, it all comes down to price. The Skoda Superb range starts from €28,150 with the Sportline starting at €36,500. The Arteon starts from €38,270, with R-Line starting at €43,270. Both cars optioned up cost €43,908 and €53,553, respectively. Particularly with both of these cars, I couldn’t justify spending the extra €10,000 on the Arteon. As standard on Skoda Superb Sportline, buyers get the 8-inch infotainment system, 19-inch alloys, Alcantara sports seats and driving mode selector (Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual). As for the Volkswagen Arteon R-Line, it gets predictive cruise control, the 8-inch infotainment system, 19-inch alloys and high beam headlight control.So really it comes down to whether you want to spend the extra money on a re-bodied Volkswagen Passat or the Skoda Superb. Yes, the Superb is based off the Passat but the interior is different. Sitting inside the Passat and Arteon you don’t notice a difference. It doesn’t feel as special. And frankly, this means a lot. Besides, you’ll be spending most of your time behind the wheel. Based on this, I’ll have the “Made for Ireland” Skoda Superb Sportline.

2018 SEAT Leon ST Cupra Review – New Car Review

Since Volkswagen bought SEAT and Skoda, they have been smart about things. In Ireland, the Skoda Octavia RS petrol doesn’t have a four wheel drive option because it may deter buyers away from the Volkswagen Golf R. But you can have a four wheel drive Octavia RS diesel model. The Golf R comes in two doors and four doors but no estate, unlike some other countries in Europe. So what if you do want a fast estate, what is on offer from VW? I introduce to you the 2018 SEAT Leon ST Cupra.The underpinnings of the Leon Cupra is the Golf R. The same four wheel drive system and the same 300hp, 380Nm 2.0TSI petrol engine. But, instead of a 7-speed DSG, the Cupra only gets 6 gears. With a kerb weight of 1,470kg, this 4.5m long quick estate gets you to 100km/h from a standstill in just 4.9 seconds thanks to launch control, quick indeed.I have always thought that SEAT is a sleeker and more compact looking alternative to its cousins. Its lines are sexier, paying homage to its Spanish history. This is no different for the 2018 Cupra ST. Painted in Mystery Blue, this estate has a masculine and angular face with the fog light surrounds and the lower bumper also packing in straight cut lines. The wing mirrors, I think, make the design. Again, they are pronounced and angular but with SEAT’s Matt Black Pack option box ticked, this €361 option adds Matt Black wing mirror housing, Cupra lettering and front grill. Also part of the pack are the 19-inch alloys. It all ties together in a very tidy package.Stepping down into the Leon Cupra ST and you are comforted by Black Alcantara sports seats with Carbon Fibre-look fabric inserts. They are very comfortable for a sport seat, even in the rear. Rear passengers have decent enough room but definitely not on par with the Skoda Octavia RS. The Infotainment is the same that is seen across the SEAT range. The 8-inch touchscreen is a great system in the Ibiza but I think they could have done something a little more with it for the Leon, especially the Cupra. It includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror Link but you’ll need to be hooked up to these if you want to use Sat Nav. I do like the fact that SEAT have used a discreet “4-Wheel-Drive” badge near the gear shifter rather than the big, agricultural-looking 4MOTION that Volkswagen use on the 2018 Volkswagen Golf R. Another criticism I have is the abundance of road noise. It is especially noticeable at any speed over 50km/h. The 19-inch alloys don’t help with this but the lack of sound deadening plays a part too.Out on the road the Cupra is comparable to the Volkswagen Golf R, naturally. Even with the extra 40kg and length of 27cm, the Cupra ST still feels just as nimble and tight as the hatchback Golf R. Thanks to the four wheel drive, you can drive the Cupra into a corner with full power on knowing you’ll come out the otherside without hesitation, wheel spin and all the grip the hot estate can manage to gather. A fun party trick you can show your friends is the launch control. This catapults you from 0-100km/h in just 4.9 seconds. But a party trick is all it is, I don’t really see the point of it. Still, you should definitely show everyone you can!So for €46,465, is the SEAT Leon Cupra ST worth a look in? Definitely. Although I don’t think it has the same appeal as the Golf R, it shouldn’t be over looked if you are after a fast estate. It sits into a niche sector, one that the Ford Focus ST and the 100hp-less Renault Megane GT sit in too. Although we don’t get the Volkswagen Golf R estate, don’t think you’re just settling for the SEAT Leon Cupra ST, it’s definitely one capable car.

2018 Renault Captur Review

Somewhere in history, car manufacturers in Ireland started realising that young buyers want something fun, quirky and different than the usual car purchase. This lead to smaller and more affordable models in manufacturer’s line-ups. But, also to retro designs like the MINI Cooper, Fiat 500 and Volkswagen Beetle. But, pair this quirky, funky styling technique to the modern day fad of the SUV and you will get the 2018 Renault Captur.The Renault Captur is nothing new to the French manufacturer’s line-up now being on sale since 2013. Having received a makeover in 2017, the Clio-based Renault Captur facelift crossover is one that should not be overlooked. From the outside, the tall yet equally hunkered down stance of the 2018 Captur ticks the boxes of a young person’s SUV. Finished in Amethyst with Platinum roof, purple with a silver roof to you and I, the Captur’s looks definitely tickled my fancy. The facelift adds a more grown-up and muscular front end to the B-segment SUV.The Captur is based off the Renault Clio so, naturally, it shares some of its components. Most of that being evident on the interior. In Signature S Nav trim, the Captur gets a 7-inch touchscreen with Renault’s R-Link infotainment system. You can read from my previous reviews of R-Link that it’s not the best however it has been seriously improved for the Captur. First of all, my phone actually paired with this one and worked every time. It’s easy to navigate and with sat nav from TomTom, it’s well equipped. Black leather seats also come as standard on Signature S Nav trim. These are comfortable, look good and come with bum warmers. Mmm, toasty!Although, the quality of the finish was still what Renault is recognised for. Scratchy plastics galore, even if the two tone dash did look good. Also, from the rear bench was an annoying creak that wouldn’t go away. On the passenger seat, the button for the heated eats, or at least the fake button in its place, had fallen into the base of the seat leaving just a hole. Not a great result quality-wise for a car with less than 5,000km on the clock.Also carrying on from my review of the 2018 Renault Megane, you will get my hatred for Nissan Renault’s 1.5 dCi engine. To my dread, this Captur was fitted with it. Although, it made a good combo on this occasion. My week of mostly urban and suburban commuting translated to a fuel economy of 7.2l/100km. This just backs up my point of my lack of a need for a diesel. So if you don’t do many motorway miles, consider opting for the TCe 90hp 3-cylinder petrol. Although, strangely, this is not available in the Signature S Nav, only diesels are available in the highest trim level.

The cabin was averagely refined in terms of road noise and engine noise but the comfortable seats made up for this. Steering was good from the tall crossover but body roll was present so don’t be getting any ideas. Although my test car sat on 17-inch “Emotion” alloys, ride comfort was good.Boot space equals 377 litres with the seats up and 1,235l with them down, taking advantage of the two tier boot floor too. Taller rear passengers might not be the most comfortable when it comes to head room but if they have long legs, they need not worry.

Overall, the Captur is good buy. Comparing it to the 2018 Opel Crossland X I tested a couple of weeks ago, the Captur is a no brainer. It is miles ahead in terms of refinement, looks and drivability. In Signature S Nav trim, this 2018 Renault Captur will set you back from €27,390. Spec it up correctly and you’ll be one happy urbanite. Renault, you did good!

2018 Subaru Forester Review – New Car Review

I’m a newbie when it comes to CVT gearboxes. My first experience of one was in my recent test car, the 2018 Subaru Forester. In Ireland, the Forester costs from €36,995 which makes it a much pricier alternative to the 2018 Mazda CX-5 and 2018 Nissan X-Trail. However, both of the latter SUVs can be had with a regular, automatic gearbox and having experienced the CX-5 with its 6-speed auto, it’s rather good. But Subaru has always been a bit out there so instead of giving us a trusty automatic, they have given us a CVT. *Deep sigh* OK, let’s do this.

CVT stands for Continuously Variable Transmission. While it is an automatic, it doesn’t have gears but rather steps or stages. Instead of gears, or cogs, there are pulleys. One turned by the engine and the other pulled by the rest of the transmission to the wheels. This transcribes to a seamless and smooth gear change but, when driven like any other car, the engine uses most of the rev range before changing up a gear. This is annoying not only because of the high revs but this translates to a 9.6l/100km fuel economy figure. So in order for you to drive the Forester as Subaru has intended, you must drive at a snail’s pace.

But the Subaru isn’t just all about the CVT. Thanks to its EyeSight feature, it has one of the best adaptive cruise control systems I’ve used. Eyesight is how Subaru say “safety”. It acts as lane recognition and emergency brake assist also. By monitoring other motorists around you, the binocular-like sensors at the top of the windscreen help to keep you out of trouble.

The Forester, back in the day, was a boxy, quirky Japanese estate. Now, keeping up with trends, it is more of an SUV. The exterior’s tall, awkward design translates to great head room in the front and rear and a boot space of at least 505l and up to 1,565l with the seats flat. A decent sized glovebox and a huge centre console cubby hole mean that the Forester has plenty of space all round. The heated leather seats mean that motorway journeys were comfortable and not to be dread.

Taking the SUV off road with X-Mode means that this family practical package can become, not hard core but, off road capable. Understandably, there are very few places where it is free reign for you to tear around in your off roader but I have my spots and I took the 2018 Subaru Forester “soft-roading”. While I found it capable here, I didn’t challenge it. However, I was informed by Subaru when I dropped the Forester back that when they did the official launch, the off road course instructors that navigated the journalists around said that it was just as capable as their Land Rover Discovery 1 and 2s. Although I find this hard to believe, I wasn’t there so I have to take their word for it.

Overall, the Forester is a decent package. Coming in at €38,995 for this 150hp, 198Nm Boxer petrol engine with the CVT, it is well equipped. I would recommend the Eyesight safety system, for sure. What I would not recommend is the CVT. For your own sanity, until Subaru discover the conventional automatic gearbox, opt for the 6-speed manual.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Front

2018 Jeep Wrangler Review – New Car Review

A car is very much a lifestyle accessory. SUVs and Crossovers are predominantly used by families with practicality at the top of their list. Two seater sports cars, like the Mazda MX-5, is bought by someone who doesn’t take life too seriously. Someone who has no belongings that need to be carried around and wants to look good on those couple of, and rare, Summer days in Ireland. Where in Ireland does the 2018 Jeep Wrangler fit in so?

A Quick Jeep Wrangler History Lesson

The Jeep Wrangler’s ancestors date back to the Willys MB. The MB was brought about in 1941 for American troops to use in World War II. After the war, Willys trademarked the name Jeep and began to manufacture the Jeep for everyday use naming it the CJ – Civilian Jeep. Right up until the early 1980’s the CJ was doing well for the brand. It was an icon that everyone knew what it was and what it was about. But, the recession meant that the American market wanted something lighter and more fuel efficient yet still a “Go Anywhere” 4×4. The Jeep Cherokee was introduced and the CJ was briefly axed. After Jeep made their money off the Cherokee it was time to bring back the CJ, but with a new name. And so, the Wrangler was born. Fast forward to 2018, and three Wrangler generations later, the Jeep Wrangler is one tough cookie stooped in history. The 2018/2019 fourth generation Jeep Wrangler is due in Ireland at the end of this year. I couldn’t not let myself get a go in the third generation before it disappeared so here we are today.

A Lifestyle Vehicle You Say?

I still stand by my point of the Jeep Wrangler being a lifestyle vehicle. This is evident to any regular punter simply by looking at the spec sheet. A 200hp and 460Nm 2.8 four-cylinder diesel powers this almost 2,000kg selectable four wheel drive 4×4 around. Shifting through the gears is a single clutch 5-speed automatic returning a real world average of 11.9l/100Km. Combining these history book figures with an abundance of road and wind noise, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler is not for the faint hearted.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Rear

Thankfully I am not faint hearted because I utterly love the Wrangler. It’s a raw, no frills off roader amongst a sea of soft roaders pretending to be something they are not. While I didn’t get the opportunity to do any hard core off roading, I did take the Wrangler to a small off road circuit. It handled it as if it was just a rough bit of road. There was so much more to give from the Wrangler that I felt I was just teasing it. One of the “techy” bits offered by the Jeep is hill ascent control. Think of this is as cruise control for going down steep declines. I found this feature handy in the 2017 Volkswagen Touareg.

What About Everyday Use? 

But trying to use the 2018 Jeep Wrangler as an everyday car is like wearing a pair of stilettos to climb The Sugar Loaf. You’ll wince and make up curse words that you didn’t think were possible as you try to negotiate any sort of street that’s narrower than 50 metres wide. For a four seater, the Wrangler is awkwardly big. This is only one of the indicators that it was built for the American market.

But in saying this, in the right environment it’s versatile. The rear section of the roof and the two panels above the driver can come off in a matter of minutes, with two people. Starts to drizzle? Not to worry, the Alpine sub woofer in the boot is waterproof. There are two rubber stoppers on the bonnet which are there to protect the glass windscreen when you fold it down, just to add to the outdoorsy experience. The quirkiness doesn’t stop there. The only option available here in Ireland is that of metallic paint, otherwise it comes standard in White. Homage is paid to the Willys MB all around the Jeep. On the bottom right hand corner of the windscreen is a silhouette of an Willys MB, same as on each of the 18-inch alloys. The horn is the best though. I should have added a sound clip – YouTube it!

Would I Buy One?

When you break down each component of the Wrangler, it doesn’t make much sense. What, with a 5-speed auto, an average fuel consumption of 11.9l/100km and a boot space of just 142 litres. But, put it all together, mix it up, cook it at 180 degrees for 25 minutes and you’ve got a car that is more than worthy of a spot in your garage at your lake house in Lake Tahoe. Unfortunately it costs the guts of at least €53,250. Still, I want to go on an adventure. Now, where did I leave the keys?

2018 Jeep Wrangler Front

Skoda Karoq Ireland Front

The 2018 Skoda Karoq Launches Into Ireland

The Skoda Yeti was ever so popular in Ireland since its launch back in 2009. Although it wasn’t to my taste, they sold a mere 479 Yetis within the first year. For some reason, Skoda Ireland have decided to replace the popular, quirky Yeti with the Karoq. Now that the 2018 Skoda Karoq has been launched in Ireland, I gave it a quick blast to see what it’s like.

Skoda Karoq Ireland

In terms of looks, it’s nothing out of this world unlike the Yeti. Frankly, it looks like a downsized Skoda Kodiaq. However, this is no bad thing. The Karoq’s bubbly body replaces that of the Yeti’s square and boxy one. It’s wider and 160mm longer than the Yeti translating to more cabin space inside – 40mm more elbow room to be exact! In terms of the boot, it measures in at 521 litres, 105 litres more than the Yeti. Although, if you take advantage of Skoda’s VarioFlex seats this can be upped to 1,810 litres. The VarioFlex rear seats option is new to Skoda and means you can fold the seats in a convenient manner or completely remove them from the car.

Skoda Karoq Ireland Boot

As for the mechanics, the Skoda Karoq will be available from launch with four engines – two diesel and two petrol. The Karoq will get Volkswagen’s new 1.5TSI (150hp) and the popular 1.0TSI (115hp). The diesel options are the 1.6TDI (115hp) and the 2.0TDI (150hp), which I drove at the launch. Each engine can be had with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic. If you opt for the 2.0TDI, it can be had with 4×4 only.

Skoda Karoq Ireland Interior 2

From the brief drive I had in it, the 2.0TDI 4×4 felt very sure footed on the road. One of things I disliked about the Yeti was that it didn’t feel confident on road and felt vague to drive. The Karoq, however, feels well rounded. The steering was light when you wanted it to be but precise in the corners of the backroads of Co. Meath. The 2.0TDI wasn’t loud on the motorway but there was some wind noise coming from around the wing mirrors. DSGs can be a hit and miss, I find. However, the Karoq’s 7-speed shifted smoothly and efficiently.

Skoda Karoq Ireland Side

As for the price; the 2018 Skoda Karoq starts at €27,715 due to Skoda getting rid of the lowest trim level. This is a good thing though because you are getting a lot of standard equipment on the Ambition trim. Coming as standard are 17-inch alloys, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment with Skoda Connect, rear parking sensors and Climatronic air conditioning. If this isn’t enough, jump up to the Style trim for an extra €2,600 and get a 9.2-inch infotainment system, sat nav, rear view camera and 18-inch alloys. Although, it will be interesting to see how many people will just opt for the Karoq’s bigger brother, the Skoda Kodiaq, seeing as it is just an extra €1,080 for it in Active trim level.

Skoda Karoq Ireland Rear

Can it win over Irish buyers from the likes of the 2018 Nissan Qashqai? Keep an eye on the site for a more in depth review of the Karoq in the coming months. Until then, you can read some other Skoda reviews on the site here; Skoda Car Review Ireland.

Skoda Karoq Ireland Front

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!