Thursday 2 February 2012

Road - Fleeting glamour

A sushi bar in Edinburgh airport!
The Top Gear boys and Fifth Gear team give a misleading view of life as a motoring journalist, it’s not all fast cars and glamorous locations. I can say that with some conviction, but perhaps not as much ‘conviction’ as a fellow passenger on the flight from Edinburgh to Heathrow this afternoon. He was wearing handcuffs and was escorted to the flight by two burly security guards. I wouldn’t have picked a fight with the wumman guard never mind the bloke.

He must have been a first class passenger though, he was allowed on first. Then when we arrived there was a team of three waiting for him. Perhaps the image of Glasgow security blokes has some carry over from that carry on at Glasgow Airport a few years back when a certain security guard achieved worldwide fame after ‘booting the boot in’ to a fire raising miscreant. So whereas it only took two to get him to Edinburgh, it needed three in London to carry him off!

Anyway, Edinburgh has changed. It’s now got a sushi bar in the terminal, right beside a seafood bar, but there’s no haggis bar. Are we missing a trick here for all the furrin tourists?

The destination this time is Stuttgart where a press conference is being hosted by Mercedes-Benz. So what’s this for? A new CLS or maybe a glimpse of the 2012 F1 challenger? Nae chance. M-B are launching  a new City Van, something to fill the gap between estate cars and their Vito van. People often forget, M-B is the biggest manufacturer of commercial vehicles in the world. From 4x4 utility vehicles to the Vito Van, from the Sprinter Van to the 44 tonne Actros, from the Unimog to the Mitsubishi Fuso range of light and middle weight trucks. It’s not all fast cars and shiny limousines, they make some serious big and heavy kit.

The only trouble is, we won’t get our hands on the actual new compact van itself, this is purely a look-see and a technical explanation behind the reasons for it. We’re going to have to sit down and listen to a flock of designers, engineers, and marketers first, as is the way of German press conferences. We don’t get to drive the thing till April!

Vauxhall in Scotland
Still, I managed to get a wee drive earlier this morning. Vauxhall was in Scotland with the new Astra GTC and the Corsa Nurburgring and I got a run out in the 1.4 Astra and the 1.6 litre Corsa before heading to the airport. The 140 PS Turbo Astra is a superbly well balanced wee motor which is quick without being fast, but the Corsa is a loony. The 205 PS 1.6 Turbo is a hoot to drive.

It’s one of those frenetic fwd hatches which can best be summed up as a ‘point, squeeze and haud oan ticht’ kind of car. It’s got sufficient torque steer to keep you constantly involved without threatening to fire you over the nearest hedge at every bend. And yet it handles remarkably well. For sure it’s firm and the suspension bangs and clatters over the bumps, but you hear it rather than feel it. Seats are good and driving position ideal, but you buy this for the fun factor, not serenity and sensibility.

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