Wednesday 15 August 2012

Road - The 'green' GT

All these, but only for a day!
BMW was the latest manufacturer to traipse all the way up to Scotland with a truckload of cars for Scotland’s top motoring journalists to drive and appraise. The fact that the ‘Scottish Car of the Year Awards’ is just around the corner (October) might have had something to do with it.

Although journalists get the chance to drive most new cars at launch, the trouble comes keeping up with additional models, facelifts, upgrades, different engines and additional trim specs, and a day like today gives us all the chance to catch up.

One of the big challenges facing the whole of the automotive industry is reducing emissions. Also, what many folks might not be aware of is that it’s not just engine emissions they have to reduce, but all manufacturers are being persuaded to ensure that their production plants are reducing their emissions too, hence the growth of wind turbines above factories, water based paints in the paint shop, recycling facilities on-site and any other time, efficiency and raw materials savings that can be made along the way.

Sensible and sober? Not quite.
But if they think their new BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is going to save the planet. Not a chance. This thing is about as ‘green’ as a 1948 sidevalve tar boiler. For sure, it drinks a lot less juice and it emits less CO2s than a bag of chips with mushy peas (149 g/km), but under the bonnet lurks a 306 hp, 3 litre petrol engine with supplementary electric drive.

And yes it will return over 44 miles to the gallon (over 50 for dawdlers) and yes it has an 8 speed automatic gearbox to ensure that it can be driven frugally at low revs while maintaining indecent averages. And therein lies the problem.

It is very difficult to drive slowly. For instance, the best of intentions can so easily be chucked out the window, especially when you come up behind some doddery old twit who slows suddenly and without warning to peer over the dyke at the Highland coos.

In that instant, a quick swerve is needed once you’ve checked the road is clear, and then you give it the beans – and your ears get hit by the sonorous snarl of six big cylinders singing their hearts out. Forget moustachio-ed insurance salesmen, this is the three tenors with bloodlust.

It's still bluidy quick.
I’m a sucker for a good song, as are most petrolheads, and so the temptation to be frugal and responsible with no mechanical soundtrack is like asking a rocker to wear ear defenders at a Status Quo concert.

It won’t happen. The ‘green’ label on this car is there purely to appease the environmentalists, assuage the politicians and allow the owner to feel smug amongst neighbours and workmates.

You see, the car is exceptionally quiet all the way to 4000 rpm, but at 4500, its lungs burst, and your ears get their first aural tincture of the mechanical mayhem being conducted under the bonnet. This being a sensible and sober BMW 5 series, the silencers do their bit to contain the glorious noise, but fortunately for us enough gets through to bypass the brain and go straight to the right foot.

So stuff the mpg figures, let’s explore the sub 6 second nought to 60 sprint – and hear the noise.

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