He had landed a few hours before me and had got as far as Cambridge. Despite a couple of unsuccessful attempts at finding alternative routes, I made my slow progress on the hazardous surfaces in our newest long- term test car, the Subaru Forester.
The latest Forester has improved fuel consumption and lower carbon dioxide emissions than the previous model, with the result that it not only beats petrol sport utility vehicle (SUV) rivals on benefit-in-kind tax, it also has the measure of the best diesels, saddled as they are with a 3% supplement.
It has metallic paint, climate control and a CD player as standard, as well as all-terrain tyres, full-time four-wheel drive, dual-range transfer transmission, four electric windows, heated electric door mirrors and windscreen wiper de-icer (which proved very useful on my trip from hell), remote central locking with deadlocks, active head restraints and ABS brakes.
Our car has the All Weather Pack (the AWP you see in the title) which adds side airbags, alloys, a large electric sunroof, front fog lamps, heated front seats, cruise control and lower-body cladding.
As the traffic edged forward on the nightmare journey, with thousands of drivers stuck until the following morning, I decided there was no other car on our long-term fleet I would rather be in. Cocooned from the sub-zero temperatures in a comfortable 24 degrees Celsius, I crept forward in the traffic. The Forester affords a better view of other road users than a conventional estate. Although you wouldn't think to look at it – there is as much ground clearance as in a Land Rover Freelander.
Permanent four-wheel drive ensured there was virtually no slipping on the ice as the power went down and we made our snail-paced advance.
Other handy features include a hill-holder clutch – when stopped on an incline, engaging first gear while depressing the brake pedal allows you to release the handbrake and footbrake with no danger of rolling backwards. The car will stay put until you find the biting point.
When the traffic began to move again in the early hours of the morning, the Forester remained composed on the treacherous surface at up to 40mph, which was as brave as I got when balancing the desire to return home with the need to keep the car, myself and other road users in one piece.
The 70-mile journey in eight-and-a-half hours dented the fuel consumption – I had to keep the engine running to stay warm – but under normal circumstances the official combined fuel consumption figure of 33.2mpg should be within easy reach. One of my colleagues will no doubt report on what the Forester is like to drive in conditions more typical of a British winter in a few weeks.
Company car tax bill 2003 (22% taxpayer): £79.49 per month