I’VE been using a Mercedes-Benz E280 CDI estate – and I’m impressed. It averaged nearly 40mpg, is quiet, has plenty of power and is extremely comfortable. But more importantly, the size of the cargo area is huge – so big that I managed to get a two-seater sofa in the back of it and close the tailgate.
As I was loading the chair into it outside the large Swedish furniture outlet on the outskirts of Leeds, I watched in amazement at other drivers struggling to get even the smallest of goods into their repmobiles, along with the kids and the wife. Remember, a company car is not for life, it’s only for three-years – then you can get one that will fit all your flatpacks.
WENT down to Stansted, again, but this time in – to give it its full name – a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX FQ340. This £32,800 saloon has a 2.0-litre turbo engine and four-wheel drive, which gives it the turning circle of a Hummer Limo, and goes from 0-62mph in a staggering 4.3 seconds.
However, as expected the ride was a little hard and I now know every pothole and bump on the A1 and A14, but with all that power the suspension needs to be firm. Despite it having a six-speed gearbox, the engine is turning at 3,000rpm at 70mph, so you feel like you want to change up another gear, when there isn’t another one in there.
FLEW down to the Le Castellet complex in the South of France, which includes the Paul Ricard race track, hotel and airstrip – all owned by the F1 boss Bernie Eccleston.
The hotel at Le Castellet is affectionately known in racing circles as the Bernie Inn. We went to drive the first right-hand drive, UK-spec Audi TTs. You can read what motoring editor Julian Kirk thought about it on page 11, but what was interesting to me is that more than 180 journalists drove the cars over a variety of roads, with hardly any criticism.
The new TT is a great improvement over the old car, which has sold more than 48,000 units over the past eight years in the UK and is still a popular used choice.
For me, the one to have is the entry-level 2.0 TFSI. However if you do want one, join the queue as there have been more than 2,500 orders taken – 54% being for the 2.0 and 40% for the semi-automatic S-Tronic gearbox.
SAW an advertisement in Fleet News for a fleet and maintenance manager. The ad had been placed by MI5, so I thought this was going to be a new motorway, but in fact it’s from MI5 – the Security Service. I thought I had an interesting job, but just imagine all the cars you’d be responsible for as head of the MI5 fleet... Astons, Jags with pop-down headlights with machine guns, or is that just big screen fantasy?
No doubt MI5, like everyone else, will have ordinary cars, doing extraordinary work. Good luck to the successful applicant, and let me know if it really is as exciting as it sounds.
OVER to Paris to drive a pre-production Nissan Qashqai.
Dave Murfitt, Nissan UK’s fleet director, told me it will compete with Golf, Focus and Astra, but rivals on show included the Kia Sportage, Suzuki SX4 and Grand Vitara. One positive aspect was how quiet the car was on the track, with little wind and engine noise. It also handles well and is spacious. The trick for Nissan now is to get customers back into their dealers to look at a lower-medium car, something they haven’t done for a while.