CAP manufacturer relationships manager Martin Ward scours the globe for the week's insider fleet intelligence
Down to Stansted in a left-hand drive Infiniti (more of that later) to fly to Granada to drive the first right-hand drive Audi Q5s – yes LHD in the UK and RHD in Spain!
I was impressed with the Q5 when I first drove it a few months ago at the international launch, and I liked the UK spec car even more.
I drove it on various roads, including going up into the snow-covered mountains, and the ride, handling and comfort are second to none.
The Q5 can also cope with rough stuff, although our test was on a very tame off-road course.
There will be a choice of three engines when it goes on sale in January – 2.0 TFSI petrol and 2.0 and 3.0 TDI diesels.
My first choice would be the 2.0 TDI, with the petrol a close second.
As with all Audis, the Q5 reeks of quality throughout, with the fit and finish and materials used first-class.
The Q5 is entering a tough sector of the market and Audi could not have picked a worse time to launch such a good car, but it will attract customers who are looking to downsize from larger 4x4s.
Been driving an Infiniti FX 37 GT.
A what, you may ask?
It is built in Japan but not sold there, is a subsidiary of Nissan, has its European HQ in Geneva, and is a big seller in North America with more than 150,000 vehicles sold there since 1989.
The car I drove was a left-hand drive, German-registered vehicle.
The full range of Infinitis is due to go on sale in the UK next June with around a dozen or so specialist dealers following over the next 12 months.
The FX is powered by a 3.7-litre V6 petrol engine that produces 320bhp and has claimed fuel economy of 23.5mpg.
The interior is so luxurious and the attention to detail throughout the car is amazing.
The seats are very comfortable but the ride is a bit choppy and never seems to settle down.
There will be a diesel version on sale by mid-2010, so it might be worth waiting for this if you really want an Infiniti.
The company says it is ‘happy to remain rare in Europe and will appeal to only a few’ – such wise and true words.
The FX is a cross between a BMW X5, X6 and Lexus RX, but in reality is more like a Japanese Maserati.
A visit to Aston Martin’s headquarters in Gaydon to discuss the current climate and the future, and how this prestige manufacturer is coping.
The answer is simple – it is managing the current economic climate as well as anyone in this high-priced exotic sector.
Dealers are not actively buying used cars but will take them in part-exchange, leaving a lot of Astons for sale in the open market.
Aston Martin, though, is still special and will survive whatever happens – it always has.
I had a look around its factory and it was immaculate.
It builds around 7,000 cars each year, with 2,000 staying in the UK and another 2,000 going to north America.
Aston confirmed the Rapide saloon will be built in Austria and go on sale at the end of 2009.
I had a quick drive around in a Vantage, and what a great car it is – it looks fantastic, drives tremendously and oozes image and quality.