Tuesday, 6 September 2016

COLUMN – September 2016

Here is another chance to see my column from the September editions of The Local Herald and The Clitheroe Local. Four cars feature again, and on paper they all appear to be pointless. However, you should never judge a car by its spec sheet, so I hit the road in the Volvo V60 Polestar, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, Ford Mondeo Vignale and Ford Mustang V8. Not a bad month indeed, and you can find write ups of all these cars on the Reviews page. Enjoy... I did!


I could quite easily have justified not writing my column this month. The cars I had on test were, on paper, pointless vehicles. Take the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT; a 2.4-tonne, 6.4-litre SUV; about as kind to the environment as a forest fire. The thing is though, it’s more powerful than one too. Its V8 engine puts out a gargantuan 461PS and 624Nm of torque. That’s enough for 0-62mph in 5.0 seconds and a top speed of 160mph. Six-piston Brembo brakes and a host of track-oriented features- from launch control to stiffer springs- ensure it stops and turns as well as it goes.

Inside you get lots of space, lots of equipment and a high-quality feel to the cabin. With the rumble coming from the bonnet the SRT turns heads everywhere, and is a presence wherever it goes. It can surprise passengers and fellow motorists alike, as it will disappear into the horizon with a prod of your right foot. Economy is the downside; with CO2 emissions of 327g/km and combined fuel consumption of 20.2mpg. At £67,000 it undercuts the equivalent Range Rover Sport considerably.

The Volvo V60 Polestar is a practical estate car that’s been handed over to the Swede’s tuning company. And they’ve gone bonkers. A 3.0-litre, turbocharged straight six puts out 350PS and 500Nm. 0-62mph is dealt with in 4.9 seconds and the Volvo is limited to 155mph. Available only with a 6-speed automatic, shifting into ‘S’ opens some exhaust flaps which ignite your senses and make you go all tingly. This family wagon absolutely roars.

Ohlins adjustable dampers are standard. As are 371mm, 6-piston front brakes. And on the creature comfort side there’s heated seats, keyless entry and go, heated steering wheel, Harmon Kardon sound system with the brilliant Sensus Connect system. Costing £49,785 doesn’t help the V60’s appeal, nor will the running costs. But with the new model boasting a more economical, 4-cylinder engine it really could be an excellent family car… I’m tempted.

You may well have seen Ford’s ‘Unlearn’ adverts and wonder what the fuss is about. Take the new Vignale range, trying to give Ford an upmarket appeal. This is a Mondeo which has been given some nice touches, such as the leather dashboard, lots of chrome trim and FodDynamic LED headlights. My car came with a rather good powertrain, with a 2.0-litre TDCi offering 180PS and 400Nm of torque. It had AWD, and a smooth 6-speed automatic gearbox.

It feels high-quality, and drives like a luxury car. But do people want an upper class Mondeo? I’m still not sure.

What about an American icon; the Ford Mustang? It’s available for the first time with a steering wheel on the correct side. And what’s more, it’s been designed for a European market, which means it goes round corners and doesn’t wallow around like Jell-O. But with the 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine being inadequate, it’s the 5.0-litre V8 you choose. And in this day and age a V8, 2-door muscle car doesn’t make much sense.

Until you push the start button. This rumbles like you want a V8 to, and bellows as you accelerate. The Mustang is no slouch, with 418PS and 530Nm of torque. 0-62mph is 4.8 seconds and the top speed is 155mph. You can adjust the drive mode, and the steering feel, and I have to say that it handles very well indeed. The Mustang can get a little hairy in damp conditions, especially with the automatic gearbox which doesn’t inspire confidence.

Granted, some of the interior plastics look and feel cheap, and the running costs are hard to stomach. But this is a V8 muscle car, a proper head-turner, for around £38,000. That represents a considerable bargain.

Dan

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