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Ford sculpture to wow Le Mans - via email
Every now and again a car transcends the notion of mere transport and becomes a piece of automotive sculpture. The Ford GT is a case in point, and its simply astonishing architecture was illustrated by Steffen Jahn’s breathtaking pictures (CAR, December). I pored over the image on p84 for ages, drinking in the complexities of the aero work and imagining how much more thrilling Le Mans 2016 will be thanks to the presence of this car, accompanied by the spirit of GT40s past.
Steady on, Mr Walton! - via email
Having just read Mark Walton’s article on the new Giulia (CAR, November) I fear that Mr Walton has had his Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah’s sofa moment. ‘Everything, Everything, EVERYTHING’. Really? I can understand the excitement but I don’t need Heat magazine levels of shouty exuberance to get the point across. I don’t want to ruin Mr Walton’s day, but can I just remind him of the promise the 4C has so far failed to deliver?
What Alfa must do - via email
It’s great to read of yet ANOTHER renaissance at Alfa Romeo, even if the new Giulia looks remarkably like the reps’ and estate agents’ favourite 3-series from the side, while the much discussed repositioning of the rear number plate makes it look like a Skoda Rapid from the rear. As a car enthusiast, I find the Alfa brand beguiling, and considered, seriously, a Giulietta, until I found that every single Alfa owner I met had terrible experiences of unreliability, surpassed only by the bloody-mindedness of the dealers. Until Alfa gets quality and reliability, plus its dealer network, right I’ll stay with my Ford Focus, with its smooth, quiet Ecoboost triple, its delightful handling, and its economy, backed by a courteous dealer who makes modest charges for routine, annual maintenance, which is all mine has ever needed!
On the Bugatti Chiron - via car online
I thought that the silver lining in VW’s woes would be that this thing might be stopped. Presumably too much time and money have been spent for this to happen. Perhaps VW will realise some return by selling the brand. The pictures that show Louis Chiron in a real heart-stoppingly beautiful GP Bugatti illustrate exactly how wrong the Veyron and its successor are as embodiments of a great brand.
Lewis beats Jackie? - via email
F1 correspondent Tom Clarkson suggests Lewis Hamilton beats Jackie Stewart in a triple-champ Brit face-off (CAR, December). Maybe, but there’s one category Tom didn’t and probably couldn’t mention: legacy. Bernie Ecclestone describes Lewis as ‘box office’ and ‘the best world champion we’ve had’, and from Bernie’s perspective he’s probably right, but will Lewis change the sport to the extent that Sir Jackie did, and I’m thinking from a purely driver’s perspective? Nobody worked as tirelessly as Jackie Stewart to raise safety standards in an era when injury and death were commonplace, almost inevitable. If Lewis manages to achieve something on that scale in his career then, no question, he’ll gain legend status. And Sir Jackie? He’s F1 royalty.
On the Evoque cabrio - via car online
Wow, nearly £50,000 for something that resembles a vinyl-roofed Allegro with the hood up!
Dangerous gestures - via email
Like most BMWs, the new 7-series is no doubt a fantastic machine. But the widely promoted ‘hand gesture’ for volume control is just plain stupid. Remove one hand from the steering wheel and make circular movements towards the command screen…and as BMW will have some lovely graphics on screen to show you the volume increments, you will of course also watch the screen to admire and confirm that your command is being delivered. Meanwhile, with one hand on the wheel and one eye only on the road, you will be eternally grateful that you spec’d your 7-series with auto braking, otherwise by now you will have ploughed into the back of the car in front. The alternative? My Audi (like many other cars) has a scroll button on the steering wheel, just under my right thumb. To change the volume, a tiny movement of my thumb always delivers a perfect result. Both hands stay on the wheel, both eyes stay on the road, and all is good. Vorsprung durch NON Technik for me thanks!
Charles Coldrey Mobbs
On the Fiat 124 Spider - via car online
I like the MX-5 a lot, but I LOVE the look of this. And they had to hit the Mazda’s hard points. Just when I thought Fiat had got itself sucked into a 500 vortex, they produce a fresh and vibrant version of their glory days roadster.
I can’t see anything Italian or desirable about this version of the MX-5. Lumpen is the only word I can think of to describe the lost opportunities here. Maybe it has tactile and aural delights? But visually and conceptually it’s a waste of time when you can buy a proper MX-5 for similar money.
Mazda, I salute you! - via email
‘We fear that if we drop the rotary engine the technology will disappear from the world,’ says Mazda RX-Vision designer Ikuo Maeda (CAR, December). If he has any shareholders to worry about then round about now they’ll be busy writing his letter of dismissal, but I for one want to shake his hand. For car enthusiasts everywhere it’s reassuring to know that there are like-minded folk at work in the big car makers, fighting against a tide of cost control, politics, eco-pressures and dull old common sense to make the cars we love. It’s not about rotary engines per se, but about the spirit of adventure. Mazda, I salute you!
Emission impossible - via email
Elon Musk (CAR, November) states that VW engineers were not capable of meeting the required emissions targets and therefore ‘trickery was the only option’. Quite clearly it was not impossible to meet the target, as they will now be modifying the affected vehicles to do this, but the cost of re-engineering made it easier and more attractive to fiddle the results, which to me is even worse and can’t be defended. Musk goes on to say: ‘With hydrocarbons, we hit the limit of physics several years ago’, so effectively purporting the same theory that internal combustion engines had already reached their peak mechanical efficiency. This is a ludicrous statement, as the constant technological advances you report on every month prove, so why give these statements column space? In his editorial Phil McNamara reports on the ‘overwhelmingly positive sensation when driving cars like the (Tesla) Model S: the knowledge that, at the moment of use, your ludicrous 2.8 second 0-60 sprint expels no emissions whatsoever’. While factually correct, this is rather like saying that ‘during the fall from a 10-storey building there is no pain whatsoever’, however the landing isn’t so great. The emissions needed to produce this feat of acceleration are created prior to, rather than during, the act. The energy the battery was charged with produced emissions, the production of this complicated, heavy car produced emissions. Even if the electricity for charging the battery came from renewable sources (solar/wind/wave/hydro) it has some emissions cost, because the devices built to harness the energy themselves produce emissions. Every item manufactured produces emissions at some point. I’m afraid humans don’t exist without producing environmental damage of some sort. Shouldn’t electric cars be described as ‘low emission’ rather than ‘zero emission’?
Emission possible - via email
Why would you make Charlie Blackler’s anti-electric car letter your Letter of the Month (CAR, December) if you surely know it is filled with unsubstantiated hunches? There have been numerous studies of cradle-to-grave impact of EVs versus regular cars and they all conclude that over their lifecycle EVs have a far smaller environmental impact than their traditional counterparts.
On the VW Beetle Dune - via car online
I’ll admit I’ve never been a fan of the New Beetle, which seemed to me to be a perverse thing to do to an otherwise innocent VW Golf. This thing, however, is even more reprehensible. Also the name is wrong – the ‘e’ in Dune should more appropriately be a ‘g’.
7-series vs Austin Maxi - via email
The sixth-gen 7-series’ ‘active body training’, as described by Ben Miller (CAR, November), is all very well, but I’ve been there, done that. In the 1970s I had an Austin Maxi in which the driver’s seat tilt mechanism (it was loaded with options!) failed. I was able to do sit-ups any time the car was stationary.
Thank you, VW (letter of the month)
As everyone is talking about the VW scandal, and even Porsche and Audi is dragged into this mess, it’s about time to see the bigger picture and the possibilities that open up in the wake of these discoveries. Maybe we should even thank VW for helping to speed up the process of moving from fossil fuels to the next great thing? The car industry has proven to be pretty great at incremental innovations, improving a fundamentally flawed concept (the fossil-fuelled car) to the point where there’s nowhere left to go other than to creatively get around tighter emisson standards. The car industry has had years to come up with viable solutions to our future transportation needs, and yet has managed only minimal environmental improvements. All those concepts created over the years were seemingly just for show. Now is a great opportunity for new companies to enter the playing field (Tesla, Google, Apple etc) and established companies will have to really work hard to catch the wave that’s
coming. And it’s coming faster than we originally thought, thanks to VW.