Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Top Gear v Fifth Gear

Sunday saw the return to BBC2 of Top Gear, this is just a few weeks after Fifth Gear returned to our screens. Now I like Top Gear and I like Fifth Gear but which is the best? There's only one way to find out...


Sorry, went a bit Harry Hill there.Well, as ever, it comes down to what you want from a TV motoring programme.

This week on Fifth Gear, we had Vicki hooning around in a Rolls Royce Ghost. Yummy - and the car looks nice too. Jason was hooning around comparing BMW and Nissan hot Cabrios and Jonny did the sensible item on the Skoda Superb estate - "superb" being Skoda's name for it - not mine - I'd have called it the "Skoda Very Good in a Fast & Practical Sort of Way".

Top Gear, on the other hand and on the other channel, went with Jeremy hooning around in the new pared-down-for-speed Bentley. They then had James driving up to the edge of the Icelandic volcano and catching fire. Then it was the death of the Chevrolet Reasonably-Priced Car followed by various celebs and a page 3 girl setting times in the new one and finally Jeremy hooning about in a Reliant Rialto.

Top Gear got a hell of a lot more in - but then again, they have a full hour to play with. Fifth Gear has been shrunk down to half an hour which, allowing for adverts and the annoying competition leaves only about 20 minutes of actual car time. I suppose the competition is a necessary evil - the show was nearly cancelled for financial reasons so getting gullible people to answer easy questions with expensive phone calls must bring in revenue. Which British Driver won the Formula One World Championship?
A: Damon Hill,
B: Harry Hill,
C: Benny Hill

I mean - Duh! I could write even easier ones though: What's the round, rubber thing you find on a car wheel?
A: A Tyre
B: Quantum Physics
C: Frank Lampard

As you will have noticed, you get an awful lot of hooning going on in car programmes. Usually in fast exotic cars well beyond the budget of your average blogger. This is nice but gets a bit over the top. Top Gear tends to space out the hooning with comedy pieces. Fifth Gear tend to use sensible pieces. I like both. Top Gear's laptimes bit and the Rialto bit were very, very funny but I also want to know about affordable cars and what's new and what they can do.

So, I watch both programmes and I enjoy both programmes but I also want a bit of the show that they both evolved out of - it was on from 1977 to 2001 with various presenters including Angela Rippon, William Woolard, Jeremy Clarkson, James May (very briefly), Vicki Butler-Henderson and Tiff Needell. It was called "Top Gear"

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

New VW Jetta

Yesterday, at 4pm, Volkswagen released pictures of the new Jetta to be launched next Spring. Autocar and Auto Express seemed quite excited by this - I'm not too sure why. Even the official UK VW Website doesn't mention it - although, I suppose to be fair, they are still trying to sell the current model so it might put potential buyers off if they know their shiny new purchase has only one year before obsolescence. Judging by this ad from last year, though, Jetta buyers are a pretty gullible lot who are used to paying over the odds for things...

It's an advert that gives out completely the wrong message. A bit like this Nissan Navara one does...

Good music but that ad says that anyone who drives a Navara is a complete wimp who everyone thinks is a Tosser so has to drive a big 4x4 to get any respect.

Or am I just not very good at interpreting adverts?

Anyway, back to the Jetta, which is after all, the point of this post. The new one is priced similarly to the current one. It has the usual BlueMotion features and looks bland - like a Golf with a Boot - which VW are quick to point out it is not. This has been specifically designed as a saloon - presumably for the American market - they like saloons (or "sedans"). To me it looks like a VW Passat/Seat Exeo with a Scirocco front - nowt special but I'm sure those people with plenty of money and little understanding of what cars should be worth will still buy it.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Mercury is Falling

The Ford Motor Company have announced that this Fall, sorry, this Autumn, the Mercury name will be no more. This name may not mean a lot to people on this side of The Pond but it will be sadly missed by me. As you will note from the photograph above, I have owned a couple of Mercurys in my time - and in the 1970s, they seemed a lot more exciting than the European cars of the time: Vauxhall Viva anybody? VW Variant?

The one on the right used to be green and it has two dogs in the back. The one in the middle was a Fire Chief's car and the one on the left was an ambulance - all, unfortunately, have seen better days and are now serving time in the care of my sons.

That was a time when Mercurys were real, exciting-looking cars in their own right.

The Mercury name today is used as a luxury brand name for the ordinary Ford range. Sort of like Vanden Plas was for British Leyland as opposed to how Lexus is for Toyota. There are no specific Mercurys, just rebadged, poshed-up Fords. This meant that they could not sell off the whole brand like they did with Aston Martin, Land-Rover, Jaguar and Volvo. They could just sell the name, I suppose - but I doubt if they will.

So farewell, Mercury, Another One Bites The Dust.
(See what I did there - Freddie Mercury - Queen - good, eh?)