Monday July 25th, 2011 19:57 Top 7 Motorway Driving Irritations

Driving should be a pleasant experience but frequently it is ruined by the actions of other motorists. Motorway journeys can be monotonous and tiring, and those little annoyances inflicted upon us by other drivers can really get the blood boiling. Here are my top seven:

Lorries Overtaking Each Other
Heavily laden trucks travel slowly. They are big and they get in the way. When there are two of them and one is trying to overtake the other it is almost certain to infuriate the drivers who get stuck behind.

Firstly, it takes forever because one lorry is travelling at 55 miles per hour and the other is travelling at 55.01 miles per hour. If the road is busy it means that two lanes are now blocked for the foreseeable future.

Then, once the two trucks are alongside each other, there’s the extra delay whilst the trucker’s code is enacted, that series of mysterious waves and gestures that nobody else is allowed to understand. Once complete, the overtaking truck then accelerates back to 55.01mph to complete the manoeuvre. Whilst all this is going on, you’re stuck behind them in your BMW 5 series rapidly losing the will to live.

Middle-Lane Hogs
Having good lane discipline is all very well and good but when other drivers stick religiously to the middle lane as though their lives depend upon it, etiquette swiftly disappears out of the window.

Why do they do it? The inside lane is clear yet still they sit there, gripping the wheel and maintaining a steady 60mph all the while, behind them, a tailback is starting to form. The other guarantee in this situation is that if any other driver takes matters into their own hands by under-taking, they will receive the most withering glare the brainless lane-hog can possibly muster.

Phone Users
People have to use the phone, we understand this. Mostly they are conscientious enough to do it safely by using the right equipment. It’s still really annoying though, because once they’re busy on the phone, attention to speed becomes almost non-existent. One moment they’re doing a steady 70, the next they’re down to 55 as their attention waxes and wanes and you have to pull out to overtake them. No more than two minutes later, they will come back past you doing 80 before starting the whole game over again.

It’s the kind of mobile hazard that used to feature regularly in those retro racing games but that has no place on the motorway. Utterly infuriating!

Flying litter
Any driver who discards half-eaten food out of their window so that it hits the car behind them should be made to suffer. A half-eaten hamburger, sandwich crusts, cigarette butts, plastic packaging…nothing is off limits for the litter louts.

Not only is it a safety hazard, but it is also the reason why the roadsides are covered in the stuff. Just keep it in the car until you can dispose of it properly!

People with don’t know how to use mirrors
Some drivers seem to think that mirrors are just for checking their hair. After all, the manufacturer’s kindly provision of three mirrors allows them to check every aspect of their profile. Often they will do this whilst overtaking but what they almost certainly will not do is check their mirrors before pulling back in again, forcing you to jump on the brakes and shake your fist at them. Naturally they won’t notice you shaking your fist at them because they don’t know how to use their mirrors.

People who drive as though it’s dry
When it’s raining, braking distances become longer. We all know this, so why are there so many drivers who think they can drive the same way in torrential rain and strong wind as they do on a calm, sunny day?

You’ll know the sort of thing – you’ve allowed for the longer braking distance by sitting a little further back from the vehicle in front of you, only for someone to dive into the space, forcing you to drop back again. Then it happens again…and again…and again…

Or they approach behind and then drive so close that a collision is inevitable if you are forced to brake suddenly. I can only imagine that these people base their driving style on the weather conditions inside the car.

Cutting into the slip lane at the last minute
Having made the effort to get into the right lane in plenty of time, your serene progress is disrupted by a driver who desperately wants to shave another 0.3 seconds off of their journey by overtaking just one more car. Soon this has turned into a row of cars, and they’ve arrived at their exit on the opposite side of the road. The inevitable wild manoeuvre across all three lanes should be punishable with something exceedingly painful indeed.

This applies equally to the lane closure for road works. Two lanes of traffic have patiently siphoned into one. But there’s always one driver who comes roaring along the now empty, and soon to vanish, lane and then has to cut in at the last moment bringing all other traffic to a virtual standstill as he does so.

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Monday July 18th, 2011 15:26 The Eco-friendly Driving Game

With the Honda Civic hybrid, you can play a nice, eco-friendly game that whiles away the hours on long drives – simultaneously helping to save the planet!

The “game” is all about maximising miles per gallon. Because the Honda Civic hybrid uses both a traditional internal-combustion engine that runs on petrol – and an electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery, the gar is a good choice for today’s green and thrifty motorists.

The way the car works is that the electric motor takes some of the strain when the car is accelerating or climbing hills, thereby saving petrol. The extra load, though, drains the battery, so the car cleverly recharges the battery when the car goes downhill or when it is decelerating.

The Civic also includes dashboard dials featuring real-time display of what’s happening each second of your drive. Obviously, accelerating causes the miles per gallon to decrease but at a steady 60 miles per hour on a flat road, the car shows it is achieving up to 65.7 miles per gallon as the battery helps out.

On very long ascents, drivers are able to see the power being slowly drained from the battery as the mpg figures hold up well (when compared to conventional petrol-engine cars) from the additional electric propulsion.

On the downward slope, the battery is then recharged at no “cost” to the driver – ready to help out again on the next hill.

Hybrid cars are the logical next step for traditional motorists taking their first tentative steps into the world of eco-friendly motoring. The transition isn’t a painful one by any means. Meanwhile, the “game” of maximising miles per gallon saves money, saves the planet, and makes those long journeys that bit less tedious.

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Sunday July 17th, 2011 13:52 Renault Reveals the Price of the Wind Gordini

 

After being unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March, Renault‘s limited edition Wind Gordini made it to UK showrooms this week. Limited to just 200 vehicles, the Wind Gordini comes with a choice of two petrol engines, the entry level 1.2-litre engine and a 1.6-litre engine. While the 1.2-litre version is capable of producing 100bhp, the 1.5-litre engine can produce 133bhp.

Although the limited edition Wind Gordini is virtually identical to the standard version of the car, there are a few cosmetic changes that set it apart. Along with 17-inch silver alloy wheels and Gordini badging on the car’s side pillars, customers have the choice of three paint colours – blue, black or white – to go along with the distinctive stripes that adorn the car’s exterior.

The car’s interior features two-tone leather seats embossed with Gordini badges, blue and white door straps and a sport steering wheel. The car’s gear stick is also adorned with the Gordini badge. Drivers are also given a reminder of the exclusivity of their car, as the Wind Gordini’s interior also features a numbered plaque.

The limited edition model also comes with Bluetooth, climate control and USB connectivity as standard. On top of these features, a Thatcham alarm is also included.

Prices for the limited-edition Renault Wind Gordini stand at £15,195 for the 1.2-litre version and £16,095 for the 1.6-litre version. Both are available to order now.

As the prices for the Wind Gordini were announced, Renault also revealed a reduction in the price of the standard version of the car. The 1.2-litre Dynamique model will now cost customers £12,995.

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Friday July 15th, 2011 13:09 Audi reveal latest updates to the A5 range

Audi has revealed details of its latest update to the A5 range. The German firm announced that the Coupe, Carbriolet and Sportback models would all be revised and updated.

Only minor changes have been made to the A5′s exterior, although it now has a new grille as well as narrower headlamp units. These units also happen to be stepped. On top of this, the A5 now features revised LED light clusters. You might need a magnifying glass and a measuring tape to notice, but Audi have also grown the exterior dimension of each model by a massive one millimetre.

In order to improve the handling of the A5, updates have also been made to the rear suspension bearings and the damper tuning.

Audi has also provided the A5 with a number of different engine options. Tweaks to the entry-level 1.8-litre engine now enable it to produce 168bhp and 320Nm of torque. As for the top of the range S5 Coupe, just as it did with the Sportback and Convertible, Audi has ditched the 350bhp 4.2-litre V8 engine. The S5 Coupe now has a much cleaner 3.0-litre V6 engine that is capable of producing 333bhp. This allows it to go from 0-62mph in just 4.9 seconds, while reaching a top speed of 155mph.

There will also be a range of diesel engines available for the A5, including two differently tuned versions of the same V6 diesel engine. Audi has promised to follow these up with “a particularly low-emissions clean diesel model” of the A5, making it the first coupe to meet the Euro 6 diesel standard.

Audi enthusiasts in the UK will be able to order the new Audi A5 from September. These cars are expected to reach the UK before the end of 2011. Although no official prices for the A5 have been revealed, it is expected to cost in the range of £25,500.

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Wednesday July 13th, 2011 22:09 The Ideal Family Car

Deciding what constitutes the best family car in the modern age is something that causes a surprising amount of heated debate.

Of course, a few factors are beyond dispute. All parents would agree that safety is absolutely paramount.

Then there’s the matter of space. The amount of internal space and luggage space required will depend on the size of the family, the number of occasions you need to take wider family members such as grandparents on trips and the likelihood your children want to bring along their friends for the ride.

All are important considerations in deciding on the number of seats you’ll need and just how important luggage space sis for you.

Many families opt for the five-plus-two car versions – whereby the car is a standard five-seater with two occasional pop-up seats in the boot space for the relatively rare occasions when six or seven seats are required.
The Honda FR-V is a relative rarity in the modern age having, as it does, three seats in the front making it an ideal choice for a family of four which has the occasional need for two additional seats.

For bigger families still, the MPV is often the only realistic option. Modern safety and seating requirements mean that parents the world over have become expert mini-bus drivers, steering their MPVs through small streets crowded with traffic – and usually built for a previous age of smaller vehicles.

For some families, performance, prestige, luxury and gadgets are all-important. An increasing number of car manufacturers now incorporate in-car entertainment systems as standard to improve those seemingly endless “are we nearly there yet?” journeys.

As for the kids, well such gadgets and getting one up on their peers are perhaps more important considerations for family cars than those of their parents!

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Monday July 11th, 2011 17:11 Live A Little, Enjoy Yourself On An Experience Day!

Everyone knows boys love their toys, but women are hot on their tracks – race tracks that is – when it comes to driving experience days. Man or woman, who could pass up on the opportunity to drive a classic car for the day, or whizz around the course at Silverstone in a Ferrari 360?

The list of choices for driving experiences is endless. Always popular, supercars are a staple of this type of industry; fancy getting behind the wheel of a Lamborghini? How about an Aston Martin? A Porsche? Don’t worry if you can’t decide, try all three! If you prefer to get off the beaten track, try your hand at rally driving for a few hours or a full day, at courses all over the country. Specialist rally cars are custom made for the circuits and you can rely on the experience of the qualified instructors to make your day a memorable (and safe) one.

If you feel the need for more speed – and peril, you can try stunt driving at one of the many stunt schools, who are offering to teach you how to make hand break turns, J-turns, how to pop a wheelie, and probably improve your parking skills along the way. At some tracks, roving reporters bring a celebrity feel to the proceedings, and you can bet you’re in safe hands with qualified, experienced stunt drivers.

For those wanting to experience something a little bit more unusual, Segway Safaris are a great day out, you can rent a lightweight Buggy and test the terrain, or – if you want to get off land altogether – take to the waterways on hovercraft for an hour or two.

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Sunday July 10th, 2011 14:48 Honda’s MUGEN hybrid car collaboration revealed at Goodwood

 

Visitors attending last weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed witnessed the debut of Honda‘s latest hybrid concept car – The highly anticipated MUGEN Honda CR-Z Hybrid Concept. Two concept models were on display, the Honda CR-Z MUGEN RR Concept and the MUGEN CR-Z Concept.

The goal of the collaboration between MUGEN and Honda was to prove that hybrid cars could be exciting to drive. Colin Whittamore from MUGEN Euro, talking about the MUGEN CR-Z Concept, said: “We wanted a car that has genuine performance available at the touch of a button, but can perform just like a standard CR-Z and offer good fuel economy when the driver wishes. For that reason, we’ve kept the three driving modes, so the driver can select ‘eco’ or ‘normal’ to switch to economy and low emissions for the daily drive, but press the MUGEN button for the full-blown ‘weekend warrior’ settings!”

While the car retains the Honda IMA electric motor, the car’s original 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine has been rebuilt to MUGEN specification, with bespoke upgraded and strengthened internal components. The introduction of centrifugal forged-induction will help the CR-Z MUGEN to deliver over 50% more power and torque from the Honda’s petrol-electric drive train. Power output for the car is in the region of 200bhp.

Although there are no official performance figures for the CR-Z MUGEN as of yet, early tests with a prototype car give the concept car a 0-62mph time of around 6.6 seconds. As there will be up to a 15% increase in power to come from the engine, and an approximate reduction in chassis weight of 50kg, expect overall performance figures to be even better than.

In terms of fuel consumption, Whittamore was encouraged by early tests in this area. Fuel economy ranges from 50+ mpg in ‘eco’ mode, and 35+ mpg when using the boosted power in the ‘MUGEN’ mode.

As for the Honda CR-Z MUGEN RR Concept, its appearance suggests it is more focused for track use. It has a unique front aerodynamic bumper, front fender, side spoiler, rear bumper, rear wing, and 18” wheels. The “RR” moniker was adopted in order to represent the racing spirit of MUGEN. Unlike the MUGEN CR-Z Hybrid Concept, performance details are currently unavailable.

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Saturday July 9th, 2011 14:16 Renault unveil the concept Frendzy

 

Renault has unveiled its latest environmentally friendly concept – an electric car-based van called the Frendzy. Designed by Laurens van den Acker, the Frendzy is the fourth in a series of six designs that are based on the different stages of the human life cycle. According to Renault, the Frendzy represents your professional working life.

The French car manufacturers will debut the new green car at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. Renault are pitching the vehicle as the solution for those drivers who need to use a vehicle for business purposes during the week and for family transportation at the weekend.

With its full width grille and oversized badge, the Frendzy is unmistakably part of the Renault family. The passenger side of the vehicle has a fully sliding door, so work materials can be stored or removed easily. This sliding door incorporates a 37-inch screen that is capable of displaying messages – early pictures of the Frendzy show it displaying the slogan ‘Happy Culture’ – or, for the salesperson in you, advertising. This screen is controlled by a BlackBerry PlayBook. In contrast, the driver’s side of the vehicle is more focused on the needs of a family. Access to the cabin is aided by a rear-opening door.

The car’s interior has a large cargo area which includes rather low-tech magnetic fixings and a fabric roof. This roof adapts to the shape of large, bulky items and objects. A nicely concealed compartment holds a fold-out rear bench seat for when you are wanting to take the family on a trip.

The Frendzy is powered by the same all-electric drivetrain that was used in the Kangoo Z.E. This means that it should have horsepower of 59bhp, coupled with a range in the region of 100 miles. As was mentioned earlier, those looking for a closer inspection of the Renault Frendzy will have to wait until September, when the vehicle debuts at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

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Friday July 8th, 2011 16:05 Aston Martin give go-ahead to the V12 Zagato

 

Aston Martin has announced its plans to begin production of the stunning new V12 Zagato in the summer of 2012. The two-seater supercar was first unveiled back in May at the Villa D’Este Concours in Italy, but it was the 2011 Nurburgring 24 hour race last month where Aston Martin’s latest collaboration with the Zagato design house really came to the attention of car enthusiasts. At the endurance race in Germany, the two competing V12 Zagato’s finished a solid fifth and sixth in class.

Aston Martin’s production plans for the Zagato differ slightly from what was anticipated when details of the supercar first emerged. Initially, it was expected that well under 100 units of the V12 Zagato would be produced, but now Aston Martin expect to produce a slightly less limited run of 150. The first deliveries of the Anglo-Italian collaboration should make their way to buyers towards the end of next year.

There are still no official statistics for the V12 Zagato’s top speed or 0-62mph time, but it is estimated that it will be able to reach 62mph in just 4.2 seconds and that its top speed will be in the region of 190mph.

While first guesses at a price for the Aston Martin V12 Zagato came in at the £200,000 price region, it is apparently going to cost buyers a hefty £330,000, and £396,000 including VAT. That price is three times the price of the V12 Vantage, which costs £135,000, even though it shares the same 6.0-litre V12 engine, chassis and core design. Time to start saving your pennies, Aston Martin fans!

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Tuesday July 5th, 2011 23:04 BMW Reveal 520d EfficientDynamics Saloon


BMW has announced the release of its new 520d EfficientDynamics Saloon car. Described as setting “a new benchmark for efficiency and driving pleasure in its class,” BMW claim that the car is 10 per cent more fuel-efficient than any of its other rivals.

Certainly, the 520d ED posts impressive numbers when it comes to fuel economy and CO2 emissions. CO2 emissions stand at 119g/km, while the car’s fuel economy is a useful 62.8mpg. This efficiency means that the 520d EfficientDynamics Saloon will be subject to a company car benefit-in-kind taxation band of just 13 per cent. BMW will be hoping that this tempts company car drivers, as currently no other executive car sits in a tax band as low as this.

The efficiency savings have not affected the performance of the BMW, as its 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine is still capable of producing 184bhp with 380Nm of torque. The result of this is that the 520d ED races from 0-62mph in a nifty 8.2 seconds.

The inclusion of a longer final drive ratio will help drivers of the 520d ED to reduce engine revs at highway speeds. The BMW also comes with standard Auto Start-Stop, an Optimum Gearshift Indicator, Brake Energy Regeneration and Active Aerodynamics.

In addition to these standard features, the new 520d EfficientDynamics Saloon also comes with a new ECO-PRO Mode. The purpose of this mode is to promote economical and comfortable driving at low speeds, and it does this by making adjustments to the engine mapping, throttle sensitivity, automatic gearshift points, and the amount of power consumed by electrical ancillaries such as climate control and heated seats.

The BMW 520d ED Saloon goes on sale in the UK in September, and will cost prospective buyers £30,435.

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