For the past ten days, I’ve been (largely) offline enjoying what I think has been a well-deserved break from it all. I managed to stay at a friend’s apartment in the South of France, and thanks to there being no wi-fi and very little meaningful 3G coverage, I’ve not really been able to check on the progress of AROnline. Thankfully, Mike Humble, Brian Gunn and Alexander Boucke have been keeping things ticking over…
However, I pre-loaded a stack of content, and thanks to the joys of the WordPress-based system AROnline now sits on, this was published on a daily basis while I was sunning and de-stressing myself in the 35-degree heat down there. What’s truly impressive about this new website is just how you’re all getting so involved with it; I think it’s absolutely brilliant. The amount of commenting and feedback (positive and negative, but always constructive) has truly inspired me… as well as reminding me what a truly enthusiastic lot you are – AROnline has certainly proved itself as a great port in a storm for car enthusiasts who like to think for themselves.
I ended up driving to the place near the Spanish border. For me, there’s no better way of travelling than by car, as the changing scenery unfolds in front of you and you get to enjoy the altering landscape first-hand. And not sealed up in an air-conditioned tube 12,000 metres above it all… And as for avoiding airports – if I see another one of those this year, I really will lose the will to live.
I chose a P&O crossing rather than the tunnel, as there’s simply no better way of starting a holiday than seeing the white cliffs of Dover receding into the distance… and the French coast growing in front. As for the car, I’d loved to have taken my Rover SD1 or Alfa Romeo 156, but as petrol is now pushing €1.50 a litre on the continent, and as both would struggle to beat 25mpg, then the decision would have hastened my bankruptcy. Instead, I took a Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI Bluemotion, and have to say that I am very glad I did.
People who know me will also know that I like nothing more than a long Continental drive, and have done some epics single-handedly in my time. Don’t believe me? How about my house in deepest Middle England to Barcelona in 20-hours non-stop? Or all four corners of the UK in 24-hours? Or even my drive from Naples to Aachen in Germany (1100-miles) in 16 hours? Hell, I even drove to Poland and back over a long weekend in a Skoda Superb, so I could deliver some parts for my SD1 restoration. So this pootle would be a walk in the park. And so it proved – and I completely understand why so many sales reps and middle managers choose Passats as their weapon of choice – it’s near silent on the motorway, well stacked with equipment and, and has absolutely no ergonomic failings at all.
In short, it’s perfectly evolved to undertake such a journey. But more than that, it’s possible to get from one end of France to the other on a single tank of diesel – without trying, without hypermiling – and that makes it a compelling proposition in these tough times.
And that does leave me wondering why on earth a new car buyer would want anything more than one of these? And I don’t just mean a Volkswagen Passat. But a diesel saloon or hatchback coming in at under 2-litres. Or even a hybrid petrol. As long as it does 50mpg-plus on the motorway, can ease you along at 70-80mph in silence and has good, supportive seats, why would you need more? Or course that’s me talking in terms of being the right tool for the right job, as I did the Nissan Leaf (for different reasons) a few weeks back.
In that case, if your commute is short-ish, and you’re able to charge it at home, then why not. And in the case of the Passat, if you need to cover countries on the motorway, and don’t have a company fuel card to fall back on, I’m struggling to think of a better way of doing things. But then, I am also lucky enough to have a classic to play with at the weekend, which gives me that old-fashioned pleasure that a Passat could never manage… but which proves the perfect foil for. Again, it’s all about lifestyle.
But anyway, it’s good to be back. It looks like I have a lot of reading (of your comments) to catch up on today… and there’s work at Octane tomorrow. But for now, Au revoir!
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.