Archive for August, 2010

Things are hotting up at the Paris motor show this year, Mercedes are launching the new CLS at the show. This is the first of a series of new models planned to be brought in over the next 18 months. This new model CLS will arrive on Irish shores early next year, and if it looks as good in the flesh as it does in the pictures you can be sure I’ll be down my local dealer pestering him for a spin.


Commemoration of Official Charter

Image via Wikipedia

Drogheda & District Chamber of Commerce Announces Local Dealership Motor Show

I reckon this would be worth going along too, I know it’s the dealers that are putting it on so there probably won’t be any exotic cars there but it might open your eyes to some cool cars on the market at the moment.

“Drogheda & District Chamber are delighted to announce the launch of Drogheda’s first all new vehicle motor show. This weekend event will showcase the 2011 new car range from all twelve local franchise motor dealerships.  It is the first of its kind in Ireland and aims to improve the new car buying experience by using one location to offer greater choice to customers and ease of access to a large range of cars. Over 100 different new vehicle models will be on display over the weekend.

It will take place later this year on 5th, 6th and 7th of November in the Drogheda Retail Park. Drogheda Chamber President, Graham Hughes, believes this could be an annual event for our town, “It’s refreshing to see our local motor trade working together in this way to convey the simple message that Drogheda motor dealerships are very much open for business.”

Access to the event is free of charge and most of the event will be held indoors. Children are welcome and there will be a supervised area to keep the little ones entertained while the adults can browse at their leisure throughout the various vehicle display areas and food stands.

Permanent tsb Finance are the main sponsor of the first Drogheda Motor Show. They are a dedicated motor finance provider and already have strong relationships with all Drogheda motor dealerships. Robert Murray, local representative of permanent tsb Finance, says, “We are very pleased to support the Drogheda Motor Show in its first year and hope the people of Drogheda get behind their local dealers for 2011 and shop local. There will be fantastic finance packages available to customers throughout the weekend of the show and we will be on site to offer advice”.”

I’ll do my best to cover the show for those who are unable to attend, I’ll let you all know what day I’ll be there.

Stig who?

Posted: August 27, 2010 by smokerspack in Topgear, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

The Stig at the British International Motor Sh...

Image via Wikipedia

As you all know I am a huge fan of what Topgear do, they bring us a form of entertainment that nothing else can supply. They manage to be somewhat educational while feeding the beast that lives in every true petrolhead, there’s also that underlying humour that goes through every show. Part of that humour is provided by the Stig, the race they all had across London with the Stig on the underground, between ‘mind the gap’ and a Coronation street ring tone I was laughing my head off and Stig hadn’t said a word, he never does.

The guessing at his real identity has been going on for years, but do we really want to know who he is? I don’t care who he is because I know the anti-climax that will happen when we all eventually find out who’s in the white suit, the mystery will be gone and that’s a shame.

Say what you like about the BBC or the Topgear team, they provide us with a worthwhile distraction, the BBC are right to be taking people to court, the have invested a huge amount of time, money and effort into making the show what it is and the Stig is part of that show.

I don’t care who’s in the white suit, but shame on the person for trying to take the limelight off his part in the show, you might as well take the helmet off and do the show then but then there would be no Stig and crucially no job.

Please let Mr. Willman and the team get on with the next series, and let the fans get on with watching what we like, James, Jeremy, Richard and The Stig.

Peace out

Small cars, by which I mean snack-box size have to be good at a number of things,
they need to handle like a house fly who just got the whiff of a bowl of sugar, enough
room for some shopping in the boot, be able to carry 4 people and be comfortable for
the driver. That to me is super-mini class, there’s more stuff you can ask of the small
car segment but if it can do my little list I’m happy.
The Clio is in this segment even though it’s gotten bigger over the years, it’s
borderline hatchback now, and if it gets any bigger Renault may do away with the
Megane altogether. Last week I was handed the keys of the little Clio and my first
thought when I saw it was “If that car was a woman, it would have a fat ass” which
was a strange thought to have about a car, but nonetheless around the rear of the car
there is a fat bit that sticks out at the bottom of the hatch. Don’t get me wrong here,
it’s a pretty car, but in the same way that once you see Jlo dancing you just can take
your eyes off her bottom, even though it makes her look a little out of proportion.
The Clio has grown up, both in terms of styling and use of materials, no longer does
the dashboard look like it’s made of bakelite and might just crumble at the next set of
traffic lights, now it seems to be made out of touchy feely materials, it’s really well
put together.

The drivers’ seat is very comfortable, the French know how to do comfort in a seat
and they have done it with the Clio, it didn’t seem to matter where I put the seat, I
still found it lovely. The back seats is a little on the tight side, but you’ll still get two
adults into it. The dash lay out is fairly ergonomic but Renault still use that overly
complicated radio, it’s just too fussy, having one button that simultaneously turns off
the power to the radio, sat nav and the blue tooth is just annoying.

The same can’t be said for the climate control, there’s three buttons that matter, Auto, hotter and colder
and it has them all right there in front of you, perfect. The radio and hands-free can
be controlled from a stalk on the right side of the steering wheel, the trouble with that
is you can’t see it when you drive in a straight line so you have to guess what button
does what, now I know you’ll get used to it but what’s so wrong with putting the
controls on the steering wheel? The USB/Aux connector meant that I could control
my Zen from the radio controls, and that my MP3 library gets displayed on the big
sat nav screen, which was nice. Other than some niggly points there’s nothing to
complain about in the cabin. The boot space is good too, 255ltrs but there’s a big lip
to get over, the up side is a deep boxy shape boot that can handle fairly big loads, if
you drop the seats you’ll get 1028ltrs and that’s a lot for a car this size.
The little 1.2ltr engine isn’t powerful, there’s only 75bhp but it is a fizzy little thing,
there’s a nice engine note when you rev it, it’s the kind of engine you push until
there’s little dents in the bonnet from the valves hitting the inside before you change
gear. If you drive it properly you’ll easily get over 40mpg, if you look at my video
here you’ll see me demonstrate that fact.

On open road the Clio is very quiet and pliant over all surfaces, the suspension set up
is just right for Irish roads, once you show it some corners the whole car comes alive.
The little engine roars what life it can give and I promise, on a dry road you would
think the car was on rails. There was no traction control on the Tom-Tom model I
drove, it is an option, to be honest I didn’t need it all week, there wasn’t a hint of
under or over steer the car passed all handling tests I could throw at it.
The Clio manages something that many other car makers would like to achieve, that

sense of style and substance all wrapped up in a little car that’s cheap to tax (€156 a
year), cheap to insure, cheap to buy and most important cheap to run. Gone are the
days of Papa and Nicole, this is a grown up super-mini with plenty to offer to the first

time buyer and the retired couple, let alone as a second car in the family. Go to your
local Renault dealer and get a test-drive, you might find that Gallic charm too.

Renault S.A. Logo

Image via Wikipedia

I wanted to find out if you can really achieve the figures that car makers put out with every new car, so I put one maker to the test, Renault…..

Some of you have reported problems with viewing the video from you tube so here it is hosted on Vimeo

Don’t panic if you own one of the mentioned cars, there has been a reported problem with the power steering pump on certain models. In a press release Mazda said:

“Mazda is to offer a Special Service Programme (SSP) in Europe on certain Mazda3 and Mazda5 equipped with electro hydraulic power assist system (EHPAS). The service is offered free of charge to the customer.

Only a few specific models, produced between 2 April 2007 and 30 November 2008, could be affected: The first generation Mazda3, with either the 1.6 MZ-CD diesel engine or the 2.0 MZR gasoline engine, and the Mazda5 with either the 1.8 or 2.0 MZR gasoline engines. In Europe, this represents a total of 40,260 Mazda3 and 30,242 Mazda5 cars.
Owners of potentially affected vehicles in Europe will be notified by Mazda from October 2010 onwards and are kindly requested to contact their Mazda Authorised Repairer to make an appointment to undertake any necessary rework and parts replacement.”

Mazda monitors the entire fleet of cars and as a result this is a standard recall, there have been no reported injuries from this problem, at worst your steering will become heavy. Look out for a letter in the post from Mazda, remember if you’ve changed addresses please call your Mazda dealer if you think your car might be affected.

I have never really had a desire to own an MPV of any kind, the only one that ever tempted me into buying such a thing was an S-Max, they look cool while still being big. Other than that the rest of them could all vanish over night and I wouldn’t have noticed. So when I was offered a Renault Grand Scenic I was a little, to use internet speak, meh. But when I saw it I changed my mind somewhat, it’s still a big long car but it’s understated and dare I say it, a bit cool. The lower than usual nose and long head lights give it a puppy dog who’ll bite look, there’s a high roof line leading to boomerang shaped tail lights and a flat square tailgate, it’s a good look and it works. Speaking of things that work, the keyless entry is great, just keep the card in your pocket, when you pull any door handle the car opens, get into the drivers’ seat push the start button and off you go; you can even turn the lights on from the key card. When you get out and walk away the doors lock and the alarm is set, it’s a little strange at first because if you go back to check the doors actually locked they open again but you soon learn to trust it. The boot is perfect, at 702ltrs it’s huge. The square shape of the opening mixed with a low rear bumper means you’ll have no trouble getting anything you want in; with the 7 seats in place its 208ltr which isn’t very big but it’s enough for short journeys. Now if you really need some room you can fold all the rear seats away and get a whopping 2063ltrs of space, that’s bigger than some vans. There are also lots of cubby holes around the car, under the floor and drawers under the front seats, if you add them all together you get another 84ltrs of storage, in fact there’s so much storage it’s a bit easy to forget where you put something in the car.

It’s in the cabin where this car comes into it’s own, there’s plenty of light and space, in 5 seat mode there’s tonnes of room in the back for 3 adults, the three individual seats means you can even put two big child seats and adult in the back. Each of the seats move forward, flipped up, turned into a table or removed altogether. Also in the back you get two airline type tables that flip up from the back of the front seats, there’s a hole in each for a cup but I couldn’t find a cup that would fit into them, also on the rear of the front seats there’s pockets galore, two at the top and a bigger one down low. The drivers’ seat is a very comfortable place, all the useful controls are at hand, and the big TFT screen is bright and easy to read, it tells you all the things you need to know without being over complicated. The Tomtom sat nav sits right next to it, the controls for the sat nav are on the arm rest in the middle of the car and if I’m honest the control unit feels clumsy, the control wheel in the middle (which does most of the work) seems to lag behind the screen a bit meaning it’s hard to spell out the place you want to go. Once it’s set its great, lane warnings and an ability to fix mistakes in the maps means you won’t get lost. The sound from the stereo is exceptional, but the interface is difficult to use, scanning for a channel seems to take a couple of key presses and using an iPod with it needs a degree in engineering.

The biggest problem was turning the radio off, you see there’s a button to do it but that same button turns off the sat nav and Bluetooth hands free, fine you say just turn it down then, but that means turning down the sat nav voice too. It would have been much easier to put in a button for the radio separate from everything else. The fit and finish along with exceptional materials used gives a feeling of luxury, the whole car seems really well put together.
The 1.5dci engine struggles to give low down power, it’s 106bhp but all of that is at the top end of the rev range, but once you get it up to speed it’s very quiet and composed on the motorway. Speaking of motorways, I took the family down to Galway in the Scenic along the M6, my god what a boring drive that is, never in all my life have I wanted to have auto pilot on a car as when I drove down that road. Not only does nothing happen but there’s nothing to look at, still the car was great, I kept myself occupied with looking at the points of interest on the sat nav; there were none, even the kids fell asleep. I pulled over for a rest and a coffee, that’s when I found the drivers’ cup-holder, it’s on the floor of the car, it’s awkward to get at and if you slide the armrest forward it becomes impossible.
Around the town the car feels big and the rear suspension is bouncy over speed bumps. If you get onto the back roads the rear of the car wallows around a bit, that said there’s no sign of under steer, as big as the Scenic is the turn in is fine.
The Grand Scenic is a fantastically practical car that can be put to any use, it’s just not desirable but none of the MPV type cars are. The key factor of this car is price, with all the best equipment in the Tomtom edition the retail price is €30190 plus €450 for metallic paint, but with discounts and the scrappage scheme taken into account you could have this car for €26,140, that’s cheaper than some hatchbacks on the market! It’s even in tax band B, €156 a year tax. So if you need a huge 5 seat car or a decent size 7 seat then look no further. Contact your local Renault dealer for more details or you can see the car I drove on
Just incase you missed it, I did a video review of the Scenic, you can find it here.

Welcome to a brave new venture in Smokerspack Towers, we are now doing video reviews of your cars. This is a huge step up on the web site and if it’s successful we hope to bring you more and better reviews like this one.

What do you think of it? Please leave your comments or email

BMW have gone mad….the X3

Posted: August 10, 2010 by smokerspack in Car news, Family car, Hatchback
Tags: , , , ,

Just in case you didn’t know, the BMW X3 is due for launch in Ireland this November, it’s going to be €4,170 cheaper than the outgoing model, priced at €45,810 it’s going to have some good standard equipment, Nevada leather upholstery, two-zone air conditioning, iDrive controller and colour display.

Better news is that, the 2.0d variant of the X3 will only have 149 grams of Co2, that makes the road tax €302 per year, that in 184hp car that has a 0-100kph of 8.5sec is very good.

BMW have kindly wrapped up the usual options into various packages, they are:

Business Advanced Media package – €3,253

(Business navigation, Bluetooth telephone preparation with USB interface, voice control)

Professional Multimedia Media package – €3703

(Professional navigation, Bluetooth telephone preparation with USB interface, voice control)

Visibility package – €2237

(Xenon headlights, Headlight wash, Adaptive headlights, High-beam assistant and dimming and folding exterior mirrors.)

Cold weather package – €1187

(Steering wheel heating, front and rear seat heating, and through loading with 40:20:40 seat split.)

All that, and there’s an M sport version coming in 2011, looks like the big diesels might just make a proper come back. See for more details, or have a chat to your local dealer about ordering one.