Archive for the ‘Saloon car’ Category





On Friday I was treated to an update by the MD of Renault Ireland Mr. Eric Basset concerning the state of play when it comes to the Zero Emission future. As I wrote before on these pages the objective of the Renault project is “affordability” in the electric future of automobiles. To that end Mr. Basset announced the pricing for both the commercial Kangoo and the Fluence.

Back in July this year I got to test both cars which at the time were still prototypes and I was left with the feeling that I’d just seen the future of the city car, well today I see the future of electric transport and it comes from France.

Renault have decided to make a bold move of leasing the batteries that power all of the models, which means you buy the car and rent the batteries, this also means as new batteries come on stream you’ll be able to get upgrades, at the end of the battery life when it needs to be recycled Renault will look after that too.

The pricing for the Fluence is going to be very good, remember that the Fluence ZE is the same car that you see on the roads in Ireland at the moment, the electric version is to be priced around the same level as the current diesel model, it goes like this

RRP: €26,620, the Government will give €5,000 towards the purchase which makes it €21,620 which puts a couple of hundred Euro over the price of the mid range Fluence dynamique diesel. The leasing of the battery will cost €72 per month with a limit of 15,000kms, if you add to that the cost of charging the battery the total cost of ownership should work out the same as a diesel variant.

The Kangoo ZE is €20,000 exc VAT, again the government will give an incentive making the van €15,870, the same lease teems apply on the battery.

It’s a new method for selling a car, it’s all new even the car. It’s the intention of Renault to become a one stop shop even being able to sell insurance.

I have always derided EV cars on two fronts, the first was the purchase price, all of them are far more expensive than their alternative petrol model but Renault has addressed this with the affordability for everyone, the other problem was range.

The range of these cars is no better than anyone else, but Renault unlike every other manufacturer are bit researching and making the batteries, the leasing of the batter makes a lot of sense as currently to purchase one of these battery units runs to some €10,000 or more. Plus batter technology is moving so fast that if you bought a Nissan Leaf right now that can do 180kms and in twelve months time a new battery comes out that can make the Leaf do 250kms, where does that leave you?

With Renault you lease the battery, so when a better one comes along you just head to a Renault dealer and get your battery swapped, plus your old one gets recycled.

There will be 1500 charging stations to be installed country wide and mapping technology is being researched that will allow you to no only plan your route via the charging stations but will tell you if the stations are in use.

Such is the interest in the Renaults that more staff is coming on board to deal with the volume of enquiries, there’s two more models to come yet, the two seat and four wheel Twizzy along with the Zoe a medium sized hatchback that will be unveiled in Geneva this coming March.

I really do thing Renault have hit the nail on the head with the complete package for EV ownership, expect to see lots of these cars on the roads of Ireland.







FORD pulled the dust covers off their new Mondeo in Munich last week and first impressions were pretty much what you’d expect from a mid-life tweak.
Looking at the giant saloon in the glistening sunlight one found it hard to figure out where the newness began and the old traits remained.
In fact, you’d have to park the 07 debutant beside the new rookie to compare notes.
It’s only then that you see the subtle changes to the grille and front bumper – including the sexy daylight running LED lights above the fog lamps.
The bonnet get a couple of sexy creases too, improving the lower line of the whole chassis giving the whole car a sportier feel.
But this whole project was not just about cosmetic changes.
No, the beauty here really is skin deep and it’s what happening under the hood is what all the fuss is about.
Leaner, Meaner, and above all ,Greener were the buzz words when the Blue Oval engineers gathered to rip their fleet leader asunder and rebuild her bit by bit.
The result?
A luxury saloon that has leapt from one Tax and VRT band into a lower one meaning it is cheaper to buy and run.
That’s a welcome bit of relief for cash-strapped families and companies alike as the BIK (Benefit In Kind tax on those with company cars) won’t be just as bad.
In terms of green backs, it will see all models which go on sale next month all now in Band B – which means Road Tax has been significantly reduced from €600 on the old 07 model to a minuscule €156.
The good news doesn’t end there – because the emissions have been reduced across the board the list price has also shrunk.
The extensive fleet will now start at a mega reasonable €26,000 – a saving of €650.
That’s an amazing achievement when you consider three years ago 80 per cent of the Irish line-up were in Band E or higher.
The new model goes on sale at the end of this month so Ford Ireland, under Chairman Eddie Murphy, are expecting a brisk January sales period.
“We are really delighted with the new revised Mondeo and are really excited about the great value proposition that the new line up will provide.
“Thanks to the great driving quality, Mondeo has been a favourite with with Irish motorists since its launch and we are sure this latest model will again prove hugely popular, said Eddie at the Munich launch.
So which models are coming here and what spec can we expect on them?
Well, the engine line up will be three diesels, comprising of a 2-litre TDCi 6-speed manual power-plants.
The ranging performance on these engines are a 115bhp, 140bhp and 160bhp – returning a jaw-dropping 53mpg.
Unfortunately this motoring journalist didn’t get a chance to test the lower powered carriages but if the 2.2-litre 200bhp oil burner is a yardstick then we’re in for a real treat.
It handled superbly and was as comfortable devouring mile after mile of autobahn at, erm, above average speeds as it was on the twisty Bavarian countryside.
The only complaint was in city traffic the car stalled twice causing panic.
The start/stop button only activates when the handbrake is on, the car is in neutral and everybody is calm.
Try staying calm when an artic is hurtling up behind you, the lights are green and Yorkie boy thinks you are actually moving!
The new Mondeo is the most technologically advanced model to date, and is packed with next generation driver assistance features – some of which are are already proven in the new S-MAX and Galaxy models.
Some of the more expensive goodies include high-tech features, like Lane Departure Warning, Driver Alert (vibrating steering if you nod off) and Auto High Beam and rear view parking camera.
The entry level STYLE comes with the following;
16 inch alloys; Colour coded bumpers and door handles; Electric mirrors with built-in indicators; Air Con; Front fogs; Bluetooth voice control; 7 airbags including a knee airbag: The ZETEC: all of the above and 17 inch alloys; Parking sensors front and rear; Dual Zone Climate Control; Cruise control; Speed Limiter; The TITANIUM: All of the above daytime running LED lights; Sony Sound System; Covers + Instrument Panel: Automatic Headlights and Wipers.


I spend so long on the internet using, Twitter, Facebook and all sorts of mediums I tend to forget that there’s real people behind the little text that you see on the screen. The lads who hang out in what I understand to be the second most popular section of Ireland’s most popular forum site decided to meet up and see what we all look like.

The Motors section on Boards has a huge amount of traffic asking questions that range from what kind of car should I buy to what the timing should be on 97 Carina. All of which will get an answer, it’s a fantastic resource and it’s free.

There was a huge range of cars there today, along with a huge range of people from all the age ranges, it was lovely to see them for the first time, I have been chatting to them on-line for a long time now and finally I got to put a face and a name to the on-line persona.

Thanks to all that made the effort to turn out today, it was nice to meet you all.

This is the best kept secret in the auto motive industry.
Yes, by virtue of the fact that I’m even telling you this I am, at very least, breaking some kind of official secrets act, and at worst, signing my own death warrant.
You see, secrets are kept for  two very good reasons.

  1. It’s a complete lemon and the manufacturer doesn’t want the general public to know how bad it is or
  2. It’s so good, to tell the same public would ruin its exclusiveness.
    Sorry lads, but the rest of them deserve to know the truth – and it’s amazing.
    There, I said it.
    Yes people, you see before you the words Renault and amazing in the same sentence – the world’s gone mad.
    Recently I’ve used capable, enjoyable and even Reliable with the R word, but never amazing.

Now before you start screaming for the nurse, let me explain why.

We’ve been down this road quite a few times with our Gallic friends.

Take your mind back to the Laguna II or the Megane II or indeed the last real coupe from Renault, the Fuego.

All fine to look at, but not so pleasant to drive and a maintenance nightmare as the miles creep up.
We expected the same this time round. Why wouldn’t we?

So we weren’t fooled by the drop-dead gorgeous looks, bold lines, muscular physic or the spectacular Aston Martin-ish rear end complete with massive twin chrome exhausts.
Inside it just gety better, wall-to-wall leather, Audi TT-style steering, bucket seats, Bose sound system and Bluetooth hands free phone.

Couple that with the superior build quality you’d only find in super executive saloons that only a NASA engineer could tell it wasn’t German and you’re on a winner.
The boys over at BMW, Audi and Merc won’t like this one little bit, but the French outfit have really lifted their game here and the feel of a cabin is one of the greatest influences on buyers – especially women.

And this car has successful career woman written all over it.

The old adage ‘Men are from Mars’ is probably the greatest example of this argument as the fairer sex couldn’t care less about bhp, ABS, ESP, torque or transmission.

No, it’s far more scientific thatn that – if they like it, they’ll buy it.
That’s far to sensible for us men to get our little heads around, besides what would the lads down the boozer say?

Anyway its time for me to get all manly again with the most pertinent question – How does it drive?

Supurbly. The 180bhp GT version I tested had the full package – instant and endless poke, refined handling and as agile as a Romanian gymnast.

This is where Renault reveal their hand, their secret weapon called 4 Control Chassis.

For all you Grease Monkeys out there, here’s how it works.

At speeds of less than 60kmh the system turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front, up to an angle of 3.5 degrees making parking and manoeuvring easier.

It’s also very frugal, returning a whopping 43mpg on long journeys.

That’s another major plus here – it handles like a true coupe  but has the comfort of a saloon.

Take the Mazda RX-8 – absolutely mental to drive, a laugh a minute …. but an hour on the motorway will soon wipe the smile off your face.

Not here though. This slick oil burner will devour mile after mile with absolute ease.

So it’s pretty much flawless?

Well, not quite.

For starters I’ve never been mad about the keyless entry card thing.

If scientists develop a keyless front door then maybe they are onto something otherwise you still have to lump keys around with you.

Anyway, the two biggest chinks in the armour are firstly it’s a Renault and changing a minor fault is a lot easier than changing a mind set.

The second and more importantly is the price at €47,300  (official list price).

It’s rivals, namely the Audi TT and the BMW 320D coupe which are cheaper.

That said, one real advantage it does have is its exclusiveness – the TT has been around forever and the BMW is a common enough sight on Irish roads.

It still gets my vote for sheer sexiness, fun and daring to be different.

A Dita Von Tease in a sea of blonde bimbos if you like!

Phil Hedderman

Megan Fox.

Image via Wikipedia

Picture the most beautiful woman on the planet.

Take Megan Fox, Penelope Cruz or Eva Mendes …. now try to improve upon them.

Make them even more irresistible, hotter, sexier.

It’s not easy, is it?

That is the exact dilemma put to a group of the best automotive designers and engineers money can buy.

There was one big problem though …. these are German designers and engineers and more often than not you get a lot more than you bargained for.

The results are there for all to see in the new 5 Series, but beauty, my friends, is indeed more than skin deep.

You see, in the case of the fickle world of show business, a plastic surgeon may make you look younger and more vibrant, but he won’t make you a better actress.

Now, if the old 5 were a fairytale it could only be the ugly duckling …. which blossomed into a beautiful swan and there the romance began, well for me, anyway.

The E60, made between 2003 and 2010, had what a very dear friend calls the ”sexy/ugly thing going on” which is based on the philosophy that not all beautiful women are sexy …. and not all sexy women are beautiful.

It was a curious looking creature, not very inviting, but when you climbed into the cockpit and fired her up ….. hmmm sheer driving pleasure.

It was that perfect balance of fine handling unstoppable power, torque and unrivalled drive which won over all of its critics, with some conceding that the look will even grow on you.

The exact same applies here, except in reverse.

Despite the ergonomics boffin droning on about how sexier, younger and dynamic they made it, Cupid didn’t strike and I wasn’t all woosy and faint.

In fact, I think its too conservative and they’ve played it too safe this time round.

So I may have been a tad disappointed by the look, but would the same apply in the saddle.

Absolutely not.

How could it?

Its older brother was perfection so how could they possibly improve it?

Simple really.

They just made it bigger, quicker and more economical.

Take the 530D which churns out a whopping 245bhp, has CO2 omissions of 160g/km and returns over 40mpg.

Thanks to the stop start technology (borrowed from the Mini range) the 523i has the same green credentials of 160g/km and 204bhp.

But their secret weapon is the not so humble 520D which has Irish drivers queueing around the block with the lure of 184bhp, CO2s of 132grammes (£156 road tax) and a jaw dropping 50mpg.

Couple that with their most advanced 8 speed automatic gearbox and supension technologies – taken from the 7series, throw in a few goodies like Parking Assistant which parks for you, Surround View, collision warning  (which automatically brakes in an emergency)

Lane Change Warning and Head-Up Display and the job is Oxo.

It’s not hard to fathom that this luxury saloon is the single biggest selling model in Ireland today.

Pound for pound this BMW is, if you’ll excuse the plug, the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’.

If my analogy about Chris Bangle (designer of the last E60 5 series) and the sexy ugly thing working in reverse proves correct then it is love at first sight.

If that doesn’t get the heart racing then the price tag of under €41,750 (check this) will.

Philip Hedderman

Let us know what you think of the 5 Series, please comment below.

It’s not often I don’t like the look of a car before I’ve seen the one I’m going to spend a week with, the Fluence is one of those cars. I’d seen a few around the roads before I get a chance to drive one myself. The first drive I had of the Fluence was a couple of months back at the Renault ZE road show, I got to take one of the million Euro prototypes out on the roads around Carton house. I was greatly impressed with the electric version, but I wasn’t too happy with the look of the outside. It looks too high off the road, but this car was originally designed to be an electric car, so aerodynamics are playing a heavy roll in the look of the car.

The model I had for testing is the Tom Tom edition, that’s about as high a spec as you can get. There’s built in Sat-Nav, keyless entry/exit and start, dual zone climate control to name but a few, there is also the most comfortable seats I’ve ever had the great pleasure to sit in, you would have to go a few classes above to beat the comfort in the Fluence.

The boot has a great shape, it’s wide at the opening and gets a little narrower, it’s 530ltr can cope with just about any shape, and can happily take two prams and all the stuff that kids need. There’s also two shopping bag hooks that can keep your shopping where it should be; in the bags.

The back seat can cope with 3 adults, or as in my case, one adult and two child seats. Most important is the comfort in the back, there’s loads of leg and headroom, there’s also a pull down armrest in the middle that has cup holders built in.

Up front the dash is made out of fantastic materials, in fact the materials look like they are out of a car well above the Fluence class. Everything is where it should be in a Renault, I still think the radio has too many buttons and the steering wheel stalk is over complicated, but you soon get used to finding the buttons you need most.

My first drive took me on the motorway, the 1.5 diesel unit puts out 106bhp and I find it a little noisy during acceleration but that’s the nature of diesel engines. In the Fluence once you get up to speed you can’t hear the engine anymore, there’s no sound at 100kph and very little at 120kph. Testament to its aerodynamic background, there’s very little wind noise either. On the Motorway the Fluence is sublime, that huge comfy seat, firm suspension and a tonne of elbow room means that this is simply the best long distance cruiser. It’s no slouch in the corners either, for a big saloon it handles really well; you would really want to throw it into a corner before it looses any grip. Even at low speeds there’s nothing wrong in the Fluence, there’s no wobble over flat top speed bumps and it’s easy to park thanks to the good visibility and parking sensors on the rear.

I said in the video that the Fluence was the best car I’d driven all year; I meant it. There’s nothing in its price range with the same room and spec that you can get for the price of €23,500 before any discounts or a trade in. Yes it looks a little odd at first but if you see it in the right colour (black or White) it’s a handsome car. Renault didn’t go about trying to re-invent the saloon market, what they did was take all the good bits from saloons and tweak them, making every thing a little better. For me crucially, it’s original and that makes a huge difference because I don’t like driving around in one of the other Euro-boxes that inhabit Irish roads currently. Here’s the best endorsement I can give the Fluence, I want to order one for next January.

Sorry this video is up a little late today, I couldn’t get out of some meetings. Text review tomorrow, I promise. It’s a great car too, watch the video you’ll see why.

The Zoe

I got up this morning knowing that I would have to go along to the ZE (Zero Emission) road show that Renault was putting on. Mostly these kind of shows are about a car company blowing its own trumpet and saying that the car they are about to bring out is the best thing since Christopher Columbus discovered America, or they just try to “sell” their product to the waiting press. What I got was something completely different, Renault were genuinely proud of the products that were on display, it was like they had all helped bring this range of cars to the Irish road and I was about to drive their little babies.

It takes a monumental effort to bring one car to the road, but it takes real passion and dedication to bring an entire range out, and then equip them all with electric engines, you have to admire a company willing to take a plunge like that, nonetheless Renault are well on the way to achieving just that.

While most other car companies are bringing out just one electric or hybrid car Renault are going for 4 of them with plans for more. It’s a rather large gamble, the Renault – Nissan Alliance are investing 4 billion into the zero emissions programme, there are 1000 staff at Renault and another 1000 at Nissan working solely on electric vehicles.

Affordability is the key word of the day, “Renault’s  aim  is  to  market  electric vehicles  at  prices  comparable  with  those  of  a  diesel-powered  car  of  an equivalent size and equipment level. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of electric vehicles will be similar to that of internal combustion-engined vehicles from launch.” Inside of 18 months Renault aim to have the entire infrastructure in place that’s needed to run electric cars, this includes an agreement with ESB for charging stations, workshops and spare batteries.

The Fluence

Of course driving the car will take a bit more planning than driving its fossil fuel alternative, there’s the little matter of recharging the batteries. The range of the Fluence and Kangoo is 160kms, with passengers and things in the boot that will be less just as it is for any car, the more weight you carry the worse the MPG. There will be 3 ways to get a full tank of electricity. Standard charge of 6-8 hours, using a fast charge station will get an 80% charge in 20 minutes and the ability to swap your empty battery for a full one in 3 minutes, you won’t need a set of spanners, your dealer will look after that.

After a short speech given by the charismatic Eric Basset the MD of Renault Ireland we were let loose with the cars, we were reminded that these are prototypes and are worth a million Euro each. Trying not to think about crashing a million Euro I hopped into the drivers seat of the Fluence ZE, the first thing I noticed was that there were no lights, bells or screens telling you where the power is coming from, it’s just an automatic car, it even has a standard key. Foot on the brake, turn the key and…..nothing, some of the dials moved on the dash but no noise, an eerie silence so I selected D, let my foot off the brake and the car rolled forward. This being an electric car there is only two gears, forward and reverse the technical name for the transmission is direct drive, with reducer and forward/reverse inverter. The motor produces 70kw/95hp with 226nm of torque, it may not sound like much but the power is there all the time, no waiting to get the revs up, if you push the accelerator to the floor you get all the power all the time. Even though it can rev up to 11,000rpm there’s just a faint whirr of a fan while the speed climbs constantly, when you lift off the batteries begin recharging, there’s a small dial on the dashboard telling you if you’re using power or recharging, on the road it feels like a Renault, soft and comfortable even with the 250kg battery in the back, which will be moved under the floor for the production model which means a 300ltr boot. It’s just like any saloon car to drive, and that’s the key, this is a real car a normal car, not a gimmick it’s a car you can use every day for albeit short journeys

The Kangoo van was also available for driving; it looked just like any Kangoo van on sale now except for the charging port on the front of the car. Reversing it was a little scary because the car makes no noise you become acutely aware of anyone standing or walking behind the van they won’t hear you moving. Strange as it may seem, Renault are researching sounds that can be used when the cars are going less than 70kph, there is talk of an MP3 player being put in so you can choose your own sounds but I doubt that will happen, much more likely is car sounds being played through a speaker. The batteries are already under the floor of the Kangoo the cargo space is between 3 and 3.5 meters cubed and it can carry 650kg.

There are two more cars in the range, The Zoe which will be a hatchback of similar size to the current Clio with a range of 200kms, finally the weird looking Twizy which is going to be an urban car, by the way the pictures you see here of the Twizy is the finished article, the Zoe will look different but the basic shape will remain, both of them will be released in 2012.

There’s still a huge amount of work for Renault to do before you’ll see these cars in the showrooms, but they seem committed to the project with good firm dates in mind. Renault are set to produce a range of electric cars for every taste, they are really trying hard to cover all the bases. What was a niche market Renault are now opening up to be a main stream segment, this is Renault in full attack mode and it’s great to see. Expect to hear a lot more about Renault’s electric future in the coming months, until then you can read the full Renault ZE Press release and get all the latest info from the ZE website There’s loads more pictures here



Skoda Superb 1.9TDI 2007

Posted: July 12, 2010 by smokerspack in Family car, Saloon car, Uncategorized
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Superb, it’s a great name for a car but it is a big word to live up to, especially when your company name is Skoda. For years now Skoda have made good cars, and buying one meant getting a cheap but decent car. Apart from the RS models there’s nothing too exciting in the Skoda line up, but you don’t buy a Skoda to be exciting, you buy it because you want a decent sized car that starts everyday, cheap to buy and run.
To say the Superb is decent sized is an understatement; it’s big on the outside and huge on the inside, but more of that later. From the outside it’s bland looking, it’s hard to tell is apart from its little brother the Octavia. The boot space is 462ltr and the boot lid opens really wide allowing great access, you can drop the rear seats and even fold the passenger seat flat to allow you carry really long items.
It’s the interior where the Superb comes into it own, there’s everything you need in there. A very stylish black and cream leather interior with lovely design touches, the touches of chrome around the curved ventilation slots is reflected in the drivers’ dials. The drivers’ seat is incredibly comfortable, and adjusts in all directions. The climate control is a small screen at the bottom of the dash, that makes it a little fiddly and hard to see when you’re on the move.
In the back seat there is more room than I’m used to in a saloon, even with the driver seat set for my height I had inches to spare, it really does feel more limousine than saloon, even better the rear passengers get their own air vents. There really is a feeling of luxury in the cabin, everything is so well put together, even in this 2007 model there’s no real signs of wear on any of the surfaces.
Out on the road the 1.9TDI engine is quiet and relentless, the power delivery is constant across the rev range, the 105bhp isn’t that powerful but it’s enough to get you where you want to go, it’s economical though, you’ll get 40-45mpg in real world driving. The 6 speed gear box allows for easy motorway cruising, and this is where the Superb is at home, it’s hard to think of a more comfortable long distance cruiser in this segment. On the back roads it handles fairly well for its size, the steering is weighted nicely and the gearbox is short and snappy which gives a nice urgent feel to the driving experience. Parking is easy with the rear sensors, but I wouldn’t like to try it without them, visibility is fine out the rear it’s just that you can’t see where the car ends, it’s the same story out the front and there’s no parking aids there which makes it tricky enough to park in front on spaces.

There’s a lot to like about the Superb, the cabin space, the seating position, the ability to stretch out in the rear and the fuel economy. This has the feel of a luxury car but it’s all wrapped up in what amounts to be an anonymous exterior, except for it’s size you might loose it in Dunne’s car park, but maybe that’s just what you need, maybe you don’t want to draw attention when you cruse down the street, maybe you want to say I drive a Skoda while all the time your wrapped up in the same quality interior that you would find in an Audi.
The Superb is a car I would buy with my own money, it would be a sensible purchase, a car you would buy with your brain, it does lack a bit of soul, it’s not going to light your fire to look at, but behind the wheel you’ll be grinning from ear to ear. A brilliant car for the long haul driver, does it live up to its name? Well…..almost.

The car I drove is available from Ballybrittas Motors, its still (surprisingly) on Carzone.

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Audi A4 2.0TDI S-Line 140bhp 2006

Posted: July 9, 2010 by smokerspack in Family car, Saloon car, Videos
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Your life right now is moving at a colossal speed, we all complain that there’s not enough hours in the day, we all breath a sigh of relief when we sit down even though we know there’s more to do. Even the items we use in our daily lives move fast, that iPhone you spent months saving to get is out of date before you turn it on. Every electronic device you own requires an update every time you turn it on, even your clothes are out of date and just as soon as you buy new stuff, the old stuff is back in fashion.

In the car world things move a little slower, but in recent years there have been some changes. It takes a long time and millions of Euro to bring a car to market, you know those prototype pictures you get to see every once in awhile? Well they are about 2 years old by the time they become your desktop background. 5 years is the average time spent bringing a car from an idea to a showroom, I always wonder how they know what kind of car I’m going to want in 5 years. To make matters worse somewhere around 3 years into selling the car it tends to get a face lift, then after 5 years (about the same time it takes to design a new model) they bring out a new one. So the brand new car you’re about to invest thousands into is already being re-designed, and before you can say, “My car’s is worth more than that!” there’s a new model on the market. You see, 3 years for the facelift happens to coincide with the average ownership time of a new car, 5 years for an entirely new model is there to tempt you out of your, what is now very old fashioned car. It’s about manufacturers trying to keep you brand loyal, while pulling in some new blood.

Audi are no different, they know that Audi drivers are quite loyal; it even runs in some families. In 2004/2005 the A4 I’m driving today was released, the B7 model was designed by Walter Maria da’Silva, the same man designed most of the Alfa line up, the Current Seat Leon and Toledo, he is now in charge of design for Audi, Seat and Lamborghini. It was a svelte version of the outgoing model, in the exterior design you can see the A4 heritage but it looks cool enough to attract the new buyers. With the S-line pack it is a very handsome, sporty looking car, the UK imported car that I’m driving also has 18-inch wheels that add nicely to the overall look. Boot space is big enough at 460ltrs, drop the rear seats and you’ll get 720ltrs, the boot opening is narrow enough but no worse than most saloons.

On the inside everything has a very solid feel, the fit and finish is superb, Audi has a good reputation when it comes to how their cars are put together even though I’ve seen a few that are a bit tatty they are rare enough. There are two main complaints I have about the interior, the air conditioning controls are partially blocked by the gear stick making them a little fiddly at times and the arm rest gets in the way of the handbrake, other than those two minor problems everything is perfect up front. It’s in the back seat where you’ll quickly find a lack of legroom, this has been a problem for the A4 in older models too, you will get three adults in the back but only if the driver and front seat passenger are less than six foot.

All of the problems vanish once you get this car out on the road. The 2.0ltr 140bhp engine does a fantastic job at pulling the A4 along, the 0-100kph time is 9.7 seconds but if feels much faster than that, the sense of urgency from the whole car coupled with 236lb ft of torque gives you a great feeling of speed, even at high speed everything is stable, once you reach cruising speed the cabin is very quiet and at motorway speeds the engine is barely audible. In the same way that the armrest gets in the way of the handbrake it does somewhat restrict changing gears, Audi must have known these problems because it put a hinge on the armrest so it can be folded out of the way.

On the back roads the fantastic chassis gives you great confidence in the corners, there’s tonnes of grip and the steering is weighty enough to give good feedback, there is a little under steer but you would have to be getting fairly lairy to experience it. Knee room isn’t great on the left side, every time I turned right my left knee hit the dash, which became uncomfortable as time went on.

In reviewing the A4 I’m acutely aware that it’s main competitors are the BMW 3 series and the Mercedes C-Class. Admittedly it would be a very tough choice between the three of them, but the A4 edges ahead on quality of finish and that great gear box, the BMW gear box is much more sloppy than the A4’s and the Mercedes box is rubbish. The A4 is an accomplished car, there’s a lot to like and only a few buggy problems, the rear legroom being the biggest of the issues. Overall a fantastic car for the driver, it’s comfortable, fast and handles like it’s on rails.

Audi’s age very well, the styling hasn’t dated since the 2000 model. There is a new one out and like always that’s due some sort of face lift, and before you know it you’ll see an ad appear with a new model, but until then you can drive in style, comfort and still look cool.

The car I drove, and English import, is available from John Holohan Cars in Portarlington, you can see it on Carzone

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