Tuesday, 1 October 2013

SMMT North Test Day 2013

The gurning mug of a Jaguar F-Type
Like me, you will giggle like a school girl every time the gear shifts up in the Jaguar F-Type V65. The car will spit and aggressively croak every time you apply pressure to the flappy-paddle gear leavers and then you will dive into another gear. The g-force will make your hair dance in the wind and the open road ahead will belong to you. Why Jaguar bothers fitting a stereo into this car is unknown, the natural song this car sings will be music to your ears.

Petrol head motor journalists from the North of England gathered at Wetherby Racecourse on October 1st for the 2013 SMMT test day. The organizers who have been 'driving the motor industry' for the past century had everything from Bentleys to Skodas to be thrashed around the North Yorkshire countryside.

The day started in a large hall where car manufactures had tables set up with brochures, laptops and gimmicky free stuff to give away (like pads, pens and sweets). Each manufacturer had come from their main PR office and were dying to give out the keys of their latest models to willing journalists.
A car park of finely engineered motors
As expected, most of the journalists there were men who knew exactly what to look for in a car; handling, acceleration, sound, feeling, ect ect. One journalist I talked to explained that it is easy for manufactures to tick all of those boxes but they also need to achieve an "x factor", something which gives the cars soles which stops them from being mere machines.

Over the course of the day, I got a chance to be driven in a variety of speedy cars, some more exciting than others, and some which lacked the mysterious 'x factor'.

Is it a Mini Cooper? Is it a van? It is a Mini Van
The car which was the most surprising of the day was a Mini Van (Mini Cooper D Clubvan) which was diesel, lacked back seats and, as you will have guessed by the name, a van! The interior of Minis have always intrigued me, the combination of circles and boxes mashed together to create a funky dashboard is unusual. Also, the fact that they've ceased to change much over the last half century is amazing.
The only reason we ended up trundling along a country road in a Mini Van is because the 208bhp John Cooper Works Paceman had already been taken out. 
There was one round about about a quarter of the way through our journey when our conversation came to a sudden standstill and the Mini proved it's self, our disappointed faces lifted as the handling and grip exceeded original expectations. Of course, this car was not in the same league as the F-Type however for less than half the price of the Jaguar I didn't expect it to be.

The wind picked up under the pillow of clouds as the day came to an end. The last drive added to our conga-line of cars was a Porsche 2nd Generation Panamera. This is a nippy saloon which was let down because of its size. The sport button did add a little excitement however this car lacked the 'x factor' I mentioned before, and who would use the sport mode in a car like that anyway?

Overall, the day was thoroughly enjoyable, I can't think of a better way to spend a day than with a room full of motoring journalists, tables overflowing with freebies and a car park packed with some of the finest cars of 2013.