Here in my (electric?) car….

Posted: January 15, 2016 by The Car Spy in Audi, BMW, General, New Cars, Tesla, Volkswagen
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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The company hack recently got t-boned by a Defender and whilst the latter shuffled off with a slightly bent front bumper the poor Audi S3 looked like it had been side-swiped by a demolition ball. Even before making the tentative call to the insurance company the phrase ‘write-off’ was the only polite way we could think of describing the state of our car. And so began the search for a replacement.

The prospect of choosing a new car, depending on your budget of course, can be a daunting prospect not least of which there is simply too much to choose from these days.

However, the criteria were simple. The new car had to be everything the S3 was in terms of practicality, sportiness, fun factor and reliability for a company runabout.

Too many cars are good right now at that level and you have to allow for a bit of subjectiveness when it comes to the badge on the bonnet. Well, you don’t really have to but you end up being picky about that sort of thing in the final stages of choosing the car.

Very long story short, the choice was whittled down to one of the following:-

Another S3, the BMW 135i or the Golf R?

Another S3 was quickly discounted because, well, we had owned one already and we might get bored very quickly with a similar replacement.

The 135i was a tempting proposition. Not the best-looking of sporty hatches but extremely practical and a complete hoot to drive. Not a car for the winter though. Where we are based in the bowels of Kent the roads can suffer from black ice and appearances by council gritting lorries are a bit hit and miss so anything with 300-plus bhp on tap at the rear end is a potential drift machine. Having got used to the S3’s quattro system the fun factor could quickly disappear with the 135i. Strike that one out then.

The Golf R at least has four-wheel drive and based on the press reviews of the latest car it has to be one of the favourites. Great handling, terrific build-quality, very useful performance and you can turn it into a small van if you need to. It very much ticks all of the boxes on paper and yet on a visit to the local VW dealership there was one thing that made us think twice. The Golf Gti.

The Gti is essentially the same car but with a little less power and just the front wheels being driven. It is also less adorned with some of the cosmetic frippery of the R which is a good thing and of course it is cheaper to buy. Given the way this car will be used the Gti just makes the most sense and the deals on the table from VW dealers right now suggest that it is the right time to take the plunge for this hot hatch.

But hold on tiger, there was a left-field player waiting to be considered. A visit to the BMW dealership just down the road from VW threw a surprise candidate into the mix. The i3. Yep, an electric car.

Now don’t get us wrong here but we have a growing respect for (certain) battery-powered automobiles. If you have any doubts about the forthcoming world domination of this form of transport then go and test drive a Tesla Model S. Break yourself in gently with the 70D and then work your way up to the P90D. Even the slowest version will reach 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and the fastest will get there in 2.8 seconds. Speed freaks will love the way the car gathers momentum and in the fastest version you will be hunting down 911 Turbo’s and the odd Aventador to embarrass at traffic light drag races. For the moment though, the Model S is outside of our budget and is a bit too executive-saloon for what we need right now.

Enter the i3. To some it is a freakish design but to us it is a spacious funky-looking little machine that has some interesting and endearing features, like the eco-friendly materials used for the interior. Bits of the door card look like compressed paper but so what? We have suffered decades of naff black plastic interiors in our cars so it’s about time for a change. It is cute and very clever too, like a pet dog. Lots of goodies for the iPad generation will make you feel as though the car knows exactly where it is going all of the time and it will give you lots of notice about running out of juice. Range is about 100 miles but the Range Extender version adds another 80-plus to that.

BMW claim the i3 is their fastest accelerating car to 30 mph and in the real world that actually matters since that is about as fast as you can get most of the time on the South East of England’s horribly congested, pot-holed roads.

A decent drive on a dual-carriageway and stop-start town driving allowed us to test the mettle of the car and impressed us it certainly did. BMW had just released some very attractive financial incentives for buying an i3 so suddenly this little car was heading to the top of our list. And apparently we could bring an end to the melting ice-caps to boot!

But we didn’t buy it. In fact we didn’t buy any of the above. We put a deposit on a BMW M2.

Yep, in spite of it hardly ticking any of the boxes and contradicting our thought process completely the M2 was the car that won our hearts and not our minds.

So not electric this time, but pretty soon battery ranges will be 400 miles plus according to Tesla and that will be a game-changer in the car world. According to a recently published government report for ULEV’s (Ultra Low Emission Vehicles – our bureaucrats love an acronym) registrations of electric vehicles doubled last year from 2014.

Our M2 might be the last of our combustion-engined indulgences, forever. Still time to change our minds though.

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