Tuesday, 29 December 2009


An idiot finds the only bit of pavement at the Oxford Services on the M40 at 6:40pm on the 29th of December 2009.
It makes my blood boil, it's completely another level of f**k-wit.

All the other cars came after, having to park around this Focus saloon with a Daily Express on the passenger seat. That's right, the carpark was near empty when this d**khead decided to park on the pavement between two zebra crossings.

I mean, how much do you have to crave KFC to park there? Maybe they were suffering from too-many-days-old turkey sandwiches. Hope it's that rather than the KFC thing, I don't like the idea of sharing a rainy motorway with a selfish junk-food eating devoid. I hope they shat themselves.

Monday, 28 December 2009

When I'm back in Glasgow, I'll write...

Blog and bother:

Kolo and the Lamborghini stereo
Kolo and the fog lights of others
Kolo and all the neighbours cars, with all the pictures
The new Opel/Vauxhall Astra  v the older but better looking Astra

There's more too, this is just the back log!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Audi design, cautionary not revolutionary

Compare the new A8 against the Sportback concept upon which it was 'based'.

A8 above, Concept below

Audi design, cautionary not revolutionary

The original A8 (D2)


The second A8 (D3) pre and post facelift


The 'new' A8 (D4 dog)

Audi design, cautionary not revolutionary

The new Audi A8 was unveiled three days ago on Monday 30th of December 2009.

There has been two generations of the A8 until Sunday gone. The original 'D2' replaced the V8 model in 1994. The D2 was the start of the revolution that put Audi on the modern automotive map. Finally elbowing up to the BMW and Mercedes levels of prestige. This was especially the case in the UK where Audi sales and it image has constantly been on the up since this year.

The D2 was a flagship in design and importantly for the Ingolstadt company it was a showcase for their new Audi Space Frame (ASF). The ASF was an aluminium space-frame and monocoque structure. The use of aluminium in this way was a huge leap forward, not just for Audi but for the automotive industry as a whole. The D2 highlighted Audi's ambition to be at the forefront of technology and design. A fresh take on the BMW and Mercedes formula with a better result.

To look at the original D2 A8 from 1994, the car has aged. Yet it still has an air of quality and integrity that contemporary 7 series and S-class fail to match.

In 2002, Audi brought the flagship up to date with the new design language Audi had used on the coupe-like A6, the original TT and the A2. The car was a completely new vehicle, the D3. Everything was designed to be better than the original, to improve as much as technology would allow.

The D3, although facelifted in 2004 to add the Auto Union inspired grille, the car hasn't dated. Yes the design may only be seven years old but the rival designs from their competitors, time has not been so kind. Audi did subtle like no other. Subtly was a quality that owners of large cars wanted. It was an age where money was hidden and not worn. Where labels were on the inside and not diamond encrusted on a belt buckle. People who really had money kept it quiet. Audi became the marque to own, the complete opposite to vulgar.

The D3is a hard act to follow. It's only true weakness was it's dynamic edge on the track and ride quality. Although it is not a needed trait, a sporty drive would be a good return for what can sometimes be a hard ride. The S8 with it's large capacity engine and harder than the normal A8's already hard ride, was meant to take the A8 to another level, to another type of driver.

The S prefix on Audi models are the work of the Quattro AG, the sport division of Audi. Suspension, braking and other hardware are replaced by uprated parts designed to handle the larger engine and its higher performance. The resulting changes alters the character of the cars to produce a quick and dynamic model range, running in parallel to the A prefixed models. Above the S sits the RS prefixed models. These cars are based on the S cars but have unique body panels and have a number of parts made of exotic materials. Engines in the RS models are the most powerful Audi make and are hand built in limited numbers. RS cars become collector's items as the limited run normally produce small numbers of cars, selling at very high prices.

Although there is not a RS 8 model, There is a W12 engined long-wheel-based A8. This is a special car with a number of unique features and trim options. This car, along with the S8 variant showcases the ability the A8 has of creating different types of executive car from the same basic design.

The W12, A8 and S8 all share the D3's ASF construction and one of the best interiors seen on a production car. The interior was a beautiful execution of simplicity and elegance. The jewel was the MMI interface, which reduced the number of buttons needed to do the large amount of tasks the D3 was capable of. The MMI could control everything from the radio to the suspension settings via a colour LCD screen and a mouse like control dial surrounded by six multi tasking buttons. Later cars benefited from a state of the art Bang and Olufsen speaker and amp set and a higher resolution screen. Build quality, another strength Audi has prided itself on, was the best they could produce. The A8 interior was the high of understated luxury.

The D3: the pinnacle of Audi's values and its design language.

Now, in 2009, Audi has deemed it time to replace the D3 with a model that will highlight the companies future direction for the brand.

Enter the D4. Audi are so proud of the new flagship that they have delayed the sale of the A8 for 12 even though the show car unveiled is production ready now.

The D4, in my opinion is a huge let down.

The 1994 D2 was new dawn for Audi and showed their ability to use new cutting edge technology in construction.

The 2002 D3 was a continuation of core design values and a refinement of the unique Audi design language. The interior was where the D3 moved the game on. The layout of the dashboard and use of technology to control the car and it's interaction with the driver was light-years further on than not only the D2 but the competition.

The D4 has not bought anything new or improved over the out going D4. Although there are no parts carried over from the D3, the basic interior layout is the same. Everything has been redesigned but without a new direction. A make over for the sake of it rather than a move forward. The exterior has been simplified but to the detriment of  the presence the D2 and the D3 had. What the new D4 looks like is large 2008 A4 rather than the other way round. The halo effect hasn't worked the way it has on previous Audi models and the way the S-Class improves the image of the C-Class.

The D4is a showcase for Audi. It highlights how it has become a company about sales numbers and not about the core values it has held important since it's rebirth 15 years ago.
The more numbers, the more variants Audi makes, the more diluted the current language has become. It really gives the impression that there were only two people. They could work on four models but now Audi has created more niches, the more over worked the two designers became. Now, when it comes to the replacing the A8, the two where distracted by a new font and logo redesign. Considering this is the 100th year of the company, it priorities do seem to be misaligned. A new font and a new shade to the four rings is the accountants' way of having fun. Audi has become too retrained. Losing the concept of subtle and replacing it with the false god of cautionary conservatism.

With the constant changes of personnel in the design department, the boardroom and within the VW group as the parent organisation, it is obviously going to be difficult to continue in exactly the same vein, but when you set out your stable with pillars built on design, interior quality and innovation, a continuity of staff is exactly what is needed. Audi as a company is suffering from a problem with potentially all car companies could suffer; the time it takes for a complete car range to get into production can be as long as a designer's whole career or worse, the designer could be head-hunted my a rival.
Remember the legendary designer Paul Bracq only designed one generation of Mercedes before he left. Admittedly they did include the Pagoda SL and the 500 Pullman.

The  original TT was the work of J Mays, now of Ford. The A2's Luc Donckerwolke also designed the Skoda Fabia at the same time as the small Audi. He went on to design the Lamborghini Gallardo before taking up the post as SEAT's head of design. The A5 Audi coupe was the last Audi penned by Alfa 156 Designer Walter DeSilva. At his short time at Ingolstadt, he created the second (and disapointing) TT, the 2005 A6 and the 2008 A4, with its droopy rear. Both DeSilva and Donckerwolke are credited with the only truly successful new Audi of this current crop; the R8.

Audi's design department is now under the penmanship of Wolfgang Egger, now Walter DeSilva's head of the entire VW Group's design direction. Egger has famously put out a video of him sketching the then unreleased A5 5-door SportBack hatchback. He has also delivered the Sportback concept with it's five sided grille and is the basis of the upcoming A7 (a larger A5 hatch). The new grille was meant to be on the A8 but it has been so diluted in production that it bares no real link to the concept's.

Let us hope that Wolfgang Egger has the strength to resurrect the Audi brand, which with only 15 years since it's modern rebirth, is now coasting. Audi's recent efforts, it is clear they are resting on their laurels. If Egger can move Audi forward, he would then be needed to stay for more than one model generation otherwise in six to seven years time, I'll be thinking the same as I am now; why has it all gone wrong at Ingolstadt.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Replacing a blown headlight bulb, in pictures....

bonnet off job on an A2,
you'll have to find somewhere to put it, remember, bodywork scratches so very easily

here's the mirror to help you get on with the job

And this is what you're aiming for, the back of the headlight cluster, once the cover's off, which is a case of pulling the clip to the middle of the car, you'll see

so with a flip of a clip and a pull of that black plug...

  out comes the blown bulb (blown in the middle of the coil)

and now to put the cover back, easily the most difficult and frustrating bit of this task...

get this in, narrow end first, blind, you'll be a genius. Just like me. It took me 5 minutes to get the bonnet off, take out the bulb, put the new one in. Then it took me another 15 to 20 minutes getting this bit of black plastic in the right place.

Well, Kolo's now free to drive around after 3pm now without the fuzz getting all shirty about it.

Replacing a blown headlight bulb

On the A2, replacing a headlight bulb, although not without its difficulties, is still easier than doing the same job on any other car I've had.

Having said that, it really depends on with headlight blows. The British nearside headlight has a large space behind it on the diesel model. On the same car, the offside has less space, much less space. Still, even then, it's far more room to get your hand in compared to say, SouferKa, the 1.6 SportKa we also have.

Anyway, here's some tips to do the job yourself, otherwise a mechanic will charge an hours labour unless you're friends.

Right, get the H7 headlight bulb, make sure you don't touch the glass, as oil from your skin will get hot when the bulb is used and apparently can cause the glass to blow up. Hmm, really, really?

Also bring a shaving mirror, the one with a small frame, not the one screwed to the wall.

I thought that silica gel packs cellotaped to the headlight unit cover would help the VW/Audi lightcluster fogging. So far, it's only helped a bit, not by much.


I took photos to help...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

A quiet week for Kolo

Kolo has been used that much this week. In fact, the A2 was only used to go to tesco's for diesel and then for a drive to comet to look at netbooks.

This has been due to the rain,the constant rain. Kolo still has a blown headlight bulb, and although compared to SouferKa, it's a doddle to change the bulb, it's the fact that the headlight fogs up with the slightest bit of moisture.

This week might be different, the flooding on some of the city's roads will have gone, the debris cleared away as well, yeah a drive might be in order. Even if it back to tesco's from some food shopping or some thing just as dull.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

F1 moving too fast?

In my drafts sits a post summarising the driver and team movement in F1.

Although it is the off season and the post is only 5 days old, it is completely out of date.

So now, instead of an essay, I'm just going write a quick few lines here and there, now and then.....

....because Formula One is moving quicker now, than it has in any off season before!

Brawn no more:
As Ross claimed in the BBC season end program, Mercedes only just pipped Ferrari to the post when it came to supplying his eponymous team with an engine, for free (or in Mercedes' case, shares in BrawnGP). Strange to think, if Luca had beaten Norbert to the hotel room that day, then MercedesSilverArrows F1might not exist as of Monday this week. Mercedes have bought out Ross Brawn to rename his team and the fall out has a knock on effect at Ron Dennis place.
McLaren share buy back:
The McLaren Mercedes divorce is more a strange swingers affair than some clear cut split. Mercedes are going to be engine suppliers to McLaren 'til 2015 but Mercedes will drift technical advancements away for themselves, leaving McLaren with more like a customer spec engine by 2015. The SilverArrows team is thought to be an all German outfit, in terms of drivers, Nico Rosberg will lead the line, although not confirmed. The team is still going to be based in Brackley with Brawn and Fry at the helm.
The 'completely by accident' fallout of the all German team, is the creation of an all British team with Button moving to McLaren to second seat with Hamilton. Mercedes have agreed that there shareholding of McLaren stock will be sold back to the Dennis run company and the tiny McLaren holding in Mercedes will be put to the market.
Force India?
As it stands, the Mercedes engine customer will continue to receive Mercedes power for 2010, although it is thought that Force India can go anywhere if they choose.

I'm in two minds about Button moving to McLaren, it was the only team that has the budget to pay the money he wanted. £6m is thought to be what he got in the end, £2m short of his target fee. Still, looking at Hamilton's wage, £18m, there might be the Alonso-like tension at the first winter test.

The wages are a measure of talent? No, well, yes. Button, at the end of a long season, was not the all conquering hero he looked after the initial six starts. To be honest to Button and Brawn, it really was a downhill coast to the finishing line rather than a rude expression of pure talent: the amount of talent Hamilton seems to exude after even the poorest of results.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

New Door Hinges

Getting Kolo back from the bodyshop (Glasgow Audi, Hillington), I was greeted by a completely valeted car. They even got the chocolate off from between the passenger seat and the centre console.
Now, it wasn't just the warranty work they did for me. As they took the front doors off, they asked to replace the straps that stop the door from flying open. Oh, ok I thought, here we go. But in all fairness, they were not going to charge for labour, so it'll be the cheapest time to do it. Quote, £32, actual cost after VAT, £29.
Hmm, cheaper than they said. Shh, I've strangely just saved £3 and received a £20 valet. They even dressed the tyres!
Sadly, it's not all good news, Kolo lost a headlight bulb, £3* or so online.
So all in all, it's been ok this week.

(*or so I thought, I got a pair of halogen H7 for £4.95. But the cheapest single bulb, £6.99. pff, the internet hey)

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The £20 courtesy car

A VW Polo 1.2 Match (with a new Scirocco)

Nothing much to write about, but, as a courtesy car, it's very good.
I've has a Fiesta, a brand new one for about six months. it was not the new, new edgy design one but the Polo-esque one before. After six months, we were bored of it's dull personalty and tin can feel. So we exchanged it for a SportKa and never thought twice over one of the best decisions SL and I have ever made.
Where the Polo and the mk4 Fiesta do make a good point of being so accessible is when they're used as courtesy or hire cars. The Polo was instantly drivable, nothing flash but nothing difficult either.
You're in the automotive version of a Travelodge; nice to be there for a night, but only because you don't have to live there.
As with the Fiesta, the Polo's interior has a designed look about it. As in, all the buttons, switches and dials have been designed for that vehicle, not a scatter-gun, parts bin aproach. Yet both cabins are flawed because of it. They have the feel of everything, every item being designed with the same amount of time and quality. This should be good but as the total time to create both cars were the same as designing a thorough facelift, the end result is rather dull. The ashtray has the same level of interest as the steering wheel, as the interior light, as the electric window button. Bland, bland, bland.
Spending a couple of days in either the mk4 fiesta or the Polo, well it's fine, nothing to get use to, everything average and in a logical place, space is good too.
But if you where going to spend £9000 or either and have it for three years, no, you'll be wondering if getting the train would be better at stimulating your mind in the morning commute.

As well as the £20 Admiral charged me for celeb hitting in the Polo, I drove 34 miles and put in £4.20 of fuel. Really, it just wasn't worth the bother.
Having said that, had I not been offered a courtesy-mobil, then I would have really needed it for something.

One thing of note
On both dashboards on both superminis: back-lit LCD odometers and trip computers. I only drove the polo once in the dark but really, who's idea was it. The bright blue rectangles in the lower six-0-clock positions of the speedo and rev counter where ruining my night vision. The Fiesta was not as bad, with green glowing LCDs but instead of a physical fuel gauge, the mk4 had a tacky LCD fuel tank made of 5 black bars. Stangely, the new 2009 Polo has adopted this child-like display whilst the mk5 2008 Fiesta has returned to a real needle.

The VW cars are slowly dropping their trademark blue backlighting, shame because when used on a LCD or negative LCD, the blue glow really is good. VW are going for a white glow as on the mk6 Golf, which, I'm not convinced will do any favours when driving at night.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Thank you Admiral, for that....

....extra £20 fee.

It's my own fault.
When Audi Glasgow give you a courtesy car, they expect you to insure it.
Fine, I thought, done this before, odd though it is, with no charge or difference to the level of cover.
Normally, on the two occasions I've had to do this, the courtesy car has been in the same insurance group as my own vehicle, so as you and I would expect, no charge; one car on the road, as one car is off the road being repaired, serviced or whatever.
Not this time.
The courtesy car in question is not a larger-than-Kolo Audi A3 or VW Golf, no it's a 1.2 petrol powered VW Polo. Two whole insurance groups lower than my 1.4TDI A2 SE. The Polo doesn't even have remote central locking.
When I finally drove home, through the rush hour M8 traffic, I really found myself wondering why I have to pay £20 extra for just 3 days in the little VW.
I phone up Admiral, and a nice person in an overseas call centre answered.
"The £20 is for up to a week, it's standard extra charge because if you crash, we would have to pay the full market value of the car."
So, I thought, would you not with my car?
"No, because you do not own the courtesy car, we would have to pay out full amount. Your car it would be different, it's a standard charge to cover this."
He also added
"It covers you also, say you hit a famous person in the courtesy car."
So, when I get my car back, my own car, on Friday the 13th, Celebs in Glasgow better watch out, because I'm not worth much and it would seem, I'm not insured if I hit the famous.
Tomorrow and Thursday however, Celebs, you're fair game!

Hmm, so, £20 down and worms everywhere, can cut open....

....when they say fully comp, they mean, not that fully. A kind of nearly fully.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

French Project: Glasgow

take 1:
Dennistoun to the Glasgow School of Art through the city centre.
Too much traffic, too many slow red traffic lights. Good route though.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Free repair for all A2s....

There is a design fault with the front doors of the Audi A2.
Being aluminium, the design of the driver and front passenger doors are light, but also slightly weak. The aperture for the front doors are large, not so much in length but in height. Much larger than the rear doors. Yet all four doors have the same number of hinges of the same design. The aluminium around the front hinges therefore suffer from larger amounts of stress (and the driver door; use too) and can result in cracking around the top hinge housing and hinge plate (but not the plate itself). As a result of this very common fault, Audi have created a new design for the bottom hinge and a fix for the top hinge surround.

The cost? Completely free. Audi UK have informed all Audi main dealers in the UK to be aware of this and if asked, to do the repair at an Audi approved aluminium specialist.
Now, some dealerships will plead ignorance to this. Swear it doesn't exist or worse, say your A2 is too old and you've missed the boat. Ask for the boss, if (s)he doesn't acknowledge this either, ask for his/her business card and say you are going to contact Audi UK.
(try http://www.audi.co.uk/audi/uk/en2/customer_services/interim.html to start with)
Audi UK com down hard on dealerships that don't comply with their exacting standard requirements for not only work but also customer service.

So stand your ground, be brave in the knowledge that you are in the right. All A2s are covered.
This is as close to a product recall as you can get without actually going about recalling all A2s.

There will be images to follow to show what to look for.
(Even if you are not sure, the dealership should look for free. Al they have to do is open the front doors and feel around the front hinge. They and you don't need to take off the doors to look)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

When in Bexhill....

Here is a video of the Denbigh corner in Bexhill (as mentioned in http://drivingkolo.blogspot.com/2009/07/when-in-bexhill.html)

Really, it's better than Eau Rouge.
(As in, you don't have to drive to Belgium to try it out, or be a F1/GT racer.)
This video doesn't do it justice but the traffic on Sundays in a retirement town is, well, this was the best take.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Time for a tidy for 'Living with a revolutionary Audi A2'

Over the next week, I, the author will go over all the previous posts and links and tidy up.

There are also a number of posts in draft stage and maybe I'll be able to publish all of them or edit them into one large ramble.

I would also like to clear up grammatical and spelling errors along the way too.

I wouldn't want to come across as a complete bumpkin now would I.


See you a week Monday, (unless something comes up)

O W Dawson

A2OC: The value of having an Owners Club

It's not geeky to be a member of a Car Owners' Club. Well maybe if you were under 50 and a member of the MG-OC. There are a few more clubs that fall into the board borderline category but overall, no matter how other people view it, there is a value in being a part of one. I'm sure some of you reading still aren't convinced the benefits out weigh the awkward socials with people who really have nothing in common with you.
But who said they had to be awkward. Remember that a car (especially a new one) is the second most expensive purchase you will make. It's the same likelihood you will get on with your neighbours; they chose to live where you chose to live because their life choices are similar to yours. Why shouldn't that apply to vehicle choices too? Why should the people choosing the same car as you be radically different to you? You would all place the same values on the car's 'character and persona' as each other, why else did you make the same choice? Well, there are people how just don't care, granted, but they would not need the back up of an OC. As soon as the car's warranty is up or as soon as the car runs out of it's usable life, exchange or scrap is what they do next.
The people who do care however: honestly, an OC is worth it.
To take the A2OC as an example, you firstly have to look at the decision on why buy an Audi A2. As a new car, the first rung on the Audi ownership ladder turned out to be not as cheap as Audi imagined. In some cases, the A2 was more than decent but not greatly spec'd A3s. Kolo for example was just over £19,000 in 2001. That's a lot of money for a so called supermini, especially pre-BMW Mini. However many reasons why the A2 was so expensive to make and sell are great reasons why you'd look out for one used. The TDI engines are direct injection and pretty bulletproof, even the more powerful one still gets the £35 Road Fund Licence. The aluminium body is rust proof unlike anything else in your budget. What is there not to like with prices as low as £2500 for a basic spec'd petrol.
However, no matter how good a car is, it is still a car, made of thousands of parts and out of many different materials. Things do go wrong. Even new cars go wrong. But when they're older, there is no manufacturers warranty to help you out. What is needed is a cheap way of finding out what will go bad before it does and when it does, the knowledge to get passed the mechanics waffle. What is also needed is an opinion unbiased by a hidden motive. What is needed is a OC.
The A2 is a weird choice for an ordinary runabout because of it's looks. The A2 has a result is sort out: you own an A2 because you want an A2. The owners are of a type that appreciate the Luc Donkervoke lines and the strange looks they can still evoke. Owners are out and out extraverts in some cases, most are technology savvy too. Thus the A2OC. A web based forum of owners that post up issues and experiences they have with their A2s. There is a wealth of information and sources to help you avoid the pitfalls and help on improving on Audi's product.
So far, the A2OC in general and a member called Skipton01 specifically, has helped me:
*find the cause of the power loss
*fix the ashtray
*diagnose the onboard computer for faults
*choose the right sized alloys with the right amount of offset
*fit cruise control
*fix brake and ABS fault (turned out to be a brake pedal operated brake light switch)
*helped me know what a mechanic was saying was completely wrong (saving me £500)
There is more but surely the last one is reason alone.
The A2OC is not only web based, it's a social thing too. Members regularly meet up, some members are good friends with each other. Not not just the cars either.
As I stated before, if you appreciate one thing of the same reason as someone else, you will both also have very similar opinions on other things too. And isn't that why people get along? The fact that it can help you save money, improve your ownership experience and are given a clue to what mechanics say just a bonus. Join an OC, even if there is a fee, the information you gain is probably worth double the amount. Do it today. Honestly, you don't have to stick the sticker in the window if you still feel weird about it, we understand.

The cost of driving.....

......Insurance, MOT & Tax.

Oh dear, the start of November was looking like a costly month. However, it was not as bad as it could have been.
Nine months ago, on the Audi channel on Sky, Audi UK were advertising a free MOT to any Audi driver. All you had to do was to print off a receipt from their website after enter your postcode, Reg. number and the date of the MOT. Then, Audi UK will book you in at the nearest Audi approved dealer or official main dealership. All for free. No catch, right, well, obviously they'll fail the car and cover there costs with something or other that has to be fixed.
As it turned out, Audi Glasgow and other Audi main dealers don't charge MOTs on older Audis anyway, but you live and learn these things. So on the 26th of October, Kolo the 8 year old A2 went in for it's test.
Of course. But on the pettiest of things: loose indicator repeaters in both wings. Yes they were loose, I broke them, they do work however! So it should really be an advisory note, not a fail. However £32.68 to supply and fit (at a main dealer). Not bad, still cheaper than £45 for a MOT these days. Plus I was going to fix them, they could have shorted in the Glasgow rain, so, in a way, two stones. They also washed and polished Kolo, they didn't even mention it. Very good Glasgow Audi. From the huge disappointment of the last visit at AforAudi, main dealer service doesn't seem as costly or as frustrating as I've experienced before.
Insurance time, the costly side of Admiral Multicar. Instead of just facing one renewal, it's time to shop for two.
I've been on S L's insurance for too long to keep my No-Claims, when we had just one car. Then, 12 months ago, we bought a second car. Phoning up Admiral and explaining my situation with with 0 No-Claims, they Multicar'd me. I didn't care at the time as it was by far the cheapest insurance I could get. On paper, I'm not the best person to insure: a 27 year old male, inner city Glasgow address, a premium car make, 0 years N-C bonus.
The renewal cost this year for both cars: £807.03. Going on all these price comparison sites that advertise with ever increasing frequency and ever increasingly annoying gingles did not save me anything, one site: £985, for just me! I then went onto Admiral's own site: £734 for both cars and drivers. Phoned them up to ask why, after a 50 minute chat to a friendly Welsh woman, £704 with added 'Non Insured Driver Legal Cover' for both myself and S L, so if a NID hits me or S L, in either car, all occupants can claim compensation for injuries and loses, without affecting our N-Cs bonuses.
Bargain, as Paul Whitehouse would say, in his poor Welsh accent.

So, Saved £13 or so on the MOT and £103 on the insurance renewal. Plus Tax is only £35 on this low capacity, low CO2 Diesel.

Not the most well written post I've made but maybe with £116s worth of English grammar tuition, I might get better*.

(*because that's what I'll spend it on, hmm)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Shell and Evo/AutoExpress

The fuel refiner/research and developement company have teamed up with Evo magazine and it's sister publication; AutoExpress to offer my dream job; Motor Journalist and Test Driver.

Lets hope they pay for my insurance too.

As part of my entry, drove up and then back down with a tank of V-Power diesel. I go for a drive on this route a number of times and have mentioned the longer version in previous posts.

This time, with the premium quality fuel, it was a better, cleaner, more progressive run up the switchbacks. And a smoother, more refined descent town to the Promenade.

It's worth the extra £1.94 to fill up when there's a road to be enjoyed but even on motorway runs, the range on one tank goes up from sub 300 miles to over 310. So the initial extra cost at the pumps is not the true value, longer between fill ups, better drive and the hidden benefit: a better maintained engine.

Switchbacks of Beachy Head.... Up and then Back down

As part of my Shell V-power competition entry.
The car really is smoother and more progressive with premium fuel.
Better fuel, better drive.

(Shame can't be said about Audi's build quality.)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Then back down the switchbacks (at Beachy Head)

Watch out for Toyota drivers in Eastbourne. Either they're idiots or it's an insurance scam.

Switchbacks of Beachy Head....

....but the camera mount ruined a good first attempt

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Finding the new Beachy Head

S L at the wheel as we make our way on the A72

Monday, 12 October 2009

Finding the new Beachy Head

Since moving to Glasgow, S L and I have missed the ability to go for a drive; an enjoyable drive.

Having motorways and inner-city routes are fine for a commute but where do you go to let your hair down; where to you go to enjoy your car again?

So after 5+ years, we found two candidates: Helensburgh to Arrochar on the A814 and M73 junction 7 to Lanark's Steel's Cross* (A72)

Descriptions to follow.....

Remembering the old Beachy Head route

One of the best things about driving in Eastbourne was the Beachy head route.
As soon as you get to the south western end of the seafront road you're whisked up, up and away on one of the most interesting roads in Sussex.

The 60mph road starts with a handful of tree-lined switchbacks as it rises to the acute Meads Road junction. After you're faced with either straight on or left. For myself, it doesn't matter which I choose as I treat the route on the Downs as a complete loop.

I normally go left and round in a clock-wise fashion, keeping the sea on the left but that's neither here nor there, the loop is a great either way. If you have the time, double back on yourself, go both ways, why not.

Once past this choice, floor it: there's no tree, no hedges, just a grassy expanse, you can see other cars coming. Seeing other cars, whether coming towards or away is vital: the road's not wide and the surface is shockingly poor. Potholes are tarmac'd into it, going car control and a fat arse are both needed here. As long as you don't have back problems, a Diablo or an Audi with a S-prefix, your in heaven.

Slow down for the tight right* after the second coach stop after the pub, use the coach-stop's space during off season to make the corner more open, then there's a left-right after. All three corners are surrounded by car high grassed earth banks as the road descents slightly.

Once through that it's a straight drag to the Belle-Tout lighthouse which rises in the background. Beware though, there's a nasty series of hidden dips which can conceal a transit let alone another car.

The road goes up and right at the lighthouse flowing into a long left with tall trees on the left and cows and sheep in a field on the other side. Once past the trees the route continues straight to the Birling Gap hairpin. Once you're past this turn and the last few of the cottages there, it's on towards the village limits of East Dean. When you get to the first right turn, lined with a Sussex flint wall, slow right down to 30. It's still 60 until the cricket green but there's the local kids on bikes around, and tourists exiting the Sheep Centre. Go through East Dean until the Large junction with the A259 back towards Eastbourne as you turn right* here.

All the torque then power the engine can muster as you push up a long rising slope out of the village. Sheep are seen on the left, watching your efforts.

As you see a cottage on the right slow for another right turn at the Warren Road junction, this turn completes the loop, you're 1/4 miles from the original decision of turning left.

To return to the switchbacks on Upper Dukes Drive, you'll be greeted with a wall which appears to be near the middle of the road, indicate right and enjoy the smell of your brakes before returning to the blue rinse pace at St Beads and the start of King Edward's Parade. Time to reflect on the fun you've just had.

(*if you go left, choosing the clockwise route at the third paragraph)

Monday, 21 September 2009

In Paris, the FIA ruled on Renault (based in Paris)

News of the fate of Renault, Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds has just broken.

Renault have a two year suspended ban from F1
Flavio Briatore has been banned from F1 and driver management indefinitely
Pat Symonds has been banned from F1 for 5 years.

To be honest, I am a McLaren supporter but ultimately a fan of Formula 1 as a whole.

I cannot believe how the FIA court of justice based in Paris has ruled so unevenly today compared with how they treated McLaren nearly 18 months ago.

Let's go over the two incidents committed by both the McLaren and the Renault team.

Mclaren looked at some drawing of the then under development Ferrari. As designers in F1 are generally on a similar wavelength and the ruling parimeters are so tight, in is unclear how much of the new McLaren racecar was copied from the Ferrari. As a result, the FIA felt it was to hand out a record sized fine of $50million. This is after the Mclaren team already fired the designer involved and 'moved' Ron Dennis away from the F1 arm of the (small F1 based) company.

Renault, on the other hand committed one of the most dangerous offences in motorsport: to make one of their drivers crash on purpose. Yes, we may get blaise about accidents in F1 as there hasn't been a life threatening crash since the death of Senna at Imola. That is if you ignore the Massa incident only months ago.

A modern carbon-fibre made racecar is capable of withstanding huge impacts and if you look at Robert Kubica's massive shunt in Canada, where he walked away uninjured, it is easy to dismiss any utterings against the FIA's ruling.

At the last race meeting, two weekend's before the FIA was due to rule over this alleged case, Flavio, in his normal loud-mouthed way stated that he'll sue Piquet Jr (the driver forced to crash) and he, Pat and the Renault F1 team will fight this nonsense out in the courts, contesting all allegations against them. Fernando Alonso, Renault's main driver said he'll not comment until after the case was concluded (when he said that about McLaren, he stabbed everyone in the back).

Then the Renault F1 team, a week before the court case was heard, shocked the F1 community by firing both Flavio and Pat. No-one, it seemed, could predict what was going on at Renault, as they then announced that they would not contest the charges against their F1 team. Although in the statement, they did not admit the intirerity of what happened at Singapore in 2008 (the race meeting where Piquet Jr. crashed into a concrete barrier), they did admit there were decisions made that were not in the spirit of the sport, laying blame directly at the doors of Pat Symonds and Flavio Britore.

When McLaren went to court in Paris, they were not as open as Renault have been, but key personnel had been, more were already in the process of moving on, just as Renault had done. As I understand it, the FIA have not officially banned Ron Dennis (of McLaren) from the sport but they wanted him out. So in theory, Dennis is able to come back. But the FIA still hold a 2 year suspended banned over the McLaren team.

It is, however a suitable punishment for Flavio Briatore. He is a Formula 1 man and has been invoved with the sport for many years. The 'unlimited' ban from motorsport and especially F1 will be hard for him to take. Pat Symonds' similarly, will find the next 5 years difficult and then the notion of employing him from the point of view of F1 teams, seems to be beyond anyone in the paddock. Time, may change this.

Bernie Ecclestone as yet, of the time of writing, to make a statement about his close friend and co-owner of Queen's Park Rangers FC, Flavio. This situation does not happen for F1 boss Ecclestone. He is normally the one controlling the in's and out's of the sport and to be put in a position where he is personally involved with one of the parties would never happen.

It is of note, that in the recent FOTA/FIA public wrangle, Flavio Briatore was a vocal member, as was BMW-Sauber team boss Mario Thiessen. BMW since have announced their withdrawal from the sport (due in part the high cost and lack of success of the team). This wrangle was due to Max Mosley, head of the FIA, creating a budget cap on testing, development and general running costs of F1 teams. So it is strange to think one of his main opponents has been disgraced and another leaving due to an ironic lack of cash.

Bernard Rey, head of Renault (the car company) has released a statement in which, Renault and the Renault F1 team except the ruling of the FIA and the subsequent punishment, with a wanting to move on from this whole affair.

This weekend, the F1 circus travels to far eastfor the 2009 Singaporean Grand Prix. Nearly 1 year after the Piquet Jr. accident and nearly 1 week on from the firing of Briatore and Symonds.

(This news has come out on what should be ex-England football manager and footballing legend, Sir Bobby Robson's day.
But then again, when has F1 and the FIA cared about anyone else outside the motorsport arena.)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Oh yes, and....

....My ashtray doesn't open properly and there's a blue wire hanging from behind it!


Oh yes, Kolo

It's been an eventful time for my beloved A2 and sadly it's not been good.

Where to start? Well, since the major work, Kolo's been running well. Some of it would be to do with how light my wallet was and Kolo returned better MPG than before.

Then the dream (er, dream?) started to fade. SL used the A2 to do a First Aid duty as it was a distance away and came back reporting the indicators were not working. One flash and then nothing. Great I thought, wonder how much this'll cost as I found all fuses were OK.

AforAudi's Andy said it was a common fault and was a simple relay but being an A2 it wasn't in a simple place and the stereo would need to come out. Fine I thought, shouldn't be that difficult, couple of Stereo keys, job done.

Well, as I was a regular now, they tried to fit me in early, which I thought was good of them. But in the end it turned out to be anything but a blessing. Picked up Kolo 4 hours later than they hoped (still a week earlier than if they hadn't tried to fit me in) and I drove off £77 lighter. A couple of minutes down the road, I went from radio to the inbuilt CD-changer and....

Error 3. Oh F**k off I thought to myself. I was having a terrible day, we were running hours late and we still had to leave Glasgow for a trip. I turned around using the perfectly working indicators and spoke to Andy. He was busy and it was 5.30 on a Friday but we strangely worked on fixing it together. Sadly after an hour and a half of trying and 6 damaged CDs later, Error 3 was still flashing. Both our hands had cuts and the Climate control unit had been scratched (my OCD was working overtime now) and it was really turning out to be a mother of all days for me and not a good one for AforAudi or Kolo, or in fact SL who was having to pack for myself and control the Milly Moo. The Milly Moo is our baby kitten we have just, err, bought/born/delivered, oh, got.

Oh Error 3. Anyway a new Symphony2 CD-changer, Tape and FM/AM radio head unit is between £390 and £450 from various Audi-dealerships.

So I have to ask myself, how much is it worth, to listen to my music?

(There are options, eBay have a number of Symphony2's (£150 without any kind of warranty) but only one or two are for A2's thanks to Audi's varying dashboard designs. I could listen to my iPod though the Tape adaptor but my iPod touch is on the fritz and the sound isn't that great anyway.)

So I was wrong about Renault and TeamFlavio for 2010

....but who wasn't.

I was convinced it would be Renault that would go, not Flavio and Pat.

I wrote a comment on a previous post saying that Renault would sell up (to Flavio) because the negative PR from this would damage the brand
(which being in F1 really doesn't make their road-cars any more desirable) can concentrate on their Formula Renault series around the world instead.

Now, it seems Renault have outlasted F1 stalwart Flavio. Which, if we're all honest, we never saw coming.

But what's in it for Renault? Their name will be associated with a very dangerous incident where winning comes higher than safety. Considering Renault have strived for top marks from the EURO-NCAP safety tests for their road cars, I can't see how the two go together. In PR terms, this is the worst outcome surely?

What happens next with the FIA will interesting but it's strange to think back to Australia when we had Flavio, Pat & Ron (Dennis) all still on the Pit wall

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Renault out of F1

I'm not convinced Renault-Nissan have the stomach to continue in F1.

Carlos Ghosn (Renault Group CEO) has had to make key cost cutting decisions to pave the way to Renault profit. Nissan at the moment is keeping the group in the black, just. Renault however, is like a lead weight. Plus as an image boosting exercise, F1 doesn't have the halo factor it once had.

On track, the Renault engined RedBull have at least one title contending driver. Where are the Renault works team? Nowhere at the front, well not consistently. Redbull have 104.5 points (2nd) where Renault are 8th out of 10 with just 16 points.

The Formula Renault series' are going well, the racing Meganes are too.

Then you have the new Piquet-gate story. Not what you want from an image point of view; the Renault brand dragged though the courts by Flavio et al.

If you had a business decision to make; cost cutting in your motorsport division, what would you do?

Renault have a long line of success as an engine maker but will it again as a constructor? Flavio has enough to buy out the Renault stake in the team. Renault could continue with RedBull and TeamFlavio as suppliers can still claim an active part of the F1 circus without the negative headlines as a constructor.

Remember Renault (and BMW) only became a constructor during the time when F1 was going that way 8+ years ago because it would have been advantageous from a technology point of view. F1 isn't still moving that way. With a return to garage teams with off the shelf engines; look at how BrawnGP (Mercedes powered), RedBull and now Force India (Mercedes again) are at the front.

The new rules mean the added cost as a constructor making it's own engines isn't the way to get trophies anymore. BMW know it, Carlos knows it, it's just a matter of when and not if.

Maybe as a owning team principle, Flavio will focus on wining on the track and not in the courts.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Bumper & mechanical damage

Weeks after Kolo was completely fixed; after everything was as good as new, I hit debris on the road. Mud to be precise. So what's the damage, well it hit just below where the intercooler is housed, dislodging a pipe. Bugger. The pipe now hangs clear of the lower aero undertray and swings 6inches lower than anything else on the car. Power is not effected and no warning lights show on the dash, in fact, it's like nothing happened at all. But being that low, it's going to get knocked off, being just inches off the ground. It's all shiny metal looking, that must mean it's important, doesn't it. Doesn't it?

Monday, 17 August 2009

Blown bulbs and not much else, thankfully

At the end of last week, I noticed that I had blown a front sidelight LED bulb. A little 501 w5w.
The thing is, it was only about 5 months old.
When I took the back of the light cluster off I then saw why. On the A2, it is incredibly easy to access the light cluster housing to change the sidelight and headlight bulbs. Not so easy putting the latter one back in mind but it doesn't require you removing other parts to get a clear shot at it (unlike any other car I have had and the SportKa is a joke when it comes to this). But it does ask of you to put the watertight backing on with an obscured view. Thus not always making a good seal. Which is what I did last time I guess.
Yes, thinking about, they have been fogging up a bit since the rain's come back, hmm.
My solution was to buy more bulbs (I also have a brake & tail light bulb out too) online, 10 LED 501's for £9 including and 10 standard brake & tails for £12, both including posting. Don't know why I need 10 rears but the 501's go everywhere in the A2, like numberplate lights, interior lights, and other places, plus SouferKa could do with LED sidelights. I'll get someone else to put them in though.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Starts just like that.

Thank you to A for Audi of Clydebank

Between myself and the 2 previous owners of Kolo, there has been 10+ opinions on why it spends a large amount of time on the startermotor. There has also been money spent by its second owner on a new battery (£97) and a new startermotor (£240 plus fitting) but the issue persisted. When it came to SL and I buying this A2, we had a long look at the history and balanced up the issue with what otherwise is a extremely well specified TDI 75. In the end, we decided that we'd get the car then fix it later on. It only really seemed to be noisy problem rather than a serious one, there was a new starter after all, which seemed to be only thing suffering.

6 months from that decision, enough was enough. As mentioned in previous posts, the problem was getting worse, so we took the plunge and went looking for a Audi or a diesel specialist. A for Audi came up in our searches a number of times and there didn't seem to be a TDI specific diesel garage locally. So off to Clydebank we went. We we're greeted by a mechanic called Andy who had a look at Kolo, within seconds, with just one attempt to start, he had the answer.
"It's one or both of the two fuel pumps, the low pressure one in the tank and/or the high pressure one just before the injectors in the engine bay. We can get that done tomorrow if you like."
Brilliant, or so I thought. Well it was good on one hand, at least we know what it finally was, bad because it'll be costly.

Fixed, it starts with no delay. Really, the fuel must travel like a, hmm, liquid bullet? The glow-plugs not need to engage until the ambient temperate is -15'c due to the high compression direct injection apparently.

The cost, ah yes, the cost.

The complication, well

The final bill...

But finally, a complete success. The 1.4 75 is on song. Starts consistently well. The power loss is a thing of the past now, it's a whole car now.

However, I'm glad it was re-mapped to 104bhp & 182lb-ft because it's quick but not lighting quick. That's 115bhp per ton after being worked on by Stealth Racing. The ability to push on above 2500rpm (max torque) is a handy trait, 63mph in 5th, but it's all gone so quickly, yes you finish well above the speed limit but it could be geared better, hmm maybe new ratios are the next thing, I'm sure I mentioned that before? It is off note, when on the garage car lift, the gearbox casing has a VW logo moulded onto it. I thought it was a custom unit for the A2 but if it's a shared VW group piece then maybe...

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Now, in Motorsport this week...

...F1: BMW-Sauber call it quits & Schmacher's back. That's right Michael, not Ralf.

So, Massa's doing better. the images of his face and crash helmet damage are doing the rounds on YouTube. The operation's a success, he'll be up and chasing wins in no time, say Ferrari. In the meantime however, they have the best super-sub in the business, 7-times Formula One World Champion; Michael Schmacher. You can see Jensen et al dropping their heads and closing their eyes, resigning to the fact that a hard season has just got harder.

2009 hasn't been easy to predict at any point. At the start, everyone wrote off Brawn GP, labelled as the season's SuperAguri. Six months in; Mclaren and Lewis Hamilton were never going to win again. F1 is starting to rise above the cloud of politics it seems to constantly lerk in. I've always followed the formula, watching the dull, dull races. It was a chance for SL to catch a nap on a sunny Sunday afternoon without the worry of missing anything important. Racing was incedental. It was always more about the going's on between the weekends; the egos, the conflicting interests, the ridiculous amounts of money...

So why didn't BMW do well?

BMW is a proud company, like VW and Porsche, it's founding family still has a large stake in the brand. So I can imagine that the ego of BMW is an extension of the ego of the Quant family. More so than that of CEOs or chairmans in normal modern, corporate business. As a result, I can also imagine that such a brand wouldn't be best pleased with how their BMW-Sauber arm has failed to make an impact on the F1 scene despite the large amounts of money they had put in. BMW however isn't immune to making costly and very high profile errors. Last time it was the Rover, mistake is too small a word; debacle, disaster, catastrophe etc. That cost the company more than pride. At one point, it's share price was so low and it's outlook so bleak, that VW under Ferdiand Piech control laughed about a possible takeover. The Quant family and the Piech/Porsche family power sharing BMW wouldn't go well. Two bitter arch rivals would fight to a point where the cars do not matter, Montague-Capulet bitterness. The Sauber buy out and the near fruitless 3 years of racing hasn't been so expensive but it has done the brand any favours. the past decade in Munich hasn't been all bad though; RollsRoyce and Mini have been a monumental success. Still, it reads 2-2, doesn't it?

Sunday, 26 July 2009

In Motorsport this week...

Normally I wouldn't think this was the right place to comment on motorsport. This is a blog about, er, Audi A2 ownership? but...

...as F1 pilot, Felipe Massa's lying in a doctor induced coma, Formula motorsport is in shock.

A freak accident in which a F2 car crashed lightly into a barrier forcing one of it's wheels free claimed the life of Henry Surtees. The wheel bounced back onto the track in to the path of the oncoming Surtees driven car, striking him on the head with force enough to prove his helmet wearing near useless. An accident like this hasn't happened in open top racing for a large number of years, and to claim a life in this way is so rare, not seen since Markus Höttinger's death in 1980. Then, within a space of 6 days, a spring from the rear suspension of Rubens Barrichello's Brawn GP F1 car worked itself loose, to hit Felipe Massa's passing Ferrari, impacting him on the front left of his crash helmet. Compared to the Surtees incident, Massa was lucky as the weight and angle of the impact was lighter and less direct to the spine. Felipe had this happen to him in the end of 2nd practice in qualifying at the Hungaroring, near Budapest, Hungary. Then next day in the race there, another freak incident in a pitstop caused Fernando Alonso's Renault to lose a front right wheel, resulting in it working free, to bounce in this case, harmlessly into a barrier before coming to a rest off track. Also in the race, Sebastien Vettel's RedBull Renault F1 car breaks it's suspension in a way reminiscent of Barrichello's car the day before. However only shards of carbon fibre broke off, lying flat off the racing line, with no other driver being affected. RedBull claim a front suspension fault, completely unrelated to the Brawn GP incident.

It is strange in motorsport for freak breakages and accident to be mirrored so closely. It hasn't happened since the dreadful weekend at Imola for the F1 San Marino GP of 1994. That weekend, three similar accidents claimed the lives of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna, with Rubens Barrichello hospitalised. Although Senna's death was caused by a steering and suspension failure and the other two by driver error, death and serious injury was becoming a distant memory in the top levels of motorsport at the time. Which is very much how Henry Surtees' death is met by today's motorsport community.

Where we can take heart is in how Massa survived the impact his Ferrari sustained after he was rendered unconscious by the suspension debris. As yet, the speed in which he hit the tyre crash wall has not been made public, however, from onboard footage, it is clear that it was at a significant speed. Yet apart from the head injury caused by the spring to his head, Felipe suffered no other injuries. The car behaved extremely well under force. As driver's safety cell stayed intact; Massa's legs did not break, unlike Michael Schumacher's in a similar impact at Silverstone for the British GP in 1999. Plus, there is no direct neck injury caused by stopping into the crash wall. This is, in part, thanks to the innovative HANS device worn by all top level drivers to eliminate neck breakage in such a high speed impact.

Hopefully motorsport has endured the last of these freakish accuracies of the past week. There is always a risk involved in all kinds of motor racing but drivers are more vulnerable in open top Formula races. Yet the resulting crash suffered but Massa after the head injury proves that technology and Jackie Stewart's safety revolution has helped in significant ways to to make it many times safer than it was in Henry Surtees' father; John and in Jackie's time at the wheel. For which all racing car driver's take a small piece of reassurance from.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Problem starting, starting to get really frustrating and now....

...there is an answer.

When I had the cambelt changed in Eastbourne 3 or so months ago, 2 days later an air pipe cracked due, most likely, to the excessive amount of engine movement involved in changing the belt. I'm sure I wittered on about this in a previous post but anyway, my point is that it's happened again in a bigger and stranger way.

When the air pipe cracked the first time, Father was in the car and S L Bartlett and driving up hill on the northbound A23 on the way to Gatwick. Maybe it was the weight?
This time, however it was down hill on the M80 with my friend in the car.

Kolo's fine when it's just S L and myself, when other people travel in the A2, it shows us up. The other day, on Scott Street, Glasgow, the handbrake went onto 7+ clicks when picking up a friend.

Back to the air pipe. well, according to 'A for Audi' of Clydebank, there has been a toxic level of carbon-monoxide blowing through the vents. Slowly over past 70+ miles, the monoxide has been building in my blood; Kolo has been poisoning me. Plus when I'm in a vulnerable position on the road, the 1.4 TDI loses it's power from the turbo. Kolo has been a bit of a monkey in the last fortnight.

Oh well, it's getting fixed and...

...finally someone with sense, at 'A for Audi' instantly diagnosed instantly what was wrong with Kolo's starting. It's one or both of the fuel pumps (low pressure one in the fuel tank or the high pressure one just before the injectors above the engine block), costly maybe, but at last!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Problem starting, starting to get really frustrating.

Since we bought the Audi, the A2 has had an issue starting up. As it was a very cold November when we received the V5, the problem was exacerbated as TDIs have a reluctance starting in the cold anyway. Now however, in warm July, the time on the starter-motor is still just as long. To be fair to the previous owner, he was upfront about it and showed a number of Audi main dealer receipts not only from him but also the first owner too highlighting this problem. "It seems to be an A2 diesel thing that Audi dealers just don't get." the previous owner said.
From my Audi main dealership experience, I'm not surprised at this; I went into Caffyns Audi Eastbourne for a volume knob for the Audi made Symphony2 stereo, their response was,
"Audi don't make stereos in their cars, you'll have to get a new radio from Halfords, we have the double-DIN cover to fill in the hole though."
Buy a new stereo because of a missing knob!
If he'd actually looked at it, it says Audi on it,
and if he'd looked at his Audi parts computer, and well...
A phone call to Caffyns Audi Brighton, £2.12+VAT for a pack of two.
I wanted to go back to Eastbourne's branch (of the same dealer, Caffyns, tut tut) and show the lazy parts person but Kolo's starting problem would hamper my smug getaway.

Yes, back to that. Well, I'm not the most mechanically minded but I have an idea. If you full up the tank to full and the forecourt has a forward slope then, hey presto, starts first time, like a normal diesel, almost petrol like. From this, I have surmised that it's a fuel pressure issue. Maybe the fuel pump is being a bit weak and modern diesels pump fuel at ridiculously high pressures. When I had the cambelt and pullygear changed at a trusty local garage in Eastbourne (Visicks), they said the car doesn't used the glowplugs. The plugs themselves are fine but the EPU doesn't send a charge to them. This could be true and would at to the issue but even when the engines been running and is at a good temperature, if you switch it off, then straight away, start it again; er er er er, er, er er, starts, then whine of the over used starter. That'll be a new starter too then.

So Monday, it'll be a call round to TDI
and Audi specialists, maybe I'll go to a Skoda dealer, Glasgow's private taxi fleet are all diesel Octavias or Superbs. Plus Audi Glasgow, although miles better than Caffyn's, shelled out in excess of £10m (that was just Audis half of the bill) for there new showroom/restaurant/art gallery/service centre. Thus always going to be a three figure bill starting with 5 or higher.

Maybe I'll just ask a Skoda driving cabbie, they know everything, plus they're tight and wise(?) with money (both by driving a Skoda & being Scottish*)

*This is not the opinion of 'Living with Kolo' or of the author, however, if you have cause for complaint, please feel free to air your comments in the box below.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Audi Build Quality: The TRUTH

Right, lets get this straight, firstly, there are two, er lets say, areas, of build quality. One, the build quality of the interior and especially the dashboard that lazy car journos call 'build quality' which also includes then noise of the door closing. This type, or area is know in R&D dept of car companies as 'Perceived Build Quality'. Two, true build quality, the one that matters to people who spend what is still a hefty chunk of cash on a car, is the unseen craftsmanship in building a car. The things that only when you own the vehicle, do you notice, like rust traps, door seals, the fogging up of light-clusters, things like this. Things only with time, begin to show.

It is, I should say, was, normal to associate one with two, perceived with true. But as with most things in modern life, life manipulated by Ad Agencies, the perceived isn't best buddies with the true. In fact, thinking about it logically, the actual use of the word perceived, seems to suggest some type of deception. It can leave you questioning the honestly of your expensive purchase.

Now, lets put Audi's so called legendary build quality to the test. And why not VW too.
Right, since the Audi renaissance of the mid-nineties, which has continued so far without falter, Style and Quality have been the two main buzzwords that have helped push Audi into the position it is in now.
Style is a matter of taste, a subjective thing that is difficult to quantify. J Mays did a fantastic job of making it into a statement with the (ur)TT. But even when launched, not everyone was convinced by it's front end (an issue which with time has disappeared, but now affects the 'one grilled' Audi models, post urTT). But Audi still basks in the glow from this one model.
Now, Quality, build quality. The urTT also carried this Piech management buzzword into production. The interior won more awards than its landmark exterior. It is of note that Ferdinand Piech, head of the VW group (owner of Audi), pushed quality through all the groups' ranges, this is an era of Golf mkiv, Passat mkiii, Toureg, Phaeton and related Bentley GT. Moving up market, charging more thus more profit margin, was the way forward for him. They make a better product, we get a better car, so we all win surely? This is where we add the perceived bit in.

Right, perceived. Even when only a year or so old, how many Golf mkiv's did you see at night with only one tail-light? Now, how many do you see with faded paintwork or, worse, pealing lacker on the bonnets? How any Passats do you see with a goldfish bowl for a headlight? I could but won't go on, however there are many more. Now imagine you own one of these Piech VWs or Audis, the interior is/was a deal maker when you parted with your money. Has time spared it from the worst of many thousand miles worth of use? When I was looking for either an Audi A2 or a Golf mkiv last November, interior signs of use was the reason I walked away from many cars. I'm used to buying used cars, I'm used to seeing wear and tear. Apart from one car, all vehicle purchases have been of cars four or more years old. But worn interiors has been a real sticking point with Audis and VWs, much more than Alfas or Fords of the same age, the same year. At first I was shocked, but after trawling through the AutoTrader and everywhere else, I got used to the disappointing truth. The true quality of Audis and VWs.

One of the areas where Piech interiors scarred the Ford bosses, was the soft touch nature of the dash as a whole. The way that everything you touched, buttons, roller switches, even airvents, had a feel of, well, softness, thus the feeling of quality. This was achieved with a fine layer of matt black rubber on every surfaced you pressed, pushed or rolled. Ford didn't bother with this; if it felt like plastic, it's because it was. But over tens of thousands of miles, these areas are going to used thousands of times, but sometimes, sweaty, grubby fingers. A fine layer, is a fine layer, fine, gets worn away.Military tanks aren't made with fine layers. Ok I made that point, but the consequences. White buttons in an otherwise black interior. You also have to consult the handbook to see what function the button performs. As men, some don't, that's then why third hand Golfs don't have a working rear-demister. In my A2, it's the ESP/traction control button and it's starting on the -temp switch on the climate unit. As a bit of a control (pun?) freak, I look at that -temp with nervous OCD. I've banned anyone from touching it. I don't care if the climate is set at 22'c on a summer's day, I'm not risking it. As for the ESP; black leccy tape, I already know what it does, plus why press it anyway? Maybe our Kolo's not as well looked after as we thought?

This subject is bigger than I first thought!

Will continue later.

Tomorrow maybe.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Brooklands, back in 2003 with Alfettas

Brooklands, back in 2003 with Alfettas

British GP with MercedesWorld at Brooklands

British GP with MercedesWorld at Brooklands

An A5 sized flyer fell out of a copy of Evo, or was it Car, maybe both, I've got two of them. Anyway, on it was an invite to watch the big screen at MercedesWorld to see the British GP. It was free and why the hell not.

Brooklands is such a historical race circuit to go to. The banking now wraps around a selection of modern life: Tesco's, an industrial estate, an out of town retail park, a gym and a loose bit of urban sprawl in the form of a housing estate. The houses now cover where would have been the junction of the start/finish straight with the right turn into the start of the famous banking. To make up for this, the street names are of legends of both the motor-racing and aviation heritage of Brooklands. That'll make up for it: I'm Mr. Smith, I live at 12 Seagrave Road, Brilliant. Yes well, it is down to a hand full of plucky sorts, that with the spirit of the pioneers, took it upon themselves to get the rest of the circuit listed to gradeII. Sadly, that didn't sit too well with local planning. Their idea is use the track as two mile long carpark for a new technology park. Great, why don't you turn the banking into a waterslide and pool whilst you're there!

Moving back to point:

The only other time I went to Brooklands, was about four or more years ago with my friend Dan. MercedesWorld was just an idea, the thinking behind it, was when getting rid of dealerships was at it's height and Brooklands was going to witness the new way of buying a car, a Mercedes at least. Now, things have changed. Third party dealers are still here, so I was interested what this flagship outlet was really about.

The drive from Eastbourne was two and a half hours or so, more like three if you're sensible. We're not, so it was a sprint to get there for the opening car display on a section of the original Campbell circuit, now owned by MBUK. Yes, we missed that bit, but that's because I thought we'd find Tesco's and a large part of banking that Dan and I had searched for but missed last time.

We sat down in front of the big screen early, it was only a quarter full if that, but there was a huge amount of people about, all here to watch. As we were getting comfy on the standard conference centre chairs, the MC was conducting an live feed interview with a Mclaren mechanic at Silverstone. He went through the team's plan of action and what they expected to get out of the race. Starting well back, second to back row for Hamilton, it wasn't great PR for MclarenMercedes but the Brawn is Merc powered so it wasn't a total loss.

Race over, and with some patient queuing from SL, we got seats in a 10 minute track experience in an AMG car for a tenner. BTW, SL was brilliant at queuing, she left the big screen early to get us a gourmet burger lunch. Thank you again SL.

The car was one of Jeremy Clarkson's favourities: the new C63 AMG. Our driver was a quietly spoken man; Tony Lyons, which it turned out, was a championship winning touring car driver. It was an off the wall experience. The 6.3 V8 was at full song and in Tony's hands, the car was darting all over the new test-track, drifting through the longer corners, breaking late into hairpins, it was beyond any in-car experience I've had before. SL and I departed the track a little worse for wear and returned back inside the MW building. Anymore than 10 minutes with Tony in touring car mode, we would have seen lunch again.

Even as I write, I still don't really get the point of MercedesWorld. It's like the re-tardis, huge on the outside, really nothing in it on the inside, and it wasn't empty feeling either. Part museum, part giftshop, part dealership and service centre, it did none of them convincingly. For example, it had a range of vehicles from the first 1884 Benz to the newest E-class, but in 1:24 model form! As for the link between Mercedes and Brooklands, it was nonexistent in any of the small handful of picture displays. Iet was less of a flagship cultural centre MBUK would have you believe, more an average city dealership, quite like Glasgow Audi, which even has an art gallery too. I did enjoy sitting in a number of the current range of Mercs, full sized and including the recently launched E-class coupe. It was nice to do this without the usual "can I help you sir?" attitude from the one or two sales staff we saw. But if this is the only reason MW is here, then it's looking poor value for the Daimler-Benz buck.

Home was beckoning, it was father's day and we were to have dinner with mine. Normally I hate to leave places; there's always more to see, but not today. It's brilliant to see the Grand Prix somewhere publicly, specially if you can't make it to the track, and especially for free, but I just can't see what's in it for Mercedes and their World. I did buy a DVD in the giftshop, reduced to three pounds; Full Circuit: The History of Mercedes and Brooklands.

The last of Goodwood...

Goodwood trackday cars

An Aston Vanquish of the same year as Kolo (2001| 51). Both aged well don't you think?

Eastbourne to Easebourne via Goodwood (pt5)

Eastbourne to Easebourne via Goodwood (pt4)