For most of us, if not us all, our vehicles are central parts in the motors of our everyday lives. We drive to work and home at night, to get into town or otherwise away from the hectic rhythm of city living.
Given their significance, it’s striking how little we know in general about fixing, repairing and maintaining our cars, which Halfords has quantified the extent of in a recent series of graphics titled the Car Maintenance Survey.
There’s a spread of insights here that surprised and concerned us, but we’ve picked out five that we think are the most important and have given a little explanation why underneath!
This one left us a little taken aback (no doubt as taken aback as the 16% of 25-35 year olds will be when they learn that it’s under the bonnet, like pretty much everything else). However, the knowledge gap we can sympathise with, to a (fairly limited) point; people leave everything for the mechanic to deal with. It’s more disconcerting, though, that this 16% of people are ones we share the road with!
Driving with a chipped windscreen is not just a motoring offence; it puts everyone in the car at serious risk of harm from objects like stones dashing from the road at high speeds. Moreover, a small chip grows into a fully shattered pane at an incredible pace. In the event of a crash, a windscreen break can have lethal consequences; the airbag, for instance, may expand outwards through the broken screen, rather than forward towards the people inside, providing an absolutely insufficient protection in so doing.
Again, some of the data that Halfords has gathered is mindboggling. You’re a serious risk on the roads when driving without adequate visibility, more to other people than yourself. It’s a selfish, reckless move and really surprising that it’s something that one in four people would choose to do, particularly, of all places, in London.
There are pretty standard tests you can use to ensure that your tyres remain in fine, working stead. Halfords have compiled a nifty guide that anyone with any uncertainties should check out!
When looking to buy a car there is certainly no shortage of choice. The UK has over 4,900 franchised dealers plus many more generalists. Car auctions, internet sites and private ads offer even more options but this still leaves many buyers wondering just where is the best place to get a really good deal.
For most people, a car is likely to be the second most expensive single item that they will ever buy and so it is important to get it right. There is certainly plenty of choice and if you are looking to buy a used car in the London area, it is possible to find almost every conceivable make and model within a radius of a few miles. The first decision is whether to buy new or second-hand. New car sales are booming, fuelled largely by some of the new methods of financing them such as personal contract plans and leasing as new recruits to the world of motoring consider car ownership very much along the same lines as mobile phone contracts with a continuous monthly charge and regular upgrades being the order of the day. The canny buyer, however, realises that such a throw-away mentality results in some great cars appearing on the second-hand market and it usually means that the first owner has paid dearly for the privilege of new car ownership or lease. A car’s value depends on several things but one of the most predictable is its age and the depreciation curve is invariably steeper in its early days.
By steering clear of the lure of new cars, a buyer may suddenly realise that his budget will now stretch to a much better specified car. Most car purchases involve the heart more than the head and even our London buyer may fancifully visualise cruising along deserted country roads with the roof down whereas, in reality, a nose-to-tail daily commute is probably much more likely with emission levels and congestion charges figuring highly in any car buying decision.
There are undoubtedly some great bargains to be found but the risks should not be underestimated. Perhaps the ideal car could be almost new or fairly young, low mileage, well maintained and with a known history. An ex-demonstrator from a franchised dealer or an ex-lease car could probably fit the bill and some of those previously used by disabled people under the Motability leasing scheme can often be exceptionally good but the range of vehicles on offer may be rather limited. Buying ex-fleet vehicles is another option to be considered but some of these may have covered high mileages and a used taxi or minibus is certainly not to be recommended.
Another interesting idea is to check what vehicles are available from car rental companies such as those offered under the Hertz Rent2Buy scheme. The idea that ex-rental cars have been roughly treated by uncaring drivers is simply not borne out by the facts and there are some real gems to be found. Hertz even allow for an extended test drive in the form of rental for a few days so there should be no unpleasant surprises here!
It’s fair to say our first drive of the Tesla Model S is not entirely going to plan. Fellow scribe Phil Huff is peering through the rear window with a slightly quizzical expression. “You’ve broken it,” he jokes.
Tesla Model S85
It later transpires this assessment might not be so far from the truth. Right now, however, we’re locked outside what could well be the future of motoring, stranded at our photo location just above the Milbrook Hill Route (famously the road on which 007 totalled his Aston Martin in Casino Royale). There are worse places to be marooned, admittedly, and it provides a good opportunity to reflect on what we have gleaned about the car so far.
The Model S has been around for a couple of years now, but recent months have seen a growing number taking to our roads. It’s a discretely handsome sports saloon with a generous luggage capacity and enough room to seat five adults. There’s even the option of two additional rear-facing seats in the boot, should you need them. Outwardly, there are almost no clues to the fact that this is an all-electric vehicle, but as such it’s exempt from road tax and the Congestion Charge. Perhaps more importantly, it also falls into the lowest bracket for company car tax.
Things are a little more radical on the inside. The massive 17-inch touch screen display is not only the largest, but also the cleverest that we’ve encountered, controlling everything from the sat nav to the sunroof. It’s like sitting inside Google.
Tesla Model S85 Interior
The dashboard itself is a strikingly simple design, clad – in the case of our test car – in Alcantara and carbon fibre. The quality of the materials is first rate and they lend the cabin a bespoke feel that distinguishes the Tesla from its more mainstream competitors.
But enough of the pleasantries, what’s it like to drive? Really rather good, in short. You can feel the mass when pressing on – it weighs a not-inconsiderably 2.1 tons – but the combination of prodigious thrust and near-total silence from the electric powertrain is quite surreal.
Right now the internet is awash with videos of this car’s twin-engined evil twin, the P85D, demolishing supercars from a standing start. Our test car is ‘only’ the single-engined carisoprodol buy rear-wheel drive S85 model, but even this comparatively mild example of the breed feels good for its claimed 5.4 second nought-to-sixty time.
Where the Model S really scores, though, is response. With 440 Nm of torque available instantly, right from a standing start, overtaking urge is never more than a twitch of the toe away. There’s no shortage of grip either, with decent chassis balance and chunky, if somewhat lifeless, steering.
A small confession here: in the brief time we had with the car, I didn’t think to check which of the two braking modes had been selected. As sampled, lifting off the accelerator resulted in something not unlike conventional engine braking, while the middle pedal had a pleasingly natural feel. It certainly wasn’t the alien experience you might expect from a regenerative braking system.
Tesla Model S85
All of this, of course, means little if you can’t get in to drive it. Having soaked up the Bedfordshire sunshine for 20 minutes a support car is dispatched to recover us and the stricken Tesla. The central locking issue is eventually traced to a slightly unlikely culprit, in the form of the dictaphone I’d brought along to record my notes. Apparently this had interfered with the keyless entry fob lying next to it in the centre cupholder. We’ll let you decide whether that constitutes a teething issue or (as one of Tesla’s European representatives insisted) user error.
But the fact is, the fundamentals of this car are superb. The Model S is reassuringly conventional when you want it to be and yet a genuine game-changer in other respects. It’s more than capable of competing with its internal combustion powered competitors in terms of comfort and performance, with anecdotal evidence suggesting there’s enough real-world range to get you from, say, London to Birmingham.
Throw in ultra-low running costs, plus more pioneering technology than you can shake a stick at, and it also starts to look like good value, starting at £59,380 on the road. This not a car reserved for hair shirt environmentalists, nor is it a low-volume concept like Volkswagen’s plug-in hybrid XL1. The electric car, it seems, is very much a reality.