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CAR TRAVEL Irish Car & Travel Magazine

carandtravel.ie

Summer 3

TAKING YOU PLACES WITH THE BEST WRITERS

Luxury hybrid

Long haul Superb

Corvette cool

Gateway to the world


REVIEW I would always argue that the estate car is the most useful all-round type of motor vehicle, and not just because my first four cars were of the genre. They have the best combination of space for people and cargo, on a footprint of an ordinary car and with the style that's generally more acceptable than MPVs and SUVs, the types which with which it generally competes. And because of their profile, they generally also offer better aerodynamics and fuel consumption than those latter. Not for the first time, I make the suggestion that those who are trying to wean themselves off their big SUV, either because they feel intimidated by their green-tinged neighbours, or just want something a bit smarter in looks, might move towards the estate. I don't expect an immediate rush. For some reason hidden in the Irish car buyer's psyche, the estate car, wagon, sportwagon, simply doesn't attract. There are theories. Guinness may be to blame. Because back in the 60s and 70s when they used to send service people around to clean the beer lines, they all used estates. Commercial travellers often did too. And plumbers and heating contractors, who valued the wagons' length and carrying capacity. We Irish are a lot of things. Unfortunately, amongst various characteristics, we're also a bit on the snobbish side. And if the 'trade' people are using a particular kind of car, there's a wide section of Ireland doesn't want to be doing the same thing. (Dunno why, myself. I loved my wagons, especially when I was in the plumbing and heating trade, and when I went back into the publican trade again.) All of which brings me to the Skoda Superb Combi. Skoda. A brand with a pedigree of engineering that goes back to before my father's time. But which kind of got lost under communism, and when the name finally came back to mainstream Europe under VW's early patronage, wasn't up to the new parent's build standards. Well, as I've previously written, Skoda is now back to where it should be in the public perception. At least equal to VW. In many respects, in my view, as better. And the brand's Superb Combi has really turned out to be my kind of car. Which, given my reported experiences on the Octavia and the Yeti recently, is seriously putting Skoda up there as the carmaker I have most time for. Right, the version of the Superb Combi I had was high up on the food chain, with the most powerful engine below the wild 260hp variant that dings the bell at the top of the hammer

Superb Co great long

competition pole. The 170hp varient of VW group's 2.0 TDI is right in the slot as far as balance is concerned in the Superb range. Sure, the car can make do with the 105hp 1.9 TDI, which in the same specification will trim the review car's cost of â‚Ź33,395 by a bit over three big tickets. But that would be a daft choice at this general price range. That said, I must point out that you can get a big chunk of the advantages of the Superb Combi from as low as â‚Ź25,285, and that with a 1.4 petrol engine that pumps a hefty 122hp. There's a complex math to do between the running costs of petrol and diesel, and what the annual driving mileage is. The smallest part is the road tax difference, just Ă„145 a year. But that's what is likely to be the figure which most buyers will consider most important. People's perceptive priorities 

are really strange, sometimes. As to the car itself, there's a little bit of old-fashioned to its style. Skoda isn't the most avant-garde in sheetmetal, but in a strange way that's part of the brand's attractivness. The modernities are in the detail, like the fairly sexy headlights. A green motif has been described to me by someone in the car business as being a little on the large size. Don't think I agree. The alloy wheels are smart, and the chrome strips outlining the windows are nice in a newold way. But the key to the Superb Combi's best attribute is the wheelbase, which makes a contribution to both the accommodation and the ride quality that takes it beyond anything else in the VW Group unless you can afford the Phaeton luxury car. Over the top? No, not really. Try one and you'll see what I mean.


ombi is a hauler dashboard styling is old school, but done well. I would have liked stronger graphics on the speedo, but a digital speed indicator in the middle info panel made up for any lack of clarity in bright situations. The car came with a dazzling array of technology at this level, including a self-parking system that makes parallel entry to a space a breeze. The luggage compartment with all seats in use offers a whopping 600 litres plus, a capacity that can be tripled with the seats flattened. Altogether, an elegant, well-finished, capable and above all capacious car that probably represents the best, and best value, for money on today's market for this kind of car. Brian Byrne.

The style is restrained to conservative levels. But the sheer length of the car gives it an elegant profile that will last long beyond when some of the sexy shapes from other brands become jaded. The front has a grin to the grille, and mischevious eyes in the complex headlight clusters. The Skoda branding of its nameplates in the glass of the headlights is a distinctive feature. Side chrome detailing is unabashedly strong, picking out the graphic of the glasshouse. There's a choice of anodised or black roofrails, which strengthen the roofline. The rear door has a touch of coupe, but doesn't compromise the space. The inside of the Elegance grade review car came with the ivory trim and leather finish, with some woodstyle offsetting that is very realistic. Overall the quality and finish is to elite car standards more than mass market. The 


REVIEW Four-wheel-drive motorists had the last laugh as the country came to a virtual standstill during our recent prolonged cold snap. The extra traction in their cars saved the day for many drivers as they were able to complete their journeys while others less fortunate, especially those with rear-wheel-drive cars, were unable to get a grip on icy, un-gritted roads. One of my favourite 4x4s is the Lexus RX450h which actually boasts many green credentials. Lexus don't regard it as an SUV preferring to call it a Crossover. Yeah, it probably is still linked to the excesses of the Celtic Tiger. Think a very large car, packed with luxury stuff, and lots of safety features, with 'soft-road' capability. It's not cheap with a starting price of â‚Ź62,000 for the Executive version, but any company executive worth his or her salt, probably still drives a similarly priced car. They can opt for the Sport version if they wish. There should be few complaints from the environmentalist lobby as this 4WD car emits just 148g/km C02 putting in Band 'C' for annual road tax and VRT. Quite an achievement for such a big vehicle. A Band 'B' option is now available with a new 2WD variant. There's no diesel option in the RX, and no ordinary petrol option either. Just the hybrid. This hybrid system uses a combination of petrol and electric battery power and so is a lot less polluting than ordinary cars. The 3.5 V6 petrol engine ensures plenty of power when needed, taking under eight seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint and returns around 45mpg. The electric motor and batteries power the car at speeds below 40km/h so it's possible to drive a few miles in city traffic on the rechargeable electric

Luxury Hybrid

batteries alone, cutting down on fuel consumption and emissions. The battery is designed to last the lifetime of the car, according to Lexus. This is a well-built vehicle and there's a real feel-good factor behind the wheel. Inside this five-seater is plush indeed as you expect. All leather and wood. There are memory pre-sets on the driver's seat. You do get used to hitting the Start button and hearing nothing at all! Just watch for the 'Ready' light and away you go. There's no rev counter, just a dial divided into charge, eco and power segments. A graphic on screen shows whether the system is running on battery or engine, or a combination of both, or recharging on the over-run and braking models. It is, of course, automatic, a CVT system best suited to a hybrid. The 4WD capability happens thanks to a second electric motor to power the rear wheels which cuts in only when required, like during heavy acceleration, when cornering or

driving up a steep hill. Lexus call this their E-Four system. One thing, though, bothered me. Like BMW's iDrive, Lexus attempts to find an all-in-one solution for dealing with a wide variety of applications on the sat nav screen via its Menu control. It's even worse than the iDrive which obviously I don't much like either. Far too distracting when driving. The review car had sat navigation, cruise control, parking sensors and a rear view camera, privacy glass, dual zone climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, and lots more. With the RX450h, you get refined motoring in absolute luxury, and good grip when the going gets tough. So far this year, a respectable number have already been registered, so there are people out there getting the hybrid message and who can afford to buy into it. Trish Whelan.

OLD FAVOURITE: Chevrolet Corvette 1953-1962 Debuted as a concept just six months before the first production model rolled off the production line, it was a 2-passenger convertible with a handcrafted fibreglass body. A six-cylinder engine used in other Chevrolet cars was pumped up to produce 150hp, and in the process gained a considerable torque punch as well. They built 300 that first year. And they weren't able to sell them all. Both Cadillac and Jaguar were cheaper than the Corvette, and Americans simply didn't see the sense of paying more for a new nameplate, however good. The following year was better, with 3,640 units built and sold, maybe due in part to the addition of more colour

options both inside and out. The performance wasn't anything to write home about, with a 0-60mph sprint time of 11.5 seconds. In 1956 major styling changes included what was to become trademark 'scooped' sides for this first-generation Corvette. In 1957, styling improvements included four headlights and a 'washboard' bonnet with air louvres ... that were dummies. The 1961 car got a new rear treatment, including 'quad' lights. Up front, the 'toothy' look which had been the 'Vette's face was softened by a mesh grille. The 1962 car represented the last of the C1 generation of Corvettes, and came with a new 327 cu in V8. 


Door to the World The Hanseatic City of Hamburg can best be described as an elegant, thriving, modern and cultural centre, with a very large population of young people. It also boasts the most millionaires per capita than an other city in Europe, including Monaco. Modern buildings seem to blend almost effortlessly with magnificent Baroque and Renaissance architecture, as well as some very modern hotels. Great museums, art galleries, some superb restaurants and nightlife make this a rewarding city to visit. A 'green' city, with parks and gardens almost around every corner. But the main focus of Hamburg is on its network of canals and bridges — almost like Venice — and its thriving port. Since the Middle Ages, Hamburg built on the River Elbe near where it enters the North Sea, has been an important centre for commerce. Officially described as 'The Door to the World' back in 1888 when it was one of the world's leading ports, adding to the country's foreign trade. Business deals from all over the world, were negotiated here. Today, with a population of 1.7 million people, Hamburg is Germany's busiest port as well as its most industrial city. The huge harbour takes in half of the country's imports and exports. I had previously enjoyed a trip around its magnificent harbour where you could see the old areas, most of which have been, or are presently being renovated, providing a vibrant waterfront urban quarter. With a rich culture in opera and theatre, Hamburg is also the birthplace of two of the great composers, Mendelssohn and Brahms. We popped into the city's oldest parish church, St Peter's, where a free concert was taking place. The organist was playing pieces from the Concerto d-Moll, BWV 596 by Johann Sebastian Bach at the time and the wonderful music filled the church. It fell prey to the Great Fire of 1842 and was rebuilt in 1844-49. Among the city's most important buildings are the Saint Nikolai Memorial which seems to tower over the city. It was built 'for the victims of war and persecution 19331945'. It was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott of London. It too was destroyed in 1943 during the firestorm 'Operation Gomorrha'. You can take a lift for €3.70 for an adult, €2 per child, to get one of the best views in Hamburg from a viewing platform, (you go up 76 m which takes 50 seconds) or you can visit the crypt below the courtyard through a glass pyramid. Central to the city is its imposing City Hall (Rathaus) built between 1886-1897 and home to the City Council and the Senate. Built of sandstone, it is very impressive. It is located on a large plaza where you can sit and watch the world go by in one of the many cafes off the square, or on the steps of the canal. Other 'musts' include the baroque St Michael's Church (1750-62) and rebuilt from 1907 after the great fire of 1842 which destroyed much of the city (as

did bomb damage in WW2); the Church of St Jacobi, the Renaissance-styled City Hall (1886-97), and Deichstrasse, one of the few streets remaining that feature traditional half timbered houses. Most tourists will also visit the city's famous Reeperbahn with all its casino and other red-light amusements! The TV tower, which looks down on the city since 1968, provides a wonderful view over all of Hamburg. And don't forget the excellent shopping this city provides. Stroll through the Jungfernsteig area, beside one of the city's two lakes, with its many world famous boutiques and shops and The Neuer Wall, the city's top address for shoppers looking for exclusivity. Also here is the massive brick building of the former Post Office, with its tower, which once belonged to the princes of Thurn and Taxis. The building is under renovation as a shopping mecca. Hamburg is also the gateway to the seaside and spa resorts of the Baltic and North Sea coastline as we found when we visited Travemunde on Lubeck Bay, one of Germany's oldest and most traditional sea side resorts which has a definite Nordic influence. Trish Whelan.




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Irish Car+Travel magazine