Thursday, 7 January 2010

New car thoughts

Now this is the kind of car you need for bad weather. It's a 2009 Volvo XC90, the five-cylinder diesel automatic version, with permanent all-wheel drive, and I would feel safe and confident in something like this. I wouldn't actually buy an XC90, as the running costs are apparently a bit high, and can only get higher, but I will be looking at a Volvo, maybe the XC60, as well as the latest Honda CR-V with the brand new diesel engine and (at last!) automatic transmission.

My 1999 petrol-engined Honda CR-V is adequate for most things, but it's eleven years old, and it clearly won't cope well with the bleaker, wilder weather we'll be getting as Global Warming really starts to bite. I felt quite vulnerable driving home from Brighton in falling snow on slippery roads two nights ago. I never went into a skid or lost control, but the Honda's part-time four-wheel drive - drive to the back wheels cuts in and out as required - didn't feel very reassuring on the freezing snow. Definitely needed a heavier car with drive to all the wheels all the time. I took a very roundabout route home in order to stay on main roads and avoid hills. So a journey that ordinarily might take twenty minutes took forty. I must be getting more cautious than I used to be! Thank goodness I wasn't towing the caravan.

Of course the purchase cost of any new car like this will punch a massive, massive hole in my capital that I can't hope to fill again in my remaining lifetime. But then a durable, quality car ought to last me over ten years, and that makes the costs more reasonable.

No decisions yet; and in any case it all depends on the test drive and the precise deal that can be put together. Perhaps even on the choice of colour. And because I want to use one of my 10-registration plates, the thing can't be registered before the first of March. So the faithful Honda will have a three-month swansong. I hope it's a glorious swansong, and that I can find it a kind new owner.


  1. Oddly enough... I zipp around in a XC70. Today was the first time it saw anything that **needed** the 4wd, and it acquitted itself well. Likewise it also acquitted itself well when someone drove a Fiesta into the back of it, Fiesta came of much worse.

    Downside, it drinks petrol like a tranny drinks wine, and compared to my previous landrover/rangerover it doth protest at towing loads, guess you need a oil burner for that.

    Gosh, this is all a bit macho. In my defence I have no idea how big the engine is...

  2. Lucy, have you ever considered buying a low mileage used car? You can save gobs of money, and still get relatively new car, that's still under warranty. A year ago I bought a 2007 Dodge Dakota 4x4 with only 28,000 miles on it, and saved well over $10,000 on the price of a comparably equipped new one. It had been completely checked out and warranted by the Dodge dealer, and it looked and drove like a brand new vehicle.

    Melissa XX

  3. I'm not into cars, but I like the look of that one.
    Anyone want to see a picture of my bus ticket?

  4. @Jess:
    If ladies can discuss horses then they can discuss cars, and that includes engines. We don't have to talk like Clarkson, Hammond and May though. (Mind you, despite his pro-Range Rover bias, I do respect a lot of what Clarkson has to say about what cars feel like to drive)

    You must have the 3 litre petrol engine on your XC70, and that isn't an economical option. I'd be going for a diesel this time round, to get more pulling power when towing the caravan - the 2 litre petrol Honda has always run out of puff when towing up any real hill. If a Volvo, it would be the five-cylinder 2.4 litre version. That'd be coupled with the Geartronic automatic box (I'm now sounding like a motor journalist, sorry), which somewhat reduces economy but the setup would overall be much easier on the purse than the petrol-plus-automatic option.

    Basically I'd use a little less fuel than my Honda, but get more power and tugging ability. I saw that when driving a diesel campervan around New Zealand for two months in 2007. There wasn't a hill it flinched at, and believe me, M--- and I tackled some dodgy mountain roads - notably the notorious Akatawara Road between Waikanae and Upper Hutt near Wellington, which seemed like a good idea as a shortcut but was the Bolivian Road of Death in reality, complete with the mandatory passing-the-lorry-with-an-inch-to-spare-as-the-road-edge-crumbles-into-the-abyss incident.

    What you say is sound sense, Melissa, but this will be the only new car I'll ever have. I'm not going to pass up this once-in-a-lifetime chance. And in a sense, I can't. There are wheels within wheels...

    Two years ago my Mum's brother died, and left her his life savings. Mum split these scrupulously between my late brother's children and myself. It was agreed at the time that a very suitable use for my share would be a top-of-the-range new car. Had she lived, my Mum would expect me to spend the money this way, all of it if I wanted to. So, if I continue to respect Mum's particular wish, I am more-or-less obliged to go for a really nice new car. In effect the money is 'ring fenced'. It will cover the sort of powerful, well-appointed thing I have in mind. So although I'll be having an eye on running costs, the purchase outlay is not a worry.

    I can cover my likely surgery costs from my own money. Just as well: I don't think Mum would ever approve of using her brother's cash on genital and facial operations!

    It would be nice to have a substantial pot of gold left over for serious holidays in the coming years. I'll have a small pot, certainly, but not enough for a lifetime spent constantly cruising or globetrotting. It's a choice between a jolly good car which lets me tackle both local jaunts and long journeys in comfort (and also be ideal for caravanning), and keeping cash in hand for jetting about now and then. The more down-to-earth and practical choice has to be the car. At least I can use it to propp up my normal life.

    On the holiday front, some parts of the world, such as Latin America, now seem too risky to visit. I don't want to be stabbed or shot for being thought a tranny on Copacabana Beach. That's very inhibiting, apart from the dreadful rigmarole of getting through airport security everywhere.



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