The electric Mercedes with a range to die for

As a pubescent teenager back in the late 1970s, I was delighted to once find a discarded copy of The Sun newspaper on a tube train, handily folded back to reveal page three. Having admired Miranda from Epping my eyes shifted to the report of a court case in which a retired brigadier had been stopped on the M1 motorway for driving his sporty Rover 3500S at a reckless 102 mph. His defence? That he had been listening to Rossini’s rousing William Tell Overture on the car’s eight-track sound system and become so carried away that he simply kept accelerating – a scenario that was supported by the arresting police

Jonathan Miller

Why I regret buying an electric car

I bought an electric car and wish I hadn’t. It seemed a good idea at the time, albeit a costly way of proclaiming my environmental virtuousness. The car cost €44,000, less a €6,000 subsidy courtesy of French taxpayers, the overwhelming majority poorer than me. Fellow villagers are driving those 20-year-old diesel vans that look like garden sheds on wheels. I order the car in May 2018. It’s promised in April 2019. ‘No later,’ promises the salesman at the local Hyundai dealer. April comes and goes. No car. I phone the dealership. No explanation. The car finally arrives two months late, with no effort by Hyundai to apologise. But I Iove

Why the characterful Ford Bronco is staging a comeback

The best part of a decade elapsed between Land Rover’s unveiling of the ‘DC100’ concept at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show and the first ‘New Defenders’ hitting the road two years ago just as Covid struck – prompting suggestions that the beefy SUV had arrived ‘just in time for Armageddon’. During the interim, thousands of column inches and hours of video were dedicated to predicting what the production version might look like, how it would perform and debating whether or not it could ever truly match the rough-and-ready utilitarian charm of the time-served original. Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, Ford America had quietly been breathing new life into another dead horse by

The death of old bangers

The old banger is a vanishing breed. And it’s not because all drivers want new cars. On the contrary, not everyone wants to pay out monthly for a fast-depreciating asset. Many drivers would rather opt for a cheap, serviceable car in its dotage. Although I write about cars for a living, and shiny new ones sometimes cross my path, cars I’ve actually owned have mostly come from the bargain basement, including a venerable Toyota which lasted for three years and 50,000 miles that someone gave to me because they wanted it removed from their drive. I saved vast sums of money and had fun in the process. Today, such cars are virtually non-existent and demand

The affordable SUV that gets mistaken for a Bentley

Readers of a certain age might remember when some car marques were the butt of relentless derogatory jokes. Czech brand Skoda – which has since been brought up-market under VW ownership – was an especially popular victim (Q: ‘What do you call a Skoda with a sunroof?’ A. ‘A skip..’) as were Lada (Q. ‘How do you avoid a speeding ticket?’ A. ‘Buy a Lada’) and Malaysia’s Proton (Q: ‘How do you double the value of a Proton?’ A. ‘Just add petrol.’). But even makers of famously good, solid, reliable cars can be coy about their original brand names when they decide to up their game by trying to penetrate

In defence of road rage

A friend told me recently that the only time she and her husband get passionate these days is when they are yelling abuse at each other across the cup-holders of their Renault Hybrid. He complains that she drives like an anxious old lady while she’s convinced he’s an entitled prat behind the wheel. During every mangled gear change, every junction missed, every failed three-point turn each reminds the other of his or her imbecility. It’s all displacement of course – these disproportionate attacks are never really about whether one of you forgot to indicate. Outside the confines of their hybrid, the couple in question live a life of quiet, seething

The truth about electric cars

EVs have been easy to poke fun at over the years. Comedian Chris McCausland has a popular stand-up sketch about how Jaguar spent four years developing a space age noise for its electric i-Pace, only to silence it because people were looking skywards when they heard one coming towards them. And yet, despite their futuristic novelty, society has actually adjusted remarkably quickly to the advent of electric cars; they are fast becoming commonplace on British roads. Last year the Government’s EHVS home charging point grant scheme, which ends on 21 March, helped fund almost 61,480 charging units, and last November just under 19 per cent of Britain’s new car market was taken by electric models. These vehicles are no longer

The Audi e-tron GT: stylish enough to tempt Prince William

2030 is the deadline: the end of petrol cars in Britain. Because nothing lasts forever. ‘This may be the last petrol car that I design,’ said a British marque designer, sketching lines on a napkin wistfully. I threw the napkin in a trunk in the attic for memorial. I have become addicted to petrol cars in these last years because they are so conventionally masculine: driving them feels like theft, and it is mind-altering. If you don’t agree, drive an Aston Martin DB11 round a small bend. It will change you. I could write about the unspoken, unconscious joy of polluting – if you trash a planet it won’t forget you

Most-read 2021: Why I regret buying an electric car

We’re closing the year by republishing our ten most popular articles in 2021. Here’s number two: Jonathan Miller writing in April about the woes of owning a battery-powered vehicle.  I bought an electric car and wish I hadn’t. It seemed a good idea at the time, albeit a costly way of proclaiming my environmental virtuousness. The car cost €44,000, less a €6,000 subsidy courtesy of French taxpayers, the overwhelming majority poorer than me. Fellow villagers are driving those 20-year-old diesel vans that look like garden sheds on wheels. I order the car in May 2018. It’s promised in April 2019. ‘No later,’ promises the salesman at the local Hyundai dealer.

The Mazda MX–5: proof that sports cars can be affordable

The British have a long-standing reputation for coming up with great ideas, executing them quite well – and then leaving others to really run with them. Such is the history behind what is officially the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car of all time, the evergreen MX-5 made by Japanese marque Mazda. The story goes that the MX-5 was born out of a conversation held 45 years ago between Mazda’s former head of research and development Gai Arai and US automotive journalist Bob Hall. The latter had been bemoaning the impending demise of the simple, open-top sports car after it had been threatened with extinction during the late ’60s due to US safety legislation

Could a classic car save you money?

It’s often said that classic cars are one of the best investments around, with some models outstripping the profits to be had in property, art and even gold. The problem is, it’s not really true. Yes, if you were smart enough to buy, for example, a McLaren F1 for £2m a decade ago then you could cash it in today for a tidy profit of at least £8m, and if you happened to snap-up a Ferrari 250GTO in the late 1990s for what might then seemed like an astronomical $7m, it could now be worth something approaching seven times as much.Other blue chip collectable classics have also performed exceptionally well,

Which countries have the highest energy bills?

Seeds of change The Chelsea Flower Show opened in autumn for the first time, delayed thanks to the pandemic. The show has been cancelled before due to the world wars — during the second world war the site was used for an anti-aircraft gun emplacement. But it wasn’t always held in Chelsea. It began as the Royal Horticultural Society show in Chiswick, held from 1827 onwards. It moved to Kensington Gardens in 1861 when rival flower shows were attracting visitors away. In 1888 it moved to Temple Gardens, between Fleet Street and the Thames. It was first held in Chelsea — in a single marquee — in 1913. Highly charged

What it’s like to drive the new Mini Electric

Most electric cars no longer look peculiar, and the battery powered Mini is a good example of this. Go back a decade and electric cars were either tiny city vehicles with crude, shed like bodies or bigger and a bit weird. The original Nissan Leaf had the contours of a giant child’s shoe. The current, less outre one looks like a Micra after a heavy lunch. Before Tesla made electric cars desirable, motor manufacturers didn’t see them as commercial propositions, and paid lip service with prototypes that were about as appealing as a thorn twig scourge. Now the legislative and commercial landscape has changed, and the rush is on to

In praise of the Ford Escort

It’s safe to say that the Ford Escort does not enjoy a straightforward place in the British national consciousness. And it’s not a position, furthermore, that is simplified in any way by being reminded that the Prince of Wales actually bought one of them for Lady Diana Spencer as an engagement present in 1981. I challenge you to think of a less romantic engagement gift – albeit the car did have a frog mascot on the bonnet – for a bride-to-be, especially one due to be joined in holy matrimony to the heir to the throne. (God alone knows what Meghan Markle would have said if Prince Harry had turned

The curious appeal of old Land Rovers

When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived at Holyrood House to watch a drive-in screening of the Disney film Cruella with NHS staff last month, the Daily Telegraph reported that the couple ‘paid tribute to the late Duke of Edinburgh’ by travelling in one of his ‘beloved’ Land Rovers – which, as any Landy fan will tell you, was a long wheelbase station wagon in Bronze Green with glass ‘alpine lights’ in the roof and, unusually, a colour-co-ordinated hard top and bumper. Judging by the royal couple’s un-dishevelled appearance – he in a dark two-piece, white shirt, no tie; she in a belted, ankle-length coat of muted blue tartan

Can the Porsche Taycan convince me to go electric?

How far the world of electric vehicles has come in just a decade. Back in 2011, the most prevalent ‘EV’ to be found on the streets of London was probably a G-Wiz, the Indian-built microcar that was so light, small and slow that it was officially deemed not to be a car at all, but ‘a heavy quadricycle.’ But the 2012 launch of Tesla’s Model S proved that battery power wasn’t just for speed-fearing tree-huggers whose idea of excitement was to potter to the shops at 15mph in what was widely regarded as one of the least attractive automobiles ever made. No – electric cars could be fast, fun, glamorous

What the Formula E ‘catastrophe’ teaches us about electric cars

I didn’t make it down to Valencia, Spain, for the weekend Formula E electric car grand prix. Long trips are more or less out of the question now in my Kona electric car, since Hyundai crippled the range of the battery pack to stop the car from bursting into flames. Not that I missed much. On the first day five teams were disqualified for having consumed too much energy, three cars came to a stop on the track, and others limped to the finish as best they could. Formula E superstar Jean-Éric Vergne completed the last lap at an average speed of just under 20 mph. Slower than my horse.

The strange allure of off-road vehicles

The Duke of Edinburgh was carried to his tomb in a modified Land Rover, and this is apt. He walked away from a highspeed collision in Norfolk a few years ago because – and probably only because – he was driving a Land Rover Freelander. The Land Rover, which was intially the off-road Rover, is the original British SUV. It is beloved by farmers, who need them, and dukes, who like them because they are both grand and useful, a metaphor in metal – at least from their perspective – for feudalism itself. Few cars are as evocative of an ancient chariot, or as versatile: motorways do not daunt them,

The enduring appeal of the Vespa

On April 23, 1946, Enrico Piaggio filed a patent with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce for ‘a motorcycle of a rational complexity of organs and elements combined with a frame with mudguards and a casing covering the whole mechanical part’. In less formal terms, the machine in question was called a Vespa – and this year the marque celebrates an impressive 75 years of unbroken production with close to 20 million having been sold around the world across a range of at least 50 variations on the theme. All can be traced back to the day Piaggio came up with the idea of saving his father Rinaldo’s bombed-out aero