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Miguel Nogueira

Thoughts on cars (part 1)

During the last month, I’ve been fortunate to have tried out a couple of different cars and I thought it’d be interesting to write down a few notes about them.

# Background

Before that, let me give you a little background on my car journey.

As noted on my about page, I identify myself as a petrolhead. I’ve been reading car magazines since an early age and follow specialist car media1.

However, even being a petrolhead, the list of cars I’ve had is not really… evocative. But money hasn’t been enough to fulfil some of my dreams, so you get what you can. Hopefully I’ll be able to scratch some itches now I’m getting really close to my 40s and before our favourite cars get forbidden.

The cars I’ve got more mileage on are (in chronological order): my mother’s old 2002 Polo 1.2, a 2001 Passat 1.9 TDI I bought from my father in 2014 when he upgraded and my current car, a 2016 Jaguar XE 2.0d2 I bought used in 2020.

# The T-Roc

Earlier this year I was able to get a company car, and while it didn’t arrive, the leasing company lent me an almost brand new Volkswagen T-Roc 1.0 TSI. I had it for a little over a month and managed to rack up 1600kms during its stay on “my driveway” (the street…).

During this time I got to do different kinds of driving in it. From city commute, some spirited driving across the country and some big highway jaunts.

Being a brand new car and my current car being over 8 years old, even taking into account the T-Roc isn’t supposed to be in the same class3, you notice some technological evolution. And some regressions. But we’ll get into that later.

On the plus side, Apple CarPlay. I had never tried it and it is a very good system to integrate your phone with your car. Usually car infotainment systems aren’t that good nor updated as frequently as they should or as phones are, so being able to always have up-to-date maps and traffic information with Waze and your favourite podcast or streaming apps (Overcast and TIDAL, in case your’re wondering) integrated with your car is very useful.4

Another evolution compared to my car is Adaptative Cruise Control, which was an option in my car when it was new but it wasn’t specced with it. Automatically slowing down when you get to someone slower (or someone slower gets in front of you) and resuming the set speed when it clears up is a very useful feature. Yes… you can do the same without it with a little manual work, but it’s useful nonetheless.

Now for the downsides… The new EU regulations mandating Lane Assist and automatic speed warnings are a bit of a pain. And that’s an understatement. The speed warnings can be muted and only show up on the dashboard, which is a one time thing you do and move on, never thinking of it again. But Lane Assist turns back on again every time you turn on the ignition. And it isn’t only the little haptic feedback on the steering wheel when crossing to another lane without signalling5, but it actively fights your steering inputs and drives me insane. So, everytime I started the car I had already memorised the series of buttons I had to press to turn it off.

The way it rides and handles is also a bit of a problem in my opinion. Being a taller (and slightly heavier) car, a “compact crossover SUV” as described in Wikipedia, to be able to control pitch and roll it needs to have stiffer springs and dampers compared to the equivalent C-segment “normal” cars. This leads to a crashy ride when you go over speed bumps or rougher roads even at lower speeds. Things that my own car, an overtly sporty sedan, can handle without any problems and without bothering the passengers, are noticed in the T-Roc in a not so complementary way.

This also leads to some problems with handling. It never properly settles on turns, not giving you confidence when pressing on some of your favourite “B Roads”. I honestly believe I could be faster and safer in my mother’s old Polo I learnt to drive in over 20 years ago. We’re talking of a “lesser” segment car, with 22 year old suspension technology and rubber. And the 9N Polo was never a reference for handling at the time, losing group tests to Fiestas and even Clios when it was new. Let’s not even compare it with my Jaguar in this department.

Finally the engine. Again with European lawmaker cluelessness, we saw a race to engine downsizing over the last 15 years or so, so that they comply with Euro 5 and Euro 6 regulations. This change was mainly done across all the main car brands because these engines can be optimised to run on the WLTP/WLTC test cycles used for the certifications. Now, I’m all for the cars being more environmentally friendly, what I’m against is the fact the testing cycles are not indicative of real driving conditions. I’d wager a bet that over say 75% of people never get close to the WLTP certified consumptions their cars announce.6

This downsizing led to an asthmatic, characterless engine that didn’t gel with me. Heck, having driven mostly turbo diesel engines over the last 10 years or so, I cherished the moment I got into a petrol car, even ones that nobody liked much. To be able to rev an NA petrol engine to their redline (even if it were only 6000rpm like on my brother’s old 1.1 Peugeot 206 with measly 60cv) was grin inducing. The T-Roc’s engine left me no good memories, gave no thrill, it was just there… an amorph power plant.

## Getting sidetracked into a rant

I really cannot understand the way the industry is going. An SUV, or crossover, as they exist today are not the way to go in my opinion. I’d rather have gotten a normal Golf instead. Same space, cheaper, much better handling, better performance and better economy.

We go by cycles. I remember when the MPV mania was in full swing, everyone thought they had to have a huge MPV even if they only had one child. Same is happening now in recent years with CUV/SUVs.

I really hope this FAD goes the same way and ends. And I do have the utmost respect for people with big families or are in situations they need an MPV. I’m all up for them to have them because they do need to.

Also, I’m all for a proper 4x4 that can go off-road. Even I get the itch to own one7 everytime I go overlanding or do some more hard core off-roading with some friends that own one. But these CUV/SUVs aren’t even useful for that.

Saw someone in social media saying a VW Transporter was a better SUV than most of these for what SUVs are for. I think I agree.

# Wrapping up, for now

I had planned to write about the other car I tried over the last month, but I got carried away. I’ll leave it for a follow up post, which will also help, since it’ll give me more time to live with it and form a better opinion on it.

  1. Some of my current favourites include:

    • Evo Magazine, albeit it has been sold (again) a couple months ago and the jury is still out on whether it’ll maintain its quality or not
    • The Intercooler, a new digital car magazine by Andrew Frankel and Dan Prosser with a diverse set of writers, from fellow journalists, to car designers, car engineers to former F1 drivers.
      • Their podcast is also very good and they now have a Youtube channel and Instagram account where you can access some of their content for free.
    • Collecting Cars: Chris Harris has been involved in the Collecting Cars auction platform and his insights can now be found on its YouTube channel.
      • Also have a podcast called Collecting Addicts, which is a laugh.
    • Harry’s Garage: YouTube channel from the founder of the aforementioned Evo Magazine where he does car reviews and shares his own experiences with the cars in his collection.
  2. It’ll be up for sale soon. Automatic, 180cv/430Nm, ~173k kms. Hit me if you’re interested. wink wink ↩︎

  3. Wikipedia states the T-Roc is classified as C-segment whilst my Jaguar is D-segment. ↩︎

  4. I’m my Jaguar, I have the phone connected via Bluetooth to the car stereo and the phone attached to an air vent to the right of the steering wheel to be able to check Waze. Never took the plunge to retrofit Apple CarPlay to it via a hack. ↩︎

  5. My Jaguar has this nudging “feature”. But can be turned off on a button and stays off until you press the button again. Years later. I use it very infrequently. Mainly when I feel I’m a little tired.

    Yes. I know I should stop and sleep a bit when I get to that state and I do. ↩︎

  6. Give it a try ;). I can get to those numbers and even better them, but it is neither easy nor even may I say safe in some situations as you have to go much slower than the rest of traffic around you. ↩︎

  7. I don’t think my midlife crisis will allow me to get both a sports car and a proper off-roader though… ↩︎

Hello World

Old webpage was getting a bit long in the tooth so decided to find a new theme, customize it a bit and refresh the site. It may not be the final one.

This time with blog functionality, so that I can post some things I’ve been musing about. Key word is “can”… let’s see if I will…