Mmm, Track Mode

I finally found the time and space to try out Track Mode on my Model 3 Performance yesterday. It’s a game I need to play some more, to discount any expectation bias that I might have been displaying, but – so far – I’m impressed: Track Mode adds an extra layer to the fundamental characteristics of the Model 3, turning it into a willing and eager accomplice to the art of driving.  Continue reading

The Age of Steam

I drove my 911 today, for the first time since we bought our Tesla. And it was everything that I’ve always valued a 911 for: it‘s hugely tactile, fairly noisy and thoroughly interactive, with its slick manual gearbox, delicious feel and sublime feedback from the steering.  And, once wound up and pointed in the right direction, it’s really rather quick, albeit limited entirely by my own skill (or lack of) in juggling all the judgements required in the process, however enjoyable I may find it. A decade ago, I’d have pointed to such machines as the apotheosis of development of the motor car, despite my ever-present concern about their environmental impact. And yet…

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Tesla Model 3 Review: Part 2 – Range and Charging

The adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in the UK is still at the stage where their mere presence creates interest, ranging from the reasonable – questions about range, infrastructure and charging times – to the incredulous, “An electric car, in Scotland – are you f***ing mad?!”. So this is where we find out if the latter is in fact correct, or if our own judgement in buying the thing has stood up to the test of the real world. By which I mean a month-and-a-bit and 2,000 miles so far.

Firstly then, how far does the beast take us before running out of electrons?  Continue reading

Tesla Model 3 Review: Part 1 – Driving It

So, in changing both how we live and what we do, and after trying out pretty much all of the alternatives, we’ve bought a Tesla – a Model 3 Performance – and this, after six weeks and 2,000 miles is a real world review of just how well reality matches both hype and expectation.

If you’re even mildly interested in electric cars, you’ve probably been exposed to numbingly tedious videos of Teslas blasting down drag strips, crushing the bellowing internal combustion-engined (ICE) opposition in imperious silence. That part of any Tesla’s performance we can pretty much take for granted, and the Model 3 doesn’t let us down. Ours – and the only Model 3 variant I’ve driven – is the Model 3 Performance, which covers the traditional 0-60mph measure in 3.2 seconds, the more real-world relevant 30-70mph increment in around 2.7 seconds and a standing start 1/4 mile in 11.5 seconds.

For reference, those acceleration figures are in the same ball park as those of the hallowed superstars of the 1990s, the Porsche 959 and Ferrari F40, but from a zero-emission family saloon. Yes, a high-end ICE sports car will catch – and ultimately despatch – a Tesla at the top end, but there we’re talking about 130mph+, which isn’t entirely relevant to day-to-day driving, whereas low-medium speed responsiveness most certainly is. The Model 3 then, is not a slow car.  Continue reading

How hard can it be…

…to buy a car? I may have mentioned this before, but I hate buying cars. Or rather, I love the process, spending way too long playing with online configurators and researching deals, to the point where I feel sufficiently equipped for the really negative part of the process: dealing with car sales people, a sub-species whose means of sustenance I have never quite managed to understand as, like the Chameleon of antiquity, they appear to exist on air alone. They certainly don’t do so by selling cars.

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Twice The Wheels, Half the Service

OK, so this is a motorcycling blog, with heavy emphasis on Ducati. But I’ve been amused by the number of times on assorted fora that the subject of Porsches comes up, with a surprising number of Ducatista admitting to current, past or intended ownership of the marque. And I am amongst that number – I’d been hankering after a 911 ever since, as a geeky kid, I stood with nose pressed to the glass of the showroom window of Glen Henderson in Edinburgh’s George Street, whilst my engineer father patiently explained the merits and insanities of the rear-engined layout.

It took a while but, in late 2012, I bought myself a four-year-old Porsche 911 from the Official Porsche Centre (OPC) in Glasgow. That started a relationship with the car and the dealer that’s been a mixture of delight with the car when it’s working, and continual, jaw-dropping frustration with the ability of this dealer to combine being – for the most part – pleasant and personable with screwing up, well, pretty much everything they do.

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BMW, Tesla and Fear of Change…

The future is accelerating towards us – silently – as the age of the internal combustion engine comes to a close. That’s after 130 years of mobilising, democratising, suffocating and poisoning society (rearrange those to suit your personal priorities). And it looks as though, of the available technologies, battery-based electric vehicles (BEVs) are going to win the day. I don’t want to get into a VHS/Betamax argument – in fact, I do, but I’ll be posting that separately – other than to note that the most viable alternative, the hydrogen fuel cell, is in the process of missing the boat.

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No More Garage Queen

Back in the day, a dozen years ago, whenever I ambled into Snell’s of Alton they had a brand new Ducati 749R displayed on a podium. It was a compelling sight, deep red paint glowing radioactively under the shop lights and its carapace of forged alloy, cast magnesium and carbon fibre a blatant display of technoporn. I’ve wanted one ever since. It took a decade, but finances and time finally coincided and, after a two-year search, I came into possession of one of the 400 or so built in 2004 to homologate the machine for World Supersport. Continue reading

Low-Flying Bastards: The Ducati Road Show

This is turning from an event to a tradition: the day on which Scotland’s Ducatista come out to play at The Green Welly Stop – the highland’s answer to Surrey’s Box Hill. On offer are test rides on the latest and (hopefully) greatest toys from Bologna. This year, they’ve wisely moved from the infeasible optimism of mid-April to early May, thereby much reducing the likelihood of needing snowploughs. And it’s worked: today’s weather was warm, sunny and bike-friendly, especially on the chosen test route: 24 miles of the A85 from Tyndrum to Dalmally, one of the world’s finest motorcycling roads. There is some interesting new stuff this year: as well as the  usual and unedifying sight of portly blokes of a certain age contorting creaking joints onto the Panigale, we had the amusement of watching sports and adventure bike riders (self included) wobbling down the road whilst frantically waving their feet in search of the xDiavel’s foot pegs. Yes, Ducati has brought their new ‘Cruiser’ along, which could be considered a brave move on these roads. But you’ll notice the quotes around the C-word there – that just may be a clue that categories may not be a reliable guide to reality. Continue reading

Getting Serious…

For the first time in three decades, I’m seriously considering buying a motorcycle that isn’t made in Bologna. I’ve documented my recent dissatisfaction with Ducati at some length in this blog, but it boils down to a combination of their failure to address the quality failings of their products, their falling into the trap of corporatist detachment from their historical market and a product strategy that, in places, is compromising their essential character. There have been indications of this for a long time, but the process seems to have accelerated hugely since the Audi takeover. Although I’m not writing the Ducati option off at this stage, I’m certainly looking very closely at the alternatives. Continue reading

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