Motors »

  • A hidden gem in The Hague

    July 27, 2011 @ 8:36 am | by Michael McAleer

    We tend to associate The Hague with war criminals and despite being the seat of government and the place where the Dutch Royal family resides it is very much the lesser-known city of The Netherlands. Put it this way, you probably won’t be heading there on holidays any time soon.

    The Louwman Museum

    But if you do and if you are a petrol head (which we will presume given you are reading this Blog, you might want to check out the Louwman Museum, which I did on a recent Opel Ampera event.

    The Bubble Car Collection

    It is one of the world’s largest and most famous collections of historic cars and the museum building, which was designed by American architect Michael Graves, houses over 230 cars, but is also home to the world’s largest collection of automotive art.

    There is a huge automotive art collection

    The museum contains the private collection of Dutch car importer Evert Louwman, and almost all of the vehicles are preserved in their original, often unrestored state. Most of you will know what the oldest car in the world is, but do you know what the second oldest is? Well jot it down for your next table quiz, because it is a De Dion Bouton & Trépardoux from 1887 and the example in the museum still shows its original wear and tear.

    The Alfa Romeo Room

    There is a very broad spectrum of cars in the collection, including bubble cars, steam cars, electric cars and historic racing cars. Other noteworthy vehicles include the eccentric Swan Car from 1910, a hybrid Woods from 1917, the Jaguar D-type 1957 Le Mans winner and James Bond’s original Aston Martin DB5.

    Mr E.V.M Louwman - the owner of the collection

    Piet Louwman, the father of the present owner, began building the collection in 1934. The first automobile was a 1914 Dodge, which still has pride of place in the collection. In 1968, the museum opened in Leidschendam and was known as the Nationaal Automobiel Museum (Dutch National Motor Museum), but moved to Raamsdonksveer in 1981. The Hague was chosen as the site of the new museum.

    The museum contains more than just cars. The collection of automotive art, which includes paintings, sculptures and posters, forms an additional and unique attraction. This collection of automotive art, the largest in the world, has never before been on public display and is being exhibited in a specially designed room.

    It is a beautifully designed museum and the fact that you can walk around most of the cars means that it doesn’t have the often stuff atmosphere or motor museums. If you are in The Hague, hopefully for all the right reasons, then we would recommend you check it out.

    Mercedes-Benz SSK

  • 2012 Porsche 911 teased in new video

    July 21, 2011 @ 11:51 am | by Michael McAleer

    It is pretty difficult to catch up with all the developments over the years of the Porsche 911. Well the news is that there will be another 911 coming next year and it will be shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show. As is so often the case these days, there is a teaser video and it does give us some clues as to what we should expect.

    YouTube Preview Image

    Large air intakes just ahead of the rear wheels

    Expect styling changes at the rear

    Is that a seven-speed manual gearbox?

  • Does the Opel Ampera solve the E.Vs shortcomings?

    July 20, 2011 @ 1:37 pm | by Michael McAleer

    This week in Motors we saw that Renault has chosen to lease batteries for its electric vehicle line-up and this is something we have also discussed in this week’s Irish Times Motors Podcast and the truth is that until more of the major manufacturers have their electric vehicle solutions on the ground then there is going to be hesitancy on the part of the customer.

    Following on from the announcement of the Renault range of electric cars, I jumped on a plane and went to The Hague, where Opel were showing off their Ampera, which Michael McAleer had driven in the previous weeks in Motors and this would prove to be an altogether different approach to the electric vehicle. The thing with this is, that there is literally none of the stress that you now find as a feature of the current batch of pure electric vehicle. The Nissan Leaf is a car we have already spent considerable time in and it does do a great job, but in the back of your head and flashing on the dashboard in front of you, there is always the reminder that you are restricted in where you can go and to when you can go (if you have to sit and wait for the car to charge) and that removes one of the facets of motoring that we love, which is total freedom.

    Opel Ampera: Stress free

    With the Ampera, you can play the EV ‘game’ if you want and you can be graceful with your right foot and glean as many kilometres as possible from the batteries. But having done all that, if heaven forbid, you get a call from your other half to say that you need to get home in a hurry for an emergency, you don’t need to think. The small petrol engine that sits there like an old trusted dog will bark into action when required to bring you home. It is that added sense of security that might make the Ampera the perfect solution.

    Charging only takes 4-5 hours in the Ampera

    The main drawback of the Ampera seems to be the price. If you consider that it will cost around €45,000 in Ireland, then it is in some pretty serious company, with cars like the BMW 520D, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi, A6 and Jaguar XF now well within the grasp of a buyer with this sort of money. That makes the Ampera a very serious lifestyle choice and you would need to have green blood coursing through your veins to be able to drive past any of these showrooms into an Opel one, regardless of how clever the technology might well be.

  • Renault reckons you can mix business with pleasure

    July 7, 2011 @ 7:34 pm | by Michael McAleer

    This is the Renault Frendzy, which is an odd-looking thing which will be shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show this Autumn.

    Check out the video below:

    YouTube Preview Image
  • Citroen DS4: Style over substance or genius?

    July 6, 2011 @ 9:07 am | by Michael McAleer

    Citroen DS4: Pointless or genius?

    We have been spending the last few days driving the new Citroen DS4. This new DS range started with DS3, which really hasn’t sold very well in Ireland at all. But there is a new version, the DS4, which Citroen are aiming at buyers of the Nissan Qashqai. For that reason we expected it to sit a little higher than it does, but it is actually more car-like. It is very flash and flamboyant. But is it any good? Find out in next Wednesday’s Motors.

  • Driven: BMW X3 30d M Sport: €61,480

    July 4, 2011 @ 12:10 pm | by Michael McAleer

    BMW’s X3 is now in its second-generation and this new one is much, much better than before. The last one was by no means BMWs finest hour – something that BMW have certainly addressed. We have previously driven the 2.0-litre diesel version, which makes up the overwhelming majority of sales, but there is a new version out and it gets a 3.0-litre diesel putting out a massive 258hp, which in a vehicle that isn’t all that massive, feels like vast amounts of power.

    X3 M Sport: 258hp and 560Nm of torque

    Twin that with 560Nm of torque and you have what adds up to blistering performance. This is the M Sport version too, so it looks the part, with 18-inch M alloy wheels, chrome-plated door sill finishers, black gloss trim for the window surrounds, an M Sport steering wheel, sports seats and dark interior headlining.

    Power: delivery is smooth and very refined

    This is a much more useful and imposing car than before. It is much more spacious and with a closer link to the larger X5, it looks much more upmarket too. What you don’t expect with this version is just how agile and quick it is. Our car was fitted with adjustable dampers and when you select Sport mode and push the car on you could be in a 5 Series, such is the car’s competence. The X3 features an 8-speed automatic transmission and it is silky smooth and thanks to Stop/Start technology, emissions are low.

    Interior: high quality cabin and more space than before

    Despite having a 3.0-litre diesel engine, and all that power, emissions are just 159g/km so that means road tax of just €447, which is very impressive. This car munches up a long journey with ease. We travelled the length of the country and it was a really comfortable drive. The six-cylinder diesel is very smooth and potent. When you look at the price tag, this makes a superb buy, making a mockery of the Volkswagen Touareg’s price tag. Plus, unless you really want the extra seats the X5 can provide we would take a long hard look at this particular model if  you were shopping for the larger X5.

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