Monday November 11
As always on a Monday the first task of the day is to return the car I have been driving for the past few days. Today that's the Volvo V40 Polestar. You likely have not heard of Polestar cars as its marketing is not the highest priority for Volvo Ireland, but Polestar is the racing team that runs Volvo's World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) entrants and also acts as the in-house tuner for the Swedish brand. In the case of the V40, Polestar spices up the 1.6-litre T4 model by way of an ECU re-flash that gives 200hp and 285Nm. Unfortunately that's where the updates end - it has the same gearbox as the regular V40 and the same suspension, which means the car can struggle to lay down the extra power. It's no Golf GTI rival in that respect but a good leftfield choice for those looking for an under-the-radar 'warm' hatch.
I was scheduled to attend the Skoda 'Bring back petrol' challenge with the rest of the CompleteCar team but security protocol only allows for three of us to be in any one place at a time and I drew the short straw so had to stay behind. I was with them in spirit however as the Skoda Rapid Spaceback I was due to collect was on the run. Forewarned I dragged my laptop off to the offices of logistics company Automotive Team to get some work done before collecting the Skoda when the lads brought the petrol back.
Tuesday November 12
The day before heading away on a press launch is always a little bit hectic what with ironing, bag-packing and trying to clear out my inbox before heading to the airport. Factor in that tomorrow's trip is a three-day affair and the work schedule is ramped up - for a start I'll need an extra shirt.
Wednesday November 13
Monaco baby! Audi has chosen the small principality as the location for the launch of the A3 Cabriolet and S3 Saloon so it's off to the airport. As part of the CompleteCar team I am a fairly seasoned traveller and have my pre-flight routines - ensure chargers for laptop and phone are packed, driver's licence is in my wallet and passport is lying out ready to be picked up before I walk out the door. Only it wasn't my passport - it was my wife's - something that was discovered as I went to check in at the airport. Cue frantic phone calls home, and an even more frantic drive to the airport by my father-in-law and a huffing and wheezing run through T2 to catch the flight by the skin of my teeth - lesson learnt: check passport before leaving the house.
Despite flying into Monaco today the launch will not begin until tomorrow (the Irish delegation had to arrive early due to flight times) so the afternoon is free 'for our leisure', which in CompleteCar translates to 'plug the laptop in and get some work done'. Still, not a bad view from the office!
Thursday November 14
Launch proper and a chance to revisit one of my favourite roads. Audi chose Monaco as the location for the A3 Sportback launch last year and within five minutes of jumping into a 2.0-litre TDI quattro A3 Cabriolet I knew that the route Audi had set would see us scaling the Col de Braus. With tight hairpin after tight hairpin as the road snakes its way past 1,000 metres Col de Braus is only second to the nearby Col de Grasse in my favourite roads of 2013.
We would revisit the road later that day in the S3 Saloon S tronic, but not before a few 'tourist laps' of the Grand Prix circuit were completed in the manual S3. Oh the noise!
Friday November 15
With no driving scheduled today the Irish delegation in Monaco enjoy a leisurely lunch near the Grand Prix circuit's 'swimming pool complex' before boarding shuttles bound for Nice airport. Safely deposited aboard the flight home it is time to start working on reviews of the two cars.
Arrive back to Dublin Airport to find that my Rapid Spaceback has miraculously morphed into a Superb Combi 4x4. This is the second post-facelift Superb I've tested, the first being a 1.6 TDI model. That car failed to impress - its engine too weak to power the big car along. This 2.0-litre is much more like it and has me falling back in love with what was my very first press car. Could live without the four-wheel drive though, as it's thirsty.
Monday November 18
This week is shaping up to be slightly quieter than last week, and just as I head out the door to drop back the Volvo V60 I'm met by a Red Bull MINI on my driveway with a rather substantial delivery of fluids that should keep me going for a very long time! Once loaded up I head over to Automotive Team (the folks who make all of our lives run more smoothly on Mondays) and pick up a BMW 518d. The smaller badge number is deceptive, as…
Monday November 11
First job of the day is to drop back last week's test car, the run-out edition of Ford's Mondeo hatchback. Though clearly dating, the opportunity to revisit the Mondeo reminded me how good it is to drive. The chassis really is very well developed, managing to be enjoyable and comfortable at the same time, helped no end by feelsome steering. The 1.6-litre TDCi engine isn't the last word in performance and refinement though, and the gearing, no doubt chosen to enhance efficiency, is plain frustrating in an urban setting. Still, without much time cruising it returned an…
The Far East is an important region for Citroen where it can trade on a 'premium European' tag, so it is no surprise that it will bring two of its latest offerings to Tokyo in the C4 Grand Picasso (the seven-seat one) and DS3 Cabrio. As we have already seen them we are much more interested in the facelifted DS3 with a new nose seemingly inspired by the Wild Rubis concept.
Daihatsu disappeared from European markets years ago, but it is hoping that its Tokyo…