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Captain Buzzkill's April Fools' Roundup

Morning all. Captain Buzzkill here, fearlessly patrolling the highways of cyberspace to ensure that no-one is fooled or taken in by some of the sillier motoring April Fools' jokes. Can't be letting the car industry have any fun, now can we? Serious business, this.


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First out of the blocks was Opel (or Vauxhall, depending on your country) with the Astra Copacabana edition. Quite aside from the fact that it puts Barry Manilow on repeat play in the back of your brain for the rest of the day (her name was Lola, she was a showgirl...) it's supposedly a special edition model meant to celebrate the upcoming World Cup. Sounds fine until you check out the grass-covered seats ("the interior designers successfully processed original grass from the famous Maracanã Stadium!"), the sand-filled footwells ("filled with finest sand from the beach that gave this football-themed model its name!") and the two-tone horn ("with a choice of Samba or Vuvuzela tones!"). Oh, and then there's the built in drinks dispenser that makes alcohol free Caipirinhas (because even April Fools' gags have to drink responsibly) and the bottle of Cachaça in the tank to act as an octane booster.

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Also putting silly things in the tank is MINI, which is launching (not really) a MINI Cooper T, powered by biofuel made entirely from tea plants. Apparently it can go as far as 64 kilometres on a single cup of Darjeeling (fnar) and even has a Dunk Avoidance Tank to stop passers-by from dipping their HobNobs (king of biscuits, no arguments please) in your fuel tank. Head of Cooper T engineering, Dr. Ivana Kuppa, said, "This particular project has been brewing for years. Our extensive research has shown that the nation's favourite drink is also an ideal biofuel. We already know good things come in small packages, but with Cooper T customers benefitting from up to 40 miles per cup, we are delighted to have the opportunity to bring this car to market." I always love a good Dr Ivanna...

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MINI's parent company BMW is also at it, claiming that it has found the next step on from that system that pipes fake engine noise into the cockpit. While the engine noise generator is real, we're not at all sure about the Force Injection Booster. Designed (no it isn't) to make low-speed driving more fun, FIB (ahem, snigger) takes waste energy from the engine and brakes and turns it into phoney g-force, which is delivered through the air vents, making the driver and passenger feel like they're accelerating down the Mulsanne Straight when actually they're stuck in traffic on the M50. Oh, and the seats also give you a mild electric shock just to really jazz up the driving experience. Professor Mika Notbetrü, Head of BMW Innovation, describes FIB technology as "Mind-blowingly unbelievable." Quite.

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Not to be outdone, Peugeot has announced (no it really hasn't) its new Audio Sonic technology, which will allow customers to customise the sound made by their car's horn. Apparently there will be a regularly updated library of sounds (La Cucuracha please) and customers will even be able to record personalised sounds, such as their child laughing. "Birdsong or Bach, Jazz Trumpet or Dubstep, the only limit will be our customers' imaginations" commented Orvil Pondaiss, Peugeot's New Head of Audio Sonic Personalisation, who tested the technology using sounds including his own four-year-old son laughing. "We're delighted that our customers will be able to take personalisation to the next level with our new feature. We'll be offering guidance on how to create a distinctive horn that will get a positive reaction from fellow drivers. Hopefully thousands of Peugeot customers will be looking forward to getting their own horn later this year." Nudge-nudge, honk.

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Elsewhere, Skoda has introduced (nope) a Yeti with a fur-effect paint finish to make it even more cuddly (Head of Special Developments, Prof Lukat Thedate said: "Everybody loves the new furry finish. People like to give it a hug and a tickle under the bumper.") while Volkswagen has been teaching rescue dogs how to drive an Amarok Pickup. Anna White, manager at the Southridge RSPCA centre, said: "We wanted to demonstrate how intelligent rescue animals can be. "All we have essentially done here is to train the dogs to execute ten sequential behaviours, albeit fairly complicated behaviours! The past few months have been a lot of fun, but there is a serious reason behind the training. There is a real shortage of volunteer drivers to take rescue animals to centres with space to accommodate them. We wanted to find a novel way that would encourage more volunteers to help drive rescue animals around the country."

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But I think all credit has to go to The Guardian, which has published an all-too realistic April Fools' story that Scotland, if it gains independence after its upcoming referendum, will switch to driving on the right so as to prove its credentials as an independent European nation. The letter M will be dropped from motorways and replaced with an S for Scotland, while A-roads will be called N-roads (for 'Nationalism'). Speaking to the Guardian (no he wasn't) one official from the Scottish Office said "It's exciting, it gives us a clear difference from the English and is a tangible manifestation of a new, vibrant and independent national. A more conscious uncoupling, perhaps."

Right. That's enough of that. Back to work everyone. No more fun here. Please keep moving. Captain Buzzkill's work is done.

Sensory overload - Alfa 4C on the TT Course

Some 130 kilometres off the Irish coastline is a small island called the Isle of Man. It gave us The Bee Gees, funny cats, professional cyclist Mark Cavendish and is of course home to what is simply the most famous motorcycle race in the world - the TT.

The first running of the TT (Tourist Trophy) was in 1907 and since then it has, rather controversially, become one of the most coveted titles in motorcycle racing. Run over a 60.7km lap of the island's roads, since its inception 240 riders have lost their lives competing there. In one…

My working week: Dave Humphreys

Monday March 10

What better way to start off your week than by sampling an all-new small crossover from Mercedes-Benz? The GLA is the third addition to the compact A-Class family and possibly the one that will be the most popular - the initial impressions are good anyway. As for the rest of the usual Monday car-swapping logistics, I say hello to the Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion and Mazda3, the latter of which I'd not driven since my trans-Siberian adventure in one of the very first examples made last year.


My working week: Dave Humphreys

Monday February 17

Starting my week off in southern France and by spending the day at BMW's Research and Development facility at Miramas. The reason? Mainly, I'm here to drive a plug-in hybrid prototype of the BMW X5, though we will also be experiencing the firm's new Predictive Drivetrain Technology, as well as getting the latest news on BMW's plans for much greater utilisation of carbon technology. It's a whirlwind day with lots to do and take in before making a dash back to the airport to fly home.