Friday, 28 March 2008

Terminal 5 - what's all the fuss?

Came through Terminal 5 today on my annual trip to the Techno-Classica classic car show in Essen and encountered none of the problems that have been so widely reported over the last two days - although I had checked in online in advance and was carrying only hand baggage, which probably helped. My flight to Duesseldorf was almost bang on time.

The new terminal itself is magnificent, although it does suffer from the usual BAA problem that the vast, lavishly appointed retail outlets take precedence over the operational side of the airport; even with the relatively low traffic levels going through T5 at the moment, the wait at security was fairly long.

On the plus side, the vast glass frontage gives a great view of the airport and plane movements from the main section of the terminal, and the overall tone is very classy - budget conscious families looking for something cheap, quick and straightforward to eat are going to be disappointed. KFC, BK and McD appear to be completely absent at the moment; I reckon they'll be in within a year when some of the fancy shops don't make it.

BAA probably deserves to be broken up and I find BA's smug, complacent style deeply annoying but I have to say that today, the two companies combined, against all the odds, to give me one of my best flying experiences in recent memory.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

What's outside today 44 - Vauxhall VXR8

Tear-stained hankies today when the man from Vauxhall came to take this one away - it's brilliant.

The VXR8 is the successor to the much-loved Vauxhall Monaro, and like the Monaro, it's really an Australian Holden, in this case the sportiest version of the latest Commodore.

This car is aimed at BMW's M cars, Mercedes AMG models, the RS Audis and the 'R' Jaguars but it's a lot cheaper and a lot less intimidating - you can just get in and drive the thing.

Much of the VXR8's appeal derives from this, its 6.0 litre Corvette-derived V8 engine; you might expect this to be a slow-revving, lazy affair, but it's actually quite zingy. The same goes for the automatic transmission fitted to our test car which was a quick-shifting six speeder, rather than a slushy, slurry four-speeder of the sort usually associated with US cars.

I haven't driven any of the less powerful Australian Commodores, but the VXR8 is so good, I wonder whether Vauxhall has considered bringing these cars over as a delayed replacement for the Senators and Omegas that were so popular with users such as the police.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

What's outside today 43 - Mercedes R280 CDI

Actually, this has just gone back, but I forgot to take the usual shots of it outside my house. I have to admit, my previously negative feelings towards this rather oddball car have mellowed a bit, but I still have difficulty seeing who would actually buy one.

A lot of good kit under the rather unusual styling - in particular the V6 diesel engine and the Mercedes seven-speed automatic transmission.

What's outside today 42 - Subaru Impreza WRX STI

This is a good car coveted by bad people, so I'd better be a bit circumspect about locations and dates - these were taken a few days ago outside a budget chain hotel in the South of England.

Of course the STI is faster than the 1.5R we tested a few weeks ago, but the family resemblance is unmistakable, despite the vast difference in power and the STI's body mods.

The STI is surprisingly docile when driven gently and it isn't noisy or harsh at all.

The interior isn't much fancier than that of the 1.5R, but that's because all of the money has been spent under the bonnet, as this shot shows.