ITH – AWD Wonders – the Interview {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

3 Apr 2018

You would think, as it’s the start of April, that the weather would be all Spring-y with cool yet sunny days, perfect for enjoying sports cars and bringing joy to the dreary weather of the colder months. Except it isn’t, there was 4 inches of snow in Wales over the weekend and frankly we’re all very bored by it here in the UK. So we’ve busted out he AWD Wonders for this week’s ITH. They have grip for days, and mostly a lot of power too so we think our endorser this week – Gareth Butterfield – has chosen well. As usual, he’ll explain why below, then I’ll shove my nose in and give my probably unwanted opinion too. Read on weary traveler!

Ford F-150 Raptor

Gareth Butterfield: If you don't earn a living dragging buildings from place to place, you might think it a trifle pointless owning such a huge, brutish car like Ford's F150 Raptor. But, surely, just one look at this thing is enough to make any red-blooded petrolhead go weak at the knees. It might weigh the same as a small church, but its 450bhp means it can go from 0-60mph in just over five seconds. Admit it, you want one, don't you? I know I do.

Tim Oldland: Yes, okay, I admit it Gareth, I want a Raptor. I WANT A RAPTOR!!!! Wow, that was like therapy. Though I’ve hardly been subtle or hidden my yearnings for Ford’s mega-pickup in the past, it’s just a huge slab of Americana with lots of power, massive presence and it’ll make you scream YEEEEE-HAAWWWWWW at the top of your voice just by being within 10 metres of it. The want is very, very real.

Litchfield Audi RS3

GB: Typical of Audi, this bonkers new super saloon looks understated, but the monster lurking under the bonnet is enough to surprise the drivers of plenty of current supercars. With 500bhp, 484lb ft of torque, four-wheel-drive and that evocative five-cylinder soundtrack, this is one of the ultimate "sleepers". I love it.

TO: The Audi RS3 is a staggeringly good car. Now it’s not exactly slow as standard with 394bhp, but this RS3 has taken a trip to Litchfield Tuning for their Stage 2 package – that means it has an ECU remap, a new air filter and a beefier intercooler to allow it to handle the insane 500bhp that it now has. All that power means it now gets to 62mph in 3.6 seconds – that’s supercar quick and should be amazing. What a crazy/fantastic world we live in with 500bhp hot hatchbacks!

Urban Velar D300

GB: What Urban Automotive has essentially done with this new Velar D300 is taken a rather lovely, elegant looking Range Rover and turned it into a complete monster. They’ve laced it in carbon fibre, sat it on huge wheels and given it a front bumper so aggressively styled, it would scare rabid dogs away. Just in case you didn’t think the Velar was exclusive enough, this might just do the trick.

TO: Sometimes you don’t want to blend in with the other Velars you might see around town (after all, the likelihood of them going off road is very small) so you go down the more ‘bespoke’ route and that’s where Urban Automotive comes in. They have designed their trademark styled bodykit for the Velar (the first to do so incidentally) and it’s so aggressive you’ll scare people walking past it even stationary. That front bumper is low and juts forward with carbon fibre intakes, a carbon splitter and a carbon grille above it, while there is a carbon fibre diffuser at the rear to house the new exhaust system and black tips. It rides on 23-inch Urban designed wheels that really help with the aggressive look and there’s a 300hp V6 diesel lump up front. Grrrrr.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Milano Edizione 280

GB: The Alfa Romeo Stelvio carries on the firm's current momentum after its brilliant Giulia was launched, and I love the Stelvio for offering SUV buyers an "interesting" car with a welcome injection of personality in an otherwise fairly bland sector. This special edition version, with a healthy 276bhp, gives the Stelvio's athletic chassis the workout it deserves. 

TO: Aside from anything else, this sporty SUV must have the most Italian name of any car ever created. You can’t help but put on an over the top accent and wave your hands around gesticulating when you say it. But it really is the embodiment of Italian flair though – it has a  280hp turbo petrol engine, it’s far better looking than it has any right to be, but to achieve that it has less rear headroom than the Giulia. But who cares? This is a proper SUV – a Sports Utility Vehicle – that will do anything you can throw at it. Ce bella!


Now we’ve talked cars, lets talk Gareth, and what makes him tick. Though not what makes him tock, that has been edited out for reasons of decency.

One thing that always stands out when we interview our In the Headlights’ guests is how landmark their first motoring memory seems to be. It’s an indelible stain which has gone on to influence their lives, careers and, inevitably, car choices.

Gareth Butterfield is no different. A member of the Midland Guild of Motoring Writers, the first thing he remembers is lying on the rear shelf of the family Talbot Solara.

Seatbelts and child seats weren't really a thing in those days,” he says. “And who wouldn't want to be seen, in full view, in a Talbot Solara?”

Thankfully, more impressive vehicles followed.

“My Dad was a petrolhead, so we did actually have some really nice cars over the years. My favourites included a Rover SD1, a Series Two Jaguar XJ6 and a Triumph Stag. I think the Jag is the one I miss the most though.”

While his passion grew throughout his childhood, it led to much greater things…namely his marriage.

“When I was about six, we were on a family holiday and my Dad bought me a sports car magazine to shut me up. It worked. I devoured every page and dreamed of one day owning pretty much every single car in it, even the rubbish ones. It's a passion that's never waned, and I even met my wife on a road trip to the Nurburgring with an owners' club.

“That magazine gave me an ambition to write about cars for a living. I never thought I'd pull it off but, about 13 years ago, I took up a job as a reporter on a local newspaper and that eventually started to open all the right doors. Not many people can say they do the job they've wanted since they were six-years-old!”

So does he dream of a life on the F1 circuit, or tinkering away in the pits?

“I can honestly say I'm currently in my ideal job. I love driving cars and I love writing. I get to blend the two of them on a daily basis and nothing could beat that for me.”

So, given manufacturers hand him the keys on a regular basis, what has he chosen to drive himself?

“I’m actually between cars at the moment. I own a motorhome, which I use to indulge my sense of adventure and cravings for freedom, but I do pore over the classifieds on a regular basis with half a mind to snapping up some sort of modern classic. Perhaps an old Jag or Porsche - I'm a glutton for punishment! And that, incidentally, brings me on neatly to my best AND worst car - I owned a Fiat X1/9 for a few years. I loved it and hated it in equal measure. It cost me a fortune just to keep it from falling to bits, but every time I drove back from the garage it put a huge smile back on my face. I do miss that car, even though it nearly ruined me.”

His highlights behind the wheel, as you would expect, are many and varied. All, however, bring a smile to his face.

“The great thing about my job is that the highlights keep coming. For example, I was recently given a performance driving lesson by the legendary Formula One coach Rob Wilson. He's a true legend, a really nice bloke and it was such a privilege. I've also stood up, half in and half out of the passenger window of a Ford Focus while stunt driver Russ Swift drove it on two wheels for a photoshoot. That's stuck in my memory too.

"I guess I'm also contractually obliged to add that the 2007 Nurburgring trip on which I met my wife was a motoring moment I'll never forget. It's great to have a partner who I can geek out about cars with.”

As for the driving test, he was hoping we weren’t going to ask….

“It actually took me four attempts. I went through two instructors in the end; the first drove a Rover 114GTa - which I loved - and the second drove a Peugeot 106 Diesel. Unsurprisingly, I eventually passed in the boring diesel, not the pocket-rocket.”

Our other interview standard is to see which car our guest would want us to turn up in…should they ever win.

As for Gareth’s dream car, it changes on a regular basis.

“But I'm a sucker for a shooting brake,” he says, “and my current favourite is the Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo. Although I wouldn't turn down a Ferrari GTC4 Lusso, either. Can I have a blue one please? And let me know when you're coming, in case I'm out.”



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