ITH - Go Techno! - The Interview {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

19 Oct 2017

These days a car isn’t just a device for moving you from one place to another, it has to be a mobile office, club and relaxing zone all in one so the amount of tech has gone crazy of late. There are varying levels of autonomy in cars now, you can turn the volume up by waving your hand around, have the car as a rolling wi-fi hotspot, the seats can be heated in winter or cooled in summer, pretty much anything you can think of is now available in a car as an option. So we’re celebrating them this week, with four cars chosen by seasoned journalist James Ruppert from FreeCarMag. Here are his thoughts on why he picked these four techno-fests:

Mini Countryman Plug In Hybrid

SUVs, don’t have to big, boring and guzzle through fuel. What we have here is the perfect combination of urban SUV, which offers emissions free driving in town and a reliable petrol engine when longer journeys are planned. Plus it is all wrapped up in a funky body, so it looks great.

The pure electric range is 25 miles, but as MINI reckons that in everyday driving 90% of owners will drive no more than 30-40 miles per day. So this is the perfect hybrid combination, plus with emissions of 49g/km and sub £40K price puts it in the lowest Benefit In Kind tax bracket. Clearly technology can come in very helpful and stylish packages.

BMW 760 Li X-Drive V12

Arguably the latest 7 isn’t so much a car, as a shockingly effective spaceship. It is a hardcore Rolls Royce, which is not too surprising as it has the Rolls-Royce Wraith twin turbo V12 under the bonnet. Obviously it is supremely comfortable, but if you buy a BMW you want it to drive like one.

The 7 is a proper BMW and the xDrive system helps keep all the wheels planted firmly on the road to get to 62mph in 3.7 seconds. Stick it in Sport mode and the rear wheel steering plays along and makes it feel like an M3. You see, technology when intelligently applied gives you options.

Range Rover P400e HSE Dynamic

Here is the acceptable, or at least affordable side of Range Rover Sport ownership. What we have here is a plug-in hybrid which brilliantly combines petrol and electric power to keep C02 and tax on really low.

101mpg is the unrealistic statistic which is bandied about, but 31miles on electric only and 13% Benefit in Kind Tax because the C02 is just 64g/km is what buyers want to hear. The clever thing is that it will still do the Sport thing getting to 60mph in just over 6 seconds and 137mph top speed, proving that high tech is a wonderful thing.

Land Rover Discovery SVX

The Disco didn’t just get better, it has become much more special, courtesy of JLR’s Special Vehicle Operation Division. So there is not just an off roader, it’s a super off roader with a 518bhp V8 engine.

What makes it better than standard are the technical advances which include all round modified air suspension designed to tackle the toughest obstacles and huge skid plates when the going gets tough. Lightweight forged aluminium wheels and Goodyear Wrangler tyres will mean that it never gets stranded. The Tech is there to help.

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For some, living next to the busy A11 would be something of a nightmare. Not for James Ruppert, who said growing up next to the trunk route into London helped shape his career.

“From a very early age I used to sit on the front wall and see car after car,” he explains. “I could tell my mum every single make and model which went past.

“My uncle used to live with us and he was one of the first people to buy a Mini and I just remember how incredible that car was. I’ve loved Minis every since and have a nice Cooper from 1979 which I’ve restored and use as often as possible.”

Reading everything from classic car manuals to Hot Car Mag, James was soon entering the car trade, working for BMW in its flagship Park Lane dealership.

“I was very lucky because I got paid a decent wage, earned fantastic commission and drove a new company car every three months. I was young, free and single and felt like I had the best job in the world.”

Of course, few people stay in sales and combining cars with his love of writing has seen James embark on a stellar career in which he’s written for titles including The Sunday Times, Car Magazine, the Evening Standard and Tatler.

He’s written books too, including one on how to deal with car dealerships which was published by Haynes.

“I’ve always loved writing and after finishing the book with Haynes I just ended up getting more and more freelance work,” James continues. “I wrote to Steve Cropley at Car Magazine and said ‘you dont write about used cars, let me do it’ and he agreed. I’m not sure whether that would happen today.”

Of course, when you write about cars for more than 30 years you notice a lot of changes. So when I talk to James about what he drives and what he’d love to drive it’s very much a trip down memory lane.

“I used to work on cars when I was younger - taking my Mini to pieces and fixing any little problem myself. You can’t do that these days with modern cars. Older vehicles are much more fun.”

His first car was a 1963 Mini which he bought from his sister for £50, even though she denies any money changing hands.

“Now it’s in print she’ll have to believe it,” James laughs. “I took my driving test in that car and I blame it for failing first time. The whole car steamed up so much that I couldn’t see out of the back window. It didn't help when I came to reversing round a corner!”

Thankfully his love of Minis remains.

“I’ve got the Cooper now which is so much fun. Whenever I have to pop out to the shops or to the Post Office I take the Mini. It makes me smile. I’ve also got a Series 3 Land Rover which is being restored and a BMW E21 which is the first generation of the 3 Series. I didn’t pay a great deal for it but I’ve never seen another one on the road so it’s pretty rare.”

If money were no object, or BOTB were to hand over the keys to his dream car, what would it look like?

“I’m very attracted to Bristol cars,” he says. “They’re quite weird, hand-built, big, odd, exclusive, so I might as well have one of those. If I was to choose a new car, it would have to be an Aston Martin DB11. They’re rather incredible.”

We briefly discuss the merits of hybrid and electric cars and I suggest that his stable of ‘oldies’ will be frowned upon from an environmental point of view, but James explains:

“The most environmentally-friendly thing you can do is keep old cars going. I’m saving the planet!”

 

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