British International Motor Show 2006: The show's on the road

The Motor Show is now in London and it's more fun than ever, says Sean O'Grady
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Things ain't quite what they used to be at the British Motor Show. For a start, this is the first event to be held in Docklands. Having moved to the NEC in Birmingham in the Seventies, it is, in a sense, returning to its roots in London, although some miles to the east of Earls Court, where among other highlights, the original Mini was launched in 1959.

Docklands, for those of you who haven't yet sampled it, is also the home of The Independent, and is a breathtaking success story. Twenty years ago, it seemed unlikely that it would ever live up to the promise of the developers - "Looks Like Venice, Works like Manhattan." Now everyone here lives the dream.

This Motor Show is also likely to be the most "live". Maybe we're not satisfied any longer with just wandering around looking at static display after static display, even though, when it comes to Bentleys, Rolls-Royces and Aston Martins, it's a rare chance to peer into a world of opulence and extravagance.

So the organisers of this year's Motor Show have made sure visitors see as much "hands-on-wheel" action as possible. My favourite is the opportunity to take (or, in my case, retake) your driving test.

More exciting, perhaps, is the Mazda "zoom-zoom" display, which will let you take a timed lap in an MX-5 or RX-8 with a professional driver. You'd be surprised what a standard production model is capable of. Then there's the Land Rover course, where 4x4s can be made to do the seemingly impossible (by their instructors, with you riding shotgun) and another one featuring cars from Toyota, Kia, Volvo, Nissan and Daihatsu. Failing that, you can get your adrenalin pumping at Taster Test Track, where you can "taste" the finest from Citroën, Vauxhall, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Seat, Honda and Peugeot.

For those who just like to watch, there's the Vauxhall VXR production of Dockside Story. This latest updating of Romeo and Juliet will star a Monaro V8, so there should be no problems with voice projection. A range of more conventional aquatic activities also take full advantage of the Dockside location. These include powerboat racing, jet- ski racing, the Tampa Bay water-ski display team, jet-ski synchronised freestyling, and a sea-res- cue demonstration.

As an additional, unscheduled treat, you might also find green demonstrators trying to dispute the show from the water. Let's hope that if that transpires, it's just entertaining rather than dangerous. And how about Sugababes? They're one of the many acts in the Dock Rock season who are offering you the chance topop into the Motor Show in the evening for free. Sadly, though, a Motor Show ticket wont get you into a Sugababes concert, or into those being given by A-Ha, Van Morrison and others. You can't have everything.

For many, though, the joy of the Motor Show is discovery. It doesn't have to be exotic, although the Rolls-Royce 101EX Concept and the JCB Dieselmax land-speed record attempt car fit that bill. Nor even that fresh: the Renault Altica has been out before but it can still excite interest as your next family hatch but one.

It's just that the quirky stuff can be more enchanting. Take Noel Edmonds's Qpods, or San Motors's little sports cars, or the South African CAV GT replicas of Ford GT40s.

There are lots of dockside stories, you see.

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