For a man who counts a Skoda S100L and an Austin Mini City E among his past wheels, as I do, these past few months have been a sybaritic overload. First there was the opulence of Rolls-Royce's new Phantom, complete with powered rear doors. Then there was Jaguar's old but glorious XK8, that proves you can deliver vast power without undue corruption.
Most recently, though, and most startling, was a week in the company of the Range Rover Td6 Vogue, all £54,995 worth. Startling, that is, for reasons good and bad.
I never quite got used to the Range Rover's bulk, and certainly not its width. It is 2.2 metres wide, and is thus one of the widest cars on the market. It is also one of the squarest or, more correctly, most cuboid. Or, more to the point, one of the most ungainly things ever to squeeze through London's congested arteries.
So although the Range Rover has a very respectable turn of speed, urban progress was rather slower than the CityRover I was driving before it. It was fine on the motorway though (wink, wink).
But my relationship with the Rangie was more complicated than that. For this was not the first Range Rover I have driven. It was in fact a replacement for one that conked out on me. Land Rover's publicity gives the impression that they can take on Mount Kilimanjaro. The Range Rover I had couldn't make it up Sydenham Hill in south London.
The Range Rover is a magnificent car to break down in. The air conditioning works for ages after the engine has been switched off, the seats and the steering wheel are heated so all your bodily extremities are kept snug. You may protect yourself, as I did, from the old ennui by watching an episode of The Simpsons on the television in the centre console. The crafted Scandinavian-style light wood-and-leather interior is an impressively modernist affair, reminiscent of a Finnair VIP waiting lounge.
Then the man with the breakdown lorry turned up. A solenoid valve in the gearbox had failed, which leads to oil contamination, overheating and stalling while locked in gear. A GM component, Land Rover say.
That was my first mishap. Things haven't been that much happier in the replacement Rangie. For I have a confession to make. Last week I was given a ticket by the Metropolitan Police for using a mobile phone while mobile. I'm not proud of it. I was telling a friend how wonderful the car was when an unmarked black Vauxhall Omega pulled me over. The policemen checked my details, gave me the fixed penalty notice making me liable for a fine of £30 (but no points on my licence), and told me to produce my driving licence at Charing Cross police station within seven days.
Fair enough, but I was a little surprised to then be asked if I was "the same Sean O'Grady who's been threatening to shoot police officers". I replied that I didn't remember doing that. The officer told me I "didn't look the violent type". Kind of him, but I kind of knew that. I'm a member of the Liberal Democrats, for heaven's sake. And the RSPCA. And the National Trust. If the police computer was doing its job properly it would have told the PC that that is not the typical profile of a cop killer.
Still, I have to live with the knowledge that there is someone out there with my name and, possibly, my date of birth (I'm not too clear on this point) who is a potential murderer. I'd love to meet him, this namesake. I bet he drives a Range Rover.Reuse content