MY mum always told me “looks aren’t everything”.
Lord knows she had to get me through the day somehow with these ears.
Call me shallow, but I reckon sometimes looks go a very long way. You’re not telling me that div off Towie, Mark Wright, would get to interview celebs on a massive US TV show without his almost punchable good looks.
I can’t wait to see an Oscar winner’s reaction to his strangled cries of “shat-arrrrp”.
Mercedes recently added an entry-level model to the SLC range — the 180 — which comes in at just a nudge over £30K.
The hardcore motoring pages are making digs at it for not being as good value as cars like the Mazda MX-5 RF, another two-seater roadster that is a good ten grand cheaper.
Yes, but that’s a Mazda. This is a Mercedes. And it looks as delicious as a Victoria’s Secret model wrapped in a bow on Christmas morning.Let’s be honest, these are what my mates in the pub would refer to as “hairdresser cars”. A more charitable term would be “weekend toys”.
You’re not ram-raiding Ikea in these things, for a lot of people they are cars to be seen in and nothing more.If you sit in this demographic, wouldn’t you rather a Mercedes on the driveway than a Mazda? Especially one with that all- important drop-top?
That said, for the hardcore motorist who really does just seek driving pleasure for the pound, the SLC 180 is beaten by certain rivals.But that’s not to say it isn’t fun to drive. With a 1.6 litre turbo engine producing 154bhp — nicked from the A200 — pace gathers gently, but with an underlying hint of potency.
If you ignore the gear shift indicator (don’t you just hate those things) and keep the needle dancing around the 3,000 to 4,000-rev mark, it begins to feel fast, though fades as the dial sweeps.
Again, purists will say it doesn’t tap dance through bends with the same agility as the MX-5 or Fiat 124, but that’s the equivalent of saying Alexandra Burke isn’t as light-footed as her professional partner on Strictly. There ain’t much in it.
It’s still quick to turn in, sure-footed through the apex, and keeps all the power on the back wheels. If anything, the back end is less lairy than the Fiat 124, but the SLC still rewards enthusiastic footwork with a shimmy and a shuffle, especially with traction control turned off.
If driven correctly, it’s nearly as much fun as any other low-powered roadster on the market. It is, however, let down by its interior. The SLC is a new badge for the SLK range, which has been doing the rounds since 2011.
As a result the view inside seems dated, especially next to modern Mercs, which these days lead the market in cabin design.The sporty exterior makes up for it though — the SLC 180 is only available in AMG Line.
MOST READ IN MOTORS
To get a roadster this pretty you have to go shopping at Porsche and buy a Boxster. And that’s a good £12K more. If I were Mercedes I would be most worried about the entry level Audi TT, which costs slightly less and pushes more power.
MERCEDES SLC 180 AMG LINE
Engine: 1.6 litre turbo petrol
0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
Top speed: 140mph
Length: 4.1 metres
CO2 emissions: 132g/km
I expected to hate the SLC 180, but I was proven wrong. It wasn’t until I woke to find the sky had dumped a few inches of snow on my road that it became unstuck. Actually, in literal terms it became stuck. Firmly.
It took eight litres of antifreeze, a bag of salt and half an hour with a shovel to get it moving forwards.Maybe my mum was right — looks aren’t everything after all.
Test your air brakes… and your parachute
DON’T worry about electric cars and driverless tech – the future of motoring is airborne.
Well, sort of. A company called Samson this week unveiled a car which can deploy built-in wings and take to the skies, just like the one used by Bond villain Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun.
The Samson Switchblade is capable of hitting 200mph when airborne, and 100mph on the road.It’s able to soar to 13,000 feet and has a range of 450 miles from a 113 litre tank.Developers say it is powered by a 1.6-litre V6 engine, producing 190bhp, and will “take off naturally” at 80mph when the wings are extended.
This means you’d better make sure there are no cops around when you want to leave terra firma – not that they would be able to catch you.That said, it will need a clear run of around 400m to lift off, so you won’t be able to dodge queues on the M25, unless you use the hard shoulder.
No, in reality, you’ll need to find an airfield. If you want one, not only will you have to part with £90K, but you’ll also need a pilot’s licence, which ain’t cheap. It takes 60 hours of flying time to be passed.Furthermore, it only comes half-built, the rest is up to you – unless you want to pay Samson another £15,000 to take it to their build centre.
At 5.1 meters long, it’s roughly the size of an Audi A8, and the Switchblade comes with leather seats, reversing camera, top sound system (that would have to be loud) and an all-important parachute in case, well . . . you know . . . the worst happens.
Set for a 2018 release, 240 people have already applied to buy one.
Keep your eyes on the skies, folks.
Getting my bear-ings in new XV
IS this all-new Subaru XV grey or blue? I doubt this will set the internet alight like the Blue/Black Dress Mystery, but it’s confused me.
Also puzzling . . . this isn’t a regular “soft-roader” crossover like a Qashqai or a C-HR, which looks rugged but would faint at the thought of mud. Subaru have built a capable off-roader.What it lacks in flair, it makes up in grunt. It’s Jackie Chan dressed up as Peter Sissons.
This is a car pitched at pensioners but should also be aimed at country mums and dog owners. They need cars that will be sure footed through the rough stuff and keep them safe. This XV is the Safest Family Car in NCAP’s ratings.
I drove it for two days through icy, bear-infested Latvian forests, slick motorways and Riga city’s traffic. There’s some clever Japanese engineering at play. The boxer engine gives a lower centre of gravity and less corner roll, and the new chassis platform feels stiffer.
All models come with EyeSight safety kit as standard – stereo cameras that scan the road ahead for cars, kids and (in Latvia) bears.To test this, I foolishly stood in front of the car as it was slowly driven towards me. The driver aid system picked out my bear-like mass and automatically braked.
The system also powers the adaptive cruise control, lane sway and rear collision detection, giving the car control over steering, throttle and braking in case of emergency.
Although most associate Subaru with rally cars, 87 per cent of its sales are SUVs – the firm has been making them since 1995. The XV is the smallest offering, behind the Outback and the Forester.
Off road, the XV proved its worth. Navigating icy slopes, deep puddles and dramatic descents were no problem with the X-Mode button pressed. It even managed to climb a 37-degree ramp.
SUBARU XV 2018
Price: From £22,495
Engine: 2.0 flat 4 (154bhp)
0-62mph: 10.4 seconds
Top speed: 120mph
Length: 4.5 metres
CO2 emissions: 155g/km
The XV will launch with just a 2-litre petrol engine, with a 1.6-litre petrol hot on its heels. Both have CVT Lineartronic automatic gearboxes that deliver smooth power, not too dissimilar to an electric car.
They make city and motorway driving a doddle, but the downside is a blender-like whir when you really push the car to the max. Moving with the times, there will be no diesel on offer.
For the small price difference, I’d recommend the 2-litre. Besides, the 2-litre is the only variant where you can buy the Blue/Grey option. Or, as Subaru call it, Cool Grey Khaki.
Driverless cars are a long way off
VOLVO has applied the brakes to its autonomous driving programme, called Drive Me.
The Swedish safety nuts have handed out “level 2” driverless cars to a handful of families in Gothenburg to trial the technology, and had vowed to have them in level- 4 cars any day now.
But, without giving specific reasons why, Volvo now says level-4 cars won’t be trialled until 2021 – when they initially were due to go on sale.
I’ve said it time and again, driverless cars are a long way off yet.
KTM’s new rock star
SOPHIE McGINN from Bike World went to Wales to join the Ady Smith KTM Enduro Experience Off-Road School, riding the new KTM Freeride 250 F.
Here is her review: “New for 2018, the Freeride 250F is KTM’s approachable off-roader for the beginner and amateur trail rider.
“The first Freeride came out in 2012, starting its life as a 350 4-stroke. A year later came the 2-stroke 250 and now for 2018, the new 250 F is back to being a 4-stroke engine.
“The new bike has been completely redesigned. The engine is more compact – around 20mm shorter – and the frame has been adjusted for it. The 250 F gets a deeper headstock and firmer, steeper head angle, which makes it steer faster but also gives it more strength.
“The whole profile of the bike is nice and flat, which is why it looks like an enduro crossed with a trials machine.
“The 250 F knocks out 20.5hp at the rear wheel but with some KTM powerparts you can add in traction control and a map switch, which will boost it to 26hp.
“KTM stresses the Freeride is still good for those who are experienced and looking for a fun crossover bike to hit some trails.
“The 250 F is lightweight (98.5kg), making it as agile as a 4-stroke and much less aggressive than its 2-stroke cousins.
“The improved front fork and shock offer more confidence in the ruts, and on shale paths you’ll soon be tackling rocky ridges you would never otherwise attempt.
“The Freeride 250 F has plenty of ground clearance but also comes with a slightly lower seat height than others in its class. At just over 900mm stock, there’s an optional kit that can lower it by 25mm for shorter riders, although you’ll be spending most of your time standing up.
“The footpegs are also adjustable – the position can be moved back 8mm – letting you fine-tune the traction and cornering behaviour of the bike. It’s a touch that gives the 250 F more versatility.
“At £6,599, the 250 F comes in at about a grand less than some of its rivals. If you really want to test it out, head over to Ady’s school in Wales, where he’s got one ready to go in his fleet.”
- See ktmenduroexperience.co.uk for more information.
- Head to bikeworld.co.uk for more bike news and reviews, or search “Bike World” on YouTube.
Reader’s car of the week
CHECK out the mint-condition Ford Orion in this picture sent in by Matthew Meakin from Warwickshire.
He says: “Here’s my 1988 Ford Orion Ghia, 1.6-litre, with 40,300 miles from new. I have owned the car for five years.
“It was in Spain before I bought it. It has full service history and old MOTs, and it’s a joy to drive.”
Send a picture and brief description of your beloved car to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.