Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Continental cruiser.

The new Bentley Continental GT; looks sharper than the last and should be sharper to drive too.

I've just watched the live unveiling of Bentley's new Continental GT. A car that in it's original guise didn't really win me over. Sure, I liked the interior and the Flying Spur is still a car that I could get along with very easily, but there was something about the slightly boss-eyed nose and the Audi TT-esque rear end that didn't endear it to me.

Not so with the new car. At first there are few differences to note, but the more you see it the more you see what's new. In fact, every panel on the car is brand new. It's sharper, more muscular, and more purposeful than it's predecessor. The new, less rounded rear window puts me in mind of the Aston DB9, whereas the remodelled nose is somewhere between the Mulsanne and the old Continental T. The new bootlid - with a prominent bulge first seen on the current Azure - looks less downmarket than the rump of it's predecessor, and the whole thing looks both more upmarket and more aggressive than ever before.

The interior is much of the same - sharper, but essentially like the old car. However, I'm not keen. The interior itself is fair enough, but it has been ruined with the stupid 3 spoke steering wheel from the previous Continental GT Speed. Whilst less repellent than that in the Mulsanne, I can't help but feel the traditional 4 spoke Continental wheel is classier than the idiotically creased thing that nestles in front of any prospective new Conti driver.

It's easier to see the changes when side by side; new car edgier and more like Mulsanne saloon

Expect to see the full range follow suit; GTCs, Speeds, a Supersport or two, and the Flying Spur (The one I'm waiting for). New is a 4.0 V8 option to sit alongside the W12; a cheaper and more carbon efficient Bentley for those who give a damn about the environment. I'm sorry, but if you care about the environment you don't buy a Bentley, end of. The good news, however, is that because the car is lighter, it should both have a lighter effect on your wallet at the pumps and be a bit quicker to boot. Even in basic GT guise, I reckon this will be a 200mph car. Well, the W12 version, anyway. Expect the W12 range to start at about £120000, with the V8 somewhere between £100000 and £110000.

As I mentioned above, the one I'm waiting for is the Flying Spur. I sincerely hope Bentley don't style the new one in much the same way as the old one - which looked a little ungainly from most angles. No, what we want is a sort-of Mulsanne-lite, but with a six light configuration. It's not unfeasible to liken the Mulsanne to the S-series as far as looks are concerned. Right, with that comparison in your head, consider what a similarly updated S2 Mulliner Flying Spur would look like. That's what we want - Bentley, take note. I also hope that Bentley have taken note of the Flying Star shown by Touring at Geneva and displayed on these pages earlier in the year; a Continental GTE would be a fantastic piece of kit.

I look forward to seeing more on this new car; to be properly unveiled at the end of the month at the Paris show. Just please, Bentley, don't foul up the derivatives.

Bentley: Please make the Flying Spur a bit like this.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Insuring a fair approach

I want to talk in this article about a subject close to my heart. As a nineteen year old male living in the formerly industrial North, the fact that car insurance is expensive has become an accepted fact - unwillingly, but it is a cross which has to be borne. Give the size of the quotes I've been getting, it's unsurprising that many insure in their parents' names or don't bother at all.

Seriously, let us look at the facts. I did a quotation the other day on a friend's old Austin Maestro Mayfair 1.3. Not exactly a road-burner, and neither is it a car that many would find an aspirational item nowadays. Yet my insurance quote would have bought you a Daimler Sovereign. Not insured one, fuelled one, or even rented it for a week. Bought, outright. Compare this to the quote I got on a V8 SD1 as a named driver. Still extortionate by the standards of most people, but a thousand quid is stupidly low for anybody's insurance at my age. And what's the fine for not having insurance? £200, 6 points (A ban, but if you're not insured this won't stop you), and a slap on the wrist.

Call me biased, but this does not strike me as a fair system. It punishes the innocent - the safe, sensible, mature-minded drivers - by lumping them in with the idiots as a matter of course and charging accordingly. It's also gender-biased - granted, there are a higher percentage of idiot male drivers than idiot women, but is this really ample justification for doubling the premium for those who lack the ability to give birth? And I'm not kidding - that really is the rough nature of the imbalance.

Now, I'm not calling for the abolition of insurance. To do so would be frankly idiotic. But I do think a fairer system should be created. I've seen and discussed several methods over the last year or two, and I really think that some would be better than the current system.

First, there is an idea proposed by my friend John Orrell, who if he drove would qualify for cheap insurance on account of his age and his post code. This model can be called the 'benefit of the doubt' model. The idea behind it is that we each pay a reduced sum to insure a car - not a stupidly low one, but enough to act as an incentive. Let's say no premium of more than £1000 for young drivers on anything below group ten insurance. This is then reduced with No Claims Bonus every year, as per mature drivers - let's say an annual drop of ten percent for the first year, five thereafter. But if anybody makes a claim for an accident that is the fault of the policyholder, his or her policy should then skyrocket. That which before would have been £1000 would be, say, £2500 or £3000 after the accident, and that would take years to return to a sensible level. This would be an excellent way to punish those who are guilty whilst not unduly taxing the innocent.

Come on, though! Insurance companies want your money! They're not going to give in to that sort of idea without a fight. So here's idea number two, suggested in the Times about a month ago by a correspondent whose name I have sadly forgotten. Rebates. We keep the current system, however, at the end of the insurance period each claim-free driver receives a 50% rebate. That way, the innocent aren't unduly handicapped save for the first year, the guilty are punished, and insurance companies can help themselves to twelve months' interest on the bit they have to give back.

Nobody with a sensible head upon their shoulders can deny that these two ideas make infinitely more sense than the one we have. But I bet neither is adopted, because it would mean insurance companies lost out. But there would be serious money in plan number three. Why can't one insurance company halve the prices of all young driver insurance quotes, full stop. Yes, they'd be stung once in a while by the idiots, but by adopting a 'clean licences and no fault claims' policy they could weed out repeat offenders. And the amount of business they would attract would certainly compensate for the lack of profit caused by lower premiums.

But will anyone be brave enough to take this step? Thought not.