Peugeot 407 - wibbler.com

Trading In

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The time has come for a new company car. My three-year stint with the Peugeot 407 comes to an end in August, and as it takes an unfathomably lengthy time to order a car, I have to settle on one about now. The Peugeot 407, I have to say, was a revelation. Okay, so it’s not the coolest car in existence, but my requirements were a bit different three years ago. My job dictated that I needed a car for sitting in endless traffic jams with, and one that had a load of buttons and gadgets. It’s been reliable, it’s big enough to support my ample frame, and unlike the Audis and BMWs it manages to cram a whole lot of extras in for a reasonable cost. The built-in satellite navigation has been a revelation – at least until recently, when the lack of updates and a scratched CD has caused minor frustration.
So, what next? After the “family car”, I’m looking for a more sporty number. There are two rules to my company car choice – it must be a diesel (thanks to company car tax) and it must have a decent-sized boot. These two rules, cunningly, rule out most of the funky cars. Top of my list, I think, is the Lexus IS200. For some reason, I’ve always wanted a Lexus – again, I think it’s to do with all the gadgets. I managed to wangle one to test over the weekend, and it’s frankly looking awesome. It’s small enough for Michelle to drive back home when I get too drunk at the pub, and has enough buttons to kill a few hours in traffic jams. Second and third place go to the Audi A4 and VW Golf. Anyone have any other recommendations?

Favours for Favours

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As I sat in a 3 litre 5-series BMW at the Stoke crossroads in Guildford, tucked into some House of Commons Victorian Mints and mulled over on my recent lunch with Boris Johnson, a smile spread across my lips. This, I concluded, had been a very good month.
Let me explain, firstly, the vehicular privilege I’ve been dealt. Over the past couple of months, several people have been replacing their company cars at the office. Car dealerships have been eagerly offloading cars on a regular basis for the potential buyers to sample, the arrivals of which – for someone who isn’t due a new car for another year and a half – has been torture for me. Naturally and selfishly enough, I wanted a piece of the action – and every time a new car rolled up, I’ve been as helpful as possible to the Financial Manager, in the full knowledge that he is the Keeper Of The Car Keys. So far it’s been working unbelievably well. My current haul of week-long “test drives” includes two new BMW 3-series beasts, an Audi A4 and a Lexus GS300 which, despite the caramel colour of the exterior making it look like a large Werther’s Original, was far and away my favourite and typically way out of my league. The whole car thing has taught me a very vital lesson, though, and that is that just because a car has a BMW or an Audi badge doesn’t actually make it any better. My trusty Peugeot 407 does many things better than the BMW 3-series for far less money. I suppose its the wheeled equivalent of choosing designer clothes. No actual benefit, but less people point and laugh.
The BMW 5-series, though, is a corker. A definite first place tie with the Lexus. It is black, with a black leather interior. The car was my Managing Director’s before he left the company 10 days ago – and I spied it looking lonely and redundant in our office car park last Thursday afternoon. Cue a helpful computer-based favour for my Financial Manager and hey presto, the BMW keys were in my hands. I’ve been swanning around in it all weekend – showboating it at traffic lights, getting many “you can’t afford that” looks from passers-by and generally being a typically awful BMW driver. It’s been very useful to be on the receiving end of BMW-based abuse though. Firstly, it turns out that the car handles so well and makes you so confident that you can’t help but drive arrogantly. And secondly, it’s very easy to feel victimised. When people brush past the car, I half expect a vindictive key scrape down the side. Whenever I try to pull out of a junction, I have the disconcerting feel that everyone is ignoring me on purpose, and if they had their way I’d never be able to pull out at a junction. Still, it’s a small price to pay. Worryingly, I’m starting to like these cars…
And then there is Boris Johnson. Those who’ve been regulars will know that I am a big fan of Bozzer.
And as the amount of visitors to my Boriswatch site grow, it’s clear I’m not alone. In return for various geeky favours to Boris and his right-hand woman Melissa, I have the pleasure of popping up to London for lunch and a chat with them, usually dragging Simon B along for fun. I also visited the ITV studios for his chairing of the quiz show Have I Got News For You a few weeks ago (the report is here on Boriswatch). And now that David Cameron’s seen sense and promoted him, Boriswatch popularity is going through the roof, which puffs my geeky heart with pride.
So, all in all, a good month. I didn’t even mention the Stuff Magazine Show I visited in London (where Nick and I found several things we wanted that would drain our bank balances) or the old friend that presented Top Of The Pops. Maybe next time…

Morning Wreckage

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“Aren’t you cold?” I asked, shivering in the cold, misty morning, patiently waiting for an ambulance.
“No, I’m from Wales”, he replied. “We ski in the summer.”
Before us was a considerable vehicular mangle, the result of a car collision mere moments before at the crossroads on the A325 in Surrey. A car in the opposing lane had wanted to turn right, slowed, got rammed from behind by the following car, and was pushed into the Peugeot 206 travelling in front of me. I managed with deft control to swerve into a friendly bush, nudging the 206 as I went past. That touch meant that I was now officially involved – and here we were, waiting for what resulted in 3 ambulances and 4 police cars. The driver most seriously injured was wafting in and out of consciousness, crying “why today, why today?” to anyone within earshot. His car’s front end was virtually nonexistant, concertinaed by one of the cars. He had the appearance of a professional wrestler – bald headed, well built, and a worrying taste in clothes. It turned out he was on his way to a motorcycling test (which finally explained his astonishing leather-clad get-up) and that this was the worst possible moment to have a crash.
Is there any good time to have a crash, I pondered as my eyes tracked over to the second driver. He had merely being trying to turn right, the poor blighter, a fact he was repeating ad nauseam. He was an older, slighter figure, lazily dressed and seemingly unaffected by the crash despite being sandwiched between two cars like a burger in a bap. The third figure, skulking by his shell of a car, was the perpetrator – the student driver who had failed to notice the slowing car in front and had inadvertently delayed a budding motorcyclists’ dreams. Steam was rising, and oil trickling, from his Rover and it was obvious that it would join the other two cars in the Farnham car dump, never to be rammed into a car again.
And then, of course, there was my car – my wonderful new car. Now slightly damaged at the front end. The light cluster was pushed in, the scrapes from the earlier nudge and prickly bush were evident down the right flank, and the bonnet had acquired a curve not unlike that of a squatting dog. It was still drivable, thankfully, and I was eager to be off, held back only by the interviewing policeman who was ambling over to me. He took my details in an inordinately cheery manner, remarking at the satellite navigation and mentioning at length that he wanted a Peugeot 407 too. Finally he asked me to take a breath test. “Have you taken one of these before?”, he enquired, and I smiled as I relayed the seven times I had previously been asked the same question. “Red!” he said, “you’re over the limit!” Shock and bewilderment contorted my face in equal measure, as my mind relayed the events of the last twenty-four hours. Toothpaste, fish and chips, blackcurrant cordial – that’s all I’d had since lunchtime yesterday afternoon. “Whhrrr…?” I responded desperately. “Only joking!” he remarked. I savaged him under my breath.
The crash scene got smaller and smaller in my rear view mirror as I drove away down the road. Now there’s the hire car and the repair garage to sort out. There are distinct advantages to a company car.