The BMW 120d is a sack of crap

For the last week I have been driving a BMW 120d.

That’s one of these:

BMW 120d, a sack of crap

BMW 120d, a sack of crap

In the not too distant past BMW used the phrase ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ to describe their cars.

That’s certainly not a description I’d be happy using, if I worked for BMW, else the Trade Description enforcers would be all over me.

The driver’s ergonomics are awful (if the driver is over 5′ 10″). Apart from this point, the cabin is comfortable, fore and aft.

The engine is quiet which, frankly, it should be, given that it has the output of an arthritic hamster.

The gearbox is so vague that key components seem to have been manufactured from jelly.

The media centre developed a mind of its own, and had to be shut down.

And the hatch-boot space could barely accommodate a medium-sized ham sandwich.

But on the positive side, fuel consumption was good.

And the mirrors worked.

Another positive thing about driving the BMW 120d was that it really made me miss my car.

How I yearned for the beautifully-engineered, precision-manufactured (German designed and German built) gearbox.

And the (German) gearing ratio that just worked, and didn’t have to be fought against.

And the cavernous hatch-boot, which could take one very large suitcase, one medium suitcase, one small suitcase, two rucksacks, a handbag, AND a medium-sized ham sandwich.

Seriously, BMW, I don’t know who the target market is for your 120d, but as sure as hell isn’t anyone who you could call ‘a driver’.

Blogathon 27/17: Self-driving car

I like my new car.

I Bluetooth my phone to the in-car entertainment system and amazing things happen.

I can read incoming SMS messages on a display.

I can view and autodial my contacts by voice-activated command.

I have full hands-free/speakerphone capability as I trundle around the countryside.

I can plug my iPod Classic in to the in-car entertainment system, and access any of my many playlists/podcasts.

The external lights are fully automatic; in normal daylight the front lights are permanently on.

But when it gets gloomier or darker front and rear lights come on.

And if there’s nothing in front of me travelling in the same direction, and nothing coming in the opposite direction, the lights automatically go to full-beam.

And back to dip again, when something is in front.

The wipers are fully automatic.

The sensors on the rear bumper activate a visual display and audio warning if my reverse parking is too tight.

If I’m closing too quickly on the car in front, an audio and visual warning pops up.

If I ignore these warnings, the car brakes itself!

If I run low on fuel, the SatNav automatically offers to route me to the nearest open filling station.

But for all these safety features – and more, that the car has – I have found one significant gap.

The radio allows me to accidentally listen to Steve Wright in the Afternoon.

I mean, with all that technology on board, you’d have thought the designers would have sorted that out, wouldn’t you?

Good grief

Good grief

Blogathon 09/17: Not working. Not being smart

These days everyone in the UK (and wider afield) has access to smart technology.

I was out with a friend for dinner, a few weeks ago when, during a lull in the conversation, he pulled out his mobile phone and switched the radio on in his kitchen at home.

For a joke.

I’m sure his wife was very amused.

But that’s not the point.

I can remotely access a huge range of technology, and I’m sure you can too.

Switch things off, switch things on, move (data/application) things around.

It’s not rocket surgery.

On the way to/from work, a significant stretch of the dual-carriageway A-road is having the central barrier renewed.

I don’t know when the workmen are onsite doing stuff, because when I come through in the mornings, they haven’t started yet.

And when I go back through in the evenings, they’ve finished, packed up, and gone.

Not a trace of life, at either end of the day.

And yet the speed limit for the whole stretch of dual-carriageway has been reduced from 70mph to 40mph.

The signs are far from automatic, they are those standard, unchanging, stand by the roadside things.

A bit like this:

temporary road sign

temporary road sign

So let’s assume that the workers are actually onsite doing their job from 08.30 to 16.30.

That’s 8 hours

And 8 hours times 5 days (because they don’t work weekends at any time) = 40 hours.

There are 168 hours in the week.

This means that an unnecessary speed limit is in force for 128 hours a week.

Or the equivalent of almost 5-1/2 days.

Almost 5-1/2 days of needless speed restrictions on a busy stretch of dual carriageway.

This isn’t unusual.

Why are road contractors so lazy about investing in smart speed limit signs?

Are they afraid of the technology?

Or are they afraid their staff are too stupid to operate them?

And how is this over-imposed speed limit acceptable?

Answers, please, on a comment below.

Lines on paper

No sex please

No sex please

In 1275 the Age of Consent was set, for the first time (because up until then there had been no such thing as Age of Consent) at 12 years of age.

And there it remained for 600 years, until it was raised to 13.

Since then it’s been up and down and all over the place.

In recent memory it used to be 21.

It’s currently 16.

All of these changes were instigated by politicians, and were put in place without any scientific basis to their decisions.

Up until 1964 there was no maximum speed limit on the UKs motorways, until the Daily Mail led a campaign to establish a maximum speed limit.

The following year the speed limit was established, and it was set at 70mph and, apart from during the oil crisis of 1973, when the maximum speed was reduced to 50mph for oil consumption reasons, the national speed limit has remained at 70mph.

Since 1965 all road vehicles have become safer.

Braking systems have become more efficient to a level that the drivers (and vehicle engineers) of 1965 would not have been able to comprehend.

Road surfaces have become better.

And yet the Government’s official braking distances have remained unchanged.

It was Clarkson (late of Top Gear) who clearly demonstrated the official braking distances to be actually based on inaccurate data, when he safely braked a 2.5-ton Bentley from 60mph to 0 in less than half of the 240′ that the Highway Code said it would take.

60mph

60mph

Yet still the national speed limit remains set at 70mph.

Oh, I know that the Conservative Transport Minister Philip Hammond announced, in September 2011, that the national limit would rise to 80mph, but he was, to use a technical phrase, talking political bollocks.

His precise words were:

“Now it is time to put Britain back in the fast lane of global economies and look again at the motorway speed limit which is nearly 50 years old, and out of date thanks to huge advances in safety and motoring technology.

“Increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph would generate economic benefits of hundreds of millions of pounds through shorter journey times. So we will consult later this year on raising the limit to get Britain moving.”

But after that speech he went on to do what politicians usually do.

He did nothing.

So here we are, over 50 years after the introduction of the 70mph national speed limit, and not a serious, scientifically-based review of it in sight.

Which is odd, really, because right now local authorities around the country are lowering the speed limit.

50mph

50mph

And they are doing so with the same lack of scientific evidence to support them.

Large stretches of A-roads are having their speed limits sneakily, and arbitrarily, cut by local authorities, and having them cut without any public consultation.

Many roads are having limits lowered, despite the public now having better-designed cars, with more efficient braking systems, and much improved road surfaces.

It’s bonkers really.

It’s nanny stateism.

Just look at the huge number of A-roads that have quietly had their speed limits reduced from 60mph to 50mph, or even to 40mph and in some cases to 30mph.

40mph

40mph

All because someone, in the service of the public, and without any scientific evidence (the key word there is evidence), just feels like screwing over a few thousand motorists a week.

Or just because they have had what they consider to be ‘a good idea’.

I mean, you may as well ask a bunch of geriatric MPs to legislate on the Age of Consent (and then ignore their own decision, because they are, after all, MPs and we all know that the law doesn’t apply to MPs).

Or maybe I’ve had an overdose of cynicism today?

 

Blogathon 18/16: Travel Planning

I went to Birmingham today.

Yes, I know.

Commiserations and all that.

Anyway.

I went to Birmingham today.

And it wasn’t even the wrong side of Birmingham.

It was to our depot on the Castle Vale/Warmley Ash (eastern) side of town.

A distance of 50 miles.

The last time I did this trip – about six weeks ago – I set off at 6am.

And arrived at 8.55am.

That’s three hours, to you.

Three hours to cover 50 miles.

Averaging a tad under 17mph.

I would have been quicker on a horse.

*pauses for hot chocolate*

Today I did the journey again.

47 minutes, door to door.

That’s forty seven minutes.

Not the 180 minutes it took me last time.

How are we supposed to plan our journeys, when the spread for a 50-mile journey is from 47 minutes to three hours?

Ah yes, you might say, but the last time you did the journey there was that pile-up on the motorway.

No there wasn’t.

I checked with Highways Agency.

Anyway.

I’m due back in Birmingham in a couple of weeks.

It’ll be interesting to see how long the 50-mile journey will take.

Baby I got your, erm, number?

Once upon a time car numberplates used to reflect the location/area/district where the car was first registered, as well as identifying the year that the car was first registered (ask your dads, kids).

AAX 123X, for example, was originally registered in Monmouthshire in 1999.

And then, apparently, we were in danger of running out of available car registrations.

So the brains who run this kind of thing for the UK had to come up with a cunning plan.

After what one imagines to be a particularly boozy long lunch in the pub, one Thursday afternoon, the brains came up with a genius masterstroke.

The new registration numbers would look like this:

WP03HMG

Or like this:

WP53HMG

Brilliant!

Now, without too much thinking, the year of first registration is immediately apparent!

WP03HMG clearly signifies that the car was first registered in 2003.

Excellent.

And WP53HMG equally clearly signifies that the car was first registered in, erm, 2003!

But the second half of 2003, not the first half.

Yay!

And WP14HMG identifies that the car was first registered in 2014.

And WP64HMG very cleverly shows that the car was first registered, erm, in 2014 too.

Umm.

But the second half of 2014.

Obv.

Well this is all completely clear and transparent, yes?

I said yes??

Now, let’s look at the letters. HMG (in our guinea pig registration of WP14HMG) signifies nothing at all.

Or signifies nothing helpful.

It’s the two letters at the front that we’re interested in.

WP means, erm, Bristol.

Because W signifies ‘west of England’ and when suffixed with a ‘P’, that means Bristol.

It just does.

For the sake of transparency, obv.

You might have thought that BS14HMG would be better (because ‘BS’ is the actual postcode for, erm, Bristol).

Well yes, you might.

In fact, the vast majority of places in the UK have a two letter postcode.

Wouldn’t it have been fantastic to have that much transparency on a car registration?

Just use the postcodes?

But the brains who make these decisions shied away from this concept.

For reasons best known to themselves.

As is the frankly nonsensical method they came up with of denoting the year of registration.

So here, for those who don’t have brains the size of a planet, and for whom the transparency of our vehicle (because this actually applies to all registered vehicles and yes I know I’ve used the word ‘car’, but that’s because it’s quicker to write ‘car’ than it is to write ‘vehicle’, OK?), is a list of location identifiers for car registrations in the UK:

Car registration letters(DVLA) regionDVLA office
AA, AB, AC, AD, AE, AF, AG, AH, AJ, AK, AL, AM, AN(east) AngliaPeterborough
AO, AP, AR, AS, AT, AU(east) AngliaNorwich
AV, AW, AX, AY(east) AngliaIpswich
BA, BB, BC, BD, BE, BF, BG, BH, BJ, BK, BL, BM, BN, BO, BP, BR, BS, BT, BU, BV, BW, BX, BYBirminghamBirmingham
CA, CB, CC, CD, CE, CF, CG, CH, CJ, CK, CL, CM, CN, COCymruCardiff
CP, CR, CS, CT, CU, CVCymruSwansea
CW, CX, CYCymruBangor
DA, DB, DC, DD, DE, DF, DG, DH, DJ, DKDeeside to ShrewsburyChester
DL, DM, DN, DO, DP, DR, DS, DT, DU, DV, DW, DX, DYDeeside to ShrewsburyShrewsbury
EA, EB, EC, ED, EE, EF, EG, EH, EJ, EK, EL, EM, EN, EO, EP, ER, ES, ET, EU, EV, EW, EX, EYEssexChelmsford
FA, FB, FC, FD, FE, FF, FG, FH, FJ, FK, FL, FM, FN, FPForest and FensNottingham
FR, FS, FT, FV, FW, FX, FYForest and FensLincoln
GA, GB, GC, GD, GE, GF, GG, GH, GJ, GK, GL, GM, GN, GOGarden of EnglandMaidstone
GP, GR, GS, GT, GU, GV, GX, GYGarden of EnglandBrighton
HA, HB, HC, HD, HE, HF, HG, HH, HJHampshire and DorsetBournemouth
HK, HL, HM, HN, HO, HP, HR, HS, HT, HU, HVHampshire and DorsetPortsmouth
HWHampshire and DorsetPortsmouth (Used exclusively for the Isle of Wight)
HX, HYHampshire and DorsetPortsmouth
KA, KB, KC, KD, KE, KF, KG, KH, KJ, KK, KL-Luton
KM, KN, KO, KP, KR, KS, KT, KU, KV, KW, KX, KY-Northampton
LA, LB, LC, LD, LE, LF, LG, LH, LJLondonWimbledon
LK, LL, LM, LN, LO, LP, LR, LS, LTLondonStanmore
LU, LV, LW, LX, LYLondonSidcup
MA, MB, MC, MD, ME, MF, MG, MH, MJ, MK, ML, MM, MN, MO, MP, MR, MS, MT, MU, MV, MW, MX, MYManchester & MerseysideManchester
NA, NB, NC, ND, NE, NF, NG, NH, NJ, NK, NL, NM, NN, NONorthNewcastle
NP, NR, NS, NT, NU, NV, NW, NX, NYNorthStockton
OA, OB, OC, OD, OE, OF, OG, OH, OJ, OK, OL, OM, ON, OO, OP, OR, OS, OT, OU, OV, OW, OX, OYOxfordOxford
PA, PB, PC, PD, PE, PF, PG, PH, PJ, PK, PL, PM, PN, PO, PP, PR, PS, PTPrestonPreston
PU, PV, PW, PX, PYPrestonCarlisle
RA, RB, RC, RD, RE, RF, RG, RH, RJ, RK, RL, RM, RN, RO, RP, RR, RS, RT, RU, RV, RW, RX, RYReadingReading
SA, SB, SC, SD, SE, SF, SG, SH, SJScotlandGlasgow
SK, SL, SM, SN, SOScotlandEdinburgh
SP, SR, SS, STScotlandDundee
SU, SV, SWScotlandAberdeen
SX, SYScotlandInverness
VA, VB, VC, VD, VE, VF, VG, VH, VJ, VK, VL, VM, VN, VO, VP, VR, VS, VT, VU, VV, VW, VX, VYSevern ValleyWorcester
WA, WB, WC, WD, WE, WF, WG, WH, WJWest of EnglandExeter
WK, WLWest of EnglandTruro
WM, WN, WO, WP, WR, WS, WT, WU, WV, WW, WX, WYWest of EnglandBristol
YA, YB, YC, YD, YE, YF, YG, YH, YJ, YKYorkshireLeeds
YL, YM, YN, YO, YP, YR, YS, YT, YUYorkshireSheffield
YV, YW, YX, YYYorkshireBeverley

So that’s the geographical bit.

Do you want a handy decoder for the year of registration ‘clarity’ too?

You do?

Well try this:

Year1 Mar – 31 Aug1 Sep – 28/29 Feb
2001/02Y51
2002/030252
2003/040353
2004/050454
2005/060555
2006/070656
2007/080757
2008/090858
2009/100959
2010/111060
2011/121161
2012/131262
2013/141363
2014/151464
2015/161565
2016/171666
2017/181767
2018/191868
2019/201969
2020/212070
2021/222171
2022/232272
2023/242373
2024/252474
2025/262575
2026/272676
2027/282777
2028/292878
2029/302979
2030/313080
2031/323181
2032/333282
2033/343383
2034/353484
2035/363585
2036/373686
2037/383787
2038/393888
2039/403989
2040/414090
2041/424191
2042/434292
2043/444393
2044/454494
2045/464595
2046/474696
2047/484797
2048/494898
2049/504999
2050/515000

Clear now?

Of course it is.

You’re welcome.

Threes

I am not a superstitious person.

Well.

Yes, I salute magpies.

And I don’t walk underneath ladders.

But the latter isn’t really superstitious, it’s just common sense.

Obv.

Anyway, in the last few months I’ve had three fairly significant events.

I have had a big health scare, and an emergency admission to (and stay in) hospital.

I have had a fairly major collision on the Daytona.

And on Tuesday this week I had a blow-out in the car.

On the M1.

At speed.

So even though I’m not at all superstitious.

That’s my three, yeah?

Blogathon 19/15 – lights out?

Bangernomics is the name attributed to buying an old wreck of a car for not much money, and running it in to the ground, and then beginning the cycle again.

I tried my hand at Bangernomics a good dozen-or-so years ago.

I went to several car auctions.

I studied form (such as the form of cars is a thing that can be studied).

Eventually I bought a Rover at an auction.

It had a valid MOT.

I insured it, put some tax on it, and ran around Somerset and Bath for a few months.

One day, just after a torrential downpour, I noticed, when I parked up, that the carpet beneath my feet was damp.

I peeled back the carpet and discovered that the floor had rusted right through.

I took the car to a garage for a once-over.

They declared it a loss.

It wouldn’t pass an MOT.

It was mostly held together by fibreglass and resin stuffed with newspaper, and spray-painted over.

That was my first and only deliberate venture in to the experience of bangernomics.

Having got the motorbike bug back – and the itch is worse/better than it ever was – I discarded the notion of having a car as my main form of transport.

I sold my Vectra, and trundled around the countryside on my two-wheeled transports, and thoroughly enjoyed every single mile.

The winter of 2013/14 threatened to be a bit grim.

My commute, at that time, involved a fairly short, but infamous stretch of the M1 motorway.

Leicester services, and J21a.

I decided to buy a car.

In October 2013 I found the Jaguar.

I went to see what could possibly be wrong with a ten-year old car of that marque, that it was on the market for such a small amount of money.

The brakes didn’t feel quite right. And there was a suspension-related knock from the offside rear.

I paid £1,500 for the car.

I found a decent independent garage who confirmed it needed new discs all round, and that it was the brushes that needed attention in the offside rear suspension.

The total price for all of the work brought the overall purchase price of the car to just under £2,000.

That was about 18 months ago.

This winter the car has had much more use than last.

My week-long commute is a touch under 350 miles, but 320 of those miles is divided between my Monday morning trip to work, and my Friday evening trip back home.

And the weather, this winter, has been sub-zero for a long stretch.

With snow and/or heavy rain thrown in.

So the bikes have stayed in the garage, and the Jag has been copping all the mileage.

A couple of months ago the car needed a new offside front main/dip bulb.

The old one, I discovered, had burnt out and had melted part of the plastic connector.

A mobile vehicle electrician sorted that out for me.

Today I noticed that the same light has stopped working again.

I’ll replace the bulb – probably this weekend – even though it’s a right bitch of a job, and involves having to remove the car battery to create sufficient space to do the job.

But I reckon the writing is on the wall for the Jag.

My plan is to nurse the car through what’s left of the winter, and get back on the bikes.

I’ll sell the car for around £1,000 as soon as the weather becomes bike-commutable.

And maybe buy another one as the winter of 2015/16 approaches.

I saw a lovely-looking, one previous owner, full dealer service history X-Type on Autotrader earlier this evening.

I think it was on for £1,500.

Who knew that Jags were so cheap?

Driven to the edge

This morning’s 125-mile motorway journey (M6, M42, M5, M4, M32) brought home to me just how poor the standard of driving is in this country.

So few motorists seem to be aware that the Highway Code has been updated.

So few motorists seem to be aware that driving standards have been improved (tightened).

Nobody seems to understand braking and stopping distances.

Nobody seems to comprehend that being too close to the vehicle in front puts themselves at risk.

And nobody seems to be aware of just what the definition of ‘being too close’ is.

Lane discipline, on the UK’s motorways, needs to be renamed to ‘lack of lane discipline’, to reflect the true state of affairs.

It seems that the vast majority of people who drive on British roads do not know that the law now says that you should use the left-hand lane at all times, except when overtaking.

If we had a government with its finger on the pulse of an everyday problem, it would change the law to allow motorists to pass lane-hoggers on any side (as is allowed in the US).

If we had a government with its finger on the pulse of an everyday problem, it would introduce a compulsory motorway test.

If we had a government with its finger on the pulse of an everyday problem, it would introduce compulsory retesting (to include motorway driving), every five years.

But instead of any of these remedial actions being put in place, we have an escalating problem; the majority of road users have not read the Highway Code in 30 years.

Or longer.

Instead of any of these – painfully obvious – remedial actions being put in place, we have people avoiding accidents by virtue of anticipating, and being aware of, the stupidity of other road users.

The standard of driving, as seen from the seat of my car this morning, was shocking.

I had to take avoiding action six times, to dodge the unbelievably dangerous actions of morons.

That’s six times, this morning, I could have been involved in an accident, had I been less attentive to the idiotic intentions of people who, quite clearly, should not have been behind the wheels of cars, vans, lorries.

Variable speed limits (the raising and lowering the speed limit as dictated from a central command centre) is not the answer to the question of how do we control the morons on the road.

Yet that seems to be our government’s only response to the problem.

Compulsory retesting is the answer.

Because without compulsory retesting, the problem will never go away.

The problem will only get worse.