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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Motoring news

Getting away in a Ford Ranger

February 14 2018

Pickup trucks have come a long way, I mused as I cruised comfortably up the M6 in my Ford Ranger. Once purely utilitarian vehicles, today’s pickups have to serve a dual purpose – hoofing farmers and tradesmen around with their gear, and also being able to take lifestyle customers to beach or forest with surfboards or mountain bikes. Models like the Volkswagen Amarok have sprung up that pack technology comparable to some executive saloons. Ford’s Ranger has upped its game in response. I set the cruise control to 70mph, turned on my heated seat, switched radio station using the 8in touchscreen, and pulled a can of coke out of the coolbox in the central console. My journey took me from Dundee to Wales, via an overnight stay in the Lake District and the Ranger was proving a more comfortable cruiser than I’d expected. The latest version is considerably more civilised than its predecessors, while losing none of its towing capacity or off road capability. I was in the range topping Wildtrack Double Cab version, with a price tag including VAT of slightly over £34,000. That gives you five seats and four doors. You can also have a Regular Cab, with two seats, and a Super Cab, a halfway house with two small back seats. One issue with using a pickup as a lifestyle car, as we were doing, is luggage space. Yes, there’s a gigantic load bay out there but who wants to put the shopping in it? Fortunately, ours came with the optional lockable roll top cover, which slides over the load bay. We used a couple of bungee cords to cinch our weekend bags to the tie points et voila. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6LFhasc7Co You can have a 2.2 litre Ranger but ours came with the excellent 3.2 litre diesel, which shaves 1.3 seconds off the 0-62mph time. Official economy is around 33mpg. I found that driving carefully I got 31mpg and keeping the foot down I got 29mpg – basically, bank on 30mpg, which is not too bad for such a big beastie. The Ford is quiet and comfortable at speed. There’s also something exhilarating about it’s sheer size – you sit higher than even Range Rover drivers. Its size becomes noticeable when it comes to handling – it’s not a car to throw round corners – and makes parking tricky. A pickup is still a compromise. It’s not as comfortable or economical as a good SUV. Models like the Ranger are closing the gap, however, while remaining as up to the rough and tumble of working life as they ever were. Price: £34.184 (inc VAT). 0-62mph: 10.9 seconds. Top speed: 109mph. Economy: 33.6mpg. CO2 emissions: 221g/km.

Road tests

Isuzu D-Max put through its paces

February 28 2018

It's a rare treat here at The Courier's motoring desk when the keys to a pickup truck arrive. Don't get me wrong - hatchbacks, convertibles, sports cars and SUVs are all fun and I enjoy the variety - but there's something special about a pickup. They look great, in that rugged American way, and they make you feel king of the road. Most of the pickups that come my way are aimed at "lifestyle" customers - those who are more likely to throw some mountain bikes in the back than a pile of plumbing equipment of a few bales of hay. Pickups like the Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger have tried to please these buyers with improved ride quality and comfort. The Isuzu D-Max is a truck that's more squarely aimed at those who use their pickup as a work tool. It's rough, rugged and feels so solidly built it's almost challenging you to try and exceed its limitations. The  D-Max was refreshed last year, with the old 2.5 litre diesel being replaced by a more efficient 1.9 litre engine. That's improved economy - at 36mpg it's more parsimonious with fuel than most of its opposition. Acceleration is on the sluggish side - tellingly Isuzu don't quote a 0-62mph time for the D-Max - but the engine has plenty of low down power and is well capable of pulling a heavy load. The D-Max range is split into two – the Utility range consisting of four predominantly workhorse models, mainly distinguished by their bodystyles –  a two- and four-wheel drive single cab, an extended cab and a double cab variants. Those looking for a touch more comfort and convenience have the Premium range to choose from, which includes the Eiger, Yukon, Utah and Blade – all of which are only available as a double cab, apart from the Yukon which can be had as an extended cab too. I drove the range topping Blade version, which has luxuries including leather upholstery and heated seats. There's also a touch screen monitor. Although the menu system's a bit tricky to navigate the buttons are nice and big so a gloved builder can touch them on the move. Prices start at under £16,000 (ex-VAT), making it a good value proposition. Even my range topping model carried a relatively modest £28,000 price tag. Anyone who's driven an Amarok or a Ranger will be disappointed on a long distance drive. The D-Max is not a comfortable cruiser. The suspension's a bit bouncy (although it improves if there's a load in the back) and the engine's noisy. But then it's a pickup and it does what it's designed for well. The four-wheel drive system's good enough to get across the most inhospitable terrain, it'll tow almost anything, and it feels like it'll never break down.     Vital stats: Price: £27,999. 0-62mph: N/A. Top speed: 112mph. Economy: 36.2mpg CO2 emissions: 205g/km

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Music

Michael Marra remembered with new bench at Niel Gow Oak

March 25 2013

A wooden bench commemorating a fiddle legend has been unveiled by the widow of a Dundee musician. To mark the start of the Niel Gow Scottish Fiddle Festival at the weekend, the Forestry Commission Scotland installed a new bench dedicated to Gow on the banks of the Tay at Inver, near Dunkeld. It is sited at Niel Gow’s Oak, where he is said to have composed many of his finest tunes, and replaces the original bench that was damaged in a storm. The new bench bears a line from a song by singer-songwriter Michael Marra, who died last year, and was unveiled by his widow Peggy. https://www.youtube.com/embed/wi4ewo3X_cc?rel=0 Peter Fullarton of the commission’s team in Tay District said: “Niel Gow was a weaver’s son who taught himself to play the fiddle but he was widely considered the best fiddle player in Perthshire. “He was in high demand all over the country so it’s probably safe to say he was the most famous fiddler in Scotland at that time. “Now that we’ve replaced the bench, anyone who visits the area has the opportunity to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the setting and maybe get a taste of the inspiration that helped Gow to create so many memorable tunes.” The replacement bench has been carved by Nigel Ross and the inscription carved by Andy McFetters. The inscription a line from Marra’s song Niel Gow’s Apprentice reads: “I’ll sit beneath the fiddle tree, with the ghost of Niel Gow next to me.”

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.

UK politics

Nigel Farage says British judges are ‘difficult to trust’

November 6 2016

Judges are so ingrained in the pro-EU elite in British society that it is difficult to trust them, Nigel Farage has claimed. UKIP’s interim leader took aim at the High Court justices for ruling that parliamentary approval is needed to trigger Article 50, the mechanism for leaving the EU. Mr Farage also warned that the public will vent their anger on the streets of Britain if the vote to leave the EU is not respected. The MEP told the Andrew Marr Show: “I am afraid that the reach of the European Union into the upper echelons of society in this country makes it quite difficult to trust the judges.” He criticised Lord Chief Justice John Thomas for not stepping aside for Thursday’s decision given his role in a body that sought to further integrate EU laws domestically. “If they are activists pushing for politically European integration they should not be making these judgments,” Mr Farage added. He said he “completely understands” newspaper coverage after the High Court ruling which referred to judges as “enemies of the people”. The former City worker said: “Believe you me, if the people of this country think that are going to be cheated, they are going to be betrayed, then we are going to see political anger, the likes of which none of us in our lifetimes have ever witnessed in this country. “Those newspaper headlines are reflecting that.” Asked if there was a real danger of disturbances on the street, Mr Farage said: “Yeah I think that’s right.”

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

News

Young victims of Ibrox disaster to be remembered

June 2 2010

Five Markinch boys who died almost 40 years ago in Scotland's worst ever football disaster will be remembered this weekend. School-mates Peter Easton (13), Bryan Todd (14), Ronald Paton (14), Mason Philip (14) and Douglas Morrison (15) died during an Old Firm game at Ibrox Stadium on January 2, 1971, in a massive pile-up of fans when barriers gave way on stairway 13 as they were leaving the ground. Sixty-six people, many of them children, died in the tragedy and more than 200 were injured. It was Britain's worst football disaster prior to the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989, when 96 people were crushed to death at an FA Cup game between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool. The grief-stricken Fife community turned out in force for the boys' funeral and it is thought that at least 1000 people lined the streets to pay their respects as the cortege went past To mark the deaths of the teenagers, who all went to Auchmuty High School in Glenrothes, a memorial bench will be dedicated at the town's Parish Church at noon on Sunday by the Rev Alex Forsyth. The date was chosen as it coincides with the Markinch Highland Games. Jim Archer from Glenrothes, a member of the memorial committee, said Rangers fans from across the world have contributed to the bench and other initiatives to honour the five boys. Over £3750 has been raised so far and a race night at the Station Hotel in Leslie on Saturday, to start at 7.30pm, is expected to add significantly to the total. As well as the bench, six of the famous red bricks at Ibrox have been 'purchased'. Five will be inscribed with the boys' names and the sixth will record a general message. The committee also plan to restore and enhance the existing memorial at Park View in Markinch and, with the community council, plant a tree for each of the boys. A number of trophies have been bought to donate to Auchmuty High and it is hoped that former Rangers and Scotland star Sandy Jardine will hand them over at a presentation evening this month. Finally, a young boy who also died in the disaster, eight-year-old Nigel Pickup from Liverpool, will also be remembered. He was the youngest person to die that day and Mr Archer said, "Our aim is simple, probably a flower holder with his name on it at his graveside, just to let his family know he hasn't been forgotten."

Motoring news

Form an orderly Q for Audi SUV

August 10 2016

First there was the Q7. Then the Q5 and Q3. All have been a phenomenal success for Audi. I’d be surprised if that script changes when the Q2 arrives in November. Audi’s baby SUV is available to order now with prices starting at £22,380. Can’t quite stretch to that? Don’t worry, an entry level three-cylinder 1.0 litre version will be available later this year with a cover tag of £20,230. From launch, there are three trim levels available for the Q2 called SE, Sport and S Line. The range-topping Edition #1 model will be available to order from next month priced from £31,170. While the entry-level 113bhp 1.0-litre unit isn’t available right away, engines you can order now include a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, both with manual or S tronic automatic transmissions. Also joining the Q2 line-up from September is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp or 187bhp. This unit comes with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. A 2.0 litre petrol with Quattro and S tronic joins the range next year. Standard equipment for the new Audi Q2 includes a multimedia infotainment system with rotary/push-button controls, supported with sat-nav. Audi’s smartphone-friendly interface, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and heated and electric mirrors are all also standard for the Audi. Along with the optional Audi virtual cockpit and the head-up display, the driver assistance systems for the Audi Q2 also come from the larger Audi models – including the Audi pre sense front with pedestrian recognition that is standard. The system recognises critical situations with other vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and if necessary it can initiate hard braking – to a standstill at low speeds. Other systems in the line-up include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic jam assist, the lane-departure warning system Audi side assist, the lane-keeping assistant Audi active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic assist.

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