27 Jan 2015

Matt's Diary - Supercars, Busted Bearings And Dirty Hands

Since my last diary blog I've said farewell to a Jaguar XFR-S, hello to a Volvo V60 Hybrid, taken a passenger ride in an Audi R8, serviced a motoring journalist's Audi A3 V6 and discovered that my own car has a knackered wheel bearing.

Speedmonkey's Colin filling the Audi R8 with super unleaded

The Jag went back as the Volvo arrived. Driving two such expensive yet unique cars back to back gave me the opportunity to assess the strengths, and weaknesses of each. The 5-litre engine in the XFR-S is an absolute peach. It's so powerful you have to treat the throttle with absolute respect, and you'll never see much more than 15mpg.

On the other hand the Volvo has a bit of an old lag of an oil burner up front and a smooth electric motor in the rear.  The 2.4 litre diesel unit under the bonnet can also be found in the old XC90 and isn't very efficient or quiet in that - by modern standards, however the electric motor has enough go and the battery enough capacity that if you charge it up overnight you can treat it almost entirely as an electric car if you do under 30 miles a day.

In electric mode it obviously doesn't use any diesel but use both engines for max power and you'll see 35mpg. It's bloody quick in full hybrid mode though.

The Volvo is four wheel drive but the Jaguar rear wheel drive. With so much power the Jag's back end is overly lively whereas the Volvo is rock solid. In sub-zero temperatures and with ice on the roads I felt much happier driving the hybrid than I did the 550bhp super saloon. Who'd have thought that?!

My brother and co-writer, Colin, has an Audi R8 for the week and he came down from Cheshire to see me for the weekend in it.  He reported a super smooth cruise on the motorways and an average 26mpg. Not too bad.

It is possible that I was insured for it but we weren't willing to take the risk so I merely sat in the passenger seat for a few runs. It felt supremely well put together and the interior (with optional full leather pack) was rather sumptuous for a supercar.

Indeed the interior is all very sensible although the tech is getting on a bit now - the satnav doesn't take full UK postcodes for example.
The R8's interior

Still it was a wonderful experience cruising around my locale in the R8.

We then strapped a GoPro to the Volvo and went to shoot some video of the R8. Its V8 singing whilst he overtook me sounded awesome.

Once Colin had gone back to Cheshire I was visited by Graham King from OnlyMotors.  Graham has an Audi A3 with the 3.2 V6. He wants to sell it and had asked if I could service it beforehand. He wanted to observe the procedure so he could learn how to do it himself.

My drive is block paved and spacious and I enjoy getting my hands dirty so we arranged for him to bring the car over Sunday afternoon.

Graham arrived with all the parts I told him to buy - oil, sump plug with washer and oil filter and we set to it.  Car jacked up and on axle stands, cup of tea made, tools brought out from the garage.

It was a straightforward job - Audi uses quality components and materials which makes such jobs so much easier than if the manufacturer decides to make life awkward, like hiding the filter deep in the bowels of the engine.

The only faff was removing the large sump guard, which has about 12 fixings. The rearward ones had perished and a bolt twisted clean off when I removed it so I had to zip tie that part in place once I'd finished.
Tools ready to service Graham's A3 V6

After we'd finished I decided to take the TT for a spin as it'd been sat in the garage for 10 days. It was an absolute pleasure to drive and reminded me why I love it.

That was until the front left wheel made a hell of a racket and felt like it was going to fall off whilst flying through a hard right corner.  That reminded me that it'd been making some odd noises under heavy cornering last time I'd driven it.

Back then I'd suspected the bearing was on its way out, something now confirmed in my mind. Luckily I've got the Volvo for a few more days. My mate the mechanic will replace the Audi's bearing this week, hopefully before the Volvo goes back.

Last week's diary column turned out to be pretty controversial, but it was well read. I'll stay away from upsetting anyone for a while but if this is read by enough people I'll turn it into a semi-regular thing.