Magazine article The Spectator

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Magazine article The Spectator

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Article excerpt

New York

Two men prostrated themselves before the new Freelander -- in gratitude, presumably, for anything more reliable than the previous model -- but it turned out that the turntable on which it was displayed had jammed. On the Hummer stand another man went from car to car covering the filler caps with sticky tape. I had no idea these were so desirable, but then this was the New York Motor Show and they were expecting 200,000 visitors.

The filler cap is indeed satisfyingly chunky but the rest of the car looks as if it's trying to be more than it is, like a man with shoulder pads.

Over at Mercedes there was consternation when the roof leaked on to the C50 Sport Sedan. The new C Class was disappointingly cramped in the rear, something you expect of the CLK but not from a four-door saloon. The CL65 AMG looked as potent as it is (V12, 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds), but you wouldn't want to spend too long in the back of that, either. Nor, much more surprisingly, in the back of the BMW 7 series, where my head brushed the roof. It didn't in the previous model.

This back-room business rapidly became my theme of the day as I hopped from car to car like an indecisive VIP. Others stared at the GM concept cars, or gobbled free sushi at the Nissan stand, or swigged Exhaust (water distilled from hydrogen cell power units) to keep themselves awake during the presentation by BMW's technical director.

I didn't bother with the forthcoming Ford Flex (sic), described as 'a modern station wagon' and looking like a 4x4 with a lowered roof designed for discreet use by undertakers. It should take four coffins.

Toyota I visited more than once because, thanks to Exhaust, you had to go through its stand to get to the loos. I don't know whether it chose or appreciated that association.

I focused on coupés, the most challenging for heads and legs. Audi's new S5, its first coupé since 1992, was impressive -- good-looking, 350hp V8, 4WD, only 30,000 to be made -- but it's not for grown-ups in the back. The Chrysler Sebring is definitely only for the legless. In fact, all the coupés bar one were inadequate in the back -- unsurprisingly, since all bar one were small or medium cars or muscular sports models with long bonnets and sloping rears. There seemed to be no full-sized coupé, no equivalent of the older Mercedes S Class coupés that command such premiums in the classic car market.

Except one. The Bentley Brooklands, the new coupé version of the Arnage, has a long rear overhang permitting a lengthy, even slope from the top of the rear screen to the boot lid, which permits rear leg- and headroom. …

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