Clarkson on: the Rover 75
Last month, the road test team on Top Gear magazine produced an advert-free supplement which listed the best and worst cars you can buy.
Now the guys that wrote the supplement may spend all day talking about motorcycles but they do drive every single new car that comes on to the market. They take them home at night. They take them away for cosy weekends. They take them to test tracks. In other words, these guys know what they're talking about.
Strange then that I read the supplement with a purple face and little bits of spittle at the corners of my mouth - a mouth that was gaping in disbelief.
It wasn't so bad to start with. They said Peugeot's 206 is the best small car, which is fair enough. Second slot was given to the Clio which shows that even motorcyclists have some common sense. The Clio may not be as much fun to drive as a Fiesta, but it is cheap.
I had no real argument with the family car section either where they gave awards to the Focus and the Passat. And sure, I can see why the Jaguar XJ8 had to play second fiddle to the BMW 5-Series in the executive car round-up.
But then we came to the off-roaders section of the supplement and everything went completely banana-shaped. The Mercedes M-Class is built, badly, in America by Americans. It is too cramped, far too expensive, a bit ugly and apparently not even much cop off-road but, even so, the Top Gear magazine road testers put it on the top step of their podium.
This does appear odd, because the Toyota Landcruiser is the best off-roader in the world unless you live in Britain, in which case snobbery makes the Range Rover a better bet. And not the 4.6 HSE recommended by our team but the smoother and more economical four-litre version.
Fuming, I turned the page to see that in the people carrier section, the Chrysler Voyager was praised for the power of its diesel engine. Hello. Hello. Have you actually driven one? It is absolutely diabolical.
And - oh my God - there's more. According to our boys, the Fiat Coupe is better than the Alfa GTV, which is just plain wrong, and the Mercedes- Benz CLK is better than the Nissan 200SX. Sure, in the same way that treading on a rusty nail is better than having sex with the entire sixth form of a girls' school.
"Following our less-than-enthusiastic road test report last month, the suits in the Longbridge division of Munich Central are apoplectic with rage"
But they saved their most magnificent piece of wrongness for the supercar section. What on earth is the Aston Martin Vantage doing in eleventh place, when the Lamborghini Diablo came in third? Given a choice, these guys would rather take a drug dealer's car than the Starship Blenheim Palace. Obviously.
Now I'm sure you read the supplement too and I'm sure you had a hernia from the stress it caused. Plus, I'm equally sure, you've read my views in this column and now you have full-on post-traumatic shock.
This is what makes the automotive world go around. One man's poison really is another man's fruit of the forest. We may tell you that the Focus is by far the best family car that money can buy but you may think it looks like the dinner of a dog. So you'll buy a Bravo instead. Or an Almera. And that's fine. Well sort of.
So now we arrive at the new Rover 75. I understand that following our less-than-enthusiastic road test report last month, the suits in the Longbridge division of Munich Central are apoplectic with rage.
Because we didn't like it the Midlands will have to be closed down. Three hundred million people will be thrown out of work and as the money runs out, local businesses will close too.
Children will be forced to spend their formative years up inside chimneys and their parents will wander aimlessly over rubbish tips searching for bread and guano. But look. If I don't agree with our road testers on their choice of cars of the year, and you don't agree with either them or me, why should anyone agree with either of us on the 75.
I might tell you that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is the best film ever made and you may say Betty Blue is better. And no matter how much we argue about it, we'll never, ever agree.
And so it goes with the 75. We looked at the overall package and decided that while it offered submarine quietness and ocean-going luxury on the motorway, it fared less well as a driver's tool. And while we said it was good value, we didn't like the noisy wipers or the dash.
But what if you spend all day on the motorway, and you're on a shoestring? You're going to scoff at our findings and buy one.
There are only three objective reasons for not buying a particular car: it is unsafe; it is absurdly expensive; it is a Vauxhall Vectra.
Bearing this in mind, there's no reason at all why you shouldn't rush out to buy the Rover 75.
And I hope you do.
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