You’d be forgiven for thinking that a Real World Dream Barn from Mr Vel Satis himself would have a distinctly French feel to it. Well you’d be wrong, because Oliver Hammond’s Dream Barn is 10% French and 50% German. I think there’s something for everyone here, from a huge German luxo-barge to a Bangernomics load-lugger. Enjoy.
For someone like me who lives and breathes cars, it’s an almost impossible task to ask me to whittle down all the cars in the world, to form a list of ten (in no particular order, I hasten to point out) for my PetrolBlog Real World Dream Barn. Gav makes it slightly simpler by imposing a budget of £30,000 on each chosen car, but it’s still not easy. My passions are luxo-barges, ‘Q-cars’, ‘sleepers’, SUVs and sports coupés, but I realise it’s no good cramming my Dream Barn full of them. I need to have a car for every occasion. Some know me primarily as the founder-manager of the UK Renault Vel Satis Owners Club – and it’s true, I love my Vel Satis dearly and regularly write reams on its merits. Others know me as half of a popular car spotting website, for which I road test cars each month and write about them. The question is, will my 10-car Dream Barn include a Vel Satis and lots of other French fancies? Here goes…
Owning an über-estate has always been etched into my car-buying aspirations and dismissing the BMW M5 Touring, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG estate and the less-obvious Volkswagen Passat W8 estate wasn’t an easy thing to do. The RS6 C6 had to win, though, as I personally view it as the ultimate. With a stonking 5-litre, 570bhp V10 bi-turbo engine, oodles of space for one’s family, gubbins and dog, and permanent Quattro four-wheel drive keeping you out of the bushes, it offers a mighty formidable package. For something styled as relatively discretely as this, its ability to bring up 62mph in less than 5 seconds makes me tingle with excitement. With no less than seven radiators, twin ECUs, a fancy electronic diff’ lock and loads of other clever technology, a used RS6 Avant still isn’t cheap but if you’re hawk-eyed, you can pick one up for just shy of £30,000. If I had one, I’d love to replace the badges with 2.0 TDi to confuse all the tree-huggers out there. Then again, unlike a SUV, an RS6 isn’t an obvious target for anger, which is another reason why it simply had to feature in my PetrolBlog Real World Dream Barn. Image © Audi.
My long-standing love for the Volkswagen Phaeton, particularly in W12 guise, is even reflected in the ‘pton’ ending of one of my companies’ names. I’d always ached for a W12, so when a client of mine bought one in 2006, the thought of going for a ride in it got me dribbling. And oh boy, I wasn’t disappointed. Sharing the same engine, more or less, as Bentley’s Continental and Flying Spur models and also the Audi A8 6-litre as driven by Jason Statham in the first Transporter film, the Phaeton version is, to me, the pinnacle when it comes to waft-mobiles. In the flesh, they are absolutely massive. Inside, they may not be quite up to the exacting standards of other limos but are nonetheless pretty darn luxurious, particularly in 4-seat form. And the W12 engine is a talking point, what with it being made out of two V6s and all that. Even the boot hinges are famous for how much Volkswagen over-engineered them into a thing of beauty. But it’s surprising how many people see one in real life or in print and reckon it’s some kind of Passat. And that’s what I love about the Phaeton. Discretion, rarity and not a whiff of badge snobbery. But at the same time, it can out-run almost anything and has a wonderful burble. You can also pick them up for ‘peanuts’, every so often. My kind of car in a nutshell. Image © VW.
Fine. I know SUVs attract a lot of venom, but folk still buy them in droves, and I have always wanted to own a decent one – so my inclusion of a 4×4 in my PetrolBlog Real World Dream Barn isn’t out of obligation, to tick a box. I realise the Range Rover may be the ultimate luxury 4×4, but you can maybe tell from my Phaeton entry that I like standing out from the crowd. Forget the previous generation X5 as I don’t like the orange dash’ lighting. Forget the Land Cruiser, too, despite its genuine off-road ability, immense reliability and huge proportions. Owning a Porsche Cayenne or a Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG (which, yes, now cost under £20k, let alone £30k!) would be lovely, but something inside tells me to get a 7-seater for my Dream Barn. The Merc’ GL420 CDI therefore hits the spot, for me. The V8 diesel engine is a pretty strong performer, it has a whole suite of off-road technology to ensure that it’s genuinely capable in the rough stuff, the boxy design means it can carry more luggage than SUVs designed with style as the primary aim, and the two rear-most seats even rise and fold at the touch of a button. I know the GL has a ‘Chelsea tractor’ image and it will be nigh on impossible to find a long-enough parking space in most towns in the UK, but I don’t care – I still want one. Image © Mercedes-Benz.
Having driven a lot of different cars during the last eighteen months of road-testing and writing, if I was asked to state which one offered the most fun for the smallest budget, it would have to be the Suzuki Swift Sport. It’s extremely well built, surprisingly spacious and modern and handles wonderfully. The steering is nice and responsive, the suspension agile, the little engine relatively throaty and zestful. When Gavin reviews cars, one of his scoring categories is how likely you are to look for an excuse to jump in and head out for a pink of milk. The Suzuki Swift Sport certainly proved to be that kind of car during my week with it. Its poise and enjoyableness really egged me on to drive it quite hard and to seek out as many country lanes as possible. For such a smile-inducing and decent all-round package, the Swift Sport is affordable, inexpensive to run and is the perfect small, fun car in many ways. Image © Suzuki.
I reckon one would have to be a BlogNob short of a packet to fail to agree than this car is jaw-dropping in its beauty. An Italdesign creation, the Maserati 3200 GT oozes style and sophistication. I know that owning one of these beauties would be a very emotional experience with many highs and lows, but I would love one in my PetrolBlog Real World Dream Barn. The 3.2-litre twin-turbo V8 sounds amazing and those ‘boomerang’ rear lights are one of the greatest design features ever to be given any car, in my estimation. It’s a shame they dropped the boomerangs for the newer ‘Maserati Coupe’. The gearbox in the 3200 GT may have been a bit clunky at times, but the smooth ride made up for it, as did the strong performance, with a 0-60mph time of 5.6 seconds. Prices for used Maserati 3200 GTs start at about £9k these days, but I would definitely try to buy the newest one I could find for the £30,000 budget, with the lowest mileage. I would nevertheless want to make sure I was getting a good deal, seeing as servicing and maintaining these marvels will no doubt be an expensive labour of love. Image © Maserati.
Blimey, this is the only French car I’ve included in my PetrolBlog Real World Dream Barn! I bet you all thought it’d be crammed full of French cars like the Citroën C6, the Renault Avantime, possibly a Renault 4 and, erm, a Vel Satis. But no, only the DS makes it. And what an iconic beauty she is – the Déesse, meaning goddess. Indeed, many other subsequent Citroën models use clever hydro-pneumatic suspension and are stuffed to the rafters with electronic wizardry. The same can be said of many Peugeot and Renault cars, too. But for me, the DS is the one real icon which set the whole trend going. When I drove a new Citroën DS5 back in October, I couldn’t help but think back to the legendary DS, with its power steering, semi-automatic transmission, a “magic carpet” smooth ride and its opulent and spacious interior. Oh, and its wacky but beautiful looks. The classic Citroën DS is one very cool car. I would have a DS23, the most powerful DS made, powered by a 2.4-litre, 143bhp engine using electronic injection. The funky directional, swivelling headlamps came standard on the Pallas model, and although they are extremely rare, one or two occasionally surface at just under £30,000. Image © Citroën.
Yes indeed, another iconic and beautiful classic in my Dream Barn. The W113 is a roadster with a convertible softtop, but owners could also plump for the optional hardtop roof. Especially from the front and side, the W113 looks amazing and at a quick glance, some modern Mercs seem to have taken the odd design cue from the SL’s styling. The slight snag is that the Pagoda was made for the Yanks, so is incredibly rare in right-hand-drive. Although a 2.3-litre and a 2.5-litre version were produced, I’d opt for the most powerful 2.8-litre model with 170bhp and a 4-speed automatic gearbox. Not that I’ve ever driven or been a passenger in one, but they were allegedly built very sturdily and I’d certainly love to have the choice of being able to lower the roof on an elusive summer’s day and go for a gentle B-road jaunt before parking up in an attractive high street or village for afternoon tea. Image © Mercedes-Benz.
Ever since the A2 was launched, I was hooked on its styling. Thirteen years later and I think they still look every bit as good, with a hewn-from-stone aura of solidity about them, whilst at the same time being cute but not particularly girly. The A2’s modern design and proportions make it quite roomy inside, where the build quality is once again what you would expect from Audi. Made from Aluminium, the little A2 is a lightweight car and was still relatively expensive to pick up second hand, until now. Having a quick scan through the classifieds, you can now pick up a high-mileage 1.4 petrol A2 for around £2,000. Prices for a diesel A2 (again, a 1.4-litre) with around 60,000 miles on the clock have settled at £4,500 on average. You can find loads of examples with leather interiors, BOSE sound systems and even Audi’s Navigation Plus sat nav system with a telly. Filling the City Car space in my PetrolBlog Real World Dream Barn, I’d have none other than the Audi A2. Image © Audi.
Being a seasoned Renault Vel Satis owner, I’m used to, and actually quite enjoy, people asking me “What on earth is that?!” A Vauxhall Ampera therefore aptly fits the bill when it comes to the green choice for my Dream Barn. It’s an extended-range electric car which Vauxhall claim gives you a range of 360 miles. I love the Ampera’s styling and I’ve heard and read only positive things about them. Performance isn’t what you would call sloth-like, either, with 150PS, 370Nm or torque and fettled suspension – which if the Astra GTC’s is anything to go by, will be ruddy good. You can even charge your Ampera at home in a normal domestic 240v socket. The Ampera’s clever battery is partnered by a 1.4-litre petrol engine, which kicks in when the battery’s juice has run out. I’ve never been a fan of the Prius, Honda Insight (Mk2) et al, but the Ampera really does appeal to me. It’s a good job ex-demonstrator examples are currently priced at just under £30,000. Just. Image © Vauxhall.
I apologise, Gav. My intention isn’t to make a joke out of my Dream Barn, but I wanted to include a car that I wouldn’t feel guilty making very short trips in, a car that I could park anywhere and not be worried for its safety, and a reliable car which would just keep on running. My choice is the Toyota Carina E. It’s unassuming and boring, but I once knew a millionaire who also owned a Carina and had covered over 300,000 miles in his, without it missing a beat. Toyotas tend to run and run and so would something a whole load more luxurious and powerful like a Lexus LS400. But I want something to drive down to the local shops in, not worry if the refuse collection wagon accidentally clips it, and not fret if the family pets (or indeed passengers) get it a bit mucky. I would have chosen a Suzuki Jimny or even a Lada Niva 4×4 for their off-road ability, but they are 2-door vehicles and I wanted something with four. I’d go for the 1.6-litre petrol Carina E for that extra little bit more power (all 106bhp of it!), in Charisma Plus trim. Estate versions of the Toyota Carina E are very scarce, which is the only snag, but any that I’ve seen have cost a staggering…wait for it… £800 or so. Image © Toyota.
So there you have it – my decidedly rather German Dream Barn!
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