Letter from Europe December 2017


Letter from Europe

by Andrew Frankl

European Bureau Chief

I am afraid things have going somewhat crazy of late, hence the lack of reporting.

The most interesting and relevant thing that happened to was the saga of recharging electric cars. What a pain.


Even with a car as excellent as the e-Golf SEL Premium which costs 39 thousand dollars. It really is very good. In case you’ve never driven a Golf let me point out that for young folks in Europe the Golf GTi has been the gold standard for some 40 years. Delightful manual gearbox, lots of room inside, great handling, good brakes so in a nutshell all VW had to do was to throw in a 100kW electric motor and hey presto they had a hit on their hands. It will do about 120 miles between charges, a great deal more than either the little Fiat or Nissan’s Leaf.

I know one day Tesla will iron out the manufacturing problems and that their baby Tesla will-allegedly do as well as the VW for about the same money. One day.

My problems related to the charging station. It is a good 10 minutes walk from where I live. It so happens the weather was great and the station’s instructions are well lit.

I called, they were helpful, informed me that charging was free at this particular station so that was great. As was the walk home. In Northern California . In the mid-West it would have been different.

Of course if your commute is 30-40 miles a day and you can charge either at home or at the office then the e-Golf is definitely a buy. If you want to go skiing in the Sierras from say San Francisco then the e-Golf is not for you. Nobody in the World will wait 5.3 hours.

I must say I have never ever seen an EPA report where a car, any car got a perfect 10. Until now! Well done VW!


The little, pretty and peppy Fiat 500e was a delight while it lasted. But the minute you booted is the gauge dropped very rapidly indeed. It also has two doors, limited access to the back so unless you there are just two of you and not 6 ft 3 tall then you would probably love the way the Fiat dodges in and out of traffic. But make sure you live near a charging station because the Triple A man cannot help beyond a tow.

Which brings be to Infiniti’s baby, the QX 30. Equipped with an engine I would describe as modest and with that stop/start gizmo that scares me silly (it only has to go wrong once..)


But it has a very beautiful interior with red stitching straight out of Ferrari’s songbook.

The price is a pretty steep 43 thousand dollars, including 8 grand worth of extras

The stitching is very pretty and it does make the car’s interior a great deal more attractive but whether you want to pay for the privilege-especially if you have small messy children-is debatable.

The tech package on the other side is an absolute must, especially the blind spot warning. The wipers-front and rear- something nobody ever talks about- are brilliant.

The navigation package is this age of Waze, iPhone and all that you could argue about it for 1800 dollars.

Re the performance..it is all right but nothing to write home about. The 2 liter 4 cylinder engine is sufficient but could do with a little bit more power.

The gearbox is great, the independent front and rear suspension is fine and I love the 7 speed gearbox. With my legendary light right foot I was getting over 33 miles per gallon.

I have had a look at used car prices for the QX30 and found nice ones at around 26 thousand dollars.

Infiniti has itself a nice niche with sales of over 124 thousand sold so the year. My personal Infiniti favorites are the QX 60 and the QX80, the latter for a trip to Squaw is just unbeatable.

The QX30 is just one size too small for me.

Mind you-if the New York Times is correct in a few years time we will all be sitting in autonomous automobiles. Quite what will happen to the over 200 million "normal" cars on the roads of the United States I have I idea.

The bit that amazed me was the idea of young folks armed with GPS jammers (!!) going off to secret destinations in one of these robotic cars without a care in the World. At this rate these contraptions will have to include mobile maternity wards as well..

The A5 coupe with a 2 liter turbo engine is an absolute must if you live in one of the new apartment blocks in San Francisco (preferably not the one that is leaning) ands you work for Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo or any other of the tech company and you belong to the Battery Club then the Audi coupe is definitely for you . Fast, comfortable for two with some access to the back, ready for a quick trip up to Squaw Creek - it is a Quattro after all- or a blast down to the Ritz Carlton for Sunday brunch. I think you get my drift. If you have lots of children then the Q7 offers lots more room.

Now the bad news. Two major companies have put on their black lists. One is Ford Motor Company-who gave me my first job- and the other is Mercedes Benz.

Boss man Dieter Zetchke is an old mate from the days he was running the truck divison but I can hardly phone him up in Stuttgart saying hello Dieter, well done on winning the World Championship and can I have a test car please.

No. Unfortunately their PR head honcho –used to be a nice ,helpful person-seems to have elevated himself into an ivory tower surrounded by sycophants. As someone who was proud owner of CAR Magazine in Britain (50%) we never stood for that nonsense and I am certainly not going to start now. The local dealer is nice and helpful but I don’t want to get him into trouble.

So that’s that. As for Ford, that is really comical. I was told that I drive for the wrong audience. I suppose Marin County is not exactly their favorite place as it is dominated by Prius, especially in Mill Valley where you get funny looks if you turn up in anything else.

Oh well , c’est la vie as the French say. Another year of happy motoring with The Auto Channel which just goes from strength to strength !

Happy holidays, Andrew Frankl European Bureau Chief