SATURDAY: Fascinating day: on our way to the Goodwood Members’ Meeting (MM), the Steering Committee and I dropped into Gordon Murray’s HQ near Guildford to witness the first of TVR’s secret customer briefings. This 90-minute experience emphasised what good sense it makes to hold special events for the faithful. Les Edgar and Co, who run TVR, are well aware that those who’ve already parted with deposits needed reassurance, given the delays, and this group received it in spades. The car looks extremely impressive, a ‘proper’ TVR done with modern polish, yet still with the single-mindedness then-owner Peter Wheeler brought to the marque through the 1990s. The cutaway shows all: low, rearward mounting of the V8 in compact surroundings is the big clue to this car’s performance intent. It bristles with modern tech, we’re told, with emphasis on looks, performance, handling and engine note.
SUNDAY: First day of 2017 in the Goodwood bubble, where life is simple and troubles are few. At first, it’s shocking, stirring yourself from the winter torpor, but very soon your mood is as sunny as the colour of Lord March’s daffodils, even if it rains. My MM favourites? Capris, SD1s, Dolomites, Camaros and all those other cars we won’t see at the Revival.
WEDNESDAY: To Vauxhall early, to pick up one of its new Insignia Grand Sport saloons, drive it 100 miles, write a test and have the story on the website to meet a midnight embargo. I was thoroughly impressed with this handsome car, and especially with the pricing. Mainstreamers like this are terrific propositions these days: enjoyable in all driving modes and packed with equipment. The Grand Sport may not have quite the refinement of a BMW 5 Series, but when you’re enjoying driving it, you don’t give such matters a thought.
FRIDAY: It’s amazing how long you can drive a serious performance car without sampling its full, wrung-out potential. Between us, we’ve taken our Bentley Bentayga long-term test car from 250 miles to 7500 – and driven it quickly many times – without finding a place with smooth tarmac and good grip to floor the accelerator and hold it there. Why not? Because (a) such places are hard to find, and (b) the Bentley is so big and quick. This 2.5-tonne car has a 0-60mph time in the low ‘fours’ and a top speed around 190mph. You can’t use that like you would a Caterham. Anyway, I finally managed the full-noise thing. Can’t say where (it was another manufacturer’s space) but the experience was remarkable.
The stunning thing is the departure: applying 602bhp to tarmac as quickly as your right foot can move, with a smart four-wheel drive system as your assistant, has to be experienced to be believed. There’s a squeak from the tyres – all four – and then you’re launched at the horizon at a rate bordering on the violent. Talking 0-60mph, I reach for the famous John Simister quote: this car arrives at your chosen speed without passing through any speeds in between.
Beyond that, even at full acceleration, the refinement takes over. It’s hugely quick but most of all it’s quiet; the eight-speed gearbox precisely metering power and torque at 6500rpm change points. I did this a couple of times to 140mph, then wafted quietly away as if nothing had happened. That’s where today’s best cars are so impressive: they do extraordinary things as if they were normal.