‘Going back to nature’ in Nissan’s X-Trail SUV?!

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‘Let’s offroad’, said no one in a Nissan X-Trail, ever

Yesterday I ditched my 21st century gadgets and reverted to my inner caveman. I left the comfort of my warm home office and instead found myself learning how to use a type of fungus to light my own fires on an exceptionally cold day in Sussex (I think I’m still thawing out now.)

Only I didn’t. Not really. Basically it was all an elaborate, tongue-in-cheek publicity stunt to link Nissan’s latest 2 litre X-Trail SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) to the concept of Adventure with a capital A. Nevermind, that the biggest adventure this particular 4×4 will face is probably a trip to the admittedly quite steep Marks and Spencer’s car park in north London’s Muswell Hill.

The idea is that this is a vehicle for rugged, bearded, check shirt wearing, adventurer types who love nothing better than foraging for their own food and slinging a bit of roadkill on the back seat for supper. Not (of course) a relatively cheap and cheerful SUV which people will buy for the higher driving position and large amounts of legroom (as well as the fact there is the possibility of a dog-friendly edition for pet owners. See here).

OK I get it. But I must say that really I would much rather sit inside in front of a warm log fire, lit quickly with a Zippo, than rummaging around for bits of twigs and getting my hands dirty in dark bits of fungus that look suspiciously like sheep poo. In the same way as I would much rather make a call on my mobile than tie two bits of string together and put a tin can on either end.

Given the age we live in though, it’s perhaps not surprising to hear that there are even companies that specialise in these ‘back to nature’ excursions, including the one we were with: Hunt, Gather, Cook. A kind of culinary paintball for angst-ridden Londoners.

Founded around seven years ago by a guy who left a chef’s job in the capital and who described himself as a ‘fire enthusiast’ (don’t we call them arsonists), it specialises in taking people into the wilderness where they can learn different animal slaughter techniques. Nice.

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For a man who had to hide in the bushes with three quarter length trousers and no socks in virtually sub-zero temperatures, the ‘bearded hipster’ was a surprisingly cheerful chap!

Thankfully as a vegetarian, I was spared having to kill any innocent creatures to satiate any primal needs. Instead, the biggest challenge I faced was finding a ‘bearded hipster’ in a farmer’s field, see picture above, and making a fire so that he could have a much needed soya cappuccino. It’s all in day’s work!

But the day wasn’t just spent larking around the countryside making fires and rescuing pretend, stranded hipsters. As well as genuinely taking the X-Trail off road – albeit on the nursery slopes compared to the black runs intended for more serious SUVs – I also interviewed a guy who is setting off in a modified Nissan Leaf on the 10,0000 mile Mongol Rally with only his wife for company. Now that’s a brave man.

You can read the story about the Mongol Rally here: http://www.techdigest.tv/2017/04/adventurer-chris-ramsey-to-undertake-10000-mile-mongol-rally-in-nissan-leaf-electric-car.html. Full YouTube video to follow. 


Driving the Audi Q2 around Suffolk on a perfect Autumn day


Life’s not bad sometimes. Yesterday was a great day, one of those crisp but cold autumnal days, a perfect driving day. What made it even better was that I spent it in Suffolk – a part of England I know well and love – test driving the new Audi Q2.

I’m going to write a much longer piece on the Q2 on Tech Digest and Shiny Shiny on Monday but suffice to say for now it’s an interesting compact SUV, Audi’s first model in this new sector, designed to compete with models like the new Mercedes GLA series of cars and the Nissan Juke.

Not only did I get to drive around my old Suffolk stomping ground (pictured above is the Q2 in Southwold next to some splendid beach huts), but I also stayed in the amazing Wilderness Reserve at Sibton Park, close to Yoxford. Set in a 5,000 acre estate (yes 5,000 you did read that correctly), it’s an amazingly remote location where you have to get a golf buggy from the country house entrance to your cottage – that’s after you’ve driven half a mile down the driveway!


The scallop on Aldeburgh beach, a tribute to the composer Benjamin Britten who walked along this beach in the afternoons

I also checked out the outdoor pool (see below) on the estate during my stay, leaving my luxurious room in the splendid old walled garden at 6.30 am to wander across moor land to plunge into water that was around 20 degrees (I was told it was heated to 26 degrees which was a lie!), surrounded by sheep and pheasants.

What an invigorating experience that was! And don’t be fooled by the steam in the picture below. With air temperature only around 5 degrees it was cold – honest.

Anyway thanks to Audi for the trip. And great to make new friends including Dad blogger John Adams and fashion influencer/Instagrammer Rahul Patel. See you at the next one guys!

You can see a video on YouTube that I made about all the tech on board the Audi Q2. 

You can read my review of the Audi Q2 here


The outdoor pool at the Wilderness Reserve in Sibton, near Yoxford, Suffolk. Not massive but it’s not often you swim next to sheep and pheasants!



The new Audi A4 – is the most tech driven car ever?

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The last couple of days I’ve been with Audi in Newbury, driving round the edge of the Cotswolds in a swanky new A4. As a driving experience there’s not that much you can say about it – it handles well and is powerful. Put it this way you need to keep looking at the speed dial on the motorway to keep to the speed limits which of course I did!

But as a piece of technology this is like no car I’ve ever driven before. It’s quite simply breathtaking and a little bit overwhelming. As well as all the bleeping safety features these new cars are stuffed with (most of them I turn off because ironically they are too distracting when driving), there’s also a really impressive entertainment system.

As well as onboard ‘Jukebox’ (digital media player) there’s also the option of hooking up two smart phones so you get Google Maps, Spotify etc through the large LCD display (there’s even an inductive charging base for Android phones so you don’t need to use the USB charging ports).

I’m going to write a full report on the Audi A4 for Tech Digest over the weekend but in the meantime here’s a taster via a YouTube video I shot with the A4 Product and Marketing Manager, Katie Purcell, in which she talks about just some of the onboard tech features.

Unfortunately there’s not time for her to talk about all of them such as the head up display which projects the speed you are travelling directly in front of you so you don’t need to look down at the cockpit display while driving. It’s all clever stuff, you know.