BMW has responded to powerful new rivals with updates for the M5 and M6 - including a racy new 575hp Competition Package option
Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion: month six
Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion 1.6 TDI 105
On fleet since: June 2010
Official combined mpg: 74.3 (99g/km CO2)
Actual mpg: 57.0
Performance: 0-62mph 11.3secs / 118mph
Power/Torque: 105@4,400rpm / 185@1,500rpm
List price: £18,715
Insurance group: 18
Options fitted: Leather multi-function steering wheel, gearknob and handbrake (£430), metallic paint (£430), alarm (£220), Multi-Device Interface stereo with central armrest (£340)
Price as tested: £20,135
Pros: Extra mobility from winter tyres, manageable economy penalty
Cons: Engine so efficient it's slow to warm up
Where have we been?
The Christmas period was one of daily snow drama, as most of the country seemed to grind to a halt. Except us.
See, we've been enjoying the full benefit of our Continental winter tyres, which we fitted to the Golf just before the snow fell long and hard. Good timing or what?
Their advantages were felt right away - because the temperatures dropped. A common misperception of winter tyres is that they're only good in the snow. Not so - if the temperature's below seven degrees, they're offering added benefits over normal tyres.
This is because the rubber is constructed from a different compound that doesn't 'harden' when it gets cold. And because they're more flexible, they're better able to grip the road. Chunky construction also disperses rain, snow and ice with skill.
The payoff, we felt from the off, was a slightly jigglier ride quality and more 'rubber' steering. Perhaps unsurprising, the latter, given how much more 'rubbery' the tyres were! Most importantly though, how did they fair on our Golf Bluemotion?
How did the Golf drive on winter tyres?
It takes surprisingly little snow to grin the country to a halt, it seems. Normal tyres go hard, which means they struggle to get any sort of grip on the road surface. When snowfall's as heavy as it was in December, you really stand little chance unless you're prepared.
We were: and the Golf Bluemotion thus went pretty much everywhere we would have done without the snow. You can feel the additional grip below, giving you purchase on the road surface, no matter what's below.
No, they can't defy the odds - but even when you do lose traction on winter tyres, it's more gradual and measured, coming with plenty of warning thanks to greater feel through them.
F1 drivers talk about 'feel' from the tyres: here's how to improve it on your road car for 5 months of the year. Combined with the sportyish suspension of the Golf itself, we found ourselves with quite the all-weather driver's car. That really was near-unstoppable...
What about the fuel economy?
The interesting test here was to see how the fuel economy varied. A big part of the Bluemotion changes are the low-rolling resistance tyres. These reduce rolling friction without affecting cornering grip: up to 15% of fuel is said to be used simply to overcome this.
We had been averaging just under 65mpg. Now, with the winter tyres (and the snowy weather), it has dropped - to a nice round 57.0mpg. On the face of it, that averages out to be a circa 10% penalty for fitting winter tyres.
Don't forget, though, wintry conditions are more challenging, particularly driving through the snow. We weren't able to flow progress as smoothly, and often found ourselves stopped by cars that were struggling or stranded.
What's more, so cold was the weather, the engine rarely got up to full operating temperature, meaning even more penalties in terms of efficiency (there really is a BIG difference between 'cold' and 'hot' economy in any car - consider this if you do lots of short journeys!).
So, in all, we'd say the economy plunge is pretty impressive. We've traded 10% fuel economy for the ability keep running in almost any weather - and, when summer comes, we can take them off and restore our original 65mpg-plus economy.
That's a fair bit more economical than trading in for an off-roader - and it's also more efficient than the old 4Motion Golf TDI that was sold in the previous version. In short, if you want to get about in the winter, get your winter tyres on...
What next for the Golf Bluemotion?
We're going to keep the Contis on for a while - it's still winter, after all. We want to see how economy fares now the weather's gone back to normal: just what is the economy penalty? We're also keen to see how they wear, given our motorway mileage.
Otherwise, though, it's plodding on as normal. Great thing about the Golf Bluemotion is that it does everything you throw at it, making you feel that bit more special in the process. As the mileage tops 11,000, long may it continue.
Report 1: VW Golf Bluemotion arrival
Report 2: VW Golf Bluemotion gets a run-in
Report 3: VW Golf Bluemotion's mpg adventures
Report 4: VW Golf Bluemotion attracts attention
Report 5: VW Golf Bluemotion gets the blues
Report 6: VW Golf Bluemotion vs winter (this report)
Report 7: VW Golf Bluemotion hits a snag
Report 8: VW Golf Bluemotion final report
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
A significant horsepower boost and some restyling brings the Aston Rapide on leaps and bounds
Date 21/05/13, Duration 2:30, Views 679