“Ignoring that I don’t want that man ever speaking to my sister, Miss Horrell, what about calling me struck you as a good idea? I can’t say I understand. I’m not interested in contact with any of your family. Quite frankly, I can’t stand the lot of you.

“It’s rather simple, Mr. Fedorov. Whether you are interested or not doesn’t matter. It’s Natalya we’re trying to get into contact with.”

“Yes, but why?

She goes quiet, and that’s not exactly helping her argument.

“…I myself am not sure, but-”

Goodbye, Miss Horrell.” 

He won’t let her make excuses for that man. The call is over, and Michael has no plans to answer any more today. Can’t they leave him alone? Leave Nata alone? No good comes from being involved with them.

The Vauxhall Viva is coming back

And it just got a lot smaller. Paul Horrell reports on Vauxhall’s upcoming VW Up rival

Vauxhall might not want us to show you the picture above, because it’s a creaky old car. But in your Grandpa’s day it was a much-loved and big-selling one. The Viva. So the name is coming back.

It’s the badge the company will use for its new baby car. It’ll give them a three-model small-car range. The Viva is the cheapest one, then the Corsa - itself just about to be renewed - and the Adam.

Interestingly, the Viva name won’t be used in the rest of Europe, we’re told by a senior Vauxhall source. Likely over there it’ll be called Agila, the name of the car it replaces. Indeed, the Viva name hasn’t been officially announced, but it’s something Vauxhall has researched and found the public likes, and “I can’t say but if you asked me I’d smile,” said our big-cheese.

All of which means Vauxhall is dead-set on selling more small cars in Britain than anyone else. Including the mighty Ford. “We’ll give Ford a bloody good run for their money in small cars. We’ll have three great small cars. They have the Fiesta, which is great, and the Ka, which isn’t,” said Vauxhall’s boss Tim Tozer. [x]

First drive: the new BMW 7-Series

The new 7-er isn’t just a big, bad saloon, it’s also the future of BMW. Paul Horrell drives it

This new 7-series is a wildly important car for BMW. That’s not immediately obvious. After all, the blue and white badge probably conjures thoughts of a well-specced 3-series or maybe an M5.

But the brand-new 7-er matters. Not only because it’s their flagship, the best they can do, but also because it’s the launchpad for a complete renewal of all the ‘conventional’ BMWs - everything except the small FWD series, and the i cars.

So the prototype 740iL I’m driving isn’t just a limo for Florida cosmetic surgeons and young Chinese entrepreneurs. It’s a window into the future of BMW. [x]

Driving the BMW i8 around California

Is this the most important car of 2014? Paul Horrell reports from Venice Beach and beyond.

Surely Venice Beach – California’s longtime centre of the humous-fed and the countercultural – shouldn’t go quite so big on a £100,000 German sports car. But by 8am, as the place blinks itself awake, the i8 is already driving people berserk. “Woo, that’s sick, man,” offers an early-rising surfer. “Is it a 2014 or a 2015? It’s a hybrid? Runs on energy an’ all that? Tesla ain’t got s**t on this, man.” OK, he might not be entirely up to speed on the physics of the topic, but round here alternative-propulsion cars are hot, and one that looks like the i8 is hot squared.

Which is all very fine if you commute on a skateboard, but Venice Beach can’t expose whether the i8 passes muster to the Top Gear mindset. We need to be clear of traffic and onlookers. Twenty miles away, the Santa Monica mountains rise from the coast. So I fold myself inelegantly up, scramble over the i8’s high sill, pull down the wing door, strap in and touch the e-drive button. Silently the i8 glides off in the direction of some of California’s best roads. [x]

The VW emissions saga is snowballing into one of the biggest scandals in automotive history, with 11 million cars implicated, a huge chunk wiped from VW shares, and CEO Martin Winterkorn standing down.

But what does it all really mean? TopGear.com’s industry expert Paul Horrell answers your questions, such as:

We always knew emissions tests were a pile of rubbish. Why does this matter?

Do not confuse the VW case with the near-universal phenomenon of cars consuming more fuel – or emitting more pollutants or CO2 – in real-world driving than in the official test.

The point is if you drive any car at the speeds the economy test cycle mandates, you should be able to get the same result. It’s just that the test cycle involves driving so gently and slowly that no one would. Jerky acceleration in stop-start driving will emit more NOx, which is why even after decades of ever-tighter exhaust emissions control, ambient NOx on Britain’s busiest urban roads still peaks at officially defined danger levels.

But the VW cheat goes further. Even if the car is driven in the same way as the test cycle, it emits more NOx. Only when it is driven as per the cycle, and is mounted on a dyno, does the engine reconfigure itself to meet the emissions test. That likely dents performance and maybe economy too, because more power tends to mean more NOx. (Read more)