What’s the most out-of-place thing, in an out-of-place place, you can out-of-place? Well in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say. A lot of pounds!
Minding our own business, we were just crossing the road one dark night, me and the fam. The Green Cross Man merrily blinked on and beckoned, and the bus had come to a complete halt beside us. The road was empty otherwise.
And then we all froze with shock as the bus horned blared at us all of a sudden. ‘Flipping heck mate, why’d you….!!!’
‘Holy Mummies, that was bloody close, what the devil was he playing it?!!!!’
I don’t know. Because that second big exclamation was not meant for the bus driver, unlike the first outburst (both more expletive-laden than is depicted here), but for a speeding car that missed us by a half a metre, and flashed past so rapidly that yours truly, yes Me of Motoring Wiseliness, the car-spotting anorak from kiddihood, couldn’t even recall what make or model it was.
In retrospect that Bus Driver deserved not insultations but salutations as a God-send and saviour of the Sheikh Clan right here, because had we continued walking it would have been a night of scraping up the carnage for the forensics team, I can tell you.
And I’ve got to be excused for not instantly ID-ing the mad motor that nearly mauled us, because I’m not quite au fait with the newest cars on the streets of London, as I’ve been out of that market for nearly 12 years.
Oh yes. Pick up your jaws back up. Sit ye downeth to taketh in this surreal shocker! For this near-catastrophic calamity almost occurred not in Krazy Karama or Shaky Sheikh Zayed Road, nor even in Deadly Diera, but in Blooming Blighty!
Having offered a couple of nafils of thanks to the Almighty and throwing in a request that the old bus driver be granted a thousand virgins who all swallow, we decided we’d had enough of this pedantic pedestrianising and reverted to form. It was time to hit the mean streets as a Dubai Driver, it was time to bring a bit of ‘shock and awe’ to the proceedings, it was time to unleash the beast!
Enter stage-right, blasting in down the road from Oxford, a fiery red raver of a thing, an alien to these surrounds, a disturber of the peace, a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.
Oh yes, to navigate the mean streets of ye olde London town, we brought in just about the most inappropriate thing to be seen on these roads – and you know how I know that for sure? In all the gridlocked traffic of this ancient city in dozen or so days that I was there, I never saw one other like this.
I tell you what I did witness though – another two red-light jumpers in action. I kid you not. I haven’t seen that happen in Dubai since… well actually I’ve never seen it. Seems like Red lights are merely a suggestion these days over in lannan tawn – an optional action in a dramatically declined standard of driving quality, in a city where I used to one of the very few tarmac terrorisers (though I categorically state, I NEVER jumped a light!).
Except maybe that one time, years ago, when my friend in the car behind threw me a dummy. Git! But that’s a story for another day.
Anyway this wholesale collapse in driving etiquette that you will witness today, actually somehow takes place in a climate of utter lock-down when it comes to driving freedom. Which to me – now essentially being a non-local – was a call to curtail the usual exuberance and spirit that an SRT (any SRT) would normally arouse in my right hoof. As such, one of the most perfect cars you could own in the UAE – our Red Avenger – felt strait-jacketed and vasectomised on this occasion. And for several reasons…
There are cameras everywhere! I don’t know how those light jumpers risked it, but this place is number two in the world for monitoring everything. There are estimated to be over 420,000 cameras in operation in London alone, and in fact 1.85 million cameras across the country – that’s one for every 14 people.
And these figures don’t necessarily include the speed camera, average speed cameras, mobile speed cameras and now… roving traffic enforcement cameras on top of cars – and wouldn’t you know it, they’re perched on the roofs of the stupidest car in existence, the ridiculous Smart ForTwo.
Then there are all the policemen sleeping on the job – I mean of course speed bumps. Everywhere and anywhere, sometimes every few metres. The solid and firm suspension of the SRT that offers such a stable and controlled ride on our fast smooth roads here, tries to bulldoze the these lying lawmakers, but between them, and the frankly awful state of the pitted and potted roads in general, the shocks on our steed frankly had a far, far harder workout than the relatively untaxed engine.
I don’t mean untaxed in a good way – ie moneywise – indeed I absolutely dread to think of what the tax implications are of running a 6.4-litre HEMI V8, with nearly 470bhp, in the UK. And that’s the next fun-killer. The sheer cost of running this magnificent motor there. Aside from the price (on the road retail is at £70,000 – about AED350,000 or $95,000) compared to AED300,000 here and probably quite a bit less with discounts, there would also, of course, be the high running costs.
The annual road tax is not worth contemplating, the insurance would probably scare the hell out of you, and as for fuel… The best I managed in regular driving around town was 12mpg, which is 23.5L/100km – and I’ve done a lot better than that here – remember I ran a 300C SRT and sometimes dropped it below 10L/100km. The slow stop-go congestion kills the economy on a big lusty V8 over there.
All those complaining about the rising cost of fuel in the UAE (currently at AED1.92 per litre for 95 Octane) get a load of this – there it’s £1.18 per litre on average (that’s nearly AED6.00 per litre) and can go as high as £1.36. All of which means it is at least THREE TIMES the price of petrol here! So if it costs say about a AED100 to fill your car here, it’ll cost about AED300 over there!
Which of course means that this was the gentlest and slowest I’ve ever driven an SRT – I literally only gave the poor thing more than half throttle on one occasion, and that was just to remind myself that it was indeed still one of the most epic engines in existence.
But then I immediately felt guilty, I sensed a dozen dirty looks or more thrown in my direction, I swear I could hear the under-breath tut-tutting even over the din of the revs. At that moment I was an anti-social wanker in his expensive SUV, a posey showoff with a tiny appendage, a vulgar vulgarian in an utter vulgarity. I could feel the hate vibes drilling into me.
I would vehemently and winningly argue against each of the thousand stereotypes hurled at me at that time, but there wouldn’t be any point, because they are all underpinned by one overriding depressing fact – London hates the automobile. So we all got out our Oyster cards and jumped on the tube instead.
Yeah, but okay, I gotta admit, for a while, driving a totally out-of-place Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT in London – which is a bit like encountering the Incredible Hulk living in his own place and having an organised daily routine… oh wait… Never mind that. Anyway, driving this car there was a heck of a cool and maverick thing to do.
This SRT totally defies any angle of logic there, and peddling it on those roads certainly put a defiant grin on my face and stirred a rebellious streak in my soul. Ignore the haters and you realise the Grand Cherokee SRT is so crazy, it’s brilliant, even if you’re harnessed by a chastity belt whilst behind the wheel. So to speak.
So you know what, screw it. Let all the middle fingers and pumping wrists be ready: next time I’m back in London, I’m booking a Dodge Demon!