Screw you, Ricky. Just… SCREW YOU.
It’s happened again. It’s only bloody well happened again. I’ve gone out in a fancy car that’s WAY BEYOND MY DRIVING CAPABILITIES and I’ve become stranded by its goddamn keyless starting.
Except this time I’m not in my own country. I’m in the middle of nowhere about 30 miles east of Rome, at a toll booth, and I’m not going to be able to start this car, this exceptionally lovely Hyundai i30 N.
And it’s all Ricky’s fault. Ricky being the car journalist I was paired with, who I dropped off at the airport so I could go and properly test out the iPhone 8 integration on this badass powerful beast of a car in the Italian countryside.
Maybe stop off and have an espresso. Buy a battered leather briefcase. Converse with beautiful people while we gaily laughed and showed off our phones.
But no. Ricky took the muthaflippin’ key with him when I dropped him off, and you need the key in the vehicle - obviously - when you want to start the car again. This is bad. Really, really bad.
What’s worse is that I was ready for this. Not five minutes before I had pulled over to take some pictures of the i30N and sync the iPhone 8 and the car properly.
This was the first vehicle I’d driven with wireless charging in - thankfully, the Qi standard so I could use the iPhone 8 Plus I’m reviewing - and I wanted to see how well integrated CarPlay was.
This was all I had to offer from this press trip - the rest of the journalists being dedicated car writers, and far more accomplished than me at driving. (Ricky being one of them - but he’s getting no love from me. The bastard.)
But just as I was about to stop the engine, I paused. I remembered what happened last time when I was stranded in a Ford Mustang (opens in new tab). I checked for the key and realised it was nowhere to be found.
Hyundai i30 N
On sale: January 2018
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo
Power output: 271bhp
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Fuel efficiency: 40mpg
Price: Starts at £24,995
Smug doesn’t cover it. On the one hand, I didn’t have the key for the car, on the other, I’d averted a serious problem - and as I was about to drop off the car to the Hyundai folk at the airport, it would be their problem, not mine.
I plugged in the iPhone nonetheless (the CarPlay connection was instant, and the touchscreen highly responsive,), drove on, having a little sing to myself and pumping up the music to match my jubilation. I had learned. I was a grown up human and the last column had not been in vain.
I approached a toll to get back onto the motorway, slung the car into neutral, made sure the handbrake was on, and wound down the window… keeping my foot on the clutch just in case. Can’t be too careful, after all. I wasn’t going to let Ricky get the better of me.
I couldn’t reach the toll booth to stick my money in. It was too far, the ride height of this hot hatch too low for me to stretch my arm from. ‘It’ll be OK,’ I thought. ‘I’ve done all I can.’ I eased my foot off the clutch.
My blood ran cold. I looked down… It wasn’t in neutral. I had stupidly not taken it properly out of gear, my jubilation forcing me to get sloppy.
I nearly screamed. My smugness smashed me square in the face a thousand times over. It. Had. Happened. Again.
I nearly wept.
By this point, I’d replayed my entire time with Ricky and decided he was pure evil, and this was all pre-ordained.
Our drive down from the hotel to the race track, where Ricky had helpfully told me all about the car from a specialist journalist’s perspective, given me advice about how to use the car to its full potential on the track, and how I’d shown him where Apple CarPlay was and how to wirelessly charge a phone - where he pretended I’d done a good thing like a parent telling a child they’d done well not to fall down the stairs.
It was all a ruse. He’d been planning this all along. While I enjoyed charging down the Italian motorway, he was chortling behind his hand at how he was going to leave me stranded in a foreign country.
I didn’t want to have to write this story. The point was going to be lamenting the fact the in-car entertainment industry is at a crossroads, how wireless charging is inside many vehicles now, but wireless CarPlay is not - which is irritating.
The iPhone 8 Plus fits nicely in the Qi charging slot, which also doubles as a perfect place to store the phone… but not with a lead connected. That seemed to be having an effect on the sound output, the connection constantly dropping out, the sound spitting and spluttering, likely to do with the pressure being put on the Lightning port.
But that didn’t matter now. Who gives a crap about how speedy the touchscreen is when you can’t turn the car on?
I looked about, not knowing what to do. I don’t speak a lot of Italian, and it definitely doesn’t stretch to "OK, this isn’t my car and no, I don’t know who owns it and no, I don’t have the key but I need to get back to the airport for a flight in an hour".
The dashboard was still lit up though - maybe there’s some anti-stall kicked in? Maybe I hadn’t dropped it fully? I depressed the accelerator, but nothing came back.
In hope, rather than expectation, I pressed the clutch down and hit the start button with a screwed-up face… and it starts.
IT STARTS! IT STARTS! IT STARTS! I genuinely nearly wept for joy, and screamed out in triumph.
Maybe the key was in here somewhere - so I had a longer look around. Then I felt the central console under my right arm - I lifted it up and there it was inside: the key. Ricky hadn’t left me to die. He’d been willing me to succeed the whole time.
I made my way through the toll and carefully got onto the motorway, heading back to the airport as fast as I could - the sadness of letting this powerful car go far outweighed with the spectre of my inability to handle performance vehicles alone.
I want to extol the performance of the Hyundai i30 N, but it’s very hard - as anyone who read the last column knows, I drive a poo-colored Nissan Note, so anything with a decent amount of power under the fast pedal will impress me.
It is a comfortable ride though, the different driving modes offer something really different and I was able to fling it around the track with a touch of aplomb without spinning off into the gravel - this is a track car that the inexperienced driver can handle.
As long as you never turn it off.
- John McCann (and for one week only (again), Gareth Beavis) is getting behind the wheel to give you an alternative look at the wealth of cars - and the tech inside them - available today. From superfast sports cars to tech-packed hatchbacks, he'll take you through a range of makes, models, power and price tags in his regular TR Drives column.