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Run by: Myles Gorfe. Total Mileage: 299,911. Miles since February 2015: 4. Latest costs: £169 for refitting boot hinges, £7401 for harness work (under review) – see last month´s news. £23 for replacing the CV boots again, £12 for tightening the driver´s seat runners, £19 for re-fitting the right mirror, £100 for repairing a transaxle leak, £50 for the flat bed truck, £30 for fixing a leak in the washer fluid tubes.
It´s been a busy month for the Grannie. Len Gudgeon at the Granada Garage replaced the boot hinges again. Over-lubrication with the wrong grade of oil meant the old ones failed to align and they became distorted during a closure test. A distributor cap and new carb showed up from a dealer in Antwerp Continue reading
What is the quintessential modern Jaguar? Hint: It’s not the F-Type.
Upon release, Jaguar made lavish claims about the significance of the F-Type. How it would become the fulcrum of the entire Jaguar range. How successive models would reference its styling. This has proved wildly inaccurate because on the basis of the two most recent model launches, Jaguar’s pivot point is not in fact the F-Type. It’s the XF. Continue reading
Look at all my lovely buttons – so much choice, so little time!
From The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut : “The only controls available to those on board were two push-buttons on the centre post of the cabin – one labelled ‘ON’ and one labelled ‘OFF’. The ON button simply started a flight from Mars. The OFF button connected to nothing. It was installed at the insistence of the Martian mental health experts, who said that human beings were always happier with machinery they thought they could turn off.”
In a companion piece, I’ll shortly sing the delights of a car that entertains, but there’s another side to this. Cars have become complex, with lots of switches and touch-screen options. If you drive a modern car, do you use every option that is available to you? Do you even know every option?
This car falls into the same category as the Mercury Monarch I wrote about a few weeks ago. It´s a dented working car. It´s a pretty ordinary car too, possibly even more ordinary than the Monarch. It´s a small, front wheel-drive monococque vehicle from the lower end of the price range. The engine is mounted transversely and the front suspension uses McPherson struts. In concept terms, it´s the same a VW Golf. Or, in image terms, think of it as a Rover 45 saloon with sporting accents.
During the last decade of the 20th century a wave of retro cars were shown as concept cars or sold as production cars. These vehicles re-used details and characteristics of designs from the 1950s and 1960s or perhaps idea of these times. I will not discuss the reasons for this trend but rather retro design itself, and the two alternatives, modernism and classicism.
I take the view that the best industrial design is impersonal. That is to say, the designer acts as a channel that collects observations about what the user wants and syntheses them with the other demands such as production and marketing. A car is a product which must satisfy the needs of the producer to make a return on investment within the limits of social responsibility (quite broadly defined) and meet the needs of the user. The car is
Or Calibre, if you are writing using British English. I only remembered this one because I saw an example other day. I didn´t know what it was so I thought it must be one of those Chrysler things. Or Dodge things. Or maybe a Plymouth. Whatever.
There was a time when American car interiors were cherishably bad. They might have been a bit careless but they had a humour and brio to them. The Calibre´s is simply bad and dispiriting but is a great example of when simple (good) becomes banal (not good). All the great simple designs have a twist or an inflection or a grace note. This set of straight lines (above) is Continue reading
Obviously I haven´t forgotten it. But nearly every one else has.
Around the late 90s the Japanese car industry had a thing about technology. An arms race between Honda, Toyota and Nissan had the firms vying to outdo one another in the levels of fiendish ingenuity they could tempt customers with. An economic boom drove this boom in engineering silliness. Whereas in Europe and the US the late 80s economic expansion meant more cubic capacity, the Japanese tended to focus on all the other areas of the car. It led to some wonderful creations, hopeful monsters like this all-wheel drive Mitsubishi saloon. Continue reading
Automotive News has reported that the 2016 Cadillac CT6 will be equipped with a twin turbo V-6 (below). We wonder if this device will also power Opel´s possible future range topper, the revived Senator.
This is what Automotive News said: “[a] spirit of innovation will extend to the sedan’s powertrain, with General Motors announcing that an all-new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 will be available under the CT6’s hood. The direct-injected V-6 is estimated to generate 400 hp and 400 pounds-feet of torque. At 133 hp per liter, Cadillac claims, the new engine is one of the most power-dense engines of its type. By comparison, the same-displacement inline six-cylinder found in the BMW 7 series, which is expected to be one of the CT6’s key rivals, generates 315 hp and 330 pounds-feet of torque.” Thanks for those details. But you could have read that at AN yourselves (and if you haven´t, do). What is interesting for me is that this engine could very well also be used to propel a possible Opel Senator to be based on the Buick Avenir, should that make production. This will give a putative Senator a real USP in the market and allow it a fighting chance to compete with BMW, Audi and Mercedes. Continue reading
Phase Four: 1986-1994 – Keeping up appearances
With the British motoring press sharpening their quills against XJ40, Car magazine’s report on their experience of 40,000 miles behind the wheel of an early 3.6 Sovereign sounded a more encouraging note. Summing up their experiences, they stated; “Because it did some things remarkably well, the contrast with the things it did badly was sharper. Mostly it was the detail design that gripped us with despair… It rings of the bells of time running out and shortcut solutions running freely…” Continue reading
I started this a bit of a joke. Having looked at a very great many of Pininfarina´s cars, I had to work hard to find this selection of duds. Actually, I was reminded of a lot of very good concept cars which look great today and should have been made. Also, while the 1971 Pininfarina Ro80 concept has an odd decorative feature on the side, I am convinced this car served as eventual inspiration for a decade of Cadillacs and other GM cars in the 80s.
Take a look at this fascinating article from Drive, with a lot more insight on the 1969 Pininfarina Mercedes.
Automotive News reports that Renault are going to replace the Laguna and Latitude with a single model. Fine. But they said something we have heard so many times before.
“Renault says the Laguna/Latitude replacement will have a more emotional styling.” The bulk of AN´s report details the statistics of the C-D segment. In brief: fewer sold than ever, Renault selling fewer again, losses. What the article doesn´t address is that Continue reading
Bloomberg has reported that Mahindra are rumoured to have plans to purchase Pininfarina.
This news caused Pininfarina´s shares to rise in value. It also presumably caused many car enthusiasts’ hearts to sink correspondingly. However, such a purchase might not be the worst outcome. ItalDesign has been taken over by VW, a firm that does not lack Continue reading
What Lancia shares parts with a Volkswagen?
You might know immediately. I for one had a little stab of fascination to discover there is a VW with which Lancia badges and trim could be swapped over with little effort. Any ideas?
To get you in the mood, think of the Nissan sold as an Alfa Romeo, the Arna. There´s the Lancia Ypsilon sold as a Chrysler Ypsilon. At one point a thing related to the Renault 21 had an Eagle badge and went under the name Medallion. Then we have the Fiats sold as Yugos and Ladas…. Does the Aston Martin Cygnet come in here? There….now have a guess.
Alas, there is nothing green about Porsche´s range, especially when it comes to exterior colours. I checked the Boxster and the Cayenne.
History marks the Audi A2 as a failure, and with vast commercial losses incurred during a six year lifespan, it’s convenient to imagine this. Since 2005, the party line has been that Audi took a brave, risky and ultimately doomed gamble into the unknown; one which was studiously ignored by the buying public. But did they? Continue reading
Land Rover very modestly offer a single, dark green called Aintree Green. They have eleven colours in all.
If you read the accompanying text, LR describe the design as “kinetic design”. I thought Ford owned that term. Unfortunately, the colour range is shown as a sliding bar so you can´t see all the colour at once. Continue reading
In 1993 the Rover 620i faced the BMW 318i, the Citroen Xantia 2.0 and Ford Mondeo 2.0. All of these cars had something going for them. Car magazine judged all four to be “formidable”. Car estimated the BMW to cost €17,000 with a few options thrown in to make it habitable; ditto the Rover though it came with more features as standard. The Mondeo cost only £14,000 in GLX trim (I miss trim designations like that). Citroen wanted £17,500 for their car. So what are these cars worth now?
If you coughed up the extra for the BMW, would you see any of that come resale time 23 years down the line? Was Car right to judge the Rover the best of these four cars: “It is a winner. If we are talking class – and that’s what the upper echelons of the M2 sector are all about – the 620 SLi exudes it. It is not as roomy as appearances suggest, it does not perform with great distinction, and it is no more fun to drive (arguably less) than the Mondeo. But it scores handsomely for comfort, refinement, quietness and build quality. Above all, it imbues the driver of it´s-good-to-be-here well-being that its rivals can´t match. It has style, it has image, it has class.”
As it happens, Jaguar unveiled its new XF today, hailing it as the best looking car in its class. I misread the headline at Automotive News and thought they had done some more unveiling of the XE. You know how these unveilings run and run. Maybe this was the official unveiling of the car for actual sale as opposed to the unveiling for the automotive press or some car show or other. Cars seem to spend a third of their lives being gradually unveiled.
Nothing turned up at Renault though their Clio has 13 colours**. Fiat made it impossible to find out what they had in under five minutes though their website looks nice. I could not be bothered….
Mazda have six colours for their new 2 but not a green. The red costs a remarkable €750 while the other colours are running at €450. White is the only colour that comes at €0. Citroen is another green free zone. The DS5 which is a car for individualists comes in a range of colours limited to six, nearly all of which are some form of grey or black. I really Continue reading
No, it´s not green but a very excellent yellow called Solar Yellow Metallic.
This car is available with a green called “Smaragd Green”. Smaragd is a green mineral of which I have never heard and I have a degree in Earth Science. Opel want €530 for this colour. I think it´s worth it.
The horse before the cart – or was it the other way round?
It hardly seems like an invention but innovators often do something that, with the benefit of hindsight, the rest of us think is so bloody obvious that we can’t see what the fuss is about. So, in 1892, after a couple of years of fiddling around with alternatives, Émile Levassor decided to put an internal combustion engine in the front of the car he was developing with René Panhard, then he connected it to a clutch with, behind that, a simple gearbox which took drive back to the rear wheels. This they continued to develop, producing the forerunner of the manual gearbox we recognise today in 1895.
Le Système Panhard flourished for the next 80 years, becoming the default set-up for a range of vehicles, saloons, sports cars and trucks and, to this day, many claim it is the only set-up for a proper ‘driver’s car’. Both the US industry and its satellites loved it. It became what they knew and it was cheap. Continue reading
As regular readers know, I have been keeping a close eye on colour. On the way out of the car dealer last Sunday I grabbed a colour and trim brochure for the Hyundai i10. What did I find? I find British buyers are being deprived of choice.
To their credit, Hyundai are making their i10 available in ten different colours. Not a single one of them is green and nor will you find yellow. This is not a surprise. On the plus side, there are two deep reds and an orange called “New Orange” in Denmark or “Sweet Orange” in Sweden. They also offer the car in a very regal blue called Continue reading
While The Truth About Cars was informing us on the business model of the Autolib concept, I was thinking about something else.
This is some of what the Truth About Cars wrote: The technology involves lithium metal polymer batteries, developed by Bollore’s Blue Solutions. The batteries, which don’t need liquid electrolytes to store power, are not only lighter in weight than lithium-ion packs, but can be charged up to 3,000 times, and are stable at temps up to 338 F. No one else has gone for the technology thus far, however; Bollore invested €3 billion ($3.2 billion) over three years to develop the EVs and the battery technology now in use by his ventures.” But please go and take a look at the full article and interesting follow-up comments. The bit that I want to add is the Autolib was designed and is built by Pininfarina. Here is the exterior: Continue reading
Classic car sales is not a line of business known for its propensity to change. Thus I am impressed by the efforts made by RK Motors of Charlotte, North Carolina, to invest in their presentation methods.
I chose this film at random and was very taken with the slick visuals to to display the features and quality of the vehicle. While most of the visual moves are directly from the play-book of television automotive advertising, it is noteworthy to see them applied to a single car. Also, while there are adverts one can view on You Tube, the image quality is usually poor. This is chance to view these cars with crisp, high-res pictures. ‘
Following our recent Benchmarks piece on the Renault 5, you will naturally burn to know more about this little French marvel. Ever obliging, we offer this (not particularly short) film on the development and history of the Cinq. Made by Renault themselves, it’s a little hagiographic in parts, but an enjoyable (and informative) trawl nonetheless…
This is not yet another of my pleas for the world to acknowledge the subtle allure of the 2000-2007 Ford Mondeo.
Rather it´s a chance to meditate on the impact of trim on the perception of a car. In this instance we see something quite rare: a Ford Mondeo with all the options thrown at it. The version here is a Ghia in 2.0 diesel guise. It has a body kit which makes it look lower though not excessively so. Chrome accents give the door-handles a boost. The six spoke alloys would grace a Bugatti and finally Continue reading
In 1991 Opel launched the F-series Astra which lasted until 1998. These unsung cars are part of our streetscape and are often overlooked. I took a series of photos of them to document the afterlife of the car.
Neminisis – a tale of a Mini well past its best…
During the 1960’s, BMC assembled Mini’s in Dublin to a standard not vastly dissimilar to that at Longbridge. Make of that what you will. It was from here that MZI 265 – a light grey Morris Mini Minor emerged in 1966. Republic-spec Mini’s straddled basic and De-Luxe models, having carpeting, a heater and duo-tone upholstery, if little else by way of comfort. I know little of MZI’s early history Continue reading
Ever since 1978 (Oct 4, 12.34 pm), the dominant colour range used in car interiors has been tending towards the cool: that would be grey, blue, black. Up until that time most manufacturers offered upholstery, carpet and plastic trim in colours such as ivy green, navy blue, light blue, orange-brown, mid-green, red, bordeaux (what the Truth About Cars insists on calling Bordello Red). I have been looking at colour lately and first noticed a more daring use of tans and browns in concept cars (the most concept-y aspect of most of them) and now this trend feeding into production car interiors. Here is my evidence: the new Hyundai i20.
Now, it´s not the whole door but a substantial part of the door and this enough to lift what could be a quite monotonous interior, colourwise.
I think that if there will be one thing that will be different in the new period of colour, it is that colour will be used as major accents and not Continue reading
A concept that does nothing more than entertain – which is no bad thing
Showcars often drive me up the wall by giving us an idealised version of something that actually will be produced, thus diminishing the effect of the production model. In the case of the 2006 Mille Miglia, I doubt anyone expected to build either it, or a watered down version.
It’s intended as a tribute to the 1938 328 Mille Miglia, though there’s a touch of Jules Verne about it. I often dislike asymmetry in car design, but I enjoy the rear treatment of the MM. It has a lot of nice detailing too, both inside and out.
It was designed in Chris Bangle’s time by Anders Warming, who also designed the excellent first series Z4, which formed the base for this. He also did the second series X3 – but no-one’s perfect.**
** Retraction – see below!
1. Like many significant cars, the 5 was the brainwave of one man; originally created as something of a thought experiment. In 1968, Renault designer Michel Boué sketched the design proposal in his spare time; marking out the now familiar outline superimposed upon a photo of a contemporary Renault 4. Hence the silhouette and unusually tall canopy. Renault design bosses, upon seeing his work, adopted it for production virtually unaltered. Based on the engines and drivetrain of the popular Renault 4/6 models, the R5 is a rare case of inspiration undiluted. Continue reading
Let’s re-create a winner. What could go wrong?
Motoring history has many concepts and show cars that disappointed when they were turned into production models, but equally tantalising are the occasions when a manufacturer has looked back into its own history and tried to re-create one of its own supposed ‘classics’. This is sometimes commercially successful, sometimes critically successful, but those of us in the world of motoring who spend our time considering the automotive equivalent of fitting angels onto pin heads are usually frustrated. Here are some of my own personal disappointments and maybe a success or two.
Mini to MINI : Starting with an obvious one that produces greatly polarised opinions. The styling of Frank Stephenson’s relaunch MINI was a clever update on the original, not too slavish, with its own distinctive detailing and more than a hint of Aston Martin at the front, which made the point that this was not intended as a true successor to Issigonis’s peoples car. Continue reading
Our good friends at Autocar have reported that Chrysler is going to give up and flee the UK market. This will disappoint only those Lancia fans who had a brief chance to buy the Delta and Ypsilon.
I was entirely unaware or had forgotten that Chrysler were selling the Delta in the UK and Ireland. There is one used Delta in stock in the UK, by the way.
Sales of Chryslers were never impressive, 3000 in a good year. The cost of preparing these cars for RHD production must have meant they lost money on each of these unless they had huge success in some RHD market of which I was not aware…Japan? New Zealand?
I looked at the Irish home page for Chrysler and was intrigued. Technically it is possible there is an Irish-registered Chrysler Delta out there somewhere and indeed there is. See below. While the Chrysler spokesman says the reason for the decision to cancel sales was that the cars were not fuel efficient enough, he can only really have meant the Town & Country MPV and 300 C. These were Continue reading
In the middle of a piece of automotive copy the Lump is often found: the engine performance figures. I really don´t care for it much and it´s time it retired.
Typically the worst case is when a model is revised to be even more “ultimate”. As your eyes wander across the lines you stumble across it like a hiker in a mire: Continue reading
In the name of cultural exchange between our two great continents, I have contributed to the blog French Cars In America. I had to compress to 700 words my thoughts on a car dear to my heart.
You can read more of my scintillating prose here.
A copy of Car, Nov. 1975 turned up on my floormat last week. I ordered it so as to read a Giant Test involving the Peugeot 604, the Jaguar XJ 3.4 and the BMW 528. The Peugeot and Jaguar trounced the 528 which lost points for its shabby handling, confined interior and wind-noise. Car concluded that in several areas including ride, roominess and comfort, the Peugeot had bested the Jaguar. Continue reading
A few months back Car magazine ran a very harsh review of the 2015 Nissan Pulsar. You can read the text here (undated) to see all that they said. Ever since then I have been wondering how bad could it be so in the name of half-baked research I went to look at a real Pulsar but didn´t manage to actually drive it.
Key to understanding the Pulsar is this part of the Car review: “The wheelbase of the Barcelona-built Pulsar, at 2.7 metres, is the longest in its class, no doubt helping the supple ride quality, and rear legroom (all 692mm of it) at least matches a Skoda Superb, and might even better it.” A little later on they write: “The Pulsar also has – and be prepared to fall on them faint with amazement – the widest front door armrests in the sector. Spanning 95mm across their softly bolstered width, such cosseting homes for elbows are not usually seen outside the luxury sector, Nissan reckons”. If we overlook the snide aside, the aim of this car is really clear. It´s a Continue reading
Porsche’s win at the 1986 Paris Dakar rally with the 959 must have left some residual sand in their shoes, prompting this piece of conceptual frivolity – the 1989 Panamericana.
Part 911, part Baja dune buggy, part Hotwheels toy, Harm Legaay’s Panamericana was Porsche sounding out its fanbase as to the limits of where the 911 concept could be stretched. As we all know now, the answer was not nearly far enough. So while this concept falls some way short of the detestable Cayenne, it marks something of a casting off point on that journey into the heart of darkness.
Apart from demonstrating how precedents litter the automotive landscape like discarded Lunar hardware, the Panamericana also should also warn us that Aston Martin’s recent DBX concept – while abhorrent, at least isn’t abominable – well not yet anyway.
Boredom drove me to find out what sorts of colours are available for cheapish cars in Brazil. Then I came back to Europe via Japan.
I started out thinking that because Brazil is full of warm and spontaneous people they would have a very lively palette of vehicle colours. Not so. No greens, no yellows and no oranges. And guess which company offers 12 exterior shades for their base model car? We´ll leave that to the end. Continue reading
Here is a great new game for people out and about. It goes by the name “monochrome bingo”. Each player chooses a colour e.g. grey, anthracite, silver or black. Here is an example: seven black cars in a row. Whoever spots the most cars of the same colour in a row by an agreed time wins. Good places to play include airport car parks and Ikea car parks. Car dealerships are not valid areas for play.
Every so often, a concept car symbolises the crossing of an invisible line. Here’s one of them.
The Aston Martin DBX represents the best clue yet to the Gaydon-based marque’s future intentions. Aston Martin’s new CEO, Andy Palmer has stated a version of this car will be produced, telling the Telegraph last week; “The DBX is not an SUV, it’s an expression of a GT sports car; a DB crossing over into that usable space… it will be a five-door vehicle, and it won’t grow much bigger than the DBX.” Continue reading
Underrated. I´ve not seen more than a handful of these. Take another look. That´s a car many people could afford with little effort. Yet few bothered. Market failure, I say.
This is what the AA said: “Perhaps the greatest recommendation for the Astra Sport Hatch is that it feels very similar to the BMW 1 Series, both inside the cabin and in its on-road behaviour. It may lack the much-vaunted 50/50 weight distribution of the BMW but it drives as sweetly, seems just as well built and of course is much cheaper.” And this what Parker´s said: “It’s entertaining to drive too thanks to a lower ride height than the five-door, although the steering still feels a little remote. The cabin is disappointing – it’s a dull design and the switches on the centre console are fiddly to use while the boot is awkward to access due to a narrow opening and high lip. If you can forgive these shortcomings however the Astra Sport Hatch makes a chic three-door and comes with a good choice of engines including some hot hatch rivalling turbocharged units.” Honest John wrote: “Eye-catching looks. Excellent balance between sharp handling and a comfortable ride. Perky yet economical engines. Reliable.” Continue reading
Having sniffed the exhaust pipes of the French and German marques within Europe’s D-segment, we make one last visit to wave a fond adieu to our friends from Japan.
A facelifted Toyota Avensis bowed in at Geneva, featuring front-end styling eerily familiar to current Auris and Corolla owners. It probably represents the last opportunity to purchase one of these while they’re still warm because Toyota has broadly hinted that they may not replace the model once it breathes its last in a couple of year’s time. Continue reading
What one remembers often has little to do with what is important. I clearly recall James Ruppert deriding the 1998 Mazda 626 as being a car whose sole claim to fame was that it had the biggest glove box in its class.
This small and apparently modest claim is a good example of the problem of epistemology. That relates to how we know what we know and how much faith we can have in our beliefs. On the face of it, a glovebox is a simple structure with measurable dimensions. It ought to be easy to determine which glove box is biggest. However, on closer examination the claim turns out to be Continue reading
….is, according to my research, the one fitted to the 2008-2015 Skoda Superb. It holds 633 litres. The rear leg room is astonishing as well. You can fit loads of legs back there.
Since Simon has granted us the discretion to be reasonably subjective, I make no apologies for presenting a set of purely personal benchmarks, which I will make little attempt to defend with any objective data. Continue reading
With the strongest sales of all of the major European producers, German manufacturers remain hugely successful in the mainstream D-segment. Today, we delve below the surface and ask if the figures tell the full story.
In these days, it is usually described as a loss of “mojo”, although I’ve never been certain of what that word actually means. In terms of the launch of the 307, I’d prefer to describe it as a fall from grace. I suppose I could also have picked the transition from 205 to 206 from the same stable, but I think it less obvious and memorable for me.
I think I need to become instantly more specific. The 306 was the chassis benchmark in its class. It was also one of the more lovely looking mid-range hatches of its time, but I think aesthetics are much harder to benchmark, and I am certainly less comfortable opining on the way a car looks under such a heading. As a chassis benchmark, in UK tests at least, the 306 was praised – lauded, even – time and time again. Obviously, this was most prominent for the GTi and S-16 versions of the car, but even lowly 1.4 litre, basic versions were blessed with a deft balance between fun handling and a supple ride. Then, when the more contemporary (but less lithe) looking 307 turned up, something went amiss.
I feel able to comment on this transition as I was a regular renter of hire cars at the time this occurred. More precisely, the company I worked for was prepared to Continue reading
So reports the team at Autocar. It is true that only one firm can sell the cheapest product in a given market. Citroën has noticed that being the next cheapest or quite cheap or cheap-ish is not really getting them very far. Time to try something else.
But can they move away from the corner they are painted into? Price is nicely measurable. You add up the numbers and you get a figure you can compare easily to every one else´s figures. Style on the other hand is a qualitative thing. Once you decide to focus on style you are focusing on something that is much Continue reading
At DTW we pride ourselves on our rigorous analysis and our capacity to separate the news from the hype. Having looked at literally hundreds of thumbnail-sized photos I have been able to sort out the top six yellowest cars from all the other cars that weren´t yellow. I had to be careful though as one yellow car that came up in the search was from 2014. I didn´t include that. By the way, one of these cars, the Mila Plus, is the work of Magna, the Austrian Tier 1 supplier.
In at number six (above) we have the BMW M4 coupe. It´s really busy, this car. The last version was clean and almost Italianate (when the Italians don´t do that any more). I found myself admiring the outgoing car but this one seems like the aftermarket guys from the year 2028 have got to the car already. Is BMW trying to pre-empt the horrible body kits this car will one day be fitted with?