Brand-MINI is facing its biggest adventure yet. This one however, may not end well…
It has been a fairly interesting week for BMW’s Oxfordshire outpost. MINI has been one of many UK-based carmakers predicting doom-laden scenarios should the British government’s hapless negotiating team fail to obtain a workable deal to exit the European Union early next year.
Today we have a Twix of an article, considering two recent offerings from DS and BMW with a side-order of architectural musing.
At the risk of being pretentious, these designs ask one to reflect on what Farshid Moussavi discusses as the function of style (in relation to buildings but it is true of design generally).
“What is style? Whether used to identify an individual architect’s oeuvre, or to indicate some common features in a place or a period, “style” has historically been the word employed. Embedded within this usage,” writes Moussavi “are several dubious and conflicting assumptions. Firstly that style consists in the repetition of formal elements. Second that style is the product of an individual personality. Thirdly, that style relates to something larger and less tangible than the actual buildings thatContinue reading “Here’s Your Samarra, The Tinders And Brush Await You”
It doesn’t happen all that often, but the latest confection from DS Automobiles has your correspondent utterly confounded.
I don’t know. I genuinely don’t. What does one say nowadays, when every recent new car announcement feels like another assault? Does there come a point when through exhaustion or simple attrition, one is forced to simply Continue reading “Lost For Words”
In 1968, Jaguar put all its saloon car eggs in one decidedly comely basket. We examine the likely causes.
In 1964, a series of factors led Sir William Lyons to take the momentous decision to replace Jaguar’s multiplicity of saloon models with a single car line, betting the entire enterprise upon its success. Retrospectively of course, one could say he needn’t have worried, but at the time, it must have been a deeply anxious moment.
Driventowrite is the name and to some extent the “driven” part corresponds to a form of sub-clinical obsessive-compulsive disorder related to arm-rests in mid-size passenger cars. But there’s a bit more to it than that.
That’s why today’s car is here**. I would absolutely love to know what decision-making process led Opel to drop the rear-centre arm-rest in their “J” series Astra (2009-2015) while Ford decided that the rear-centre arm-rest would grace the saloon version of today´s Focus (but not the estate or hatchback). Actually I think I know… we’ll Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 2011-2017 Ford Focus Saloon”
Today we remember Ford’s 1998 roadster concept which championed the freedom of the open road for four, and pay tribute to its designer.
While four-seater convertibles are reasonably common commodities, four-door roadsters, have never quite caught on. But just as nature abhors a vacuum, car designers tend to view received wisdom as something to be challenged.
At the 1998 Chicago Auto Show, when such events took place in the ‘Windy City’, Ford’s US design team, under the leadership of J Mays presented a concept, while not entirely new, had not really been attempted at this scale before. Continue reading “Formula Libre”
We return once more to my desperate attempt to make design semantics interesting to people outside the design profession.
Far from being a distant irrelevance to those practicing design, researchers cotton on to things which merely take time to be understood. If we are wondering today why current design is so over-wrought, there are those to whom this will not be a surprise. Should you be so diligent as to
Coincidences happen and don’t mean anything. Still, they add a touch of poetic interest to our otherwise unstructured and meaningless lives. Here’s one that actually happened to me!
About a week ago I was walking home from the supermarket. I think I’d bought some onions and some sliced bread (I like toast in the morning sometimes). Exactly as I passed the doorway of the rather good hamburger joint on the street, my subconscious mind notified my conscious mind that I could not Continue reading ““What It Is Really Like To Be A Fictional Person””
Sometimes it’s necessary to look back in order to move forward.
It’s a slightly forlorn image would you not agree? An elegant, if vaguely unsatisfying looking 1960s Italian GT is parked upon a deserted beachscape. The photo comes courtesy of the estimable Mr. Christopher Butt, he of the influential and painstakingly curated Auto-Didakt. The car? Well, you can read Christopher’s well-chosen words on this carrozzeria unicorn here, should your curiosity get the better of you.
The image serves as something of a visual metaphor – for the demise of the carrozzieri, of course, but also for something more. But first, some background. As our Auto-Didaktic cohort points out, during the post-war period, French and Italian coachbuilders struggled to Continue reading “Surf’s Up”
In an anti-climax to the series on the Triumph Acclaim, we summarise the legendary LJKS’s first review of the car for Car Magazine.
“It is a delightful car to drive, but it is so ugly that too few people will ever discover that. Or so I thought when I was fresh from trying the Acclaim, lamenting the need to fetch customers into the showroom and put them into the car and onto the road before they closed their minds to the purchase. If only they could Continue reading “Selling England by the Pound”
Very recently this author was immersed for three days in the world of the aesthetics of design. Dieter Rams’ name came up.
Deiter Rams worked as Braun’s chief designer, having a desk there from 1961 to 1995. It occurred to me that I agree with the whole lot of Rams’ principles which are opposed to zany, aggressive styling and yet I am a known liker of cars such as the Nissan Juke and Toyota CH-R.
People will also know of other zany and aggresssive designs which offend to a degree and I don’t dislike all of them. I have come to accept some zaniness is quite okay (maybe it’s resignation). Is there any way I can Continue reading “The Last Letters Of Carpenter”
In this second instalment, we examine the XJ6’s technical package.
Sanctioned in 1964, XJ4 was intended to launch in 1967, which seems in hindsight to have been a rather optimistic timescale. The project team would be led by Bob Knight, Jaguar’s senior development engineer and one of the finest conceptual minds of his era. The Browns Lane engineering department at the time was something of a collection of minor fiefdoms, most of whom Continue reading “The Quintessence : Part Two”
“Electric now has a Mercedes.” Yes, but have you seen it?
“EQ or Electric Intelligence by Mercedes-Benz is our electric mobility brand. EQ represents ‘Emotion and Intelligence’, two Mercedes brand values. It comprises of all essential aspects related to customer-focused electric mobility and goes beyond the vehicle itself.” Mercedes-Benz.
A recent conversation with an industry insider prompted an observation that at Driven to Write, we tend to give Mercedes-Benz’s Chief Creative Officer a bit of a hard time. In this individual’s not entirely unwarranted view, we have a tendency (as one might say in football parlance) to Continue reading “Flicking the Switch”
The bland Triumph which owed everything to a low-key Honda led to the next collaborative effort which Car Magazine headlined as a ‘Bland Rover’. From such inauspicious beginnings came something of a revolution.
“England Expects – but Austin Rover Struggles to Deliver”. Cover of Car Magazine in the issue which covered the launch and first drive of the Rover 800.
Looking back, the 800 could probably be acclaimed as a commercial success, in the UK at least, but its launch and early years were dogged by poor quality, bad reliability and uneven capabilities. It represented a faltering of the emerging track-record of BL-Honda cars in terms of reliability.
Or to put it another way, a week with an Aygo. How did we get on?
It began with a bump. Somebody reversed into the Jag, while it was innocently minding its own business. The damage while not great, will likely be expensive, given the manner in which cars such as the XF are constructed these days. Still, with the guilty party’s insurers footing the bill, such matters are perhaps somewhat academic. The upshot being that while the Jaguar is in for a course of rhinoplasty, we’ve been slumming it in a courtesy car.
I must dutifully point out that Toyota’s smallest offering is not exactly a stranger to DTW’s pages, our resident Mr. Herriott having already written at some length upon his experience with a conventional manual version, but the example we are considering today has been fitted with Toyota’s X-Shift automated manual transmission.
The tension must be mounting at this point. Driventowrite is nearing the summit of the European motoring pantheon.
The thin air makes every upward centimetre a struggle against gravity. The cold gnaws into the core of your bones. To put it another way, the competition is fierce as more and more cars struggle to be near the epicentre of the best European motoring has offered. So many vehicles and only one can Continue reading “Great European Cars: Number 3”
Among my pet hates in Photoshop imagery is lens-flare. This advert for the Kia Venga adds some extra hatefulness and incompetence to that.
The scene depicts not martians landing on the roof of the Vatican but a kid and a parent playing gleefully around the car. This could have been done in real life – why spend a whole day messing with Photoshop? The perspective is wrong as well. And the light is wrong: the sun is casting light towards the camera but the shadows are falling away from the camera.
Why spend a whole day on what is really a scene of cringe-making sentimentality? Finally, the setting: the almost bare front yard. It’ll be baking hot on a summers’ day and horrible at night too. Ads like this contribute to the worsening of our public spaces.
William Lyons’ masterpiece. In a series of articles, we celebrate an automotive high watermark as it marks its 50th anniversary.
“Without any doubt at all, the XJ6 is my personal favourite. It comes closer to than any other to what I always had in mind as my ideal car.” Sir William Lyons.
One bright spring morning in 1967, two men strode towards a lock-up garage in the grounds of an imposing Victorian stately home, amid the rolling Warwickshire countryside. As the dew shimmered on the immaculately tended lawns and borders of Wappenbury Hall, Sir William Lyons, Chairman, Chief Executive and spiritus rector regarding all matters aesthetic, led his European Sales Director, John Morgan to where Jaguar’s vitally important new car lay sequestered, in seemingly definitive prototype form.
It’s in many ways just an ordinary sight south of the Alps yet I can’t help my fascination with these fine cars. You don’t see them much in Denmark, so rarity is part of the appeal. But…
… I will concede this interest is definitely peculiar to me, that among the short list of cars I will always stop and look at for as long as I can is included a car like the one above: Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday”
Quite possibly the most exciting aspect of today’s post is this rather splendid photo. The rest of it is about product semantics.
After having considered why is difficult to understand the visual (it’s about cognition), the next tricky thing is to understand design as compromise (all design is failure). And the next level of complexity deals with understanding that even geometrically exquisite lines are open to interpretation. That means semantics or the meaning of the thing or the meaning of the parts of things. If you think you somehow Continue reading “Manchester, patronage of tanning salons in (1983-1987)”
Does it really matter what car designers say? Should it?
Car designers nowadays are expected not only to be adept at the creative aspects of their calling, but must also learn to articulate it in a manner which in theory at least, helps us, the end user, to engage with and better understand their vision. To be frank, given how some designers appear to struggle with the first component, it is not entirely a surprise to discover that so few of them are anything but inept when it comes to the latter.
It has long been known and indeed commented upon that car designers, and especially those in a leadership role, speak such unregurgitated twaddle. Given the amount of time they spend making impassioned presentations to senior management who require their hands held throughout the stylistic decision-making process, they appear to have lost their ability to Continue reading “Toxic Emissions”
In response to the lively discussion about the W-220’s predecessor, I have posted this little gallery of how one might go about redesigning the rear end.
The initial problem is the narrow boot aperture and the odd business of the visible weld in the middle of what looks like one part.
I can see from Daniel Callaghan’s proposal that if you simply extend the lamps to the existing boot aperture one ends up with very small radii on the lamps’ inner corner. Mercedes did not want the lamps to have sharp corners: the whole car has quite large radii but especially the lamps are all given relatively rounded corners.
The 1998 S-Class attempted something of a rebalancing act after the critical wobbles experienced by its predecessor. Today it is as forgotten as it was forgettable.
The German general election of 1998 was fought against the backdrop, not only of increased European integration, but growing pains on the domestic front stemming from the 1990 reunification project. With incumbent centre-right Chancellor, Helmut Kohl campaigning on a continuity mandate, the opposition Social Democrats portrayed themselves as the ‘new centre’. The results saw Europe’s strongest economy Continue reading “The Mayfly”
The Acclaim did not live that long a life, but, in a quiet and unnoticed way typical of the car itself, its legacy can be considered to be enduring.
“NO OFFENCE. Reliability, something not always associated with BL products, was the most memorable characteristic of our LTT Triumph Acclaim, though the spritely Honda drivetrain also won it approval”. Title of Car’s Long Term Test article regarding an Acclaim HL which it ran over 28,000 miles in 18 months.
So, the Acclaim did achieve a reputation for reliability.
I had been my intention to ignore the introduction of the new BMW Z4, given that last year’s concept Z4 had already lent a strong inkling as to the direction BMW were taking. Couple this to the götterdämmerung afflicting BMW’s FIZ under the tepid design leadership of Adrian van Hooydonk and the last scintilla of doubt had already ran screaming from the building with a fit of the vapours.
By way of advertising its continued health and vitality – or even its renewed health and vitality – Opel showed off its GT X Experimental the other day.
It’s intended as a design for an electric car and that’s going to be Opel’s engineering task in future.
Nobody hates television and talking-head You Tube rubbish more than this correspondent. Despite my loathing of the glue tube, I have to say that this little documentary showed what is not so clear in the static images which accompanied other articles about the GT X. After seeing the little video item I decided I absolutely had to Continue reading “Can The Ghost Still Remember Me?”
Some years ago, a German poultry giant tried to add a whiff of luxury to cold cuts. Today, BMW is attempting something eerily similar.
The German word for turkey is Pute (poo-tuh).
This needs to be kept in mind when envisaging a tv commercial playing to the tunes of Ram Jam’s Black Betty, advertising turkey cold cuts by the name of Black Puty. If this sounds utterly absurd, it is not due to cultural misunderstandings – for Black Puty is an utterly daft monicker, regardless of whether one’s mother tongue is German or English.
The company behind Black Puty is Wiesenhof, a German meat industry giant. And a company that, in 2010, when Black Puty was introduced, had even more of an image problem than it does eight years later. First of all, turkey meat never Continue reading “Black Puty”
We have had 23 years to come to terms with the Mk1 Renault Megane. That much is easy to state. What’s harder to express is why this design’s strangeness didn’t come across until recently.
When I say strange, I don’t mean bad strange. I mean good strange, the oddness of the original and the idiosyncratic. The q-word doesn’t apply here though because this is not like an Ami or Multipla. It doesn’t jump out at you so much as whispers.
Chris Bangle may have been maligned for a good deal during his tenure at BMW, but there are some things one can never quite forgive.
All evolutionary pathways have their variances, those points of deviation from the natural course, most of which lead to dead-ends. Some however mutate, leading to strange and unnatural creations. In 2007, BMW unveiled one such grotesquery, an incongruously formed fastback SUV concept, dubbed a Sports Activity Coupé, which was revealed the following year in production form as the X6.
It’s not commonly known outside Denmark and northern Germany that the Danish border has only been in its current place since 1921. Before then much of what we call southern Denmark was in German hands.
More contraction. This time it’s Toyota’s unloved and unwanted Avensis. But will its putative replacement fare any better?
Let us not feign shock, or indeed much by way of regret, after all it was signposted as far back as 2015 when DTW reported upon its likelihood, but this week Toyota made it official, announcing the cessation of Avensis production at their UK plant in Derbyshire. Their underwhelming Europe-only D-sector saloon has been in decline for some years now (with pan-European sales slumping to 25,319 last year*), and with the Derbyshire plant now only fulfilling existing orders, the end is only weeks away.
Similarly telegraphed is that it is to be replaced by the larger Camry model, the first breathless sight European customers will get of the storied nameplate in well over a decade. The Camry was withdrawn from sale in 2004, Toyota Continue reading “Setting Son”
This week, the Lancia Gamma receives the DTW Longer Read treatment.
It’s a question I’ve been asked on a number of occasions: Why the Gamma? Why devote well over ten thousand words to a car whose failure hastened Lancia’s headlong spiral towards infamy and oblivion. The answer is, like the Gamma’s story itself, somewhat convoluted.
Like our old friend the Suzuki Jimny, this little fellow seems to be a very long lived and stable design.
To my eyes it looks like a vehicle derived in part from the basic architecture of the Fiat 127, launched in 1971. A bit of research reveals that its designers wanted to create something equivalent to a Renault 5 with four-wheel drive. Its inception is credited to a call from the USSR’s political leadership for a utility vehicle for rural areas. Readers may be surprised to Continue reading “The Desert Has No Summit”
The Alfa Romeo MiTo dies next year and to be frank, Driven to Write is neither happy nor sad.
So the dominoes continue to fall. A little over a week since FCA announced the UK withdrawal of the Grande Punto (as a prelude to its ultimate demise), there comes the latest slaughter of the innocents.
Speaking to Autocar earlier this week, Alfa Romeo Head of Brand (EMEA), Roberta Zerbi confirmed the MiTo’s imminent appointment with the eternal, telling the Haymarket weekly’s Rachel Burgess; “Mito is a three-door and people are choosing more and more five-door cars,” which is a nice line in marketing spin, albeit one which Continue reading “This Night Has Opened My Eyes”
As the years go by, one can see a car design more clearly. And some ashtray concepts are timeless. Today, Nissan’s Primera Mk2, timelessness personified.
This is the P10 Primera, code-name fans. It is one to remember because this version of the Primera hit the sweet spot in terms of its size, tractability, quality and ashtrays. The previous car was the Bluebird, a form of sensory deprivation and the successor nice to look at but disappointing to steer.
It’s not every day we get our hands on a best-seller. A recent trip to the Loire however, garnered DTW a Renault Clio. What did we make of it?
It’s close to half past seven in the evening as the TGV eases into la Gare de Tours, terminating its one hour and eighteen minute journey from Paris-Montparnasse. The station, a grand edifice dating from 1898, and a designated monument historique, feels as though it’s winding down for the evening, as indeed does the historic city of Tours itself.
The Avis car rental office certainly has, the Chef de Gare being called upon to process our documentation and release our pre-booked hire car. It has been a diverting past time during the train journey to Continue reading “Le Tour de Tours”
Imagine Helmut Newton coming back from a shoot and discovering he’s managed to omit the model.
A little of that level of carelessness applies here since I left out a big part of the main focus on the car’s key feature. My only defence is that these are holiday photos and, anyway, when did you last see one of these in the metal? If you did maybe you’d be too mouth-smashed to keep your head clear too. I was bowled over and perhaps my critical faculties fell out of the window. So we must make of this what we can so will have no choice but to Continue reading “Ashtrays: Alfa Romeo Alfetta 1.6”
Fiat’s geomorphic car crash hits another boulder with the axing of the Punto from UK shores.
There is a certain grim irony in the fact that Sergio Marchionne’s death was so abrupt and shocking, yet for so many former Fiat Group model lines for which he was responsible, the reaper’s approach continues at a glacial creep. Amidst the halls of Melfi, Mirafiori and Cassino, unconsolidated glacial debris have been noted for some time, but with this week’s announcement of the Punto’s withdrawal from the UK market, the terminal moraine edges closer.
…which is the kind of image that is worth a science fiction story, I feel.
If anyone wants to spin a science-fiction story off that idea, they are welcome to use it as long as they are kind enough to credit the idea to me.
The notion suggested in the phrase is that there are spaces between the universes which are all packed together like multidimensional foam on a huge scale. Think of the gaps between tennis balls in a bag of tennis balls. That’s the rough shape of the spaces between the universes.
Driven to Write’s pound shop Max Warburton considers Ford’s ongoing European woes and wonders if lightning does indeed strike twice?
There has been, one can be assured, better times to be a motor industry executive. But as chilly as it might currently be at the top table of most European automakers, Ford’s Group Vice President, EMEA, Steven Armstrong is in perhaps a more invidious position than most. Because while nearly every rival player is facing similar difficulties, Armstrong’s position is compounded by last month’s announcement of a second half pretax loss of $73 million, a likely prelude to an even heftier one being posted for the year as a whole.
A single black and white photo of a 1982-1992 F-body Chevrolet Camaro or Pontiac Firebird, seen in my district. But what does it portend?
I could bemoan the proportions. That´s pointless. Maybe a potted model history? No, thanks. The photo could lead us down a rabbit hole regarding General Motors’ body nomenclature. Considering the depth, breadth and sheer squiggliness of that byzantine horror, I am not sure if I can force myself to Continue reading “We Will Certainly Be At Your Wedding, Brian”