Sign of the Cross

It’s been confirmed the next Opel Senator will be a crossover – as indeed it appears will everything else. Are we approaching a tipping point?

Inspiration for the forthcoming Opel CUV? Image via autoblog
The new face of Opel. Image via autoblog

When GM showed the Avenir concept earlier this year, many viewed it as a sign Buick was serious about re-entering the full-sized luxury saloon market with something along more traditional lines. For enthusiasts here in Europe it prompted speculation as to the potential for a similarly proportioned model – a latter day Opel Senator if you will.

But while it’s possible such an idea was at least considered, it’s equally likely it wasn’t given a great deal of airtime. Especially given the recent announcement stating GM Europe is preparing three new crossover models over the next couple of years – one of which is set become Opel’s next Euro flagship.

According to Autocar‘s Hilton Holloway, the forthcoming top-line Opel crossover will sit on a stretched Insignia platform and is said to feature dramatic coupé-like styling from the Russelsheim studios of Mark Adams. In Holloway’s report, the Range Rover Evoque is mentioned as a possible design inspiration, which tends to suggest it will neither offer much in the way of convenience or practicality. To be built on the same production lines as the forthcoming Insignia; itself set to feature a swoopier, more rakish silhouette than the outgoing model, the prospect provides scant comfort to enthusiasts of large mainstream three volume saloons.

Here's what you won't be getting. Image via autotribute
Imagine this on stilts and you’re probably in the ballpark. Image via autotribute

Autocar also reported last week on Jaguar’s forthcoming plans to launch a Tesla-rivalling EV, to be revealed in 2017. With styling inspired by the curvaceous CX-75 concept, it promises to be a stunner. Or at least would be apart from the fact that it too has been schemed as a crossover. Yes, another one. Like some aggressive organism consuming its host, the rush to crossover now looks increasingly like infiltrating and usurping every sector of the market.

A commonly proffered argument is that manufacturers’ sales projections for these models are so compelling that to do anything else would amount to commercial suicide; a reading of the runes recently endorsed by FCA’s Harald Wester, to name but one. But how sure are we of this? Is it even remotely possible that with everybody crunching similarly gleaned data through identical analytical models, manufacturers are simply getting the same result by default? Because as things stand, they’re not the only ones increasingly getting more of the same.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

22 thoughts on “Sign of the Cross”

  1. This is disappointing. The good old saloon seems to be developing into the automotive equivalent of the Homburg hat. Yet the format is the core of the middle size-class. I’d earnestly hoped a Buick-derived Opel would help Buick to strengthen its American roots and give Opel a product where their peers had none, without a huge loss. Hyundai’s Genesis shows that a brand can scale the greasy pole if the product is strong.

  2. You can’t argue with the numbers. Take any car maker at random – their crossover / SUV version will cost maybe $500 more to make at the factory, but sell for a $2,000 or higher premium. I get the argument that those with young children or older people derive a genuine benefit from a higher seating position, but they (and everyone else who buys one) suffers poorer efficiency and inferior dynamics as a trade off. Meanwhile, those of us who refuse the join the SUV bandwagon find driving more stressful, as the view ahead is often blocked by a taller vehicle with privacy glass.

  3. Richard – yes it is. It makes it impossible to anticipate problems ahead, especially on motorways. And of course, if you drop back from the car in front to try and give yourself a better view, a car will move into that gap. Quite possibly the irate SUV who’s been hanging onto your rear bumper and now undertakes you in order to bully their way ahead.

    It’s like an arms race. I dislike SUVs. but sometimes covet a Range Rover Sport (in white, with huge black rims), just to keep up.

    1. It’s really rather difficult not to join the chorus of Sports Utility Hatred. Most of the few dangerous situations I’ve come across while riding my bike through the city have involved SUVs. And just last week, I was being bullied by a charming, first generation Range Rover Sport diesel driving gentleman, who tried to revile me by shouting that I’m an ‘Öko’ (German for ‘treehugger’) at me. I haven’t been that close to indulging in a bit of fisticuffs in ages.

    2. Jacomo. Rather than giving in to the SUV arms race, why not hang on for a few years? By which time you’ll likely be able to see underneath them.

      Kris. The World’s first 5.3 litre V12 May Fireball powered treehugger?

    3. My thoughts above all else, Sean. And yet I couldn’t help but feel superior to that git with his underpowered, overweight, unproportional joke of a motor in almost every way imaginable. Even though I actually do have some kind of environmental conscience and am fully aware of my car’s grave shortcomings in that area.

  4. I don´t know the british market, but here in Germany the (korean) Opel Mokka is an astonishingly good selling car, And the market of SUV is growing quickly, so there is no reason not to offer a SUV in the bigger size.

    Maybe, a luxurious 4-door-coupe of the Insignia would be a nice addition to the Insignia. Not for Opel´s profits but for my eyes.

  5. On the bright side, it will hopefully look better and offer a nicer interior ambience than the Antara/Captiva, which was very much at the bargain-bin utility end of the GM SUV spectrum.

    I wonder if lowslung passenger cars were a post-ww2 abberation, and crossovers are just a return to the lofty seating positions cars inherited from carriages back in the beginning.

    1. That’s an interesting question. Now that speed is restricted, a low car is less relevant. What matters is passenger space and load volume…

    2. Lofty seating positions, yes, they were more prevalent in pre-war times. I don’t especially like them, as I’m still a friend of a low center of gravity and of soft suspensions without too much sideways swaying on my seat. But if one wants to go back to higher positions, I can see the benefits, too. Just for heaven’s sake, add that extra height above the waistline of a car, not below! So, more vans, less SUVs, please.

    3. This is a good point. Maybe people of that time did really predict such upright cars to come in the distant future.
      But did those people also consider our modern freeways, our traffic problems and the rising number of singles and small families?
      So is the SUV-Boom a mutation of the retro-design? We don´t need such cars, but we want them.

      People of the 70ies did probably foresee cars like the BMW I8 as a typical car of 2015.
      Maybe such low cars will become popular in the following decades…

    4. I bet the people of the 70’s didn’t see the 2-series Active Tourer coming though. In fact, even I didn’t see it until I… er… actually saw it. What an appalling state of affairs.

  6. Buick Lacrosse has arrived at the LA show, and remains resolutely saloon-like so there’s hope for the old formfactor yet

    1. Those rear seats look really flat. The doors seem pretty. No one will order it in brown. It´s a rather handsome looking car, a bit Jaguaresque.

    2. The interior has nice, flowing lines (and a nice colour), but I’d rather have more open space than such a high centre console. Are the back seats really that flat? The seating portion seems to be sunk in by quite an amount. Overall, they look like being of a similar type as in the C6.

      On the outside, I’m not convinced. With that pseudo-fastback line (though certainly without a hatch) and the cheeky rear wings, it’s a bit like a Hyundai Genesis. For an Insignia, I feel like it should have a more European look.

    3. It’s an overgeneralisation but Americans like brown or tan interiors so people will order the brown interior-maybe not rentacar fleets but Brad the midwestern businessman, Mr Li in Shanghai or whoever Buick’s core audience are will not ignore this colourway. Most modern US cars have a brown or beige interior option along with grey, even performance cars like the Mustang and Camaro.

  7. If I have a comment to make here, it’s to Richard’s point about “What matters is passenger space and load volume…”. SUVs and their ilk are – as a breed – pretty poorly packaged inside given the bulk outside. Boot volume is a particular soap-box issue of mine, quickly followed by rear interior space and habitat. A decent mid-sized estate (say a Golf/ Leon/ Octavia (or even Fabia)) has a much larger boot than a longer/ wider/ taller/ heavier SUV, and costs a lot less. Most MPVs these days also, rather oddly, seem to lack boot space – the C-Max and Scenic both have a lot less than 500 litres; the Golf SV and C4 Picasso just a bit more than that. Furthermore, many motoring magazines, including What Car? in the UK, have stopped publishing or updating their listings with boot-volume data, and yet for family-use biased vehicles like this, surely it’s an essential data-point?

    1. The magazines assume people will wade through layers of website pages to get to the hidden pdf that takes three minutes to download to find this. The car magazines have given up on tables. I imagine that it cost a lot of time to type them in. If SUV´s are short on interior space, where is it being used up? It´s a good point though. I think a Skoda Superb is the record holder for boot volume at present. You can park an Octavia inside it, I am sure.

  8. Simon: they may change the rear panels for the Insignia. Overall, I like this car´s appearance. The one really silly thing is the meaningless bulge in the top part of the grille´s chrome surround. It adds nothing but noise.

  9. It’s true that the car has a nice stance, especially when viewed from the front/side. It’s let down a little by the headlights overshadowed by a lot of sheet metal and this ugly shutline.
    But the back… I’ll have to see more pictures, I can’t quite decide if it’s right or not from what I see here.

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