We examine the impact new entrants are making on a sector under attack by the CUV contagion.
Recent rumours of the Premium Midsize segment’s sales decline appear to have been exaggerated according to a report from analysts, LMC Automotive. Reported in Automotive News, LMC predicted the sector’s continued growth, projecting European volumes for 2016 of 729,000 cars rising further to 760,000 by 2020. Beyond that, they suggest that the continued march of the CUV/crossover will cause the segment to plateau. Continue reading “Theme: Bodies – Premium Midsize Saloons”
Why does the VW ID concept have to look more styled than a VW Golf?
The ID concept is claimed to have a 371 mile range (compared to the 248 miles of a Renault Zoe). At present Chevrolet’s Bolt promises around 230 or so (and Car and Driver have confirmed this). I’m more interested in the visual semantics of electric cars though. Tesla have chosen to make their cars look quite conventional (less so with the X). BMW have opted for po-mo design while the Zoe could conceivably be an ordinary modernist car: not Tesla’s classicism and nor either obviously outré. Continue reading “Question of the Day”
It’s all change at Land Rover, as Archie Vicar might say. I have prepared this visual analysis of the car so as to show you what’s being offered.
The new car looks longer and lower and has lost a few degrees of rectilinearity. It has also lost the hard, industrial character which made the last Disovery so appealing and indeed distinct from the Range Rover above it. The residual roof bump might make sense in a design board meeting (“We’ve refenced the step in the roof, Bob, but made it more dynamic…”) but in reality it is now pure styling.
The base of the A-pillar is visually very unsettling, a hard corner amidst a mass of radii. The previous model handled this area nicely. Notice the lamps are now horizonally accented and not vertical. They resemble a Ford S-Max and the stepped feature offers nothing functional. The BOF construction has gone as well as the square looks.
Verdict: the Discovery now looks like many other mid-size SUVs.
Not another Astra, Richard. Yes: it’s the rare 3-door with full Comfort spec.
That means green-grey velour, rear headrestraints and rear centre armrests plus a/c. Did any Focus or Golf three door have such luxurious trim? If it wasn’t such an unusual trim-body combination I would not have tried to photograph it. Generally, three door versions of the cars used to be priced lower than the five doors and were more budget-orientated. Opel offered another path to top-level trim so you could avoid the five door if you wanted.
These usually mean big numbers. In Volvo’s case that means only 20,000 annual sales for the S90.
Automotive News mentioned this figure yesterday. There are another 40,000 units annually for the V90. Still, that’s quite modest really. The reviews so far have been good and my static inspection revealed a pleasingly high quality product. Is a figure of 60,000 enough for a firm without multiple brands to
We may not even have a library photo of a hard-top convertible-cabriolet.
We do, above. There are not many more. Maybe they are not a DTW type of car. Dear goodness, I find when checking the date of the Mercedes SLK, the R170, that it’s celebrating its 20th anniversary. It seems natural to start with this one. Continue reading “Theme: Bodies – The CC”
Ford’s takeover of Jaguar lacked credibility, and the XK needed to change perceptions. Fortunately, it did.
The 1996 XK8 arrived at a crucial time for Jaguar, having been through the torrid post-Ford takeover period when Browns Lane was haemorrhaging around $2m a day. The luxury car maker desperately needed something to Continue reading “Year of the Cat – 1996 Jaguar XK8”
Around the launch of Driven To Write, I did a short piece about hearses, and I’m now returning to the subject. Speaking personally, I’m unconcerned how I go- a Transit van or a borrowed estate car would be fine. But, if I leave behind anyone who would miss me, I’m concerned that their loss is eased as much as possible. So I can see why the conveyance should be seen as ‘suitable’. But what are people’s expectations? Continue reading “Theme : Bodies – The Ultimate Journey”
When the Thesis debuted, Lancia was at pains to present it as a sophisticated choice.
The PR offensive included a presence at a symphony music festival in St Moritz, and a range of accessories produced by Zegna and Longines amongst others. Fourteen years on, this example stands as a stark reminder that depreciation is no respecter of brand strategies or PR bumf. Continue reading “A photoseries for Sunday: 2002-2009 Lancia Thesis”
Our correspondent gets low down and dirty with his household appliances.
Last weekend I serviced my own Dyson, if you want to know what loneliness can do to a man. The wife had taken the boy to one of the interminable children’s parties of which weekends are now almost entirely comprised, leaving me on my own in the house. Precious solitude. The devil makes work for idle hands, as the saying goes, and so I used the time to Continue reading “Doing It Yourself”
Ostensibly I am writing about the Megane. Really I am concerned with something else.
Earlier this week contributer, Chris lamented the sameness of midsized family cars today. This Megane looks like nothing else and only looks better with age. Alas, its durability does not live up to the standard set by the aesthetics. I’m not going to write about that though. Continue reading “Micropost: 2002-2009 Renault Megane”
This is an odd subject for a site devoted to automobiles. Have we made a bit of mistake? Can we avoid another?
Two items appeared on the ghostly, glowing timewaste that is my iPhone. In one article the CEO of Lyft, John Zimmer, observed that Americans were pouring away an average of about $9000 a year owing a car. He estimated the occupancy rate was about one percent given that most cars have four seats and are used less than 5% of the time.
The Lyft chap predicts car ownership in cities will decline markedly in the next decade: “Every year, more and more people are concluding that it is simpler and more affordable to live without a car,” he wrote. “And when networked autonomous vehicles come onto the scene, below the cost of car ownership, most city dwellers will stop using a personal car.”Continue reading “Joining the Dots”
As well as providing the location for the suspension system and being sufficiently durable, a car body needs to protect the bodies of the occupants. And to look alright.
If we compare the smooth bodies of contemporary vehicles with early attempts at safety engineering you notice how safety was first ‘added on’ by means of obviously larger bumpers and also by the use of safety padding inside the car. Volvo took this approach as did the GM ESV (1972) and Fiat with the ESV (1973). GM did also provide for passive safety by removing the A-pillars and fitting airbags. Continue reading “Theme: Bodies – Protecting Them”
Automotive News has a timely editorial concerning the EV-1 which I once drove. Here are some of the photos.
Prompted by AN, I took out my photos from 1997 and found the shots from the day I drove the EV-1 (top, right) in California. The salesman at the car dealership presented the EV-1 as a something for enthusiasts (which contrasted with the sludge I expect he was selling). The idea was that the EV-1 would appeal to people still interested in the technology and car-ness of cars. At the time I was a bit cynical about the GM car. 90 miles didn’t really seem that impressive although even today a 90 mile range would be very useful for most people’s daily needs. I got that wrong then. The Bolt has a 238 mile range.
Autumn’s in the air, the nights are closing in and it’s really no time to be hanging around graveyards. For one thing, you’ll catch your death…
It’s probably about time I owned up to having a morbid interest in revenants. I know, it’s unedifying at best and possibly illegal, but I really can’t seem to help myself. Time and again I make the same vain promise: no more loitering around dank graveyards, to be escorted home by the local constabulary amid muttered admonitions of ‘not you again?’
Too much bratwurst has our correspondent wishing for a more varied menu.
I would hope that I am fairly knowledgeable about cars. Not in a useful way, obviously; I know so little about how they actually function that I attribute their abilities to modern day alchemy. But from the mid-1990s onwards when my brain began its fruitless journey towards maturity, a large (-ly useless) part of my memory has been dedicated to passively storing and updating a mental catalogue of new cars available in the UK. Imagine my surprise then when a recent advert on TV sparked precisely zero recognition of the make and model being sold. Continue reading “The Imitation Game”
The contrast between the Caprice and Mini coupe caught my eye.
The Caprice is a car I’ve wanted to photograph for a long while. It’s thrillingly basic. The loadbay might be long and wide yet it’s also quite shallow. I don’t know what’s under the high floor: fuel tank and transmission I suppose. Continue reading “The Long and the Short”
Car people talk a lot about a car’s behaviour, but what about the driver’s?
A few months ago, our theme was ‘Values’. The term ‘a set of values’ is often used by those self-aggrandising people who want to take moral high-ground and suggest that they, but not other people, have an honourable code by which they act in all things. I’m suspicious of people with inflexible moral rules, either for themselves or other people, but, of course, you can’t analyse each and every situation you find yourself in, so we do tend to develop standard responses to identifiable situations. Continue reading “Morality, Integrity and Etiquette”
Regular readers of Driven to Write will be well aware of Christopher Butt’s writings on subjects as diverse as the machinations within VAG, the social history of the W126 S-Class or indeed travels through Italy in his majestic Jaguar XJ12. So it is with with some pride and no little emotion that we salute Kris on his own website venture. Continue reading “Introducing Auto Didakt”
Amidst the stolid carpark fare of Gaydon’s National Motor Museum, this little gem gleamed.
I can’t be certain about the year, but the mesh side grilles flanking the scudetto and the presence of the ornate chromed side repeaters on the front wings suggests this is a late-series Sprint. The car was pristine, looking delicate and almost fragile amidst the bloated moderns in its midst. Continue reading “A photoseries for Sunday – Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint”
We are very proud of our focus on this aspect of car design: ashtrays.
This one serves in a Renault 4. The quattrelle had a three decade production run; it’s not fanciful to wonder if it could have endured as long as the Defender had it been marketed as slightly separate to Renault’s modern range. Continue reading “Ashtrays: Renault 4”
Whoever last owned this car really should have gone for a Vectra or Mondeo. The original alloys probably corroded and needed to be replaced with something sympathetic. You can put jokey wheels on an old Mondeo as they are blank canvas. These wheels are a custom paint job, I think. One does not customise a Lancia. Perhaps the last owner considered the disjunction of motorsport style colours and the Kappa’s formality amusing, like wearing runners with a suit. Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark: 1996 Lancia Kappa”
A 1977 Wolseley 18-22. As named, this car had a mayfly-brief production run. Why is it labelled a 1977 though?
Something quite like it could be purchased until 1982 (sold as an Austin Princess and Austin Princess 2 until 1981). And something quite like that appeared in showrooms from 1982 to 1984, the Austin Ambassador. They re-tooled the body and engineered a hatchback for 24 months of sales. That’s another story, British Leyland has plenty of those. Continue reading “Something Rebadged in Denmark”
Spot a Triumph TR7 in a car park and you may well experience something rather strange.
Unenlightened passers-by won’t give it a second look, whereas examples of most of its boxy contemporaries would attract their immediate attention. The last of the TRs shares with its Rover SD1 stablemate an ability to blend into the 21st century carscape, despite originating over forty years ago. Continue reading “Opening Up the TR7 Envelope”
This one shows Toyota in its aero phase and is unusually fuss-free.
It’s still flawed though. The back-end is too heavy around the bumper. I can see that they wanted a swoopy, space-age feel and if the black covering the sills had extended from front to back the car would have achieved a more coherent look and lost no spacey-ness Continue reading “Micropost: 1990-1994 Toyota Camry Estate”
The Peugeot 309 is, I feel, a European equivalent of the kind of anonymous car GM and Ford made in the 1970sand 1980s What is there like it today?
What makes the 309 such an oddity is that it should have been a Talbot but had to use Peugeot components and ended as a Peugeot anyway. Its development team had roots in the Rootes group and Simca: British and French. The stylists in Coventry and engineers at the former Simca centre at Poissy were forced to Continue reading “What is Today’s 309?”
The same year Concorde entered commercial service, Aston Martin introduced what could be considered its roadgoing equivalent. But like the emblematic and embattled supersonic jetliner, the Lagonda embodied a future which ultimately failed to take flight.
In 1975, the Newport Pagnell-based luxury carmaker was facing ruin; falling prey to a perfect storm comprised of the spiralling costs of adhering to ever-tightening safety and emissions regulations, and the stark market contraction which stemmed directly from the 1973 oil crisis. Rescued from bankruptcy by an Anglo-American consortium, the Lagonda programme was aimed, not only at providing struggling Aston Martin dealers with something new to sell, but also to help Continue reading “Tomorrow’s World”
Every driver is in possession of one but they are all different: bodies. An obvious major challenge in design is making a vehicle fit a wide range of them.
And another is to design something the minds inside the bodies’ heads can understand. Like any discipline, one can trace ergonomics back to the stone age when cavemen argued over the best shape of a stone for cutting skins. I’d like to fast forward to World War 2 when the US military tried to put some of the findings of Frederick Winslow Taylor into effect so as to make it easier to operate military equipment and the controls of aeroplanes. It wasn’t until 1960 when the American industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss published The Measure of Man that the idea that machines might fit people and not the other way around began its slow percolation into the minds of car designers. Continue reading “Theme: Bodies – People’s”
Many of us have to do ‘selling’ of some sort as part of our lives. It’s a branch of social negotiation. You have something you want someone else to do, and you need to present a case to them as to why they should do it. So, if you’ve ever had to persuade your kids to go to bed, you know how difficult it is to sell things. Continue reading “Shifting Metal”
With the reveal of Alfa Romeo’s new crossover only weeks away, we look back at a few they made earlier.
Alfa Romeo has confirmed it will reveal the forthcoming Stelvio crossover/SUV at this November’s Los Angeles motor show. It’s a highly significant reveal for FCA’s mainstream ‘premium offering’ since it will be the key to the commercial fate of the Alfa renaissance. Failure will not be an option. We’re likely to hear a good deal about how this will be the fabled Milanese marque’s first stab at a production SUV, but while that may be accurate in a literal sense, it won’t be Alfa Romeo’s first off-roader. Continue reading “A Matta of Precedence”
This could be about the Cadillac De Ville convertible, which is enough of a car to write a few hundred words about. What rose to the top of the froth was that I don’t really know what year this car is from.
That’s the badge on the car. I didn’t see others. Presumably one of our very knowledgeable US visitors knows the serial number and which dealer it was sold from. The part I’d like to deal with is the way GM/Cadillac managed to change the appearance of their cars with such incredible rapidity. These days a car might get a new set of bumpers every three years and even then the difference is often slight due to the need to retain common feature lines and shapes. In the good old days of square, modular styling the car could be chopped up quite markedly and large parts changed without the carried over bits looking wrong. Continue reading “Theme: Bodies – The Cadillac Confusion”
For two wonderful years the Opel Kadett and Opel Astra F shared space at Opel dealers across this wonderful continent (1991 to 1993).
And Bertone in Turin supplied the car too. That Bertone supplied the mechanism and built the bodies is news to me. It competed with the Ford Escort cabriolet, made by Karmann, and the Golf cabriolet, made by Karmann, which was the Mk 1 Golf, as per 1974 minus a roof. In addition to traditional Opel qualities, the Kadett also had a certain degree of Italian style lacking from its peers… Continue reading “1987-1993 Opel Kadett Cabriolet”
We looked at the extensive failings of the Avensis’ auxiliary controls this week. This article deals with the rest of the car.
Toyota have been making this class of car for 50 years. The Avensis name has been attached to offerings in the middle market for 19 years. This version is third one to carry the name. They ought to be pretty good at this by now. So, we ask, what is it like to drive a vehicle aimed at a competitive and hard-fought and declining segment? Continue reading “2014 Toyota Avensis (Part 2)”
First, it needs to be remembered that in the 70’s and 80’s a lot of cars featured attempts to link the base of the side glass to the base of the windscreen.
These days some cars manage that flow; most don’t try because the vertical offset between the side glass and high scuttle is too much to link graphically or sculpturally. It’s a function of high bonnets and raked shoulder lines.
I had high expectations of Friedrichstadt, a perfect little displaced Dutch town in German Nordfriesland, but they didn’t include two Alfa 2600s.
Their presence was unexplained. No ‘Oldtimer’ gathering, no other participants on a one make outing. I would hate to think that they had just ‘failed to proceed’. The 2600 Sprint’s charms are beyond dispute, but a bit of fact-finding on the Berlina sprung some surprises. Continue reading “A Photoset for Friday: Alfa Romeo 2600 Berlina”
As Skoda readies its ursine SUV contender, we ask can it adapt to the North American landscape?
News that VW Group senior management are seriously evaluating Skoda’s entry into the North American car market is significant yet unsurprising. In many ways, it’s difficult to understand why it hasn’t happened before. After all, the US market tends to favour no nonsense cars and US success would raise Skoda’s and therefore VW Group revenues. And heaven knows, they need all the help they can get right now. Continue reading “Please Bear With US While We Recalibrate Our Offer”
The Avensis tested here is now out of production. This appears to be a 2014-2015 model. The user-interface proved so troubling I had to make that aspect into a separate article.
The rest of the review comes later. The controls are divided into two sets, the driving controls and the auxiliaries. I will deal with the auxiliaries in this article. Overall, the Avensis is riddled with odd choices and evidence of poor decision-making. It exemplifies a number of user-interface principles, but negatively.
Open cars are not really the same as convertibles. By which I mean that convertibles may be open sometimes, but a true ‘open’ car is almost always open. Sometimes this may be because they don’t even have the option of a weather-resistant roof, sometimes because what is on offer is so ineffective and rudimentary, that it is hardly ever used.
Needless to say, the United Kingdom is not seen as a primary market for such vehicles. Our weather is too variable to make possession of such vehicles a practical proposition. It’s no coincidence that hot-rods and dune buggies hail from the sunnier parts of the USA and not Essex. Continue reading “Theme : Bodies – Open Cars”
This is a short round-up of items that aren’t worth a whole article: news from Ford, Hyundai and Citroen.
First, Ford have announced a V6 version of the US version of the Mondeo. The Fusion boasts 325 hp and all-wheel drive. The car has adaptive damping and, as usual with Ford, disappointing seats. Will Ford Europe make this motor available? This academic study indicates what matters to customers, regarding seating. And this item from TTAC also shows the value of good seats. The one thing I remember from my time in a Citroen Xsara: the excellent seats. Continue reading “And Now For Some News”
In this final Gamma instalment, we examine alternate realities and the model’s shifting media perceptions.
It’s forty years since the Gamma was presented to the World’s press at Geneva and a lot has been heaped upon its shoulders in the interim. While undeniably a sales and reputational disaster, to view the Lancia flagship as simply a bad car is narrow and simplistic. To close this series, we ask whether Fiat could have chosen a different path. Continue reading “Gamma Bytes: Fated Symbol”
In what seems to be a transcript of a period review, the legendary motoring correspondent Archie Vicar reports on the ‘all-new’ Bristol 411.
This article could well have first appeared in the Sheffield Sunday Post, 25th Jan 1970. Due to the poor quality of the original images (by Douglas Land-Windermere), stock photos have been used.
It’s all change at Bristol. The fast-moving Filton manufacturer has responded to the challenges of the times with a veritable flotilla of improvements to their latest car, the 411. Bristol has many unique attributes to help it stay ahead of the competition in these increasingly competitive times. First among them is the remarkably high level of quality on which they insist: the cars are hand-made by craftsman steeped in aviation engineering and versed in production methods that go back decades. While Rolls-Royce and indeed Bentley have switched to monococque construction – making them little more than Cortinas with wood and walnut, some say Continue reading “1969 Bristol 411 Roadtest”
Last week we considered the AMC Pacer: a car that is not known for inviting admiration. This week I take a quick look at another not-much-loved vehicle.
I could very well have served the two up together as a provocation. When I saw the 340 I wondered what it was doing at the gathering of classics and not parked outside. Yet not far away the 1976 AMC Pacer parked at the same event. That car gathered curious glances and much detailed inspection while the 340 didn’t at all. Yet both cars were there because they had loving owners for whom their vehicles were a source of pride and joy.
We briefly review a method that improves rigidity, helps achieve the goal of a lighter car and also simplifies production. Which car have you sat in that uses this method?
The car body must meet two contradictory requirements: lightness and strength. Lightness abets performance and improves agility: less car to turn. It also usually helps keep the cost down. At the same time, a car must not fall apart while standing still or while in motion. And if the car should hit something it needs to protect the occupants. Usually you may have lightness or robustness but not both.
Alfa Romeo really ought to have made these lovely Pininfarina concepts – well maybe not…
By the mid-1980s, Italy’s Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale had run out of the two crucial components necessary for their ongoing custody of Alfa Romeo: patience and money. Having come bitingly close to selling the ailing motor company to Ford in 1985, Fiat swooped in and made the Italian government agency a far more palatable offer, both financially and politically. With the storied marque now a part of the sprawling Fiat empire, carrozzeria Pininfarina were quick to see the potential, and for the 1986 Turin show, prepared twin concepts for a new coupé and spider derivative, called Vivace. Continue reading “Transitory Twins – 1986 Alfa Romeo Vivace”
Disappointment takes many forms. Today it looks something like this – the 2017 Kia Rio.
Having shown us a stylist’s render of the forthcoming Kia Rio about a week ago, the Korean car giant’s PR machine has released the first photos of its new supermini contender. The new Rio is more ‘grown up’ and of course, ‘sportier’, which is another way of saying it’s wider, lower and longer both in overall length and in wheelbase. Autocar described it thus; “the 2017 car will evolve the design of its predecessor with an aggressive nose and more muscular and vertically angled rear”, which sounds like a straight lift from the press pack if you ask me. Continue reading “Rio Grande”