A Camel Drowns By The Oasis

The Frankfurt motor show is upon us again. Thoughts?

Severe disfigurement: source

The official IAA image is frightening, isn’t it?

It seems like only about six months since the last one closed and, dear, oh, dear, here is another one. I went to Autocropley to have a gander at their list of launches and unveilingments. I can’t say much of it tickled my fancy. The Audi A7 is top of the list for alphabetical reasons and, if it is anything like the new A8, it’ll be a bit much on a too small plate.

The A7 is one of the nicest looking cars in production and the new A7 is not going down that path – as with all launches of replacement models and many new ones, the dial is being turned up to 11, especially in the grille department. The A8’s could be from an articulated truck apart from the quite astonishing amount of brightwork. The first A8 set a standard Audi have failed to

Never seen one of these. Lexus NX facelift.

re-attain in that class, making it something of a real benchmark in design history.

Lexus have a facelift of a car so confusing (above) that the facelift is impossible to detect.

2018 Bentley Continental GT: source

The pre-production Bentley Continental GT shows some promise, if the test photos are anything to go by – I hope the new car has more of a special aura to it than the current one which is simply a lot of width with a Bentley badge glued on.

2018 Borgward concept car: source

Chery and Borgward, both Chinese, have some offerings. Chery have plopped into the CUV sector, which makes sense as they are still so very now (and I can’t see that changing, ever). Borgward have put out a photo hinting at some manner of sportscar and for that I am thankful. Something must be in the water in Bremen. Which reminds me, where are Qoros? The image of the Borgward is quite interesting – how will the rest of the car live up to the very simple shapes promised? And will the interior be as unadorned?

Notably absent from this litany of cars is Fiat. Nothing facelifted and no obscure images of suggestions of exciting things. The firm’s condition puts me in mind of the Rootes group in the 1960s and early 70s. Stagnant is the word that leaps to the forefront of my consciousness. The 500 has been on sale for ages – is it possibly going to become a Renault 4/2CV for our times? After all, it is pretty much what a lot of people need and only requires new paints and trim to keep it relevant to its customer base. It’s the car equivalent of a pair of jeans.

Volvo is another name keeping a low profile. That said, their two most recent cars are remarkable design statements and are enough for us to be going along with. I saw an S90 on the road recently – it has a very imposing and solid look (far superior to anything from Benz, Audi and BMW) but the 0.9 litre three cylinder two-stroke engine is something of an unforced error, especially for the American market where a V6 would be the very least I would expect (and that goes for Lincoln too, with their daft turbo fours). Perhaps Volvo are taking a break. Isn’t the V40 due for replacement soon?

2018 Smart Case: source

Taking the biggest prize for the most ill-conceived idea is Smart’s Case concept: a roofless two-seater which is supposed to be autonomous. The semantics of sportscars (open-top ones) is about freedom. Autonomous cars are the very antithesis of this. I consider a train more liberating than any autonomous car. Quite why Smart think an autonomous car might ever be an open-topped roadster is beyond me. They should be like pods, in my view, small train carriages with less room and rubbery wheels.

Presumably Suzuki, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot and Rolls Royce among others will have some surprises which have not been spoiled already. As it is, the roll call speaks of a very ordinary kind of show, about as interesting as a trip to a Toyota showroom on a rainy day.


[The IAA home page asks if a car can have a conscious mind. Perhaps the question might be can AI be installed in a motor vehicle? And, in principle, there is no reason why an independent AI system could not be fitted to a car so it becomes a person. Do we want our cars to be persons? Eventually we might have AI in our electric toothbrushes. The IAA question is half-interesting in a “what-if-soup-could-dance?” kind of way. It doesn’t really relate to people’s ordinary view of cars which as either a) appliance or b) status symbol. Driventowrite is one of the few places you will find people who choose option “c”.]

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

10 thoughts on “A Camel Drowns By The Oasis”

  1. If Alfa have something new, it ain’t going to be at Frankfurt. They’re among the roster of no-shows, others are:


    Interesting that Chery are showing at the IAA. Geneva used to be the place for the ambitious Chinese makers to show face. Perhaps they feel that Frankfurt’s gravitas is more appropriate to their standing these days. I’m expecting a quality stand – they really pushed the boat out in the three years when Qoros had a stand at Geneva.

    I agree about that 0.9 litre Volvo two-stroke. It might do the job, but it’s a big leap of faith to adjust to this new way of doing things.

    1. No Peugeot? That is remarkable along with DS too. Is it a lack of new product? Infiniti was always a bit of a waste of money – the sales must be microscopically small in the EU but Nissan I´d have expected to make some effort.
      The engines in the S90 are way out of line with the car´s billet-solid, imposing appearance. It reminds me of the 1.3 litre Capris with the long nose promising an in-line 12.

    2. Was driven to work’s Dublin office from the airport in a new S90 this morning. First, the exterior is lovely, imposing and stinks of quality – the rear lights still look clunky, though. Inside, it’s really nice, loads of legroom and comfy seats. The tablet like infotainment screen is pretty magic when the car is static, but hard to operate when in the move. The diesel was grumbly and road noise rather higher than I expected. Would I pick one over an A6? Absolutely! An E-Class? Possibly. 5-Series? Dunni, not been in a new one yet. What it is, though, is a credible competitor with a different kind of USP and a far nicer interior than the new XF.

    3. SV: the S is strikingly more impressive visually than its three main enemies. In my view it’s the best looking saloon in production today. The designers found a simple, strong theme and nothing gets in the way of that message. By comparison the Five is a kind of Cortina: bland, muddy and vague. Its handling capability is more or less an irrelevance. The Mercedes is a bit stronger than the Five design though that’s faint praise. The Volvo is so refreshing and distinctive it can easily compensate with quality, style and comfort if the 0.7 two-cylinder two-stroke motor is somewhat underwhelming.

    1. Could that be due to already having more orders than cars to fill them.

    1. Presumably that’s not a factory paint job. Would those colour be considered a pleasing combination in that region? I don’t suppose so.

  2. One remarkable piece of intel imparted by the uber-friendly (for such an introvert as I, at least) taxi driver was that his 4pot diesel needed servicing only every 30k miles … or did he say kilometres, in which case it’s rather less remarkable than when I first started to write this thought (waiting for the 21.50 Ryanair flight back to Luton from Dublin’s fair city) ?

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