A selection of news stories from the week ending 25 April 2020.
When the current viral unpleasantness began to take effect, a swift (and entirely virtual) meeting took place with Driven to Write’s editorial team (such as it is), where it was agreed that the site would, for the time being at least, offer a C-19-free zone to our readers. After all, there’s enough catastrophe out there in the world, is there not?
Today’s offering therefore presents the writer with something of a dilemma. How does one report the news, while ignoring the somewhat over-sized tusk-bearing mammal in the room? One answer to that, is to adopt some form of fourth-wall approach and acknowledge the presence of mammuthus primigenius but simply plough on regardless – which is the route I have chosen.
It’s finally happened. The last vestige of relative calm has departed the turbulent quarters of Ingolstadt. Having announced the mainstream five-door A3 Sportback at the Geneva show that wasn’t, Audi have this week filled out the range with their newest offering, its four-door saloon equivalent.
This model is unlikely to trouble the upper reaches of the European sales charts, saloons such as these being aimed primarily at the US and Chinese markets, where five-door hatchbacks (or Sportbacks for that matter) remain showroom poison. Not aimed at the likes of you then, some might say. I’m not so sure. Either way, it’s wider, longer and taller than before. Bigger is always better.
It’s interesting – every time I think Audi’s design team have fully mined the depths, they somehow surprise me by drilling an additional metre or seven into the earth’s crust. Where to start on this? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I can be bothered to try. How many words are there for awful? Have enough of them been coined to adequately describe this confluence of tortured metal pressings?
But while it’s relatively easy to hurl insults at Audi’s designers and their confused leader, what the entire Audi range (which is now without exception, frightful), speaks most palpably of, is a chronic (and possibly irredeemable) failure of leadership at senior management level.
Further confusion can be evinced by the latest European market offering from Toyota. While of course it is entirely consistent that Toyota will offer a B-segment crossover to rival Nissan’s Juke and its cohort of pretenders, the new Yaris Cross (as it is to be called), were it not for its angry visage, could realistically be just about anything from that most conformist of sub-sectors.
Mercifully then, (for car spotters and likely owners alike) the Cross Yaris, carries a touch of RAV-4, before descending to what our Danish correspondent might term, modern vernacular. It’s not that it’s necessarily awful, just numbingly by the numbers.
To be powered exclusively by a hybrid powertrain, with the option of all-wheel drive, the angry Yaris, which is scheduled to enter production at Toyota’s plant in Onnaing, France later this year before going on sale early next is part of a B-segment product onslaught aimed at garnering the Japanese carmaking giant a larger proportion of Europe’s compact car market.
There is little doubt that they will succeed. But one might have expected something a little more outré or at least vaguely original from the creators of the still outlandish C-HR. Toyota after all is capable of better, much better than this.
Meanwhile at the embattled Gaydon headquarters of JLR, sighs of relief all round on the announcement, not only of an imminent resumption of production, but also, and for their fleet customers in particular, the announcement of hybrid-engined versions of their best sellers – Disco Sport and Evoque – now available to order.
Consisting of a 1.5-litre, 197bhp turbocharged three-cylinder version of JLR’s Ingenium petrol engine mated to an eight-speed Aisin automatic gearbox and a 107bhp rear axle mounted electric motor, linking to a 15kWh battery pack. The combined output is a healthy-sounding 296bhp.
Characteristically, JLR are making lavish claims on efficiency and emissions, claiming a mere 32g/km of CO2, and up to 201.8mpg on WLTP test cycles, with an electric-only range of up to 41 miles for the more efficient Evoque model. With the Discovery Sport showing only slightly less impressive (on-paper) figures, UK company car tax for both will be class-leading, JLR say, with benefit-in-kind (BIK) taxation at 6% for 2020/2021.
Of course these figures must be ingested with heroic quantities of sodium chloride, but nevertheless, the hybrid drivetrain does put JLR back in the game to some extent, current difficulties (and all other JLR-related provisos) notwithstanding.
Needless to say, other developments have been occurring in the wider automotive world, but most of them pertain to woolly mammoths and their likely affects upon the industry, and there will be time enough for all that, rest assured.
More news when there is some…