NewsGrab

A selection of news stories from the week ending 25 April 2020.

Coming soon to a dystopian landscape near you. (c) completecar.ie

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.

o0O0o

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.

Show us you’re cross. (c) exhaustnotes.com.au

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.

We don’t have a picture of the drivetrain, so stock photography will have to suffice. (c) autoblog

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…

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

14 thoughts on “NewsGrab”

  1. Good morning Eóin. I’ve looked at lots of photos of that new A3 saloon because I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. This photo reveals what I’m talking about:

    Those diagonal creases either side of both wheel arches are real, not just a trick of the light. Without them, the design would have been quite handsome and muscular, but they completely destroy it for me. Audi are now so desperate to do something, anything, to distinguish their new designs from the superseded model and this is the dismal result.

    Here’s the perfectly handsome outgoing model:

    1. Hi,

      I actually really like the work done on the wing. It’s the first thing I noticed when it was unveiled and thought I look forward to see it i real life to see how it really looks.
      I much prefer it than what Peugeot did with the new 2008 which has similar triangular shapes.

    2. That’s not very different from the 1982 Opel Corsa swollen wings I think, in concept at least.

    3. Hi NRJ. I should clarify that I don’t dislike the idea of swollen, muscular wings per se, but it’s those creases that really set me on edge. The two creases into the door panels are ok-ish, but the two running into the lamps look so forced and unnatural, particularly the short one running into the headlamp. The changes in profile across these creases looks to be minimal.

      I guess we’ll have to agree to differ on this one!

    4. Daniel, do you think those are actual creases/ feature lines, or just reflections off the bulges over the wheel arches? I had assumed the latter. Either way, it’s an unfortunately thing to have done to what was a nice looking saloon.

    5. Hi Daniel,

      Looks being subjective I understand this isn’t your thing. The Mirai is asking me if you like her flared wings ?

    6. Under Marc Lichte’s leadership, Audi design has become ‘literal’ to the extreme. By which I mean that any subtlety has been purged, every nuance lost.

      Those wheel arch flares are yet another case in point: Those reflections you see are indeed defined by actual lines, rather than just the surfacing. It’s the exact opposite of Mazda’s approach, who allow the light to draw the lines on their most recent cars through the surfacing/modelling.

      When I first spotted the current A6 at Geneva two years ago, I couldn’t believe that there actually was a crease on the doors where usually the surfacing would guide the light and hence reflections in indirect fashion. Typically, this crease would be seen on a designer’s sketch, to illustrate the way the light should be reflected, but it wouldn’t have been pressed into the sheet metal in a straightforward manner. It’s as though the upper border of the ‘darker’ part of the door on that white previous-generation A3 saloon was actually stamped into the door:

      View this post on Instagram

      This is part of an Audi. Really. Honestly. In all seriousness. http://www.auto-didakt.com #autodidaktblog #gims #gims2018 #audi #audia6 #marclichte #autosalongenf #carculture #cardesign

      A post shared by Auto Didakt (@autodidaktblog) on

    7. Hi S.V. Like you, I initially thought they must be reflections, but Christopher is right, they really are creases. Audi has tried to dictate how the light plays on the body, and it just looks forced and fussy to my eyes.

      NRJ, I don’t like that Mirai much, but not because of the bulging wheel arches. It’s proportions are odd and it looks overbodied on those small wheels.

      The new Mirai is great, however:

  2. I’ll reserve judgement on the Audi until I see it in three dimensions. Perhaps my soul will be deeply stirred, which is what Herr Lichte and his team ought to be trying for . Any more generations of cars which look like slightly angrier facelifts of their predecessors and they’ll be accused of starting a new retro era.

    The angry Yaris is more interesting than expected. A small suv with a 4WD is a big deal. It shouldn’t be, but for most markets in Europe the only other option is the Panda 4×4. The retention of the Yaris name goes against the B segment suv convention, and underplays the differentiation from the Yaris vulgaris. I think Toyota may yet have a rethink on this matter. It’s not so long since they previewed an Auris, then launched a Corolla.

  3. Goodness me. Ever since the 1960s, Audi have relied effectively on good engineering and good industrial design taste to produce contemporary and then timeless designs that endure. Then they started on the “styling” kick and look where it has got them. Don´t get me wrong: there is a place for contemporary, fashion-led stlying and Renault, Ford, Opel and Mercedes do just fine with it. Some of it is dazzling (think of the 1999 Ford Mondeo, current Fiesta or current Renaults) but this is not Audi´s line; had they been struggling I´d see the point but they aren´t. This is change for its own sake.

  4. I like the Audi (over-large grille aside), although carrying on bulging feature lines from one panel to another does remind me of the Morris Minor.

    I wonder how wide the doors are in cross section, where they incorporate the flares. Are you confronted with a great span of metal when you open the rear doors? It’ll probably be better to see it in real life, as Robertas has said.

    Speaking of seeing things in the metal, I saw the new Corsa for the first time, today (silver, with a black roof). It looked okay, I thought – better than in pictures – less ‘squashed’ / truncated.

    That Temper-Tantrum-Toyota’s a bit generic; not sure how I feel about angular wheel arches.

  5. The current A3 saloon demonstrated that Audi had mastered the daunting task of producing a car of the same length as the late ’90s A4, but with far less interior room. An incredible accomplishment.

    As I’ve mentioned many times before, I find that the process of getting out of the current A3 for my old bones is something I could not tolerate on a long term basis. In modern terms, egress is a problem, just as it is in the near enough identical Golf. The B-pillar placement is abysmal and much too far forward, so one has to hoist oneself out of black hole for styling’s sake. If one is forced to park too near another vehicle and cannot open the door wide, getting out is damn near impossible, as I was able to get the stoutish younger salesman to demonstrate unto himself. Prior to that it hadn’t occurred to him, but the too close presence of an A4 on the showroom floor, had him squirming around trying to get out. Just as I had experienced. What useless design! Sorry, it’s unacceptable, like a toaster which doesn’t hoist the slice high enough to extract without burning one’s fingers. Even the $19 ones have that aspect aced to perfection even if they produce mottled surfaces on the bread itself.

    Comparing the interior of the A3 with the new Mazda3 in its most expensive configuration was also revelatory. The Mazda whomped it going away, and somehow managed to present no problem with egress either. For two-thirds the price, it was simply no contest. Audi/VW do not understand ergonomics in my view, or more likely, do not care.

    Now we have the next A3 iteration illustrated here with its puffed shoulder and baggy pantaloon styling, and I’m almost 100 per cent certain no attention whatsoever has been paid to the ergonomic debacle that characterises the existing car.

    And you wonder why people buy the crossover instead? It’s so obvious it isn’t funny. Even if it is extant only on a subliminal level. If one must impress the neighbours with an Audi, then the A3 saloon is not a practical choice. A hatch would not make the slightest difference.

    The ground clearance is also a complete joke. You can’t even get these things in and out of the driveway from our highly-crowned city streets without smearing the front clip all over the ground. Just what one needs, a dinged-up car on its first trip home from the showroom, and frustration galore. A 1995 Golf was pretty bad in our milieu for my pal, and no lessons have been learned in the past quarter century. Scrunch.

    A perfect example of design carried out in a glass bubble to the wrong specs. Therefore a total failure in my view. Who cares about the styling when the unit itself is unfit for its intended everyday purpose? I’m sure the new A3 saloon will carry on its current tradition of not selling at all in North America. And why VW has decided not to bring the Golf Mk 8 here except in GTI and R form. You can’t give ’em away.

    As for Toyota, I’ve almost given up criticising the useless-looking nonsense they produce. The real seller here is the RAV4, and it is, unsurprisingly, not gauche in any way, nor is the Corolla. Whatever substances the Toyota design crews ingest for pleasure and escape from the real world, management keeps that stuff well away from the studios designing the real bread and butter vehicles. They had a go at freaking out with the current Prius, and sales fell in half immediately, because people aren’t blind. Dear Akio’s version of “excitement” leads to rubbish like the new Supra or this misshapen Yaris variant. There really isn’t anything more to say. The CH-R had about three months of sales glory around here as the hand-waving showoffs had their fill, but now you’d be hard pressed to spot one. Like the Mazda3 hatchback, the rear interior resembles the Bat Cave. Who needs that?

    1. It took a lot of R&D to get to that point. Impressive.

      One day I saw an Austin Maxi and an Audi A6 parked together. The Maxi was tiny outside and huge inside and the Audi (1999 or so) the reverse, by a big margin.

      By the way, how is it Audi and BMW are selling small saloons and Ford and Opel and others can´t? I find this really odd. Is it that the A3 is now standing in for the A4 which is a stupidly big car now? Will the A8 eventually disappear like the Granada and Senator did?

      Finally, apropos of nothing, I saw a Ford S-Max shoot past me at night: the reflections on the wheels, the city lights flashing off the body, the red flare of the tail lamps and the chrome were unbelievably glamorous. It was a real “car moment”. It reminded me of Blur “the mystery of a speeding car”.

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