Making almost as brief an appearance at this year’s Tour as its stricken race director, Škoda gets its newest electric offering some valuable airtime.
Among the more familiar sights on each stage of the Tour de France is the presence of the race director’s red car (the colour is velvet red in case you’re wondering). This vehicle, in which the illustrious annual cycle race’s leading light holds court, (often with invited dignitaries aboard) leads the riders from the start line of whatever town or city has hosted that day’s stage, through the neutralised zone (where riders are not permitted to attack), before he emerges through the specially enlarged sunroof, and drops a white flag – at which point the inevitable, if predominantly doomed rider breakaways take flight.
The race director’s car carries six aerials, (four on the roof and two on the sides), a flag holder, a specially tuned horn, advertising banners, five radio circuits, and a number of other electrical installations, including power-operated beacons and a radio station, (race radio) through which he remains in contact with all important units of the race – which includes race commissaries, local officials and marshals, team support cars and both local and national police forces.
For some years now, Škoda, in its close partnership with the Tour organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), in addition to sponsoring the individual leader’s jerseys, has provided official cars, the MAVIC-sponsored neutral service vehicles (who will provide mechanical assistance to any rider, within race rules) as well as individual team support cars. The Czech carmaker, who began as a cycle manufacturer in 1895 has become virtually synonymous with the annual staging of the event, one of the largest and most logistically challenging in modern day sport.
Mostly, Race Director, Christian Prudhomme has been ferried about in a series of specially adopted Škoda Superbs, but this year, as a means of carrying out a soft introduction to what may well be Mláda Boleslav’s most commercially significant debutante, Proudhomme was to have used a new Enyaq iV for three stages of this year’s delayed lap of la République, one of which will include the Grand Finish on Paris’ Champs-Élysées.
But not quite. Because while the Škoda may well make all three of its scheduled appearances, Director Proudhomme himself has had to absent himself, having tested positive – not for performance enhancing drugs, as you might have been led to suspect, but for the all-conquering C-19 coronavirus.
Continuing for a moment with the often (if not necessarily this year) much discussed subject of le dopage, it does seem both unfortunate and rather remiss of Mlada Boleslav’s PR to place the Enyaq’s full name so prominently on its flanks – surely no fully cognisant TDF Director General would choose the initials iV to be emblazoned upon his official car? There is after all, such a concept as optics.
As to the Enyaq iV itself, it looks a fairly unremarkable and entirely predictable semi-crossover-estate EV, the single surprising aspect of its appearance (for this author at least) is that it not only appears better resolved than anticipated, but a good deal more so than its putative VW stablemate, if pre-release photos are to be believed.
That name however, remains an unconvincing presence – an eerily similar experience one feels when subjected to its alleged namesake’s aural outpourings. It’s probably too late now for a rethink, but from where I’m sitting (and watching the TDF), it’s the only thing (apart perhaps from that flag) that they appear to have dropped here.
39 thoughts on “Tour de Enyaq”
What’s predictable about the styling of an EV that has a huge fake grill? Tesla has been around for a few years. People can realize an EV doesn’t need huge frontal ornaments which takes away from its efficiency. Also bears mentioning while you discuss this car that VW is losing money on each, that this is an inferior product, burdened by horribly inept software.
Good morning Ofer. I would say it is predictable in that it tries to look as conventional possible, like many other EVs, to assuage customer resistance to the unfamiliar. Even the pioneering Tesla Model S started life with a large black frontal detail apeing a grille:
Only when the market for the Model S was established did Tesla modify the front end to reflect the EV powertrain:
Škoda has carved out quite a nice sponsorship niche for itself here, notwithstanding the sport’s doping controversy. However, I don’t understand competitive road cycling. Isn’t the anointed lead rider in a team protected from challenges by their team-mates riding in formation behind them? That sounds rather unfair to me. That said, ‘team orders’ has been a controversial issue in Formula 1 too. I’m probably missing something, but I’m sure someone will put me straight on this.
Thank you Mr. O’Callaghan for proving my point. The Model S was presented nearly a decade ago. The initial design was never popular. In fact, 81.99 percent of voters preferred the newer version in a poll conducted by Electrec in April 2016.
Yet even the very early examples never had a grill: The ‘nose cone’ was painted over and therefore never detracted from the functionality of the design. VW, on the other hand, struggle to make a cohesive EV design in the same way they struggle to write software for their EV and in the same way these cars, while costly to purchase, lose money, as they’ve never learnt to produce them efficiently. I wonder who would prefer such an inferior product to a Berlin made Model Y, which would be a significantly better product to the current car produced in the US.
Remember what a certain Mr Diess was saying on the US Model Y: “This car is for us in many aspects (not in all!) a reference: user experience, updatability, driving features, performance of the top of the range models, charging network, range.”
Hi Ofer. Thank you for your further comments, but I’m not sure exactly how I have proved your point. If the fake grille on the original Model S “never detracted from the functionality of the design”, then why should the fake grille on the Enyaq do so?
If you’re merely criticising the aesthetics of the Enyaq, then that’s fine, but I think VW is simply covering all its bases: the ID.4 will be bought by customers who want their EV to look distinctive and “EV-ish”, the Enyaq by more conservative (older?) customers who want something that looks more traditional.
As for VW having “…never learnt to produce them efficiently.” that judgement seems rather premature, given how recently the group has begun producing EVs, but perhaps you have insights into their internal accounts that are unavailable to me. Likewise, the software deficiencies you mention.
Daniel, like many sports, stage race cycling events like the TDF require a degree of investment from the viewer before they can be understood and appreciated. They have a certain aesthetic appeal – the peloton is more of a creature onto itself than simply the confluence of over a hundred or so riders – not to mention the landscape through which it wends its way, be it France, Italy, Spain, or any of the many other countries that now host major stage races.
Like many sports, the grand tours have changed notably in the manner in which they are raced (and won), especially in latter years, when sports science (and its pharmaceutical equivalent) have taken a stronger hold over the sport. In previous eras, the major riders would work with considerably less assistance and would frequently be left without assistance from team mates – often going head to head for on the road supremacy.
A lot changed during the ’90s when EPO took over, a matter which came to a head when US Postal and ‘he who must not be mentioned’ came to the ascendency, where the entire team were of similar riding strength to that of the leader and would bully the peloton through strength and imposition of will. Nothing was quite the same afterwards, witnessed by the utter domination of Team Sky in recent years, who adopted similar race tactics of neutralising threats through sheer riding force. (I’m quite satisfied to note that under its newfound and risible Ineos Grenadiers identity, it seems a less convincing proposition).
My eyes are no longer as wide as they were, yet there are still moments of wonder and yes, even beauty. Increasingly rare, but there for those who are willing to immerse themselves. I still enjoy the spectacle, and would contentedly spend hours in front of the telly during the month of July.
A very elegant and evocative description of road cycle racing, thank you Eóin. As you rightly point out, I am insufficiently familiar with the sport to appreciate its nuances and was just being a bit mischievous with my question.
I am a fan of Formula 1, but would be first to admit that many races, and even whole seasons, can be insufferably tedious if dominated by a single driver, often because they simply have the best car and their team mate is a less gifted driver, or is constrained by team orders. Schumacher at Ferrari, Vettel at Red Bull, how Hamilton at Mercedes-Benz have been utterly dominant. Only bad luck or a mishap interrupts their winning streaks. Casual viewers will sensibly find something better to do for the following 90 minutes if Hamilton enters the first corner in the lead.
F1 has tried repeatedly to alter the specification of the cars to promote overtaking, but as long as they are explicitly designed, not only to be aerodynamically efficient, but to disrupt the airflow for following cars, the problem will persist. DRS is an arbitrary and artificial ‘fix’ that is largely ineffective. The only real solution is to drastically curtail aerodynamic downforce and make the cars rely on mechanical grip instead.
For all that, I still spend Sunday afternoons (and pay Sky for the privilege) to watch a tedious procession, in the hope of seeing races like today’s and last Sunday’s, both chaotic and unpredictable.
In the Seventies a friend of mine had a temporary job of driving one of the motorcycles carrying the camera men on events like TDF or Giro d’Italia.
The bikes were Guzzis, chosen for their torque characteristics and their brakes (Guzzis from that era had an ‘integral’ brake system where the foot brake also activated one of the discs up front, resulting in excellent brake performance for the time).
He told me that even with a Guzzi it was impossible to keep up with the bicycles on downhill sections because the drivers were going like mad and the low weight combined with good brakes gave them an advantage when approaching corners he couldn’t match with the motorcycle. It also must have been a weird experience to have someone sit back to back on your motorcycle carrying a heavy camera high up where you want it least. Getting that around corners most probably was no fun.
When comparing Skoda vs. VW should also bear in mind that after the takeover by VW, Skoda relatively quickly developed a branded grill and – similar to Audi – carried it out consistently.
At VW, you can talk about a different front graphic, depending on the decade and / or designer, but they never had realy a “branded grill” since the introduction of the front-driven vehicles in the 70s.
So for VW it was pretty easy to have a “grill-less” front design for the ID-Series, while brand identity at Skoda is much more about the (established) grill.
And Tesla is not a good comparison. Tesla has no heritage. They could do what the market asked for, free of history – at first it was “here I come”, then relatively quickly “I’m electric”.
Tesla is not a good comparison for anything.
As a company it does not earn any money from making cars, the cars are crap when considered as cars and not objects of religious adoration and it does not have customers but believers acting as trolls in forums.
The Enyaq’s grille actually lights up. Quite fun, although I recognise not to everyone’s taste.
I can forgive the tricky grille, but the gold badging at the rear (54 seconds in) YUCK! 😝
Yes, I’m not keen. VWG’s Cupra brand uses copper-coloured badging, which I don’t like much, either, although at least it’s justified given the brand name.
I get the Cupra badging to a degree, but has any car ever been enhanced by gold coloured badges (and wheels)? This one certainly hasn’t:
….and Clio Williams wheels?
Porsche 911 and 914
I think we are coming up with the ‘exceptions that prove the rule’ Fred. I have to confess that in general I agree with Daniel, and was posting out of Sunday evening mischieviousness.
I was being a bit provocative too. Mention of the Clio Williams also put me in mind of this:
Not to my taste, but I appreciate that, like the Clio, it has a cult following.
Dear Mr. O’Callaghan it seems I was not clear. Let’s try again, as I wrote, even the very early Model S “never had a grill: The ‘nose cone’ was *painted over* and therefore never detracted from the functionality of the design.” This is not the case with the Enyaq. It has a grill. A physical grill. A grill that serves no function yet is taking away from the car’s range and performance.
Also, with regard to WV losing money on each EV, wasn’t this an issue of many reports? Try any of the following, if you are unfamiliar with the subject:
And here’s Diess again, this time of the costs of EV making: “The burden for our company, such as the cost of bringing to market electric cars, will be higher than expected. This is particularly so since some of our competitors have been making more progress.” https://electrek.co/2018/09/13/vw-ceo-higher-electric-car-costs-competition-progress/
Dear Ofer S.L. As someone who is clearly concerned about the state of the planet, the upcoming climate crisis and mankind’s hand in driving it, I would have thought you might have been, if not supportive, at least in some way mollified that mainstream carmakers are embracing electric propulsion.
And while it’s nice of you to pop by, but I can’t help but sense from your tone, that you have done so with the intention of picking a fight where there really is none to be had. We don’t do that kind of thing here, but if that indeed is your intention, I can assure you there are innumerable other automotive sites who will facilitate you far more readily. Kind regards, The Editor.
The TDF is the greatest race in the world. The extremely complex tactics and team shenanigans just add to the appeal – once you’ve spent a little time working out what’s going on.
As for the Skoda, as expected I suppose, but what is iV supposed to mean?
I am reminded there is also a ‘coupe’ version of this car on the way. I believe Skoda also offers such a variation of the Kodiaq, but has kept it in China so far. Doesn’t this deliberately reduced utility somewhat go against Skoda’s carefully crafted brand image? (I am aware that, outside Europe, there was zero awareness of Skoda so they have been free to reinterpret the brand as they see fit. In India it is seen as more upmarket than VW.)
From my point of view, the biggest race in the world is the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and I don’t really understand that, although I’ve been dealing with it since the 70s.
For me the TDF is “a closed book.”. I doubt I’ll ever will understand the TDF in this life – in the next life (hahaha) I get a bicycle from the start, that probably will help.
Being an old motorcycle aficionado the biggest race for me surely must be the IoM TT.
In the world of cars I’m not sure whether the Monte or Corsica rally is better – with Walter Röhrl’s drive at Arganil surely being the greatest event ever, like Nuvolari’s 1936 Nürburgring race.
Good suggestions both, but the TDF has elements that any motorsport fan can relate to: technology, bravery, speed and real peril, team orders and the tactics of an endurance race – when to push, and when to hold.
The riders are pushed to their limits again and again, and tested not just for their physical prowess but their decision making under stress. The course itself has variety, breath taking scenery and technical challenges. It has iconic routes that are spoken about in revered terms. And it is followed by devoted, even obsessive, fans.
These are some of the reasons I consider it the best race in the world.
Yes the drugs scandals have certainly tarnished the sport, but if you believe cycling is somehow uniquely dirty, I am afraid you are being naive. Professional sports are riddled with performance-enhancing drugs.
Ironically is motorsport, and by that I mean endurance racing (sprint races are more like live computer games, do you hear me Mr. E.?), one of the few (professional) sports – perhaps next to curling and indoor halma – without doping.
But maybe I’ll take a look at the next TDF on Eurosport, even if a glowing grille from a Skoda wouldn’t necessarily be a convincing argument.
I wonder whether the grille can be deactivated in the car’s menus. A quick internet search does not see mention of it in reviews. If they have added a grille to look like a conventional car, rather than the Tesla/VW ID smooth front, it seems curious that they would then illuminate it. As with retro-fit DRLs and scrolling indicators, perhaps we will see aftermarket glowing grilles soon. Hopefully not on new BMWs, as that would be terrifying.
(on the subject of scrolling indicators, I wonder whether these can be configured in a car’s menu to operate in the traditional manner)
The Enyaq’s front is pretty smooth – the grille is behind Perspex.
The stupid scrolling indicators cannot be deactivated in the car setup menu, at least not Audi’s.
But you can use software like VCDSpro to break into the car’s electronic system via the OBD interface and then they can be reverted to normal function. Getting such software is highly recommented to mandatory anyway when you’re the proud owner of any new VAG product because then you can get rid of most of the nannying nonsense provided with the new car for free.
I dont think that series production versions will have an illuminated grille as ECE type approval regulations mandate that all forward facing lighting of a car must be of the non-irritating kind (miniature christmas trees on truck dashboards therefore are illegal…).
I believe the illuminated grille will be available on higher spec models. Hella produce BMW’s illuminated grilles and state that they are integrated with the headlights and daytime running lamps, thus complying with legal requirements.
I saw this photo of the Enyaq today and felt a weird sense of déjà vu.
Is the Škoda grille slowly mutating into something eerily familiar?
It looks like the fake Testarossa air inlets of the 90’s have been resurrected as a big pompous car grill.
Hi Fred, that’s an interesting suggestion, but not quite what I had in mind. Perhaps it is just me after all? I might have to resort to Photoshop to explain…
Not just you Daniel. Can’t say I’m enamoured in either instance.
I´ve seen the new version of the BMW grille and it shows that someone in BMW really does not understand topology. The BMW grille is recognisable through it being two separate closed forms. The minute the two forms merge it becomes mathematically, topologically the same as many other grilles which are essentially single, closed loops. Alfa has a special case of the triangle; BMW had two closed loops and the rest of the world had to work with variations on one closed loop. It was a unique location in “design space” which they have thrown away.
Yes Richard, BMW have also thrown away the Hoffmeister kink, the four headlamp set up (which was established in the 80s but helped to make BMWs instantly recognisable), and many other little design flourishes.
They say they want to make their cars more distinctive and, er, ’emotional’. Not sure about the latter – you could describe throwing up as an emotional response – but BMWs are becoming less and less distinctive, even as they become uglier.
My comment referred to the unnecessary ugliness that is spreading in car design.
The Skoda looks to me like a wolf bares its teeth. For my part I do not want to meet either one or the other on the street. But that will probably be unavoidable.
Speaking of BMW…