Anniversary Waltz 2010 – The Wrath of Eyjafjallajökull

We round out the waltz with a look back on a detonating landmass. 

The 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. (c) BBC

Given its situation in the midst of the North Atlantic, perched upon a massive faultline, it’s hardly surprising that Iceland is utterly defined by its landscape. The least densely populated country in Europe, it is perhaps best known for its geothermal and seismic activity, much of which falls into the category of visually dramatic but relatively harmless (from a safe distance). However, Iceland’s landmass is not to be trifled with. In 2010 the Nordic country made the front pages when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, spewing massive quantities of volcanic ash thousands of miles into the atmosphere.

As the giant ash cloud migrated across the Atlantic, air traffic across Europe became paralysed, with thousands of travellers stranded over the Easter period, when huge numbers of people would normally have been flying; the worst disruption since the second world war. Two years on from the financial crisis, and with the after effects still being felt, public purses constrained and austerity being the byword, Europe was plunged into further chaos.

Yet this period was also notable for a sharp rise of luxury car sales, so the announcement in 2010 of the one millionth Range Rover built since production began 40 years earlier was less of a shock than perhaps it might otherwise have been.

Anniversaries, but also departures: 2010 marked the deaths of veteran former Team Lotus manager, Peter Warr, controversial racing driver and team principal, Tom Walkinshaw, and Royden (Roy) Axe, Design Director at Chrysler UK and latterly, Rover Group were announced over the course of the year. Births too of course, with a broad array of new car debuts, some of which were in receipt of the DTW treatment – the remainder languish below.

car magazine
(c) Car magazine

Audi arrived to the upmarket supermini fray in 2010, debuting the Polo-based A1. Largely a reskin along contemporary (Tornado) lines, the A1 looked more contrived and Mini-like in silhouette and detail than its VAG  stablemate, but gaping grille aside was nevertheless decently executed. The cabin was more assured, with quality mouldings and switchgear said to have been sourced from further up the model hierarchy. Amid those for whom only the four rings of Ingolstadt would suffice, the A1 (in its myriad of derivations) was heaven sent – the less insecure probably shopped elsewhere.

2010 Audi A7 Sportback. Image: Parkers

At the other end of the range, Audi also debuted the A7 Sportback. Essentially, Ingolstadt’s answer to Mercedes’ CLS, intended to appeal to the owner-driver who wanted the heft and opulence of an A8 without the somewhat po-faced aura which tended to come with with these Germanic luxury flagships. Favoured with a well-honed chassis and a strong range of engines, the A7 was well regarded, if witheringly expensive, but more significantly carried the not inconsequential mantle of being the last unambivalently attractive design from Audi before it all went South.

2010 BMW (F10) 5-Series. Image: Honestjohn

Timing is everything in life, and for BMW, the advent of the 2010 5-Series was fortuitous. Just as Mercedes had taken an ill-advised stylistic detour with the (W212) E-Class, the Vierzylinder re-entered the visual mainstream with the resolutely by the numbers F10 series. With the sector for the taking (Audi was habitually an also-ran here) Munich quickly assumed the driver’s seat. A return to form said some – a disappointing reversal others, but the sales numbers told the real story. A nailed on class leader, but like so many of its ilk, a somewhat soul-less one.

Mercedes SLS 63 AMG. Image: Motor Authority

Designed and engineered wholly by the AMG division, the (C197) Mercedes SLS was intended to recall the famous 300 SL from 1954, especially in its adoption of the original’s gullwing doors. The body design by Mark Fetherston was nicely proportioned, if lacking a certain finesse, as indeed was the cabin, which certainly didn’t look the money, well wrought as it undoubtedly was. Like much of Mercedes’ output at this time, the SLS was probably better to drive than it looked, but despite its want-for-nothing specification, it landed somewhat wide of the mark. File under vanity project.

2010 Peugeot 508 (c) notacias.coches

The Drive Sexy era was over; embattled and heavily indebted, Peugeot was looking to claw its way back to relevance after its pre-Millennial misfire. 2010’s 508 model was part of a new family of designs featuring a renewed sobriety of line and an attempt to emotionally reconnect with the Peugeot buyer of old. A bit of a curate’s egg this one, and probably best viewed from a safe distance, but it was a significant move in the right direction.

Florence and the machine. 2010 VW Touareg. Image: Zombiedrive

The first generation Volkswagen Touareg, while being an entirely marque appropriate SUV, seemed largely to exist in order to provide a platform for Audi and Porsche to make their own, more profitable versions. The second generation model made its debut in 2010; this time, one couldn’t escape the sense that the requirements of Zuffenhausen played a greater role in its creation than before. Still the most sensible of the trio – to own and to behold – albeit, given Wolfsburg’s roundel on the nose, probably the least depreciation-proof.

The Volt, seen here in Opel Ampera spec. Image: GM Europe

Once a generation, General Motors has a collective rush of blood to the head and forgets that it is in the business of cynically making money. Stung by the success of Toyota’s Prius, the Chevrolet division (under the auspices of a certain R. Lutz) developed a series plug-in hybrid rival. The Volt as launched in 2010 was an impressive machine, but neither the buying public understood it, nor did GM really adequately attempt to explain it, or market it in any meaningful way. Furthermore, GM’s name was dirt in the wake of its government bail-out, which certainly didn’t help either – nor indeed did a man called Musk.

2010 Nissan Leaf. Image (c) autoevolution

Meanwhile, Nissan got a jump on everyone, introducing a fully electrified five-seater for which few excuses were required. The first mainstream, affordable, dedicated electric car from a major carmaker, the Leaf arrived on the market a good two years before Tesla’s far more expensive Model S became available. The Nissan’s mix of a conventional silhouette with added oddness at the extremities was something of an acquired taste and with a viable range which by contemporary standards was on the modest side probably acted as a barrier for many, but Nissan (and its Renault partner) really did the heavy lifting in popularising the everyday EV.

The fallout from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption had an airline industry, having just started to recover from the 2008 financial crisis, once again facing hundreds of millions in lost revenue, given that their planes couldn’t fly. Tourism and business travel was also grievously affected in an oddly prescient rehearsal for the current desolate state of affairs. Acts of God, or simply a mutating virus, we take mother nature for granted at our peril.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

14 thoughts on “Anniversary Waltz 2010 – The Wrath of Eyjafjallajökull”

  1. Good morning Eóin. Thanks for another enjoyable retrospective. Ah, 2010, a halcyon time we only had errant volcanos to worry about, a time when Audi was capable of designing handsome cars, and the Mk1 A7 and its A8 counterpart were excellent work:

    The 5-Series, although commercially successful, was a rather dull thing, although dull is positively virtuous in comparison with what passes for BMW design these days.

    I’ve never looked properly at the Mk1 Nissan Leaf before. Your side profile photo is quite striking. I hadn’t realised just how pronounced that ‘wave’ waistline was. It places a huge expanse of metal above the rear wheel and makes it look smaller than the front wheel, an odd optical illusion.

    1. Anniversary Waltz has been a thought-provoking series; thank you Eóin – and all who have been commentating. The style evolution of the last few decades is particularly interesting and thanks to Daniel’s Audi example above I can now pin down exactly what it is which offends me most about the current “norm”. It’s those b****y low-profile tyres! The Audi is indeed handsome, but at the time I thought it quite the opposite; insufficient glass area, generally bloated flanks, far too wide for British roads…. but in comparison with what has followed it is svelte and almost compact

      The wheels and tyres, on the other hand, represent the one area where the great leaps forward in automotive design that come from F1, and motor racing in general, have little relevance to public roads. They generate far too much noise, a harsh ride and encourage a belief that the laws of physics no longer apply to going round corners. And they’re absolutely useless in snow.

  2. I was struck by your brief comment on the 508. Like the C5, I wonder whether this is a design to which time will be kind as it looks better to me now than ten years ago. It’s a marked change from the 407 that preceded it, less sleek and more formal. It’s a bit dumpy, but I can see why you think it a step in a better direction. The facelift was a good effort and a bridge to the new car, which I like very much for a contemporary design. Either way, it kept Peugeot in that large saloon market, whereas Citroën has now vanished.

    1. Hello S.V., I think part of the reason I find cars like the C5 and 508 interesting now, is that I paid them less attention at the time, so they’re relatively fresh. Looking at them now gives a sense of perspective in light of what has come since and that must flatter them, somewhat.

      In light of the above, I’m making an effort to take an interest in cars which seem a bit duff to me now, like the DS 9. Incidentally, I keep forgetting that there’s meant to be a large Citroën-branded flagship saloon arriving by the end of this year, which will use the new 508’s / DS 9’s platform. I look forward to seeing it.

    2. I keep seeing an example of the current big Peugeot saloon parked around here and, by contemporary standards, it is indeed a fine-looking thing.

  3. I happen to be owner of an A1 of the first generation, and actually like it!
    In fact it’s the only Audi of later years I would actually consider owning.
    I find your comment suggesting byers of the A1 are insecure to be rather condescending, as I absolutely didn’t buy it because of the status of the four rings!

    1. Asgeir: Hello and thanks for commenting. I suppose upon reflection, it might come across as a bit condescending. It wasn’t my intention to sneer at anyone’s choice of vehicle and I apologise if I caused offence.

    2. yeah, i was also surprised at the A1 hate – i though it was a tidy design when it came out, and it had some really nice details, like the recess for the rear lights, and a surprisingly successful use of contrasting pillars.

  4. As a saloon liking guy I had a soft spot for the 508. As has been commented on, it was dumpy but in a pleasing way. I think this car whispered rather than shouted “I’m French “ which is no bad thing when compared with today’s overwhelmingly sharper, nastier tropes.
    One detail that always made my inner child giggle was the method of opening the boot; you pressed the zero between the five and eight. It was a car that remained considered but never test drove. A work colleague had an estate version and positively loved it until he wrapped the car around a lamppost in wintertime.

    To the others; the F10 definitely shouted I’m German and solidly so. Not sure I could tell an original A1 from an updated one.

    The SLS at least sounded nice but not in the same league as the (surely) Spitfire inspired SLR.

    Touareg and Leaf? They’ve really been around ten and more years? Goodness. Neither have aged well.

    Volt/Ampera. Good name. Never seen. A bit like Iceland.

  5. I remember that Opel got the Ampera from GM and to turn this finished product into an Opel took about one and a half years of development time (?). One and a half years for different headlights and wings? I could never understand that. Well, but what do I know…
    Whenever I saw an Ampera, I thought to myself, hm, that could well make me an Opel buyer, but inside it was only available in a coal mine look, so no.

    To make the A1 interesting, Audi even added this wave to the headlights of the LMP1. I thought that was pretty silly at the time, as silly as I thought the A1 was. Probably this was because I found the A1 to be an ill-fated, banal successor to the A2, and the A2 (often driven, never owned – I am not the type for 4 rings, one is enough for me) was for me the stroke of genius from Ingoldstadt.

    I’ve always liked the design of the rear of the SLS, but what’s annoying is the star. But I’m a brand chauvinist (Unteachable, even if I’m hurting myself with it, but you have to nurture the last two/three prejudices, they’re the last ones).

    1. The Ampera is a strange case. Its successor, the Ampera-e, is also selling in similarly small numbers – roughly a 10th of those achieved by BMW’s i3, itself no great sales success.

      As for the A1, a friend had one and was very pleased with it. It struck me as being refined and well made – up to premium standards.

      Finally the SLS – I love it, and its successor, for their theatre. I’d definitely buy one, if my numbers came up.

      There are some brands which I would avoid, but only on the basis that you’d be assured poor treatment as a customer.

  6. the opel ampera reviewed rather well when i came out, but i think the high pricing killed it, as it had the cost of an electric car, but not the same amount of the governmental incentives.

  7. I once read that the Mk 1 A1 is what the Allegro would have morphed into if it had been developed to. Mk 7 version. I think it’s the side profile that does it.

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