Reviewing the automotive week ending 25 June 2021.
It has of late become a little predictable to begin these (relatively) infrequent news-related pieces with the latest machinations of the Stellantis auto group, but that’s hardly my fault given that they are the only carmaker these days truly capable of genuine surprise. This week, the continent-straddling motor giant sprinkled a few more crumbs of their plans for Alfa Romeo, which are believed to encompass a range of three crossover CUVs – (small, medium and large), a Giulia-esque saloon and if the tabloids are to be believed, a coupé.
Speaking to journalists, Alfa Romeo’s new CEO, Jean-Philippe Imparato intimated that he was “very interested” in the idea of a GTV-badged model (a statement that could quite literally mean anything), but given how little actual detail he was prepared to reveal, the space for conjecture and wishful thinking to occupy any perceived vacuum was taken up with gusto by our friends in the media, who aren’t it must be pointed out very good at their sums.
What we do know is that Alfa Romeo’s lineup will be electrified (in a dynamic way, sayeth the good Mr. Tavares) by mid-late decade, and that future cars bearing the legendary Scudetto will (upcoming Tonale aside) employ the new modular group platforms, largely developed by PSA. This includes the models currently on the much-hyped rear-drive Giorgio platform, which allegedly cannot support electrification. Ah yes, dear Mr. Marchionne – such a visionary.
Also confirmed this week was the heralded arrival of the highly-regarded Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos to centro stile Alfa Romeo, as previewed on these pages in May. It may be some time however, before we see the fruits of his upcoming labour.
Meanwhile, his boss was understandably talking up Alfa’s prospects within the group, stating that the Biscione “has the potential to be the global premium brand of Stellantis.” Now, given that we have heard a good deal more than strictly necessary about Alfa Romeo’s potential for some considerable years, it might behove both him and Mr. Tavares to promise less and get on with the delivery side of things.
Staying with Stellantis, this week also saw the official announcement of the second of Peugeot’s new generation 308 models – the SW estate. Following closely from the five door hatch introduced a couple of months ago (and not as yet commented upon on these pages), the SW lends a slightly more cohesive style to the somewhat melted fondant appearance of the new generation hatch.
These new-era Peugeots tend to hang together with more conviction in three dimensions, but one can’t help but feel that in the 308, Peugeot’s current design direction has hit its first significant pothole. Still, it’s most likely to give the current Renault Megane a thorough kicking in the marketplace when it goes on sale in France later this year.
We also heard from JLR’s Thierry Bolloré this week, who outlined a little more about his plans for what he terms the damaged brand-Jaguar. Bolloré intends to employ the successful Range Rover business model for the leaping cat, stating; “When Jaguar was incredibly successful, at the time when the E-Type got onto the market, it was a copy of nothing, that is what we are preparing now.”
It appears that group design chief, Gerry McGovern has not been allowing the dust to cling to his heels, having corralled both Land Rover and Jaguar design teams and hothoused a series of proposals which will now form the basis for the new Jaguar-branded lineup; Bolloré stating McGovern’s teams’ “incredible creativity” achieved what would normally take 18 months in a mere 3. Mind you, if you had Gerry breathing down your neck, you’d get pretty darned creative and sharpish.
AutoExpress reports that these three proposals (two crossovers and a 2-door sports model allegedly) have been stylistically signed off, and this new range of cars, which will also contain the existing I-Pace in some shape or form (the only existing car to continue beyond 2025), will start in the region of £100,000 – which is going to make life interesting for JLR dealers in and around transition time.
I’d think twice about that E-Pace madam.
Honda has meanwhile revealed its newest Civic model, which will be rolled out across European markets in 2022. This American-built model (Honda’s UK plant is to close) is the eleventh iteration of the Civic nameplate and is notable for a marked transition from the hyper-aggression and busy surfacing of the outgoing model for a calmer, more harmonious appearance.
Proportions have also been tightened up considerably, lending the car a tauter, more dynamic mien, this time however, without necessarily having to shout about it. Honda has clearly got its ill-advised Manga styling period out of its system. All rejoice.
Power is to be from a choice of hybrid petrol/electric powertrains, although which is to specified for Europe remains to be confirmed. The upcoming, range topping Civic R model however, will retain a combustion engine, pumping out something in the region of 300 big ones. Heavens!
While on the subject of calmer styling (and hybrids), Ferrari have debuted their new 296 GTB, its so-called new-era Dino model, which your correspondent confidently predicted would never happen. Much like their friends in Minato, Marenello have been mired in a race to the bottom with rival hypercar-makers over who could style a mid-engined machine in the most visually repellent fashion.
The jury remains out on that, but meanwhile, Ferrari appears to be taking itself out of the game, and following in the footsteps of the well received Roma Coupé, borrowing elements from Pininfarina’s 2013 Sergio concept (in the nose treatment) and Lotus’ Evora around the canopy, the 296 melds traces of Ferrari’s past with more contemporary cues to largely pleasing effect.
Oh and yes, it’s a hybrid V6. Just don’t get your hopes up on a suitably entry-level price. No Mystic Meg is your correspondent when it comes to auto-predictions, but it’s a different story when it comes to commerce. We’re talking Ferrari after all.
Another turbulent week at the eternally troubled Aston Martin, this time saying adieu to design director, Miles Nürnberger, who leaves Gaydon for pastures new. Having worked alongside design chief, Marek Reichman at Lincoln in the US, Nürnberger was poached from Groupe PSA in 2008; the German-born designer having overall responsibility for all of the more recent AM designs.
The reason for his departure has not been made public, but unquestionably, some of the recent designs he has helmed have not been particularly well received, especially amid the heartland models (DB 11 and Vantage). Not that he should necessarily bear sole responsibility for that.
Instead he moves to Paris, replacing the chair recently vacated by the above-mentioned Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos at Renault’s Dacia brand. Now only a grizzled cynic would ask what would prompt the lead designer from as prestigious and storied a carmaker as Aston Martin to depart for a value-focussed, mass-market manufacturer like Dacia? Whatever the rationale, it leaves a good deal open to interpretation.
Now finally, and on the subject of genuine surprise, I had intended to complete this roundup with some comment regarding Lancia’s startling reanimation plans, but since I’m already over 1200 words, it’s Sunday and you’re tired, I think we ought to defer that pleasure for another time.