Savannah Photoessay

Today’s offering is a walk along 500 metres of West Hall Street, turn left somewhere and then left again. This post is more about images than words, note.

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I found it a little overwhelming to take in such a large amount of visual information while I was trying to find my way around a new environment, jetlagged and tired after 12 hours of travel (two flights). Which brings us to the punchline. In 1992 a roster of cars from this sector looked like this:

Do you share my view that the Audi stands out among its peers in the 1990s in the way the current A4 doesn’t? I was heading back to my base and had taken about 50 photos by the time I happened across the Audi. As I had with the other unfamiliar cars, I looked twice and checked the bootlid. It surprised me that the unfamiliar and unremakable saloon was an Audi. I’ve seen plenty of them too. So what happened to my critical faculties?

I propose that I had trained myself to see things afresh and to assume each unfamiliar thing was a new thing. The current A4 is also a car that stands out much less in Denmark where I am based – I’ve not seen so many whereas I’ve noticed its peers in reasonable numbers such that I view them as the current cars.

Audi’s recent offerings have done nothing to erase the strong impression of the predecessor cars; I think the typical Audi looks like an A4 or A6 from around 2005-2010. My impression of a typical BMW and Mercedes looks like what they sell now, for better or worse.

So, you could say the world caught up with Audi but also Audi have gone sideways and produce, for the most part, vehicles as distinguished or undistinguished as their peers.

(The current Audi A4 has been on sale since 2015. I really haven’t noticed them).

(Feb 15 2023: the names of the cars in the slideshow have been corrected with the kind help of reader Alexander Moore. Much appreciated.)


Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

31 thoughts on “Savannah Photoessay”

  1. Good morning, Richard. When I think Audi the A2, A6 C5, A8 D2 and TT come to mind. It’s strange how many TT’s I have noticed in the last couple of days. They’re selling less and less A4’s in the Netherlands since 2016. In that year they sold 3,659 cA4’s, in 2022 only 902. Like you I don’t really register these cars.

    When I think about BMW it’s about the E9, E10 and E30 and about the many Bimmers that were in my family. For Mercedes it’s W201, C126, W126.

  2. Only two of the “1992” cars pictured could be considered peers amongst one another, none of which are to that Audi. The slideshow is equally inaccurate in regards to identification accuracy.

    1. Guilty about the identification accuracy. Apologies. I will make corrections if you can suggest them.
      The 1990s cars are more like a selection of common medium-sized cars just as the random selection in Savannah was.

    2. The car identified as a 2004 Avalon is actually the Avalon’s cheaper sibling the Camry.

      And I live in Savannah. It’s wild seeing these pictures on a British car site.

  3. Good-looking cars, the lot of them. Well-proportioned with simple surfacing. Only the Toyota is a little fussy with the details. For me the Accord is the winner here – it just looks right. I’d happily buy a time-capsule example today.

  4. Yes, the Audi stands out, but, like David Roser, I really like the Honda too – it’s so clean, well proportioned, with a lovely low bonnet line (not so good for pedestrian crash protection, but it looks good) and tidy detailing. The Toyota does look fussy in comparison and the Audi even a little bulky.

  5. I just love the Accord, it is so perfect. The other cars are OK, the Audi is fine, not their greatest but OK.
    ‘Peak Audi’ was around the time the A5 was introduced, since then there has been a change in personnel…

  6. I’m very happy to read the love for the Accord here. It is a lovely, clean design with its deep DLO, slim pillars and low bonnet line. I don’t imagine it would fare well in today’s Euro NCAP crash tests though.

    Look how little metal there is above the front wheel arch, a hallmark of Honda cars of this era. Wasn’t the consequent lack of front suspension travel an issue for Rover with the 600, if I recall correctly. Anyway, here are a few more images of the Accord:

    1. The low bonnet line was possible because Honda insisted on using a double wishbone front suspension with no spring sitting over the tyre.
      Lack of suspension travel was a Honda feature for many years.

    2. Probably the CB Accord was “peak Accord”, and a big sales sucess in US, despite the lack of a V6 (the Camry and the Maxima were available with V6 power). In 1993 we got the european Accord and it seemed a lot less substantial than the CB.
      I remember the motor press criticised Hondas due to limited suspension travel but I didn´t miss it in my Prelude, and that car´s damping wasn´t too firm.

  7. The blue-grey car is a Nissan Altima, apparently. I agree that the photo of the bronze (?) Honda (more than) does it justice – it’s a nice colour / good lighting.

    I was surprised that the picture of the newer A4 was an Audi, but it’s not a very flattering photo (someone really needs to have a word with Mr Land-Windermere). I saw a dark-coloured A4 on the road, a while back and actually thought to myself that it’s no wonder people buy Audis – it looked very dignified (from the rear three quarters).

    1. Hi Charles. Yes, the current A4 was a nice design (apart from the front) with one particularly neat detail, a groove in the bodysides that concealed the bonnet to wing shut-line perfectly:

      Note the past tense, however. Audi messed it up with a particularly crass facelift, presumably intended to evoke the spirit of the Ur-Quattro:

  8. Current Audi design is disappointing. I can’t tell an A4 from an A6, the A8 is one big bunker of a car, the current A3 is a bit “meh” compared with similar but more interesting offerings from other manufacturers (Peugeot 308 and Opel Astra, for example) and there are so many crossover models (Q2, Q3, Q7,…) that it’s mind boggling and I just lost count. The A1 Sportback is the only model in the current European Audi range that I find desirable, both stylistically and functionally (I don’t need/want a large car):

    I like its sharp lines, purposeful stance and good proportions. The only obvious design fault to me is those vents on the leading edge of the bonnet. They look unnecessary and fussy:

    1. I’ve suggested on another forum (tongue firmly in cheek!) that Audi should make the number of rings on the grille and boot badge proportional to the ‘number’ of the car – four for an A4, six for an A6, and so on. The ring’s the thing.
      Yes I know what the four rings signify, but it they will make their designs so alike…

  9. To think that A4 is from before things went pear shaped aut Audi (well, not so much pear as horned-melon-shaped)

    The Accord (or any contemporary Honda) is definitely my pick of the bunch as well. The Audi may be a very clever facelift, but it is a facelift nonetheless. It picks up the original 80 design nicely, but for me it cannot compete with the sleekness of the Japanese bunch (even if the Nissan is a little awkward and the Toyota a tad fussy). Mind you, I wouldn’t say no to an HR32 Nissan Skyline sedan, 1989 vintage:

    The 2020 Skyline looks better than I thought it would, from what little I’ve seen (only in pictures). The Chrysler 200 was by accounts a decent enough car that was yanked from the market prematurely through FCA’s incessant flip flopping.

    1. The 2020 Nissan Maxima, I meant. A bit too much metal above the front wheel arch and fussy like any current design. The headlights and bonnet shutlines aren’t visible from the side. That helps, I think:

  10. This Audi 80 still is my favourite Audi. Extremely solid (built for the lifespan of Stonehenge – as a contemporary comparison described the impression of the Audi 80 – quality) and with a design that still does not make the car looking dated.

    The Audi Avant RS2 and the Audi 80 Cabrio are marking the beginning of two successful lines in the Audi-portfolio.

    I like the cars of the Nineties, for me the golden era of the car industry.

  11. The most attractive sight on your walk today is the trees.
    How much design has regressed over the past two decades; give me the functional purity of that early Accord, it’s clearly designed for people.

    1. I, too, would choose the Accord – with the Audi as second choice. But at the time Honda design was streets ahead of anything else Japanese in terms of clean lines and elegance. And sorry Charles, but you’re wrong about the windows being too big – I fear you’ve been seduced by lower door panels that reach to the top of your shoulders, which seems to be the current fad. The Accord just a delightful vehicle to look at and look out of. And as I recall was pretty good to drive, too.

    2. JTC – re the widows, I think it’s a distinct possibility that I’ve become conditioned. Like the physical sense of (mouth) taste, I think how one views things is heavily dependent on context.

      I think I’ve driven one of that generation of Accords – early to mid-‘90s; it was very impressive (superbly built and engineered, smooth, quiet, strong engine, etc).

  12. As a particularly obsessive car spotter I felt the need to post visual corrections for your identification slideshow! I cannot blame you for the slip-ups as the vehicular offerings on the USDM are so anodyne that someone unfamiliar with the market would have little reason to care about the differences, but I do so here they are:

    First up is your ‘Cadillac STS’, really a first gen CTS which is a slightly smaller model to the STS. Note that I have pictured the STS above, the CTS below. I’ll mention in passing that your ‘2008’ Regal (Opel Insignia) is actually past the 2014 facelift.

    Next is your ‘2020 Nissan Maxima’, in reality it is the latest Sentra, Nissan’s C-segmenter here and two sizes smaller than the Maxima (pictured above the Sentra).

    Your ‘blue-grey thing’ is the outgoing Nissan Altima (also mentioned by Charles), the D-segmenter that sits between the Sentra and Maxima:

    Finally, as JustinAjax mentions, your ‘2004 Avalon’ is actually a post-2010 Camry (Avalon pictured on top), with the Camry also a D-segmenter to the Avalon in the E-segment.

    That said, I’m not sure I’d fare much better were I on a European holiday; at one point I had to ask the members of my home forum to identify a first generation Kia Carens for me!

    1. Good morning Alexander. My goodness, the first two pairs really are clones of each other, although the size difference in the case of the Maxima and Sentra would be apparent in the real world, if not in photos. The Avalon is a rather frumpy and old-fashioned looking thing for 2004. Without knowing otherwise, I would have guessed it was from the late 1980s or early 1990s.

    2. Indeed, the ‘same sausage, different lengths’ school of thought has certainly been pervasive in postmodern auto design, though I’d say Cadillac’s ‘Art & Science’ motifs are far more cohesive than Nissan’s ‘V-Motion’ chaos.

      The gen2 Avalon was a weird one, it has very little tumblehome which is so rare for a modern car that it gives it that anachronistic feel. Jim Hall details it quite nicely in his ‘Design Handbook’ series on YouTube:

    3. Hi Alexander:
      It´s really kind of you to help out. I am embarassed I got it so wrong. The whole thing overwhelmed my senses – one mysterious new car after another down 500 m of road. I suppose ornithologists landing in S America must have had the same bewilderment.
      The pair that foxes me the most is the Nissan pair. Trying to check the images led me astray. No, they aren´t identical but they are not dramatically different, being re-arrangement of the same kinds of details. Can you or anyone explain what the CTS/STS distinction is supposed to be? Both look to be within 1% dimensionally and nothing in the styling indicates any kind of identifiable status difference either.

    4. No worries! I can only profess to be an expert as far as American car spotting is concerned so I understand how tricky accurate identification is in a foreign land. Sadly as markets are becoming increasingly globalized the number of regionally unique vehicles is diminishing greatly; imagine my disappointment when we went to Australia in 2020 only to rent a Hyundai Tucson, the CUV named after the town I currently reside in!

      The Nissan saloons are disappointing to me since I didn’t particularly like this busy ‘V-Motion’ design language when it debuted in 2016 with the Maxima, and it has only spread like the plague since across the entire lineup. Nissans used to look satisfyingly simple, and I still reminisce over my grandmother’s fifth-generation Maxima that I chose for her as a four-year old over an Accord or Camry!

      As for Cadillac, the STS comes in at 4986 mm to the CTS’ 4829 mm, so the difference of 157 mm is not too dissimilar to the 180 mm difference between the longest E39 and the shortest E38. If it helps, the STS succeeded the Seville (thus ‘Seville Touring Sedan’) whereas the CTS succeeded the Catera (Opel Omega B) as the ‘Catera Touring Sedan’. All that said, I’d previously always assumed the CTS was a 3-Series sized saloon since I recall contemporary auto magazines comparing the CTS V to the M3 and S4, only to find out years later that it was actually 5-Series sized!

      The Cadillac saloon lineup has never made sense to me size and segment-wise and continues to not. The CTS would later grow to replace the STS while the (actually) 3-Series sized ATS came in at the bottom. Cadillac is really keen on the ‘large E, small F’ segment saloon for some reason even though I’d argue that it is a market graveyard, home to all sorts of discontinued executives like Acura’s RLX (Legend), Infiniti’s Q70 (Nissan Fuga/Cima), et al.

    5. Is there any sense to the argument that Cadillac intentionally wanted it to make hard to understand the exact relation of the cars to their predecessors and contemporaries? I feel I need to make a graphic info-visual with timelines and diagrams to really batter the relations into my head (I am a visual person – don´t tell me dates, show me a week-to-week calendar).
      I´ll have to get out a peice of paper and a pen so I can see the time/name/dimensions relations.

    6. It is possible given how many times Cadillac has tried to ‘reinvent’ themselves into a credible German alternative. Of course I think they’d have seen better success sticking with the big luxury barges everyone came to know them for, but I suppose they’re trying that again now with the Celestiq.

      Meh, the entire industry is getting that way. Segments are apparently mere constructs, and profitable niches deserve to be split down to the micron level. Us here in America just got shown the new Toyota ‘Grand Highlander’, apparently larger than a regular Highlander but smaller than the full-size truck-based Sequoia. I don’t see how there’s really a need for 3 three-row SUV/CUV things, but here we are.

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