AUTOpsy: Audi Q2 (2018)

Ingolstadt’s smallest crossover is very much a ‘statement design’ – it just so happens that the statement isn’t very clear. 

All images attributed to the author – unless where otherwise stated.

There’s two angles from which to approach the Audi Q2’s appearance: As the final straw of Wolfgang Egger’s ultimately lacklustre tenure as the brand’s chief designer, or as the first dawn of a new era of ‘assertive’ design from Ingolstadt.

The cabin is quite obviously ‘old school Audi’, in that most of the materials used are of above-average quality, with switchgear, displays et al laid out rather diligently. Or, in other words: There isn’t much wrong with the Q2’s interior.

The exterior, however, is terribly confusing. The graphics manage the rare feat of being bold and convoluted at once. The car’s overall stance aims to be far more imposing than the its dimensions would suggest – yet the meek track widths (incidentally, and most intriguingly, shared with a great many recent German ‘premium’ models) make this attempt appear rather futile. Continue reading “AUTOpsy: Audi Q2 (2018)”

In Memoriam : Ferdinand Piëch

A giant of the automotive world has departed. His like will not be seen again.

(c) hvilkenbil.dk

Ferdinand Piëch was not easily satisfied. Anything less than the relentless shedding of blood, sweat and tears he considered insufficient initiative – an approach many found misanthropic, yet from Piëch’s perspective, it was a mere matter of applying a categorical imperative. He would never expect more from anybody else than from himself. Continue reading “In Memoriam : Ferdinand Piëch”

The One That Got Away

Given its pedigree, the ‘lost’ Aston Martin DBS(C), designed by none other than Carrozzeria Touring, should be an unsung masterpiece. Yet it isn’t. 

The car in front is an Aston.

It sounds like the typical scenario that entails reverberating boos and pronounced hisses from enthusiasts’ quarters.

A much-loved maker of exotic sports cars hires the services of a well-respected carrozzeria to come up with the design for a new model. The carrozzeria in question had previously designed the very same car maker’s most popular models. Due to circumstances (mostly of the business-related variety), that new model is only created in one-off concept car form. Et voilà – the recipe for yet another automotive myth!

Concretely, the car in question is a model retrospectively dubbed Aston Martin DBSC. Originally, it was simply called DBS upon its unveiling at the Paris Motor Show of 1966 – and that’s only where it starts to Continue reading “The One That Got Away”

Pardon The French

Peculiar and of dubious aesthetic merit though its products are, DS Automobiles’ output at least possesses one commendable trait

Citoyen No1, photo (c) autoplus.fr

It’s rather easy to ridicule DS Automobiles. After all, it’s yet another car brand created in vitro, whose main claim to fame is a name that references one of the greatest creations in automotive history, without paying any respects to it whatsoever.

Casting aside this truly overbearing issue though, paying some attention to the brand’s design proves to be rather more worthwhile than a first glance would suggest. Of course, DS’ range of cars has so far mostly set itself apart through a sheer overabundance of stylistic tropes, many of which are rather less than inspiring (shark fin b-pillars, double badges). However, amid all the cacophonous excess, there are some interesting details to be found. Continue reading “Pardon The French”

Le roi est mort, vive le roi!

The proud, if patchy tradition of the French grand tourisme didn’t quite end with the Citroën SM. 

(c) Houtkamp.nl

The French relationship to automotive luxury is similar to how Germans deal with fine food. Just as those stemming from east of the river Rhine tend to be more willing to spend a fortune on engine lubricants, rather than extra virgin olive oil, their more occidental counterparts usually gain more pleasure from visiting a fine auberge on a regular basis than a car showroom or garage. How he or she gets to said auberge is a secondary concern, too.

Yet, just as there are Germans who care deeply about fine food (Fritz Eichbauer being a particularly striking example of this), the French aren’t totally immune to the charms of decadent motoring either, as the erstwhile success of proud names like Bugatti or Facel proved. It was only some time after the war, and due in large part to stringent domestic luxury taxation, that the French GT found itself on the wane. Continue reading “Le roi est mort, vive le roi!”

The Beat Goes On

Outside of the Driven To Write bubble, a number of new cars were launched over the past few weeks. Time to do a bit of catching up.

The gentleman in the red jacket points out the part that matters, photo (c) Auto, Motor & Sport

The Audi Q3 Sportback is Ingolstadt’s take on the BMW X4. It features all the overwrought details that can be expected from a Marc Lichte-era Audi, including the token overly accentuated ‘shoulders’ above the wheels. Continue reading “The Beat Goes On”

Driven, Written: VW T-Cross (2019)

The times are clearly a-changing at Wolfsburg, if Volkswagen’s smallest ‘SUV’ offering is anything to go by. 

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One of the nicknames given to Herbert Diess during his tenure at BMW was ‘Scrooge’. Even though he’s in charge of the VAG empire in general and the VW brand in particular these days, it would appear his business instincts haven’t changed one bit. Certainly not if the VW T-Cross, one of the first products into which he had any significant input, serves as an indication. For this Polo with rugged pretensions barely feels like the kind of car one expects a Volkswagen to be.

Obviously, it wasn’t just Herr Diess’ parsimonious tendencies that cast such an unflattering light onto the T-Cross during the week I and my partner got to sample it. The sometimes merciless nature of the rental car lottery was equally to be blamed. After all, just a few weeks prior, we’d truly been spoiled with the excellent VW Golf GTI Performance – a car that highlighted what Wolfsburg can be capable of, in truly impressive fashion. The contrast with the T-Cross therefore could scarcely have been any harsher.

Obviously, the T-Cross is supposedly one category below a Golf-size car (which is what we’d booked and I insisted upon, to no avail), and a 1.0 litre three-cylinder engine, producing the grand total of 115 metric horsepower cannot hope to Continue reading “Driven, Written: VW T-Cross (2019)”

Best Of The Bez

Intended as the crowning glory of a newly-independent, never-more-glamorous Aston Martin, the One-77 turned out to symbolise something else entirely. 

photo (c) Bonhams

2007 must have been a year of triumph for Dr ing Ulrich Bez. Over the course of the previous seven years, the German engineer and Aston Martin managing director had turned an outdated, but well loved marque trading on past glories and an awful lot of goodwill into a serious prestige sports car brand. On top of that, he’d overseen the sale of the company from Ford to a consortium backed by Kuwaiti investors. Bez was now no mere executive henchman anymore. He was the true boss.

After having spent most of his career playing second fiddle (most notably to his direct superior at BMW, Wolfgang Reitzle, who’d also hired Bez to run Aston Martin during his brief stint in charge of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group), Bez had become the undisputed boss of not just any old business, but a company that had refused to Continue reading “Best Of The Bez”

Denied: Porsche Boxster Concept

The Porsche Boxster we ultimately received in 1997 was quite unlike the Porsche Boxster we were promised in 1993. 

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(c) Auto-Didakt

Porsche has become so synonymous with success over the past two decades, it’s easy to forget that the erstwhile sports car maker form Stuttgart Zuffenhausen was on the brink of bankruptcy more than once.

On one such occasion, in the early 1990s – amid a significant recession, on top of internal issues (such as poor productivity and ageing products) – the powers that be at Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG decided that the then-current range of products overstretched the company’s resources and therefore wouldn’t be replaced like-for-like.

The evergreen 911, incidentally the newest and best-selling model at the time, was to stay, but the 968 2+2 and 928 GT were to be axed. In their place, Porsche wanted to Continue reading “Denied: Porsche Boxster Concept”

Exponential Acceleration

Just how resilient is a strong brand? BMW are in the process of finding out. 

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Photo (c) instagram.com/autodidaktblog

Supposed elitism is one of the car industry’s preferred counter-arguments/excuses. When challenging a particular product, particularly with regards to its design, one is quickly dismissed as a snob, out of touch with what ‘the market’ really wants by those who conceived that product. Any criticism is therefore at best a matter of ‘personal taste’ or, at worst, highly patronising.

The strength of a brand is one of the car industry’s preferred arguments. If the brand is strong, a company should be able to Continue reading “Exponential Acceleration”

Driven, Written: VW Golf GTI Performance (2019)

They still know how to design and engineer a decent car at Wolfsburg, as proven by Germany’s premier hot hatch. 

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Three surprisingly meaningful letters, photo (c) Driven To Write

The rental car lottery: Source of frustration, surprise and disillusionment. In the case of myself and my partner, the feeling of an outright win had eluded us so far – until I was handed the keys to the car I’d booked as ‘VW Golf Automatic or similar’, which turned our to be not just a VW Golf indeed – a first in itself. Moreover, this Golf was arguably in the model’s most appealing guise, which meant we would be crossing half of Germany in a Golf GTI Performance. Hurrah!

Typically any special edition model boasting a name like ‘Performance’ is expected to Continue reading “Driven, Written: VW Golf GTI Performance (2019)”

Unflinching Loyalty

Personal affection for an automotive brand is one of the more peculiar aspects of modern-day culture.  

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Dedication, photo (c) YouTube

Worshipping symbols aimed at identifying one’s affiliation to a particular tribe/race/religion/club are as old as humans’ capacity to create objects. It therefore isn’t a surprise at all that an automotive brand would be appropriated and exploited as a means of signifying status, even beyond the company’s own marketing efforts. What is surprising though is the levels of passion and dedication (or, depending on one’s viewpoint, parochialism and fury) this can elicit.

I recently got to Continue reading “Unflinching Loyalty”

Denied: Lancia Kayak (1995)

More than two decades ago, two proud nameplates in the process of losing their lustre joined forces to create a splendid concept car perfectly in tune with its time. 

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Tasteful pensioner’s car, photo (c) carstyling.ru

During the mid-’90s, car buyers and enthusiasts were in an unashamedly romantic mood. Roadsters and coupés were the kind of niche models devised not just to polish a marque’s image, but to actually sell and earn money. Peugeot’s splendid (Pininfarina-designed and built) 406 Coupé being a particularly resonant example of this phenomenon.

In those days, Lancia not only offered a full range of models, but the marque’s image hadn’t been tainted quite beyond repair either. The recently launched Kappa executive saloon and second-generation Delta hatchback may have constituted the first steps of Fiat Auto CEO, Paolo Cantarella’s ambition to Continue reading “Denied: Lancia Kayak (1995)”

Ventiquattroporte

The history of Maserati’s Quattroporte model line is as intriguing as it is diverse. 

(c) hiclasscar

To most people with an interest in automobiles, the Maserati Quattroporte needs no explanation. The moniker itself may be even older than that of the Mercedes S-class, yet longevity serves, at best, as half an explanation for the strength of the Quattroporte nameplate. Particularly as, in time honoured Italian fashion, there’s little continuity and wildly varying flair to Maserati’s successive four-door super saloons. Yet ‘a Quattroporte’ always remained a statement car. For one reason or another.

Continue reading “Ventiquattroporte”

End Of Line

Ian Callum has left Jaguar design. Time to reflect on his achievements. 

Ian Callum in front of one of his proudest achievements. (c) autodevot

After years of turmoil, suffering from an ill-fated growth strategy and management oblivious to the marque’s inherent qualities and character, Jaguar all of a sudden found itself with a new chief designer, whose main task was to Continue reading “End Of Line”

What’s It Going To Be Then, Eh?

Unusually for the company, BMW’s large coupés have traditionally been rather fickle creatures. 

BMW 3.0 CS, photo (c) mazda3revolution.com

The success of the German car industry is founded upon consistency and evolution. BMW is no exception, as exemplified by its core 3 and 5 series models, which have rarely deviated from the proven and tested formulae.
While other BMW models haven’t been as consistent and successful what with the 7 series never quite recovering from the after effects of the very disruptive E65 generation, it’s the brand’s large coupés that have been by far the most systematically unsteady. Continue reading “What’s It Going To Be Then, Eh?”

The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

Surprisingly, yet inevitably, the most original interpretation of modern luxury doesn’t come from Germany – but South Korea: The rather stupendous Genesis Mint.

Aspirational flair is not a matter of size. Photo (c) The Verge

Creating a ‘premium’ car brand is no walk in the park. It takes decades, unique flair, racing success (Jaguar), billions and a great many wise product decisions (BMW, Audi) to achieve this. Anything less than boundless commitment to the cause is bound to fail (Infiniti, Acura). It was therefore a brave/reckless choice, courtesy of Hyundai, to try and Continue reading “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”

Auto Shanghai 2019: Misunderestimation

To quite some degree, the western view on Chinese tastes in car design has been informed by awe and condescension. This year’s Shanghai motor show suggests that may have to change sooner, rather than later.

Good enough for China, photo (c) Motor1.com

China, as every donkey knows, is the centre of the automotive world these days. Without it, some of the fundamental changes to the business model of the western world’s car makers that are now on the verge of being addressed would have needed to be tackled a decade ago.

China is the lifeline of the car business as we know it, yet the dramatic dependance upon this market hasn’t resulted in similar levels of respect for it – quite the opposite, in fact. ‘That’s what the Chinese demand’ has been used as an excuse for a great many a dubious product and design decisions in recent years, often spoken with an expression of regret on the face of those so obviously forced by the Middle Kingdom to Continue reading “Auto Shanghai 2019: Misunderestimation”

Munchin’ Miles With The Volvo V40

The final Ford-era car in the Swedish brand’s lineup cannot hope to match the more recent cars’ impact. And yet it still impresses.

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Volvo is the warmest place to hide, photo (c) Driven To Write

“We’ve got something with a bit more oomph than usual – a Volvo V40 T3 R-line. Would that be fine with you?”

The friendly car rental agency clerk may have been slightly wrong about the power output of the car, but that point notwithstanding, the Volvo was very fine with me. After having sampled models from Volkswagen’s, Mazda’s and Ford’s respective ranges recently, this round of rental car roulette marked the opportunity to Continue reading “Munchin’ Miles With The Volvo V40”

Putting Out The Fire, Scattering The Ashes

Audi’s concept car for this year’s Shanghai motor show is an autonomous, electric homage to the brand’s legendary A2 model. Or so we’re told. 

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Audi AI:ME, photo (c) Audi AG

On the surface at least, there doesn’t appear to be much terribly wrong with Audi’s AI:ME concept car. It’s not an SUV for a start; its autonomous functions aren’t reflected by the lamest concept car trope of the past few years (swivelling seats), and it – supposedly – pays homage to no less than Audi’s bravest failure, the misunderstood A2.

However, as always, a surface is but a thin layer, whereas what lies beneath is an altogether more meaty matter. And the meat of this AI:ME is hardly scrumptious.

Take its overall appearance: It’s a rather generic EV compact concept car fare, to such an extent that nobody would bat an eyelid if it didn’t Continue reading “Putting Out The Fire, Scattering The Ashes”

Caddy Lack

Cadillac is in the midst of yet another revival. For real, this time. Honestly.

This definitely isn’t your daddy’s Cadillac. But what is it then? Photo (c) Jalopnik

Cadillac may never have been a noteworthy brand to Europeans on the basis of sales figures on the old continent. But that hasn’t prevented the erstwhile Standard Of The World from gaining fame (and some notoriety) on this side of the Atlantic, on the simple basis that Cadillac is one of the most storied, evocative brands of all time, anywhere. Continue reading “Caddy Lack”

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

The BMW brand has a new chief designer. Again. 

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Jozef Kabaň, photo (c) BMW Group

Two years and one month isn’t a long time by the standards of the automotive industry. Creating a car from scratch within such a period of time would be extremely difficult. Truly changing a marque’s design ethos would be utterly impossible.

Two years and one month is exactly how long the tenure of Jozef Kabaň as BMW chief designer turned out to last. During that period, the Bavarians unveiled an onslaught of new models, which left more than one commentator baffled (new 3 series) or even shocked (X7, 7 series facelift). Obviously, none of these cars were designed under Kabaň’s watch. Continue reading “The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same”

Just Be Yourself In Front Of The Camera!

Even marketing isn’t as one-dimensional a domain as some would like to believe – as proven by two very different promotional videos marketing two supposedly very similar products, albeit more than two decades apart.

Don’t be simply any person – be the person. By driving the car. The 8.

This largely sums up the essence of what the promo video for BMW’s all-new (for 2019) Achter is telling the viewer. Don’t drive anywhere – only LA and some salt river will do. Don’t live somewhere – a minimalist industrial chic loft will just about do. But only if your car can access it too. Then, and only then, are you smart, cool, cosmopolitan enough to understand that The 8 is just what you need in your life.

Go on then: Definite articleify your life! After all, even if you are in a position to Continue reading “Just Be Yourself In Front Of The Camera!”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – A Culinary Perspective

Your faithful reporter ate lots of nibbles and drank plenty of cappuccino so you don’t have to. 

Geneva’s favourite drink, served appropriately. (c) Christopher Butt

One could get seriously drunk at the Geneva Motor Show.

Whereas coffee enthusiasts would constantly remain on the hunt for a decent cup during the duration of the show out of sheer necessity, alcohol enthusiasts had it much easier. For champagne – and not just any champagne, but the most definitely above-average Perrier-Jouët – were free-flowing to the extent of ubiquity. And not just during the show, but under peripheral circumstances as well. Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – A Culinary Perspective”

Fastback To The Future

Hidden in the shadow of the Sports Utility Vehicle’s claims for world domination, another, hitherto almost extinct category of automobile has gained some new-found relevance. 

The other The Car Of The Future, photo (c) Avengers in Time

Forty years ago, the car body shape of now, and presumably the future too, was the fastback. Aerodynamically efficient and avant-garde in its appearance, the fastback acted as the stylistic embodiment of the progressive values of the 1970s. It wasn’t some stuffy estate car (those were only really for craftsmen and catholic families anyway), yet almost as practical. It wasn’t a bourgeois saloon either, finally doing away with that silly remnant of the carriage age – the separate boot, without being, well, a craftsman’s car.

The fastback’s reputation as a representative of progressive values was not so much due to it being Continue reading “Fastback To The Future”

Denied: Cadillac Elmiraj (2013)

Somewhat lost amid Cadillac’s varied (and ongoing) revival efforts, this superb concept car proved that there’s still mileage in some traditional concepts and values. 

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Sheer look: Cadillac Elmiraj coupé, photo (c) Top Speed

There’s no better symbol for the American car industry’s post-oil crisis’ struggles to change and evolve than Cadillac.

For the past four decades at least, the former Standard Of The World has found it difficult to come to terms with changing demographics, markets and tastes. For too long, an increasingly outdated concept of luxury was upheld, before numerous attempts at bringing Cadillac up to date have largely failed for one reason or another. Only the ongoing success of the gargantuan Escalade SUV has prevented the marque from falling into utter oblivion. Continue reading “Denied: Cadillac Elmiraj (2013)”

Denied: Alfa Romeo Brera (2002)

To try and understand what exactly went wrong with the proud Alfa Romeo brand over the past 15 years, there is no better example than this ItalDesign concept car. 

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Alfa Brera, as imagined by Giorgetto Giugiaro, photo (c) leblogauto.com

Admittedly, there is a production car by the name of Alfa Romeo Brera, of which 21,661 units were built between 2005 and 2010 at Pininfarina’s Grugliasco factory. It even shares some visual traits with the 2002 concept car of the same name. But little of its character.

For the Brera, as originally envisaged by Giorgetto Giugiaro, was a genuine halo car. Which isn’t as far-fetched a proposal as it may appear at first, for Alfa had commissioned quite a few of these over the decades: From the outdated-yet-pretty 33 Stradale, over the charming-but-ill-conceived Montreal to the bold-for-boldness’-sake SZ. Continue reading “Denied: Alfa Romeo Brera (2002)”

Fiesta de Navidad

Spending the Christmas season with the Ford Fiesta Vignale.

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At the risk of repeating myself, I feel compelled to explain the set of circumstances that resulted in myself and my partner crossing Germany (twice) in the finest of small Fords towards the end of the year 2018.

Having sold my better half’s car early in the autumn (and with my own steed in storage), we found ourselves at the mercy of our friendly neighbourhood’s rent-a-car station on more than one occasion. For the holiday season – which entailed a 900-kilometre-trip from Hamburg to the Swiss border and back – we were destined to Continue reading “Fiesta de Navidad”

Geneva Motor Show 2019 Preview: Audi TT-TT

The fate of Audi’s landmark TT sports car model had been put into question recently. Now the car maker from Ingolstadt responds to the hearsay – with a vengeance!

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‘Mediocrity reacts – superiority acts’ is the introductory statement of the press release Audi have published to announce their TT-branded concept car, to be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show next month.

The Ingolstadt brand’s TT model, whose first iteration stunned the automotive world back in 1998 with its bold Bauhaus-inspired looks, has become something of a marginal note in recent years, with many commentators suggesting time was up for a model line that has lost impact with each successive generation and is, above all else, part of an automotive niche that’s falling into oblivion anyway: the sports car. Continue reading “Geneva Motor Show 2019 Preview: Audi TT-TT”

Fur-Q

Amid the blatant insecurity current betrayed by German car design, BMW dares to make a bold statement with the facelifted 7 series. 

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2020 BMW 7 series, photo (c) CNet

For quite some time, the German ‘premium’ car makers – and BMW in particular – have attracted criticism for brand dilution, creative brain drain and the overall loss of aesthetic values. One of the overriding points being made was a lack of bold, assured decision making – a lack of ‘vision’, if one chooses to describe it as such.

With the recent unveiling of the significantly overhauled BMW 7 series luxury saloon, the Bavarian brand now dramatically changes course, attacking the naysayers head-on. For what this Siebener unquestionably constitutes is a very bold statement indeed. Continue reading “Fur-Q”

Kodo Arrigato

In the 21st century, common knowledge dictates that a car brand has to please everyone in order to succeed. Thankfully however, Mazda appear to disagree with this assessment. 

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The reality is even better,  photo (c) autoevolution

Mazda’s most recent concept cars don’t photograph well.

What may sound like a negligible statement has, in fact, significant subtext. For in this day and age, photos are everything. In terms of marketing, appearances have never been of greater importance. In the age of the internet, social media et al, the word has lost most of its value to the image. So when food is judged by its looks rather than taste, car makers could be forgiven for making their cars, and concept cars in particular, not so much eye as phone camera candy. Continue reading “Kodo Arrigato”

Life After Munich

A group of high-profile designers have left BMW’s design studios over the past few years. Time to assess whose loss turned into whose gain. 

Designer Interview: Adrian van Hooydonk, Director Design, BMW Cars
Happier times: Chris Bangle amid his brand chief designers. (l-r): David Robb (BMW Motorrad), Ulf Weidhase (BMW M & Individual), Ian Cameron (Rolls-Royce), Adrian van Hooydonk (BMW), Gerd Hildebrandt (Mini),  photo (c) Car Design News

This photo, taken in about 2006, depicts BMW Group design at the height of its creative powers. Unlike giants such as Ford, GM or VAG, BMW achieved the seemingly impossible in running each of the company’s core brands (BMW, Mini, Rolls-Royce) as a creatively self-sufficient unit. For that reason, a Mini didn’t come across like a de-contented BMW, nor did anybody mistake a Rolls-Royce for a tarted-up 7 series. Every BMW brand’s design possessed its own set of stylistic rules and values.

More than a decade later, none of the people depicted in the photo are in charge any more – apart of course from Adrian van Hooydonk, who’s been running BMW Group’s design fortunes for a decade this year.

The last two years of that reign have been somewhat overshadowed by an unprecedented creative drain though – unprecedented not just regarding BMW Group, but within the industry as a whole. With the Bavarians’ stylistic fortunes currently shrouded in controversy, it would appear to be the right time to Continue reading “Life After Munich”

(Film) Review: The Borgward Affair

More than five decades after the incident, Borgward’s dramatic bankruptcy is retold in dramatic fashion. 

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photo (c) Nordmedia

Carl F W Borgward is driving his wife in a Hansa 2400 saloon along a deserted stretch of b-road when he hears that the end for the company bearing his name has come over the radio. He immediately stops the car, gets outside and gasps for air, staring into nothingness.

This is the not particularly subtle introduction into Die Affäre Borgward (The Borgward Affair), a tv movie about the downfall of Germany’s then fourth largest car maker, which was first broadcasted in January 2019. The somewhat fragmented narrative is divided into story strands about Carl Borgward himself, Borgward’s Insolvenzverwalter, Dr Johannes Semler, the goings-on inside Bremen’s senate and, because no German tv movie can Continue reading “(Film) Review: The Borgward Affair”

Adding Dimensions (II)

When it came to translation a car design sketch into a tangible object, craftsmanship and even cultural background used to be of the utmost importance. 

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Photo (c) Pinterest

As described earlier on, the technique and style any car designer chooses to depict his ideas is highly informative. 

Back in the golden era of the Italian carrozzieri, however, this did not matter as much, as most of the legendary Italian car designers didn’t much care for impressive illustrations. Viewing the sketches of the likes of Leonardo Fioravanti, Marcello Gandini or Aldo Brovarone from today’s perspective, their artistic qualities appear rather naïve, to put it mildly. Continue reading “Adding Dimensions (II)”

Adding Dimensions (I)

The car designer’s sketch, and how it is turned into a three-dimensional object, are no mere technicalities. 

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VW/Porsche Tapiro, styled and sketched by Giorgetto Giugiaro, photo (c) seriouswheels.com

How a designer illustrates his work matters. For any sketch betrays not only one’s technical skills, but one’s sense of proportion, style and, indeed, taste. To compare and contrast illustrations by some of the great car designers of the past with their descendants is therefore rather instructive.

Not just due to changing techniques and technology, the way in which designers depict their designs has dramatically changed over the past six decades. Whereas those stylists who had to rely purely on their hands, eyes and a few templates to create an impression of what they had in mind used to Continue reading “Adding Dimensions (I)”

Der Spießer

In late 2018, it’s time for a bit of reluctant praise to the automotive realm’s popular overachiever, the Porsche 911.

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German sports car design, photo (c) Porsche AG

Intellectuals detest Tom Cruise. The combination of decades-long success in mainstream blockbuster movies, ridiculously good looks, as well as penchants for sofa jumping and sinister cults has seen to that.

Be that as it may, there is also a different side to Mr Cruise Mapother. The side that gave one Stanley Kubrick two years of Mr Cruise’s life at arguably the peak of the latter’s career. The side that gave cineastes Frank T J Mackey. The side that causes a 50-year old to Continue reading “Der Spießer”

Mercedes-Benz Teases High-End Crossover Concept

During a special preview, the German premium brand spilled the beans about its future plans for the exclusive end of the market. 

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This official sketch depicts Mercedes-Benz’ upcoming Ultimate Performance concept car, which we believe is likely to be unveiled to the public, early in 2019 in some form.

In addition to the release of this sketch, the Germans invited a selection of journalists to Daimler AG’s new Advanced Future Research Studio in Stuttgart Stammheim, where some of the brand’s stylists were at hand to Continue reading “Mercedes-Benz Teases High-End Crossover Concept”

Der Gentleman

The BMW 8 series’ creators try and make sense of the new Ultimate Bavarian.

I have an almost personal connection to the new BMW Achter. Having seen the preliminary concept car at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, I initially considered it a half-hearted Aston Martin pastiche. Then the production version was unveiled, which has no hope of ever being considered an Aston Martin pastiche. Instead, it heralds a new era of BMW style, hilariously named Precision and Poetry.

Since then, this rather blunt Achter has welcomed me whenever I have cause to Continue reading “Der Gentleman”

The Car That Killed Sobriety

The previous generation of Mercedes’ E-class was supposed to mark a return to the marque’s traditional values. Instead, it turned a great many of them into damaged goods. 

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Round is out, photo (c) Daimler AG

Willkommen zu Hause. Die E-Klasse. Upon its market introduction in 2009, the newest Mercedes-Benz E-class was ‘welcomed home’. Attentive observers may ask when and why the E-class had left in the first place – an answer to which would require a return to the decade most people of Stuttgart Sindelfingen and Untertürkheim would like to forget : The 1990s.

The E-class for the ’90s, unveiled in the middle of that decade, was of course the W210 generation, which has since gained notoriety for issues of rust, profit-optimised engineering and styling that has aged as gracefully as the materials the Benz was made of. Continue reading “The Car That Killed Sobriety”

A Tale Of Two Cars: Mazda 3 2.2D 150

Due to certain circumstances, this author was granted the chance to successively experience two up-to-date (rental) cars up close. The resultant findings led to conclusions not just regarding the (de)merits of each vehicle, but the modern automobile in general. 

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Just a few days after having returned the rental VW Tiguan, it was time to head back to the counter for yet another go at the Rental Car Lottery. After my partner and I had turned out to be less than smitten with VW’s core SUV offering, I had – again – made an attempt at guessing what fate the car rental’s key cabinet would have in store for us this time around. My (figurative) money had been on the VW T-Roc. Continue reading “A Tale Of Two Cars: Mazda 3 2.2D 150”

A Tale Of Two Cars: VW Tiguan Allspace 2.0 TSI

Due to certain circumstances, this author was granted the chance to successively experience two up-to-date (rental) cars up close. The resultant findings led to conclusions not just regarding the (de)merits of each vehicle, but the modern automobile in general. 

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It’s been ages since I last used the services of a car rental company. But with the better half having recently parted ways with her Mini and my own Jaguar having remained in storage for this year’s driving season, we were left with no choice but to Continue reading “A Tale Of Two Cars: VW Tiguan Allspace 2.0 TSI”

Black Puty

Some years ago, a German poultry giant tried to add a whiff of luxury to cold cuts. Today, BMW is attempting something eerily similar. 

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‘Black Puty, are you trying to seduce me?’ photo (c) Wiesenhof

The German word for turkey is Pute (poo-tuh).

This needs to be kept in mind when envisaging a tv commercial playing to the tunes of Ram Jam’s Black Betty, advertising turkey cold cuts by the name of Black Puty. If this sounds utterly absurd, it is not due to cultural misunderstandings – for Black Puty is an utterly daft monicker, regardless of whether one’s mother tongue is German or English.

The company behind Black Puty is Wiesenhof, a German meat industry giant. And a company that, in 2010, when Black Puty was introduced, had even more of an image problem than it does eight years later. First of all, turkey meat never Continue reading “Black Puty”

AUTOpsy: VW Polo VI (2018)

VW’s staple supermini proves that too much of a good thing is still too much. 

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The Volkswagen Polo may never have matched its bigger brother, the quintessential Golf, in terms of significance or profit margins. And yet it was the previous generation of this car, the Polo V, that proved how serious VW’s then new management under (now) notorious CEO, Martin Winterkorn, was about redefining the brand.

The Polo V was a bit of a minor masterpiece – not just by the standard of this class of motor car. Assured, restrained, with an almost imperceptible, yet clear elegance in its surfacing and discreet detailing. It was, in short, almost everything the Polo preceding it (a heavy-handed facelift model with chintzy rear lights and the brand’s ungainly Plakettengrill at its front) wasn’t. Which leaves the question what this all-new Polo of 2018 has to Continue reading “AUTOpsy: VW Polo VI (2018)”

There is more to BMW’s new 8 series GT than meets the eye.

(c) Auto-Didakt

These past few weeks have seen the unveiling of more than one automotive eyesore, courtesy of the German ‘premium’ brands. And the one among these that truly stood out was the BMW 8 series.

This is mainly due to what this BMW is not. It is not an oversized ‘utility’ behemoth, nor another ‘crossover’ of some sort. It also isn’t some supposedly all-new category of car (like its ‘first ever’ X2 sibling, to name but one). Instead, it is among the most traditional of automobiles there is, a gran turismo. Which means it is the kind of car that ought to Continue reading “8½”

AUTOpsy: Porsche Cayenne S (2002)

Porsche’s SUV trailblazer not such much established a new automotive sector combining seemingly opposing characteristics, but fully established the power of brand cachet. 

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The Cayenne didn’t save Porsche – the Boxster and 996 models so despised by Neunelfer anoraks did. And yet, the Cayenne is viewed mostly as a necessary evil, the high-margin, high-sales perfume that subsidises the artful haute couture.

Due to the Cayenne’s merits usually being considered relative (‘it drives great… for an SUV’; ‘it doesn’t look that bad’), the car isn’t viewed through the same prism as other automobiles that are not as inherently compromised.

On this basis alone, the first-generation Cayenne, the car that truly proved to the masses that an SUV could really Continue reading “AUTOpsy: Porsche Cayenne S (2002)”

Wright or Wrong

Clandestinely, a minor piece of both automotive and architecture history has been destroyed. And not in Italy either. 

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Photo (c) Pinterest.com

Austrian-American car importer, Max Hoffman, is best known for his crucial role in establishing European (mostly West German) car makers in the US market after the Second World War. What is less well known is the fact that Hoffman, was a bonafide connoisseur of architecture.

As such, Hoffman was particularly fond of the seminal work of Frank Lloyd Wright. For this reason, Hoffman commissioned the architect to Continue reading “Wright or Wrong”

Quo Vadis, Luxus?

Defining luxury in an age of conspicuous consumption isn’t easy. Judging by two concepts encapsulating futuristic decadence, this task will not become any less challenging in the years to come. 

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Dr Eldon Tyrell’s personal transport, photo (c) blog.dupontregistry.com

The fight for luxury supremacy of the future officially started in March 2018, at the Geneva International Motor Show. There, Aston Martin chief designer – pardon: Vice President & Chief Creative Officer – Marek Reichman openly criticised the traditional purveyors of automotive luxury, namely Crewe’s Bentley and Goodwood’s Rolls-Royce, of pandering to an obsolete definition of top-end motoring.

Continue reading “Quo Vadis, Luxus?”

Drowned Out

Every car design enthusiast and their dog lament the downfall of the Torinese carrozzieri. Yet a recent example illustrates that it’s not simply the industry that’s at fault.

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Tasteful, restrained – barely noticed, photo (c) CAR magazine

With Bertone gone (despite a company of that name still in existence) and ItalDesign churning out the crassest, most tasteless, un-Giugiaro-like concoctions, it’s now up to Pininfarina to wave the flag of Italian automotive design excellence.

Among the carrozzieri, Pininfarina traditionally played the purveyor of good taste. Bertone tended to Continue reading “Drowned Out”

Caprie Sunset

Perhaps the greatest edifice ever built on behalf of automotive design is receiving the Italian preservation treatment. 

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Imagine it without the cars inside: Stile Bertone’s former headquarters, photo (c) Ruoteclassiche

There’s no easier task than to accuse corporate America of cynicism. Greed, hubris, soullessness: pretty much any unappealing trait can be attributed to any of the industrial giants.

General Motors, a company of such dubious reputation it enabled a rather shady character like John Zachary DeLorean to Continue reading “Caprie Sunset”

AUTOpsy: Dodge Avenger (2007)

The outcome of the best and brightest Daimler-Benz managers showing the Americans how to take the product side of the business was this. Seriously ?

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Was it ignorance? Negligence? Arrogance?

The motive(s) may be up for debate, but there’s no arguing about the utter lack of lustre this 2007 vintage Dodge Avenger embodies. Or that this utterly cynical product was the result of management decisions betraying one or all the traits mentioned above.

Of course, by the time the Avenger was brought to market, most of the people who had made those decisions had Continue reading “AUTOpsy: Dodge Avenger (2007)”