Part one: Driven to Write meets (and briefly drives) one of its heroes.
A commonly espoused orthodoxy warns us that close proximity to our idols can only lead to disappointment. Some go further, suggesting that the renunciation of hero worship is the mark of a mature mind. This being the case, I can categorically claim not to have attained it. But surely it is preferable to Continue reading “Sons of the Silent Age”
Driven to Write’s star of the Frankfurt motor show may surprise you.
Since we founded DTW three and a half years ago, (where has the time gone?) I think I’ve written approximately nothing on Bentley – a gaping omission on my part and one for which I really ought to make amends. There are a number of reasons for this Crewe-shaped hole in my DTW outpourings, but I suppose if I was pinned to a wall (or similar stout object) and forced to explain, I’d Continue reading “Photo for Sunday : 2017 Bentley Continental”
With the motor industry abuzz with the prospect of electric propulsion, just how confident are we they’ve thought this one through?
Earlier in the week we considered the mainstream industry’s lack of leadership when it comes to the design of electric cars. But at the Frankfurt motor show this week, two industry leaders fleshed out some of the challenges they’re facing. Firstly Mercedes’ Dieter Zetsche pointed out to auto journalists the effect the push to electric is likely to have on profitability.
At first glance, this is a case of stating the blindingly obvious, but while the mighty Stuttgart Untertürkheim car giant can weather the loss of 50% of its potential profits, putting aside an alleged €4.0 billion to cover the likely revenue shortfall, it raises questions of how other less financially robust car businesses can possibly Continue reading “Danger, High Voltage”
Electric cars are coming. But when are we going to be presented with one we might actually want to buy?
During a recent conversation with an automotive design commentator and critic I pointed out that motor manufacturers had so far failed to create a truly desirable electric car. He agreed, suggesting they appear stuck at the Blackberry phase and that their i-phone moment has yet to occur. He isn’t wrong, as this week’s deluge of concepts and production cars illustrates. On one extreme we have Audi’s Frankfurt-fodder Aicon, which as implausible flights of conceptual fancy go, is about on point and on the other we have the 2018 Nissan Leaf, which takes retrenchment to new levels of jaded whatever.
One of the advantages of a pure electric car is that by taking the engine and powertrain out of the equation, the entire architecture of the vehicle can Continue reading “Leading the Charge”
BMW have enjoyed a decade of success selling an ever-expanding range of four wheel drive hatchbacks. Now they are making their largest one yet. What madness is this?
“I think if you try and make something impressive, rather than good, you’re doomed.” Spen King, engineer and creator of the Range Rover.
On paper at least, BMW is the smallest and theoretically most vulnerable of the German premium big three. Daimler is bigger and its business more diverse. Audi is insulated to a large extent by nestling within the VW mothership. This however ignores BMW’s deftness as a business, to say nothing of its profitability and net worth, which may well outstrip its rivals.
Re-engagement with a previous (and prescient) concept leads us to speculate on Kia’s latest Frankfurt show offering.
When KIA announced the Novo concept at the 2015 Seoul motor show, it passed without much by way of comment in the mainstream press – although Driven to Write’s resident design critic did give it the benefit of his gimlet eye. At the time, Kia appeared to suggest that the Novo’s styling would influence its forthcoming compact car line-up, a statement nobody took very seriously at the time. Continue reading “Awakening the New”
Today we explore alternative realities – one where perhaps Rover didn’t necessarily take the fork in the road marked ‘SD1’. What would that have looked like?
Counterfactuals are for the most part, exercises in futility, or at best, wishful thinking. When it comes to the products of what used to be British Leyland, added layers of poignancy come as standard. Few cars embody this like the Rover SD1 series; a car of enormous visual promise, fatally undermined by Continue reading “Altered Images”
Quiet and unassuming by day, the 262C saw the distinctly suburban 200-Series loosen its tie and show a slightly darker side to its personality.
Loved by owners, derided by the UK motoring press, the 200-series Volvo seemed even by mid-Seventies standards, something of an anachronism. Its upright and uncompromising appearance made few concessions to fashion, majoring on values of practicality, durability, comfort and occupant safety. Not that this prevented it from becoming a firm favourite and the model that Continue reading “Something Wicked This Way Comes”
Always first with the news that matters, this just in…
In a surprise move today, FCA’s Sergio Marchionne announced during an earnings call that the beleaguered Lancia brand could be set to make a comeback. During his conference call with analysts he left strong hints that a new Lancia model, (tipped to be a compact crossover), is being planned – a vehicle type increasingly popular across European markets.
A commercial hit for Mercedes-Benz at launch, but Father Time has not been kind to the 1997 CLK.
We didn’t know it at the time, but when Mercedes-Benz ceased production of the C124 coupé line in 1996, its terminus would be more than a stylistic one. If not quite the final example of the legendary ‘Vertical Affinity, Horizontal Homogeneity’ design ethos overseen by Bruno Sacco, the C124 would prove to be the last mid-sized Mercedes coupe built upon its saloon counterpart’s platform for another two generations. Continue reading “Fleeting Star”
Today, Driven to Write gets its barnet in curlers over the latest offering from Maranello. Time for a haircut?
Even hairdressers must have off days. After all, imagine if you will the ceaseless drudgery of it all. The incessant banality of polite conversation, the helicopter view of thinning scalps and receding hairlines, the clippings that get everywhere, the disappointment of customers who Continue reading “Hair, By Sergio”
One model has defined Volvo’s rebirth, but its backer deserves some of the credit as well.
It’s customary for a new car line to hit its sales-stride within the second full year of production, before plateauing and gradually ebbing downwards. This fall is normally arrested by a mid-term facelift, before once again, the graph pitches inexorably Southwards as the model is run out and ultimately replaced. While I wouldn’t necessarily Continue reading “Henry’s Bequest”
BMW have released photos and a rather toe-curling video for their new concept Z4, said to provide broad clues as to how next year’s production Z4 will look. Good grief, it’s an angry looking thing, isn’t it?
Here are some words. They’re lifted from BMW’s website, (verbatim) so I take no responsibility. Apart from the annotated comments of course, which are mine. Continue reading “Anger Is an Energy”
We conclude our 50th anniversary ruminations on Ferrari’s Dino by tracing its stylistic forebears.
In December 1964 the press convened at Modena’s Hotel Real-Fini, where Enzo Ferrari would conduct his annual sermon on the mount. As the gathered press corps waited breathlessly as the ‘Pope of the North’ held forth regarding the Scuderia’s programme for coming season, the commendatore dropped a surprise, telling journalists Ferrari’s race engineers were advanced on a new ‘168 Dino GT’ to be campaigned the following season.
The car with which Alfredo Ferrari’s name would become synonymous did not carry the famous Cavallino Rampante emblem, but is arguably the most significant (and beautiful) Ferrari of all.
Enzo Ferrari preferred to be addressed as ‘ingegnere’, which was something of an irony, given his somewhat reactionary views on the subject. A staunch traditionalist, his principles were firmly rooted in the pre-war era; pivoting around the notion of a powerful, high revving power unit combined with a driver of sufficient bravery and skill to overcome the inevitable chassis-related deficiencies. Continue reading “In the Name of the Son – 1967 Dino 206 GT”
FCA’s Sergio Marchionne appears to be saying no to a new-generation Ferrari ‘Dino’. Well he was last week anyway…
Much like the current resident of the American White House, FCA’s Chief Knitwear Officer appears to think nothing of holding entirely bipolar positions on policy, seemingly at will. Over the years, the Turin binman has led us a merry polka and yet here we are, akin to the beleaguered Washington press corps, Pavlovian to our slavering chops. Because one thing of which we can be certain is that whatever either the leader of the free World or the Italian-Canadian yarnmiester pronounces upon will be slavishly reported upon, disseminated and pored over, which is of course the point of the exercise. Continue reading “Dino Denied”
Twin approaches to a modernised ur-Mini, but while one is shamelessly drenched in nostalgia, the other speaks of a possible future.
Nostalgia is big business. Take the music industry where bands reform to play their best-loved material, while record companies re-master and repackage classic albums. So if the running order gets messed with, original tracks deleted and a bunch of questionable out-takes (which didn’t make the original cut for good reason) are added, who cares? Completists, (mostly middle-aged men if we’re honest) will Continue reading “Remake, Remodel, Remaster, Recharge?”
Or, putting it another way, getting the most out of your platform architecture. We count the branches of the Alfa Romeo 116-Series’ family tree.
Since its post-war reconstitution under semi-state ownership, Alfa Romeo was forced to cut its cloth in ever more inventive ways. Budgets were tight and new model programmes hard-won. Expensive unitary body architectures needed to be well and truly amortised, which led to production runs that in retrospect probably lasted too long. Continue reading “Six Degrees of 116”
Disappointingly uneven, despite occasional flashes of brilliance, the 1977 Giulietta personifies Alfa Romeo’s 1970’s wilderness years.
The much-loved 105-Series Giulia was the model line that put Alfa Romeo back on a World stage. This compact sporting saloon was a concentrated blend of Portello engineering knowhow wrapped in a highly aerodynamic, if superficially four-square package. Belying it’s ‘boxy’ appearance however, the 105 drove beautifully becoming a firm favourite from its 1962 inception until its ultimate demise 15-years on.
Daihatsu’s concept cars have been many, varied and in a good many cases, quite bonkers. Which is not to denigrate either them or the company which inspired them. Ideas they had aplenty, the real shame was that owing as much to their straitened circumstances as a lack of corporate nerve (perhaps), much of the invention and wildly creative thinking never particularly manifested itself in production form. Continue reading “‘Harmony With Nature’ – 2006 Daihatsu D-Compact X-Over”
The XJ and F-Type represent the rearguard of traditional Jaguar formats, but while one continues its slide, the other appears to be holding firm.
With Jaguar’s original E-Type latterly attaining the status of holy relic and given several prior attempts at reinvention, the onus on Jaguar to recreate it brooked no denial. So from its inception, F-type was intended both as an unabashed recasting, but moreover, the closest production approximation yet to Porsche’s all-conquering 911 in positioning and purpose. Continue reading “Consistent Cat”
The fourth generation of the series proved to be the quintessence of Golf. Twenty years later, it still is.
In 1974, a teetering VW took a risky punt into the relative unknown by launching a car, which by no means avant garde, (even by the standards of the day), was nonetheless some way left of centre. While it would be facile to suggest it was anything but a commercial success, it wasn’t perhaps until its second permutation that it began to truly dominate the sector it would ultimately define. Continue reading “Car is a Four Letter Word”
Welcome to the EMotion Express. Calling all stations via Unfeasible Promise, Inevitable Reversal, Fervent Denial, and Messy Lawsuit. We regret to inform customers that due to essential (re)engineering works a replacement bus service will be in place before passengers can complete their journey to Humiliating Climbdown. Please mind the doors. Continue reading “We Apologise For the Delay to Your Journey”
Well yes, that may be overstating matters, but Hyundai’s i30 Fastback is an attempt to offer something a bit less crossover and a little more louche. Stop giggling back there, it’s better than nothing.
As mainstream car manufacturers increasingly rationalise (read cull) available body styles, it’s somewhat refreshing to see someone offer something (slightly) different. The recent announcement of the Hyundai i30 Fastback was not an event the motoring press dwelt upon overmuch I’d have to observe. Continue reading “Bringing ‘Sexyback’”
The omens haven’t been good for some time now – oddly enough, it all really started going wrong once PSA decided to separate brand-DS from its Citroën parent. Since then, the descent has been rapid, bruising and ignominious. Despite all three existing DS models receiving expensive facelifts incorporating a new corporate nose, sales have fallen off a cliff. Over the period from January to May of 2017 alone, sales of the entry level (and top-selling) DS3 fell 35.3% to 12,136. Those of the C-segment DS4 contracted 33.4% to 5675 cars, while those of the current range topping DS5 plummeted 42.8% to 2730 units. Continue reading “DS – Away With the Fairies”
I’m not sure they heard you the first time… or the second.
So what have we here? Well it appears to be Ital Design’s 1991 proposal for Porsche’s abortive 989 four-door saloon project. As detailed previously on these pages, Porsche had been investigating a four-seater saloon ever since the 928’s inception, the 989 concept being the culmination of Zuffenhausen thinking at the time. But while the in-house proposal reflected Porsche’s enthusiasm for traditional silhouettes, there was clearly some hand-wringing as to whether this was the best way forward. Continue reading “SEAT Again Giorgetto”
In this final part, Steve Randle concludes his proposal for a latterday successor to the seminal Citroën DS.
Previously, we explored styling, power unit and drivetrain. Today, Steve Randle outlines his thoughts on body structure and vehicle dynamics.
Structure:“Aluminium and magnesium would dominate the vehicle. The recycling problem with composites – particularly thermosets – are a concern. While both Aluminium and magnesium alloys are expensive in the first instance, they are easy to recycle.”Continue reading “Idée Fixe ”
Getting to grips with brand-Jaguar’s new hatchback by not talking about it. The real story is beneath the skin anyway…
One thing we cannot quibble with is JLR’s ability to get the most out of their platforms. The current LR-MS (or whatever they’re calling it now) platform underpinning the new E-Pace is a prime example – maybe even a unique one given its convoluted ancestry – a matter possibly deserving its own episode of “Who Do You Think You Are.” Shared with the current Range Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport, it is in effect a heavily re-engineered variant of the Ford-EUCD platform, one which continues to Continue reading “Now Arriving On Platform E”
The new Audi starship has landed and while most commentators have chosen to fixate on its style, we’ve elected to crawl underneath, pretending to understand what we find there.
Audi’s new flagship saloon is a technological marvel, possibly the most advanced luxury car it is possible to pre-order for Autumn delivery right now – or at least until the next one comes along anyway. Not content busying themselves with a power race as fervid as that pursued by the Detroit big three fifty years ago, the German luxury brands are now shifting their battleground into hitherto unrealised realms of electronic wizardry and fearsome complexity. Continue reading “Adding Suspense – Audi A8”
In this second part, Steve Randle commences his treatise on how he would shape a credible modern-day successor to the original Citroën DS.
Steve Randle: “First and foremost, while this car would carry the history of its ancestors proudly, it must above all not be a ‘me too’ exercise. The questions have changed since the DS, and hence so too must the answers. An attempt to recreate the DS would be self-defeating by its own definition. We should pause to consider the vehicle from which Monsieur Macron will emerge before the waiting world. It most certainly is not a DS7 Crossback.”Continue reading “Idée Fixe ”
My initial intention was to revisit a DTW piece from 2014 celebrating Matthew Beaven’s 2003 Jaguar concept. But further reflection suggested it made far more sense to start afresh.
It’s been fourteen years now since the Jaguar R-D6 concept debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show – a debut I can recall vividly. After years of stylistic Disneyfication under the staunchly conservative guidance of the likes of William Clay Ford and J. Mays, here was the first clear indication that Jaguar stylists saw a way out of the retro straitjacket. Continue reading “Returning to a Theme – 2003 Jaguar R-D6”
The idea of an authentic full-sized Citroën now appears entirely beyond imagination. But some of us still think otherwise. Thought experiment or idle fancy, we make no apology. Citroën matters.
Why Citroën matters is a question worth asking, although why it has ceased to matter; both in the minds of its PSA masters and more importantly still, the wider public is perhaps a better one. But how to make Citroën matter again is the question we are here today to address. Continue reading “Idée Fixe ”
The Peugeot 1007 was an abject failure, but could the story have played out differently? Driven to Write gets the popcorn out.
In the 1998 movie of the same name, the eponymous sliding doors were a plot device or portal into an alternative reality – a form of magical thinking akin to the notion that one’s life can turn on a sixpence. On one hand: lose job, meet nice John Hannah on the underground. Romance ensues, as do more plot devices, Get run over by car. (I haven’t seen the film, so I’m paraphrasing here). Continue reading “Sliding Doors – 2004 Peugeot 1007”
Following the 1984 reveal of the technical wondercar that was the 959, Porsche planned to sprinkle some of that car’s allure onto the ageing 911 line. The 959 was only ever going to be a low-volume homologation special, but this car, dubbed 965 in factory-speak but to be marketed as the 969, was intended to Continue reading “Porsche Theme Redux: Fast and Loose”
In this concluding part, we delve further into the Range Rover’s dynamics.
One could be excused for expecting the Range Rover’s road behaviour to be ponderous and unresponsive, and while one never loses the sensation of driving something quite vast, the RR can cover ground with an alacrity and poise that is both satisfying and deeply impressive. Even on the narrow, meandering and frost-scarred roads of West Cork’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way’, the air suspension’s ability to Continue reading “Driving Range – 2009 Range Rover Vogue TDV8 : 2”
Part one: Driven to Write gets ideas above its station.
‘Above and Beyond’: As advertising taglines go, this one speaks to an essential truth. Because driving a Range Rover genuinely does suggest an altogether loftier plane, and it is this sense of elevation, otherwise the sole preserve of Rolls Royce owners, that is perhaps the car’s defining characteristic. Continue reading “Driving Range – 2009 Range Rover Vogue TDV8”
BMW’s new hatchback is upon us. It isn’t better than the last one. In fact it’s worse.
When the mighty Vierzylinder announced the 5-Series GT in 2009, it was met with almost universal ridicule. So much so, its passing last year was at best unmourned and in some quarters, openly celebrated. There was little wrong with the 5-GT, a large, practical hatchback with a cavernous interior and all the versatility this layout entails. No, the big problem appears to have rested upon the fact that BMW produced a vehicle which placed practicality and convenience above style. A conceit which didn’t play all that well with the marque faithful, or indeed the press.
The new XF Sportbrake has landed, and it’s a Triumph. Or maybe a Rover. It’s difficult to tell nowadays, but it probably doesn’t matter.
People often accuse me of being horrid about the current range of Jaguars and it’s true that I have on occasion been vocally critical of them. ‘Why?’ they plead, as they pin me by the shirtfront against the most convenient stout object, before regaling me with tales of aluminium intensive body structures, handling-biased chassis dynamics and, well that’s about as much as they can muster generally. I’ve said rather a lot on this subject in the past – (‘yes we know’, they chorus) – but just for the purposes of clarity, and to reiterate, my issues with the current crop of JLR’s Jaguar-branded saloons and crossovers are as follows: Continue reading “Holding Station – Jaguar XF Sportbrake”
Three new models from three distinct manufacturers. Each playing the same notes – but in a different order.
Last week saw several new car announcements, three of which we’re specifically interested in today. We open with the official release of what has felt like one of the least titillating stripteases in recent history – the Hyundai Kona crossover. This vehicle, the Korean car giant’s entry to the Captur/Juke sector has been seen in various forms of reveal for weeks now, so its advent has at least stemmed the vexing but unavoidable PR-drip-feed throughout the automotive tabloids that appears de rigueur these days. Others better qualified than I might Continue reading “Pitch Perfect”
Zuffenhausen recently celebrated production of the millionth 911. How the heck did that happen?
Let’s allow this one sink in for a moment. A million 911s. It’s a staggering achievement for a car that should never have lived as long, much less become the default ‘usable performance car’, given an inherently unbalanced mechanical layout considered retrograde even by mid-Sixties standards. Thought: could it have been a reaction to the original 911’s propensity to Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – Cheaper by the Million”
Yes folks, Henrik’s back in business, having learned from past mistakes. Learned how to replicate them exactly, that is.
Name: Fisker Emotion.
Age: It’s brand flipping new. Are you blind?
But it looks like the last one, the what was it called again? Karma thingy. That’s probably because you have dead eyes. The Fisker Emotion looks nothing like the Fisker Karma – or a Karma Revero for that matter. You’re simply imagining it, because, as I’ve already pointed out, your eyes are dead. Continue reading “Oops, I Did It Again”
Dud big Fiat or misunderstood mongrel? Lets get our feet wet, shall we?
We should get a couple of provisos out of the way before I commence. Firstly, the 132 began its lengthy career in 1972, so by 1977, it had already entered its third iteration. Secondly, while I admit it’s probably a little unfair to directly compare Fiat’s big saloon with British Leyland’s cynically conceived Cortina-baiter, some compelling parallels do suggest themselves. Continue reading “Torinese Marina – 1977 Fiat 132”
It’s been a while since we reported on NEVS. How goes it in the netherworld?
Recently, National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS) released official images of the ‘forthcoming’ 9-3 and 9-3X EV’s based on the decade-old former Saab bodyshell. These images, shown on SAABSunited.com appear to show both models in production specification, demonstrating if little else, that hope really does spring eternal.
As China’s Geely acquires a controlling stake in Lotus, we ask whether this could mark the end of the sportscar maker’s struggles?
Last year, we reported on Jean Marc Gales’ progress at arresting Lotus’ decline following the Bahar debacle. At the time, the auguries were positive, if somewhat finely balanced. If not entirely profitable, losses had been stemmed and Lotus’ order book was looking a bit less bare, but real financial health still looked some way off. Continue reading “By Dawn’s Early Light”
Two of the most distinctive cars of their time; bitter rivals, yet with much in common. Driven to Write counts the ways.
They couldn’t have looked more different, yet the fates of the Porsche 928 and Jaguar XJ-S were intrinsically bound. One seemed more like a car from the Cinzano era, the other from the future, yet both shared a purpose, appealed to the same customer base and lived out similar career paths – misunderstood and derided by those who didn’t expect their preconceived notions to be so roundly challenged.
Over the 928’s production life, various attempts were made at producing additional variants. Few were successful and fewer still went beyond the prototype stage. We look a few notable examples.
When the 928 was being schemed during the early 1970s it appeared as though several US states would outlaw convertibles. This led many European marques to abandon the format entirely, lest they wind up saddled with an expensively developed product they couldn’t sell. This explains the lack of a convertible 928 at launch, if not the fact that Porsche never quite got around to Continue reading “Theme: Porsche – 928 – Less and More”
A brave and modernist masterpiece from Porsche – of all people.
During the early 1970s, contemporary music’s centre of gravity saw a shift away from the UK and America, Eastwards to Germany, where so-called ‘Kosmiche’ bands like Can, Cluster, Faust, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Neu! forged an alternative soundscape, laying down a sonic basis for the post-punk, new wave and electronic music that followed. Dismissed at the time as ‘Krautrock’, without its influence, music would most likely have evolved in a very different direction.
BMW makes lavish claims for its forthcoming 8-Series, saying it will herald an upward shift in product strategy. But will it be enough?
Last week, BMW displayed a concept previewing a forthcoming 8-Series model line which went on display at the sumptuous annual Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este at Italy’s Lake Como. BMW’s Ian Robertson used the occasion to outline the company’s ambitions, telling Autocar magazine, “We want to bring more cars into the upper luxury segment. We are working on other products as we feel there is a lot of opportunity there. The new 8 series is part of this. In the next couple of years we will see the most comprehensive change in the history of BMW.”Continue reading “Number 8 Dream – BMW Reaches For The Star”