This week has seen the unveiling of Mercedes’ latest concept car, previewing the styling direction to be taken by the next generation of A-Class-series Mercedes models. Concept A was previewed earlier in the year with a conceptual sculpture and a toe-curling lecture by the blessed Gorden (sic) on how his signature design theme was evolving. Since then, he’s completed a glossy coffee table book in conjunction with Conde Nast, called “Sensual Purity: Gorden Wagener on Design” and is rumoured to be working with Eyna on a concept album to accompany it. Continue reading “Crease Is The Word – Vision A Unmasked”
Curiosity overcame me so I went to a Suzuki dealer, writes Richard Herriott (who has hijacked this post).
On the way I saw the Mk 1. First, this is a public service as the Mk1 is not so well photographed. Second, it’s a chance to share my current morbid fascination. Until recently I hadn’t noticed the Mk1 Ignis (2000-2006). It shares similar themes with the Mark 2 which means Suzuki liked the idea and were planning an evolutionary approach. There is slightly raised third window at the back and the distinctive groove running around the middle of the lower body. The headlamps are not so distinctive as on the follow-up car. Why do I like this car? Continue reading “Tomorrow We Do Ignis”
Searching for your inner hero? This 1996 Peugeot concept had the key.
The same year the Pininfarina bodied 406 Coupe was first shown, Peugeot also displayed this, the Toscana concept. What the Sochaux-based motor company’s intentions were remains unclear, but whatever the intent, it cannot have been all that serious. With a bespoke body marrying key styling elements of the 406 saloon – nose treatment, rear lamps, body swage line – to a distinctly sci-fi canopy section, the Toscana was as frivolous a concept could be while still loosely based on a production model. If anything, it puts one in mind of some of GM’s Motorama concepts from the 1950’s – or indeed Adam West’s Batmobile. Continue reading “To the Batcave! – Peugeot 406 Toscana”
Previewed at the New York motor show this week, Toyota’s FT-4X Concept.
Maybe it’s the colour. Perhaps it’s the rugged ‘go-anywhere’ appearance. Or it could be the many useful features and imaginative solutions littered throughout the vehicle – (some more fanciful than practical) – but not only do I find the FT-4X charming, but also it strikes me that this or something along similar lines is really what JLR should be offering instead of that insipid looking new Discovery they’re marketing to customers now. Continue reading “Toyota’s (little) Discovery”
Hailed by Pininfarina as a celebration, Nautilus marked the final act in an unravelling relationship dating back to 1951.
The same year as 406 Coupe’s began leaving Pininfarina’s San Giorgio Canavese facility, the carrozzeria displayed Nautilus at Geneva; a concept for a full-size four-door luxury saloon, said by the coachbuilder to be “an exciting stylistic exploration of the high class sporty saloon, created as a tribute to our partnership with Peugeot.” But behind the scenes, this already souring relationship was entering its death throes. With Murat Günak appointed as Peugeot styling director in 1994, one of his first acts was to enlarge the styling team to bolster both numbers and influence; the aim being to further eclipse the Italian coachbuilder and favour the in-house team. Continue reading “Depth Charge – 1997 Pininfarina Nautilus”
A Suave Swansong. The 406 Coupé embodied values which had seen a Franco-Italian marriage survive and prosper for a generation. Sadly, it wasn’t to last.
At some unspecified point during the 1990’s something quite seismic took hold within Automobiles Peugeot. A profound cultural shift which saw a gradual jettisoning of not only the marque’s highly regarded engineering principles but also its reputation for dignified styling. Their long-standing association with carrozzeria Pininfarina was unravelling. PSA President, Jacques Calvet, believed to have been irked by the attention Patrick le Quément’s Billancourt studios were receiving, pressed Peugeot Style Centre chief, Gérard Welter for more visual excitement; a move which saw Welter poach rising star Murat Günak from Mercedes-Benz in 1994. Continue reading “Lion of Beauty – 1997 Peugeot 406 Coupé”
A chance sighting prompts something approaching a defence.
Since we created Driven to Write three years ago, I have undergone something of a re-education about cars and particularly when it comes to their design. Even though we might actually only rub shoulders about once a year, I often feel as though I have a virtual Herriott at my ear, urging me to look at that innocuous looking tin box over there with fresh eyes. Going about my business yesterday, I happened past a stationary 2016 Micra. Not a car to which I’d normally give more than the most cursory of glances, but given some of the damning responses to the example featured earlier in the week, I felt I ought to give it a second glance. Continue reading “Speaking Micra”
Alfa Giulia is available to own and steeling to give Gaydon’s finest a lash of its tongue. We look at how it’s faring against its sternest rival.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to spend a day around FCA towers? If only to truly discern the degree of reality evinced by the likes of Big Reidland et al. Because even the big fella must now realise the German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are conclusively beyond reach. Last year, luxury sector leader, Mercedes-Benz shipped 176,038 C-Class badged vehicles to waiting customers across the European market alone. What hope for Alfa Romeo’s ambitions against those kind of numbers? Continue reading “Theme: Rivals – The Serpent and the Cat”
For years now, Lexus has stared enviously at Mercedes-Benz, hoping to emulate its success. Tired of second fiddle, is ‘the gentleman’ flinging his values on the fire?
Last year, a former Browns Lane insider described the advent of the 1989 Lexus LS 400 to me as being “chilling in every respect”. One can be equally sure that in Munich, Ingolstadt and Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, the intake of breath was no less sharp and the expletives no less lurid. That Lexus subsequently failed to achieve global cut-through over the intervening decades remains a matter for historians and academics to pick over, because the auguries at the time suggested Toyota would annihilate the opposition. Continue reading “Sexing-Up Lexus”
Faux by four or pre-emptive strike? We cast a (largely) unprejudiced eye over the Rancho.
The 1973 oil embargo had a profound effect upon all auto manufacturers, but the low volume specialists were most exposed. Mécanique Aviation Traction, better known as Matra were no exception and in the aftermath of the fuel crisis, found it necessary to broaden their automotive base. Best known for sports cars, Matra had introduced the Simca powered Bagheera in 1976 and were now seeking a second Chrysler-Europe-derived model programme to boost revenues in addition to providing a buffer against further geo-political shocks. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Hangin’ Tuff – 1977 Matra-Simca Rancho”
While it’s comparatively easy to dismiss it as something of a parts bin special, the 1967 Fiat Dino Coupé amounted to a good deal more than the sum of its parts.
By the latter stages of the 1960’s, Fiat management realised the necessity of providing more than just basic transportation for the Italian market. With living standards on the rise, the demand for more upmarket cars grew – at least within the bounds of what Italy’s stringent taxation regime would allow. With Dante Giacosa’s engineers at work on a series of new models to cover the compact to mid-classes – (124 and 125-series’) in addition to a new flagship to replace the dated 2300-series, Fiat’s offerings to Italy’s middle classes reflected this push upmarket, even if the egalitarian Giacosa didn’t necessarily understand the necessity. With these models in hand, it’s therefore a little odd that Fiat saw fit to embark on the Dino programme, because on the face of things, it looked more like a favour to Ferrari than anything that particularly stacked up as a business case. Continue reading “Fiat al Fredo – 1967 Fiat Dino Coupé”
Pininfarina stayed true to form with the H600 concept. Nothing wrong with that we say.
At the 2012 Geneva motor show, carrozzeria Pininfarina showed Cambiano, a concept, said by the Italian styling house to be in effect, a homage to the legendary Florida II. But while that pivotal 1957 concept became a stylistic monument, siring an entire generation of cars, Cambiano, while commendably elegant of line and refreshingly free of frippery, disappeared pretty much as soon as it arrived – overshadowed by more brash contemporaries. Continue reading “Geneva 2017 Reflections – Dignified Silence”
Driven to Write continues its Geneva walk of shame, and finds some cause for optimism amidst the mainstream behemoths.
The boys at Zuffenhausen have been diligently erasing their previous work in creating a more svelte version 2.0 Panamera, debuting the Sport Turismo, which features a vast 20-litres of additional stowage space. Interesting to see how well judged the business case is with this one. Given that Mercedes’ CLS equivalent has hardly set sales charts alight (and is not being replaced), Porsche management are clearly crossing their fingers and toes here. Continue reading “Geneva 2017 Reflections – And the Band Plays On : 2”
Are we going anywhere fast, or are the major players merely spinning wheels? Driven to Write looks at Geneva’s latest fancies, and finds little to celebrate.
We’re on the cusp of possibly the biggest re-alignment since the advent of the motor car. The costs of change and its survival are daunting. Behind the scenes the industry is frantically making best-guess preparations for the coming avalanche, while trying to second-guess which direction an increasingly mercurial political class are leaning. Rising protectionism in the US and impending Brexit in the UK: who’d be an automotive CEO now? Continue reading “Geneva 2017 Reflections – And the Band Plays On”
A harmless trip to the shops leads to a rare sighting of the lesser-spotted Tipo.
A walk around my local retail car park in suburban Cork is a dispiriting experience at any time, even when the rain isn’t horizontal. Filled with the usual drear parade of monochrome conveyances, there is little for the eye to linger upon, or indeed for the uninfluential auto-blogger to spin an article. However, earlier in the week, I was stopped in my tracks by, of all things, a 2017-registered Fiat Tipo Sedan – the first I’ve witnessed in the wild. Continue reading “Reverting to Type”
Driven to Write’s embedded correspondent, Robertas Parazitas continues his dispatches from the 87th Geneva International Motor Show.
Wednesday 8th March
Today I tried to catch some of the stuff decent folk would walk by – all the sub-Mansories, for Arabs with goût. Some absolute crackers. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. As LJKS once wrote “If you want to know how G*d regards money, you only have to look at those to whom he gives it”. (I think he may have been quoting someone else.)
Did I mention that Dieter was having a right good look at the I-Pace. I have some photos, will need to check to see if Gorden (sic) was in his entourage…
If you have to ask how much it costs to look this cheap you probably can’t afford it.
All of a sudden Bentayga makes sense. Bentayga exists, I now realise, to provide a frame upon which the spectacularly insecure can hang the neediest portion of their id – and in the case above have it rendered in ‘Collage Edition’ carbon fibre. Behold the Mansory Black Edition – the ultimate expression of Bentayga-ness. Continue reading “Scream If You Want To Go Faster”
Last week, JLR unveiled Velar, the most ambitious Range Rover variant yet. But Driven to Write asks, is there a cuckoo in the nest?
As the dust sheets were lifted off their new mid-liner, Land Rover CCO Gerry (IGMG) McGovern informed journalists, Velar is “the most car-like Range Rover we’ve done so far”. It also seems likely to become the crossover SUV that will convert customers who have so far proven immune to the crossover SUV contagion. Continue reading “Taking the Veil”
Sixty this year, Lancia’s zenith gets the DTW spotlight.
Pushed to choose one marque defining model I wouldn’t hesitate; after all, there are Lancias, and there is the Flaminia. Others might disagree and that is fine. We all have our icons, and if you believe the sliding pillar era was technically or aesthetically superior I wouldn’t necessarily argue. It’s a personal choice. Continue reading “The Pinnacle – 1957 Lancia Flaminia”
Three brochures for the same car demonstrate Fiat’s marketing skills – or lack thereof.
Fiat’s 1970’s brochures were often stark affairs. Studio shots, no background and just the facts. With an economy hatchback like a 127 or suchlike, there was a certain amount of logic in this approach, but for what many dubbed a mini-Ferrari, it risked underselling what was at the time a fairly unique proposition. Continue reading “Brochures Redux – Midship Triptych”
You’re engaged in some innocent retail therapy and then this beams down from planet Piëch.
As we’ve pointed out, Driven to Write never sleeps and while we don’t always get about as much as we’d like, our eyes and ears are everywhere. So while some of us are battening down hatches in windswept West Cork, others get to swan around a decidedly more temperate Marbella – a matter for which your correspondent is not bitter. Continue reading “Photo for Sunday – Volkswagen XL1”
Already a decade old in 1977, the SAAB 99-series perhaps best embodied the Swedish ideal of ‘Lagom’ .
The 99 saw Saab come of age. A bigger, more commodious, more mainstream model than the somewhat home market-specific 96 series which not only preceded it, but was sold alongside. By 1977, the 99 was a very mature product, and what bugs may have arisen in earlier incarnations were fairly thoroughly expunged. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Just Right?”
The 1973 Beta Coupé was slightly underwhelming – and to be honest, its sales literature was as well.
A year after the berlina’s launch, Lancia announced the first of four sporting Beta derivations, the 2+2 Coupé. Designed in-house in conjunction with Pietro Castagnero, the man responsible for the much-loved Fulvia amongst other pre-Fiat Lancia designs. This is an early sales brochure and it is notable for a number of reasons – some of a pedantic nature, others of a more whimsical stripe. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Beta than expected but not as good as hoped”
In this concluding part of DTW’s interview with the National Motor Museum’s Jeff Coope, he outlines his vision for the museum’s future.
A former motor engineer, Jeff Coope is perhaps unique amongst senior colleagues at Gaydon in that he doesn’t have an old car of his own to tinker with at weekends; a matter of some amusement and no little embarrassment for someone in his position. This probably explains why the previous day he’d been out test driving a variety of Triumph TR6’s with a view to purchase. “It’s interesting, he tells me, you put you hand on the injector fuel rails for the PI injection system on a TR6 and it’s alive! What else do we make that has a pulse? Effectively, we’re lighting little fires under bonnets aren’t we? Controlled fires at a huge rate and we’ve refined that to great art, although we’ve probably taken it as far it can go now, relatively speaking.”Continue reading “Making History – Jeff Coope Interview (part two)”
A sober brochure for a distinctly sober car – the 1982 Mercedes-Benz 190-series.
Daimler-Benz were not in the business of hyperbole when they presented the W201-series in 1982. Instead, they were offering a purity of an entirely different order. “The new Mercedes models will set the standards for the engineering and the styling of compact cars for years to come”, they said. Prescient words. The 190 was a benchmark car, arguably the apogee of a once-dominant, now deceased engineering-led Swabian modus. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star…”
We drive a C6 and discover there’s nothing penitential about Citroën’s swansong big saloon.
On my return to Randle Engineering in November 2016, I re-introduced the subject of the C6, but this time with a more contrite tone. I ask Steve to tell me more about his example. By UK standards at least, Randle’s C6 has a virtually unique specification. It’s a 2007 C6 2.2 litre model with a six-speed manual transmission, one of 38 in the country. Continue reading “Act of Contrition – Citroen C6 (part two)”
A decade apart, two brochures illustrate how Citroën’s marketers viewed the evergreen Tin Snail.
1975: Two years after the oil embargo and deep into a period of political instability and economic austerity. Frugality was back, as was a yearning for a more authentic mode of living. In keeping with the mood music of the time, BBC sitcom, The Good Life portrayed a professional couple turning their backs on the rat-race, embarking on a ‘back to the land’ subsistence in their Surbiton semi. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Pushing Tin”
Driven to Write speaks to the man helping ensure the British Motor Museum in Gaydon is future-proofed for future generations – Director of Operations, Jeff Coope.
Ensuring the past continues to address the future is a challenge all museums face. To stay relevant they must evolve – or die. Jeff Coope is the man at the sharp end. Having overseen the transformation of what was known as the ‘Heritage Motor Centre’ into today’s British Motor Museum, his ambitions for the facility go much further. The current purpose built Gaydon museum was formally opened in 1993, but despite being supported by industry donations and from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust itself, it struggled to sustain itself financially. Continue reading “Making History – Jeff Coope Interview (part one)”
Making amends for past indiscretions, Driven to Write takes a long look at the last true Citroën.
Despite its premier position in Citroën’s iconography, the incomparable Déese never really represented the double chevron’s stylistic North Star. That position is occupied by its less well loved successor, the 1974 CX. Despite being viewed by some ardent Citroënists as the lesser vehicle to its definitive forebear, the CX’s silhouette remains not only the one best associated with the marque, but also one which most aficionados would welcome a return to. Continue reading “Act of Contrition – Citroën C6 (part one)”
As Jaguar 2016 sales hit unprecedented heights, we take an unflinching look at XE’s school report. History appears to be a particularly weak subject.
On the face of things, JLR’s once troubled Jaguar brand appears to be be on the rise at last. Following massive investments in new product lines, underpinned by an all-new aluminium intensive modular platform and new diesel engines, the marque has posted global sales of 148,730 vehicles last year, up 77% on 2015 figures. And while brand Jaguar accounts for only 25.4% of JLR’s total volume, it represents the bulk of the overall percentage gain for the business as a whole for 2016. This growth has been driven by new offerings in sectors of the market previously unrepresented by the brand and offer an encouraging picture not only for a nameplate that has consistently underperformed but also for JLR management’s policies. But once you begin to drill below the headline figures, some troubling questions arise. Continue reading “We Need to Talk About XE”
The general consensus amongst the great and good of the Driven to Write community appears to be that Mercedes’ current crop of rear wheel drive saloons, if not exactly a triumphant return to form, are at least broadly acceptable. But never mind us and our vain masthead slogan, the sheer ubiquity of the current W205 C-Class model eloquently testifies to the broader market’s giddy endorsement. However, on this matter I continue to stand unmoved; arms metaphorically folded in petulant refusal. Continue reading “Base Metal”
Recently we’ve been drinking deeply from the Trevi fountain, which has prompted a further bout of rumination upon Lancia’s idiosyncratic saloon.
The Trevi is an unusual car, not only in itself – although, you’ll have to admit, it’s an intriguing one to behold. For one thing it’s the only car I can recall that began life as a fastback saloon – (with a separate boot compartment) and ended it as a three volume saloon. Yes, there has been saloon from hatchback conversions and vice-versa, but a saloon from a saloon? Continue reading “Trevi Musings”
Mercedes-Benz’s recent Aesthetics A concept appears to signal a new dimension in Sensual Purity®. Is this the end of the Line? We hold our noses and investigate.
For some time now we’ve been pretty unequivocal as regards our impressions of Mercedes-Benz’s latter-day form language. Because, at the risk of labouring the point, it’s been pretty dismal. But for those of us who bewail the three pointed star’s descent from its automotive Mount Olympus, is salvation at hand? Continue reading “Aesthetics A – Visibly Reduces the Appearance of Lines”
Renault’s latest Megane Saloon is grand all right, but a coupé? We investigate.
The automotive landscape in the Republic of Ireland is broadly similar to that of the UK but there are, as one might expect, some exceptions. One of the notable ones, is a long-standing, if diminishing (according to my sources) preference for three volume saloons over hatchbacks. Of course, as Irish motorists increasingly follow their UK and European neighbours into crossover CUV’s, they’re discovering they’re being sold hatchbacks by stealth. Continue reading “Well isn’t it Grand for Some?”
Life isn’t fair. By rights we’d have our needs and wants fulfilled but circumstances, finances and events conspire to deny us our true heart’s desire. Take the owner of this perfectly innocuous Audi TT. A first generation model; the nicest looking of the series, if not the most dynamically adept. ‘A Golf in a party dress’, sniffed the more snobbish automotive commentators, but nevertheless a perfectly nice and still quite stylish way to get around on a moderate budget. Continue reading “Theme: Compromise – Second Best”
From Panhard toBMW’s i-Series, Steve Randle talks cars – and bikes.
For a motor engineer constantly in pursuit of the next innovation, Steve Randle’s interest in older machinery proves a little disarming. These include a frankly enormous collection of road cycles. “Bicycles are about as close to perfect as it gets, they’re such delightful, elegant things. You can get help for drugs and alcohol but for cycling, nothing can be done.”Continue reading “Brave and Interesting – Steve Randle Interview Part Two”
It might look like a stretched Peugeot 308 to you, but this was the finest PSA concept in years.
I’m somewhat amazed I’ve made it so far with this series. I’d expected hoards of irate Citroënistes burning effigies of me for having the nerve to make these (admittedly loose) connections, so either I’m on the right track or I should spend more time looking skywards for falling anvils.
Speaking with engineer, Steve Randle these two words crop up a good deal, but if ‘brave and interesting’ describe the vehicles and engineering solutions that inspire him, it’s also a fairly accurate description of the man. With a career encompassing Jaguar, McLaren Cars – where he was responsible for the suspension, engine mounting system and dynamic package for the legendary F1 supercar – through to projects at his own engineering consultancy with clients as diverse as Bentley, JCB, Tata Motors, and the Ministry of Defence, Randle’s bushel has up to now been well hidden, to say nothing of the light therein. Continue reading “Brave and Interesting – Steve Randle Interview Part One”
Almost twenty nine years ago, Toyota unveiled the Lexus LS 400 saloon, giving the European and US luxury car establishment the shock of their lives. That car, lovingly created by a skunkworks of Toyota’s brightest and best was beyond doubt the Honda NSX of luxury saloon cars; a gamechanger for the industry, a new benchmark.
Reading the tea leaves from Ireland’s 2016 car sales figures.
As some of you might have gathered by now, I find motor statistics quite absorbing. Okay, it’s often a little like tea leaf prophecy, but car sales figures can be revealing. However, since full-year European data is still pending, we’ll have to contain ourselves and make do with the Society of the Irish Motor Industry who’ve released statistics for January-December 2016. The Republic of Ireland market is small, but even so, 146, 672 new car sales is not to be sneezed at, especially as it shows a rise of 17.5% over that of the previous year. Continue reading “And Here Are the Results of the Irish Jury.”
In 1847, a young man by the name of William Ford travelled with his parents and siblings from the tiny village of Ballinascarthy to the port of Queenstown (now Cobh) before making the perilous crossing to America as famine decimated their homeland of West Cork. The émigrés purchased a farm in Dearborn, Michigan and sixteen years later, a son, Henry was born. The rest as they say… Continue reading “Home Thoughts From Abroad – Ford 100 in Cork”
Looking for all the world like an enraged toddler, the 2017 Kia Picanto has this week shown its livid face to the world before the model’s World début at Geneva this March. Pictured here in range-topping GT-Line trim, the new car aims to underline the Korean brand’s latest, more aggressive mien. Continue reading “Wot You Lookin’ At?”
As I get older, I find that many things I still view as contemporary are in reality, decades old. Music, fashion, events – cars even. The subject of this photo is a case in point. Old enough to be dismissed as a banger, yet to my mind at least, still sufficiently contemporary for this scenario to be unusual. Continue reading “Back to Nature”
Like most of what we do here at Driven to Write, our commemoration of significant automotive anniversaries throughout the past year came about largely by accident and was therefore never intended to be exhaustive or definitive. But with 2016 consigned to a blessedly welcome end, we now find ourselves like overindulged children with an embarrassment of riches for which we have little real use. So in the spirit of post celebratory ennui, we propose to take a brushstroke to the cars we never quite got around to last year. Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz”
A mighty wind from Wolfsburg marked the Passat’s coming of age.
Before we were all persuaded to go and unlearn it, the term ‘Mondeo Man’ was late ’90s media shorthand to describe UK’s Mr. Average. However his German equivalent would have been more likely to have been polishing a Volkswagen Passat ‘of a weekend. Trouble was, outside VW’s home market, comparatively few else were. Volkswagen’s mid-liner sold respectably, but its image remained as studiously underwhelming as its sales figures. Continue reading “Piëch Practice – 1996 Volkswagen (B5) Passat”