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.
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 1951 art exhibition would change the way we viewed the automobile forever.
Since the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) was founded in 1929, it has been a leading proponent of contemporary and modernist art, encompassing not only what is commonly known as fine arts, but architecture, product design, photography, film, installations and electronic media.
Perhaps the most influential host to the conversation around latter-day aesthetics, its current location, designed by architects, Philip Goodwin and Edward Stone in 1939 on New York’s West 53rd street has staged some of the most celebrated and controversial art exhibitions of the 20th century.
An Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon, Cadillac Eldorado, a 1991 Buick Roadmaster, a Chevrolet Nova, some Mustangs, an El Camino. Those were a few of the older cars I saw on a recent trip to Sweden. Most exciting was this Opel Ascona 1.6 C automatic (1981-1984)…
The 1978 Midas and its talented creator appear largely forgotten. Neither really ought to be.
Even amongst those who breathe petrol vapour for pleasure, Harold Dermott is not a household name. And this is a pity, for he is intrinsically linked to two of Britain’s cleverest and most dynamically accomplished enthusiast cars. That they represent polar opposites upon the affordability spectrum is largely irrelevant – both are equally rare sights today.
But while one is rightly celebrated as arguably the pinnacle of road-car development, the 1978 Midas remains a neglected automotive footnote – a matter which not only belies the craft and ingenuity of its design and construction, but also speaks volumes as to how the automotive world values its innovators and outliers.
Having graduated with a BSc in mechanical engineering, Harold Dermott joined BL in the early ’70s, working on engine development for Jaguar. However, following the notorious Ryder Report, prospects looked bleak for a young, ambitious engineer, and having departed the embattled carmaker, he obtained the rights to Continue reading “Little Wonder”
The standard of the world. That’s what they called Cadillac. Details like this ashtray console in the rear passenger door would be the kind of thing supporting the idea of Cadillac’s general excellence…
1.4 million Opel Rekord E models sold, dear readers. This one is still running though maybe not for so much longer.
Nothing new under the sun, is there? When the current generation of Opel Insignia appeared, it upset me that there was a false pane in the side-glass. Since then I noticed the previous Mazda6 came very close to the same supposed sin. If we go back to 1977 we find the Rekord D1 where the last element of the apparent DLW is a black panel or fake pane.
Driven to Write’s chevron-shaped codex gains a new entry.
It’s possible to argue that by 1976 the world of car design had attained peak-wedge, exemplified by William Towns’ startling Aston Martin Lagonda. The projectile-shaped luxury saloon so defined the dart theme, there was really nowhere else it could be taken, not that this prevented the likes of Marcello Gandini and others within the design community from trying. However, as evidenced by subsequent efforts, the returns were rapidly diminishing.
It sounds like “Clio” and shares every dimension with the Clio but Wolseley’s new small car contender is a design triumph, says Wolseley’s chief of design.
The resemblance is there right down to the very fact the Cleo vRS has a Wolseley badge perched on a diamond-shaped plinth on the car’s front grille. A similar diamond-recess on the rear boot holds the famed “W” symbol too. So, yes, it looks a bit like a Renault Clio. How shall we understand the design? “With this virtually unique car we have redefined the meaning of sporty practicality,” says Wolseley’s design chief Cristo Palumbo-Colombo. “It’s practical and sporty in a completely new way. It’s not compromised at all.”
Later he said “Every line is accurately placed and provokes in the viewer a sense of awed humility. Or an indefinable sense of joi de vivre – that is about the happiness of living, about satisfaction with one’s existence because every aspect of one’s life is so lovely. The Cleo’s stance is creative, surprising and original. The proportions canContinue reading “Wolseley’s Hot New Cleo Rs!”
Badges are extremely important details on a car. Take them away and a wholly disproportionate amount of identity vanishes with them. So what are Skoda doing by deleting their arrow logo?
Prompting this story is the announcement (here and here and here) that Skoda are having a stab at a more obvious competitor for the Focus, Astra, 308 and, I suppose, Golf and whatever it is Citroën offer in this class (I can’t visualise it).
The advent of a defining car, while largely something of a singularity, can only truly be recognised as such once a period of time has elapsed. Over time, the Ford Motor Company has created a number of cars which have in their way, defined their eras, largely due to their ubiquity, and popular appeal. However, the number of truly outstanding Euro-Ford car designs are fewer in number.
Why not wander over to the US market to inspect activities thereover? Well, why not?
Even as the death of the saloon car is debated (Ford and FCA are giving up in the US), Nissan has flung piles of succulent, cold cash at a new entrant in the medium-sized saloon sector, offering us its new Altima. The engine changes are baffling in that displacement and output relations are upside down. The 2.5 has been utterly (95%) overhauled and the 3.5 V6 is now out, replaced by a 2.0 compression in-line four that uses less fuel and can Continue reading “The Theme From “Salazar’s Hatstand””
BMW’s latest G20 3-Series iteration has already caused no end of offense, but it appears the affront goes beyond the visual.
“The BMW 3 Series Sedan represents the heartbeat of the BMW brand and the epitome of sporty driving pleasure in the premium midsize segment. Exuding dynamic design, agile handling, exceptional efficiency and innovative equipment features, it takes the signature characteristics of a BMW and turns the volume up several notches.
Precisely drawn lines and strikingly contoured surfaces mark out the exterior, which showcases the brand’s new design language. The interior also has a clear, modern and sophisticated design. The new-edition 3 Series sees BMW building above all on the sporting tradition of the best-selling car.” (BMW Press).
Extremely recently I noticed a Renault Grand Scenic. It’s a big and imposing car. So is the Espace. Is there any real difference between them apart from the price tag and the Espace’s motorized glove drawer?
Vietnamese company Vinfast have shown their Lux A2.0 saloon and AS2.0 sports utility vehicle at the 2018 Paris Mondiale. The styling is attributed to Pininfarina who did it real quick, you know.
“The design direction of these first two cars was influenced by the Vietnamese people through a public vote. This has enhanced the sense of national pride in these products, which pay homage to the country’s natural beauty. The design development for the production cars was undertaken by legendary design house, Pininfarina, giving the cars Italian design flair and sophistication,” says the corporate press kit. The part which caught my eye was this: Continue reading “What You See When You Look There Instead of Up”
Tense nervous headache? Too many Vierzylinder schnappes? Take one of these white pills…
There is only so much ugliness anyone can take at a sitting and since as we have seen, the Bayerische Motoren Werke are now so firmly into the arena of the revolting, it is my belief that there simply isn’t any point in dignifying their efforts further.
Amidst the dreary, the predictable and the outright offensive this week, one finds one’s consolations where one can. Because there are pinpricks of light to be found. Peugeot’s lovely, if impractical eLegend concept, Suzuki’s refreshingly simple utility vehicle in miniature and Škoda’s latest Vision RS concept. Continue reading “Rapid Pain Relief”
BMW have presented the G20 iteration of their long-running 3-series saloon. Autocar very kindly put images of the new car (blue) up against the outgoing car (not blue).
Last night as I was writing my comprehensive and thorough report on the 2018 Paris Mondiale, it occurred to me that I might do a new/old comparison of the car. I also considered doing a short design review. I didn’t because I had the intuition it would be rather too much work to say anything about something so slight. Continue reading “Micropost: Two BMWs”
The ideological direction change enacted by Mercedes-Benz for the 2012 W176 A-Class not only precipitated the dying gasp of the German marque’s engineering-led ethos, but went on to vindicate its adoption by becoming a huge commercial success for the carmaker.
This much we know, but the scope and reach to which Mercedes has developed its successor gives eloquent voice of its ongoing significance to the three pointed star. Since its spring 2018 launch, the newest A-Class in five door format can Continue reading “Class Act”
Today we turn our attention to the 2017 Nissan Micra. This offers us a chance to learn the Nissan project code for the car, K-14.
We also get to canter through a potted history of a car that has lurched from banal to brave and back, like a drunken tide. The current car has a touch of brave and also a few dollops of busy. Before we get to that we shall
The sight of a Maestro parked outside a churchyard in a small English village might once have been as common as the prayer books the car’s putative churchwarden owner would distribute amongst the darkening pews, yet here in September of 2018, it strikes a rather more rarefied note.
In recent articles we’ve been looking at over-styling of one form or another. I’ve also been considering the driving forces behind the phenomenon. Counterfactual time…
Let’s take a trip in our time machine. It looks like a W-114 Mercedes but when the car gets to 45 kmph and the fan speed is set to high the car slips back in time to 1990. It also gives the driver the power to Continue reading “Lionel Rewrote A List”
It doesn’t happen all that often, but the latest confection from DS Automobiles has your correspondent utterly confounded.
I don’t know. I genuinely don’t. What does one say nowadays, when every recent new car announcement feels like another assault? Does there come a point when through exhaustion or simple attrition, one is forced to simply Continue reading “Lost For Words”
Today we remember Ford’s 1998 roadster concept which championed the freedom of the open road for four, and pay tribute to its designer.
While four-seater convertibles are reasonably common commodities, four-door roadsters, have never quite caught on. But just as nature abhors a vacuum, car designers tend to view received wisdom as something to be challenged.
At the 1998 Chicago Auto Show, when such events took place in the ‘Windy City’, Ford’s US design team, under the leadership of J Mays presented a concept, while not entirely new, had not really been attempted at this scale before. Continue reading “Formula Libre”
We return once more to my desperate attempt to make design semantics interesting to people outside the design profession.
Far from being a distant irrelevance to those practicing design, researchers cotton on to things which merely take time to be understood. If we are wondering today why current design is so over-wrought, there are those to whom this will not be a surprise. Should you be so diligent as to
Sometimes it’s necessary to look back in order to move forward.
It’s a slightly forlorn image would you not agree? An elegant, if vaguely unsatisfying looking 1960s Italian GT is parked upon a deserted beachscape. The photo comes courtesy of the estimable Mr. Christopher Butt, he of the influential and painstakingly curated Auto-Didakt. The car? Well, you can read Christopher’s well-chosen words on this carrozzeria unicorn here, should your curiosity get the better of you.
The image serves as something of a visual metaphor – for the demise of the carrozzieri, of course, but also for something more. But first, some background. As our Auto-Didaktic cohort points out, during the post-war period, French and Italian coachbuilders struggled to Continue reading “Surf’s Up”
“Electric now has a Mercedes.” Yes, but have you seen it?
“EQ or Electric Intelligence by Mercedes-Benz is our electric mobility brand. EQ represents ‘Emotion and Intelligence’, two Mercedes brand values. It comprises of all essential aspects related to customer-focused electric mobility and goes beyond the vehicle itself.” Mercedes-Benz.
A recent conversation with an industry insider prompted an observation that at Driven to Write, we tend to give Mercedes-Benz’s Chief Creative Officer a bit of a hard time. In this individual’s not entirely unwarranted view, we have a tendency (as one might say in football parlance) to Continue reading “Flicking the Switch”
Does it really matter what car designers say? Should it?
Car designers nowadays are expected not only to be adept at the creative aspects of their calling, but must also learn to articulate it in a manner which in theory at least, helps us, the end user, to engage with and better understand their vision. To be frank, given how some designers appear to struggle with the first component, it is not entirely a surprise to discover that so few of them are anything but inept when it comes to the latter.
It has long been known and indeed commented upon that car designers, and especially those in a leadership role, speak such unregurgitated twaddle. Given the amount of time they spend making impassioned presentations to senior management who require their hands held throughout the stylistic decision-making process, they appear to have lost their ability to Continue reading “Toxic Emissions”
It’s not commonly known outside Denmark and northern Germany that the Danish border has only been in its current place since 1921. Before then much of what we call southern Denmark was in German hands.
It’s not every day we get our hands on a best-seller. A recent trip to the Loire however, garnered DTW a Renault Clio. What did we make of it?
It’s close to half past seven in the evening as the TGV eases into la Gare de Tours, terminating its one hour and eighteen minute journey from Paris-Montparnasse. The station, a grand edifice dating from 1898, and a designated monument historique, feels as though it’s winding down for the evening, as indeed does the historic city of Tours itself.
The Avis car rental office certainly has, the Chef de Gare being called upon to process our documentation and release our pre-booked hire car. It has been a diverting past time during the train journey to Continue reading “Le Tour de Tours”
…which is the kind of image that is worth a science fiction story, I feel.
If anyone wants to spin a science-fiction story off that idea, they are welcome to use it as long as they are kind enough to credit the idea to me.
The notion suggested in the phrase is that there are spaces between the universes which are all packed together like multidimensional foam on a huge scale. Think of the gaps between tennis balls in a bag of tennis balls. That’s the rough shape of the spaces between the universes.
A soft day for a first sighting. The lesser-spotted i30 Fastback appraised.
While the remainder of Europe dessicates amidst the most protracted heatwave of recent times, here at that question mark of a landmass at the Atlantic’s cusp, a more habitual form of summer has returned. Leaden skies, horizontal mist and high humidity.
Seeing one of these is something of an event so I went to town with the photography. This is very probably the same one I saw last time, in another part of town.
As well as its brief life, the iQ is famous for being a latter day Cadillac Cimarron. Aston Martin smothered iQs in leather and sold them as posh city runabouts. Aston Martin understandably don’t want to disown their heritage, yes. When you read this kind of text you feel they might have overdone it though: “Cygnet was conceived, designed and built as a true Aston Martin. Including the many synonymous design cues featured across our model range including authentic zinc side-strakes, distinctive bonnet meshes, iconic grille and the legendary badge”.
Today, We enter the medios, and recall one of Lamborghini’s better efforts.
Automotive exotica are not what they were. Traditionally selfish devices, aimed at those who preferred to enjoy their pleasures in isolated splendour. Hence the requirement for additional perches not being terribly high on the exotic carmakers’ priority list. However, a gap in any market simply begs to be filled and Ferruccio Lamborghini was not an individual to Continue reading “Toro de Lidia”
VW’s staple supermini proves that too much of a good thing is still too much.
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.
Pininfarina’s 1973 take on the seminal Jaguar saloon wasn’t their finest hour. But while it served to highlight a fundamental weakness in the Italian carrozzieri’s business model, it did lead to something more worthwhile.
For the Italian carrozzieri it was a matter of intense pride that no manufacturer was creatively off limits, even one with as strong and universally lauded a design tradition as Jaguar. Predominantly the result of one man’s exceptional taste and unswerving vision, the craftsmen of Piedmont time and again Continue reading “The Cambiano Connection”
The immortal ‘Frogeye’ Sprite appeared to be a typical example of British design ingenuity, but its roots may have lain further West: Kenosha, Wisconsin to be exact.
The compact two-seat sportscar wasn’t necessarily a British invention, but for a period of the twentieth century, the UK was arguably, its prime exponent. Hardly surprising, given Britain’s traditionally serpentine network of narrow undulating roads and a taxation regime which dictated lower capacity, longer-stroke engines of limited outright power.
We’ve been here before I know, but somewhat akin to the crossover CUV itself, this one simply refuses to go away.
Everything has a shelf-life, none more so than fashion items. Given their popularity with the buying public and the margins to be made upon their sale, compact crossovers have proliferated to an unsettling degree. So much so, it feels as though we are drowning in a CUV sea, whereas in fact they represent just a quarter of European new car sales.
Let’s go back to 1999 right now. We will refresh our memories about the Isuzu KAI.
Isuzu ran a concept design studio in the UK, led by designer Simon Cox. Among the products of the studio was the Vehi-Cross (1997-2001). For the Kai Isuzu used very different form language, though one in keeping with the geometrical themes manifest most obviously in the Mk1 Ford Focus. If the surfacing and detailing are very 1999, the package is very now. Think of the BMW GT5 or Mercedes GLC. There is an arcing roofline and a raised chassis. It’s a hatchback on stilts in very simple terms. Continue reading “Trimming The Edges Of Reason”
There is more to BMW’s new 8 series GT than meets the eye.
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”
As Germany’s full-sized luxury GTs lurch further into decadence and creative atrophy, we appraise (and praise) a Lexus.
Heritage has become something of a double edged sword for carmakers nowadays. On one hand, it acts as emotional anchor for a marque’s visual identity, and employed with sensitivity and skill, lends a tremendous richness to what marketers might choose to describe as the ‘brand narrative’.
On the other hand however, the anchor analogy can also have a regressive influence, dragging the marque backwards, preventing designers from updating or reinventing a set of visual cues which may over time have lost relevance.
Here we go again. Another week, another dispiriting announcement from the Vierzylinder. The new 8-Series however represents a new low.
At least it isn’t an SAV: It’s doubtful BMW’s all-powerful marketers will employ this line in their advertising for the new 8-Series, yet it just might be the sales pitch it deserves.
A curious car to consider in terms of BMW’s stylistic nadir, you might argue, after all what could be bad about a suave, low-slung GT? However, it does not require much study to realise the full extent of BMW’s current styling malaise which is embodied here. Because quite frankly, if this is the best Adrian van Hooydonk’s design team can muster, the crisis at the Vierzylinder is indeed far worse than feared.
This is beyond weird. I don’t even see interesting cars at the other end of the street.
These mysteries and these enigmas appear just on my bit of street, not the other three bits. Here we are with the kind of old man’s car the residents find irresistible. Usually that means Carinas, Astras and 406s. Today it’s a mint-condition Mazda 323 saloon in a pale golden metallic colour. I had a close look at it and all the black plastic is in lovely, dark condition, box fresh from Hofu. Yes, I know you can Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1994-1998 Mazda 323 saloon”
Better known for their two-wheelers as much as a range of small economy cars, the 1985 Suzuki R/S1 was pretty as it was bold. So of course they never made it. Or did they?
For a time during the mid-1980s, it really did appear as though the automotive future was being dreamt up in Japan. With the mainstream European carmakers for the most part mired in creative and technical retrenchment, not to mention chronic overcapacity (some things never change), the Japanese manufacturers had it seemed, invested wisely and emerged as a power to be reckoned with.
Certainly, this period proved to be perhaps the great flowering of Japanese creativity and ambition when carmakers demonstrated to their European (and American) rivals that there really was nowhere to Continue reading “Obscure Alternative”
Rolls-Royce has lost its design director, just weeks after launching its new Cullinan crossover. Coincidence?
It wasn’t earth shattering news, even if it was somewhat surprising. The most striking thing about it perhaps was its timing. But even allowing for that, the news that Giles Taylor abruptly resigned his design leadership position at Goodwood within weeks of a major new product announcement might not even have been particularly noteworthy, but for a number of rather more compelling aspects.
The first of course is difficult to miss. Indeed, some have suggested Cullinan can be seen from space, where we’re reliably informed, nobody can hear you scream. The vulgar monstrosity RR has unleashed upon the world in the form of this ‘high-sided vehicle’ has precipitated a high percentage of commentators, both of the professional and armchair variety giving Rolls-Royce a well-deserved critical lashing.
Don’t meet your heroes, they say. They only disappoint. In something of a reverse case, I met an anti-hero in a car park of an Essex airport and was not disappointed at all.
The car in question – shown here in one photo because it isn’t worth any more than one – is the famous Ford 500 or Five-Hundred. It had a mayfly existence if you pardon the pun. Ford revealed it in 2004 at the Detroit Auto Show and they sold it from 2005-2007. Thereafter they renamed and restyled it.