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”

Small : Far Away

It’s never too late to learn Micra – in all its forms.

Micra squared. (c) DTW

For a car that isn’t really in the business of setting people’s hearts aflutter, the Nissan Micra does garner a decent wordcount upon our pages. Now of course we can rationalise this on the basis that DTW is (perhaps to a fault), undogmatic in its judgements. [This, I accept, is a matter of debate]

But nonetheless, it’s indisputable that the entry-level Nissan is, in pretty much all of its iterations, a thoroughly decent and fit for purpose compact motor vehicle, if not one you might necessarily choose for the sheer love of the open road. But to condemn the Micra on this basis (especially these days), is to ignore the fact that it sits well within the class norms in just about any metric one cares to fling its way – after all, Nissan is far too astute a business to Continue reading “Small : Far Away”

Weekend Reissue : E is for Expressive

Ten years since ‘the car that killed sobriety’ was announced. Time for a backward glance.

(c) autoremes

The 2009 (W212) Mercedes-Benz E-Class is unlikely to go down in history as an indestructible exemplar of marque values like its W123 forebear, or indeed as a design landmark, like its W124 descendant. Indeed, it probably won’t even be remembered with the acute embarrassment which characterises the risible W210 series from the mid-’90s.

Instead, the W212 will be recalled largely for its ‘Ponton’ haunches – a piece of retro styling contrivance aimed at evoking a period when the three pointed star had nothing to prove and no awkward questions surrounding its durability in service to answer.

Is that all there is to the car? Not quite. The ‘212 is significant more for what it represented than for its abilities or its stylistic attributes, such as they were. Mercedes had a job to do, in order to Continue reading “Weekend Reissue : E is for Expressive”

Callum’s Cats

In a series of articles, we examine former Jaguar Design Director, Ian Callum’s stylistic legacy, though some of the more notable designs he oversaw.

Ian Callum. (c) flipboard

The immediate period following Ford’s takeover of the Jaguar marque was a pretty febrile time – for a whole host of reasons, but primarily for the schisms which took place as Blue Oval management took stock of what it had purchased. As the stark realisation dawned that $ billions would be required to Continue reading “Callum’s Cats”

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!”

Flirting With Distinction

We look back at the car that started the whole Distinctive Series debacle – was it really ten years ago?

So much going on to so little effect. (c) dieselstation

This is twice as much as what we aimed for, the DS line is a huge success,” Citroën’s Frederic Banzet told Automotive News in 2011. And for a time at least, it did appear as though Groupe PSA had pulled off a marketing masterstroke, with DS3 sales at one point accounting for a quarter of the volume for the entire C3 range.

It wasn’t as if the DS3 was necessarily a bad idea. The market for small upmarket  B-segment hatchbacks had been dominated by BMW’s MINI brand and certainly, there was a decent slice of that market to be had – with the right product. PSA’s difficulty was twofold: the lack of a competitive platform and more fundamentally its fundamental neglect of the Citroën name, which had been allowed, if not actively shoehorned into a low-transaction price, value-led cul-de-sac. Continue reading “Flirting With Distinction”

They Roam At Night

Be indoors by nightfall… 

Aaarrgghh! (Author’s image)

In 1997, then Tory Party MP, Ann Widdecombe was asked whether she would endorse former Home Secretary, Michael Howard’s bid to become the leader of the UK Conservatives. She refused, stating in the House of Commons that there was “something of the night about him.”

It was a nice line in waspish put-downs and one which is believed to have scuppered Howard’s leadership ambitions, but given Ms. Widdecombe’s reactionary and somewhat unpleasant views on, well, just about everything really, there was a strong whiff of pot and kettle about it. In reality however, the phrase probably served both politicians’ purposes – Howard later going on to Continue reading “They Roam At Night”

The Surface of Things

A keenly anticipated visual encounter ensues. Your correspondent comes away impressed.

Author’s image

The products of Hiroshima are not without their exponents upon the pages of Driven to Write – we have both editorially and in the submissions from our contributors been rather generous in our praise both of the previous generation 3 model and its shapely new replacement.

On the surface of things, Mazda appears to have taken a noticeable step forward with this car, moving closer to the upmarket German makes, both in aspiration and overall desirability – especially now as the latter move towards an ever more attention-seeking and repellent visual palette. But up to now, the new 3 existed for me only in the occasional fleeting glance and in static two dimensional form.

As we know however, there is no substitute for a three-dimensional viewpoint and yesterday evening, I received my first clear sighting of Mazda’s latest C-segment midliner in natural evening light. Time to Continue reading “The Surface of Things”

The Alfa Romeo Experimental Wankel Engine Programme

Tales from futures past: the Alfa Romeo engine you’ve never heard about.

Display parts leftover from the Alfa Romeo Wankel programme (picture from the Author)

During the entire Sixties decade, the rotary engine as conceptualized by the German inventor Felix Wankel and developed by NSU became something of the auto industry’s darling: compact, light, powerful yet smooth, and made of few moving parts, it looked like the future.

No car company wanted to Continue reading “The Alfa Romeo Experimental Wankel Engine Programme”

Weekend Reissue – El Camino a la Fiesta

Robertas Parazitas’ 2017 Fiesta opus joins the ‘Longer read’ fold.

(c) : classiccarcatalogue

As anyone who has tried to manoeuvre a supertanker can probably attest, when a leviathan changes direction, the process is both slow and not without considerable disruption. During the early 1970s, the ultra-conservative Ford Motor Corporation, having toyed with front-wheel drive during the previous decade, made the decision to Continue reading “Weekend Reissue – El Camino a la Fiesta”

Weekend Reissue : Previewing the Panamera

More backwards glances. This from Zuffenhausen. 

Porsche 989 concept. (c) pf-magazin.de

Ah the 1980s. If you can remember it without wincing, you probably weren’t there. An era of big hair, big shoulderpads and for those Big-Bang boys and girls, big bonuses – ergo flash motors. Preferably with the emblem of Stuttgart prominantly emblazoned upon its preferably engineless snout. But it’s probably true to say that there are more model lines that made decisive contact with the cutting room floor at Zuffenhausen than those which actually made it into production.

As has been pointed out ad nauseum upon these pages, the fortunes of Dr. -Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG has not been the unbroken run of success its current ubiquity and sector dominance might suggest. These two statements are not mutually exclusive -in fact they are intrinsically aligned, if not conjoined. Continue reading “Weekend Reissue : Previewing the Panamera”

Opus di Busso

Further to last week’s dissertation on the 1979 Alfa Six, we examine the contemporary reception to Giuseppe Busso’s Alfa Romeo 2.5 litre V6 unit, through the acerbic eye of LJK Setright.

The Busso V6 as fitted to the 1979 Alfa Six. (c) movitcars

Some engines arrive fully formed, others however, enter the world imperfect, but through a process of development and retrospective correction evolve to defy their early criticism.

A fundamental element of Alfa Romeo’s iconography was intrinsically linked to its engines, especially its pre-war thoroughbreds, those patrician in-line fours, sixes and eights which powered the carmaker into history books, not to mention the hearts and minds of all those with the blood of Portello coursing through their veins. Continue reading “Opus di Busso”

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”

Have I come in at a bad time?  The Borgward BX7 TS

Nearly four years have passed since neue Borgward presented the BX7 at the 2015 Frankfurt IAA. DTW’s Borgward-obsessive shares his impressions of one of the first Shanghai-built cars to arrive in the great lost carmaker’s home city.

Image: Borgward AG

The car is a left hand drive BX7 TS Limited Edition, not long arrived at Bremerhaven from Shanghai, but tested in south-east England. The first visual impression is how easily the car fits into the British carscape, registering in the visual continuum as just another big European SUV, not quite an Audi Q5 or XC 60 clone, but only by the grace of some well-executed details of its own. There’s nothing awkward or ham-fisted about the styling, but neither is there much that hints at the brand’s ancestry in a subtle or ingenious way. Continue reading “Have I come in at a bad time?  The Borgward BX7 TS”

Summer Reissue : With All Due Acclaim

Triumph’s far-East hybrid-swansong receives the Longer Read treatment.

(c) cosasdeautos

It is possible to argue that despite a track record of producing frequently ground-breaking, if sometimes ill-judged and inadequately realised car designs, the various iterative companies that eventually became the Austin Rover Group enjoyed greater commercial success (and profit) from producing vehicles of a more conservative technical composition.

Equally debatable is the notion that successful carmakers rarely fall prey to over-estimating the intelligence or discernment of their customer base, and certainly in BMC/BLMC/BL/ARG’s case, a case could be made that in doing just that, they were in fact acting against their own best interests. Continue reading “Summer Reissue : With All Due Acclaim”

C21 Roman Chariots

Forgive the rash of smartphone holiday snaps, but a recent stay in Rome provided an opportunity to check out the local motor cars.

Urban Panda – far from extinct on the streets of Rome

Sadly, the biggest impression left on me by scanning the roads of Rome from the Borghese Gardens down to the Colosseum was what I did not see: not one of my beloved Cinquecenti. And, I don’t mean bright, Broom Yellow, Sportings, I mean none of any type or colour; not one! I am not sure what that says about that model – I saw examples of both its replacement (the Seicento) and antecedents (the 126 and the Nuova 500), but of the Cinq, ‘niente’!

Maybe they were all culled in a round of Government-sponsored ‘scrappage’? Continue reading “C21 Roman Chariots”

Can You Handle This?

I don’t think you’re ready: Was the 2009 5-Series GT too ‘bootilicious’ for its own good?

(c) moibbk.com

Looking back at matters from the distance of a decade, it does appear that niche-filling was the post-millennial pastime du-jour for the automotive industry – at least for those cash-rich and expansionist prestige German carmakers who weren’t busily reinventing them. BMW were somewhat late to this particular party, albeit having introduced the vulgar and corpulent X6 SUV fastback in 2008, they hadn’t exactly been idle.

During the protracted run up to its 2009 introduction, the Bavarian carmaker made much of their forthcoming Progressive Activity Sedan, but when the covers came off the PAG concept, earlier that year, the reaction was let’s just say, somewhat tepid.

Like Mercedes’ 2006 R-Class, the 5-GT was aimed at buyers who wanted to Continue reading “Can You Handle This?”

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. 

IMG_1056

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)”

¿Qué pasa, mi alma?

Eight days and 1100km through Andalucia – DTW introduces reader, Martin Franklin who reviews the new BMW G20 320d.

(c) The Author

As far back as memory goes, I’ve loved BMWs. I’ve owned two to date: a 2003 E46 325i M-Sport Manual Convertible, followed by a 2005 E46 330i M-Sport Manual Convertible; the latter fixing the primary issue with the former, and both a satisfying driving and ownership experience. But living and working in central London since 2009, owning a car hasn’t been a justifiable luxury, so I compensate on holidays by hiring the cars I’d maybe like to own and then designing some good driving into the travel plans.  

This mid-June trip to Andalucia would see us picking up a car in Malaga, and following a more or less circular route through Granada, Cordoba, Seville, Jerez, Cadiz, Vejer, Ronda, Marbella and back up to Malaga. Eight free and sunny days on a mix of Andalucian roads: I was keenly looking forward, pending my luck with the hire car allocation gods. Continue reading “¿Qué pasa, mi alma?”

The Forgotten Alfa

Among the cars that turn 40 this year, there is the most misunderstood and underappreciated Alfa Romeo ever: the Alfa 6. It’s about time to set the record straight on Arese’s failed “ammiraglia”.

“Series 1” Alfa Romeo Alfa 6 (picture from the Author)

Presented to the international press on the shores of Lake Como in the spring of 1979, the Alfa Romeo Alfa 6 (yes, that is its actual name) has been mostly forgotten by everyone bar the most hardened “Alfisti”. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that in period the Alfa 6 was mostly ignored by its target market.

Alfa Romeo planned to sell 10,000 Alfa 6 models each year, of which 7000 were expected to be absorbed by the Italian market. The company eventually managed to sell 12,000 over an entire production span of seven years! Continue reading “The Forgotten Alfa”

Summer Reissue : Joking Aside

The Yaris was one of Toyota’s better efforts. It still looks good today.

The Yaris was previewed by this 1997 Toyota Funtime concept. autowp.ru

Toyota signalled a stylistic change of heart at the 1997 Frankfurt motor show when they presented the Funtime concept, a cheerful looking five door hatchback marking a significant departure from the rather anonymous looking Starlet, which by then was being left behind by the increasingly sophisticated and considerably more modernist European opposition.

A more Euro-centric design both in conceptual and stylistic terms, it was introduced in production specification the following year at the Paris motor show. Intended to Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Joking Aside”

Commercial Logic

Mercedes-Benz contemplates euthanising the X-Class. Good.

(c) caradvice.com.au

If the current febrile automotive and geopolitical climate is any reliable indicator, there may well after all be limits to growth. Certainly, the premium heyday within the auto sector appears to be hitting the buffers with both BMW and Mercedes recently issuing profit warnings.

The situation at BMW is such that it appears its CEO has been ‘encouraged’ to Continue reading “Commercial Logic”

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”

Space Oddity

Audi’s A2 confounded the buying public and lost its maker billions, but it was a stellar achievement nonetheless. 

(c) bilmodel

Carmakers are for the most part, pathologically averse to matters of risk – and for good reason. The costs of failure can be ruinous. For instance, a cogent argument could be made that Fiat Auto never recovered from the commercial failure of their 2003 Stilo programme, precipitating a decline from which they have never recovered.

Not so Audi, nestled safely within the VW Group mothership, and for decades now, a significant profit centre within the vast German multi-brand automotive titan. Nevertheless, the luxury carmaker is no stranger to the bitter tang of failure, or its financial cost.

Twenty years ago Audi announced the A2, a revolutionary and futuristically styled monopod aimed at elevating the Ingolstadt carmaker’s perception as technological pioneers. Six years later, it was summarily axed, following losses which amounted to around €1.3 bn*, having failed to Continue reading “Space Oddity”

Jim Randle 1938-2019

Today we remember former Jaguar technical director, Jim Randle in the words of the man who perhaps knew him best.

Jim Randle. (c) Steve Randle collection

My Dad, Engineer Jim Randle, died at home on the 6th July after a prolonged battle with cancer.

Jim served his apprenticeship at Rover, where the P6 2000TC was his first major project. He then moved to Jaguar, where he was swiftly promoted to Head of Vehicle Development. As a boy I often accompanied him to his office in the corner of the development shop at Browns Lane on a Saturday morning. Continue reading “Jim Randle 1938-2019”

Summer Reissue : Peak Bristol

The Bristoliste’s Bristol? The 411 turns 50.

Bristol 411 Series 5. Image: (c) bristolcars

The Bristol Motor car, from its 1948 inception has always proven to be a rarefied and somewhat piquant recipe. Because for every individual who admires and covets the earthbound products of Filton, there are those who find them ungainly, crude and overpriced. But even amongst the former group, there are Bristols and there are Bristols.

Like so many articles of faith, aficionados of the marque tend to Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Peak Bristol”

Summer Reissue : Another Country

A nice pair of Bristols? We go in search of shutline nirvana – by air and by road.

Bristol Beaufighter

Earlier in the week, we spent a fair amount of time examining shutlines and the lengths to which some carmakers will go to engineer solutions to the issues left by the stylists, not to mention the depths to which the marketing team will descend to cast them in the best possible light.

So it is perhaps timely that we Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Another Country”

Summer Re-issue : Rocket’s Tale

A timeless flight may be drawing to a close as Rocketman, via China’s Great Wall, finally comes home. Well, maybe…

Rocketman. (c) ausmotive

The word icon is often bandied about and for the most part misplaced, but in the case of the original team-Issigonis BMC Mini, it is probaly a justifiable one. Of course, like most people or objects who have this soubriquet thrust upon them, the Mini’s iconography came about over time and in no small part from a combination of factors: motor racing successes, becoming symbolic of an entire epoch and a certain comedy motion picture filmed amid the streets of Turin. Continue reading “Summer Re-issue : Rocket’s Tale”

Mr. Warburton Writes a Letter

Analysts Bernstein Research rediscover a lost art, but in doing so have they shifted the paradigm?

(c) grandprix247

Something unprecedented has happened. It’s probably too early to tell whether it will prove to be an isolated occurrence or a sign of a wider shift in the manner in which the industry operates, but the implications could well prove to be far-reaching.

Max Warburton, the senior automotive analyst from Wall Street financial analytics firm, Sandford C Bernstein, and leading soothsayer on matters pertaining to the motor business wrote an open letter last week to Renault Chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, suggesting he Continue reading “Mr. Warburton Writes a Letter”

In Memoriam : Jim Randle

There are some things a writer never wishes to put to paper, so I write these words today with a heavy heart.

The late Jim Randle in 2016. (c) DTW / Auto-Didakt

In the summer of 2016, I did what one should never do and met a personal hero, fulfilling a long-held ambition by interviewing former Jaguar Director of Vehicle Engineering, Jim Randle. At the time, he had been out of the public gaze for some time and was perhaps understandably wary of this pair of interlopers from afar asking him questions about a past he had largely put behind him.

Yet as he warmed to his interrogators, the memories of people, places, events and of course, the vehicles he helped create flooded back and between the quiet ironies and the uproarious laughter, he not only lent us almost five hours of his time but for myself, memories that I treasure. Continue reading “In Memoriam : Jim Randle”

Denied: Porsche Boxster Concept

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

DSC_0367.jpeg
(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”

Unsightly Shutline Syndrome

Today, we’re pleased to introduce DTW reader, Bruno Vijverman, who poses a question which has been bothering him of late. 

Image: Author’s collection

Bill Mitchell considered the 1965 GM cars to be his best work. And he may very well have been correct: The already beautiful Buick Riviera’s styling was cleaned up with the hidden headlights it was always supposed to have, the Chevrolet Corvair was restyled in a faintly Italianate fashion, while the regular Chevrolets had a more dynamic and flowing look if compared to the somewhat boxy 1964 models.

The same could be said of the other full-size offerings from Oldsmobile, Buick and especially Pontiac. The GM flagship Cadillac was of course also fully restyled for 1965, and is generally regarded as a handsome, and in view of the era and fashion, relatively uncluttered and cleanly styled car.

I also like the 1965 Cadillac. Apart from one thing: the weird trajectory of the shutline between the front and the rear door on the four-door models. Since this caught my eye I cannot Continue reading “Unsightly Shutline Syndrome”

Summer Reissue : Gear Change

A timely reminder of a fine but forgotten Honda concept leads your correspondent into a bout of fruitless hand-wringing.

2013 Honda Gear concept. (c) autos.ca

Before continuing, I am impelled to point out that I deserve no credit for highlighting this vehicle once more. It was fellow scribe, R. Herriott (currently en vacances) who first brought the Honda Gear to our attention during DTW’s formative months in 2014. I should also make clear that it is purely coincidental (if convenient) that this piece appears the same week that Honda invited journalists to sample its forthcoming electric-drive E model.

More on that in a moment. But first I invite you to Continue reading “Summer Reissue : Gear Change”

Exponential Acceleration

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

Untitled
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”

Ode to Joy

A mad niche car or a CUV pathfinder? We examine the Honda HR-V.

Better as a 5-door? (c) autoevolution

Had we realised how the mainstream motor vehicle would evolve over the intervening time, we might have paid a little more attention to the announcement of Honda’s HR-V, an event which occurred all of twenty years ago. As it was however, the automotive press were content to file it with all the other amusing, if slightly lightweight offerings from the more whimsical side of the Japanese automotive juggernaut.

The HR-V, which rather un-memorably stood for High Rider vehicle was previewed in mildly conceptual form at the 1998 Geneva motor show as the even more memorably coined J-WJ, where the positive reception was said at the time to have stiffened Honda’s resolve to Continue reading “Ode to Joy”

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)”

The Fourth Letter

The relative conventionality of the Delta dismayed marque aficionados in 1979, but it would go on to embody marque values of both performance and commercial longevity far beyond its seemly narrow remit. 

(c) Weilinet

The old guard was falling away. After a decade on sale, Lancia’s entry level Fulvia Berlina ceased production in 1973. The patrician compact saloon had proven a modest commercial success in its native Italy over that period, appealing to those who had both the means and the discernment to appreciate a such a finely wrought and technically noteworthy vehicle.

But while its mechanical specification left little to be desired, the level of complexity it incorporated would not square with that of Lancia’s new owners, who were masters of cost-control. Furthermore, its uncompromisingly rectilinear three-volume style had become widely viewed as outdated.

While legions of Lancisti will most likely Continue reading “The Fourth Letter”

Summer Reissue – Daily Grind

The last traditional Peugeot saloon marks its 40th anniversary this year. We look back at the 505.

(c) autoevolution

The final flowering of a fine tradition, the 1979 Peugeot 505 marked the last generation of rear-wheel drive saloons to emerge from Sochaux. A late ’70s update of the popular and durable 504 model, the 505 cleaved so closely to its predecessor’s conceptual template those of a more cynical mien could scarcely Continue reading “Summer Reissue – Daily Grind”

Summer Resissue : Art for Art’s Sake

If cars really can be viewed as Art, where does this leave the 1999 Citroën Xsara Picasso? 

(c) auto-abc.eu

Here at Driven to Write, we are fond of celebrating the worthy, the left of field and the more outlying inhabitants of our vehicular rich pageant. However, nobody in possession of the requisite technical or visual discernment would willingly choose to scribe a hymn of praise for the Citroën Xsara Picasso (to lend it its full name) – a motor vehicle which could perhaps only lay claim to the quality of mercy.

There have been many phases to the double chevron’s creative trajectory over the 100 years of its existence, and it would not be especially uncharitable to Continue reading “Summer Resissue : Art for Art’s Sake”

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”

Leap of Faith

It was brave, it was a failure and its fate was etched in Jaguar’s past. 

(c) barrettjaguar.com

Acts of creative reinvention are rarely acknowledged at the time of committal, being far more likely to be misunderstood and derided by those whose expectations were, for a variety of reasons subverted or otherwise denied. Brave or foolish? There is a fine line which separates both polarities, because inevitably, whenever these adjectives are appended to matters of a creative nature, it tends to be connected to its failure.

The X351-series Jaguar was a brave design, attempting to break from the creative straitjacket the over-familiar, and overworked XJ silhouette had evolved into. But now, a decade on from its Summer 2009 debut, and with the curtain soon to fall upon its production career, we can Continue reading “Leap of Faith”

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. 

1995_bertone_lancia_lancia_kayak_01
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)”

Fate Accompli

The lessons of history are fated to be repeated – endlessly.

(c) luxurycarsworld.com

It was all going to plan. In 2002, production of the X308-series XJ ceased at Jaguar’s Browns Lane plant, after all, an all-new replacement was shortly to come on stream to replace it. However, with the decision taken and implemented, a crisis arose. Jaguar engineers hit significant hurdles in the pressing of the X350 XJ’s aluminium bodyshell, necessitating a significant delay in series production.

As it transpired, it would be another year before the XJ was launched and in the interregnum, Jaguar was absent, not only from its core market, but also its most lucrative. When the 2003 XJ did reach buyers, not only did the car itself meet with a less than rapturous reception, but a significant number of former Jaguar customers had taken their business elsewhere. Many failed to Continue reading “Fate Accompli”

Lapin Daze

Readers not wishing to indulge our predilection for all things diminutive, Japanese and fluffy might perhaps wish to look away now.

(c) Suzuki.jp

How predictably Driven To Write, you might suggest, for us to fawn over some cute and unobtainable Japanese Kei car. After all, it’s not as if Suzuki doesn’t also offer a multitude of the SUV and crossover things we’re so frequently critical about on these pages.

Fair point, and I have no intention of singling out Suzuki as a bastion of elevated values. But with the proviso that other, perhaps equally endearing Kei cars are available (in Japan), Suzuki have nevertheless gone to the trouble to Continue reading “Lapin Daze”

A Gran Farewell

As BMW makes plans for Gran’s early demise, we ask what (if any) meaning there is to be derived from it all. 

(c) reviststorque

Holed beneath the waterline for some time now, the European MPV/Minivan market is fast approaching an ‘all hands to the lifeboats’ scenario, as market incumbents seek a means of escape from the cost implications of the sector’s sales implosion.

Until now, it has been the mainstream carmakers who have been for the most part wielding death’s scythe, but as market conditions deteriorate, even the more upmarket brands are starting to Continue reading “A Gran Farewell”

Blown In With the Wind

A (belated) photo for Friday, which comes with a question.

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This is, for those who cannot quite place it, a first-series Volkswagen Golf. It dates from the final year of Wolfsburg production – 1983 – and is, I can attest, in remarkably well-preserved and unmolested condition. Continue reading “Blown In With the Wind”

The Art of Departure

Ian Callum is leaving his ‘dream job’. We examine the possible motives.

Change of guard: Ian Callum (left). Julian Thomson (right). (c) leblogauto

There many qualities one requires in public life, but the apprehension of the correct moment to leave the stage is perhaps the trickiest to navigate successfully. Five years ago, Ian Callum told an enthusiast publication that he would stay on in his role at Whitley to “set up the next generation of aesthetics” before stepping down as Jaguar’s Director of Design.

Of course it is neither correct nor entirely fair to Continue reading “The Art of Departure”

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”

GLB for Beginners

Today, the DTW hobbyhorse® gets another outing, as we return to the world of the automotive press release – where written English goes to die.

The inoffensive if you like that kind of thing Mercedes-Benz GLB. (c) carthrottle

Simultaneously in both Stuttgart and for some inexplicable reason, Salt Lake City, Utah, Mercedes recently introduced their much-heralded GLB crossover – the latest, but unlikely to be the last of the current A-Class derivations vying for your undivided online attention. Since you will undoubtedly have formed your own opinions as to its merits by now, I will not trouble you with mine.

Instead, let’s gather round and Continue reading “GLB for Beginners”