Downgraded from Economy

This wasn’t what I expected.

A rented vehicle.
A rented vehicle.

At the very least, a rental car offers the chance to drive something new even if it’s not the car of your dreams or as good as your normal vehicle. On my recent visit to Baden-Württemberg I’d expected to be driving a Ford Ka. This didn’t excite me very much but, as I said, it was a new car and not something I’d otherwise experience.

To my disappointment, Continue reading “Downgraded from Economy”

Theme : Dashboards – The Rover P6

An Ignored Classic

Series 1 V8 Interior

In Simon’s introduction to this month’s theme he mentions the original P6 Rover dashboard, and I think this merits more scrutiny. The P6 Rover ceased production in 1977, ending its life as a British Leyland product built in 2.2 and 3.5 litre forms, and viewed as a rather staid design with a latterly gained reputation for poor build quality.

That isn’t what it deserved, but it had lived far too long. Casting back to its launch, 14 years previously, as the 2000 of the then independent Rover company, it was a well made car and a fresh, new design by any standards, a radical departure for that company. It drew inspiration from the Citroen DS, but in no way slavishly copied it. Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – The Rover P6”

Death’s Revolving Door is Now Spinning

They are digging up Saab again.

1980 Saab-Lancia 600
1980 Saab-Lancia 600

Automotive News has reported another turn of the swing door in Trollhattan. Those of you keen on re-gravedigging will have been following the death-rebirth-death-rebirth of Saab. At this point the cycle is akin to an automotive version of Buddhist re-incarnation except Saab keeps coming back as an about-to-die brand. The last news (May) was that some of Saab’s putative investors declined to throw more money into the open grave in Trollhattan and the stake was once again hammered into Saab’s turbo’d heart.  Continue reading “Death’s Revolving Door is Now Spinning”

2014 Citroen DS3 – Quick Review

The 3 was the first of the new DS line – does consideration of it now give any clues to the new marque’s future?

DS3ext

The silver lining to having a car that spends more time than one would like “being serviced” is that one usually gets a courtesy car to try whilst one’s (un)faithful steed is being restored to full health. Previously, I’ve written about how a “lowly” Ford Fiesta provided in such circumstances proved to be one of the nicest drives that I have ever experienced; today it is the turn of the DS3. Continue reading “2014 Citroen DS3 – Quick Review”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 12

The Legend Grows Old Waiting. As the AJ6 engine breaks cover, the press lose patience.

0000471_xjs-red-36
The 1983 AJ6-engined XJ-S 3.6 – (c) Jaguar Heritage

The autumn of 1983 saw Jaguar offer an AJ6-engined car to the public. The 3.6 litre XJ-S was launched in the familiar coupé bodyshell with the added novelty of a drophead two-seater version. Both were powered by the new AJ6 unit in 225 bhp 24-valve form.

The British motoring press devoted pages of copy to the introduction, this being the first all-new Jaguar engine since the V12 of 1971. Expectations were high, given the peerless refinement of the larger-displacement unit. The fact that this engine would become the mainstay power unit for XJ40 only added to its significance.  Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 12”

Something Rotten in Denmark: 1998 Chrysler Stratus

The Chrysler Stratus: all the bad qualities of American cars, Japanese cars and European cars rolled into one unappetising shape. In 1995 these cars had the power to thrill.

How to sell a car´s charms
How to sell a car´s charms

This car has two claims to our attention today. The first is that in the cold light of day, it is hard to believe this car and its almost identical stable-mates were nominated on Car & Driver’s 10 best list. I wasn’t aware of this at the time. The second reason I’m drawn to it is because it was the first car I was ever paid to review**.

I wrote 1000 words and saw the editor chop out 200 of them, more or less killing the nuances of the text stone dead. I wanted to Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark: 1998 Chrysler Stratus”

2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti Ecoflex roadtest

The Opel Zafira Tourer went on sale in late 2011 as an addition to the Opel family, rather than a replacement for the existing Zafira. 

2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti
2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti

That remains on sale as a cheaper, smaller MPV, albeit in facelifted form. DTW gained access to a Zafira Tourer Ecoflex, with a 2.0 diesel engine fitted with stop/start technology. Read on for a short review…The Zafira does such a good job it is hard to write about the car´s demerits without seeming to make too much of rather small details. All the good points can fly past unnoticed since getting it right is often just a way to go unnoticed.

Continue reading “2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti Ecoflex roadtest”

Superman In Milton Keynes

Almost three decades ago, a couple of cheapskate film producers believed they could whisk the quintessential American superhero to Buckinghamshire and people wouldn’t notice. Now Daimler AG is following their example. 

superman_4_en_busca_de_la_paz_1987_3-1024x576

Back in the late 1970s, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were the undisputed moguls of Israeli cinema, thanks mainly to the success of their Lemon Popsicle series of raunchy comedies. By the early 1980s, they wanted to enter the big leagues, which meant entering the US market, big time. Golan/Globus invested serious amounts of money in order Continue reading “Superman In Milton Keynes”

Drawing Restraint

Audi has previewed its new styling direction. It looks a lot like the old styling direction.

audi-prologue-25-970x646-c
Image credit: car revs daily

Based on the cumulative reaction to Audi’s new design direction embodied by the recent Prologue concept, Marc Lichte and his designers may have considerably more work to do if Audi is not to Continue reading “Drawing Restraint”

History in Cars: Midlife Krisis KA

If you’re going to have a mid-life crisis, at least get a decent set of wheels.

images_ford_ka_1996_1

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in his forties has a higher than average propensity to some form of mid-life introspection. As we know, the clichéd route to self-actualisation ranges from an inadvisable tattoo, to an inappropriate affair with a younger member of whichever gender he’s attracted to. Some choose to experiment with various derivations of the above. The more conventional opt for a sportscar or convertible. After all, just because you’re in the throes of a life event doesn’t mean you have to be original about it.

Continue reading “History in Cars: Midlife Krisis KA”

What’s the Difference Between a Mercedes CLA and a Mercedes C-class?

How does £208 per litre sound? I’ve been looking through the spec sheets again.

2014 Mercedes saloon.
2014 Mercedes saloon.

We know that the CLA is a front-wheel drive vehicle, related to the A-class which is now essentially MB’s offering in the Golf/Focus/Astra sector. The C-class is a monument in the automotive firmament, with roots going back to the rear-wheel drive 190E of the ’80s. That car was the first sign that Mercedes was interested in capitalising on its prestige by bringing their quality down to a smaller class of car than they had been offering up to that point. Continue reading “What’s the Difference Between a Mercedes CLA and a Mercedes C-class?”

1976 Simca 1307, Chrysler Alpine/150 Review

“Vive La Difference!” Archie Vicar compares two new products battling it out in the family sector – France’s Simca 1307, and Britain’s Chrysler Alpine.

1976 Simca 1307
1976 Simca 1307

From The Motoring Weekly Gazette, October 1976. Photography by Terry Loftholdingswood. Owing to a processing error resulting in mishandled transparencies, stock photos have been used.

Introduction

All of a sudden there are two entirely new cars fresh on the market to rival the Ford Cortina, the Vauxhall Cavalier and the ancient Renault 16. From Coventry, by way of America comes the Chrysler Alpine nee 150: good day, sir!, or should that read howdy? From France, we say bonjour to the Simca 1307. There would appear to be something for everyone’s taste here, I say. Continue reading “1976 Simca 1307, Chrysler Alpine/150 Review”

1965 Renault 16 Review

“Hatchback of Notre Dame” – In this transcript the respected motor-correspondent, Mr Archie Vicar, dons his beret to try the new Renault “Sixteen”.

1965 Renault 16: it has five doors.
1965 Renault 16: it has five doors.

From Driving Illustrated May 1965. Photos by Mr Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to the poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.

Olive oil and garlic in the kitchen, filterless Gitanes in his pocket and a pair of slip-on shoes. We all know the fellow. He likes his chicken chasseur and, in the late evening, Jacque Brel croons on his stereophonic record player. Coffee for him, never good old tea. Heaven forbid if the coffee is powdered. Not for this chap a splendid Humber, a stout Riley or even a fine Rover. Such motor cars are not sufficiently sophisticated, too British. Since 1955 the only car for Monsiuer Different has been a Citroen, usually the DS, fitted with its dreadfully overwrought hydropneumatic suspension, fibreglass roof and marshmallow chairs. Continue reading “1965 Renault 16 Review”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 11

Phase three – 1981-1986: Free at last. Jaguar’s independence becomes a reality as Sir William takes a more active role.

Egan and Lyons
Two Knights, two Jags – Egan and Lyons – image: Jaguar Heritage

When John Egan made contact with Sir William Lyons in 1981 to sound out the Jaguar founder for the role of company President, he was taken aback by his response. ‘I already am, lad!’, Lyons informed him. Amid the turmoil of the previous eight years everyone appeared to have forgotten. Lyons warmly embraced the new incumbent, believing the Lancastrian was the man to reconstruct Jaguar after the disastrous Ryder years. The two men quickly developed a rapport and Egan became a regular visitor to his Wappenbury Hall home where he would take advice from Jaguar’s venerable founder.

Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 11”

Theme : Books – Midnight Plus One by Gavin Lyall

Cars, Guns & Guts, Sixties-Style

Cover image

Having run out of James Bond books (see earlier post), I read this book as a teenager. It’s a well written adventure thriller, but with a narrative that’s very much of its time, presumably with an eye on the then burgeoning Ian Fleming / Len Deighton / John Le Carré market. Gavin Lyall was a crime and spy thriller writer and the husband of the excellent Katharine Whitehorn. He was known for his meticulous research.

What I have always remembered is that, central to a large section of the narrative, is a Citroën DS that takes on an almost heroic status as it takes the first-person protagonist across France. Its starring role was possibly inspired by the true life escape of French President Charles De Gaulle from an OAS assassination attempt in 1962 (see The Day Of The Jackal) where his driver exploited the DS’s unique suspension to Continue reading “Theme : Books – Midnight Plus One by Gavin Lyall”

2016 Honda FCev Design Analysis

In 2013 Honda showed their highly aerodynamic FCev concept car. The production version has been revealed and is surprisingly close in feel to the ’13 car.

2015 Honda FCev
2015 Honda FCev

The objectives with the FCev are for a vehicle to produce 100kW from its fuel-cell stack and carry four adults. The aerodynamically creased body shell reduces the cD in an overt way we have not seen for two decades. This promises 300 miles of range, which is not so bad if you recall that the Citroen CX GTi got by with a 280 mile range. If you drive an Aston Martin hard you can get considerably less.  Continue reading “2016 Honda FCev Design Analysis”

Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 2)

Having looked at the issues besetting the mighty Volkswagen AG (VAG) recently in Part 1 – which can be read here – we can now try and shed some light on the depth of the problems and likely solutions. 

Today, the problem is that these cars are all on the verge of being replaced (or have already been replaced, in the Golf VI’s case). The new range taking their place will, even once the glitches related to MQB have been ironed out, not be as lucrative, with profit margins shrinking by as much as two thirds, compared with the Bernhard-era models. This should make future subsidising of models such as the Amarok pick-up (which is said to have a profit margin of -25%) with the Tiguan II’s yields considerably more difficult. Continue reading “Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 2)”

1988 Renault Megane Concept: Some Thoughts

Recently Driven To Write posted a reminder of Renault’s 1988 concept car, the Megane. It struck me as having distinctly Citroen overtones. 

1988 Renault Megane concept car
1988 Renault Megane concept car

That’s the side view: a very raked bonnet and headlamps set low. Notice the long wheelbase and short rear over-hang. There is also the blacked-out a-pillar. Compare it with the Citroen XM of the next year… Continue reading “1988 Renault Megane Concept: Some Thoughts”

Theme : Books – Robert Opron : L’Automobile et l’Art by Peter J Piljman

A book about one of Citroën’s two great designers.

Opron Photo

A while ago, having come across this by chance on the Internet, I bought a new copy direct from Sagitta Press in The Netherlands. First published in 2002, it’s not cheap, but it is a heavy, handsome and copiously illustrated book about a relatively unsung giant of car design. Continue reading “Theme : Books – Robert Opron : L’Automobile et l’Art by Peter J Piljman”

1988 Renault Megane – Here’s One They Made Earlier

Patrick Le Quément’s legacy of highly convincing, but unrealised Renault concepts begins here…

megane1

Renault seem to have been making attempts to crack the luxury car market for decades now. During the 1970’s they offered us the R30 hatchback – a kind of updated R16 with a V6 engine and luxury trim. It wasn’t a bad car – in fact contemporary reports suggest it was rather good. But success eluded it – although the smaller-engined R20 model sharing an identical bodyshell can’t have aided matters.

During the 1980’s Renault tried again with the more attractive looking Robert Opron-inspired R25. They got around the issue this time by offering the same model with a range of engines and while the car proved moderately successful outside of its home market, it too failed to make serious inroads upon rivals like the contemporary Audi 100 and Ford Scorpio.

megane2

During 1987, with Opron (and consultant, Marcello Gandini) gone, Renault appointed Partick Le Quément as Vice President of Corporate Design with a remit to shake up Renault’s styling and by dint, its position in the market. Le Quément got to work and one of the first fruits of this new regime was shown at the 1988 Paris Motor Show. The Megane concept was a three volume saloon with a drag coefficient of 0.21; Renault describing the Megane’s appearance as “plump yet not appearing so, a completely new form.” (Note the complete absence of the word ‘sporty’ – although one has to admit, ‘plump’ wouldn’t have been my choice of words)

Megane01

Its huge sliding doors revealed an interior that resembled that of a private jet, the Megane in some ways anticipating the later Avantime in providing exceptional comfort for four occupants – Le Quément calling it “a supercar for living.” Some of the more outré features such as the two luggage compartments and its ability to switch from a three volume to a hatchback by sliding its frameless rear window aft were somewhat far fetched show car frippery, but there was within this concept, the bones of a convincing big Renault for the 1990’s – one that could have given the Citroën XM a bit of a fright. So how on earth they went from this to the 1992 Safrane is anyone’s guess. One can only assume it was an argument Le Quément lost to more risk-averse minds.

1988-renault-megane-concept-car-1

Certainly, it was one that served Renault poorly, given the Safrane’s lack of sales success and Renault’s continued inability to wrest even a decent proportion of their German rival’s market. The Safrane’s lack of appeal saw Renault’s share of the mainstream luxury car market shrink to levels that were frankly unsustainable by the time it was eventually replaced by the Avantime and Vel Satis. A matter that should be borne in mind when considering their eventual fate.

The Megane concept therefore marks the beginning of a generation of avant garde Renault concepts – visions of what would become an impossible future.

Further musings on Renault’s recent design history can be read here and here

Photo credits/sources: howstuffworks.com/ favcars.com/ onliner.by

157 KM Only: 1984 Lancia Trevi Volumex

Would you dare drive a 30 year old car with only 157 km on the odometer? This Lancia Trevi VX (registered in 1985) is for sale. 

1984 Lancia Trevi
1984 Lancia Trevi

Every now and then a museum-quality rarity shows up. This has to be the oddest I’ve seen in the last few years. Beating an unused 1975 Peugeot 604 (delivery miles) and an 8,000 km 1983 Ford Granada we have this delivery-miles 1984 Lancia Trevi VX, registered in 1985. It’s for sale at mobile.de and if you want to see it, you’ll need to take a trip to Bavaria and head northwest to Affing-Mühlhausen, a town noted mostly for its association with the Wittelsbachs who ruled Bavaria from 1180 to 1918.  You can stay in the Hotel Ludwigshof and make a trip of it. Continue reading “157 KM Only: 1984 Lancia Trevi Volumex”

1987 Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 Versus the Rover Sterling and Vauxhall Senator 3.0 CDi

How bad were Jaguar’s quality problems in 1987? And what was Car magazine thinking when the XJ6 won a giant-test against the Rover Sterling and Vauxhall Senator? The Jaguar was rusting before their eyes.

Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 automatic, with OEM rust. (c) Jaglovers

On page 129 of the November 1987 edition of Car, there is photo of a door-seal parting company from the door of a Jaguar XJ-6, a new Jaguar XJ-6 provided by Jaguar Ltd for a comparison test. Did they not check before loaning it out? Or was it fine the day it left Brown’s Lane and then rusted in the interim? Continue reading “1987 Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 Versus the Rover Sterling and Vauxhall Senator 3.0 CDi”

Mercedes Rework Their Naming System… Again

Naming systems can be confusing. Mercedes Benz is having another bash at designating their bewildering array of vehicles. And other news. 

2002 Mercedes Vaneo
2002 Mercedes Vaneo: brand extension at its extendiest.

As we speak Cadillac is bringing in a 3-letter system; Lincoln is forgetting its long standing convention of Mk-cars. Who knows what a MKZ might be? And is a Mercedes GLA a G-class or an A-class? In philosophy classification has been a problem since Plato, or perhaps before. The difficulty lies in reducing the messy fuzziness of the universe to a few categories. A system needs to be simpler than reality. Continue reading “Mercedes Rework Their Naming System… Again”

Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari

How much can a brand be stretched? Should Alfa Romeos carry an ‘engineered by Ferrari’ badge? Or shouldn’t Alfa’s engineering speak for itself?

Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying "Autocar" inside the test car.
Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying “Autocar” inside the test car.

While trawling other news sites, I read at Autocar  that Alfa Romeo’s forthcoming SUV will be based upon the Maserati Ghibli. That bit doesn’t surprise me so much as the remark that “….there have also been unconfirmed rumours that the top of the range Alfa engines will feature ‘developed by Ferrari’ sub-branding.” This has all the hall marks of an idea designed to appeal to Sergio Marchionne. It also reminds me of Silvio Berlusconi’s idea that Fiat could sell more cars by badging them as Maseratis. You might as well Continue reading “Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari”

2014 Renault Twingo Review (Resumed)

Following on from DTW’s earlier impressions, we finally drive the Renault Twingo SCe70

2015-Renault-Twingo-10-520x346

The first thought on driving the Twingo is Why? Had I never read about the car, and had you sat me in it, I might have driven for hours before I finally twigged that something was, mechanically speaking, different from its competitors. The engine starts and a quiet burble appears in the cabin. It is unobtrusive, for a small car, and comes from no particular direction. Continue reading “2014 Renault Twingo Review (Resumed)”

After the Great Leap Forward 2: Qoros Cars News Update

So, I presume you are all wondering how Qoros Automotive is doing? I was so I went and found out.

2015 Qoros screen shot

In March I wrote an article about the Israeli-Chinese firm Qoros. The latest news is that Qoros is running into difficulty, leading to reports of a split between the Israeli investors and the Chinese side of things. The Wall Street Journal reported it another way, saying major shareholder, Israel Corp have reiterated their support for the firm. This is as reassuring as saying out of the blue, “I won’t chop off your arm”, I think.

In a letter released to the Wall Street Journal, Israel Corp said they were “looking forward to Continue reading “After the Great Leap Forward 2: Qoros Cars News Update”

1968 Saab 99: Review

“The new Saab 99 tested”. In this transcript Archie Vicar samples what is now viewed as one of the top-ten great Saabs. Is it more than the anti-Volvo? 

Image uncredited.

From “Mass Motorist” Dec. 1968. Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.

Introduction

When people think of Sweden and Swedish cars, they often think of Volvo who make sturdy machines capable of withstanding the horrors of the Scandinavian climate. But it’s worth remembering that Sweden has a second car maker, Saab, who also make fighter jets. Like our friends at Bristol, Saab use the experience they have gained in aerospace to Continue reading “1968 Saab 99: Review”

In Emergency Dial ‘F’

Sports models have kept Jaguar in business in the US market for decades, so what’s the matter with their saloons?

RANGEPAGE_4CARS_JNA_14MY_V2-device_desktop-1366x460_tcm97-32524_desktop_1366x460_tcm97-44272_desktop_1366x460
Photo: Jaguar Cars USA

At Driven to Write, we are constantly at pains to point out the repetitive nature of Jaguar’s history, much of which has to do with the marque’s frequent lapses into commercial and financial abysses. For example, during the mid-1960’s Jaguar’s sales in the US slumped dramatically on the back of the commercial failure of the MK 10 and S-Type saloons. Continue reading “In Emergency Dial ‘F’”

Theme : Books – My Father’s Peugeot 604 by Dominique Pagnaux

“My Fathers’s Peugeot 604” (2000) by Dominique Pagnaux. Why would someone whose main interest lies in other areas want to read this book?

2000 Peugeot 604 book cover

Assuming one has a general interest in motor cars, then the Peugeot 604 represents an alternative interpretation of the large saloon. These days the German and Japanese models are the accepted norm. To better understand them one must also Continue reading “Theme : Books – My Father’s Peugeot 604 by Dominique Pagnaux”

The Trident Sharpens Its Prongs

Maserati’s 2014 sales gain is astonishing, but is it a false dawn?

Maserati-range-2014

One of the reasons the motor industry continues to be such compelling subject matter is its almost limitless capacity to surprise. Last week, we looked at FCA’s decision to float off Ferrari as a stand-alone business – a move that surprised many – (if not ourselves). Now however, we are compelled to eat a portion of humble pie on the back of sales figures for Maserati that appear to demonstrate the storied brand’s continued growth to be no mirage, despite strong misgivings we expressed on the subject back in May.  Continue reading “The Trident Sharpens Its Prongs”

1966 BMW 1602: Review

“BM-double-who?” In this transcription from a 1966 article, Archibald Vicar takes a close look at a questionable product from a struggling motor manufacturer from Bavaria. Can the 1602 really compete, asks a sceptical Vicar.

BMW_1602_page1

From “The Modern Motorist”, June 1966. Photographic Plates by Chester of Shipton-On-Stour, M. Phil (Oxon)

When Bayerische Motoren Werke invited us to a test drive near Munich we didn’t know what to expect. This obscure firm is still better known for their bubble cars than for ordinary family vehicles. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, BMW had a reputation for making fine motor cars before the second world war. Since then they have mostly made do with the manufacturing of Isettas under license. Continue reading “1966 BMW 1602: Review”

Renault 1998-2009: A short history of missed opportunities

Créateur d’Automobiles: that’s how Renault styled themselves for a while. And indeed some of the concept cars have been very good. But, we can’t help noticing a gap between the promise and reality.

Renault-Concept-Ve_1940644i
Vel Satis concept 1998

Just before the turn of the 21st century, Renault had successfully re-invented itself as a maker of one-box or ‘monospace’ cars of various sizes, from the Espace that started it all in 1984 to the Scenic of 1995, through Patrick Le Quement’s masterpiece: the Twingo Mark I of 1992.

Continue reading “Renault 1998-2009: A short history of missed opportunities”

1965 Porsche 911: review

Air-cooled Tomfoolery: Archibald Vicar on the new Porsche Nine-Hundred And Eleven

1964 Porsche 911
1964 Porsche 911

From “Advanced Motorism” October, 1964. Photographs by Douglas Land-Windermere, Esq.

The “Volk” who make Porsche sportscars (a firm called Porsche, oddly) invited “Advanced Motorism” to drive their new machine, the Nine-Hundred-and-Eleven. I hadn’t been abroad for a while so I accepted forthwith, chiefly so I could Continue reading “1965 Porsche 911: review”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 10

Not so fast, Mr. Egan.

XJ40pilot
The first pilot-build XJ40 is completed, but are celebrations a little premature? Image: Jaguar Topics

With Jaguar heading for privatisation, internal BL politics once again reared their head. Sir Micheal Edwardes’ successor, Ray Horrocks was opposed to Jaguar’s independence, lobbying to prevent Egan successfully manoeuvring towards BLexit. With BL at work on an executive saloon to be launched in 1986, Horrocks also moved to ensure there would be no encroachment into Rover’s market. Unsurprisingly, Jaguar’s Chairman had other ideas.
Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 10”

Unforgetting: 1995 Suzuki Baleno 4×4 Three-Door

Walking around the other day I noticed this little vehicle. Tucked away on the tailgate was the clue that this was no ordinary bland, three door hatch. This was a candidate for Unforgetting. The 1995 Suzuki Baleno 4×4.

1995 Suzuki Baleno: it´s neat and tidy, you have to hand it that. And these days neat and tidy is rare. So, we like the Baleno.
1995 Suzuki Baleno: it´s neat and tidy, you have to hand it that. And these days neat and tidy is rare. So, we like the Baleno.

The car we all know as the Baleno enjoyed life under several different names, depending on the large number of markets Suzuki offered it in. In Europe, the Baleno name is the one we recognise. For those who appreciate dull and forgotten cars, the Baleno saloon (or estate) has an impressive reputation as a car so ordinary and unremarkable it stands out.

There are only a few vehicles in this class of Continue reading “Unforgetting: 1995 Suzuki Baleno 4×4 Three-Door”

Trading the Bloodstock – Ferrari’s Shock Sell-Off

But just how shocking is it really?

f1-ferrari-f2007-launch-maranello-italy-2007-ferrari-logo

The world’s least influential motoring blog we may be, but that doesn’t prevent Driven To Write being ahead of the curve every once in a while. Back in May, we took a detailed look at Sergio Marchionne’s plan for FCA’s turnaround, offering a hypothesis regarding its likely success – or otherwise.

Continue reading “Trading the Bloodstock – Ferrari’s Shock Sell-Off”

1976 Volkswagen “Golf”: Review

In this transcript of a period review, the legendary motoring writer Archie Vicar casts a critical eye over the new “Golf”, successor to the much-loved Beetle.

1976 VW Golf

“Fore! Can the new ‘Golf’ possibly succeed in a crowded and increasingly competitive market?” Asks Archie Vicar.

From “The London Illustrated News” February, 1976. Photography by Douglas Land-Windermere. Owing to the poor quality of the originals, stock photos have been used

No matter how severely Jack Frost bites, a Volkswagen Beetle always starts. Even a royal Rolls-Royce can succumb to the effects of freezing whereas the humble Beetle’s ingenious design is cooled by air, making the engine as tough as old nails and as reliable as the Queen’s Grenadier Guards. I am reminding you, readers, of this as an introduction to a new car from Volkswagen. Continue reading “1976 Volkswagen “Golf”: Review”

Electric Dreams – Farewell Ampera

Was GM’s EV ever a contender?

Ampera Tunnel

Various things have recently caused me to think of things electric, though I admit that none of them involves me saving this or other planets. I had a mail the other week announcing a blanket 20mph limit in much of the area where I live, a process that is happening in many boroughs of London. Much of my driving in London is carried out in an old Audi S6, that burns both rubber and fuel with abandon, but gets me there no faster than anyone else. I dislike tube journeys. I can’t ride a pedal bike long distances without hurting my back. If I ride my motorcycle in wet weather I drip over people’s floors. I like silence. I want a new motoring experience. All these and more reasons make me think it would be nice to drive an electric car, or at least a part electric car.

Continue reading “Electric Dreams – Farewell Ampera”

1977 Cadillac Fleetwood: Review

Short trips: we revisit Archie Vicar on Cadillac’s new for ’77 Fleetwood Brougham which was briefly offered in Europe.

1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham
1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham

From “Driving Weekly Magazine” Nov 1977. Photos by Gary Purvis. Owing to a copyright dispute stock images have been used.

Drivers interested in something a little different might like to think about Cadillac’s new Fleetwood Brougham. Thanks to the fuel crisis (merely four years ago) Cadillac have taken the cleaver to their leviathans. They have shrunk their enormous aircraft carrier down to the size of a mere naval destroyer. The car is now 750 lbs lighter which is nearly half the weight of Volkswagen’s horrid little Golf. Smaller doesn’t mean more frugal though. The fuel consumption is still prodigious, thanks to the 7 litre V8 engine: 12 mpg is easily achieved. Cadillac say this smaller Fleetwood is “more European” in its appearance Continue reading “1977 Cadillac Fleetwood: Review”

Theme: Concepts – 2012 Lada X-Ray by Steve Mattin

The 43rd Most Influential Briton in the Car Industry 2004 was Steve Mattin.

2012 Lada X-Ray concept
2012 Lada X-Ray concept

Formerly the senior design manager at Mercedes Benz until 2004, he moved to Volvo when it was under Ford’s management. I happen not to care a great deal for the Mercedes cars designed while Mattin was in Sindelfingen. And it surprises me very little that while at Volvo Mattin oversaw the creation of the Volvo S60, V60, and XC60 concept cars.

Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2012 Lada X-Ray by Steve Mattin”

Theme: Concepts – The Sir William Test

Driven to Write ponders lost hopes with Jaguar’s 2003 R-D6 concept.

(c) automobilesreview

Most concept cars are created to invite a dialogue with the customer about the future, or at the very least, nudge them towards one the manufacturer has already committed to. However, in the case of the concepts prepared under the design leadership of Ian Callum, it was a little more akin to forensic research. With Jaguar’s styling atrophied under the weight of over two decades of introspection, it became a case of asking: ‘what would Sir William Lyons have done?’ Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – The Sir William Test”

Theme: Concepts – 1980 Ferrari Pinin

In some ways, the 1980 Ferrari Pinin is a mess. But some of its details inspired later cars, none of which were Ferraris.

1980 Ferrari Pinin
1980 Ferrari Pinin (c) oldconceptcars

The proportions work quite well but one gets the impression Pininfarina had a hard time with the details and with marrying a form language that wanted to Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 1980 Ferrari Pinin”

2014 Renault Twingo Review (Interrupted)

DTW fails to test drive the New Twingo.

Twingo Front

Following our disappointment with the Citroen Cactus, a viewing of the Renault Twingo has yielded a pleasant surprise. Importantly, unlike other recent Renaults, the styling is not inspired by something from one of Mr van den Acker’s collection of sports shoes. The fact that it reminds me of a Fiat 500 is made more excusable if you consider that it, and not Fiat’s current version, is a truer spiritual updating of the original 500.

I don’t find the stick-on graphics tempting, but the unadorned shape is pleasing enough. Inside is better still. It’s distinctive but Twingo Interiorsensibly laid out, with Renault finally dispensing with the stupid central speedometer (if my passengers want to know how fast I’m driving they can ask me and I can lie) and replacing it with one in my eye-line. The steering wheel has, totally unnecessarily, a fashionably flat bottom, but I guess I could Continue reading “2014 Renault Twingo Review (Interrupted)”

Reasoning à la Marchionne

Not just since Luca di Montezemolo’s dismissal have arguments about the merits and demerits of FCA CEO, Sergio Marchionne’s style of conducting business been rather heated. And now we are being presented with a particularly poignant case in point.

Signore Marchionne undoubtedly knows his stuff when it comes to numbers and figures like few others in the business. Which is why nobody was surprised when he – somewhat proudly, it has to be said – explained that the series production Alfa Romeo 4C’s extremely ungainly headlights were his very own responsibility, as their decidedly cheap appearance helped lowering production costs by a few millions. Car buyers, he seemed to believe, don’t really care about details, even particularly blatant ones. Continue reading “Reasoning à la Marchionne”

Theme : Concepts – Small Is Beautiful

The 1983 Opel Junior concept marked a new, friendlier frontier in small car design. Its impact was to be lasting. 

opel-junior-05

The 1983 (is it really that old?) Opel Junior was one of the stars of that year’s IAA at Frankfurt, where it debuted. Small and really rather perfectly formed, the little Opel was the work of a team of designers at Opel’s Rüsselsheim styling centre, under the direction of Hideo Kodama. Alongside Kodama was Gert Hildebrand and neophyte, Chris Bangle, who it’s said, was responsible for the concept’s modular interior.  Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Small Is Beautiful”

Theme: Concepts – 2013 Honda Gear

It seems Honda didn’t think too much of this little concept car. They showed it at the Montreal Motor Show in 2013, at the same time the Detroit Motor Show was being held.

2013 Honda Gear concept car (c) forcegt.com

To be honest, I found this by accident. In 1992 or 1993 Honda showed a small concept car with a feature that has become a very common, the false reverse-raked c-pillar. I wanted to Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2013 Honda Gear”

Concepts: From Dialogue to Thesis

The 1998 Dialogos concept previewed the full-sized Lancia’s final fling.

proto_dialogos_51

During 1996, Lancia began work on a new large car concept. Lancia design director, Mike Robinson was briefed to create a car that would honour marque traditions, while also being a showcase for upcoming in-car technology being developed by Fiat at the time. The concept was also intended to preview the next generation full-sized Lancia saloon style.  Continue reading “Concepts: From Dialogue to Thesis”

2014 Toyota Aygo 1.1 VVTi Review – Part 3

This has turned into something of a long-term test. With a third chance to drive the car, DTW has some extra insight on living with Toyota’s second smallest car.

2014 Toyota Agyo 1.1 VVTi
2014 Toyota Agyo 1.1 VVTi

Perhaps the most illuminating aspect of adding another four days to the tally of six, is that a few important details have turned up, all of them bad. DTW conducted most of the original testing when the days were longer. This time, night driving in humid weather has shown up two details that might irritate or perhaps prove too grating to live with. Continue reading “2014 Toyota Aygo 1.1 VVTi Review – Part 3”

BMW’s Front Wheel Drive Hatchback

Just a few days ago I noted that we at DTW had not treated BMW to some of our ire. Here is some ire. Or something passing itself off as such.

The car above is the 2015 BMW 2-series “active tourer” which is a five-door, front-drive hatchback with a great deal in common with the 2011 Ford C-Max which is five-door, front-drive five seater hatchback (below) that sells for a lot less. And looks better. Continue reading “BMW’s Front Wheel Drive Hatchback”

Theme : Concepts – Essence of Alfieri

Déjà vu on the show circuit 

maserati-alfieri-concept-show-floor-rear-side-view-2

At this year’s Geneva show, Maserati announced the Alfieri concept; a preview for a new Grand Turismo, aimed at the sort of affluent customer who might otherwise choose a Porsche 911, Aston Martin or heaven help us – one of those vulgar new Mercedes-AMG things.

Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Essence of Alfieri”