Photo for Sunday – Volkswagen XL1

You’re engaged in some innocent retail therapy and then this beams down from planet Piëch.

Starship XL1. All images: Driven to Write
The car that fell to earth. XL1 amid the hatchbacks. All images: Driven to Write

As we’ve pointed out, Driven to Write never sleeps and while we don’t always get about as much as we’d like, our eyes and ears are everywhere. So while some of us are battening down hatches in windswept West Cork, others get to swan around a decidedly more temperate Marbella – a matter for which your correspondent is not bitter. Continue reading “Photo for Sunday – Volkswagen XL1”

Piëch Practice – 1996 Volkswagen (B5) Passat

A mighty wind from Wolfsburg marked the Passat’s coming of age.

Image: autowp-ru
Image: autowp-ru

Before we were all persuaded to go and unlearn it, the term ‘Mondeo Man’ was late ’90s media shorthand to describe UK’s Mr. Average. However his German equivalent would have been more likely to have been polishing a Volkswagen Passat ‘of a weekend. Trouble was, outside VW’s home market, comparatively few else were. Volkswagen’s mid-liner sold respectably, but its image remained as studiously underwhelming as its sales figures. Continue reading “Piëch Practice – 1996 Volkswagen (B5) Passat”

LA Motor Show Shorts 2

Very short this time. While everyone else is wondering if this three-row, seven seat leviathan can crack the US market for VW, I am wondering if…

2017 VW Leviathan: source
2017 VW Leviathan: source

…VW has a thing about gold metallic paint. Looking past the attractive paint, I notice they have chosen to give it a curious-looking feature line down the side, one paralleling the wheel-arches which are very nearly squarish. The headlamps and grille are styled to look rational – is this what the SUV buyer in the US actually wants? I had argued they want something quite ugly and butch-looking. I mean that buyers of SUVs who use them to cart junk and do heavy work probably don’t care a lot for Bauhaus geometry. The people who do will buy a Q7, I would have thought.

No, I Don’t Think So

Taking the unveiling of the facelifted Golf as the starting point Autocar thinks all car makers should aspire to evolutionary design. DTW disagrees.

2017 VW Golf: source
2017 VW Golf: source

“It’s a ballsy move, though, making a car look like its predecessor. But one that’s starting to spread – Audi’s in on the game too, with its new Q5, and BMW did it with the new 5 Series not long ago” writes Autocar.

The Golf is a text-book example of a product that has evolved gradually over the course of its 40 years on the market. Audi have also cleaved to such a strategy as do BMW (nearly). Mercedes have been less adept at this. Sometimes they’ve adopted quite florid designs such as the fintail cars and most of the current batch. At other times they’ve had the urge to

Continue reading “No, I Don’t Think So”

A Picture and Some Questions

A while back I alleged that, if nothing else, the mainstream saloon had more visual variety than that found among C-class family hatches.

Top selling saloons and others
Top selling saloons and others

A recent bit of news concerning Volkswagen’s Phideon saloon led me to put that in with seven other medium sized cars. See how many you can identify. How different are they? And which one stands out? Doesn’t the Phideon look a lot like a BMW 5-series proposal? Can you tell which one is the Phideon?

[Photo sources: Autocar, caranddriver, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, Ford, Renault]

Question of the Day

Why does the VW ID concept have to look more styled than a VW Golf?

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The ID concept is claimed to have a 371 mile range (compared to the 248 miles of a Renault Zoe). At present Chevrolet’s Bolt promises around 230 or so (and Car and Driver have confirmed this). I’m more interested in the visual semantics of electric cars though. Tesla have chosen to make their cars look quite conventional (less so with the X). BMW have opted for po-mo design while the Zoe could conceivably be an ordinary modernist car: not Tesla’s classicism and nor either obviously outré. Continue reading “Question of the Day”

The Imitation Game

Too much bratwurst has our correspondent wishing for a more varied menu.

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Go on. Guess. (Image: netcarshow.com)

I would hope that I am fairly knowledgeable about cars. Not in a useful way, obviously; I know so little about how they actually function that I attribute their abilities to modern day alchemy. But from the mid-1990s onwards when my brain began its fruitless journey towards maturity, a large (-ly useless) part of my memory has been dedicated to passively storing and updating a mental catalogue of new cars available in the UK. Imagine my surprise then when a recent advert on TV sparked precisely zero recognition of the make and model being sold. Continue reading “The Imitation Game”

Theme: Materials – Decay III

Did you know that VW based the B3 (of which the B4 is a facelift) on the Golf platform? 

1993-199xx VW Passat rotting slowly
1993-1996 VW Passat rotting slowly

And yet it’s bigger in all directions. That might explain why there are so many common parts. I took this photo as a contrast to the Mercedes W210 I showed recently. I’d planned to compose some thoughts on the junk charm of the B4 compared to the W210. This car is nicely tatty and the mismatched filler cap sets off the dreary metallic paint very well. I’d prefer if it was the B3 in a rich colour. Maybe that’s a bit contrived.

Malady’s Echo Chamber

Not only is Volkswagen riding out the worst of the Dieselgate scandal, they are on track to steal Toyota’s crown as the world’s biggest car maker.

head2head

Read anything about Volkswagen in recent months and you would gain the impression that the company was on the ropes. Production numbers from the first third of 2016 paint a different picture, however. So what’s the actual story? Continue reading “Malady’s Echo Chamber”

2016 VW Golf 1.4 TSI BlueMotion – Impressions

Between the choice of a Toyota Auris and a VW Golf, I went for the Wolfsburg car.

2016 VW Golf front interior door-handle.
2016 VW Golf front interior door-handle.

The Toyota would be too uninteresting, I thought.

It would be simpler if I didn’t write a review at all. Nobody needs to know I drove this and no-one need ever discover what a hard time I’ve had writing something intelligent about Europe’s favourite car.

What will I remember about the Golf? Two or three things. One, the interior door grip is squeeky. It’s made of two shells that don’t fit precisely. In counterpoint, there are two interior rear roof lights that don’t budge when you turn them on. They were well-secured to the roof, not the headliner. And you’re never sure you’ve turned them off. Two, the CD player is in the glovebox. Three, the boot is smaller than I liked. Lots of litres are wasted under the boot floor panel.  Continue reading “2016 VW Golf 1.4 TSI BlueMotion – Impressions”

Müllering VAG (Part 2): Too Big To Fail?

The words may be different, but the tune is the same: despite a great many statements to the contrary, the message sent out by VAG management is still one steeped in technocratic arrogance.

Germany Volkswagen
Matthias Müller (CEO) and Bernd Osterloh (VAG shop chairman) having a laugh at anonymous man’s choice of tie, Photo (c) manufacturing.net

With the press already on the Volkswagen big guns’ heels, Matthias Müller et al will now have to face their second most powerful opponent: the mighty work council. VAG is a special company, not just because it accommodates such a vast number of car brands (12) or because of the number of people it employs (almost 600.000). The most peculiar element of VAG is its ownership structure. For it is neither semi-state owned nor a family run business – or both at the same time, depending on one’s point of view. There are also ‘normal’ shareholders – what with the AG in VAG standing for Aktiengesellschaft (public limited company) – but it is obvious that one needs to have either the state of Lower Saxony or the mighty Porsche/Piëch clan standing behind oneself (or, ideally, both) if one intends to get things moving in Wolfsburg. Continue reading “Müllering VAG (Part 2): Too Big To Fail?”

Cutting Corners the VW Way

Recently I ran a small article on the hard edges of public transport design. Sitting in a VW Touran I noticed that someone in Potsdam had been cutting corners too.

2010 VW Touran b-pillar curvature continuity failure
2010 VW Touran b-pillar curvature continuity failure

How did they do that? On this b-pillar trim I noticed that the main fillet had a pronounced shadow before it turned the corner (where the orange arrow is). Sure, it’s not a major part of the car interior and I am probably the first person who ever noticed it. What it does is lend this part at coarse and cold look, precisely akin to the hard edges of a Xerox photocopier from 1986 or that Alstom train interior I showed. Continue reading “Cutting Corners the VW Way”

Theme: Special – Golf Mk3 Special Editions

What a year for cars. VW Golf Mk3 replaced the Mk2 in 1991. What made it special?

1994 VW Golf New Orleans: wikipedia.org
1994 VW Golf New Orleans: wikipedia.org

Car magazine in 1994 deemed the Mk3 (as a VR6) sufficiently poorly made to warrant the re-use of their “Lemon” cover, first used in 1973. It’s interesting that Car would make a long-term test the subject of a whole front cover when they also had the opportunity to put an Aston Martin Vantage and Ferrari 456GT up front. That was then. Continue reading “Theme: Special – Golf Mk3 Special Editions”

Van Of The Centuries?

A quick look at VW’s ever popular van.

VW Transporter T6 - image honestjohn.co.uk
The Current VW Transporter T6 – image honestjohn.co.uk

The Volkswagen Golf of the van world is also a Volkswagen – The Transporter. For the UK, at least, the Ford Transit might have remained the archetypal white van but social orders have changed and user expectations increased, and there’s now less chance of presenting a driver with the miserly and basic working environment that the old-school van offered. The default layout of shiny, hard, non-height-adjustable seat, semi-horizontal steering wheel and a long, wobbly gearstick, all housed in a tinny, boomy cab, was pretty mean for anyone whose experience of vans stretched beyond the occasional weekend’s hire when moving flats. Continue reading “Van Of The Centuries?”

More Hot Eire? Irish VW Sales Hold Firm

Ireland’s relationship with Volkswagen is long-standing and robust, but can it weather the emissions storm? Early signs suggest it can. 

CEO for the VW Group Ireland, Simon Elliot poses with an early Dublin-assembled Beetle. Image via independent.ie
CEO for VW Group Ireland, Simon Elliot poses with an early  Dublin-assembled Beetle. Image: independent.ie

The relationship between Ireland and Volkswagen dates back to 1950, when local motor industry pioneer, Stephen O’ Flaherty, inaugurated assembly at the Shelbourne Road facility in Dublin, making it the first plant outside Germany to build the Beetle. The very first car assembled at Ballsbridge, an oval-screen Beetle registered ZL 2286 was subsequently acquired by VW and remains on permanent display today in Wolfsburg. Continue reading “More Hot Eire? Irish VW Sales Hold Firm”

Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 1)

After having gone from strength to strength in recent years, Volkswagen AG (VAG) all of a sudden appears to be in an awful lot of trouble. But appearances can be deceiving.

vw-unfaelle-kaefer-08-0136

First in a series on the German automotive industry, seen from a German perspective.

In the not-too-distant past, it seemed as though it was just a matter of time before VAG chairman, Ferdinand Piëch – aided by his obliging CEO, Martin Winterkorn – could finally ascend the throne of the global automotive domain. There may have been the odd mumble regarding disappointing performance in the US market, but, by and large, everything seemed to be rosy in Volkswagenland. Continue reading “Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 1)”

Theme : Engines – Ford, VW and Opel’s Engine Ranges

Who has the most engines to offer customers? DTW takes a close look at the state of play at VW, Opel and Ford.

This has a V6 under the hood.
This has a V6 under the hood.

The operating assumption behind this small study is that engines matter. More precisely, if a manufacturer can offer a decent range of engines for a given class of vehicles then they are very likely to have a better chance of selling something to someone. I´ll restrict my research to Ford, Opel and VW for this particular study. I wanted to see the composition of the range of engines and also to find out the average age of the engine families. The second point was rather hard to ascertain and I failed to Continue reading “Theme : Engines – Ford, VW and Opel’s Engine Ranges”

The Sunday News: VW Golf Plus nameplate dropped shock!!

Goodbye, VW Golf Plus, we´ll miss you. Hello, VW Sportsvan.

2014 VW Sportsvan
2014 VW Sportsvan: it’s  sporty and van-like

Some readers may have missed the news that VW´s much loved GolfPlus nameplate has been discontinued. The new name to watch is Sportsvan and doubtless it will win as much affection as the outgoing one. The replacement car was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013 and is now on sale.

Let’s have a fond look back at the departing car. Dating from 2004, the GolfPlus concept took the best features of the Golf and added a few percent to them seemingly at random. The Golf Plus was thus a bit bigger in most directions and, I suppose, was exactly as the name suggested, a bit more Golf. When I heard of its launch I was among those who rolled their eyes in exaggerated expressions of amazement. It was hard to believe that VW would bother going to 100% of the expense of engineering car that differed only by 1%-4% in most dimensions from the Golf. Not only did the Plus seem to risk Continue reading “The Sunday News: VW Golf Plus nameplate dropped shock!!”

Cars I can´t write about 3: 2014 VW Passat

Some cars are gob-stoppers. I can´t bring myself to do more than glance at them much less expend any breath. Here´s one: the 2014 VW Passat.

2014 Passat collage

So far I have picked a shopping trolley and a sportscar in my excursion through the list of cars I can´t write about. Keen observers of my output will say this is because I am an enthusiast for saloon cars. You can infer from this a low-self esteem if you like, or you can imply a liking for four-door cars from mainstream makers is an automotive version of a taste for “reader´s wives”. To deal with the second argument, I present the current VW Passat. Continue reading “Cars I can´t write about 3: 2014 VW Passat”

If all the World were Paper and all the Sea were Ink…

What if the Golf wasn´t the “average” car?

1984 Golf
1984 Golf

It is always useful to consider a counterfactual. For example, by asking what would have happened if Franz Ferdinand had survived his assassination attempt, we ask about how avoidable the first World War was. Another counterfactual might be to ask what if REM had disbanded after their drummer Bill Berry retired? That is to ask what was the importance of Bill Berry to the band. The answer to that second question is easier than the first. REM should have disbanded. Berry´s drumming was as integral as Michael Stipe´s vocals.

Continue reading “If all the World were Paper and all the Sea were Ink…”

Crushed by a German Faux-SUV

SV on an SUV.

vw-tiguan-facelift-new-photos-and-details_19

I seem to have had a few opportunities recently to drive different cars for shortish periods, enabling some rare insight into them as ownership opportunities.  Previously I commented on the pleasant surprise that was a lowly latest gen Fiesta; now it’s the turn of a 2WD VW Tiguan that I hired whilst on holiday in France.  Continue reading “Crushed by a German Faux-SUV”