As the sector champion shows faint signs of faltering, are ‘prestige’ rivals set to take advantage? We investigate.
For years now, the Volkswagen Golf has been the rocky outcrop its European c-segment rivals have dashed themselves against; largely I might add, to their detriment. The VW hasn’t so much carved a niche, as cut vast swathes through the sector, leaving many observers wondering what anyone can do to provide a counter-narrative. Continue reading “Teeing Up Against the Golf”
You’re engaged in some innocent retail therapy and then this beams down from planet Piëch.
As we’ve pointed out, Driven to Write never sleeps and while we don’t always get about as much as we’d like, our eyes and ears are everywhere. So while some of us are battening down hatches in windswept West Cork, others get to swan around a decidedly more temperate Marbella – a matter for which your correspondent is not bitter. Continue reading “Photo for Sunday – Volkswagen XL1”
A mighty wind from Wolfsburg marked the Passat’s coming of age.
Before we were all persuaded to go and unlearn it, the term ‘Mondeo Man’ was late ’90s media shorthand to describe UK’s Mr. Average. However his German equivalent would have been more likely to have been polishing a Volkswagen Passat ‘of a weekend. Trouble was, outside VW’s home market, comparatively few else were. Volkswagen’s mid-liner sold respectably, but its image remained as studiously underwhelming as its sales figures. Continue reading “Piëch Practice – 1996 Volkswagen (B5) Passat”
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…
…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.
Taking the unveiling of the facelifted Golf as the starting point Autocar thinks all car makers should aspire to evolutionary design. DTW disagrees.
“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
A while back I alleged that, if nothing else, the mainstream saloon had more visual variety than that found among C-class family hatches.
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?
Why does the VW ID concept have to look more styled than a VW Golf?
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”
Too much bratwurst has our correspondent wishing for a more varied menu.
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”
Did you know that VW based the B3 (of which the B4 is a facelift) on the Golf platform?
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.
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.
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”
Between the choice of a Toyota Auris and a VW Golf, I went for the Wolfsburg car.
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”
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. 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). Continue reading “Müllering VAG (Part 2): Too Big To Fail?”
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.
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”
What a year for cars. VW Golf Mk3 replaced the Mk2 in 1991. What made it special?
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”
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?”
Ireland’s relationship with Volkswagen is long-standing and robust, but can it weather the emissions storm? Early signs suggest it can.
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”
The troubles and subsequent changes at Volkswagen AG have led to an unforeseen departure.
Walter de’ Silva, overall head of the entire group’s stylistic development and one of the most powerful men in this line of business, has chosen take early retirement, merely a few weeks after having become appointed president of Italdesign, Audi’s semi-independent design branch. Continue reading “Müllering VAG (Part 1): Walter de’ Silva Retires”
With the particulates still settling over the VW emissions scandal, automakers are under scrutiny like never before. Yet VW may not end up being worst off – not by a long shot.
Almost a month into the VW emissions scandal, repercussions remain within the realm of conjecture and the view ahead no clearer. Everyone wants answers – VW owners who feel cheated and in possession of a tainted product, legislators (complicit or no) who now have to deal with the political fallout, and us – the faceless commentators who dole out harsh judgements from a safe distance, before scuttling back to the safety of our caves. Continue reading “NOxgate – Through a Looking Glass, Darkly”
The renowned motoring journalist LJK Setright was famous for his speedy driving. He could also drive as if every drop of petrol mattered. Here’s how he demonstrated the fuel efficiency of the 1976 VW Polo.
“Unless you have tried it, you can have no idea how acutely embarrassing it is to employ this ultimate economy driving technique on roads bearing normal traffic.” This meant accelerating down hills but not up the hills, keeping throttle openings small and constant. He was borrowing a method known as squirt-and-coast. In this method you Continue reading “Theme: Economy – The 1976 VW Polo”
Have you been a victim of TDI? Our journalists are waiting.
The author writes:
When we founded Driven to Write, we didn’t exactly begin with a set of guiding principles. Our aim was to provide an alternate voice to the mainstream motoring press and perhaps hold their feet to the fire from time to time. Similarly, ‘Big Auto’ and their well remunerated leaders have frequently felt the sting of our pen. However, one thing we never set out to do was to cause a member of the public to feel belittled and hurt, which is what this piece unintentionally achieved. Continue reading “‘I’m Really Rather Cross’ – A VW Owner Speaks Out”
I sat down today to write something of a Frankfurt IAA overview; a sofa-eye view of the trends, winners, losers and the why-botherers. Post-NOxgate however, there’s only one story and one loser. Or perhaps there’s several…
Just seven days ago it was all looking quite jolly for the German auto industry at their home show. New car announcements rubbed shoulders with credibly exciting concepts while the World’s press gathered to listen to the accumulated wisdom of the likes of Zetsche, Winterkorn and Müller; although BMW CEO, Harald Krueger’s collapse prior to his scheduled press conference sounded a decidedly minor note amidst all the chest thumping. Continue reading “It’s the Hard NOx Life – VW in the Dock”
Not long after losing Luc Donckerwolke from Bentley, SEAT has lost Stefan Lamm who had only been there for seven months.
CDN reports that Stefan Lamm has left for Mercedes’ advanced design studio in Carlsbad, California. That will be some bill for MB’s HR department when Lamm packs up from SEAT and I imagine SEAT have only just finished processing the expenses. Continue reading “What’s Wrong With VAG?”
I look at a personal irritation and wonder if I share it with anyone else.
At school, my Technical Drawing teacher once counselled us against mixing straight lines and curved lines in a design. Even at an impressionable age, I could tell that was a crude and general rule, made to be broken. But his words have come back to me now and then over the past decade or more, when I view the shape of the trailing edge of the rear doors of an increasing number of cars.
I am not an expert in graphic design which means the very subtle differences in sans-serif fonts often elude me, especially when the font is a version of Helvetica.
For graphic designers such differences are as clear to them as the difference between an Audi A6 and an Audi A4 is to me. Thus it is with some bemusement I note VW has elected to change their corporate font to something very slightly different. If you look closely you notice the “a” has changed the most and the letters seem slightly different. Continue reading “All Change At VW in the Font Department”
Autocar reported this on the 4th of June but VW’s corporate website is strangely silent on this historic event.
They report the Stefan Sielaff is to become the new head of design at Bentley and that Scania is to test electrically powered trucks in real-life conditions. The UK car industry’s trade body the SMMT reported that 31 Phaetons had been registered in 2014, which if anything means they are rather exclusive. Autocar’s Steve Cropley posted a rueful blog on the topic, noting how Ferdinand Piëch summoned journalists to Finland to compare the four-wheel drive Phaeton with the Mercedes S-class and BMW 7 series. The rear wheel drive cars didn’t cope so well in the icy conditions but the journalists refused to Continue reading “Other VW News: The Phaeton Is Axed From The UK Market”
We have been discussing design rationalism lately. A lot of my visual analyses have focussed on the main linear elements and graphics. This photo taken early in the morning captures a subtle, sculptural element on the VAG city car body.
Notice the shadow on the doors, to the rear of the shutline. This shows that the bodyside is gently curved outwards; it is most curved just under the window line and if you inspect the window sill by looking down the car, parallel to the centre line, it bows outwards. The curve fades away downward. The shape is reminiscent of the hull of a boat. The point I want to make is that you should Continue reading “Design Rationalism III”
Phaeton. As a name it never really struck the right note. A little too puffed-up, ever so slightly grandiose for what really is a rather self effacing car. Perhaps in the absence of a suitably important-sounding wind, VW lacked options, or it was just another of Dr. Piëch’s flights of self-aggrandisement. Continue reading “Invincible Defeat: The VW Phaeton”
As the Dark Lord of Wolfsburg loses his grip, is this the twilight of a dictator?
Lately, the mighty VW juggernaught has appeared unassailable. The Golf and Passat dominate their respective classes, while Audi and Porsche reap record profits on the back of a global luxury car boom. Yet serious fissures have appeared at the very top of the management chain which unchecked, could destabilise the entire organisation. Continue reading “Auf Wiedersehen Piëch?”
The vehicle here could be said to chime with our monthly theme, passengers. Further, the vehicle itself is a place to stay when you get to your destination.
I notice that none of the Transporters that I ever see are well-cared for in a cosmetic sense. Rust is always there somewhere. The passenger saloon with its fold down tables and simple bench seats are almost always littered with debris. I don´t imagine that the owners´ home is similarly strewn with discarded items such as cables, cartons, items of clothes or old boots. Why the difference? While at one level these machines are vehicles they also seem to ask to be treated like an old rucksack or cycle pannier. Over time these pieces of baggage accumulate things at their bottoms which are ignored indefinitely. What makes this sort of treatment odd in this case is that Continue reading “A photo for Sunday – 1979-1992 VW Transporter (T2)”
Continuing the theme of colour, here´s a VW Golf from the 1997-2004 series. It´s the cheerful metallic green I want to draw your attention to. The interior had cloth seats with panels of a similar hue. Presumably this was a special edition but the car had no badges to indicate this.
This iteration of the Golf was the most neatly refined, in my view, the one where competitors gasped at the subtle refinements such as the legendary cloth covered a-pillars. Quite why people were so impressed with these I find hard to imagine. Yet such details became totemic of the apparent attention to detail that hitherto cars in this class had not quite reached. Sure enough the 1983-1992 version had black plastic trim that seemed impossible to surpass for its bottomless depth and scathe-proof toughness. The car here moved on from indestructibility to a deeply cool, mathematical correctness and offered a kind of quality that married surgical precision to visible comfort. Continue reading “A photo for Sunday: 1997 VW Golf Estate”
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)”
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.
“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”
Further to our Aygo review yesterday, DTW presents this small reminder that once it was a simple matter to make an estate version out of an existing vehicle.
Here is the 1997 VW Colour Concept Polo estate. I like its vertical tailgate and utter lack of pretension. Such a car could do excellent service as either a practical second car for grocery and kid collection or else serve as a primary family car if the kids were still small. Finally, for Mr and Mrs Retired, it could get them around the country visiting the children and grand children without incurring big fuel bills. Continue reading “A small appreciation of a small estate”
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.
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)”
Who has the most engines to offer customers? DTW takes a close look at the state of play at VW, Opel and Ford.
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”
Goodbye, VW Golf Plus, we´ll miss you. Hello, VW Sportsvan.
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!!”
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.
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”
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.
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”