French Polo

The 1981 Volkswagen Polo Mk2 hatchback was more French than Germanic in character with its functionality-led design.

VW Polo and Polo Classic. Image: polodriver.com

The original 1974 Polo was not a Volkswagen at all, but a repurposed Audi 50. Designed in Ingolstadt with some input from Bertone, the 50 was a pert and pretty supermini, intended as the ideal second car for an Audi-driving household. Volkswagen upended Audi’s plans by requisitioning the design for itself as a junior sibling to the Golf.

This was an expedient move for Volkswagen, but it stymied any prospect the 50 had of establishing itself as the first premium supermini, selling on style and badge-appeal rather than practicality. The Polo was obviously identical to the 50 and undercut it on price, hence the baby Audi remained in production for only four years.

When Volkswagen set about designing a replacement Polo in 1977, it decided to Continue reading “French Polo”

Own-Brand Cassoulet

Volkswagen Group’s mass-market brands are losing their individual identities under the dead hand of corporate conformity.

They don’t make them like this anymore: 2009 Škoda Yeti. Image: autocentrum

The automotive colossus that is the Volkswagen Group includes four mass-market brands that might be rather simplistically defined as follows, in descending hierarchical order:

Audi: premium sporting
Volkswagen: semi-premium luxury
SEAT: mainstream sporting
Škoda: mainstream value

I am conscious that such a bald statement might elicit howls of protest from those who Continue reading “Own-Brand Cassoulet”

What Price the Surf?

Our Sheffield scribe is Transported.

Image: volkswagen-vans.co.uk

British localities often have words unknown to their neighbours; breadcake, tea cake and bap(1) can be all the same thing – or not depending where one lives. But taken collectively, it is always the bottom line that receives the most emphasis – how much? With travel restrictions now lifted, thoughts turn to holidays; dreams of the coast, sandy shores, alfresco dining and catching a crest with your board should you Continue reading “What Price the Surf?”

A Poor Round

The jury may still be out on the Mk8, but most commentators would adjudge the 1991 Mk3 to be the poorest articulation of the qualities that made the Golf into an automotive phenomenon over the past five decades.

Tepid: 1991 VW Golf Mk3 GTI (c) volkswagen.com

The 1974 Volkswagen Golf Mk1 was a simply brilliant car. In retrospect, however, it appears to be something of an outlier in the eight-generation history of the model. When one thinks of Volkswagen’s C-segment stalwart, the characteristics that come immediately to mind are the high quality of its design, engineering(1) and build, its sober, timeless styling that eschews fads and fashion, good (but not outstanding) dynamics and most importantly, the quiet self-confidence, perhaps even bordering on smugness, it instils in its owners. Golf ownership says: “I could have spent more, but why would I?” 

Unburdened by any of this later baggage, the Golf Mk1 was more Italianate than Germanic in character, with its sharp Giugiaro styling, lightweight construction, and peppy and eager (if noisy) engines, to the extent that nobody would have been surprised if it had emerged as Fiat’s hatchback replacement for the 128(2). It also shared another less desirable Italian characteristic, a propensity to Continue reading “A Poor Round”

An Uncharacteristic Misstep

A rare market failure for the Volkswagen Group, the 1988 Corrado was a victim of poor product planning rather than its own shortcomings.

1988 Volkswagen Corrado (c) classics.honestjohn.co.uk

Volkswagen’s product planning is the very epitome of Teutonic efficiency and timing. It is difficult to think of an instance when the launch of a new model was greeted with anything like surprise, never mind delight, such is their predictability.

Within the wider Volkswagen group, the other marques have occasionally surprised us with their debutantes: Škoda’s 2006 Roomster and 2009 Yeti arrived during an era of unprecedented and welcome creative freedom for the Czech marque. SEAT’s wholesale switch to monobox vehicles, heralded by the 2004 Altea and Toledo, was brave left-field thinking, if ultimately a dead-end in both creative and sales terms. Continue reading “An Uncharacteristic Misstep”

Under the knife – Bogey to Birdie

Today we feature a car that was the product of a highly effective facelift of its stodgy predecessor.

VW Golf Mk5 vs Mk6 (c) carscoops.com

The 1997 Golf Mk4 is widely acknowledged as a masterpiece of disciplined and rational design. Its svelte exterior was handsome and timeless, and a huge improvement over the flabby Mk3. The interior was a revelation, bringing a level of quality to the Golf that had not been seen before in C-segment cars. The Mk4 remained on the market for eight years, during which time it remained virtually untouched, Volkswagen sensibly realising that it was impossible to improve upon its near perfection.

When it came time to replace the Mk4, Volkswagen dropped the ball. The 2003 Golf Mk5, whilst not exactly ugly, looked rather corpulent, and much of the detailing was rather too fussy for a Golf. The Mk5 was partly a product of VW Group Chairman Ferdinand Piëch’s aggressive strategy to Continue reading “Under the knife – Bogey to Birdie”

Selling the Passat by the Yard

Ten years ago, Volkswagen attempted to challenge the dominance of the Toyota Camry in the United States with a Passat developed specifically for that market. This is the story of the New Midsize Sedan.

2013 Volkswagen Passat NMS (c) topcarrating.com

For 22 of the past 23 years(1) and over five generations, the Toyota Camry has been the best-selling car in the United States. Over that time, a staggering total of over 9.6 million(2) Camrys were sold, an average of around 417,000 a year. It was a highly consistent seller too: the lowest annual sales total was 308,510 in 2011(3). The Camry successfully weathered the 2008-9 Global Financial Crisis and a simultaneous unintended acceleration controversy that turned out to be caused by ill-fitting floor mats.

If the enduring success of the Camry proves anything, it is that the vast majority of car buyers Continue reading “Selling the Passat by the Yard”

Which Way Up?

We celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Volkswagen Up! and its siblings and wonder if the city car has a future.

(c) autoexpress

The 2011 Volkswagen Up! is Wolfsburg’s third generation city car. Unlike other models in its range, the smallest car received a different name for each iteration. This is explained, at least in part, by an apparent hiatus in product planning along the way, with the second-generation Fox being a stop-gap(1) import from Brazil.

Volkswagen’s first city car was the 1998 Lupo. It was introduced because the company realised that the increasing size and weight of its Polo B-segment supermini left room in its range for a smaller model. The original 1975 Polo, essentially a rebadged Audi 50, was a petite thing, with a wheelbase of 2,335mm (92”), overall length of just 3,510mm (138¼”) and kerb weight of just 685kgs (1,510lbs). By the time that the Lupo was launched, the Polo Mk3 was 72mm (3”) longer in wheelbase, 205mm (8”) longer overall and an extraordinary 236kg (520lbs.) heavier than the Mk1. Continue reading “Which Way Up?”

Driven/Written: VW Golf 1.0 TSI (2020)

Covering over 2000 kilometres in a week should be sufficient to determine whether the new Golf is swansong to a past era or herald to a new dawn.

All Images: The author

Covid-Christmas was bound to be special. Even without any cases among our relatives, my partner and I did our utmost to plan 2020’s challenging festive season diligently. As usual, we were willing to travel to (limited numbers of) relatives at the other end of the country, but only if all relevant parties felt safe about it.

My better half’s 99-year-old grandmother made it clear that she’d rather take the risk than remain by herself (a state that had caused her to lose her ability to speak for a period during the first lockdown). Other family members organised themselves in such a way that certain branches would be able to Continue reading “Driven/Written: VW Golf 1.0 TSI (2020)”

Act of Defiance

Amid the Pandemic’s height, a reminder of a more resilient time.

All images: the author

There is a certain perverse satisfaction in driving what in automotive terms amounts to an old shoe. Banger, beater, clunker or jalopy – whatever term you prefer, once a car reaches a certain level of decrepitude, the keeper soon realises that not only is there no route back, but that they have been released – freed from the grinding tyranny of upkeep. It is now possible to Continue reading “Act of Defiance”

Flattening the Curve

Simplify and add… marketing.

(c) underconsideration.com

It might seem like a lifetime ago, but it was only last September when Volkswagen unveiled its new logo at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The logo was launched in conjunction with the ID.3 EV and was intended to herald a new era for the company, where the wholesale electrification of its model range would take centre stage. Unspoken, but undoubtedly the case, was the hope that it would Continue reading “Flattening the Curve”

Under the Knife – If the Wind Changes, You’ll Stay Like That

Concluding our micro-theme on Volkswagen, while continuing another one.

VW do Brasil’s 1984 Santana 2-door. (c) autogaleria.hu

There is (or ought to be) a rule which states that the longer a car remains in production, the less effective facelifting exercises become – in purely aesthetic terms at least. You will have noticed that Volkswagen (of Wolfsburg) has been in receipt of no small quantum of derisive commentary upon DTW’s pages of late, most of which was largely justified. By contrast, VW do Brasil has been portrayed as the more astute, more ingenious, and more commercially adept of the pair.

This was certainly the case when the mothership remained in hand-wringing mode as to the product-related course it should take in a post-Käfer landscape. But it does appear that as their German counterparts finally got a grip on both itself and its product, the Brazilians appeared to Continue reading “Under the Knife – If the Wind Changes, You’ll Stay Like That”

Collateral Damage

How Ralph Nader killed Volkswagen’s first Phaeton.

(c) diariomotor

America had enjoyed a good Second World War from an economic perspective, and this set the stage for strong growth in the 1950’s. US GDP rose by 81% over the decade, while GDP per capita rose by 53%. Increasing affluence and a growing suburban population had supported strong auto sales, and US cars had grown larger and more ostentatious, reflecting the confidence of the era. 1959 marked the peak in the fashion for such cars, with their large tailfins and extravagant chrome laden exteriors.

There was, however, a growing appetite for smaller and more economical cars that the Big Three had largely neglected. These were often bought as second cars for wives or teenage children. This market was being satisfied by imports such as the Renault Dauphine and Volkswagen Beetle, and what would later become known as subcompact models from the smaller US manufacturers such as AMC, Nash and Studebaker, who hadn’t the financial or technical resources to Continue reading “Collateral Damage”

Wolfsburg Samba

Volkswagen do Brasil – Wolfsburg’s younger, nimbler and more ingenious Latin cousin repeatedly showed up its more torpid German counterpart. Here’s another example.  

1968 Volkswagen 1.600. (c) autoarkiv.dk

Volkswagen’s Heinz Heinrich Nordhoff has repeatedly and justifiably been criticised over the years for his tardiness in sanctioning a replacement to the eternal and best-selling Beetle, before sales collapsed by the tail-end of the 1960s. It was not for the want of trying however, and as far back as 1955, with the Käfer selling in still-increasing quantities, Nordhoff, realising its success alone would not sustain VW indefinitely, put in train a series of Beetle-based prototypes – some to sit alongside, others to Continue reading “Wolfsburg Samba”

Reimagining a Legend

Volkswagen do Brasil used its creative independence to produce a car that, had it arrived a decade earlier, might have been a very credible replacement for the Beetle.

1973 Volkswagen Brasilia. (c) autowp.ru via wheelsage

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the defining motor vehicles of the Twentieth Century. It remained in production for 65 years and a total of 21,529,464 were built. Although much changed over its lifetime, the distinctive profile remained largely the same, with its smoothly curved roof and bonnet, and separate front and rear wings connected by running boards. Anybody seeing a 1938 prototype parked next to a 2003 final year model would Continue reading “Reimagining a Legend”

A Question of Scale

Some things simply don’t enlarge well. 

(c) autoclassiques

Success can often be a less clarifying state than failure. Enzo Ferrari famously asserted that he learned more from the fabled Scuderia’s many reversals on the racetrack than its more celebrated victories. Of course, one would never intentionally Continue reading “A Question of Scale”

Last Throw of the Dice

Volkswagen persevered longer than most manufacturers with the rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive layout. The 1968 Type 4 was its last hurrah.

(c) bestcarmag

In the mid-1960’s, there was still a wide variety of mechanical layouts to be found in passenger cars. The so-called conventional layout, with a longitudinally mounted front engine and gearbox linked by a propshaft and live axle to driven rear wheels, was still predominant, and the wholesale switch to front-wheel-drive by mainstream manufacturers would not happen for another decade. Continue reading “Last Throw of the Dice”

Orphaned, Abandoned, Unsung

When is a Volkswagen not a Volkswagen? When it’s an NSU. The K70’s fate forms a salutary tale. 

All images – author’s collection.

There is an argument to be made that the Volkswagen motor company has thrived upon existential crises. Certainly they have experienced no shortage of them over their lengthy and mostly successful history. Having survived and prospered in the wake of the first of these in 1945, by the latter years of the 1960s, the Wolfsburg carmaker once again was faced with a serious reversal of fortune, with demand for the emblematic Beetle faltering, and little clear idea of how to Continue reading “Orphaned, Abandoned, Unsung”

Espíritu Independiente (Part Two)

Concluding our retrospective on Spain’s automotive flag-carrier and the rare occasional flowering of its independent design talent.

(c) autogaleria.hu

SEAT enjoyed a period of independence between 1982 and 1986 during which it introduced the MK1 Ibiza in 1984, a Supermini that was sold alongside the outdated 127-based Fura before replacing it in 1986. A four-door saloon version, the Málaga, followed a year later in 1985. The Ibiza and Málaga were the closest SEAT ever came to Continue reading “Espíritu Independiente (Part Two)”

Mark, His Mk8 Motor and a Mackerel

A piscatorial ode to the Passat estate. 

The B8’s natural habitat. (c) Honestjohn.co.uk.

The romance of the open road. Being your own boss. A scaled down Knight of the Road, if you will. However much your magenta tinted spectacles may offer such views, in today’s dog eat dog road conditions, it’s mighty tough out there. Especially if you’re a photocopier engineer with a large region to cover and your given steed is a B8 Passat estate – in grey. Cliched, isn’t it? Though Mark definitely does not sell the machines, his remit is simply to Continue reading “Mark, His Mk8 Motor and a Mackerel”

A Tale of Two Cars

Seeing the ‘all-new, all-digital’ (it is neither) Golf VIII being advertised led me to dig out Car’s launch and first drive article covering the Golf II. Both the modern-day car and Car suffer from the comparison.

Golf Car 1
They don’t make or publish them like they used to (source: author)

When I wrote my last effort for DTW, Computer World, I had no idea that VW would go ‘all-digital’ in its portrayal of what is perhaps its most revered existing icon. VW’s version of ‘digital’ isn’t all that different from that of the 1983 Austin/ MG Maestro, and it seems to have paid for the extra gimmickry by de-contenting the new Golf in subtle and yet significant ways. Instantly, it seems they have thrown away that constant sense of superiority and quality which, in my mind, the Golf has always possessed.

I have never owned a Golf, and only relatively recently driven one (it was a courtesy car whilst my Octavia was in for a service). It’s a car I have often revered – starting with the MkII (I was too young to Continue reading “A Tale of Two Cars”

Dock of the Bay

A photo for Sunday: A DTW icon in an atmospheric setting. 

“I’ll be sitting ’till the evening comes…” parking restrictions notwithstanding.

If one must be confined somewhere, there are worse places to reside than the picturesque Co. Cork harbour town I increasingly call home. Owing to matters which surely don’t require elaboration under current circumstances, I have been spending considerably more time in the anteroom to the Wild Atlantic Way than strictly intended at the start of the year. Still, one makes of things what one can.

Everything looks better against a decent backdrop, and while the Volkswagen Golf really does personify the term ubiquitous, there was something about the quality of evening light, combined with the timeless silhouette of the fourth-generation model that caused me to Continue reading “Dock of the Bay”

The Case Is Altered

Is the unthinkable finally happening?

Golf 8. (c) autoscout.de

Nothing can be maintained indefinitely – even the most successful careers eventually end in failure. In 2017, when a drop in Volkswagen Golf sales was reported, it was viewed as an aberration, a blip in a broadly upward graph. However, just three years later, the realisation is dawning that the Golf as we know it not only has peaked, but is in notable decline.

Several weeks ago, I raised the question on these pages as to whether the new 8th generation would the first Golf debut that really didn’t matter? It was, to some extent a rhetorical query, and one which at the time was not picked up upon. I return to Continue reading “The Case Is Altered”

Year Zero

VW ID3 – saviour or harbinger? 

(c) Autocar

At the Frankfurt motor show, those manufacturer-representatives in attendance, have it would appear, spent the obligatory press days smiling through clenched teeth. Boldly proffering their very latest in hybrid combustion and in a few notable cases, pure-EV offerings, the combined European, Far Eastern and in a few cases, North American carmakers are nevertheless casting anxious skywards glances towards a rapidly darkening vista.

Five years ago, at this same Frankfurt hall, Volkswagen senior management attempted to Continue reading “Year Zero”

In Memoriam : Ferdinand Piëch

A giant of the automotive world has departed. His like will not be seen again.

(c) hvilkenbil.dk

Ferdinand Piëch was not easily satisfied. Anything less than the relentless shedding of blood, sweat and tears he considered insufficient initiative – an approach many found misanthropic, yet from Piëch’s perspective, it was a mere matter of applying a categorical imperative. He would never expect more from anybody else than from himself. Continue reading “In Memoriam : Ferdinand Piëch”

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)”

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. 

IMG_0805.jpeg
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)”

Blown In With the Wind

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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”

A Photo For Sunday: 2019 VW Golf Variant

This’d be one of those under-the-radar kind of cars that I don’t notice much less write about. So what’s it doing here, today, now?

2019 VW Golf Variant (Denmark market nomenclature)

First and least importantly, the car’s presence here is a bit of DTW’s public service activity. I am documenting the car and making available a nice, clear side profile. Second, and more interestingly, we find the exception to the rule (and haven’t photographed that). What do I mean?

Well, if you manage to approach the car and Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 2019 VW Golf Variant”

Everything That Rises Must Converge

As we await the newest iteration of VW’s bestseller, we examine what opposition it will face. 

Outgoing. (c) netcarshow

It’s no good. Despite repeated efforts, no European carmaker has successfully unseated the Volkswagen Golf from its lofty promontory; a position unique insofar that not only does it occupy a sub-segment of its own, but also in that its name can be expressed as both noun and adjective.

In fact, one senses that VW’s rivals have largely given up, corralling their efforts for a distant second or third place. Do I Continue reading “Everything That Rises Must Converge”

Blame it On the Bogie

The third generation Golf was not the model line’s finest hour – not by a long shot. So what have we here?

Version 3.5  (c) DTW

Former Volkswagen design supremo, Herbert Schäfer once proclaimed that only two people on this little garden planet of ours were endowed with the necessary skill, judgement and stylistic nous to create a VW Golf – those being originator, Giorgetto Giugiaro and a certain Herbert Schäfer.

Now, whatever one’s view about Volkswagen’s heartland model from a stylistic perspective, we can probably Continue reading “Blame it On the Bogie”

I Would Wait For You Like The Patient Swans Of Inish Glora

In 1978 Audi withdrew from the lower end of the market when the daring and distinctive 50 ceased production. While it might have been a landmark for Audi, it was a molehill for everyone else.

Fancy some Golf?: Autoevolution.com

The 50 didn’t sell awfully well and Audi felt it ought to focus its efforts on larger cars. However the penny dropped that premium car makers could offer smaller cars as the 90s wore on. BMW chopped up the 3-series to make the Compact (1993) and Mercedes got with the programme in 1997 with the A-class.

In between, Audi reworked the Golf platform so it could Continue reading “I Would Wait For You Like The Patient Swans Of Inish Glora”

Is There A Way Forward Through The Frozen Glass?

October the 6th 2018 seems like such a long time ago, doesn’t it?  On that day I posted a small item about the end of the line for ICE engines.

Perfect lead-in curvature

Today automotive News posted an item headlined “VW says next generation of cars with combustion engines will be the last”. The next sentence is “Volkswagen Group expects the era of the combustion car to fade away after it rolls out its next-generation gasoline and diesel cars beginning in 2026.” Hey sister, that’s 8 years away. Bloomberg has much the same story, by the way.

In my October 6th article I wrote “A car launched in 2018 might be replaced in 2025 leaving a short product cycle to recoup investments. That makes the period around now the last point at which it will be worth bothering to engineer for ICE engines.” I did not expect that. It means that VW will Continue reading “Is There A Way Forward Through The Frozen Glass?”

Song to the Siren

Volkswagen’s upmarket Passat derivative – was it misunderstood or simply misconceived? 

(c) privatefleet

If one was to plot the course of Volkswagen’s design heritage in purely aesthetic terms (if indeed such a thing were possible), it would be represented on a somewhat undulating graph, and it could be argued with some conviction that overall, the troughs have tended to outweigh the peaks. But automotive design is a cyclical discipline and all styling studios must move with, or at least reflect the times. Continue reading “Song to the Siren”

If Only Hope and Despair Did Not Live Side By Side

The other day I gently placed a tiny gauntlet at the feet of the readers, a challenge concerning the set of boring parked cars. What had they in common, I inquired softly.

Something missing?

I received some jolly interesting replies ranging from observations about their grilles to their general banality. There was also a good guess about engine displacements. Alas, despite their ingenuity and their not being 100% wrong, none of the replies were precisely, exactly and perfectly what I was looking for. So, in order to lower people’s tension levels I will Continue reading “If Only Hope and Despair Did Not Live Side By Side”

A Tale Of Two Cars: VW Tiguan Allspace 2.0 TSI

Due to certain circumstances, this author was granted the chance to successively experience two up-to-date (rental) cars up close. The resultant findings led to conclusions not just regarding the (de)merits of each vehicle, but the modern automobile in general. 

fullsizeoutput_1b09

It’s been ages since I last used the services of a car rental company. But with the better half having recently parted ways with her Mini and my own Jaguar having remained in storage for this year’s driving season, we were left with no choice but to Continue reading “A Tale Of Two Cars: VW Tiguan Allspace 2.0 TSI”

Manchester, arrest for theft of pavement from

Making this week one to note in your journals, dear readers, is the double whammy of the demise of the Fiat Punto and VW Beetle.

No more of these, please.

You can find the background to the Punto’s demise here. Fiatgroupsworld reported it here. And you can find a report here as well. Naturally we covered these seismic events here. VW of Oneonta reports the Beetle’s demise here. How many of you have been to Oneonta, by the way? I have! The Sacramento Bee reports the Beetle’s end this way: click thisThis is a report from a UK source. And Autocropley reflects on the car’s life and times by making the decision to Continue reading “Manchester, arrest for theft of pavement from”

Re-1998 Part 2 – Ford Fiesta Versus Some Other Cars

We carry on our saunter down memory avenue with this look back to the champions of the summer of 1998. Where were you then?

1998 Renault Megane Scenic**: source

I don’t want to talk about it. It was the second worst time of my life. Times weren’t good at Mercedes either. The A-Class had been moosed and that took some of the attention from its revolutionary cheapening of the Mercedes name and its quite hideous styling.

Continue reading “Re-1998 Part 2 – Ford Fiesta Versus Some Other Cars”

AUTOpsy: VW Polo VI (2018)

VW’s staple supermini proves that too much of a good thing is still too much. 

fullsizeoutput_16b8

The Volkswagen Polo may never have matched its bigger brother, the quintessential Golf, in terms of significance or profit margins. And yet it was the previous generation of this car, the Polo V, that proved how serious VW’s then new management under (now) notorious CEO, Martin Winterkorn, was about redefining the brand.

The Polo V was a bit of a minor masterpiece – not just by the standard of this class of motor car. Assured, restrained, with an almost imperceptible, yet clear elegance in its surfacing and discreet detailing. It was, in short, almost everything the Polo preceding it (a heavy-handed facelift model with chintzy rear lights and the brand’s ungainly Plakettengrill at its front) wasn’t. Which leaves the question what this all-new Polo of 2018 has to Continue reading “AUTOpsy: VW Polo VI (2018)”

Re-1998 : Introduction

The summer is here and DTW’s offices become ferociously stuffy, a maelstrom of dandruff, cigar ash and wine-label dust dancing in the shafts of half-light.

1998 Alfa Romeo 166 rear view: Wikipedia.org

Simon Kearne, the editor, moves his collection of sherry and cooking marsala to his summer residence (location: secret) and Myles Gorfe’s padded rally jacket disappears off his swivel chair. We never see him, or him taking it. He has gone, like a swallow in September.

So, this writer is also fleeing DTW’s dusty, cramped, byzantine, magazine-clogged rooms on the ninth floor for a summer pause. However, I am not going to display complete dereliction of duty and so have left a trove of articles on automotive life in 1998. which I have tagged Re-1998. They will appear over  the coming weeks.

To see what I might have picked out you don’t need to do much more than Continue reading “Re-1998 : Introduction”

Manchester, current location of

The main thrust of this little meditation rests on a sighting of the brightwork on a VW Troc.

“I love the lens flair, Jon… very original, atmospheric, you know…”

Alas, my camera did not lie within easy reach so I have to use a library photo. I can confirm, however that the car had the same paint coat as the one in the image you can see above.

The thought process lasted under a minute. My eventual conclusion is to wonder if I am some kind of relativist. Am I?

Continue reading “Manchester, current location of”

Crisis of Identity

The concept of fun isn’t one we’d habitually associate with brand-Volkswagen, especially of late. But all that appears set to change. 

Not fun. VW’s Autostadt. Image credit: Irish Times

In matters of crisis management, it is essential to maintain control of the narrative. Lose that, and the organisation becomes untethered, prey to attack from all sides. Inaction, by default, becomes one’s chosen action in both the eyes of critics and the wider public.

When Volkswagen’s systematic and sophisticated emissions gaming came to light in 2015, the carmaker seemed to have frozen in disbelief and denial. Regardless of how matters were being handled internally, the glacial pace of their response was viewed in the Continue reading “Crisis of Identity”

Herbie Dies Again

Death’s door revolves once more for VW’s retromobile. Perhaps we’ll miss it this time, but only if it promises to go away.

Image credit: volkswagen.com

At the recent Geneva motor show, Volkswagen’s research and development chief, Frank Welsch confirmed the much rumoured demise of the Beetle. Many commenters had speculated since VW’s fortunes (both reputational and financial) took a dive in the wake of the firm’s emissions-revelations, that niche models like the Beetle were on deathwatch, so in many ways this news comes as no surprise.

Indeed, according to some sources, production could Continue reading “Herbie Dies Again”

Blue and Three Together, So Goes The Song

We have a bit of crystal ball gazing from the chief designer of Toyota, reported in Automotive News. The mainstream car will go extinct. Not that surprising, really. But why do we have a Ford Taunus as the main image? 

1972 Ford Taunus coupe: wikipedia.org

Starting with the idea that a large proportion of the cars made in the future will be externally controlled (“self-driving”), people’s relationship to cars will change. Simon Humphries’ vision is that most cars will be anonymous containers on wheels and a small remainder will be highly specialised luxury or performance items. He imagines “pure race cars” can be created.

That class already exists, they are racing cars and useless for very much if you Continue reading “Blue and Three Together, So Goes The Song”

[Badge] Engineering Failure: VW

I realise it’s an old and oft-discussed issue, but I have experienced VW shooting itself in the badge.

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I was recently loaned a brand new VW Golf Estate for the day whilst my Octavia of similar form was in for its 10k oil-change. I have frequently read over the past few years how the differential between VW Group’s brands has blurred, but this is the first time I was presented with an opportunity to witness the phenomenon so directly. And, although I should not have been, I was a bit taken aback at the experience.

I’ve always kept the view that the Golf is a bit special. A cut above. Very cleverly set aside from Continue reading “[Badge] Engineering Failure: VW”

Artistic Intent

Volkswagen’s new flagship seems to be intent on making up for the lack of outright prestige with pretence and derivativeness – a cause that isn’t aided by its clunky moniker.

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Tiguan, Up(!), T-Roc – VW’s recent crop of all-new model names certainly invites unkind comparisons. Renault can get away with a Twingo, nobody minded Opel’s Tigra, but Volkswagen appears to be better served by less

Continue reading “Artistic Intent”

Getting Down With Da Kidz, Heide Style

Volkswagen’s T-Roc compact recreational SUV is not some belated attempt at jumping on the bandwagon. It’s worse than that. 

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Livin’ the urban spirit of Photoshopolis, photo (c) autozeitung.de

Despite decades of commentators claiming the opposite, being a designer at VW never was an easy job. One needs to be within spitting distance to current fashion, but still keep the technocratic aloofness that’s characterised the brand’s best products intact. Which is no mean feat under any circumstances. Continue reading “Getting Down With Da Kidz, Heide Style”

Missing The Ball At Polo

The newest generation of one of VW’s non-Golf evergreens stands for the greater malaise of the German car industry – and acute deficits chez Wolfsburg

VW Polo VI, photo (c) automobil-produktion.de

To the untrained eye, this newest generation of Polo looks pretty much the same as its predecessor. Alas, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Whereas the Polo V was a small stylistic gem, boasting subtle craftsmanship of the highest order, from its expert surfacing to the delicacy of its detailing, this new car’s styling achieves the feat of managing to Continue reading “Missing The Ball At Polo”

A medley for Sunday

Across the road from the bus-stop, there stood this VW Passat:

A dark photo of a dark car. Source: reality

Around the C-pillar I saw a lot of what in the olden days we’d call BMW style. I reflect a lot on how BMW once did some of the work involved in epitomising German design, but it’s been a long time since this : Continue reading “A medley for Sunday”

Micropost: Why Design Matters

German news magazine, Der Spiegel, didn’t have to look very hard to find the right image to accompany its cover story on the alleged German car manufacturers’ cartel

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Photo (c) Der Spiegel

Continue reading “Micropost: Why Design Matters”