Chris Bangle has returned to car design, but isn’t back.
The most influential car designer of the past two decades has returned to the automotive realm. His message is more radical than ever – but his audience is an altogether different one than in the past. We needn’t listen to what he has to say, for we are not his audience anymore. Continue reading “In China They Eat Dogs”
Lamborghini launched the Urus earlier this week, opening a ghastly new front in the SUV wars. But is its significance greater than simply its unabashed aggression? We have gathered some thoughts on the matter.
South of Revenna, and situated between the cities of Forli and Rimini, flows the Rubicone. From its source in the Apennine mountains, the river travels for about 80 km eastwards before meeting the Adriatic. In Roman times, it marked the border between Cisalpine Gaul and what we might call the greater Roman state. In 49 BC, General Gaius Julius Ceasar crossed this body of water with his army in direct contravention of the Republic’s laws, precipitating what can best be described as a military coup. As he did so, Ceasar not only unintentionally created a metaphor for the ages but is believed to have Continue reading “Casting the Die”
I recently purchased a reprint of Car’s Car of the Year 1970 feature (printed for publicity purposes for the UK distributor of a certain car company from the March 1971 issue by George Pulman and Sons Ltd Bletchley Bucks). Almost (but not quite) as old as I am (what’s three years amongst friends?), it served to remind me what we are missing these days from motoring journalists.
First, I refuse to mention the main subject of the feature, the car which won this prestigious award in 1970, on the basis that we get complaints that the manufacturer of said winning car receives far too much coverage on this site. Second, it’s the quality of the journalism which has bewitched me, much as it was the featured car which captured my attention to said publication in the first place. Third, I’ve given up on Citroën these days in any case (damn!).
Austin’s Ford Zephyr and Vauxhall Velox rival of the mid-1950s is scarcely remembered now, but it turns out to be a something of a forgotten hero.
The Austin Westminster story began with the launch of the A90 series in October 1954, nearly four years before the start of the momentous eleven month period in which Farina’s new styling ‘language’ for BMC was unveiled, layer by layer.
With the third generation CLS, Mercedes-Benz dials down the Purity but ups the Sensuality. Oh Gorden!
Having trawled through Mercedes-Benz’s predictably hyperbole-laden press release for the new CLS, the temptation to point both barrels feels overwhelming, but the author nevertheless promises to do his best. Instead, I’d like to reflect upon whether nu-CLS embodies a return to form for a model which perhaps did more to Continue reading “Hot and Cool. (But Mostly Hot…)”
Bentley’s Bentayga SUV turned out to be an instant smash sales success. Yet the car that was intended to preview it was not only met with fright – it also cost its chief designer his job.
Dirk van Braeckel’s career at Volkswagen had been one of sustained corporate ladder climbing. Having joined VAG’s Audi branch in 1984, he rose through the ranks at Ingolstadt, before being chosen to help re-launch the much-maligned Škoda brand. He did as he was asked with some aplomb, leading to a generation of Škodas that were not just competently styled, but, more importantly, conveyed a sense of thorough quality.
With hindsight, this first generation of VAG-engineered Octavia, Fabia and Superb models must be considered as conservative, competent, long-lasting pieces of design which stood the test of time without anyone really noticing. Continue reading “Dirk’s Demise vs Luc’s Lamento”
On the surface, Renault’s 1983 Gabbiano was simply an innocuous concept, but could it also stand as a metaphor for a decades-spanning rivalry?
Following former head of Citroën bureau d’études, Robert Opron’s move across Paris to head Renault’s styling studios in 1975, design responsibility appeared to remain an in-house arrangement. However over time, a decision was taken either by senior management or by Opron himself to Continue reading “Word on a Wing”
As brand-DS’ pathfinder model becomes available to order, we find ourselves once again asking, what on earth is the distinctive series for?
Yesterday, Autocar reported that PSA’s new DS7 Crossback crossover is now available to order in the UK market, with RHD deliveries starting in early 2018. Pricing ranges from about £28,000 in entry-level Elegance trim to over £43,500 for the highest specification ‘Ultra Prestige’ model. That’s right up there with ‘Premium Luxury’ in the redundant nomenclature stakes wouldn’t you say? Isn’t ‘Prestige’ prestigious enough any more? One could be forgiven for imagining DS’ marketers Continue reading “DS’ New Horizon”
Earlier in the day we had a close look at a bit of the Peugeot 605. What was missing?
The short answer: Peugeot’s design and production dodged the ugly groove that normally indicates a weld, right under the lamp. This means that a not inconsiderable amount of work had to be done to match the weld seam to the metal on either side of it. Audi avoided this by bringing the bootlid right down to the bumper. Mercedes didn’t. Continue reading “Fifty-one Times Maybe is Still Maybe”
The 1986 Eole was an exploration of what would happen if one truly applied aerodynamic theory to a Citroën CX Estate. The results were somewhat mixed.
Truly aerodynamic vehicles tend to be fairly uncompromising looking devices for the most part. Citroën’s Eole concept from 1986 certainly wasn’t conventionally handsome, but it contained a lot of thinking that would become more widely adopted. The work of UK car designer, Geoffrey Matthews at the PSA/Talbot facility at Whitley, Eole was sanctioned ostensibly to give Citroën something new to show at that year’s Geneva motor show; the AX model (also styled by Matthews) not being due to Continue reading “A Concept for Sunday – A Break With a Backstory”
The outgoing C4 is a car that will pass without comment or eulogy. Except here. Well, of sorts anyway…
They say that above every cloud lies blue sky, so while we get over our disappointment with the creative execution of the heavily facelifted C4 Cactus, its advent has brought about the demise of perhaps the least worthy bearer of the double chevron ever. Seemingly killed for lacking that now essential Citroën quality, its lack of joie de vivre and cynical adequacy has ensured that it no longer fits within Linda Jackson’s (bouncy) castle moat.
Citroen’s C4 Cactus is a popular choice in Southern Europe, but signs are that it’s fading. Is the fun over already?
One of the drawbacks of being something of a novelty act is that there is often a risk that its appeal will fade. Upon its introduction in 2014, Citroën’s C4 Cactus was viewed as something of a character amidst a sector somewhat devoid of it. With styling which combined a studied practicality and ruggedness with a cheerful and largely unaggressive demeanour, initial sales for the model were strong, with 28,974 registered in 2014. Continue reading “Cactus World News”
Volkswagen’s T-Roc compact recreational SUV is not some belated attempt at jumping on the bandwagon. It’s worse than that.
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”
Advance apologies to the Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France and their eagle-eyed cohorts regarding the title header.
Earlier in the year I spoke at some length about Renault’s Mégane Grand Coupé offering, a car which is not only unavailable in drear old Blighty, but also (somewhat surprisingly) within Renault’s homeland. Introduced to the Irish market earlier this year, the Mégane sedan (sorry, but it’s neither grand nor a coupe) appears to have taken off here, with my highly unscientific visual survey suggesting Continue reading “Mégane à Trois Volumes”
Recently we have been debating Opel and Vauxhall. The general consensus is not that good for a brand fielding its best products since the last lot of good products…
…which, if you think about it, it is pretty much most of their cars with one very debatable model and one not debatable model. For reasons known only to Opel and Vauxhall’s marketing staff, Opel have been tarred with a Clarkson-shaped brush. Good old Sir Jeremy, now Lord, Clarkson, saw fit to damn the Vectra “B” because it wasn’t an Alfa Romeo, Porsche or BMW M3 but happened to suit the needs of regular motorists.
Despite this particular group of people hardly being renowned connoisseurs of the finer things in life, manufacturers try their utmost to make the Frankfurt Motor Show a palatable experience for the press. Do they succeed?
The IAA press days are all about hustle and bustle. Most attendees have appointments to make or deadlines to meet, which – coupled with the distances that need to be covered at Messe Frankfurt, not to mention the above average levels of dehydration, (courtesy of the halls’ air conditioning) one is afflicted with – can render grabbing a bite to eat a difficult necessity. Continue reading “IAA 2017: A Culinary Perspective”
Despite the enormous size of the automotive industry and the enormous importance of aesthetics, the academic literature on the topic is sparse.
There can be found in any bookshop a shelf of ten to thirty books on marques, full of glossy images and I am not talking about these. A few books supposedly on automotive design exist and these are inadequate. This has a few nice pages on rendering. The rest is fluff, sorry to say. The same goes for this book which is mostly about drawing not design.
With the motor industry abuzz with the prospect of electric propulsion, just how confident are we they’ve thought this one through?
Earlier in the week we considered the mainstream industry’s lack of leadership when it comes to the design of electric cars. But at the Frankfurt motor show this week, two industry leaders fleshed out some of the challenges they’re facing. Firstly Mercedes’ Dieter Zetsche pointed out to auto journalists the effect the push to electric is likely to have on profitability.
At first glance, this is a case of stating the blindingly obvious, but while the mighty Stuttgart Untertürkheim car giant can weather the loss of 50% of its potential profits, putting aside an alleged €4.0 billion to cover the likely revenue shortfall, it raises questions of how other less financially robust car businesses can possibly Continue reading “Danger, High Voltage”
Electric cars are coming. But when are we going to be presented with one we might actually want to buy?
During a recent conversation with an automotive design commentator and critic I pointed out that motor manufacturers had so far failed to create a truly desirable electric car. He agreed, suggesting they appear stuck at the Blackberry phase and that their i-phone moment has yet to occur. He isn’t wrong, as this week’s deluge of concepts and production cars illustrates. On one extreme we have Audi’s Frankfurt-fodder Aicon, which as implausible flights of conceptual fancy go, is about on point and on the other we have the 2018 Nissan Leaf, which takes retrenchment to new levels of jaded whatever.
One of the advantages of a pure electric car is that by taking the engine and powertrain out of the equation, the entire architecture of the vehicle can Continue reading “Leading the Charge”
BMW have enjoyed a decade of success selling an ever-expanding range of four wheel drive hatchbacks. Now they are making their largest one yet. What madness is this?
“I think if you try and make something impressive, rather than good, you’re doomed.” Spen King, engineer and creator of the Range Rover.
On paper at least, BMW is the smallest and theoretically most vulnerable of the German premium big three. Daimler is bigger and its business more diverse. Audi is insulated to a large extent by nestling within the VW mothership. This however ignores BMW’s deftness as a business, to say nothing of its profitability and net worth, which may well outstrip its rivals.
In a couple of weeks, Suzuki will present the latest generation of their enduring and hard-working Jimny family. As we eagerly await the new arrival, we look at one of the odder twigs on the extended family tree.
The subject’s identity crisis is manifestly obvious. It’s sold as a Suzuki, yet there’s a Maruti badge in the centre of the grille. The Japanese masters were content to sell it to New Zealand farmers as one of their own, but it’s an Indian-built Maruti Gipsy, in 4WD, 1300cc petrol specification, and therefore based on the 1982 SJ410 in all its live-axled, leaf-sprung primitiveness. Continue reading “Far From the Mainstream: Suzuki Farmworker”
This post is something of a ragbag and it’s missing one photo.
A Maserati Ghibli pulled up next to me at traffic lights yesterday. As ever, I checked out the brightwork around the sideglass. Much to my amazement, Maserati opted for two pieces, instead of one, around the rearmost pane. For the kind of money Maserati want, I’d expect one single part. Opel and Kia can do it.
FCA’s Sergio Marchionne appears to be saying no to a new-generation Ferrari ‘Dino’. Well he was last week anyway…
Much like the current resident of the American White House, FCA’s Chief Knitwear Officer appears to think nothing of holding entirely bipolar positions on policy, seemingly at will. Over the years, the Turin binman has led us a merry polka and yet here we are, akin to the beleaguered Washington press corps, Pavlovian to our slavering chops. Because one thing of which we can be certain is that whatever either the leader of the free World or the Italian-Canadian yarnmiester pronounces upon will be slavishly reported upon, disseminated and pored over, which is of course the point of the exercise. Continue reading “Dino Denied”
Welcome to the EMotion Express. Calling all stations via Unfeasible Promise, Inevitable Reversal, Fervent Denial, and Messy Lawsuit. We regret to inform customers that due to essential (re)engineering works a replacement bus service will be in place before passengers can complete their journey to Humiliating Climbdown. Please mind the doors. Continue reading “We Apologise For the Delay to Your Journey”
Richard’s fine introduction on this topic began with two quotes, both holding a high degree of truth to advertising in general, yet both I’d suggest are not always relevant to that branch of advertising that deals with cars.
(First published by Sean Patrick in September 2014)
Three new models from three distinct manufacturers. Each playing the same notes – but in a different order.
Last week saw several new car announcements, three of which we’re specifically interested in today. We open with the official release of what has felt like one of the least titillating stripteases in recent history – the Hyundai Kona crossover. This vehicle, the Korean car giant’s entry to the Captur/Juke sector has been seen in various forms of reveal for weeks now, so its advent has at least stemmed the vexing but unavoidable PR-drip-feed throughout the automotive tabloids that appears de rigueur these days. Others better qualified than I might Continue reading “Pitch Perfect”
Which colours will be catching our eyes soon? This one is about coatings, a topic we have touched upon at DTW a few times before. Here and here and here (but not here. )
BASF have revealed their predictions for the colours of 2018 – something of a self-fulfilling prophecy or else whistling down the wind. By that I mean that the “prediction” could shape preferences, in which case it’s not a prediction but an influence on the market. Alternatively, people will choose their colours regardless and BASF´s prediction will be disproved.
Yes folks, Henrik’s back in business, having learned from past mistakes. Learned how to replicate them exactly, that is.
Name: Fisker Emotion.
Age: It’s brand flipping new. Are you blind?
But it looks like the last one, the what was it called again? Karma thingy. That’s probably because you have dead eyes. The Fisker Emotion looks nothing like the Fisker Karma – or a Karma Revero for that matter. You’re simply imagining it, because, as I’ve already pointed out, your eyes are dead. Continue reading “Oops, I Did It Again”
It’s been a while since we reported on NEVS. How goes it in the netherworld?
Recently, National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS) released official images of the ‘forthcoming’ 9-3 and 9-3X EV’s based on the decade-old former Saab bodyshell. These images, shown on SAABSunited.com appear to show both models in production specification, demonstrating if little else, that hope really does spring eternal.
As China’s Geely acquires a controlling stake in Lotus, we ask whether this could mark the end of the sportscar maker’s struggles?
Last year, we reported on Jean Marc Gales’ progress at arresting Lotus’ decline following the Bahar debacle. At the time, the auguries were positive, if somewhat finely balanced. If not entirely profitable, losses had been stemmed and Lotus’ order book was looking a bit less bare, but real financial health still looked some way off. Continue reading “By Dawn’s Early Light”
Car designer Tom Tjaarda has died. He was 82. DTW takes a look back at his career.
Two things stand out about Tom Tjaarda. One was the prolific and varied body of work: the 1976 Ford Fiesta, the de Tomaso Deauville, the 1964 Ferrari 330 GT2+2 and Fiat 2300 coupe. The other thing is that he wasn’t as well known as Giugiario, Gandini or even quite a few younger designers with only a few cars from the same brand to their name.
As well as having talent, Tjaarda arrived in the world of car design at a time when there was considerably more room to flourish, not unlike Danish architect Arne Jacobsen – both had space into which their abilities could be projected. Tjaarda designed a wide range of cars and Jacobsen could do everything from door handles to buildings. Continue reading “Tom Tjaarda”
Rumours of the Punto’s demise might well be exaggerated, but a successor could finally be in sight.
It’s somewhat mortifying when you realise that someone you innocently assumed was deceased remains defiantly above ground. Take the Fiat Punto for example. I had blithely assumed it was already pushing up daisies, but quite the contrary. In its current iteration, with us now since 2005, the Punto’s age is underlined by the realisation that its genesis dates back to Fiat’s post-millennial dalliance with General Motors, sharing an Opel-developed understructure from the contemporary Corsa model. I say contemporary, but it seems the current Corsa and Adam still use a variant of this platform, and they remain, if not exactly class-leading, at least broadly competitive. Continue reading “Spirito di Punto”
Emboldeners of Jaguars are relatively few. Driven to Write profiles its foremost and longest-lived exponent – Arden Autombil.
In the German town of Kleve, close to the Dutch border, Jochen Arden founded his eponymous automotive business in 1976, trading in the usual Teutonic fare of VWs and MBs until 1982, when he took on a Jaguar franchise, prompting his initial forays into the arena of the aftermarket. By the early ’80s, Jaguar was painfully re-establishing themselves in the German market following years of stagnation under British Leyland when their cars came to be regarded by German motorists as being nice to look at, but really not fit for the purpose. Continue reading “Theme: Aftermarket – Stroking the Cat”
We’re definitely not in Kansas any more, Toto. But where in heck are we?
Acquisitions by Detroit big-hitters was not a phenomenon restricted to the latter-1980’s – it began well before that. Ford had made several stabs at acquiring Ferrari in the late ’60s to no avail, but in 1970, they purchased (from Alessandro de Tomaso of all people) the Italian coachbuilder, Carrozzeria Ghia. In addition to using the Ghia logo as a ‘brougham’ trim level, initially for their European model lines, Ford also used Filippo Sapino’s Ghia studios as an advanced styling skunkworks, commissioning a series of conceptual styling studies and pre-production prototypes over the following two decades. Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1983 Lincoln Quicksilver”
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”
General Motors – the name is a clue – are virtuosos in the art of the world car. This is not to say they haven’t played a few bum notes in their time.
It’s too early to speculate how the Opel Insignia B will perform on its world tour, but its diverse audiences will demand versatility as well as capability. Launched proudly earlier this year in Switzerland, the Insigregaldore carries four badges; a lightning bolt, a mythical beast which appears to be self-conscious about underarm odour, three shields, and from February 2018, a lion. Continue reading “Two Lions, Four Continents, One Car”
Flushed with the spoils of acquisition, Chrysler madebullishnoises about their Bolognese connection in 1987 with this prescient concept.
Thirty years ago to the month, the Chrysler Motor Corporation (as was) purchased Italian supercar manufacturer, Nouva Automobili F. Lamborghini. Acquisitions by US automakers were in full swing by the late 1980’s, with GM having taken control of Group Lotus the previous year in addition to Chrysler’s 15.6% stake in Allessandro de Tomaso’s Maserati business. At the 1987 Frankfurt motor show, the Pentastar proudly displayed this, the Portofino concept. Continue reading “That Riviera Touch”
DTW’s roving reporter packs his bindle and heads for the bright lights of the London Motor Show.
At one time, the British International Motor Show was petrolhead nirvana. From humble beginnings in the early 1900s, it became the UK motor industry’s biggest event, an opportunity to polish its chrome work to a high shine and have it smudged to oblivion by the greasy fingers of an eager public. Held yearly from 1948 at London’s Earl’s Court, the show found huge popularity in the postwar period as car ownership took off. 1978 saw the event move to the heartland of the motor industry, Birmingham, and a change to a bi-annual format. That year over 900,000 car fans descended on the cavernous halls and ample parking of the National Exhibition Centre to slam doors, ogle the promotional dolly birds and load up with loot. It was not to last. Continue reading “London Motor Show 2017 report”
Next month the Škoda Yeti, arguably the nicest VAG product of the last decade, and certainly one of the most individual, will be replaced by a lightly reworked Tiguateciaq, with the name of Karoq.
According to Škoda, “the name and its spelling originate from the language of the Alutiiq, an indigenous tribe who live on an island off the southern coast of Alaska. For the name of the new compact SUV, Škoda has drawn on the spelling of the Škoda Kodiaq and in doing so, has created a consistent nomenclature for the brand’s current and future SUV models.” I still think it’s rubbish as a name, but so is ‘Qashqai’, and it does awfully well. Continue reading “Extinction Alert – Yeti Falls Victim to Atonement-Led Rationalisation”
The usual place to start with the Kia Opirus is the front.
Followed by a look around the sides and the back. Most of what is said or thought about the Opirus hinges on its looks (the E-class lights and unfortunate grille) and that it’s no match for anything except a rusted-out E-class on concrete blocks. Continue reading “Unseen Portents Hammer Air, Water Trembles”
The Biturbo’s bigger brother appeared very much the sober Italian aristocrat. Unfortunately, both breeding and manners were slightly suspect.
The Biturbo could be said to have saved Maserati, yet is perhaps best remembered for its troubled reputation than any commercial, aesthetic or performance-related virtues. Whether such a reputation remains entirely justified is perhaps a question for another time, but what is often forgotten amid the flow of water under the Tridente’s bridge is what a significant step the Tipo AM331 was when first introduced in 1981. Continue reading “Trident Inversion – 1987 Maserati 228”
Despite arguably being the most gifted automotive engineer and manager of his generation, Prof Dr Wolfgang Reitzle would only ever enter the captain’s chair once he left the car industry for good.
It is one of automotive history’s more baffling paradoxes that a man of such undisputed talents as Wolfgang Reitzle never reached the post of chief executive at an automotive business. But as with a great many other high achievers, it actually was the same traits that had brought Reitzle so close to the apex that ultimately prevented him from arriving there.
Vélizy’s 1994 riposte to Renault was no masterpiece, but perhaps the best of a bad bunch. It’s not saying much, is it?
It’s relatively difficult to imagine now, but in the early 1990’s, the future was looking decidedly MPV-shaped. Particularly amongst European manufacturers, who were falling over themselves to get something vaguely monospace to market, following the creative and commercial success of the innovative Renault Espace. The MPV concept appeared to especially chime with the French motorist, who was generally characterised by preferring pragmatism over pretension. In 1991, Renault once again set the pace with the Scenic concept, but it wasn’t until 1994 that Art Blakeslee’s Citroën studio presented Xanae. Continue reading “In the Kingdom of the Blind the One-Eyed Man Is King – 1994 Citroën Xanae”
Does the Golf have ten engines because VW believes it leads to increased sales (twice as many as the next most popular car)?
Or does such huge sales volume mean VW can pamper its clientele like no clientele has been pampered before? To answer this I needed to crunch some numbers. Statistical research of the most basic kind is very dull indeed. It does reveal some interesting things in return however. Such work is the reverse of golf, I think, which sport some say is fun to do but which is clearly boring to look at. In that spirit (“ah, look, the tassles are flying”) I decided to get stuck in and see what it takes to be in the top ten, engineswise. There was no point in hand-waving. Some maths had to be involved.
The opposing polarities of the double chevron are unlikely ever to be satisfactorily reconciled, but was this any way to go about trying?
There are those content to view Citroën’s role as being that of the pre-Traction Avant era: fundamentally a purveyor of pragmatic, rather ordinary cars. The earthbound Goddess of course (temporarily) put paid to such notions and forms the boundary for an opposing camp who view Citroën’s descent from those Olympian heights as being somewhere between tragedy and outright crime. So if the car we’re gathered here to commemorate today falls into the former category, how should we view it, twenty years later? Continue reading “Opposite of Avant – 1997 Citroën Xsara”