Theme: Benchmarks – The Moving Goalpost

Legend has it that Lexus’ engineers explicitly used the 1991 BMW E-36 version of the 3 series as a benchmark for their 1999 IS200, right down to giving it rear wheel drive and a straight six engine.

1999 Lexus IS 200 - from Wikipedia.
1999 Lexus IS 200 – from Wikipedia. There’s a balance problem, isn’t there? The front of the car is visually lighter than the rear.

By the time the IS200 came out, the E46 had replaced the E36. The benchmark that Lexus had chosen was obsolete. At this point BMW had settled on a slow detachment from its roots as a “hard as nails” small sports saloon and was well on the way to becoming, in ordinary trim versions, a Munich Mondeo, though to be fair, that’s unfair to Ford’s Mondeo of the same period. As I see it, the car Lexus benchmarked was already Continue reading “Theme: Benchmarks – The Moving Goalpost”

Kimona Over To My Place, Drive Here In Your Rolls

This year Rolls Royce is showcasing the things it is willing to do to its cars for its wealthier customers. A one-off car, the Serenity, will be shown at Geneva this year to this end.

2015 Rolls Royce Serenity interior concept drawing. Thanks to RRMC for the image.
2015 Rolls Royce Serenity interior concept drawing. Thanks to RRMC for the image.

The aqua leather and wooden accents work very well indeed. It might even be that the silk used extensively is fetching. I remain unconvinced by the Kimona-esque detailing in the roof that looks like a strange blood spatter rather than a delicate tree in blossom.

You can read Rolls Royce’s more generous description here:

Continue reading “Kimona Over To My Place, Drive Here In Your Rolls”

2015 Fiat 500C Review

DTW takes a Fiat 500C on a road trip. What did we learn? For one, don’t trust the fuel gauge and for another, it’s amazing people buy the Ford Ka. 

2015 Fiat 500C and some close relatives.

DTW is a bit late to the party in the case of the 500 as we aren’t yet on the invitation lists of the major car companies. By now the 500 is getting on a bit, launched as it was in 2007 when George Bush was still president. Nonetheless, we have got a hold of one now and if this isn’t a review of the car, at least it provides a check against the opinions of the motoring journals.

The model in question is the 500C semi-convertible version, on sale since 2009. I drove a 1.2 litre five speed manual without the stop-start technology and without the Twin Air engine. As the weather was dire, I didn’t open the roof except once to Continue reading “2015 Fiat 500C Review”

Customerless Car Companies

Newspapers are interesting. You can pick up a sheaf of pulped wood and read articles about all sorts of fascinating topics. Just the other day I read a small piece about driverless cars. This made me wonder about two things.

2015 Mercedes Benz customerless car concept. Note the horrible melange of anti-urban architecture in the background. Let´s get out of here.
2015 Mercedes Benz customerless car concept. Note the horrible melange of anti-urban architecture in the background. Let’s get out of here.

The article I read (in the International New York Times) reported how last Monday at the International CES, a large trade show themed on technology, Dieter Zetsche showed off Mercedes Benz’s vision of a driverless car. Zetsche described the car as a sort of “luxury carriage” that could provide a peaceful and pleasant space for its passengers. Continue reading “Customerless Car Companies”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Buttresses, A User Guide

Driven To Write attempts to decipher an aerodynamic staple but finds the going surprisingly turbulent.

york cathedral
Flying buttresses on York Cathedral. Image unknown.

In architectural terms, a buttress is defined as a structural member built against or projecting from a wall serving as a support or reinforcement. They were more prevalent at a period when structural engineering was more of a naive art, employed as a support against sideways forces. As architect’s skills developed, the need for buttressing decreased, latterly viewed as something of an admission of failure, much like an air dam or spoiler in automotive terms. There are several types of architectural buttresses, the most visually spectacular probably being the ‘flying buttress’, a structural device used in the design of many Gothic cathedrals.

Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Buttresses, A User Guide”

Theme: Dashboards – Toyota’s Subtle Game

Little credit goes to Toyota’s designers for their contribution to dashboard design. Let’s change that and reconsider the seventh generation of the Corolla, the E100, on sale from 1991 to 1995.

1993 Toyota Corolla interior (EU model).
1993 Toyota Corolla interior (EU model).

Toyota has always carefully controlled the extent to which the fashions of the times have influenced its dashboards’ appearance. Corolla customers are such that they want the car to be as unobtrusive as possible and perhaps they are even unaware of this powerful desire. For any designer to make a shape that meets this requirement is far from easy. It is like designing unspoken rules, design for the tacit. To do what designers often do, driven by ego, is to seek attention. Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – Toyota’s Subtle Game”

Renault Megane – Here’s One They Made Earlier

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

megane1

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

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

Death of a Carrozzeria

We bid a tearful adieu to one of the greats.

bertone504

This year, Bertone has joined the doleful list of recently deceased Italian styling houses, having held out against the inevitable longer than most. The quantity and quality of Bertone’s output had been in decline, particularly as commissions from major manufacturers began to dry up. The era of the great Italian styling houses is over and the centre of gravity has moved away from its traditional Italian heartland. Continue reading “Death of a Carrozzeria”

How to shape the future : 2

We ask a new-fledged car designer a few questions.

Byungyoon Min and the 2063 Porsche concept design
Byungyoon Min and the 2063 Porsche concept design

As I was interested to find out what was on the mind of some of the designers from Pforzheim University´s MA automotive course, I asked Byungyoon Min, a recent graduate, some questions. Min’s design was for a Porsche 911 for the year 2063. As of this month, Byungyoon Min is an exterior designer at Mercedes-Benz, Sindelfingen. Continue reading “How to shape the future : 2”