We carry on our saunter down memory avenue with this look back to the champions of the summer of 1998. Where were you then?
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.
The 2018 Kia Ceed is now punctuation-free and in possession of a new, more sober attire. Sound familiar?
Notwithstanding one or two brave and ultimately doomed adventures into the leftfield during the early 1970s, the European C-segment has never been a bastion of progressive design. So it should be with little or no surprise that we consider the ongoing convergence of the principal players, not just in engineering and layout, but if the current Geneva motor show is a reliable indicator, in styling terms as well.
Not content with one, DTW has two embedded correspondents roaming the fleshpots of the 88th Geneva show press days. Today, Kris Kubrick casts an Auto-Didaktic eye on Palexpo’s highlights.
First up is the Mercedes i30, sorry – A-Class. (It gets so confusing these days) So having taken lines and creases out of everything, one is left with… well, this one supposes. Best Continue reading “Geneva 2018 Reflections”
In an exclusive preview ahead of its unveiling at the 2021 Geneva show, Driven To Write can reveal the significantly refreshed Mercedes A-class.
The current Mercedes A-class, internally dubbed W177, receives an extensive mid-life facelift, to be officially presented at the 91th Geneva International Motor Show. Ahead of the world premiere, Driven To Write can provide exclusive insight into the most significant overhaul the A-class model has ever received.
“It’s time to be bold. It’s time for creases”
Daimler AG’s Chief Creative Officer, Gorden Wagener proclaims that the refreshed A-class is more than the regular nip-&-tuck-job. “The A-class is one of our icons. It is the most premium car in its class, and this new design shows that more than ever.”
It’s another new year. What was happening 20 years ago?
At Gaydon, Rover’s engineers worked on the R55 (to be sold as the R40). Predictions suggested a vehicle with rounded windows like a 1992 Nissan Micra and an upright chrome grille with main body surfaces akin to the 75. Rover expected the launch to be in 1999 when the last of the Honda-based Rovers would be phased out.
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”
The A2 wasn’t simply the most intelligently wrought Audi ever. It was also their most expensive sales flop. We tell its story.
History marks the Audi A2 as a failure, and with vast commercial losses incurred during a six year lifespan, it’s a simple and convenient dismissal. Since its 2005 demise, the party line has been that Audi took a brave, risky and ultimately doomed gamble into the unknown, one which was studiously ignored by the buying public. But is it as simple as that?
It had been an open secret since the late-1980s that Daimler-Benz had a compact hatchback in development. Such an incursion into the VW Group’s orbit was viewed by Chairman, Dr. Ferdinand Piëch as a gross betrayal, precipitating amongst other things, this overt cost-no-object rival.
Schemed on the basis of an ultra-economical VW concept, Piëch tasked Audi engineers to create a technological statement with the avowed intention of putting his detested rivals in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim firmly in their place.
Ingolstadt’s engineers had one pronounced ace in their pocket – material technology, in the form of aluminium spaceframe construction pioneered in the range-topping A8. However when Audi displayed the Al2 concept as a spoiler to the Mercedes A-Class’ 1997 debut, few saw it as anything more than simply another fit of Piëch. Two years later, both press and public realised just how serious he was.
An engineer’s car from its rounded nose to the tip of its aerodynamically shaped tail-lights, the A2 appeared to have been milled from a solid billet of aluminium. Luc Donckerwolke’s styling scheme was a masterpiece of form and structural function. Its design detail was a delight and with a exquisitely streamlined teardrop shape the A2 was a pared-back study in visual and material purity.
Beautifully finished and assembled to similar standards of care as larger Audi models, the A2 became an object of desire for design aficionados from Dingolfing to Dungeness. Ingolstadt would never be this clever again.
But this level of integrity costs. Priced above a well-specified Golf, prospective customers really had to make a case for the Audi. Combine this with small-capacity carry-over VAG engines (with a commensurate lack of performance – a function of its efficiency brief), and the A2’s fate was sealed.
Because while the market was perplexed by Mercedes’ A-Class, it was utterly confounded by the A2. Was it a compact luxury saloon or an economy trailblazer – could it be both? The motoring public are notoriously both fickle and inherently conservative and therefore by nature abhor a smart-Alec.
As a result, buyers cleaved to the safety of convention, so A2 never troubled the sales charts. After six slow years Audi pulled the plug, replacing it with the screamingly conventional, and considerably more market-friendly Polo-based A1.
VW ultimately lost €1.3bn on the A2 programme, although one suspects its costs were written off before the first production car rolled down the lines. The A2 did its job for Dr. Piëch, proving Audi could out-engineer their bitter Stuttgart rivals.
Yet the A2 proved a more durable design amidst enlightened autophiles – held in genuine affection by owners and those (like this author) who still quietly covet one. While sales success eluded the A2 during its life, it has become a sought after secondhand buy, holding significantly more residual value than its considerably less well wrought A-Class rival.
Today, an A2 arguably makes even more sense – its alloy body impervious to rust, and with commendably low running costs – especially in three-cylinder TDi form. While Audi have abandoned the A2 concept, recently stating they have no intention of producing a similar monospace vehicle, the concept has taken on new life at Munich’s Petuelring, with BMW’s i3 vividly illustrating the A2’s prescience.