Celestial Being

Overshadowed by its more lionised ‘gullwing’ predecessor, the 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster was in many ways the superior car. DTW recalls a time when Daimler-Benz was a superior motor company.

Image: Classics Honest John

Mercedes-Benz: A name that at one time symbolised a continuum stretching back to the dawn of motoring and an ethos that embodied the sternest, most rigourous engineering ideals with a relentless Swabian logic. By 1957, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL was the most modern, most eloquent exponent of these principles and perhaps the most technically accomplished car in production – this side of a Citroën’s homegrown goddess anyway. Continue reading “Celestial Being”

IAA: Lone Star

The classiest, most charming Mercedes-Benz S-class derivative in ages does not wear a three-pointed star. How poignant. 

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This is not a Mercedes-Benz S-class convertible sporting some new DetoxAmbience® specification, but the Carlsson Diospyros. Hiding behind that clumsy moniker – and the presumption that car customising inevitably leads to Mansory-like levels of gaucheness – is the most assured and tasteful version of the current S-class released so far. Continue reading “IAA: Lone Star”

IAA 2017: A Culinary Perspective

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?

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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”

A Glass Cabinet at the Colombi Hotel

In picturesque Freiburg, there’s a luxury hotel that houses a small display case that has an awful lot to tell about the Bundesrepublik of yore – and a certain German car manufacturer. 

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Photo (c) gourmet-residenzen.com

Continue reading “A Glass Cabinet at the Colombi Hotel”

Geneva 2017 Reflections – Butch Insignia

Looks like someone’s been hitting the weights…

Image: Mercedes Benz

Looking for all the world like some kind of steroidal Insignia Grand Sport, the Mercedes-AMG GT concept sees the once mighty Daimler slide further into a self-reverential maelstrom.  Continue reading “Geneva 2017 Reflections – Butch Insignia”

Aesthetics A – Visibly Reduces the Appearance of Lines

Mercedes-Benz’s recent Aesthetics A concept appears to signal a new dimension in Sensual Purity®. Is this the end of the Line? We hold our noses and investigate.

Aesthetic A. Image Source: Autocar
Aesthetics A. Image Source: Autocar

For some time now we’ve been pretty unequivocal as regards our impressions of Mercedes-Benz’s latter-day form language. Because, at the risk of labouring the point, it’s been pretty dismal. But for those of us who bewail the three pointed star’s descent from its automotive Mount Olympus, is salvation at hand? Continue reading “Aesthetics A – Visibly Reduces the Appearance of Lines”

Mind the Gap!

More shutcrimes from Sindelfingen…

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The early noughties’ S-class coupé in all but name

Far from being the worst offspring of the late Sacco/Peter Pfeiffer era at Mercedes-Benz, the CL-coupé (C215) still exhibits a very poignant reminder of what went wrong at Untertürkheim during this particular period of time. Its proportions are actually very pleasing indeed (unlike those of its immediate predecessor), yet the CL is utterly let down by its detailing. Continue reading “Mind the Gap!”

Starship Benz – 2006 Mercedes R-Class

“A wholly new motoring experience” said Mercedes in 2006, but the R-Class not only fell between two stools, it also fell well short of expectations.

2005 Mercedes Vision R. Image: mercedes-benz-community-weebly
2005 Mercedes Vision R. Image: mercedes-benz-community-weekly

Product planning is an unholy art, akin to sticking a wetted finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing – scientific it ‘aint. Showing a marked similarity in conceptual terms to Giugiaro’s Maserati Kubang proposal of 2003, Mercedes-Benz showed their Vision GST (Grand Sports Tourer) concept in 2004, a window into the Swabians’ plans to straddle SUV, MPV and estate sectors; a concept habitually known as niche-bending. A year later they displayed the car in pre-production clothes as Vision R – the production car, dubbed W251 and marketed as R-Class debuting exactly a decade ago. Continue reading “Starship Benz – 2006 Mercedes R-Class”

It’s Not Quite News, but…

…I’ll talk about it anyway. Mercedes is still concerned their image is too staid. They want more women buyers. Can’t women be staid and boring too?

2015 Mercedes S-class. Stuffy? Source
2015 Mercedes S-class. Stuffy? Wikipedia.org

Automotive News had a recent article about Mercedes being more interested in the female buyer and the writer says this: “Mercedes has to make up ground, particularly in Germany, where years of conservative design and a stuffy image as the preferred brand for rich, older men has turned female customers away”. The litany about Mercedes being “stuffy” and “conservative” has been running for as long as I have been a grown adult. Continue reading “It’s Not Quite News, but…”

Cookie Cutter

“Where all think alike there is little danger of innovation” –  Edward Abbey.

1981 MB SEC
1981-1991 Mercedes-Benz SEC: source

17 years. You would think that was long enough to convince my girlfriend that a W126 is the ideal family car. It seems not. I’ve always loved the cars MB produced during Sacco’s time (I like to think he had called in sick the day they designed the W210) but his first S-Class (especially the coupe) is top of the heap for me. For some reason his theory of Vertical and Horizontal Affinity has always had a strong resonance. Continue reading “Cookie Cutter”

Theme : Suspension – Swinging On A Star

The missing link, or just missing a link. We consider the much maligned swing axle.

A Spitfire demonstrates the swing axle's graceful poise - image : triumphexp.com
A Spitfire demonstrates the swing axle’s graceful poise – image : triumphexp.com

The swing axle is the first stop when considering how to make the movement of two rear wheels, previously attached to a solid axle, independent of each other. Simply pivot the shafts either side of the differential and have the two wheels bounce up and down, describing an arc around their respective pivot points. It’s a basic system with many shortcomings but, bearing in mind it dates back to the early days of the motor car, when it was patented by Edmund Rumpler in 1903, that is understandable. Continue reading “Theme : Suspension – Swinging On A Star”

Driven to Write’s Best Cars Ever Top 50: Number 9

We return to our countdown of the all-time best cars ever. We’re now in the Top Ten so we’ll slow the pace and increase the tension! In at number nine, a car everyone rented, drove, saw, bought or sold in the 80s…

1982 Chevrolet Celebrity: howstuffworks.com
1982 Chevrolet Celebrity: howstuffworks.com

Throughout the 70s more and more Americans noticed the allure of European cars like the sharply-styled BMW 5-series and peerless Mercedes W-123 series. GM fought back with the Chevrolet Celebrity. And it worked. Using the flexible architecture of the renowned GM A-body (made in this case by Fisher Bodies), the Celebrity provided a compact but spacious vehicle which turned heads and won customers. The Celebrity was an important car for Chevrolet as it had to at least draw more customers than the outgoing Malibu. It is important to Continue reading “Driven to Write’s Best Cars Ever Top 50: Number 9”

Theme: Shutlines – A Review

We really went at this topic with gusto. Did we learn anything?

A shutline, yesterday.
A shutline, yesterday.

Editor Simon introduced the topic and noted that panel gaps or shutlines at their best become a positive part of the design and not are merely an interruption. And we spent the best part of the month demonstrating all the ways to get it wrong. Sean noted the problem of getting the wheel arch and door shutlines to relate properly. Should they follow the arch or should they form their own discrete shape on the side of the car as on the Renault Laguna or Passat?  The case is not proven.  I went over some old ground from another angle, looking at how the shutline between the bumper and the body has gained more and Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – A Review”

Theme: Shutlines – The One Good Thing About the 1995 E-class

It’s taken me two decades to find the one worthwhile detail on the W210: the rear wing of the Estate model is assembled properly.

1995 Mercedes E-class rear quarter. Note the way there is no visible line under the rear lamp.
1995 Mercedes E-class rear quarter. Note the way there is no visible line under the rear lamp.

Recently I was regurgitating some of my thoughts on plastic bumpers. I showed some examples of how manufacturers typically had a visible weld on the extra bit of metal under the rear lamp.   Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – The One Good Thing About the 1995 E-class”

Theme: Shutlines – Mind The Gap

Some collected, if slightly disconnected thoughts on this month’s theme gives us an opportunity for a little gratuitous Mercedes-bashing. 

Stand clear of the doors - image via The Telegraph
Stand clear of the doors – image: The Telegraph

So much is known and quantified, be it politics, cuisine, architecture or indeed recognising a decent pasodoble when we see one. It’s all out there to be discovered, downloaded and co-opted into our lives and dinner party conversations: we’re all experts now. Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – Mind The Gap”

Crossroads for the Four Door Coupé

Is the four-door coupé already out of road, or is it just crossing over?

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The shape we’re in now. Image: Audi UK

Automotive niches interest me because they represent the closest thing manufacturers come to risk taking. Take the four-door coupé segment for example. I’ve puzzled over this sector’s viability ever since Mercedes-Benz introduced the CLS-Class a decade ago. After all, it hasn’t necessarily set the automotive world alight, has it? Apart from Mercedes, who have we got? Audi has the A7, BMW the 6-Series Gran coupé, Porsche offers the Panamera and VW the CC. That’s pretty much your lot. Common strand? Yes, they all hail from German manufacturers, which does add up to a somewhat one-dimensional bandwagon. Continue reading “Crossroads for the Four Door Coupé”

Coupé de Foudre – Mercedes CLS

Thunderbolt or damp squib – lifting the lid on Stuttgart-Untertürkheim’s ‘Jag-fighter.

The 2004 CLS - image via tuning.carwallpapers
The 2004 CLS – image: tuning.carwallpapers

In 2004 Mercedes-Benz launched the CLS-series, breathlessly telling journalists, “The CLS is a thrilling symbiosis between the elegant design of a coupé and the functionality of a four-door luxury saloon – and the result is a unique, pioneering vehicle concept that is tailored to suit the tastes of automotive connoisseurs.” It’s clear Mercedes’ copywriters really reined themselves in here. Continue reading “Coupé de Foudre – Mercedes CLS”

Unforgetting: 2003-2007 Chrysler Crossfire

One of these cars flashed past me today, prompting this small item. Now that I come to think of it, there was one parked on my road a few years back. It was the Chrysler Crossfire (2003-2007).

2003 Chrysler Crossfire. In 2003 it cost £1000 more than the faster Nissan 350Z: yakmee.com
2003 Chrysler Crossfire. In 2003 it cost £1000 more than the faster Nissan 350Z: yakmee.com

We all have small car moments, don’t we? For reasons unclear, our synapses fizz and fuse a little harder when we see a car and forever more the image, time, feeling and moment are irremovably etched on our memories. It’s a wholly random process, note. Some of my car moments involve worthless heaps of mediocrity.

The Chrysler Crossfire is taking up some of my limited and diminishing RAM with a set of memories related to Continue reading “Unforgetting: 2003-2007 Chrysler Crossfire”

Pininfarina – An Appreciation

I started this a bit of a joke. Having looked at a very great many of Pininfarina’s cars, I had to work hard to find this selection of duds. 

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Actually, I was reminded of a lot of very good concept cars which look great today and should have been made. Also, while the 1971 Pininfarina Ro80 concept has an odd decorative feature on the side, I am convinced this car served as eventual inspiration for a decade of Cadillacs and other GM cars in the 80s. Continue reading “Pininfarina – An Appreciation”

The Peugeot 604 is 40 This Year, Part II

In the name of cultural exchange between our two great continents, I have contributed to the blog French Cars In America. I had to compress to 700 words my thoughts on a car dear to my heart. 

1983 Peugeot 604. Image: www.lrm-collection.fr
1983 Peugeot 604. Image: http://www.lrm-collection.fr

You can read more of my scintillating prose here.

A copy of Car, Nov. 1975 turned up on my floormat last week. I ordered it so as to read a Giant Test involving the Peugeot 604, the Jaguar XJ 3.4 and the BMW 528. The Peugeot and Jaguar trounced the 528 which lost points for its shabby handling, confined interior and wind-noise. Car concluded that in several areas including ride, roominess and comfort, the Peugeot had bested the Jaguar. Continue reading “The Peugeot 604 is 40 This Year, Part II”

Theme: Passengers – The Passenger by Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop’s song The Passenger springs to mind now that Simon has launched another theme of the month.

David Bowie and Iggy Pop (but not in Berlin). The alternative photo was of the 1997 Avensis and I thought that was too boring to use.
David Bowie and Iggy Pop (but not in Berlin). The alternative photo was of the 1997 Avensis and I thought that was too boring to use.

In the great tradition of advertisers misunderstanding lyrics, Toyota chose Iggy Pop’s 1977 song to sell the 1997 Avensis, a car so incredibly uninteresting** that even I won’t be caught trying to discover its appeal. The external appearance is as close as you can get to a characterless vehicle while still being convincingly realistic. The theme Toyota were trying to get us to understand was that by being so incredibly relaxing, driving an Avensis was like being a passenger. Continue reading “Theme: Passengers – The Passenger by Iggy Pop”

What’s the Difference Between an Audi A3 Saloon and an Audi A4 Saloon?

Calendula Yellow.

2013 Audi A3 saloon: measurably different.
2013 Audi A3 saloon: measurably different.

Introduction

Recently I noticed a nice looking Audi saloon outside a super-market near where I live. That A4 looks pleasing, I thought. Except it was no A4 at all but the A3 saloon, on sale since early last year. In what way does the A3 differ from its bigger sibling? The A3 saloon’s price list begins at £23,295 and for that you get a neatly styled boot holding 425 litres of air along with a rather handsome exterior.

For an extra £1390 you can get the “entry-level” A4 and 480 litres of space in the equally nicely shaped trunk. That’s £25.77 per extra litre of luggage carrying capacity which is a lot less per litre than Mercedes asks for when you Continue reading “What’s the Difference Between an Audi A3 Saloon and an Audi A4 Saloon?”

Theme: Aerodynamics – 2010 Kia Ray

Not all aerodynamic cars have to draw on the same set of forms. The 2010 Kia Ray (or PHEW Ray) manages to look slippery without resembling a blend of Tatra and Citroen shapes.

2010 Kia PHEW Ray concept car.
2010 Kia PHEW Ray concept car.

The most distinctive element is the Kamm tail, a feature Alfa Romeo and Zagato used in the 60s. The very sharp rim that defines the cut-off tail is there to improve the airflow break-away. A rounded edge would cause more turbulence (that’s why the tail of the first Audi TT has a small lip attached on the bootlid). Continue reading “Theme: Aerodynamics – 2010 Kia Ray”

Some Aerodynamism

Aerodynamics lead car design to repeat certain solutions.

1955 Tara 603
1955 Tatra 603

The Czechs were applying most of the tropes on their wonderful Tatras. Here we have the 1955 603 (and a nice nostalgic racing photo below, just for fun). Compare the Czech car with the 2005 Mercedes Bionic and you see some of the same features. The general view of Tatras was that the handling was not their strong point. Violent lift-off oversteer is the chief hazard. Racing one of these must have been like playing Russian roulette with a cross-bow. Continue reading “Some Aerodynamism”

Devourer Of Worlds – The Inexorable Rise Of The S-Class

Mercedes’ new W222 S-Class is decimating its European and Asian rivals. A renaissance for a declining sector or the final gasp? Driven to write investigates.

The All New Mercedes-Benz S-Class (2)

The S-Class is the quintessential Mercedes and the centre of gravity around which the entire Stuttgart-Untertürkheim behemoth pivots. None more so than today’s W222 series; which if current sales are a reliable barometer, is shaping up to be the fastest selling iteration in the model’s history. Continue reading “Devourer Of Worlds – The Inexorable Rise Of The S-Class”

A Photo for Sunday

Sunday is a day of reflection. DTW would like to offer this image as the subject for today’s consideration.

1984 Mercedes duo
The two cars are 1983 Mercedes W123’s: a 230 CE and a 280 CE. Both are the same colour whose proper name I don’t know. These park on my street and are owned by two people who don’t know each other. What a strange coincidence.  Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday”

Audi’s Prologue – Drawing Restraint

Audi has previewed its new styling direction. It looks a lot like the old styling direction.

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Judging from the cumulative audience reaction to Audi’s new design direction embodied by the recent Prologue concept, Marc Lichte and his designers may have considerably more work to do if Audi is not to become viewed as creatively becalmed. Continue reading “Audi’s Prologue – Drawing Restraint”

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”

Theme: Concepts – 2012 Lada X-Ray by Steve Mattin

The 43rd Most Influential Briton in the Car Industry 2004 was Steve Mattin.

2012 Lada X-Ray concept
2012 Lada X-Ray concept

Formerly the senior design manager at Mercedes Benz until 2004, he moved to Volvo when it was under Ford’s management. I happen not to care a great deal for the Mercedes cars designed while Mattin was in Sindelfingen. And it surprises me very little that while at Volvo Mattin oversaw the creation of the Volvo S60, V60, and XC60 concept cars.

Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2012 Lada X-Ray by Steve Mattin”

Theme: Concepts – 2013 Honda Gear

It seems Honda didn’t think too much of this little concept car. They showed it at the Montreal Motor Show in 2013, at the same time the Detroit Motor Show was being held.

2013 Honda Gear concept car
2013 Honda Gear concept car

To be honest, I found this by accident. In 1992 or 1993 Honda showed a small concept car with a feature that has become a very common, the false reverse-raked c-pillar. I wanted to see the originator of this idea and then show a few of the cars that have used it these last 20 years: Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2013 Honda Gear”

Theme: Advertising – Conclusion

We started with the premise that advertising was a means to create dissatisfaction.

1978 Audi 100 2.2.
1978 Audi 100 2.2.

Car advertising, for the most part, has lived up entirely to this. The exceptions such as those described by Sam, Eoin and myself, have not created dissatisfaction but other negative feelings unsuited to selling cars. The French advertising for the R14 was actually very honourable in that it seemed only to want to tell customers that the car was pretty well packaged. We must ask ourselves if it’s right that advertising that actually does what it is nominally supposed to do deserves such criticism. Continue reading “Theme: Advertising – Conclusion”

Advertising: Speak My Language

Vorsprung durch… advertising.

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When Sir John Hegarty; doyen of UK advertising (and co-founder of renowned ad-agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty) took on the Audi creative account back in 1982 the Ingolstadt marque’s image was somewhat woolly.

Continue reading “Advertising: Speak My Language”

Theme : Facelifts – New Adventures in Rhinoplasty

Driven To Write descends into facelift hell. Pray for us.

0373198-Mercedes-Benz-SL-600-2006

Today’s foray into facelift hades also stems from recent past. The original 2003 R230 SL series was, (like most Mercedes’ of its era), a good 35% less attractive than its far more comely (R129) forebear. Nevertheless, amongst the less than stellar offerings emerging from Sindelfingen under design chief, Professor Peter Pfeiffer during the post-Sacco era, the R230 in its original form was at least cohesive.   Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – New Adventures in Rhinoplasty”

Theme : Facelifts – Making an Arse of it

Does my bum look big in this? 

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Image: Cars Data

As I’m sure I don’t need to point out, there are facelifts and there are, well, facelifts. Not everyone cleaves to the Partonesque ideal – I mean has anybody seen Barry Manilow lately?
Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Making an Arse of it”