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…

photo 1
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”

First Of Its Kind/Last Of Its Kind: The Mercedes W126 – Part 1

The car that would come to be defined as the quintessential S-class actually was a deeply conservative vanguard of modern engineering. However, its legacy was not to last.

317

A black wreckage with blown-off bonnet and deflated tyres, lying across a cordoned-off street. This is how most Germans of a certain generation remember the Mercedes W126, the S-class model of the 1980s.

Continue reading “First Of Its Kind/Last Of Its Kind: The Mercedes W126 – Part 1”

Theme: Special – Too Special or Not Special Enough?

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to ask yourself “Do I feel special? Well, do ya, Punk?”

Special. Image: Mercedes-AMG
Special. Image: Mercedes-AMG

If we ignore the Citroen 2CV for a moment, Special (in automotive terms at least) has generally meant more. More equipment, more individuality, more value. But for some that’s not enough. The statement is the thing. Some of us will recall the era of Rude Mercs, those bespoilered, beskirted, altered images of Bruno Sacco’s finest; as emblematic of an Eighties we’d prefer to forget as Stock Aitkin & Waterman, Huey Lewis and the News and the Westland affair. Fashions change, the world turns and for all I know Huey Lewis may well be hawking his flaccid wares somewhere as I write. (I’m sure he’s a nice man by the way, but some things you can never forgive).  Continue reading “Theme: Special – Too Special or Not Special Enough?”

Car Noise 2015? Part 1

A few days ago we took a general overview of the year past and reviewed the big trends.  In this article we will look at the pointless details, the stuff you´ll have forgotten by the time you swipe the screen and return to your mince pies.

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia - was this the most discussed car of the year? www.autoexpress.com
2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia – was this the most discussed car of the year? http://www.autoexpress.com

January

Land Rover´s Discovery Sport made the front pages of the magazines and as far as I recall I didn´t read another word about this life-style accessory for the rest of the year. Jean Marc-Gales discussed his plans to save Lotus which reminds me of the perennial stories about [insert name of manager]´s attempts to save Alfa Romeo.  Among his promises: a four-door Lotus, an SUV. At present, the only hybrid they have is a concept Evora  and that was from 2012.

In the same month we got to read reviews of the Audi RSQ3, the new Suzuki Vitara, the Fiat 500X and Mazda 2. Maserati celebrated a 100 years by carrying on making their cars less and less attractive.

The Bentley SUV’s name emerged into the world and customers soon snapped up the cars by placing orders. At the other end of the year road tests declared it to be a) big, b) fast and c) thirsty. Job done.

February

The world rocked on its axis as Jaguar decided to Continue reading “Car Noise 2015? Part 1”

The All-Time Best Cars Ever Top 50: number 9

We return to the DTW countdown of the all-time best cars ever. We are now in the Top Ten so we will slow down 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 “The All-Time Best Cars Ever Top 50: number 9”

Ashtrays: 1968 Mercedes W114 coupe

These cars won´t keep out of the way of this blog. It´s a W114 coupe ashtray, as designed by Paul Bracq.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you look at Bracq´s career, we see that the 1968 W114 (the six-cylinder cars) and the W115 (the four-cylinder cars) came out the year after he left Mercedes Benz. So where does this design fit in with the story of German design rationalism? How can we reconcile the fact that these cars which epitomise German design sensibilities were overseen by a French chap who trained under another French designer, the great Charbonneaux?  I take it that the cars really do express German values and that Bracq did not allow his personal taste, however French, it might have been, to get in the way of choosing what best fit the market the cars were intended for. I suppose he also made his choices in a very Swabian environment so naturally he did not suggest the kinds of solutions that would have found favour in Britain, France or Italy. Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1968 Mercedes W114 coupe”

Mercedes’ Movable Feast

Daimler gets aero on everyone’s ass at Frankfurt.

Mercedes Concept IAA. Image via gizmag
Mercedes Concept IAA. Image via gizmag

While this week’s Frankfurt show-stopping Porsche Mission E concept appears to offer a vision of the future where (Porsche) drivers are offered the very latest propulsion technology wrapped up in a reassuringly familiar (if nicely proportioned) package, Mercedes-Benz have taken a sharply divergent approach; Daimler’s brave new world being a starker affair altogether. Continue reading “Mercedes’ Movable Feast”

Ashtrays: 2015 Mercedes B-class

Well, I think it was a 2015 Mercedes B-class but it could have been the 2005-2011 series. However, here is a clear sign that Mercedes are willing to go the extra mile when it comes to refinements.

2015 Mercedes B-class ashtray
2015 Mercedes B-class ashtray

Continue reading “Ashtrays: 2015 Mercedes B-class”

Theme: Shutlines – A review

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

A shutline, yesterday.
A shutline, yesterday.

Our esteemed 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 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 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. And an opportunity for a little gratuitous Mercedes-bashing. 

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

2436x1552_A7_SB_Rear_light
The shape we’re in now. Image via Audi.co.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”

Theme: Evolution – Coming Soon…

Next year’s E-Class will be a tech-fest. We lift the lid.

The S-Class' younger, smarter and slightly cheaper brother. Still want that top of the range Merc? Image via Autocar
The S-Class’ younger, smarter and slightly cheaper brother. Still want that top range Benz? Image via Autocar

Next year’s Mercedes E-Class is primed to evolve ‘in-car connectivity’ and autonomous driving to the next level, says a report in Automotive News Europe this week. Thomas Weber, Daimler’s head of development, told ANE journalists; “Innovations in this area are coming thick and fast,”. Just how thick and how fast Sindelfingen’s 2016 mid-liner will be, DTW can now exclusively reveal. Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Coming Soon…”

Coupé de Foudre – Mercedes CLS

Thunderbolt or damp squib? We investigate Mercedes’ reinvention of the coupé concept

The 2004 CLS - image via tuning.carwallpapers
The 2004 CLS – image via 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.” Well, quite… 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 seeing one parked in a shopping centre somewhere in Mainz. I was with a friend who was working in the car industry. Seeing a Crossfire in the metal offered a chance to talk shop.  We had both been reading about the Crossfire which had generated a considerable buzz. There it was, on a stand and we both peered closely at the point on the bodywork where the feature lines cross-over. The surface didn´t look right. I winced. If you recall, the name of the car was supposed to Continue reading “Unforgetting: 2003-2007 Chrysler Crossfire”

Mercedes’ first wheelie bin

It may have been 2001 or 2002 when I said to myself that in the A-class, Mercedes had finally built a car to be driven and thrown away without a care. I can even remember where I was when I had that thought, in a Wimpey housing estate carved from a chalk pit near Greys, Essex. Now, 13 years later, my mental note was verified.

1997 Mercedes A-class bootlid badge, or part thereof.
1997 Mercedes A-class bootlid badge, or part thereof.

If you want to get access to Mercedes privilige, €580 is what you need for a 1998 A140 Elegance with 186,000 km registered. For an equivalent VW Golf with 185,000 km you will need €450. That´s exactly the same ball park. Continue reading “Mercedes’ first wheelie bin”

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. 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Take a look at this fascinating article from Drive, with a lot more insight on the 1969 Pininfarina Mercedes.

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”

Ride Engineered – the 1980 Mercury Monarch

The Ford Granada/Mercury Monarch pair are not known to be among Ford´s finest cars. Given that reputation, it may come as a surprise to some (it surprised me) that Ford marketed it as a rival to Mercedes’ W-123 in its 280E guise. Ah, that car again. Recently I had a closer look at a 1980 Mercury Monarch to see what it was really like.

The Ford Granada/Mercury Monarch pair are not known to be among Ford´s finest cars. Given that reputation, it may come as a surprise to some (it surprised me) that Ford marketed it as a rival to Mercedes’ W-123 in its 280E guise. Ah, that car again. Recently I had a closer look at a 1980 Mercury Monarch to see what it was really like. 1980 Mercury Monarch

The car shown here is a 2-door Monarch with the “Windsor” 4.9 V8. Ford also made 3.3 and 4.1 straight sixes available along with a 5.8 V8. The Ford version was almost the same barring cosmetic details at the front and back. Production ran from 1975 to 1980. The intention with the Granada/Monarch was to keep the comfort features of traditional large saloons but put them on a smaller wheelbase.  This was in response to increasing fuel prices and the general economic  downturn prevalent in the mid to late 70s. Just under 600,000 Monarchs were produced, which is a fair number in a five-year period. Continue reading “Ride Engineered – the 1980 Mercury Monarch”

1984 Opel Senator 2.5E road test

DTW has been taking a look at old, large saloons. Recently a 1984 Opel Senator was been subjected to a small test. Read on to find out what was found out.

1984 Opel Senator 2.5E
1984 Opel Senator 2.5E

Introduction

Every time one has a reason to discuss the large cars from the 70s and 80s, the large cars that aren´t BMW, Mercedes or Audi, one seems obliged to talk about the status and success of these products in comparative terms. It seems incorrect to speak of the Granada, 604 or Senator without mentioning how they fared relative to the BMW 5 et al. I´ll avoid re-treading all that ground again. By now even I admit that you would need to be very determinedly prejudiced to deny that the W-123 Mercedes Benz is the clear winner of that long term battle.  The W-123 is the definition of a high quality passenger saloon, the saloon car to end all saloon cars. I´ve seen these machines up close – we all have – and every visible element is made of some class of entropy resistant material, from the dwarf star chrome on to the NASA-class door seals and then to the cloth with an infinite Martindale value. That´s why they are still on the road and that´s why they are still worth money.

So, yes, noted. The W-123 is great and that´s that. Is there any reason to look beyond Stuttgart?  Continue reading “1984 Opel Senator 2.5E road test”

Ashtrays: 1984 Opel Senator 2.5E

DTW is known to be a champion of Opel´s magnificent Senator “A”. This post scrutinises the ashtray in the rear passenger door of an 1984 Opel Senator 2.5E. Read on to see if the Opel Senator´s ashtray design was class competitive.

1984 Opel Senator 2.5 E ashtray.
1984 Opel Senator 2.5 E ashtray.

Opel used a top hinged ashtray in this context, setting it in the armrest. This seems to me not to be a very good position.You can´t lean on the armrest while the ashtray is open. So, one can hold the cigar in the other hand and risk dropping it as you move your hand over your legs to the door. Alternatively, you keep the cigar in the hand near the door and lean on the centre armrest. In that case you need to make an uncomfortable movement to bring your hand near to where your elbow needs to be. You risk dropping ash on the seat just below. The ashtray is not illuminated and remember, the car may be in motion.

Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1984 Opel Senator 2.5E”

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.

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?

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

Introduction

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 choose a C-class saloon over a CLA,  by the way. Another difference is Continue reading “What´s the difference between an Audi A3 saloon and an Audi A4 saloon? Calendula Yellow.”

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 Continue reading “Customerless car companies”

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  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”

A review of the automotive year 2014: VW 1.4 TSI engine problems

DTW takes a look back at the motoring year and boils it down to a managable lump. It must be admitted a lot has happened in the US and Asian markets as well, but we´ll look mostly at European happenings.

DTW takes a look back at the motoring year and boils it down to a managable lump. It must be admitted a lot has happened in the US and Asian markets as well, but we´ll look mostly at European happenings.

2015 Volvo XC90
2015 Volvo XC90

Off the top of my head, this year´s big news events were related to Fiat Chrysler Automotive´s ongoing struggle to revive their business. Part of this has involved spinning off Ferrari and the departure of Luca di Montezemolo. Honda is grappling with a serious problem with failing airbags, a story which is still unfolding. GM has had a cross-brand PR disaster with its ignition switch problem that has been linked to 13 deaths. That too is ongoing and is part of a long run of product failures in recent years. Both the Honda and GM stories show the hazards of using common parts in as many models as possible.  We have been reporting on Saab/NEV´s death-rebirth story for a while now and the latest step along the path to stability for NEV is that Tata are now confirmed as a buyer for the former Saab assets. Lotus are still in the wilderness but Hillman´s planned resurgence is coming along if rumours from Chipping Campden are to believed (see page 45 for more – Simon).

Continue reading “A review of the automotive year 2014: VW 1.4 TSI engine problems”

Some aerodynamism

Aerodynamics lead car design to repeat certain solutions. The Czechs were applying most of the tropes on their wonderful Tatras. Below we have the 1955 603 (and a nice nostalgiac racing photo, just for fun). Compare the Czech car with the 2005 Mercedes Bionic and you see some of the same features.

1955 Tara 603
1955 Tatra 603

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 duoThe 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”

Theme : Dashboards – be careful what you wish for

Today a certain homogeneity has swept over automotive design, both inside and out.  For a long time before this it was routine to mock the over-wrought interiors favoured by US luxury makers and below we have an example of what the target of this derision looked like.

1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d'Elegance
1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d’Elegance

These days, while recognising that the 1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d’Elegance is most likeable as an ironic statement, it is true to say one could miss the diversity in automotive design that was available then. For some people this was Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – be careful what you wish for”

Audi’s Prologue – Drawing Restraint

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

audi-prologue-25-970x646-c

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”

The difference between a Mercedes CLA and C-Class? How does £208 per litre sound?

What is the difference between a Mercedes CLA and a Mercedes C-class?
Apart from their prices, that is. I´ve been looking through the spec sheets again.

2014 Mercedes saloon.
2014 Mercedes saloon.

We know that the CLA is a front-wheel drive vehicle, related to the A-class which is now essentially MB’s offering in the Golf/Focus/Astra sector. The C-class is a monument in the automotive firmament, with roots going back to the rear-wheel drive 190E of the ’80s. That car was the first sign that Mercedes was interested in capitalising on its prestige by bringing their quality down to a smaller class of car than they had been offering up to that point. Continue reading “The difference between a Mercedes CLA and C-Class? How does £208 per litre sound?”

Mercedes-Benz rework their naming systems…again

Naming systems can be confusing. As we speak Cadillac is bringing in a 3-letter system; Lincoln is forgetting its long standing convention of Mk-cars. Who knows what a MKZ might be? And is a Mercedes GLA a G-class or an A-class? Mercedes Benz is having another bash at naming their bewildering array of vehicles. And other news. 

2002 Mercedes Vaneo
2002 Mercedes Vaneo: brand extension at its extendiest.

In philosophy classification has been a problem since Plato, or perhaps before. The difficulty lies in reducing the messy fuzziness of the universe to a few categories. A system needs to be simpler than reality. As you know the universe is infinite and there are an infinite number of objects in it. Does the categorisation system include itself? A finite number of categories, for example, no matter how large, will always be too small to fully encompass all objects in a consistent way such that there are no exceptions or overlaps.  You´d think that categorising the cars you make yourself would be easier since unlike the universe, a range of cars is finite and you are in charge.

No. Mercedes has been making a meal of its classification system for five or six decades, even though they only make a few vehicle types at a time. Now Continue reading “Mercedes-Benz rework their naming systems…again”

How to shape the future 2: we ask a new-fledged car designer a few questions

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, Sindelfingen.

 

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

DTW:   What trends do you see emerging in exterior car design at the moment?

As I went through my MA degree project, touch screen, wireless battery charging system became of less significance or less problematic because the technology has reached such a high level.  Particularly, it could have an huge effect on the car industry, if you use smart glass in a bit of a different way; this is a hot topic in car design. We might think of several ways of doing different concepts when we use smart glass. It could influence not only interior design but also exterior design too. The Porsche 100 years anniversary project was one variation on using smart glass in the cabin area.

DTW: What elements of previous periods of car design interest you?

When we look back in the middle of 70 to 80s car design, not only Porsche, but also other car brands focused more on the emotional theme side of the body design. And they were a bit more experimental as well . That kind of emotional elements needs to be brought back in the future.

DTW:  How do you see trends in interior colours and materials changing?2014 byungyoon 1 sketch

I am not a big fan of interior design so I have no idea at all!

DTW: How much do you incorporate manufacturing methods into your design thinking?

As a student who needs a very strong nerve, I was not considering it that much when I did the Porsche project.  How to use current manufacturing systems in my design was not an issue. The thing that I need to be concerned about is this:  what would happen if I used different material or mixed  it with other things we have not used before in the car industry? And then one has to visualise it so it´s easy enough to understand and attractive enough to get an attention from public.

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 Mercdes Benz until 2004, he moved to Volvo when it was under Ford´s management. I happen not to care a great deal for 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: Concepts – Introduction

What is a concept car? What was its past like and how did its future evolve?  Why do we have concept cars at all?

1951 GM Le Sabre concept car
1951 GM Le Sabre concept car

We are late in the automobile era. It is ending as cars become banalities and as the illusion of mass personal transportation dissolves. Consequently, the car´s  future might even be over already. In 1971 the future was staggeringly unlike the present. In a properly realised future all signs of the present are gone. A 1971 concept car shared only wheels with the cars on sale at the time. To judge by the work of designers and students now tasked with imagining the future, the future looks a lot like now. In contrast, the further back we go, the more improbable concept cars seemed to be in comparison with the vehicles customers could buy. Compare the two Buicks (below) for example. If we go even longer into the past, before the year 1938, then it was only necessary for the car to be better than the fore-runner, the horse-and-carriage. There was no need of a future as the present was advanced enough.

Concept cars are designs that exist to be compared to something else. They are as much an element of marketing as expressions of intent about directions in which aesthetics and engineering can go. For this essay I shall consider Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – Introduction”

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 Continue reading “Theme: Advertising – Conclusion”

Advertising: Speak My Language

Vorsprung durch… advertising.

audi-logoamsmdb261408

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

Driventowrite descends into facelift hell. Pray for us.

0373198-Mercedes-Benz-SL-600-2006Today’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? 

0353564-Mercedes-Benz-c-class-Sports-Coupe-C320-Sports-Coupe-2002
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”

Falling Star – 1997 Mercedes A-Class

With total sales of over a million, was the W168 Mercedes A-Class the best selling flop ever? We investigate.

Image: auto.aggress.ru
Image: auto.aggress.ru

The announcement of Mercedes’ third-generation A-Class and its radical re-alignment in ethos and market position is seen by most commentators as as an expedient business decision based upon 15 torrid years in the compact car game. While for the most part Daimler’s U-turn has elicited little criticism, it could equally be regarded as a sign that Mercedes has conclusively lost the argument. Continue reading “Falling Star – 1997 Mercedes A-Class”