Archive for the News Category

Citroën – doing what it does best

Posted in Car conception, Desirable machines, News, Upcoming cars with tags on 10/06/2016 by Alexander

2016_citroen_advanced-comfort-concept_02

I’m a big Citroën fan. Always have been.

In fact, I’m a second-generation Citroën man, since my father owned most models of Citroën manufactured from the 60’s onwards. He had a wonderful olive-green Ami8, e had a couple of Visas, but he never had a GS simply because his car of choice was the CX.

Thanks to him, the CX is my favourite car to this day, and it represents what most purists argue was the last true Citroën that was 100% faithful to the core philosophy: innovation, lateral-thinking, standing out, no compromises.

The CX launched in 1974, and the following year, the company had to be bailed out by Peugeot. Peugeot did all it could to kill Citroën’s flair and innovative style, but a lot of crackingly good, original Citroëns managed to make their way to the showrooms.

There was the BX, which thankfully ended up being my first car, which was so good it inspired a cult following still vibrant to this day. There was the Citroën AX, a car everyone assumed would be just a cheap, forgettable urban runaround, but still chugs around transporting proud their proud owners in 2016. The Saxo, with its “street” following, the C6 with its unique stance… the list goes on.

The past decade or so has made me sad, in that it would seem that everyone now likes Top Gear-endorsed, overpriced German cars, with rock-hard suspension and seats that seem to be made of granite. Everyone now prefers cornering and a badge over common sense and an intact spine.

So it thrills me that Citroën, for years the last automotive stalwart for comfort and treating its passengers’ bodies well, has announced Citroën Advanced Comfort, a few simple technologies to make the car as comfortable as possible. Let me just pause by saying that this is a sad day for some die-hard Citroën fans, as it marks the definite end of the Hydractive suspension system, responsible for the Marque‘s “magic carpet” ride quality, and present in most mid to high-end Citroëns since 1955. I’m part of this number, since it was a fantastic bit of kit to have on your car (that adjustable suspension got me out of a few pickles), but let’s look at the bright side: at least Citroën is on the path to regaining its status for innovation and comfort.

The tech is comprised of cushioning the suspension further, as well as using different and supportive materials in the seats. Heightened body rigidity adds to he comfort, as does further sound deadening to isolate occupants from the outside world. You can read the testimony of someone who has tried this in this Autocar article.

Perhaps the main advantage is the low cost, which will allow even the entry-level Citroen offerings to be equipped with the extra comfort. I personally can’t wait, as this news plus the announcement that the PSA group plans to introduce a range of new vehicles including electric ones, means I might have an electric mega-comfy Citroën I can actually afford in the future.

The Tesla Model 3

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Car conception, Desirable machines, General opinions, Green Tech, News, Upcoming cars on 03/04/2016 by Alexander

Tesla Model 3I’m very surprised by the reactions to the launch of the Tesla Model 3. The BBC were balanced as usual, but I believe failed to underline how significant 115,000 pre-orders in 24 hours actually is. Then there are articles like the Daily Beast, that prophesizes Teslocalypse, where the brand will be irrevocably DESTROYED by the Model 3. A lot of criticism is being heaped at Tesla and the Model 3, and although much of what being said is factually correct, I definitely feel as if behind these nay-saying opinions are the voices of motoring journalists who either feel that their time of being lent petrol-swilling supercars is being threatened, or who think Tesla’s aren’t so much cars as they are gadgets, so as experts on grease-and-oil-driven machines they’ll be made obsolete. Maybe it’s just me being unnecessarily bitter. Here are some facts:

Tesla is hemorraging money
Yes, and so are Uber, Shazam and Spotify, and even YouTube only managed to break even as recently as 2014. Airbnb loses $150-million a year and may not make a profit until 2020. Funnily enough, I don’t see this referred to in related articles concerning all these aforementioned companies, but Tesla gets a special financial-loss mention.
Unlike all these other companies above that are pissing money away, Tesla has invested very heavily indeed on R&D, as recently proved by the Autopilot function (however, Tesla also wasted money on stuff like those pitiful “falcon” doors which add nothing but complexity to the Model X, a car that should have been postponed until after the Model 3). It’s a perfect criticism to try to frighten potential punters away, implying that Tesla won’t be around long enough to honour warranties and such.

Tesla won’t be able to meet demand
This will probably happen. Overwhelming demand is a double-edged sword, and cuts very sharply both ways. The positive view is that, in theory, lots of demand means whatever leaves Tesla’s production line for the next few years is guaranteed to be sold. The negative view is that in reality, not being able to meet demand means overdue delivery times, customer frustration and consequently, damage to the brand image.
However, there’s alway’s the Gigafactory, which will definitely boost Tesla’s fortune’s once it’s up and running, even if it only reaches full capacity in 2020.

No-one’s mentioning how good (or bad) it looks
The Model S is bite-the-back-your-hand beautiful. The Model X isn’t. The Model 3 is sort of halfway between them. Am I the only one who thinks the glass area above the body looks bulbous, and badly-proportioned to the rest of the car? I hope I’m wrong, because I’m one of those people who were eagerly antecipating the Model 3’s unveiling, in the hope of it ticking all the right boxes to being my first electric car. Nothing puts me off quite like an ugly ride.

Hardly anyone mentioned the terrible interior
I couldn’t believe it: no f**king instrument cluster. A screen that protrudes from the centre as if it were an aftermarket item nailed into place minutes before the cars unveiling. I hate this design with a passion. Recently, I read how this might indicate a really autonomous car, which is just as bad. I like driving. Unless the Model 3 has something like a HUD replacing a conventional instrument cluster, or an ACTUAL binnacle included in the production version, this is a deal breaker.

No-one’s talking about the brilliant glass roof

On the other hand, the interior might be saved by the wrap-around glass roof. If I understood what Elon Musk said, and if the pictures and videos are correct, the roof will be entirely in glass, save for above the driver and front passenger (for sun-visors, lights and such), and the boot lid will basically hinge in the middle of the car. This is brilliant. I love glass roofs and I think sunroofs and such should be mandatory on cars. This Model 3 has hit this particular nail right on the head.

No-one’s talking how disruptive and revolutionary this is
The number of pre-orders has hit over a quarter of a million. Pre-orders. In just over 48 hours. Established car-brands with highly-awaited models don’t get that many orders, and they must see by now that if they don’t get into the electrification game soon, they may be very well left behind with their dinosaur-juice-burning contraptions. And the more car-brands go electric, the more the market will follow. The more the market follows, the more things will change to enable/cash in on this. Infra-structure will have to be updated, car and road tax will have to change to pay-as-you-go. Even mundane habits will be altered, as there won’t be such a need for 24/7 fuelling stations, because you can plug in at home, but then there’ll be nowhere to buy fags at 3am.

Like it or not, the Model 3 is a big deal.

Volvo C30 – 2006-2012

Posted in Desirable machines, News, Rust in peace with tags , , , on 17/10/2012 by Alexander

Everyone loves to root for the underdog, except when it comes to cars. Ask anyone in the street and they’ll prefer a hugely popular 3-series or C-Class over a less successful, more discrete yet equally competent and reliable non-German alternative. I won’t go into why this is so (it’s badge snobbery, plain and simple), but if it were my money, I’d always, always pick the plucky, unsung outsider over the Teutonic option mass opinion always favours. 5-series, E-Class or A6? Give me a Citroen C6 any day. VW CC or A5 Sportback? Volvo S60 for me, please. A3 or Scirocco? Volvo C30, hands-down.

And it would seem the funky compact Scandinavian has reached the end of the line, as production will be ceasing in December. I’ve always loved the exterior styling, the glass tailgate, the gorgeous minimalist Swedish interior and the range of engines, which ranged from frugal (1.6 litre diesel) to fricking-well fast (the T5!).

But alas, the C30’s production run had issues that hampered its sales performance. First, it was terribly overpriced in its market segment, where it had to contend with the very popular Audi A3 and later, the VW Scirocco. Even though its most sold version, the 1.6 diesel, had a more powerful yet smaller engine than the A3’s 1.9Tdi, the Volvo brand image and a high price drove its main potential customers, i.e., badge conscious young rich brats, into the arms of the four-ringed Golf, I’m sorry, A3. The post-2010 facelifted C30 DRIVe was drastically cheaper than its previous equivalent, but it showed that the C30 could’ve and should’ve been cheaper from the start. Another big factor in the C30’s lack of success was the profound uncertainty that surrounded Volvo’s future when Ford said it wanted to sell off the Swedish brand, and its subsequent sale to Chinese company Geely. It’s hard to sell a certain car when its manufacturer’s viability is in question, as well as being sold to then-unknown foreign owners from a country without much of a reputation for car-manufacturing. Consequently, big chunk of the C30’s production run was during this time of crisis.

I’m very sad to see the C30 go, since it was a car I really wanted to buy back in 2006 when it came out, and if the hiatus between it and the Volvo 480 is indication, will probably mark the last time Volvo will be competing in this segment of the market for a long, long time.

Quickies

Posted in News, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , on 09/02/2012 by Alexander


The BMW i8, which started life as the tongue-twisting Vision EfficientDynamics Concept Car (which I like a lot), has been promised as a production car, and has been spotted in the wild during the usual winter tests for cars under development. Looks pretty cool.

Opel/Vauxhall is in the s**t again. After having gone through some hard times thanks to the incompetence of its parent company, General Motors, more trouble looms on the horizon in the shape of more cost-cutting measures. This just goes to show how much I understand the car industry. Let me illustrate.
SEAT are an awful brand, who make ugly Golf-based hatchbacks and cheap Audi A4 rip-offs. A couple of years ago VW, who owns them, mulled over the hypothesis of ditching the brand due to dismal sales. Unfortunately, they’re going strength to strength, even though there’s nothing tangible to justify this. Opel, on the other hand, have been making better and better cars. The Corsa and Astra make top 10 sales lists all the time, the Insignia has been a top-selling sedan in Europe (400,000 units sold up to 2011), won European Car Of The Year and another German award for “Car with the least flaws“. I’ve already raved about the Insignia and Astra’s brilliant interiors, and there’s still great Opels to look forward too: the four-door Astra and the amazing-looking Mokka (and I hate SUVs). I’d have thought Opel would be a lifeline for GM but I’m spectacularly wrong by the looks of it.

Gordon Murray has his T25 and T27 city cars nearly ready to go into production, all he needs is some ink on paper to render the whole thing official. His cars had better be bloody good because there’s been a lot of hype surrounding them. The iStream manufacturing looks pretty solid, though. But if I were Mr. Murray, I’d expect a lawsuit from Apple in the near future for calling his brainchild “i-(something)”.

Studebaker is planning a comeback. The legendary American brand that stopped manufacturing cars in 1966 has a new concept in the works and is betting on advanced, clean technology, with diesel-hybrid propulsion inside a compact five-door. Everyone, a warm welcome back to the Studebaker Lark.

An intellectually dishonest take on the cost of running an EV versus a petrol car. Doesn’t include the hefty cost of having to replace a battery every few years and/or its hefty rental cost. Doesn’t take into account the taxes petrol pays, and that EV’s will have to pay road tax eventually too (do you think governments will pass up this opportunity to go for what’s in our pockets?) Uses a 20mpg figure for the car (11.8 litres/100km)!

Audi go frugal

Posted in Desirable machines, News with tags , , , , , on 06/02/2012 by Alexander

I’m not an Audi fan, not even close (though I do like the Audi A5 coupé), but I’ll admit to giving credit when it’s due.

The four-ringed brand from Deutschland have introduced a highly-efficient 2.0 litre diesel to the A5 coupé and Sportback, that sips as little fuel as the awesome BMW 520d EfficientDynamics (again, not a fan, but hats off to who deserves the honour). It can return figures of something on the order of 4,4l/100km (64.2mpg[UK]). In a mixed cycle. That means it’ll probably get mileage out on the open road akin to that of a VW Lupo 3L. In a car that weighs a ton and a half, and is made to be comfortable and luxurious, as opposed to small and practical, which is what most low-consumption vehicles are.

I like this approach to big cars, and I always have, in no small part thanks to my father and his obsession with low-consuming big Citroens. I’ve never ever liked the Top Gear-like mentality of “if it looks good, it has to go fast”. Why? Who wrote that rule? Why can’t a sleek coupé be a fuel-sipping cruiser that can go 1500 miles between stops at the pump?

Just as a footnote, imagine converting one of these babies into a dual-fuel car. Now that would be ultra-mega-hyper-efficient. Assuming it worked.

VW XL1

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Desirable machines, Green Tech, News, Upcoming cars with tags , on 26/01/2011 by Alexander

VW have revealed their third version of their fuel-sipping, diesel-electric, 1l-per-100km car. The XL1 surpasses the original goal by doing a remarkable 0.9l/100km average. That means 1000km on around a €12 budget. I want one.

Volvo goes to Zhong Guo

Posted in News with tags , on 30/03/2010 by Alexander

So Volvo’s been bought by Geely, the Chinese automaker. It mightl be just like Ford all over again, with the Chinese lifting Volvo’s good designs for themselves, and Volvo project staff being deviated from their original aims to work on Geely projects. Or this might be a cash injection for Volvo, and Geely will be content in letting Volvo make cars the way they want to as long as they get to fiddle with the designs for the Chinese market. Who knows?