Archive for opel

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)!

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Return of the Calibra

Posted in Desirable machines, Upcoming cars with tags , , , on 11/05/2011 by Alexander


Apparently, General Motors has leaked that it plans to ressurect the Calibra designation to its line-up, in the form of a coupé, just like the original. I find this rather pleasing, due in no small measure to the fact that I like coupés quite a bit. On top of that, this coupé will sport Opel’s current design, which I’ve praised before, and not just once. I’m one of those that really liked the aesthetics of the original Calibra (apart from its drab Vectra interior), and from what I deduce I’m in a minority populated mostly by idiot modders. However, I suspect the new take on this model might be far more consensual, with Opel drawing inspiration from its current range.

The resulting package, from what can be told by the Calibra concept pictured here, is basically a two-door Insignia. I’m not a fan of coupés that resemble saloon counterparts too closely, but I can’t blame Opel’s designers for making this decision. The Insignia’s looks are dang-well fantastic, and it’s a natural step to make use of its pleasing looks and apply to other Opels. I don’t doubt it’ll have the same interior too, but again, not a bad idea, as I’ve harped on about before.

Hopefully, the engines won’t be just wanked-up V6’s with a million horsepower and instantaneous 0-60 times. I think Opel will be sufficiently lucid to include a low-consumption power-plant for a proper long-range cruiser, a Grand Tourer in the correct and sensible sense of the term.

The Opel quest for interior fulfillment

Posted in Crap cars, Desirable machines, General opinions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 28/01/2011 by Alexander

First off, a small disclaimer. I live in continental Europe, so there’s no such thing as Vauxhall, only Opel. However, this being an English-language blog, it’ll be confusing to readers from English-speaking lands, where there’s no such thing as Opel, who show up and don’t fathom what I’m on about. To make matters worse, some of these Opels may have been commercialised under the name Holden, Buick, Saturn or Chevrolet. So when I mention Opel, you can translate into your minds whatever corresponding brand suits your fancy.

The first car I ever drove in my life was a 1981 Opel Kadett (Vauxhall Astra in Britain). It was a rickety, ugly thing, but what really stuck in my mind was how unwelcoming the interior was. The central panel was spartan and a horror to behold. Having practically grown up beholding the classy, comfy, space-age-like insides of Citroen CXs, the contrast was stark, to say the least.

This tendency for making the cabin look crap was a constant for Opel practically up to the present day. For example, the Opel Vectra B was definitely a nice car to look at from the outside, with its shapely curves, well-proportioned profile, and that fantastic detail of how the ‘V’ on the bonnet continued backwards into the side rear-view mirrors. But it contrasted this with a pathetic interior, that made it seem outdated from the moment it was was introduced. The ugly dials, the feeling of the centre console having been designed by amateurs as an afterthought, all contribute to this feeling of discomfort and all the effort in the design department was spent on the exterior and none on the inside. A good friend of mine had one, and when I rode around in it, I had the sensation that it must have looked great if this were the mid-80’s, not the 21st century. Then there was the Astra H, another car that made heads turn when it came out, especially the GTC version. I seriously like this car (not the four-door, though, the way its back lights are fitted looks like it has trousers with no belt, and they’re slipping). The interior, however, was a collection of bad ideas, from the horrid fake plastic-aluminium centre console, to the melted-toilet seat quality of the materials to the awful angular design. I’ve been inside many an Astra, and I’m always tempted to rap my knuckles on the centre console to check how awful, cheap and nasty it is.

I suspect someone must have told someone else who has some clout at Opel, “Man, why do your cars’ innards always look like they were dreamt up and put together by members of the extinct Australopithecus genus?” And so, said man with clout must’ve taken heed, summoned together other bigwigs and all vowed to make their cars look properly nice on the inside. And they’ve managed to pull it off, quite amazingly. For the first time, Opels have interiors so pleasant it makes you want to move in. The new Insignia is another looker from the outside, one of the nicest cars in its segment. It’s jumped onto the “four-door-coupé-look” bandwagon, and executed it better than anyone, except perhaps for the VW Passat CC. But the inside… what a revolution. The layout, the colours and the materials are all bang on, and that centre console, from the sat-nav screen to the arm-rest, is a piece of art. The latest Astra’s cues are exactly the same, with little to distinguish between it and the Insignia. I’m not a big fan of the current trend that’s gripped most car brands, of making all cars across the range not just have similar design cues, but to be hard to tell apart in some areas, as the example of the Astra’s and Insignia’s interiors emphasize. But it’s a good idea nonetheless, since it’s a properly cool interior to copy.

What I really like about it is how it’s completely different to most of the interiors today. Many cars have an upright central console, that abruptly shifts at an angle when the console becomes horizontal around the gearstick. These consoles flow, and have the arrangement of those buttons lovingly crafted into a unit below the sat-nav screen instead of looking that they were plonked there with no particular criteria (as was the case in their predecessors). Well done, Opel (or Vauxhall, or Holden or whoever designs these things).