Archive for VW

VW XL1 – Official production version

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Car conception, Desirable machines, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , on 21/02/2013 by Alexander

vw1Volkswagen have released pictures and specifications of the production version of their already-ageing fuel-sipping XL1. I say ageing because the third version of the car was shown two years ago, and what they’re flouting here is what will be available to the public during this year. The figures are still 314mpg (UK) (0.89l/100km), or around 140mpg (UK) (2.0l/100km) for diesel-only driving. The car is incredibly light at just 795kg, and now has a side-by-side seating arrangement as opposed to the tandem occupation of earlier concepts. vw_xl1_in_11_03The aerodynamics are also a big part of the car, perhaps best exemplified by the absence of wing-mirrors. Instead, exterior cameras feed an image to screens on the door, as can be glimpsed in the accompanying image here. Goodness knows how many mpg’s that adds to the consumption figure, but it’s one way that shows how hard VW must have worked on this, if two years between the final concept car and the production version weren’t enough to prove this.

But it’s not all roses. VW say production will be limited, so we won’t be seeing this as a common sight on your street, especially if you live in a backward country like I do where limited production cars are hardly ever seen let alone sold. And I suspect the price will be pretty whopping too, what with carbon-fibre-reinforced plastics included and expensive gadgetry such as the diesel-electric drivetrain. Who will this appeal to? Rich actors who usually go round in Lambos but buy this car to appease their guilty conscience? Not a big market. As I’ve written before, I personally would absolutely love to have one of these. I’d be able to visit my family in France on little more than what the 10-litre tank theoretically has to offer

The demise of the European car market

Posted in General opinions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16/10/2012 by Alexander

Europe’s worsening economic situation is reflected by many things: unemployment, social unrest, tight national budgets and so on. Because this is a car blog, what matters here are new car sales, and this year they’ve been appallingly low. All the big European car manufacturers are posting record dips in sales, except for one: BMW, who have seen a 10% increase in cars coming out of their showrooms.

Renault have sold a staggering 29% less, Fiat are 19% down, Volvo slumped 17%, General Motors and Ford lost around 15%, and curiously, PSA Peugeot-Citroen, a group in the news lately for their poor financial performance and their dubious alliance with GM, lost just over 8%, practically the same as that of the VAG group of brands owned by Volkswagen. Daimler-Benz, of which Mercedes is a part of, saw nearly a 7% loss, most of which can be attributed to the slump of Smart.

In the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association report, the reader can note an odd tendency: there’s a tendency for European-based manufacturers of more affordable cars such as superminis and family hatchbacks to have registered a heavy loss (GM and Ford may be American, but their European models are conceived and built here). On the other hand, Audi was up 1.4%, Jaguar Land Rover rose a staggering 13.2%, and as mentioned, BMW got an extra 10.5%. Really shows who’s suffering and who’s benefiting from the current recession!

In the long term, I’m worried this could mean Europe’s non-German car-makers disappearing altogether. It doesn’t seem to matter how well traditionally widespread brands like Fiat and Renault make their cars, they just can’t compete with the badge-conscious, overpriced German offerings. If these sorts of brands go under, anyone who wants a frugal small car will either have to buy a bland Japanese vehicle or a Volkswagen in one of its guises (Seat, Skoda, etc.). Or we could see a BMW-owned Citroen for example, since the only real small car the Bavarians make is the Mini and all of its bastard sprogs.

Either way, dark days are ahead for everyone on the Old Continent.

VW Scirocco

Posted in General opinions with tags , , , , on 19/03/2010 by Alexander

When Volkswagen announced they were bringing back the Scirocco, I have little doubt that it brought a a smile to the faces of most car enthusiasts. Personally, I’ve always had VW’s coupés in high regard. I’ve always thought the original Scirocco to be very cool, and the Corrado was something that, as a teen in the early 90’s while the Corrado was still in production, I imagined myself driving one day. So news of the Scirocco’s return bode well indeed. And the first pictures of it certainly led me to believe the auto world was in for a cracking car. The styling cues were in line with VW’s current trend, which I personally find very satisfying. The aesthetic choices regarding both the Golf and the Polo are spot on, and the same brand DNA shows through on the Scirocco. The Scirocco takes the styling a step further away from the mundane with its strong, outward shoulders, something that accentuates the sportiness of the coupé-shape. The shoulderline itself is also very contemporary, following the current zeitgeist, which all cars seem to have nowadays.

If there’s anything I’ve always liked about Volkswagens, it’s the interiors. They’re always so well-made, and so good-looking, and simply just such nice places to be. I get the same impression from the Scirocco, from both the photographs and peeking in the windows of ones parked in the street. But – and here’s the first but – VW seems to think it’s a good idea to add chrome framing around bits of the interior. Mind you, this is a sin nearly all car manufacturers are guilty of, as the logic seems to be that the more chromed bits you have on a car, whether it’s on the inside or outside, the more upmarket it seems. How bits of plastic painted with mirror-like reflecting paint and randomly glued on a car makes it seem better is beyond me. Another VW, the fantastic Passat CC, is also a victim of this practice, and this gives the interior a much more chintzy, nouveau-riche feel than it deserves.

My biggest disappointment regarding the Scirocco is that it’s one of those cars that in pictures, it looked absolutely mouth-watering, while in real life, it looks… how should I put this… odd. And on trying to analyse why this should be, I come to the conclusion that the rear of the car could and should look better. That back window is just too vertical, and hinders that sweeping coupé form. It’s something that I don’t really fancy on both the Golf and the Polo, but on them, they make sense, because they’re predominantly utilitarian cars. The more vertical back window makes it easier to lug cargo into the boot, thus making the car more practical, but it’s a rule of thumb that coupés are impractical, non-family vehicles. No-one should really care about being able to get a chest of drawers in the boot, and no-one would want to if that means that car has to look like a brick.

So in the face of more-or-less direct competition, like the Volvo C30 or Renault Megane, the Scirocco doesn’t cut it. Because if you’re not buying a coupé for its looks, what else other reason is there to want it?

CC: doesn’t mean just “cubic centimetre”

Posted in Desirable machines, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 11/10/2009 by Alexander

The 4-door coupé isn’t a recent fad that the Mercedes CLS and its fans and ignorant motor journalists would have us believe. Sweeping coupé designs for saloons have been around for longer (take Robert Opron’s fastback saloons of the 70’s, or the Volvo S60), though the CLS somewhat popularised it. The band wagon is roomy, as many cars since have jumped on. The Citroen C6, the VW Passat CC, the Opel Insignia, the hardly-convincing Audi A5 Sportback (after all, it did start life out as a coupé to begin with) and the hideous and stupid BMW 5 series GT.

I’d say from this it’s a clearly a predominantly German fashion, with the funky little VW Passat by far the most attractive of the Kraut-auto flock (The Citroen C6 is by far the most attractive in the Global Auto range, but I digress). The BMW 5-series GT looks like a dwarfish, handicapped, stunted SUV, and the A5 Sportback comes across as a coupé with those extra doors jammed in to meet a marketing niche for stupid people. The VW looks balanced and smooth, with nice lines and a striking presence, which the Opel has, but in less measure. If I were ever to buy German (and I hope one day I’ll have the money to even consider these things), the Passat CC would be a probable choice.

However, VW has been like my old Citroën BX’s hydropneumatic system and has been leaking, though in this case, interesting information.

First, was a glimpse of the future Golf VII, which I found rather strange since the Golf VI was released this year. It’s like VW are saying “Yes, we know this current Golf is disappointing, so we’re making another one.” The Golf IV was so brilliant both the V and VI are but pale images that simply don’t have the same appeal (though the rise in quality from competitors also helps this notion). The Golf VII is trying to get VW’s family hatchback into the arena of ball-bashing success.

Second, was none other than a Golf CC (original link). Which on the surface seems a good idea, building on the Passat CC’s appeal and widening the choice amidst the Golf range. But then I think: this will kill the Jetta (unless it’s the next-gen Jetta) and probably overlap the Passat range. Doesn’t sound so smart any more, though I must admit I personally find the idea of a Golf CC very clever and appealing, especially if it has a panoramic roof like the Passat version.